Crystal Games: First Impressions – Friends

New set!  I’ve played in a few prereleases, and we’ve seen all the cards, so time to talk about them!  Thoughts on the set to follow.

UPDATE: Some people were having trouble loading the article, I think due to length.  This post now ends after Friends; I’ll be posting the continuation momentarily.

First, as a disclaimer: these are early impressions only.  I fully expect to miss some important cards, and to be wrong about others.  Every set has sleepers or overhyped cards, and of course a lot of power levels are contextual.  There have also already been several cards I’ve flat misread (Ultra-Rare Applejack comes to mind) so I fully expect some of that too.

I’ll be looking at individually interesting cards first, then summing up with what we got and didn’t, and my overall impressions of the set.  While I may seem down on cards, keep in mind that it’s easier to describe flaws than good stuff, at least for me.  Overall there’s a lot of stuff in here to be excited about.

Second note: I’ll be mostly talking in the context of competitive play, just by necessity.  If something strikes me as cool but likely not top tier, I’ll try to mention it in passing, but what is or isn’t “fun” in casual play is incredibly subjective.  If I say your favorite casual card is bad, or even if I don’t mention it, don’t take it personally.  If you enjoy a card, keep using it.  It’s what games are about, after all.

That said, we start with one of the most mixed bags:

Main Character Cards

I’m going to talk about all of these, even if briefly, since there are so few, and one of the easiest ways to spawn a new archetype is if a good new main shows up.

Cutie Mark Crusaders, Ponyville Flag Carriers (Crystal Games-1 F)
Mane Character – [Earth Pony] [Pegasus] [Unicorn] Earth Pony, Pegasus, Unicorn, Foal; Pink, 1/3

FRONT: Home Limit 3 <P> When you confront a Problem, put a Crusade counter on this card. Then, if there are at least 5 Crusade counters on this card, remove them and turn it over. BACK: Home Limit 4 <P> When a Problem enters play, you may exhaust this card and pay [2 actions] to replace it.

Bubbly Mare, Helping Hoof (Crystal Games-4 F)
Mane Character – [Pegasus] Pegasus; Yellow, 1/3
FRONT: Home Limit 3 <P> When you confront a Problem, put a Postage counter on this card. Then, if there are at least 5 Postage counters on this card, remove them and turn it over. BACK: Home Limit 4 <P> Opponents can’t play more than one card of each typeper turn.

Best case scenario you’re flipping these turn 3, and that’s really hard to do and you’ve mostly won or lost if you pull it off because both you and your opponent will have flipped a bunch of new problems.  More realistically your plan is to start confronting turn 1 and then just camp out.  Doing so requires playing bad cards and mediocre starting problems.  Or you can just tolerate that it’ll take forever to flip them.

Your payoff is, in the case of the CMC, I think basically nothing; the ability isn’t completely useless, but having to keep up 2 AT and only being able to use it once doesn’t seem powerful enough to me to justify the effort.  In the case of Bubbly Mare, the ability does some serious work against One Pace decks, but seems difficult to get online in time unless you’re running other things to slow them down.  Other than that, it’s pretty uninspiring.  By the time you’ve flipped her, the enemy deck likely can function perfectly well on-board just moving things around.  I don’t expect either of these cards to make a major splash.

As a side note, Charlotte pointed out it’s tragic these don’t start with home limit 4.  Ultra-rare Celestia and Luna do, and they’re faster to flip and more overall powerful than these.  It wouldn’t make them good, but it would at least respect just how long it takes to flip them.  Sigh.

Princess Cadance, Loving Ruler (Crystal Games-3 F)
Mane Character – [Alicorn] Royalty, Alicorn; White, 1/3
FRONT: Home Limit 3 <P> When an opponent’s Friend enters play here, put a Shield counter on this card. Then, if there are at least 5 Shield counters on this card, remove them and turn it over. BACK: Home Limit 4 <P> Opponents pay +[2 actions] to play Friends here.

When I first read this card, I missed the “here” and thought it got a counter whenever your opponent played a friend, which would have been interesting.  Instead, you literally rely on your opponent to ever let you flip this card.  And unlike Applejack: Element of Honesty, you’re not even relying on them to do something they might want to do; usually it’s unwise to play friends to where your opponent has them.  I’ll pass.  You should too.

Spike, Crystal Hero (Crystal Games-2 F)
Mane Character – [Dragon] Dragon; Purple, 1/3
FRONT: Home Limit 3 <P> When a Troublemaker is uncovered, put a Hero counter on this card. Then, if there are at least 5 Hero counters on this card, remove them and turn it over. BACK: Home Limit 4 <P> Main Phase: Exhaust this card to turn an opponent’s Troublemaker here face-down.

This is the Fixed main from this set I think is most likely to see play.  It’s an outside shot; right now if you have a TM-heavy purple deck I think you’re strongly favored to run DJ main, even beyond the level to which everyone probably should, because you likely need Bell Tower anyway and purple has several entry cards that do things you like.  But unlike the CMC/Bubbly Mare, getting counters on Spike is pretty much entirely under your control and isn’t limited by there only being two problems to confront.  As a bonus, his ability does legitimately useful things when facing another TM-heavy deck, letting you fight through like Monstrous Manual does, and should be reasonably difficult for them to profitably shut down.   So that’s cool.  I could see it, especially if DJ gets banned or otherwise ceases to be such a dominant force, or if somehow you end up wanting a purple TM deck that doesn’t run pink.

Chances of this spawning an entirely new deck archetype seem low, but not impossible.  You don’t want to run it in the absence of your own TMs, and most purple TM decks seem to want to be of a controllish bent.  That said, there’s a chance you want to do something using non-villains and some smaller friends to throw your opponent off their game with the TMs while still scoring points yourself.  In a deck like that Spike could be good because it helps you fight against the more controlling variants that invest more in defending TMs and less in friends.  I don’t think the quality support is there yet to make that deck work, but there are some cards that seem good in it, so maybe I’m wrong.  And it’s certainly worth remembering for future sets.

Shining Armor/Princess Cadance, Fastball Special (Crystal Games-191 UR)
Mane Character – [Unicorn]/[Alicorn] Unicorn, Royalty/Alicorn, Royalty; Blue, 1/3
FRONT: Home Limit 3 <P> At the start of a Problem faceoff, you may pay [1 action] to put a Windup counter on this card. If you do, you may turn this card over. BACK: Home Limit 4, Swift <P> When this side of the card turns face-up, you may move it to a Problem. Then, remove each Windup counter from this card and you may move a number of your Friends to this card’s Problem up to the number of counters removed this way.

