Welcome to issue #2 of Superior Tactics. I've received one submission and promises for several more. You too can contribute to the effort. See the bottom of this message for details.
This week, I consider a card which resonates with many contemporary American stories and design principles.
Goin' down the road feeling bad...
Goin' where the climate suits my clothes...
Goin' where the water tastes like wine...
Exile's Road, like The Egg of P'an Ku and The Dragon Pearl, creates a near-exact copy of another card in play. Unlike the Egg, however, Exile's Road doesn't come with a host of rules confusions. Simply, when it turns up, select another Region in play. You essentially have a copy of that Region where Exile's Road came up.
Exile's Road may not copy its player's own unique Regions, which prevents abuses like a pair of Firebird Falls, two Plains of Otosan-Uchi, etc. You may copy an opponent's Unique Region, allowing you to mooch off of his Clan Heartland or (gasp!) Volcano. Even if Exile's Road copies a Unique Region, a second Exile's Road may copy that (or a different) Region, since Exile's Road doesn't assume its new text until it enters play, which happens after play legality is determined. Thus, if you get really lucky, you can find yourself with a triad of Clan Heartlands. But then, with careful orchestration involving The Path not Taken and Ninja Mimic, a player can obtain more than six copies of, say, Iuchi Karasu exp2. And, given the right physical conditions, pigs can fly. As fun as it is to think up intricate combinations, it's not very practical in actual play.
There's no way to force an opponent to use a particular Region, or indeed any Region at all. Thus, the reason to use Exile's Road must stem from the deck of Exile's Road's player. Furthermore, even if you can assure your opponent's use of a particular Region, using Exile's Road likely will not aid your cause significantly more than using the Region in question yourself. Even if you don't own the Region in question, you'll most likely do better with a different Region or no Regions at all than with the wild hope that Exile's Road may become something worthwhile.
Thus, a player's own deck must produce the impetus for her to use Exile's Road. In other words, she must have some non-unique Region which she wants to copy. Generally speaking, there isn't a very good reason. One might include Exile's Road as a "fourth copy" of some region critical to the deck -- Ratling Villages, perhaps, or Osari Plains. While this choice is certainly valid, it increases the chance that at least two regions double up (assuming you lose no provinces and you go through your whole dynasty deck) from 62% to 72%. Furthermore, assuming you use a 40 card dynasty deck and lose no provinces, the chance that you will have two useful regions don't increase by much -- by the time you've seen 12 cards, a single Exile's Road has only increased your chances by roughly 11% (from 17.2% to 28.6%); this advantage peaks half-way through the deck at nearly 23% (from 41% to 64.7%). If you'd like three helpful regions, a single Exile's Road increases your chances by about 2% (1.3% to 3.8%) a third of the way through a 40 card deck. Two thirds of the way through, your chances become 29.5% with an Exile's Road and 11.9% without. And set aside any hopes of getting a bingo -- you only have a 7% chance of getting four useful regions showing by the time your dynasty deck's through. Note that all of those calculations assumed no change in the number of provinces available -- an unwise assumption. Field-calculated percentages will be even lower, though a deck based around gaining extra provinces could use Exile's Road with decent luck. Of course, all of those calculations assume a 40 card deck. A larger deck will experience even smaller percentage net gains, but an Exile's Road or two may help out a thick deck.
If you pair Exile's Road with most Regions, you've got a marginal chance of getting a little extra mileage out of your favorite Region; on its own, it may prove helpful once in a blue moon. So why use the blasted thing? Two Regions spring to mind which combine well with Exile's Road. Mystic Ground and Refuge of the Three Sisters tend not to stick around for too long, lowering the chance that one Region will land on another. Exile's Road effectively allows a pair of Refuges to stick around, too. Of course, with the decreased chance of doubling up comes an increased chance that Exile's Road won't have much to copy; the exact chance depends on how rapidly the Regions get used up.
A few alternate formats deserve consideration as well. The first is team format, in which two two-player teams face off. When two people build decks in conjunction, one can use Exile's Roads while the other uses particular Unique regions -- Clan Heartland, say, or Firebird Falls. The other format in which Exile's Road deserves consideration is highlander format. In a highlander, each (non-gold holding) card can only appear in the deck once. Therefore, a player doesn't have the option of including three of his favorite Region, but he could include a Farmlands, a River Delta, and an Exile's Road.
Exile's Road should be walked by few decks, but occasionally the outlaw becomes the hero. Another card with a few obscure uses. Just the perfect sort of thing to keep in your box of cards and write a strategy column about.
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