There’s a myth about an ancient race that had powerful magic as well as advanced technology beyond even our own, but then they disappeared from the realm. They are called the Vortoss. While some thought it was just a story, we now know that the story is true.
The Vortoss culture is fixated on time, what it means, how it flows, and how we are at its mercy. They sought to harness time and bend it to their will. One sect of Vortoss are mystic historians who were focused on looking back. Others are engineers and futurists, focused on looking forward.
The scientist Max Geiger accidentally made contact with the Vortoss during experiments he conducted on the nature of time. He was able to communicate with them, learn about them, and even develop some of his own technology based on theirs. Geiger is the link between our timeline and theirs, so the Vortoss call him their emissary. They are now able to exist in our time, which shifts the balance of power in the realm significantly.
Before we meet Geiger though, let’s start with Prynn Pasternaak, the Vortoss’s hero of the Past. Pasternaak is a historian who wants to record the Past as well as preserve it. The Past tends to slip away from memory, and it takes constant vigilance to keep it in view. Pasternaak herself is slipping away into the Past, as we can see from her hero card’s first ability:
The fading ability means that she arrives with 4 time runes, you remove one each upkeep, and if you remove the last then she dies. If she really does fade away this way, the ripples in time disrupt your enemies too. They will be stuck with the same cards across two turns, unable to draw more.
Pasternaak’s max level ability is a powerful way to gain tempo. It can get rid of ANY unit—even a tech III—but this effect is only temporary. When Prynn Pasternaak herself disappears, any units she sent to time-prison will return. The idea is that if you can temporarily get rid of one of the opponent’s most powerful units, that will help you gain control of the battlefield before it returns. Make sure to attack each turn with Pasternaak so that she gains a time rune each turn, and use other means to add time runes too. The more you add, the longer you can banish an enemy.
The purple faction’s starting deck has a unit with fading too:
Fading Argonaut is a 2/3 for only 2 gold, but his drawback is that he usually only gets to attack twice before he fades away. You can play around that drawback pretty easily and just make sure he dies for your cause in a helpful way.
While the purple faction has a variety of strategies, they excel at late game power. To help them survive to that late game, they have one of the best defenders in any starting deck:
Moxen are generally very valuable, and I think you’ll find no exception here. While Hardened Mox is expensive at a cost of 3 gold, it’s INDESTRUCTIBLE. It can patrol for you turn after turn after turn. If your opponents would kill it, all that really does is exhaust it and remove it from your patrol zone. They’ll have to deal with it again next turn. This helps you turtle up and get to the late game, though you won’t be able to keep your Mox once you have a tech II unit—it says so on the card that you can’t.
Another thing that goes hand-in-hand with late-game control decks is that they want card draw. Your starting deck provides that too:
At the very least, it draws 1 card, but it’s really not that difficult to draw 2 with it. Drawing 3 cards with it takes some setup, but it’s doable sometimes.
Pasternaak’s spells are geared towards control and they each help you answer different kinds of threats. She has one of the most reliable ways to get rid of a unit in the game:
For just 3 gold, she can bounce any non-tech III unit to its owner’s hand. Your opponents will be worried about this spell if they even see her on your team. Keep in mind that Undo is getting you behind on card advantage though. After you use it, you go down in cards by 1 (because you used the Undo card) but your opponent actually gains a card in hand (the one you returned). You can usually more than make up for that by setting up favorable combats, or putting the opponent behind in gold (Undo an expensive unit of theirs), or by using the tempo to generally get ahead of them in board position. Also, if you Undo a token card it will straight up kill it because tokens can’t actually be in a player’s hand.
Undo gets rid of units, but heroes aren’t classified as units. Pasternaak can take care of heroes too with this:
Ever wondered how a hero started out? It started out weak, without any buffs, and at level 1. When you tell the Origin Story, the hero returns to the command zone and goes back to that original state. (That’s a general rule about heroes in command zones; they can never have any levels or buffs, etc there.) Origin Story is especially great if you use it on an opposing max level hero. That means you made the opponent waste all the gold they put into leveling up a hero. The mere threat of this will make them wary relying on max level heroes or ultimate spells.