Ultimately this card is pretty similar to Rainbow Dash, Hanging Out in terms of the decks that want it.  It doesn’t flip as early, but does so for 1 AT rather than (usually) two, and if it doesn’t flip pretty soon something has gone terribly wrong with your aggro blue deck.  There are lots of good 1 requirement blue friends, so you likely don’t need the requirement, and mostly just want her to be 3 power + Swift once you’re ready to crack back at a new problem anyway.  She doesn’t work with Scootaloo, Fan Club Founder as well as Rainbow Dash does, which is too bad, but not every blue deck runs that card.  I’ll be testing her out, certainly.

Spike – Start, The Brave and Glorious (Crystal Games-192 UR)
Mane Character – [Dragon] Dragon; Orange, 1/3
FRONT: Home Limit 3 <P> When you play a card, put a Dragon counter on this card. Then, if there are at least 4 Dragon counters on this card, remove them and turn it over. BACK: Home Limit 4 <P> If one of your Friends or Resources would be dismissed, you may turn this card over instead. If you do, that card is not dismissed.

This is an interesting card.  Like the purple Spike main, it will eventually flip based on just playing the game.  On the other hand, unless you’re playing a lot of your secondary color, it probably won’t do it in such a way that it fixes your orange all on its own.  It’s a potentially good card if you want to run just a few, high-requirement orange events or other cards you’re happy to unlock and play later, like Plum Tuckered Out or the like, with a major commitment to a second color.  The ability to save your cards is interesting, but hard to assess.  There’s a lot more removal in this set than in previous ones, but removal in MLP remains a lot less powerful than in other games.  We’ll have to see how much effective play the new stuff gets.

The other big issue here, of course, is that orange already had a perfectly respectable main in Maud, and she’s gotten if anything easier to flip, since there are several defensible cheap resources in Crystal Games.

In terms of deck types, Spike just wants you to play cards.  Most decks want to play cards, so that’s pretty agnostic, though he flips fastest/most often and plays best with decks that want to take an active role in the game.  You do need to have lots of cards you can play on just one orange, but there are several good 1 requirement orange friends, so that doesn’t seem onerous.  He doesn’t go into farming decks like Maud does, but if an orange aggressive deck emerges, he’s probably a good choice there, especially if you’re running some of the bigger bombs like new UR Applejack or Big Mac.  I think this is the most likely direction for a totally new deck to take.

Bottom Line, Main Characters: Three of the new mains seem potentially interesting to me, with the two URs genuinely good and Fixed Spike having an outside shot (or chances with new cards).  None of them seem close to the power level of DJ, for better or worse, but that is what it is.  Fastball Special seems to go in similar decks to RD, Hanging Out, but both Spikes have a chance to spawn decks of their own that have a chance at a solid tier two level, or a chance at being seriously good if DJ is more nerfed by hate cards than I expect, gets banned, we all forget about her, or whatever.

Blue Friends

Bulk Biceps, Pumped Up (Crystal Games-6 R)
Friend – [Pegasus] Pegasus; 2, 4 Blue, 2
Pumped <P> This card has +1 power for each card beneath it.<P>At the start of the Score Phase, if this card has at least 4 power, you may move it.

This card is emblematic of a strange design decision throughout Crystal Games: a bunch of cards with punishingly high requirement (4+).  I’ll probably not talk about it with other cards where that’s the only interesting thing going on, but it’s worth noting.  Here it’s particularly frustrating because this is a card that’s all about building momentum – you want to get him out fast so he’s involved in a lot of face-offs.

That said, blue’s a good place for a high-req, low-cost pegasus you want to deploy quickly.  You likely don’t want him with any main that isn’t Hanging Out or Fastball Special, but if you’re on the full Cloudchaser/Solar Wind etc plan, you can probably get him out on turn 2 or 3, well in time to be involved in the first problem face-off.  As a bonus, getting into a problem face-off early both benefits him and also flips Fastball Special, so there’s some synergy there.

He’s also, of course, potentially interesting if you’re increasing his power in other ways, like resources.  I don’t think that’s likely to be a big enough thing in this set to make it super compelling, but it might come up later, and of course I could be wrong.  The high requirement is also super frustrating here, but if you could work around it, he’d be an ideal target to start stacking hats on while running Rarity, Dressmaker (a card I really want to eventually be good, because it’s one of the sweetest thematic designs in the game).  Who doesn’t want Bulk Biceps modeling dresses and hats?  He’ll look fabulous.

Crystal Guard, On Duty (Crystal Games-8 R)
Friend – [Crystal] Crystal; 3, 2 Blue, 3
When you move this card to a Problem, you may exhaust this card and pay [1 action] to frighten an opponent’s Friend there.

Charlotte will probably someday make a hilarious deck with this and Goosebump Giver and it’ll be awesome.  In general this is a neat card to have for the “Frighten Your Dudes” plan,which seems solidly casual but great to have there.  I think probably the cost is too high for competitive play; just paying 1 or just exhausting might be something you could deal with, but between the two of them, you’re likely paying 3 AT and also making it harder for yourself to confront, which is pretty rough.  But again, this isn’t really a card that’s made for competitive play, I think.

Daring Do, Professional Heroine (Crystal Games-9 R)
Friend – [Pegasus] Pegasus; 3, 3 Blue, 3
When this card enters play at a Problem, challenge an opponent’s Troublemaker there with your characters there.

The obvious comparison here is with The Hard Way.  I’ve seen (and been involved in) arguments both ways, but I think I’m more likely to run Daring in my deck.  She flips at one less, which is sad, but you get a lot of upside for your +2 AT: the card isn’t dead if your opponent doesn’t run Troublemakers, you get to keep a 3 power friend around, and it’s a friend and pegasus so it plays well with Cloudchaser and Solar Wind.  Also, just in general, I find blue can have issues with having too many events; the movement-based ones are amazing, but if you get too many, you can run out of action in unfortunate ways.  Having a good event stapled onto a respectable body is a big boon in terms of keeping your action ratio reasonable.

