Death Hound – Uses, Synergies and Counterplays
Death Hound, the ninth card of the FrostSpark Collection for The Elder Scrolls Legends has been revealed at TwitchCon by Bethesda. With the purple Endurance attribute being the one that has consistently the most powerful creatures in the game, Death Hound is no exception: a 5-cost Beast + (Skeleton — to be confirmed) with powerful stats of 6/6 and Guard.
Sounds like another powerhouse, but similar to the 2-cost 5/5 Siege Catapult, or the 4-cost 7/7 Imprisoned Deathlord, the Death Hound also comes with a bit of a caveat. The card reads: “Death Hound’s power is equal to its health”. It’s a new effect, that can swing both ways – when Health is increased the Power also grows; when Health is reduced, the Power goes down as well. With this, Death Hound will be one of the first targets to see other creatures going against it and being a Guard, there is little you can do about this – no hiding in Shadow Lane, no hiding behind other Guards. I think the creature just hopes that everyone runs away from it’s fierceness, but when opposed, he can be like a poor, little dog and almost run away subdued…
Let’s look at the card using Quadrant Theory.
Death Hound is a big body for sure. This makes him a good option to look at, when building Dominate Aggro decks. While players struggle for board control in the early game, Death Hound can certainly trade favorably into two smaller creatures. However, if attacked by a 3/2 Charge and a 4/4 on the same turn, your opponent’s 4/4 will prevail as a 4/1. In contrast, Indomitable Ordinator a 5-cost 5/5 Guard would eat both of them, as his power value is not diminishing. In addition, the Ordinator can be Exalted by 1 magicka so that he cannot be targeted with actions. With Destruction Tutor (another card in the FrostSpark Collection), damage-actions just got a lot cheaper. So, actions can also be used very effectively to beat-down the power of the Death Hound, before trading into him. In Endurance, there are also cards like Shadowfen Priest or Hallowed Deathpriest that compete for the 5-cost slot. While Death Hound has better stats, both cards provide also a very powerful effect. In Warrior decks, the Death Hound is competing with Sower of Revenge as a 5-drop. The Hound has slightly better stats, but cannot deal 5 damage like the Sower would. In Scout decks, he is competing with Blighted Werebat and Brynjolf who both gain health, and in Spellsword, Redoran or Telvanni, there is also no lack of good 5-drops. So, while Death Hound is a really powerful creature, and he will see play, he might not be as good during the Opening phase of the game, as his stats would suggest.
At Parity, where the game board is stabilised and players have run out of cards, drawing Death Hound as a top deck would be a great draw. His power can shine here and you can pick the lane that needs defending and where the power distribution of your opponent’s creature gives you the best trades. Most likely will he be able to protect your other creatures in that lane for one round of further damage, and can get you another good round of beat down. Or you can play him into the empty lane and try to force your opponent to play in the other lane as well.
As you set-up a winning board position to put the opponent on a 2-3 turn clock, the Death Hound will equally support you with this. Your opponent might not have enough answers to play around him quickly enough. If your opponent does not manage to reduce the Death Hound’s health and power during his turn you have a very interesting opportunity to turn him into something bigger. All items that increase only Health would allow you to pull his power value up.
When to regain control of the board his body can help you absorb probably two swings, so this is certainly a way to buy you some time. However, you will most likely not kill both of those creatures that swing into the Death Hound. So in this quadrant he is a good, but not an excellent card.
Health-boosting items and Imposter’s Mission
When you play Death Hound into an empty lane there is this moment of silent prayer, where you will hope that your opponent cannot immediately Charge or otherwise damage your Death Hound with actions on their turn. With an unanswered Death Hound and an health-boosting item, such as Imperial Armor (Enchanted Plate, Redoran Battlespear or Hackwing Feather would also qualify with smaller effects though) you get an additional 6/6 to swing with – ideally a 12/12 creature. With another 4-magicka for Imposter’s Mission, you can get another 12/12 onto the board. Of course, for 9 magicka, you can play Death Hound and the Imposter directly. Maybe this can be an interesting idea for some OTK decks.
Health-Boosts and Healing in Spellsword
In addition to the items, there are other creatures in Endurance or Willpower that could be used to boost the Death Hound’s Health. Bruma Armorer, or Cleric of Kyne provide the best boost, Summerset Shieldmage and East Empire Crafter do a little bit extra. Also any card, that provides Healing could make the Death Hound stick for another turn or two.
Galyn, Maple Shield, Shadowmere and Mentor’s Ring OTK
A rather meme-ish OTK option would be to use Galyn – the Shelterer to boost the Death Hound to 9/9 and then Maple Shields for 12/12 (with Goblin Scout) and a Charge creature (Shadowmere) with Mentor’s Ring.
Avoiding the Health-Beatdown
So you want to avoid your Death Hound getting damaged? Certainly, you could use Ward to protect him from at least a ping. A smarter move could be to use Grappling Hook to move (the only) one creature out of his lane and let him be uncontested. Another option is self-silencing him; in Scout you could even Shadow Shift him into the Shadow Lane for Cover protection.
Skeleton Tribal (not fully confirmed yet)
As Blood Hound is a Beast, but also a Skeleton, both Bone Collector and Skeleton Champion will give him a boost of +1/+1. Not a lot, but he might also be a decent guard to hide Grim Champion and Deathless Draugrs next to him. I see a Halloween-themed deck coming up.
Disclaimer: As the card was revealed on Twitch, player’s asked about the secondary race of the Death Hound and asked whether it was Skeleton. CVH was not 100% sure, so maybe it can also be Vampire, as Death Hounds are guard creatures for Vampires)
We have heard about Charge creatures as possible counterplays. In addition, any action that deals damage, such as Cruel Firebloom or Lightning Bolt or any Last Gasp effect that can deal damage to a creature (like Brutal Ashlander) can be a big help in beating down the health and the power of the Death Hound at the same time. In addition, any action that reduces health, such as Weakness, or Lay Down Arms (etc.) can be pretty helpful. Since he is a Skeleton, he is equally vulnerable against Dawnbreaker’s special removal ability. ,