It’s All About Abdul…Or is it.

dan musser

Cheshire Cat“Play Cheshire Cat”
“Resolves”
“Draw 2…”
“Sorry, I have Abdul in play”
“Oh right…Jeeez that card is really unfair…”

“Attack with Tinkerbell for 400, Attack with Hunter for 300, Go”
“J-Activate Abdul using Grusbalesta, hold priority and activate to give Hunter -300/-300, then use Abdul’s zero ability targeting Tinkerbell”
“OK…you killed both my guys with just your Ruler and its only turn two”
“Yea, he’s really good, sorry again…”

These are just a couple of the common situations I would find myself in game after game, match after match. People trying to do cool things with their cool cards, and me just sitting behind my busted Ruler telling them that none of the cool things they wanted to do would work. I was the cool one. I could do cool things. My opponents would just shake their head, saying things just weren’t fair, things weren’t fun, and I should be ashamed of myself. Inside I was giggling, I knew Abdul was the best thing anyone could be doing, the best thing I could be doing to give myself a chance to win a game of Force of Will. And win I did. Matches upon matches. The world was mine!

ebony prophetThis is a story of the Ebony Prophet AKA Abdul Alhazred, the Harbinger of Despair, his many strengths and few weaknesses. A story which is filled with only a slight amount of biased from the author. And a story which ends with a twist so shocking, not even the Ebony Prophet himself could have seen it coming.

Let’s start at the beginning. The Castle of Heaven and the Two Towers (TAT) was released in the US in February of 2015. People were looking for ways to combat Grimm and his merry band of fairy tales. In come a small contingent of new Rulers, among which, our beloved Abdul. Over the next few months, and especially with the release of the next set The Moon Priestess Returns (MPR), people would start to realize his great potential and construct decks to help him reach it.

So how do we start to figure out the best shell to optimize Abdul’s greatness? Well, the Ebony Prophet is Darkness based and his Ruler ability shrinks resonators, which leads us to some sort of Darkness control strategy. The J-Ruler side, Abdul himself, interacts with not only resonators but all your opponent’s cards, stopping their enter abilities completely. With a little added bonus that he can also shut off a few other abilities per turn on resonators as well as additions. To say that Abdul is a control player’s dream come true would be quite an understatement. Abdul loves you and Abdul hates your opponent’s fun!

Stoning to DeathAlright, so we have a Darkness based control deck that interacts very well with our opponent’s resonators. Where do we go from there? With cards like Stoning to Death and Carmilla, the Queen of Vampires, not to mention our Ruler himself, we certainly have resonators under control. We even get the very synergistic beatstick finisher Mephistopheles, the Abyssal Tyrant. Unfortunately, Darkness isn’t super proficient at handling opposing J-Rulers. Fire to the rescue! For whatever reason, the developers at Force of Will have decided to give Fire the only few spells in the entire game that interact with J-Rulers. So here we are, splashing a little bit of Fire to cast Thunder and Flame of Outer World, with maybe a dash of Rapid Decay to deal with little guys and Crime and Punishment for the especially pesky J-Rulers.

Now that we have a Darkness/Fire build that is efficiently killing everything in its wake, what are we missing? With Abdul being vital to the success of our strategy (and because he is our bae) it would make sense to try and protect him at all costs! Counterspells! Utility Stone! Undisputed best color in the game! That’s right, it’s getting Windy in here. By introducing Wind, we can ensure that Abdul will be properly taken care of. Cards like Absolute Cake Zone and Exceed protect Abdul from all direct damage outside of Flame of Outer World. The utility stone Feethsing, the Holy Wind Stone sit there in our stone area daring the opponent to cast a harmful spell against our fearless leader. Cards like Elvish Priest and Gretel facilitate the plan by letting us use more stones each turn to not only eliminate our opponent’s threats, but cast our own and protect them too. Finally, Xeex the Ancient Magic provides unprecedented flexibility, being the all-star glue that keeps Abdul’s dominance from coming undone.

And that’s basically it. Here’s a sample list of what most Abdul’s came to battle with:

4 Elvish Priest
4 Familiar of the Holy Wind
4 Gretel
4 Fiethsing, Magus of the Holy Wind
2 Carmilla, the Queen of Vampires
3 Mephistopheles, the Abyssal Tyrant

4 Thunder
4 Flame of Outer World
4 Xeex the Ancient Magic
3 Absolute Cake Zone
2 Exceed, the Ancient Magic
1 Stoning to Death
1 Necronomicon

4 Magic Stone of Blasting Waves
4 Magic Stone of Black Silence
1 Grusbalesta, the Sealing Stone
1 Feethsing, the Holy Wind Stone

A thing of beauty, really. Most non-Abdulites would scoff and remark on how boring and unfun the above list looks. Most who worship the Ebony Prophet would talk in whispers of how much glee it brought them to watch their foes wince and cringe after Rulers became revealed.

GrusbalestaSome games, you would kill or counter every single card your opponent played.
Some games, you hit an early Grusbalesta, flip Abdul and laugh as your opponent’s resonators turn in to overcosted, meaningless road blocks for Abdul to slaughter.
Some games, you would land a protected Mephistopheles and smirk as its intended drawback didn’t faze you in the slightest.
And some games, you lost to Split Heaven and Earth.

Yes, every GOD has a weakness. Abdul, while being great and powerful, wasn’t without an Achilles’ heel. If an opponent could use the early game to drain you of resources or cause you to tap out at inopportune time, they could land a devastating two-mana-twenty-one-damage spell to end your day. The Ebony Prophet welcomed all challengers, all challengers except those wielding the mighty Basic Fire Stone! You see, Basic Fire Stones are Abdul’s Kryptonite. An Abdul player facing such a foe would have to tip toe the game as cautiously as if they were walking on coals (literally!). It wasn’t an impossible feat to beat an opponent packing multiple copies of Split Heaven, but luck and skill would have to surely be on your side.

And there you have my story. My love and life for the last few weeks with this wonderful game. Abdul, the Ebony Prophet, my Ruler since I started playing Force of Will competitively…

Vlad TepesBut wait…

Where’s the twist? The surprise ending I promised…

The Ebony Prophet, Abdul Alhazred, the Harbinger of Despair, has been rendered powerless! With the printing of Vingolf: Engage Knights and the new Alice Cluster Starter decks, Abdul has finally been outclassed. The new Ruler Vlad Tepes has taken the throne for control Ruler of choice. Being able to put you out of reach of burn spells like Split Heaven and Earth as well as being a kill condition that is currently unable to be interacted with. Her Ruler ability takes over any late game, allowing Vlad’s controller to pay two mana of any color to drain the opponent of 200 health AND heal for 200 health. The new Regalia cards essentially allow aggressive Rulers to do Judgement on the first turn and gain swiftness as well as imperishable.

While it’s certainly possible that these strategies won’t always dominate the game, for the time being…They. Simply. Are. That. Dominant.

Maybe one day, one day soon, Abdul will have his time in the Darkness again. We can only wait and see.

Thanks for reading,
Dan Musser

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