Dr. Hooves, Experienced Equine (Crystal Games-10 R)
Friend – [Earth Pony] Earth Pony; 1, 1 Blue, 0
When this card becomes unfrightened, you may move it to a Problem. <p> This card has +1 power for each Dr. Hooves Friend in your discard pile.

Clearly intended to be what the first Dr. Hooves “regenerates” into, which is pretty funny.  Might be worth running as a 1-of along with your Hooves/Pinny Lane engine, though it’s also possible that if you’ve gotten all those AT and aren’t winning, additional generic value isn’t something you need in your life.

Rainbow Dash, Crystallized (Crystal Games-13 U)
Friend – [Crystal] Crystal; 3, 3 Blue, 2
Prismatic <P> Main Phase: Exhaust this card and pay [2 actions] to move a Friend you control for each color this card has.

In general, the crystal ponies suffer a lot from the fact that all the no-requirement crystal cards are incredibly inefficient.  2 power, 2 cost friends are already some of the weakest cards in an average constructed deck, so 3 cost 2 power friends are pretty disastrous.  There are other ways to temporarily add colors, of course, and if you happen to have a card like this in your deck with, say, event fixers, sometimes you’ll get extra value.  But in all cases it seems wisest to assume it’ll most often be just one color and asses from there.

Applying that standard makes this card awful.  At one color it does less than the standard pay-to-move, at two colors it’s really overcosted.  At three it’s…okay?  Exhausting itself to use the ability is a tough price to pay, because it means the initial 3 AT is mostly wasted.  I suspect this isn’t something you want in your deck.

Rainbow Dash, Relay Racer (Crystal Games-14 R)
Friend – [Pegasus] Pegasus; 4, 3 Blue, 4
When you lose a faceoff involving this card, you may move this card to a Problem.

Other than being a pegasus and a Rainbow Dash, this seems worse than Holly Dash.  Being both is relevant, though.  I think it’s enough worse that it isn’t likely to see play, but I could see it with Scootaloo and so forth.  (It’s obviously important that you can use it even when you lose troublemaker faceoffs.)

Randolph, High-Flying Earth Pony (Crystal Games-15 C)
Friend – [Earth Pony] Earth Pony, Elder; 2, 0 Blue, 1
While with at least one of your [Pegasus] characters, this card has Swift.

There are a lot of pretty similar cards to this, some that care about pony type, some that care about being crystal; my thoughts here cover all of them I don’t otherwise mention.

I really like that there are a lot of entry friends in this set, but I wish they weren’t so inefficient.  2 power for 3, or 1 power for 2, is just incredibly underpowered and clunky, especially in constructed.  We badly needed more entry, but especially we needed more competitively costed entry, and these friends by and large just don’t provide it.  This has the unfortunate effect of making main characters that flip easily even more important, since it lets you cut down on the number of junk cards you have to play to make your deck work.

Cards like Randolph especially are just perplexingly bad.  They’ve already set a standard that 2 cost, 2 power friends with no requirement can have up-sides; in some cases, like Lily, they have pretty significant ones.  So there seems to me to be no reason this card couldn’t be equally efficient.

Scootaloo, Showstopper (Crystal Games-16 C)
Friend – [Pegasus] Pegasus, Foal, Performer; 2, 1 Blue, 2
Main Phase: Exhaust this card to do a little dance and have all players draw a card, then discard a card.

Fortunately Enterplay has already clarified that these cards don’t actually require you to do the dance, song, or whatever in real competitive play.

That aside, this one is mildly interesting.  There are a few cards in the set that get rid of some or all of your opponent’s discard pile, like Destiny Drain, so you might be interested in forcing them to stock it up.  There are also plenty of reasons to want to stock your own discard pile.  Of course, Applejack, Element of Honesty adherents will occasionally get a free 5 power friend if you use this card, so there’s that.

Tank, Loyal Pet (Crystal Games-18 C)
Friend – [Critter] Critter; 2, 1 Blue, 1
While with your Rainbow Dash, this card has +1 power.

This cycle is also inexplicably underpowered.  Why in the world would I play this?  Best case, it’s a 1 requirement Emerald Green.  Best case.  I get that it’s a Critter and a bunch of yellow cards care, but the actual yellow critters don’t seem to take a penalty for their typing (I’m looking at you, Eagle) so what gives?

Spitfire, Cloudsdale Captain (Crystal Games-193 UR)
Friend – [Pegasus] Pegasus; 2, 2 Blue, 1
Teamwork <P> During faceoffs involving this card, this card has +1 power

I do enjoy ultra-rares that are worse than Forest Owl.  Oh, wait, no I don’t.  Even Spitfire fans should avoid playing this one in decks they’d enjoy winning with.

Bottom Line, Blue Friends: There are some powerful tools here for existing blue aggressive decks, so the specifics of extant decks should get shaken up at least some.  Scootaloo + AK Yearling give good access to the discard pile if anyone wants such a thing.  Dr. Hooves tribal is now slightly more possible.  Pretty Princess Bulk Biceps Dress-Up lives forever in my heart.  But I’m skeptical that any of these new concepts will be good outside of very casual games.

Furthermore, there are no new blue entry friends that look even slightly reasonable.  Blue already had some of the thinnest fixing in the game, so this is bad news for players wanting to use blue as a secondary color.  Blue also has the fewest mains in the game at three, and all three of them are all about getting an early lead and maintaining it.  I think if there’s a new deck involving blue, it’s likely to be based on some discard pile shenanigans, likely with white, but the most likely outcome for blue in this set is that it’ll continue to be a mainstay of aggressive decks, either under its own mains, or with DJ compensating for the small number of good fixers with her extra card draw.

Orange Friends

Cranky Doodle Donkey, Crankiest of Creatures (Crystal Games-23 R)
Friend – [Donkey] Donkey; 2, 1 Orange, 0
Players can’t score points during faceoffs involving this card.

“Crankiest of Creatures” is the best subtitle possible.  They might as well stop writing them.

Oh, the card?  It sucks.  We all know it sucks.  But he’s so cranky!

Maud Pie, Like a Rock (Crystal Games-25 R)
Friend – [Earth Pony] Earth Pony; 4, 4 Orange, 4
This card can’t be dismissed, moved, or put into its owner’s hand from play by opponents.

I like this kind of card a lot.  It’s got enough can’t’s on it to annoy most decks that want to interact with it, and it’s not horribly overcosted.  At the same time, it doesn’t have literally all the can’t’s (notably you can banish or frighten it) so decks that do want to interact with it can likely find a way to do so.  And it’s big enough to be a credible threat on its own, but not so big that it’s just impossible to let it, say, fight your troublemakers.  Being an orange Earth Pony is also a good place to be in this set.

