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At a Crossroads: Exploring Korshem

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At a Crossroads: Exploring Korshem

Narrated by Mark Chamberlain


This article is narrated, but requires a Rathe Times subscription to experience.

The debut of the first legendary Landmark- the Great Library of Solana, back in Monarch- was one of those moments where the game was fundamentally changed without warning. For the first player who opened a pack and found a horizontally-formatted card in sparkling cold foil, it must have been utterly mind-blowing. The community quickly took to evaluating this new card type, trying to determine if this new Fabled card was going to become a necessity or simply a novelty within the meta.

But we're not here to talk about the Library today. This time, we turn our focus to the second landmark to enter the game.

In a fun bit of Rathe Times history, our very own Mark Chamberlain was the first to open a pack of Tales of Aria and find a tree inside. Here's the moment in his own words:

It was an overwhelming, amazing experience! The whole house erupted in applause, cheers, and celebration. Seeing the first cold foil landmark in my hands, pulling the first copy of this fable in the world, is truly a favored experience that I got to share with friends and gamers. I was a celebrity that weekend!

The Language of Trees

One of the most notable things about Korshem, Crossroad of the Elements is that its rules text is written with narrative flourishes, requiring a bit of interpretation- or the official rules entry found on to make sense of its effect!

The rules text, in standard format:

Legendary (You may only have 1 Korshem, Crossroads of the Elements in your deck.)

Go again

Whenever a hero reveals 1 or more cards, they choose 1; Gain 1 resource, or gain 1 health, or their next attack this turn gains +1 power, or the next action card they defend with this turn gains +1 defense.

At the beginning of the end phase, if no hero has gained resources or health from a card effect and no card or token controlled by a hero has had power or defense increased this turn, destroy Korshem, Crossroads of the Elements.

That's a lot of options from a simple reveal! And since this card is tied to the Elemental talent, it's adding benefit to a strategy you're already utilizing. Now every single fusion has the added benefit of gaining life, gaining resources, or increasing the power or defense of your next card!

Flesh and Blood is a game of inches, and those incidental gains of +1 life here and there can be the difference between winning and losing a game. Just consider the storied career of Sigil of Solace since its debut! +1 power can bring an attack over a critical breakpoint (though notably, a fused attack cannot be the recipient of the +1 power from its own reveal, as the language specifies 'next attack'); and similarly, a +1 to an action's defense can surprise an opponent with a single-card block of a 4 attack.

That last paragraph is important to understand, because it impacts how effectively you can utilize Korshem. "At the beginning of the end phase" is checked at the beginning of each players' end phase, meaning your opponent can destroy Korshem simply by not meeting its upkeep requirements. If you want to maintain Korshem without their help, you'll probably need to play at Instant speed.

Because of this vulnerability to an uncooperative opponent, Korshem has seen limited play. It's most notable use has been as a one-card counter to the Great Library of Solana; Korshem has been a sideboard consideration for Bravo, Star of the Show throughout the Pro Quest season.

But does Korshem have greater potential?

Tapping into Korshem

Obviously, Korshem is made to accentuate Fusion strategies. In the limited environment of Tales of Aria sealed events, an unexpected Korshem pull can make for an incredibly entertaining tournament, where both players stand to benefit from the empowering nature of... well, nature!

In that light, a deck that fuses more stands to gain more. And a deck that fuses multiple times in a turn- that would primarily be Lightning builds for Briar and Lexi- can expect to see incredible payoffs from playing Korshem. Even a single turn with Korshem could be worth it, if the turn is significantly wide.

Card image of Death Dealer
Card image of Snap Shot (Red)
Card image of Three of a Kind (Red)

For Lexi, a deck built around the interaction between Death Dealer and Snap Shot could provide enough gas to make Korshem a worthwhile inclusion, even if it only lasts for a single turn. Cards like Three of a Kind could increase the size of your hand, setting you up for a long string of attacks that all gain you life. I'd also be looking at cards like Dazzling Crescendo, Bolt'n' Shot, and Tri-Shot to widen your turns.

Card image of Force of Nature (Blue)
Card image of Rites of Lightning (Red)
Card image of Vela Flash (Red)

The Briar card that jumps out at me immediately is Force of Nature, though the deck required to support it requires careful construction. While an Earth Fusion maximizes your payoff, FoN is still compelling as a lead-in to a wide turn of Lightning Fusions, with cards like Rites of Lightning and Vela Flash serving as chain links. If you can find the resources to pay for it, the Earth line provides its own modifiers to trigger Force of Nature, with cards like Stir the Wildwood and Explosive Growth serving as anchors. Gaining Go Again can be a barrier to taking the Earth route, but thankfully we have access to the Runeblade card pool, where Mauvrion Skies serves as a perfect enabler.

