Can Lilly Counter Raith?
Updated: Oct 7, 2022
First, sorry for all the Lilly content, but she fascinates me.
In a game with remarkably good overall balance, Raith has been OP from day 1, and we all know it. The very first article I ever wrote for this site was about dealing with Raith. However, Lilly might have a very good matchup into the the wet and wily reptile. The last time I wrote about countering Raith, people got mad. Their objection was that I was giving false hope in implying that Raith had a counter. I had to issue a clarifying correction immediately. I may have to again, since this is just an idea. I have not been able to play much lately, to be honest, so I may be proven right or wrong by actual table experience with this matchup.
But let me make the case...
Raith has few weaknesses. Two, really. One is his relatively low dodge value. This is mitigated by his high armor and health, but he's still vulnerable to hit effects. Lilly is all about hit effects. The damp drake's other limitation is that he has to teleport through splashlings. Lilly can do a few things about that. First, she can use her followers to block off the hexes where Splashlings would like to be. Second, she can push Raith at range 3, allowing her to separate him from his little puddles. Lilly also brings the speed to threaten the far away banners that the puddle wyrm sets up and the ability to move hexes around herself. It makes sense.
Let's take a look.
It's the clash phase in turn 1 of the Change scenario. In the plot phase, Lilly ran up the board and pulled a hex towards her, leaving behind a speed boon. The Thornlings then used Deep roots to place next to lilly and absorb the boon. Raith has just done his Undertow thing and pulled a hex behind him. When the Raith player activates next, the Splashlings will teleport in to cover the angles to Lilly's banner. It's Lilly's turn. What's the move?
There's a few good options.
Option 1 - Surround a Hex
First, the Thornlings could surround the hex. This will block off any approaches from the Splashlings. In this particular setup, the Thornlings can also toss out a little accuracy 2 Nature's Wrath into Dodge 2 Raith. If you gave the sentient shrubberies a damage boon this might be quite cheeky. In any case, this has the advantage of letting Lilly have a safe banner, but it does awkwardly block her off from Raith's Hex. This is just ok.
Option 2: Go Push Ratih
This will usually be the better choice. Lilly could come roaring downfield and push Raith back with a Haunting Melody. At range 3 and 6 accuracy, this skill is easy to pull off into the not so dodgy water lizard. Admittedly, this choice does allow the Splashlings to set upon Lilly's banner before the Thornlings block it off, but only through one vector. Moreover, Raith will have to move in order to claim next turn, which means that he won't be ending the plot phase on Lilly's side of the board. Lilly, meanwhile, can claim without moving and can threaten Raith's hex over the next two phases with her high speed. If Lilly wants, she can also yeet the hex a bit further away after claiming on it in the plot phase with her Earth Call skill. The Thornlings can then move to encircle Lilly's hex. Here's how that would look. Do you like it as the Raith player?
Option 3: Thorn Wall
This is kind of baller, to be honest. Lilly can just use the ultimate turn 1. Usually, that's not a good idea, but sometimes it sets up a dynamic which influences future turns. This may be one. Lilly using her Thorn Wall essentially gaurantees her at least banner neutrality in this matchup. Even if Raith burns his ultimate, the Thornlings cannot be moved by enemy skills when they are on objective hexes. Since there are multiple Thornlings on the hexes, Raith won't be claiming. Meanwhile, the plot phase looks great for Lilly. Her Thornlings can move off of her hex, allowing her to claim and Earth call as in the previous example. Here's how that looks from Raith's perspective.
What about murder?
I'll admit Lilly dies in a fight with Raith. However, I think she can mostly stay out of that fight with her high speed. The Thornlings, meanwhile, are numerous and have range 2. With only one in a hex, the little shrubs can hit Raith reliably with 4-8 damage dice each turn. They are at their best odds to hit the Nature's Wrath spike against Raith's dodge of 2 when rolling only 2 accuracy dice, so you don't need to bunch them up in order to hurt Raith. This will probably culminate in at least one KO over the course of the game. The Lilly player will ahve to be skillful in dancing around, but "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" can definitely work here. Thanks, champ.
If this hunch plays out and Lilly is a counter to Raith, the overall balance of the game would shift. In draft formats, the need to ban Raith or choose him first lessens. In an SFG standard fixed list of four, Lilly might give players an alternative to Raith and a reason not to choose him.
By the way, Lilly would not be the first bad matchup for Raith. Dave M has convincingly shown that Styx works well, and big Slayers can prevail in some scenarios.
Still , Lilly balances things a bit better if she can counter Raith just a bit harder. We'll see!