A good design.  Not sure it’ll see play given how much access orange has to beefy 4 and 5 cost friends, but it’s a good design, and I’ll certainly be trying it out in some decks.

Royal Peacekeeper, Watchful Eye (Crystal Games-26 U)
Friend – [Unicorn] Unicorn; 2, 4 Orange, 1
At the end of your turn, draw a card from the bottom of your deck.

This seems like it might be something you want in your Maud deck, if it’s on the slower side.  Or I suppose your AJ1 deck.  Like anything that provides advantage every turn, you want to get it out early, so unless you’re on a very fast flipping main, or are running a lot of things like Applejack, Farm Foremare, the 4 requirement probably makes it something you don’t want, despite the low AT cost.  This does play extremely well with extra flips, though, since they give you much more significant control over the bottom of your deck.  This is a card I think might be better than it looks.

As an aside, I think they’re right that an extra card per turn is worth enough that 2 cost, 1 power, high requirement is a fair place for this to be, but how in the world do you decide that if you think DJ is anything like fair?  Eh.

Sheriff Silverstar, Confident Constable (Crystal Games-27 C)
Friend – [Earth Pony] Earth Pony; 3, 0 Orange, 3
While an opponent’s Mane Character is at home, this card can’t be frightened.

Apple Brown Betty is a card that’s stock went down a lot with Canterlot Nights, but with the high requirements in this set, I think this one has a shot.  The ability isn’t earth-shattering or anything, but it’s a nice little bonus that’s well designed – decks that run lots of villains are often prone to leaving the main at home, and high-power fixers are a card type that’s both more likely to end up at problems and more likely to make you sad if they get scared.  Orange was also extremely thin on fixers, and this unlocks a few important cards (like Plum Tuckered Out) on its own, so that’s good too.  If you’re playing an orange main you can likely do better, but this guy certainly makes orange secondary more attractive.

Spike, Statuesque (Crystal Games-29 R)
Friend – [Dragon] Dragon; 3, 3 Orange, 3
When this card enters play, it gets +3 power until the end of turn.

Being a Dragon is unfortunate in the context of UR Applejack, but this card is pretty reasonable for closing out the game.  You probably don’t want it early, but it gives your orange deck the ability to finish like a blue deck sometimes, double confronting on fewer action tokens than anyone expects.  It’s not great, but it might find a home as a two-of.

Tall Tale, Too Tall (Crystal Games-30 U)
Friend – [Earth Pony] Earth Pony; 8, 4 Orange, 6
You may pay [1 action] less to play this card to a Problem for each of your [earth pony] Friends there.

This card has already generated a  lot of discussion about how to make it a good idea.  Right now I don’t see it; there’s just no constructive way to really make it significantly cheaper, and no real reward for having such a beefy guy if you do.  But it’s fun to think about, and if there are ever anything like Magic’s token creatures, it might become worth another look.

Thunderlane, Nerves of Steel (Crystal Games-31 C)
Friend – [Pegasus] Pegasus; 3, 4 Orange, 1
Teamwork <P> This card can’t be frightened.

Don’t play three cost one power friends.  Especially ones with lame abilities like this.

Applejack, Carbo-Loader (Crystal Games-194 UR)
Friend – [Earth Pony] Earth Pony; 3, 4 Orange, 4
Teamwork <P> Faceoff: Exhaust this card to flip an additional card.

So, at first I misread this card in two important ways, which I’ll repeat here in case you did, too.  First: it has teamwork.  Second: it works in any faceoff, even one in which she isn’t involved or cannot be involved (like your opponent fighting your troublemaker).  So if you have her at home with three other earth ponies, you get four extra flips per turn, distributed as you like, after seeing initial flips.  The Teamwork aspect also works very well with stubborn friends, of which Orange already has several at a competitive cost.

Use it to defend villains!  Use it to fight opposing troublemakers using nothing but frightened friends and the power of the working classes!  Viva la revolucion!  A lot of decks probably can’t reasonably win a game that’s at all close when this starts happening, and removal’s better in this set, so they’ll have to try to kill it pretty routinely.  This makes the orange Spike main potentially interesting to defend it with.

Bottom Line, Orange Friends: Only three orange friends in the set really seem good, but Applejack is a headlining card that changes the whole shape of the game.  It isn’t quite RTO I think, but it’s very difficult to beat for a lot of decks unless the game is effectively over as soon as it appears.  Between that, a reasonable new main that supports a different playstyle than Maud, and a reasonable new fixer, I think orange does reasonably well this set so far, and we might see some new ways of using it.

Pink Friends

Berry Punch, Very Convincing (Crystal Games-33 F)
Friend – [Earth Pony] Earth Pony; 3, 4 Pink, 3
At the start of a faceoff involving this card, you may exhaust this card and pay [1 action] to gain control of an opponent’s Friend here until the end of the faceoff.

This card has one basic job, winning problem faceoffs, but the good news is, it’s quite good at it.  Even if you just steal another 3 power creature you’re up +3 in the faceoff, and you might be able to knock them out of a color that could give them a trick or the like.  Like all problem faceoffs, you’d probably rather not do it on your turn, but it works on both turns, so if you can force them to face-off into you, it radically increases your chances of winning, unlike many similar cards.

It also does have some fringe utility against troublemakers; the friend you steal has to be at Berry’s location, but doesn’t need to be involved, so you can hijack a friend even if you’re facing a troublemaker.  It’s less likely to increase your power by much, of course, since you’re not costing the opponent any power and you still have to exhaust her, but your opponent might well not realize it’s a possibility, so you might get them if they have a Big Mac or something.

Cheese Sandwich, Heavy Artillery (Crystal Games-35 R)
Friend – [Earth Pony] Earth Pony; 3, 3 Pink, 3
When this card enters play, dismiss a Friend at home with at least 3 power.

Mostly we’re talking about Guidance Counselor here, and I think everyone who’s played against her has occasionally wanted to go all Verdun on her, so catharsis points, anyway.  I’m not sure how often you’ll really want to put him in your deck, though.  3 power for 3 isn’t awful but it’s not amazing, and I think there’s a pretty significant extent to which you really want to get the ability to work to make him worth it.  My suspicion is that it won’t happen often enough, but I could be wrong.  Obviously when it does happen you’re hitting a nice target, so at least there’s that.  Unlike a lot of removal from previous sets, this does have the potential to generate real advantage, which alone merits remembering it exists.