Vortoss Emblem might not seem as splashy as Undo or Origin Story, but I’ve said a lot of times to playtesters “You know, you wouldn’t have lost if you had Vortoss Emblem there.” The cost of 0 is pretty attractive, and the fading 3 part is hardly a relevant drawback (it even powers up your Temporal Research card draw!). The point of it is that it basically “pre-counters” anything that would target your stuff. For example, afraid of an opposing purple player’s Undo? Attach Vortoss Emblem to THEIR best unit and now that’s the only thing they can Undo for 3 turns (which might as well be forever). Afraid of the Necromancy hero's Doom Grasp that might kill your hero? Vortoss Emblem helps you there too. Even though Doom Grasp can target a hero, it can ALSO target a unit, which means it will have to target the unit with Vortoss Emblem on it rather than your hero.
Pasternaak’s ultimate spell is a powerful reset button:
If you’re behind, Rewind can get rid of all the units on the table, giving you a do-over. You can hopefully play a few units of your own afterwards that same turn. Rewind works especially well if you have any units “in the future,” but you’ll have to read the article about the Vortoss’s Future spec to understand that. Rewind is also one of the only ultimate spells that you can play without telegraphing it. It’s possible to summon Prynn Pasteraak from your command zone, level her to max, then play Rewind that very same turn. This helps you make a comeback if you’re getting overwhelmed—a thing not usually possible with ultimate spells. They usually require you have to have a max level hero that lives one turn before you can cast them.
At tech I, your Seer can manipulate time:
Adding or removing a time rune can come in handy, and you get a 2/1 unit as well for just 1 gold. This makes Seer a staple card that you’re often happy to replay, especially if you have any Future cards with forecast (again, see the article about the Future spec).
A 2/3 is a pretty solid unit, and that comes along with the effect of removing one of the opponent’s early game units. That’s a great overall gain in battlefield position. That said, you can use Stewardess of the Undone to return your own units too if that somehow helps.
Now let’s look at Past’s tech II options. First, you have a really efficient flier and a really efficient ground attacker too:
The drawback is that both of these fade away. You can probably get a lot of value out of a 1 cost 3/4 flier or a 3 cost 6/4 before that happens though. And both of these have a built-in way to add a time rune if you really want to keep them longer.
Are you still afraid they’ll fade away anyway though? Your fading units can get a Second Chance:
Second Chances will save the first unit per turn that would die to anything as long as it’s not combat damage. That includes fading as well as sacrificing or destroying units.
If you think fading is still a sad drawback to have, yeah it really is sad when things fade into the past, forgotten completely. But Rememberer flips that around. As careful historians, Rememberers remember those in danger of fading away:
That’s a ton of value right there. Every turn, you get a FREE unit with fading from your discard pile. You do have to meet the tech requirements for that unit, but it can be anything from tech 0 to tech III! A Rememberer can even remember another Rememberer!
Here’s a completely different way to get ahead on tempo:
This affects you as well as your opponents, but the effect is actually way in your favor. This is partly because it affects your opponents before it affects you, but also because Past is geared to have cheap units. Your 1 cost 3/4 flier is looking pretty hot right now compared to some 8 cost thing that your opponent can’t even play at all under Slow-Time Generator. If you’re already a little ahead on tempo, this card lets you “cash in” and pull way ahead.
Finally, here’s Past’s tech III unit:
Ebbflow Archon is a mind-bender. He has fading, but he actually gets BIGGER as he fades, not smaller. He can clear out the entire board instantly, which also makes him BIGGER, but he’ll die sooner as well. Time is a mind-bending thing to deal with, so make sure you have the brain for it before using Ebbflow Archon. When you use him right, he should be able to clear away just enough stuff so that he’ll still live long enough to take advantage of the mostly-empty board state he creates.
Those who don’t remember Past’s tricks are doomed to lose to them repeatedly.