Looking Death in the Face - First Impressions of Styx
Updated: Sep 6, 2021
Styx is a welcome addition to Godtear and brings the total champion count to 21! He is also the last new champion who has been teased, so hopefully some new stuff will be appearing on the horizon before too long.
My TLDR on Styx is that SFG has nailed the game design and balance again by creating a champion who is competitive without being broken and who fits nicely into its class without being redundant.
I have yet to actually play with Styx; I’ve only seen the cards. When I’ve written about new champions in the past under similar circumstances, my opinion has definitely changed with gameplay, so please forgive the fact that a lot of this will end up being wrong.
What Styx Does
First of all, the actual cards are not super easy to find right now. A very cool individual posted them on the Godtear Discord, though, so feast your eyes:
Styx seems to be about banner removal and board control with a pinch of murder just for spice. He accomplishes this in a different way from other shapers, though. Styx and his Abyssal Hounds both have ways of moving models and/or hexes towards themselves. Styx is kind of a gravity well which pulls things in to be destroyed.
Ok, so I assume you've read the cards. Let's dive into some preliminary analysis!
This is why you are taking Styx. Both he and his Hounds have abilities which can move other models. The theme overall seems to be that they can move things towards themselves. Styx’s Dead Beckoning is a bit like a weaker version of Sneaky Peet’s Annoy; it’s range 3 and moves an enemy model one hex closer to Styx if it hits. The obvious plot phase application is to move an enemy away from an objective hex in order to allow Styx to get to it and either claim or crush the banner. Since his hounds can also destroy banners, that would be another way to exploit an opening in the enemy ranks. This could also be used to reposition enemy models for a wide variety of reasons , though. Perhaps you’d like to pull a champion out of range to claim or to pull a dangerous Slayer away from a wounded victim. There are numerous applications, and it won’t be too hard to find them given the long range.
Styx has a similar ability in the Clash Phase called Apparition, but it is range 2 and pulls an objective hex (and whatever is on it) one hex towards Styx. Again, the obvious use of this is to expose enemy banners in the event that Styx is too far away to crush them otherwise, but it can also be used to set up claims in the next Plot Phase, pull banners away from enemies who might otherwise crush them, block the path of enemy followers, and more. It's not Undertow, but I expect it to be used often.
The Hounds have a trait which is perhaps a big deal. Drag allows them to move two small enemy followers within range 2 one hex closer to the Hounds. This happens for free at the end of the Hounds’ activation, so it does not cost an action or require any dice rolls. This is a bit like the Golden Shrikes fantastic Drive Back trait, but some important differences. Drag only moves 2 models, and they can only move towards the Hounds. However, Drag is Range 2 instead of 1, and it does not specify that the models being moved must be enemy models or that they must be in the same hex. You can pick any two models you want so long as each is within 2 of a Hound at the end of their activation. Want to move that enemy follower out of Styx’s path while also moving that friendly follower up so that it can put a boon someplace? No worries. How about putting a couple of friendly followers in position to block off one of your banners? Yep. Want to serve up some tasty targets for your Maelstrom? Right away, sir.
Overall, Styx is clearly blessed with a strong board manipulation game which will help him both to protect and to deny banners. How strong? Only table time will tell. If he turns out to be Shayle lite in the board manipulation department, then he’ll be strong competitive choice. I am also curious to discover whether he will be better at protecting banners or at denying them. I'm excited to experiment!
The Hounds are the only followers in the game which can remove enemy banners. This seems like a big deal. Their Torn to Shreds skill allows them to remove an enemy banner during the Plot phase if both Abyssal Hounds are adjacent to it. While this is a new way to remove banners and likely an important part of Styx’s game, the requirement that both Hounds be adjacent to the banner is actually quite restrictive. For one thing, both Hounds have to be on the table, which is not a sure thing at all. I also think it is going to be tricky to find banners which are so exposed that both hounds can get in position.
However, the crew has a lot of board manipulation abilities (see above) which can help to create those opportunities. The Hounds are also extremely mobile in the Plot Phase thanks to their Pack Hunter skill, so they can also position themselves well to exploit Torn to Shreds opportunities as they arise. Pack Hunter lets Hounds within range 4 of Styx to move two hexes. Range 4 is a huge deal. I expect that this skill will effectively make the Hounds capable of taking two advance actions in most plot phases, particularly since Styx is not repositioned when he gets KO’d.
Styx is actually not terribly mobile. He is speed 2 in both phases, like a human. He has no way of going any faster. Styx makes things come to him, not the other way around. Despite this relative lack of mobility, Styx is good at banner denial thanks to his board manipulation and his unique advantage of not having to do it personally.
Styx has the same defensive profile as Nia with Dodge 4, armor 2, and 6 health. This makes him mildly survivable, but definitely slayable. Styx has pretty average stats, but also a few tricks for staying alive. Styx’s Scythe Slash issues a damage blight, so you can perhaps mitigate retaliatory attacks if you go first. Styx’s trait doesn’t make him any more survivable, but it does reduce the harm of getting KOd because the opponent does not move Styx thanks to his Haunting trait.
The Abyssal Hounds are probably the most killable large followers yet, despite their good dodge of 4. They have only 4 health and 1 armor, so if you can show five damage strikes on the damage roll, you can one shot a Hound. The odds of this are reasonable if you can bring a 6/6 with someone like Maxen, but otherwise expect to have to put two or more hits in to take one down. The Hounds can also make their dodge 4 more effective by debuffing enemy accuracy with their Howl skill in the plot phase.
The Reaping also helps keep the crew alive since it can steal actions and positioning from potential enemy threats by simply KOing them instantly.
All in all, I think this crew is less survivable than some other Shapers (Nia, Raith), but is still equipped to allow a savvy player to at least make it inefficient to score KOs against them.
Honestly, not much to write home about here. The Hounds’ Triple Bite is probably not something I’ll use much unless the right target presents itself. It’s very good into dodge 2, but into dodge 3 or better, this will end up rolling 4 or even 2 damage dice most the time.
Styx’s Scythe Slash is decent. Probably the best offensive ability he has, though, is his plot phase bonus action Hour Is Nigh. This lets Styx hand out an armor debuff to a single model at range 2 automatically as a bonus action. This means that you can set up a target (for free!) to get hit with a scythe that’s effectively better than 5/6. Not bad! This can also set up attacks from other models as well. Blights are flexible that way.
Of course, the Reaping can give you an instant KO once per game. It does not score, but it is sort of damage output kind of?
Overall, this crew is pretty good at KOing models compared to other shaper crews if you count the Reaping. Styx is not the assassin that Raith is, but his overall crew can probably hand out enough damage to keep enemies honest. This isn't how Styx will score points, but he can do it a bit.
Luella seems like a strong choice into Styx. Luella really likes to see armor 1, and both Hounds have it. Additionally, Luella and her Maidens are rocking a lot of high accuracy attacks, so Styx and the Hounds’ reliance on dodge stats will not serve them well into her. Sneaky Peet can also bring lots of accuracy and cares far less about Styx’s banner denial than a non-goblin would. Titus can probably kill the whole crew somewhat efficiently.
It is impossible to tell how useful this champion will be until we get some time with him on the table. I’m just thrilled to have another shaper! Styx seems like he’ll be loads of fun and potentially quite powerful. I can’t wait to play with him!