Also worth noting: Applejack, Carbo-loader is often going to hang out at home to be safe from villains, and if that’s happening this card will get her good.  I could see a universe in which that’s a valid concern if you’re thinking about putting this in your deck.

Giselle, Thrillseeker (Crystal Games-36 C)
Friend – [Griffon] Griffon; 2, 0 Pink, 2
Pumped <P> Main Phase: Spend a card from beneath this card to uncover a Troublemaker.

Frustratingly, this one of relatively few efficient entry-level friends in the set, and it’s in pink of all colors.  Pink already has Lily and, more importantly, the DJ main.  Pretty much every color except white would seriously benefit from an additional 2 power, 2 cost friend with no requirement, even without any abilities, but there’s just so little reason not to run the DJ main if you want pink in your deck, that I suspect this will see very little play despite being objectively a strong card.

And it is a strong card.  In the absence of DJ I’d expect to play it pretty regularly.  Also, there is the occasional Maud deck (including Nation’s Champs-winning list) that just wants to dip into pink for Bell Tower or similar effects.  This might be better than Lily in decks like that since it’s likely to be able to ride along with Maud in at least one faceoff, and it provides the Bell Tower effect itself if you’re waiting to draw the actual card.   Still, frustrating that we get to the color that needs it least before we get another 2 cost, 2 power entry friend.

There’s also an outside chance that a TM-heavy deck that doesn’t want to seriously run pink might play this just for the pumped effect.  It seems unlikely to be top-end competitive just because these days you need an active reason not to run DJ main and Snips and Snails, but it could happen, and is certainly worth remembering for fun decks that you can dip into the effect without actually needing the ability to meet any pink requirement.  So in a vacuum I like this card a lot, I just wish we got more like it where we needed them more.

Lyra, Very Excitable (Crystal Games-39 R)
Friend – [Unicorn] Unicorn; 3, 3 Pink, 1
When you play an [earth] Friend here, you may exhaust this card and pay [1 action] to dismiss an opponent’s Friend here.

I still suggest you not put 3 cost, 1 power friends into your deck.  Yes, I know they’re a cute couple.

Pinkie Pie, Crystallized (Crystal Games-43 U)
Friend – [Crystal] Crystal; 3, 3 Pink, 3
Prismatic <P> During faceoffs involving this card, you may flip a number of additional cards equal to the number of colors this card has, then choose one of the cards flipped this way and ignore the rest.

On first reading this card, I assumed it worked kind of like Featherweight: you only keep one of the flipped cards total.  That’s not the case, though.  You keep one of the additional flipped cards, so even if this is only one color, it has the same effect as premiere Big Mac or Night Watch.  (Victor from Enterplay confirmed this on Facebook for me.)  This makes it clearly the best of the crystal main six, and a very powerful card.  I feel like many pink decks will find room for it.

On the “curious design decisions” side, I have no idea why pink, which previously had ways to make flips more consistent but not more powerful, has suddenly acquired a more efficient, potentially more powerful version of one of orange’s headlining effects, and on a random uncommon, no less.  I’m hoping it’s a wording error that will be clarified, but who knows.

Press Pass, On the Scene (Crystal Games-44 U)
Friend – [Unicorn] Unicorn; 3, 4 Pink, 0
Teamwork <P> While this card is ready, your opponent needs +[1 wild] to confront this card’s Problem.

I’m pretty sure three cost, zero power is worse than three cost, one power, though this one is at least a pretty serious, ongoing effect.  Still, you need a lot of friends at the problem to lock it down, they all need to be unicorns, and you’re still a Snips and Snails or Ursa Vanquisher away from getting all your time wasted.  And at the end of the day, there’s another problem right over there.  I’m comfortable saying you don’t want this in your deck.

Surprise, Outta Nowhere (Crystal Games-45 R)
Friend – [Pegasus] Pegasus; 3, 3 Pink, 1
When this card enters play, you may dismiss an opponent’s exhausted Friend.

Weirdly enough, I’m pretty glad this card is terrible.  Original Surprise was so bad that at this point it’s sort of cute that they’re sticking to the theme.

Claude, Pulling the Strings (Crystal Games-195 UR)
Friend – [Unicorn] Unicorn; 4, 3 Pink, 3
Teamwork <P> Main Phase: Retire this card to gain control of an opponent’s Friend with power less than or equal to this card’s power until the end of the Score Phase.

In the best case scenario, this gets all the opponent’s unicorns off the board, and if they’re all at one problem, it does it at no additional cost based on the number of them there are.  This is obviously pretty strong.  That said, the worst case scenario is that you’ve got an underpowered friend with a marginal ability clogging up your deck.  Given that unicorn tribal doesn’t look to be anything that’ll be tearing up the game, I think this is unlikely to be worth it at the moment.

Pinkie Pie, Distracting Cheerer (Crystal Games-196 UR)
Friend – [Earth Pony] Earth Pony; 3, 3 Pink, 3
During the Score Phase, if this card is exhausted, opposing Friends here have -2 power.

The ability is obviously strong, but interacts poorly with a fair number of popular cards (like Ursa Vanquisher and Snips and Snails), only locks down of the two problems, and requires you to be running some reasonable way to exhaust her, of which there don’t appear to be many.  Her baseline scenario is pretty unexciting, so I suspect this won’t be competitive.

Bottom Line, Pink Friends: A pretty mixed bag.  Giselle might see some play and would be very important in the absence of DJ.  Crystal Pinkie is very strong and I expect to see heavy play, but since the official word from Enterplay was from a judge not a designer, it’s possible her wording isn’t true to the intent of the card and we’ll see an OCR update that returns her to fair but unexciting status.  Cheese Sandwich is interesting.  By and large pink doesn’t get much, but it also doesn’t need much; it’s currently a fixture in decks of all speeds and types, so just getting a few good role-player cards is pretty reasonable.  If you are for some reason not DJ and are in the market for a good secondary color, pink is now an incredibly attractive choice.  Between Lily, Giselle, and Apple Brown Betty it suddenly has even better entry than white, and you can get a lot of power out of its best cards.

