I play an obscene amount of the deckbuilding card game Ascension, all of it on the wonderful iPhone port. I’ve played dozens of games against humans online and hundreds of games against AI. It’s a fun game that’s often tense, frequently surprising, and almost always satisfying: Few gaming experiences are as rewarding as executing a late-game combo to rack up dozens, if not hundreds, of points.
Here are my picks for the ten best Heroes and Constructs in the game. (Monsters are not included.) I’ve made a few assumptions, here: One is that you’re playing with the entire set of cards available in the app, which means there’s an abundance of Treasures and that’s it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll run into a specific combo card. I also assume you’re playing for 120 Honor, though I recently learned the official printed rules state you should play for 60 Honor.
One important consideration I made in this ranking is value: A card that costs 4 or 5 Runes can be a better card than a more powerful one that costs 7 or 8, simply because it’s so much easier to get 4 or 5 Runes.
Honorable Mention: Vir, Ephemeral Guru
I mean, look at it! This is the most powerful Hero in the game. I’ve never seen this card played by someone who ends up losing the game. Unless the board is awful, it guarantees you a mega turn. So why did it not make the top ten? Look at what you need to do to get it in your deck:
Not only do you have to buy a card that cost 8 Runes, but you have to have that card in your hand after you’ve played a Hero of every faction, which is extremely difficult to pull off. But if you do… it’s basically game over.
#10: Orb of Nyx
Sure, it’s crazy expensive, but this is one of the best Constructs in the game. Obviously gaining 3 Power per turn is hugely useful, making it easier to take out powerful monsters. But it’s the second half that really pushes this one to the next level: Gaining a Soul Gem every time you defeat a Monster. This combos well with a bunch of other cards and makes it easy to have bonkers mega-turns.
#9: Dhartha, the Eternal
In general , Multi-Unite cards are broken. The ability to repeat an effect over and over means that you can play some truly obscene combos. Dhartha, the Eternal is one of my favorite Multi-Unite cards, though, because of how well it builds synergies with other Enlightened Heroes: Enlightened cards tend to allow you to draw cards, which in turn allows you to have more Enlightened cards in your hand. It’s not implausible in the slightest that you could use Dhartha a dozen times in one turn. Sure, there’s a major luck component: You could draw nothing but Treasures. But all it takes is a couple beefy cards for Dhartha to win you the game.
#8: Arbiter of the Precipice
Probably the first lesson that any Ascension player learns before they start getting good at the game is the power of banishing cards. Thin the Militia and Apprentices out of your deck and you’ll start having much better turns, like trashing in Dominion. And Arbiter of the Precipice is one of the best banishers in the game. Other than #1 on this list, this is the best early game card in all of Ascension: You not only get to banish a card, but get to reload your hand. Lucking into this in one of the first couple turns makes it tough for anyone else to keep up with you. The only reason it’s not higher is that it loses a lot of value late in the game once you’ve weeded out all of your weak cards. (Compare this to the nearly-as-great Shadowcaster, which is more expensive but better in the late game.)
#7: Dream Machine
This list is very low on Mechana cards despite the fact that the Mechana Construct strategy is one of my favorites to play. It’s because Mechana Constructs, by their nature, are great because you can accumulate a critical mass of benefits as the game goes. Only a handful of them really stand out on their own.
Dream Machine is one of those, though, because it combos so insanely well with so many Constructs. Any card that gives you a once-per-turn benefit can effectively be doubled. I’ve read (but never actually witnessed) that there are infinite combos you can play, with Dream Machine as the crux of those combos.
Spirit of the Ancients is borderline overpowered. It’s also a card that gets better and better the more expansion packs there are: The more Lifebound heroes there are in the Ascension library, the better this card gets because the more flexible and persistent it is. It will always be the best Lifebound card because it mimic any card that might be “better” than it. Well, except…
#5: Moken, the Huntmaster
I almost put Starcaller Leotan in this spot before I remembered Moken. Let’s compare:
Leotan cost one rune less, yes, and gains the energy benefits of cards like Omnicron. You can also play it multiple times per game, doubling down on its Energy-harvesting ability. But even after all of that, I think Moken is slightly better. It’s less dependent on drawing tons of Treasures as you passively get their benefit. It also introduces the viable strategy of singularly going after Treasure cards, as they’re all effectively worth 1 Honor once you hold Moken.
#4: Adayu the Serene
This is the second most powerful hero in Ascension behind Vir, Ephemeral Guru… and I’d probably buy the argument that Adayu is even more powerful. Remember how I said a few entries ago that the Multi-Unite mechanic is broken-good? Well, Adayu doubles down on that: You now get benefits from every Faction.
The biggest downside to Adayu compared to the three cards yet to come in the list are that it’s pretty difficult to actually get in your hand, as you have to defeat a 7 Power monster, which is generally harder to do than to buying a 7 Rune hero. But if you land it, it’s the ultimate combo card (except maybe #2 on this list).
#3: Miles, Golden Prodigy
Miles, along with the next card on this list, is one of the most fun cards in the game to play. It rewards a Faction-balanced deck, and can instantly turn a mediocre hand into an incredible one. At a minimum, it allows you to draw one card. But it can let you draw up to FIVE cards, doubling your initial hand. And it only costs 5 Runes. So good.
#2: Ulu, Askara Prince
This is it, the most fun card in Ascension. Sure, Twofold Askara is fantastic — and might very well have deserved a spot on this list — but the bump between doubling a card and tripling a Hero is a big one. And it’s only two runes more expensive. Hitting 2 Energy is a pretty low threshold.
Obviously, Ulu combos with any other card, but it’s fun to imagine the most powerful combos: Master Dhartha? Awesome. Miles? Fantastic. Vir, Ephemeral Guru? Let’s not get carried away. Adayu? Okay, just stop.
#1: Dreamer’s Glass
Unequivocally the best card in Ascension. Unlike even the best banishers, such as Black Hole and Arbiter of the Precipice, Dreamer’s Glass is also a great late-game card: It allows you to remove cards from your deck but still get their Honor points at the end of the game. This would be a truly great card even without the sentence “If you do, draw a card.” But the fact that you get to refresh your hand after using it brings this to the next level. Buying this in the first few turns more or less guarantees you winning the game.
There’s obviously one caveat to Dreamer’s Glass’s greatness: If an opponent manages to destroy it mid-game, your deck will be flooded with Apprentices and Militia and whatever other cards you’ve culled. But it’s not hard to mitigate this risk: A card or two that allows you to banish monsters, or even a few Heavy Infantry, drastically reduce the risk of this happening because you can clear other cards out.
Simply, this card is a monster, and I get giddy whenever it gets drawn.