Stone Barricade – Skytear Into Ashes Preview

I remember asking Zach early in our Skytear journey whether or not we’d ever see “instant speed” worship actions. Imagining Khenui dropping an illusion in response to an opponent moving into position, or a clutch Shapeshift out of nowhere, was both interesting and potentially frightening. Maybe it would be too much.

We’re about to find out.

For the first time in Skytear, we have the ability for a quasi-Worship action to take place without an spending an action point – which opens up a tremendous amount of strategy.

Nelaclen can suddenly play cards of any rune, even when it looks as though there is no pillar to be found. Achla can see opponents that were presumed safe. Tlakali can unexpectedly soak damage from across the map or land a heal out of nowhere. Cotlic has an easy +1 Skirmish damage for Strength of the King. Zacoal lands a surprise Collapse or Massive Blow. It’s all pretty incredible.

But then there’s Ixatosk. For anyone unfamiliar, there’s a well-loved list archetype known as Ixataxi. The basic idea is that Ixatosk, using the Tunnel ability, gets an important/annoying hero (usually an assassin) into unexpected and sudden positions. I saw it most recently at the hands of Kalibra, who dropped Akimo adjacent to my nexus first turn.

This card really does wonders for Ixatosk specifically. Anyone with a green rune can react on Ixatosk’s activation to drop a pillar out of nowhere, which Ixatosk can now tunnel to. So much for that lane that was secure, or that hero that was safe.

I firmly believe that Skytear is a game of movement. Mobility is everything when controlling lanes and assassinating heroes. With Stone Barricade and Ixatosk, nothing can be taken for granted.

In addition, you get an unexpected blocking element, which is remarkably powerful. The easiest way to imagine a blocking element is just to imagine that the pillar acts as a hero. You can’t move through it. You can’t end your movement on it. Even thwarting one big hero movement in a game, one that would have saved a hero or a lane, is enough to swing things in your favor.

Did I mention it was 1-mana and +2 modifier? That’s the signature stat line of a card that defines the “essence” of its faction. What’s more Taulot than dropping pillars and stopping movement?

Now there is a bit of awkwardness with the card, in that if you are at max pillars you can’t resolve it. And there’s no way in the basic Taulot framework to subtract from your current pillars. Once you get to max, barring a character ability like Cotlic’s Strength of the King, you’ll stay at max. That’ll make some early plays of this card feel bad.

But it’s strong enough to warrant a bit of maneuvering and planning to make it work, with the easiest solution being 3x Stone Barricade on your Cotlic build so that you have a beautiful pillar package when drafting. And you have to imagine that we’ll see “destroy X pillars” spells in the future, at which point Stone Barricade will gain even more value. I’d be surprised if “Pillar Spam” doesn’t eventually become an archetype.

I’ve had such a wonderful time exploring Taulot and learning how to use pillars to their fullest. They’re probably the most difficult of the Worship actions, as its a bit like a chess game in understanding not just where your pillars need to be now, but how to place them so that they provide value in future turns. There will be Taulot players that become troublingly good at this, and Stone Barricade is one of the many tools they will employ – no doubt.

If you’re in the US, you can “pre-order” Into Ashes exclusively through our subscription service or a local store supporting Skytear. Likewise for the international crew, except you’ll want to visit PVPGeeks for online pre-ordering.

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