Purple Friends

 Cheerilee, Homeroom Teacher (Crystal Games-47 F)
Friend – [Earth Pony] Earth Pony; 4, 4 Purple, 2
When an opponent plays a Friend, gain [1 action].

I love me some action tokens, but the initial outlay on Cheerilee is high enough I’m not sure she’ll ever really pay herself off.  She also suffers from Crystal Games syndrome: a very high requirement on a card that has an effect that gets better the earlier you play it.

That said, the effect is obviously quite strong in the best case.  She gets more attractive if you have Cloudchasers or All-Team Organizers lying around, since she can help convert those temporary or restricted action tokens into permanent ones eventually, but right now there are a fair number of decks that don’t plan to play a whole lot of friends.  If that changes, she gets better.  As is, I think she’s probably not interesting.

Of sad note, she triggers on opponents playing friends, not having friends come into play, so she doesn’t punish Mare in the Moon or the like.

Haymaker, Tough Trainer (Crystal Games-48 R)
Friend – [Pegasus] Pegasus; 1, 3 Purple, 1
When you lose a Problem faceoff involving this card, gain [1 action].

Anti-studious!  Sadly, this card is significantly weakened because, unlike studious, it only works in problem faceoffs, so you can’t throw it at Troublemakers or anything cool like that.  It also suffers from Crystal Games syndrome to the extent that you can’t just play it very early to confront and hope to get value on their DFO because it has a lot of requirement.  I don’t expect to play this one.

Mayor Mare, Town Leadership (Crystal Games-49 C)
Friend – [Earth Pony] Earth Pony; 2, 2 Purple, 2
When you play an Event, you may exhaust this card to banish a Resource.

Playable resource removal outside yellow is always worth a look, and this is in purple, a color that has historically really struggled to deal with a Monstrous Manual on the opponent’s side.  It’s an efficient body, the trigger condition is something pretty much every purple deck will be able to eventually meet, and has no additional AT cost.  I don’t think this is going to go in every purple deck ever or anything, but it’s doing a lot of things right, and is a card I’m very glad to have access to.

As an aside, unlike most removal this can take down your own resources if you’d like.  I can’t think of a case at the moment where that’s something I’m interested in, but it might someday be.

Ms. Harshwhinny, Officious Official (Crystal Games-50 R)
Friend – [Earth Pony] Earth Pony; 4, 4 Purple, 2
Teamwork <P> When you confront this card’s Problem, you may exhaust this card and pay [1 action] to move an opposing character at this card’s Problem home.

I think this isn’t pushed enough to be worth it, but I like the idea a lot.  It’s neat because while it does a very purple thing (send guys home so they can’t fight your troublemakers) it rewards you for confronting problems and using non-villains, both of which are cool and a bit different.  It could work with a theoretical Spike, Crystal Hero strategy quite well.  Unfortunately, it wants you to play more Earth Ponies to enable it and there aren’t a ton of great ones in purple, and it costs a ton of AT to get set up initially.  At the end of the day, I think it can’t really compare to Ursa Vanquisher and I Just Can’t Decide; sure it can confront while doing it, but with the AT you save on the efficiency of those other cards, you could just play other things to confront with.  Furthermore, opposing villains are already strong against non-villain troublemakers, and they’re disastrous for a Harshwhinny plan.

Princess Luna, Good Night’s Sleep (Crystal Games-53 R)
Friend – [Alicorn] Alicorn, Royalty; 3, 3 Purple, 3
When this card enters play, banish one of your Friends. At the end of the turn, put that Friend into play.

Neat card, A+.  I’ve always liked effects like this and am glad it’s Luna’s “thing”.  I’m not sure there’s any way to really abuse this one right now, and consequently I’m not sure how often I’ll really plan to play it, but I’m glad it exists.  You get value from the free move, even if it is delayed, it can knock off dumb resources like Too Much Pie, it unfrightens things, and so forth.  Also of note, you can do it to herself, if you want to slow-roll where she’ll end up, or actively avoid confronting a problem while still meeting the confront requirement on the opponent’s turn.  There’s enough play to this card that it might show up just for value, but purple’s 3 cost/3 req slot was already highly competitive before this set, so I’m not banking on it.

Raven, Event Organizer (Crystal Games-54 C)
Friend – [Unicorn] Unicorn; 2, 2 Purple, 2
Teamwork <P> When you play an Event, this card gets +1 power until the end of the turn.

Being able to create a squad of unicorn battle mages is awesome and something I certainly want to unleash on my enemies, and purple has both lots of good unicorns and lots of good events.  It’s also neat that since events happen at lots of strange times, there’s no case where your opponent can be sure that your unicorn squad won’t suddenly become huge.  This is a build-around-me at its finest, and I’m going to give it a try, though I’m not convinced it’ll be top tier.

Of course, your entire unicorn battlemage squad can be inexplicably killed by some dude with puppets, so that’s too bad.

Shining Armor, Crystal Prince (Crystal Games-56 U)
Friend – [Crystal] Crystal, Royalty; 3, 3 Purple, 0
This card has +1 power for each card in your hand.

My, he certainly is beefy.  I think I don’t want a vanilla giant friend in purple, especially at this competitive cost/req, but if you want a big strong stallion in your life, Shining Armor is the captain of the guard of your heart.  Vinyl Scratch certainly appreciates his talents, which is a plus; comboing with good cards is always a good thing.

Silver Spanner, Dumpster Diver (Crystal Games-57 C)
Friend – [Unicorn] Unicorn; 1, 0 Purple, 1
Main Phase: Exhaust one of your [Earth Pony] characters here to banish a card from a discard pile.

1 power fixers historically don’t unlock much you care about, but she’s a unicorn, some of the good purple events have 2 requirement, and her ability isn’t meaningless.  I could see playing her in a theoretical unicorn battlemage deck.  Obviously needing an earth pony to unlock her ability is a bummer, but the new Mayor Mare plays well with events and is an earth pony.  Gyro, Lady Justice, and Spring Forward all are as well, though they’re less exciting.  The ability itself is mediocre against most decks, but if it’s on the board One Pace has to be more careful than usual about what they discard, and it’s hilariously annoying for Maud.  It also disrupts Dream Quest’s What’s Old is New Again endgame plan.