All that said, we're looking at some pretty card-intensive turns with questionable payoffs! You're really just including Korshem because you want to, and not because it's the strongest and most synergistic card for the slot. Is it possible to build a deck that can count on gaining a steady benefit from Korshem?

Nurturing Growth

There are 5 ways we can keep Korshem in play during an opponent's turn:

  • Reveal a card
  • Gain a resource (via means other than pitching)
  • Gain life
  • Cause a card to gain power
  • Cause a card to gain defense

Some of these are easier to do than others. Gaining defense, for example, is a distinctly off-turn play. You can gain defense simply by having less life than an opponent while Arcanite Skullcap is equipped. If you're on a budget, Ironhide armor can all be used to preserve Korshem for a turn.

Card image of Arcanite Skullcap
Card image of Embodiment of Earth
Card image of Rampart of the Ram's Head

Briar also gains defense via her Embodiment of Earth aura; simply block with a non-attack action, and you've gained defense. Oldhim and Bravo can keep Korshem around simply by blocking with Rampart of the Ram's Head.

On the topic of Elemental Guardians, they have 2 defense reactions with fusions. Guardians also have Staunch Response, along with Springboard Somersault and Unmovable available to them, making 5 defensive options for keeping Korshem alive. Oh, I nearly forgot about Pulse of Isenloft! When you consider all these options alongside their Equipment, it's honestly more surprising if Korshem ever falls!

Card image of Blood Drop Brocade
Card image of Fyendal's Spring Tunic
Card image of Sigil of Solace (Red)

Some of these strategies may require you to build your deck a particular way, but others are already staples of deck building. Sigil of Solace is an Instant already, and feeds into a strategy of life gain. And while using Fyendal's Spring Tunic just to save the trees may not feel like a great value, the fact that the effect is recurring every 3 turns can be useful when your deck has a sustainable Korshem plan that just missed a beat. (Blood Drop Brocade can do in a pinch.)

There are lots of times where your opponent is in control of whether or not Korshem stays in play. But in certain matchups, it may be unavoidable. Consider Boltyn or Kassai with Cintari Sabers- for that matter, what is Dorinthea even doing if she's not climbing with her weapon? Benji and Ira both modify the second attack of the turn. And if any of these guys take a turn off their strategy just to spite your tree, I'd say it's earned its keep!

Card image of Exposed to the Elements (Blue)
Card image of Pick a Card, Any Card (Blue)
Card image of Pry (Blue)

But perhaps most interesting of all is an elemental we haven't even discussed yet: Iyslander. Thanks to her ability to play blue non-attack actions from arsenal at instant speed, we gain access to a number of effects. Exposed to the Elements is technically an option for all 3 Ice heroes, but when you consider the benefit of destroying Nullrune equipment, it really does fit Iyslander best. Pry sacrifices nothing for a blue pitch bar when played on the opponent's turn. And Pick a Card, Any Card- whose separate instances of revealing a random card can trigger Korshem 2, 3, or 4 times depending on the cycle- performs admirably even in blue when it can be played as an Instant. As Wizards are often fighting for their lives as they try to assemble a finishing combo, Korshem's constant life gain strategy may very well find a home with Iyslander.

Potential for Growth

While Korshem may not have much to show for its past, the present is starting to look more prosperous; and there's no doubt in my mind that the future will be bright for this towering tree. Some heroes are already traveling toward Korshem's crossroads; others can find their way there with a little bit of modification.

And if all else fails, take the monkey's advice: open your wallet, call for a second Korshem, and start cracking packs!

(In casual formats, of course.)

Card image of Go Bananas (Yellow)

Discussion (3)

Author Tommy

Tommy Mains

2 years ago
Great discussion on Korshem. I really wanted an Oldhim + Korshem deck of mine to work, but he doesn't have quite enough ways to trigger the ability on the opponent's turn (Rampart is great but the opponent could just not attack for a turn). I suppose Lexi could use Voltaire to slap an arrow into an arsenal slot and give it +1 on the opponent's turn.

Alex Truell

2 years ago
Good thinking! I do feel that, given the low cost of Korshem, it is still worthwhile if all you do is force them to skip a turn.
Author Isaac

Isaac Jessen

2 years ago
Great article, thanks for doing all the homework for the rest of us!

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