From the very earliest spoilers, one of the defining Alloyin abilities has been the power to level up additional cards. Technosmith and Synapsis Oracle were the paradigmatic examples in Set 1, with Metasight adding a spell version in the small expansion. It should come as no surprise that Rise of the Forgeborn brings us an exciting new card with a similar ability.
Delpha, Chronosculpter, riffs on the same theme as Technosmith and Synapsis Oracle, but represents a substantially different take. Technosmith and Synapsis Oracle both grant a very strong power, leveling extra cards for future levels, but balanced by weak stats. They both also start out weak and grow more powerful as they level up. Delpha, on the other hand, has pretty decent stats at all three levels, with the best scores relative to other creatures at Level 1—4/7 is pretty good for Level 1, trading with all but a few other Level 1 cards and scoring uneven trades against many Level 1 cards. 7/10 is a little weaker—there are plenty of 10/8 or better Level 2 creatures, although it will still trade with many level 2 creatures. And 13/16 is nothing to get excited about at Level 3, although those aren’t terrible stats. More importantly, Delpha’s ability is substantially different from any of the power-leveling cards we’ve seen before. Technosmith, Metasight, and Synapsis Oracle at all levels except for 3 are all about investing in the future—leveling additional cards in the hopes that you’ll see them in a future Player Rank.
Delpha, in contrast, invests in the present. After the vanilla Level 1 version, Delpha improves a card that remains in your hand, so you can immediately capitalize on the additional leveling by playing a Level 2 card instead of a Level 1 card, or a Level 3 card instead of a Level 2. A Chronosculpter 2 on turn 5 almost guarantees that you will have at least one Level 2 card to play on turn 6 and greatly increases the chances of a strong tempo swing by playing two Level 2 cards. And even if you don’t choose to play the card that the Chronosculpter leveled up, it will still be leveled up in future Player Ranks—you gain the same variance reduction value that Technosmith and Synapsis Oracle provide, without the critically weak Level 1 version. That also means that Delpha can help you catch up. A Scrapforge Titan 1 is often close to a dead draw in Player Rank 2, but with a Delpha that could still represent a Scrapforge Titan 3 in Player Rank 3.
Of course, Delpha has disadvantages. Like Synapsis Oracle, it has to survive to your next turn to use its power. Delpha is reasonably survivable, dodging some removal like on-level Xrath’s Will and Dreadbolt, but a well-timed Cull the Weak 2 or Uranti Bolt 2 or 3 can ruin your day. The Chronosculpter’s ability also has a downside: a random leveled card is much less powerful than being able to choose which card to level. You may have a card that you would really like to level in your hand, but Delpha may capriciously level a card that you’ve decided is a poor match-up against your opponent’s deck instead.
Taken as a whole, Delpha is a great card that belongs in any Alloyin deck designed to stall and level up powerful threats. Delpha can help you stay competitive in Player Rank 1, and then power out big threats in Player Ranks 2 and 3 without paying the costs of weak Level 1 versions. Unlike Technosmith 1 and Synapsis Oracle 1, Delpha 1 is not a weak card that sacrifices board position as soon as it is played. By the time you make the smaller sacrifice of playing a 7/10 at Level 2 instead of a 10/10 or better, you get rewarded with an extra leveled up card one turn later. It can also make up for missing key draws in earlier levels, although unreliably. Because it has a good health, it works well with the boosts to Attack and Armor, common in Alloyin decks.
I’m also a big fan of Delpha’s art. In particular, it’s nice to see Delpha depicted as a (fully-clad) woman of color. Art can be an important part of making a game welcoming to a wide range of different players of many different backgrounds, and Stoneblade has done a good job with the Chronosculpter of making Solis an inclusive world.
Delpha poses some interesting deck-building challenges. Because it levels cards at random, it works best in a deck with many cards that benefit a great deal from leveling—cards with relatively flat leveling curves (like Deepbranch Prowler, to take one of the most extreme examples) fit poorly with Delpha because they may get leveled to little effect. However, many of the cards that benefit the most from leveling have weak Level 1s that risk being overrun early. Also, most decks want to include some cards that are strong plays when underleveled—but those cards frequently have a flatter leveling curve. Still, the tough deck-building issues are a feature, not a bug—they make Delpha an interesting card to play.
As a Legendary, Delpha is mostly a constructed card. It will show up occasionally in draft, surely to great effect, but it will be quite rare. In constructed, it could easily play a significant role in competitive decks. We can’t be sure until we see all the cards, but Rise of the Forgeborn may create a slower competitive metagame, with more games reaching late Player Rank 3 or 4 than during Set 1 play. If that’s true, cards like Delpha that can contribute to stalling the board during Player Rank 1 while creating substantial advantage in Player Ranks 2 and 3 will be very important.
As a big fan of Alloyin stall decks, I can’t wait to get some copies of Delpha and to start brewing up some decks that will wreck my opponents at Player Rank 3!