Twilight Sparkle, Crystallized (Crystal Games-61 U)
Friend – [Crystal] Crystal; 3, 3 Purple, 3
Prismatic <P> At the start of a Problem faceoff involving this card, you may choose an opposing character involved in the faceoff with power less than or equal to the number of colors this card has. If you do, that character ceases to be involved in the faceoff.

I don’t think this card is very good; unless the opponent’s friend has some relevant text, it’s like a conditional, less-powerful “+X power in faceoffs” which is not something I’m into.  Also, none of the crystal ponies in this set have other subtypes, which is too bad.

Trixie, The Great and Powerful Showoff (Crystal Games-197 UR)
Friend – [Unicorn] Unicorn; 2, 3 Purple, 2
When this card enters play, you may reveal any number of Events from your hand. Until the end of the turn, this card has +2 power for each Event revealed this way.

A nice bonus on a pretty reasonable card.  The 3 requirement is a bit of a bummer since you can’t just vomit her out to first-turn confront your opponent’s problem, but I’m not willing to call this Crystal Games syndrome since that’s probably just as well.

Also of note: she’s a unicorn who loves events!

Princess Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Friendship (Secret Ultra Rare!)
Friend – [Alicorn] Alicorn; 5; 3 purple; 3
When you play this card, gain [1 action] for each opposing character at its problem.

I’m glad we have alicorn Twilight, though I’m still hoping for a main that turns into an alicorn princess when it flips.  The card itself is cool.  Sadly it works when you play it not when it comes into play, so no Luna shenanigans, though I’m again prepared to call this just as well.  Not being a cost reduction is interesting; on the one hand, you have to have 5 actual AT to deploy it, but on the other hand, if your opponent has truly massive numbers of characters at the problem, you might actually make a net gain of AT.

Right now I don’t see a deck that’s obviously interested in it, because the power level depends so much on the opponent’s play, and what you end up with is just a reasonable body, but I think it could be good enough to play for value, and of course might work well with future cards.

Bottom Line, Purple Friends: No new great fixers, but Dumpster Diver might be okay, and purple already had a fair bit of fixing anyway.  There’s some exciting stuff in here in the form of unicorns that love spells, so the potential for a cool new deck type there.  Nothing looks like it’s going right into existing purple decks, but since existing purple decks mostly wanted to play troublemaker control and already had a lot of good tools for doing that, I still feel like the color made out well.  Diversity of strategies was really what it needed, and it looks like this is at least a start along that road, even if I’m not sure it gets there yet.

White Friends

Coco Pommel, Refurbisher (Crystal Games-62 R)
Friend – [Earth Pony] Earth Pony; 3, 3 White, 3
When this card enters play, you may banish an Event in your discard pile. While that card remains banished, you may play that card as though it were in your hand.

I think this is often going to be better than Rarity, Nest Weaver if you’re confident you want an event back.  It’s not a great card, but it seems okay, and recursion friends that are also reasonably efficiently sized are always nice.  If she were a unicorn I’d say she was ideal for the theoretical purple-based unicorn event deck, but she’s not, alas.

Helia, Marathon Mare (Crystal Games-65 U)
Friend – [Pegasus] Pegasus; 4, 4 White, 2
Teamwork <P> When you win a Problem faceoff involving this card, you may exhaust this card and pay [2 actions] to banish a Friend at that Problem.

I don’t think this is powerful enough to overcome the extremely high cost of investment.  Crystal Games syndrome doesn’t help – it feels like you’d ideally play this card in a blue deck with a white secondary, but the high requirement makes that hard.  If you can unlock it, though, you’ll have plenty of pegasi, and blue has the economy to potentially be willing to pay this much to sweep people.  I don’t think it’ll happen, but I wouldn’t be just flabbergasted to be wrong about that.

Matilda, Full of Hope (Crystal Games-67 U)
Friend – [Donkey] Donkey; 2, 2 White, 2
When this card enters play, the player with the fewest points scores a point.

This is a beautiful design, and what Rarity, Truly Outrageous should have been.  It helps you catch up in those awkward games where your opponent scored first and is up by 1 point and you can’t figure out how to get back into it, but doesn’t do anything when you’re in the lead.  The only problem is that you can’t play it just as a 2 power friend if you’re ahead, but if you’re ahead, you probably don’t need to.  Just remember you can’t and avoid embarrassing cases where you play a two drop for value and end up giving your opponent a point.

Rarity, Breeziefied (Crystal Games-70 U
Friend – [Breezie] Breezie; 0, 2 White, 0
When you win a faceoff involving this card, you may retire it to score a point.

Like Matilda, this seems like a pretty fairly costed effect.  It’s no Truly Outrageous, but just as well.  It is, on the other hand, not too onerous to get the extra point, and it doesn’t have the problem a lot of these cards do where it costs AT and therefore makes it sort of difficult to actually win the faceoff in the first place.  Being able to get the point from non-problem faceoffs is nice as well.  Zero flips are rough and Truly Outrageous exists, so I’m not sure how much play this will really see, but I’m glad it exists.

Rarity, Equestria Games Designer (Crystal Games-72 R)
Friend – [Unicorn] Unicorn; 2, 3 White, 2
While this card has power higher than any other Friend here, you may pay [1 action] less to play Accessories.

If a Rarity, Dressmaker deck is something you’re into, this is a card you want.  She’s a good target for various hats to keep her power high, and makes them cost little enough that some of them are actually good.  In the early game, if you play her to home, it’s likely she’ll have the highest power there for a while against most opponents.  I don’t think she’s anywhere near enough to make Dressmaking a high-tier strategy, but I always like to see it getting some support.

Trenderhoof, Travel Writer (Crystal Games-75 U)
Friend – [Unicorn] Unicorn; 2, 2 White, 2
Teamwork <P> When this card leaves play, you may pay [1 action] to put another card from your discard pile into your hand.

I don’t see anything particularly degenerate that this does off the top of my head, but there might be something someday.  I’m glad it costs an action to use, because that keeps it pretty fair.

While in many other games this would be a great general purpose effect, he’s unlikely to quickly and naturally leave play, and since you can already just pay 1 AT to draw if you like, your discard pile has to have a better card in it than you’d be likely to draw.  Used “fairly” for general value, I don’t think this is a very impressive card.

Princess Cadance, Crystal Princess (Crystal Games-198 UR)
Friend – [Alicorn] Alicorn, Royalty, Crystal; 4, 4 White, 4
Troublemakers can’t be uncovered here.

Like Maud, this is a kind of neat effect that messes with the opponent without just outright stopping whole strategies, which I really like.  Unfortunately, most current troublemaker-based decks try to defend the troublemakers by sending things home, which means they naturally have the appropriate outs to a card like this.  If more decks arise that try to defend troublemakers with combat tricks, like Apple Juice Break or the like, this card gets a lot better, since they can’t just clear it out using their normal defense modes.

Bottom Line, White Friends: The standouts here are Breezie Rarity and Matida, both of whom do similar things.  It’s a nice thing, but not particularly keyed to a specific deck.  Since both have only two requirement, if you want them you can include them with the good fixing we have from previous sets, which is good, since there isn’t any more here.  Cadance gets a shout-out as a maybe good card eventually, but a lot would have to be true, and the high requirement is hard because white mains are still as bad as ever.

Yellow Friends

Amethyst Star, Calming Presence (Crystal Games-77 C)
Friend – [Unicorn] Unicorn; 2, 2 Yellow, 1
Teamwork <P> Troublemakers here have -1 power.

This card seems even worse compared to Forest Owl than Spitfire is.  You should pass on this.

Bright Smile, One of the Gang (Crystal Games-79 C)
Friend – [Crystal] Crystal; 2, 3 Yellow, 2
Your Crystal Friends here also have the colors of each opposing character here.

If the crystal deck is a thing, you want this card.  In addition to working well with the rest of your cards, it’s one of the more efficient crystal characters period, so even if the ability doesn’t do anything, you’re probably okay with playing it.  I don’t think the crystal deck is a thing, though.

Equestrian Mailmare, Special Delivery (Crystal Games-80 C)
Friend – [Pegasus] Pegasus; 3, 0 Yellow, 2
When you play your first card each turn, put a Postage counter on this card.<P>While this card has at least one Postage counter on it, it has +1 power.

Outside the mailbox deck, this is a slightly worse Apple Brown Betty.  Yellow fixing being what it is, that might still be something you want, so this might be enough to enable a few more decks with a yellow secondary.

The mailbox deck, I don’t think is a thing.  Doesn’t seem to be much support.

Fluttershy, Crystallized (Crystal Games-83 U)
Friend – [Crystal] Crystal; 3, 3 Yellow, 3
Prismatic <P> Main Phase: Exhaust this card and pay [1 action] to reveal a number of cards from the top of your deck equal to the number of colors this card has. Put each Friend revealed this way into your hand and the rest of the cards on the bottom of your deck.

This card compares very poorly to just paying 1 AT to draw a card.   I don’t know how many colors it’d need to be to reliably hit, but either way you have to be confident enough that you’ll get at least one card and hopefully 2+ to make up for the fact that you’ve exhausted your 3 power friend and are risking getting nothing.

Hummingbird, Nimble Flier (Crystal Games-86 F)
Friend – [Critter] Critter; 3, 2 Yellow, 3
When an opponent flips a card while this card is involved in a faceoff, if that opponent has more flipped cards than you, flip a card.

I don’t think this is good enough on its merits to be worth playing over yellow’s other cheap cards, but if Applejack, Carbo-loader gets serious traction, it could become a thing.  It’s one of those cards you should remember exists just in case.

Parcel Post, Pushing the Envelope (Crystal Games-88 C)
Friend – [Earth Pony] Earth Pony; 2, 3 Yellow, 2
While you have at least one Mailbox Resource in play, this card has +2 power.

Four power for 2 cost is a pretty good rate, and a nice place to be given significant numbers of the playable problems are at 4 wild.  It’s unlikely to happen early, both because you need a Mailbox and because of the three req and lack of reasonably flipping yellow main that doesn’t rely on critters, but at least the payoff isn’t something you could easily get on another card, like with the stupid pets.  Again, I think the Mailbox deck is not a thing, but if it is, this is part of why.

Princess Celestia, Bane of Evil (Crystal Games-90 R)
Friend – [Alicorn] Alicorn, Royalty; 3, 3 Yellow, 3
When this card enters play, put an opponent’s Troublemaker here into its owner’s hand.

I like this one a lot.  She compares pretty well to the UR Fluttershy from set 1, being larger and cheaper and making the opponent pay to put the card back.  It doesn’t interact as well with villains, but I still think I prefer it.  If you have a whole lot of combat tricks you might rather have Celestia, Protector of Equestria, but I think this is pretty unlikely.  Usually with a card like this, you mostly just want the troublemaker gone.  If yellow aggro makes any kind of comeback, this will be involved.  (I’m not sure it’s enough, but I’m not sure it isn’t.)

Backup Racer, Substitute Flier (Crystal Games-199 UR)
Friend – [Pegasus] Pegasus; 4, 3 Yellow, 2
Teamwork <P> When this card enters play at a Problem, you may send it home to put an opponent’s Friend there with cost less than or equal to this card’s cost into its owner’s hand.

This is a hard card to figure and I never played against it in the Prerelease, but it doesn’t look particularly great to me.  If you want to use her ability when you play her, you have to spend 2 more AT to do it again, leaving you down at least 2 over them replaying the friend.  You can avoid faceoffs on your own turn which is valuable, but it seems mostly like it’d just slow down losses rather than do much useful.  I’m certainly willing to entertain the idea that I might be wrong, though.

Fluttershy, Reliable Racer (Crystal Games-200 UR)
Friend – [Pegasus] Pegasus; 3, 3 Yellow, 3
During faceoffs involving this card, players flip 1 fewer cards.

This is neat!  I like that it allows you to math out most faceoffs, and it works quite well with double flips of your own.  Of course, it also allows your opponent to do so, leaving it best for winning faceoffs on your own turn, which is the time you’d least like to have them.  Not sure if that makes it bad, per se, but it is something to remember.  Of course, it also fights with a bunch of other good 3 cost/power friends, like Guidance Counselor, Eagle, Redheart, etc.

Bottom Line, Yellow Friends: There are some interesting things here, but nothing I think is obviously an auto-include.  Celestia is the closest, helping yellow decks against a historical weakness, but the fact that she only works when you play her makes me skeptical that she’ll do enough against dedicated control.  Of course, decks that plan to just stall the yellow deck with a few villains or troublemakers should fear her.  Otherwise, there are a few maybe-okay cards, but nothing I want to automatically include.  Yellow’s friends were never really the problem, though, so that’s probably not a disaster.

 Continued in part 2

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