Shadowfist Throne War Expansion

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Home > Sets > Throne War
[posted 23 Feb 2003; updated 4 Dec 2005]

What's in the set? - rarity, distribution by faction, and obligatory statistics
Nitpicker's Guide - errors big, small, and ludicrously small
Storyline summary - the story behind this set, summarized in a couple of paragraphs
Card list - opens in new window
Etc - whatever's left, random thoughts and comments, sometimes my opinions on this set or cards in it, and/or the State of Shadowfist at the time of this expansion

What's in Throne War?

Shadowfist Throne War booster display boxThrone War is a booster-only expansion set released by Z-Man Games in August 2000 along with Year of the Dragon. It's an 80-card set that contains 69 new cards, with rarities divided into Common, Uncommon, and Rare. The other 11 cards are reprints of Daedalus cards, or appear in Year of the Dragon as well. All cards are black-bordered with a white (not foil) pagoda Throne War in the upper right corner.

Shadowfist Throne War booster packBooster packs contain 10 randomly assorted cards; each display box contains 24 boosters. The small size of the set means that you will generally get a full set out of a single box of boosters (or be very close). The wrappers were printed in black ink only on silver foil, although the foil seems to be a bit thinner than that used by Daedalus.

Throne War




















I didn't find any secret messages on the display box or the booster wrapper. If you did, please let me know where, and what it says. Thanks!

Here's the breakdown by faction and by card type. The table on the left shows the overall breakdown (for new players), the table on the right shows the breakdown of the new cards only (for not new players). Apologies for the formatting of the table, but it's much smaller to plop an image in than write a table in HTML. Eventually I'll try out the CSS thing and redo all my tables...

Shadowfist Throne War breakdown by faction and type, including errata and reprints  Shadowfist Throne War breakdown by faction and type, excluding errata and reprints

Looking at this graphically may or may not help you, but I like it. Click either graph to see a larger version in a new window. These plots include errata and reprints.

Shadowfist Throne War breakdown by faction Shadowfist Throne War breakdown by type

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The Nitpicker's Guide: Throne War

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Storyline Summary: Throne War - So Many Kings, So Little Time...

The Throne War fiction was plotted and partially drafted by me for Z-Man in 2000, but wasn't finished until late in 2002. Despite the lateness, Z-Man decided that it would be the official fiction for the set (probably because no one else had time to work on it :). You can read the full story here on this site if you're interested; the usual summary is below.

The Emperor is found deathly ill one day. Gao Zhang is forced to replace him in order to stay in power. At first, he uses a shape-changing demon to take his place. The demon is discovered by Oliver Chen, an Ascended agent, and Oliver begins to subtly encourage the demon's darker pursuits. The Hand also realize that something is amiss, and decide that this is their opportunity to seat their own Emperor and expose the Lotus. Their local agent, Leung Mui, calls up the rebels she has been organizing under the banner of The Black Flag. The Hand also begin arranging for large numbers of reinforcements from the 1850s juncture.

Gao Zhang arranges for a long-term replacement for the Emperor. He strikes a bargain with Xin Kai Sheng, a powerful sorcerer not affiliated with the Lotus, and who is related to the previous ruling family.

When he realizes what the Demon Emperor has been up to, Gao Zhang confronts him and kills him. Meanwhile, Oliver Chen has smuggled the real Emperor to a safe place. Gao Zhang finds a substitute who looks like the Emperor, then arranges to have him killed in a public display designed to spring Xin Kai Sheng on the masses. An attack by the Jammers happens to coincide with the speech, and ends up cementing Xin Kai Sheng's claim as he proves himself in battle.

Xin Kai Sheng leads the Lotus forces to deal with the Jammers, then takes the battle against the Black Flag. The Hand reinforcements have not appeared (they were to come through the gate in Nine Dragon Temple, which was destroyed by the Thing in the Year of the Dragon story), so the Lotus defeat the Hand and maintain control of the Chinese empire.

There is also a sideplot involving flashbacks about how The Monkey Who Would Be King got involved with this mess, and the Purists' role in creating him, but that doesn't really bear on the storyline as a whole. In one sentence or less, Celeste Carter snuffs out The Monkey so he can't spill any beans about the Purists' secret plans.

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Etc: Throne War

Like Year of the Dragon, Throne War is another set where my opinion is biased, so I'll go for some history here too (and maybe a few opinions will sneak in along the way).

Daedalus had tested Throne War for a few months prior to going belly-up in 1997, and had some sample art on display at GenCon in 1997. Z-Man intended to get a quick start on the relaunch using the "already tested and ready to go" Throne War cards, but after digging into it found that the set wasn't really as ready to go as rumor had it. The set was on the small side, with a very large percentage of reprints and upgrades to old cards. I was on the Daedalus playtest team, and I'm glad that Z-Man didn't print it as-was :) But rest assured that you have seen quite a few of the new cards that Daedalus intended for Throne War. They've been sprinkled into various Z-Man expansions, although not necessarily with their rules text intact. For example, The Emperor appeared in Z-Man's Throne War, but was nerfed significantly. You should have seen the "ready-to-print" version :)

Z-Man reworked the mix in Throne War to be mainly new cards since Year of the Dragon was to be mainly reprints. The set was intended to give a boost to the Lotus and Jammers, the red-headed stepchildren of Shadowfist (the Monarchs needed help too, but there wasn't room in the set to help everyone). Ironically, the original Daedalus Throne War was supposed to focus on the Lotus too, but it had only a few new Lotus cards in it. Go figure.

From the beginning, the set was planned to have a few staple reprints in it, like Pocket Demon, Violet Meditation, and Whirlpool of Blood because new players needed those cards in fairly high numbers to field decks that could compete with veterans. Evil Twin was reprinted as an uncommon to "rebalance" it, since it was in great demand in the Daedalus era, and Zev decided that it was more important to provide easy access to cards that many players wanted in large numbers rather than keeping it scarce to please collectors and/or secondary sellers. (I very much agree with and applaud Zev for taking that stand, by the way) Unfortunately the set ended up with more (and less justified) reprints than those four—you can read about some of them in the design note "How Art Influences Card Design" but the one that generated the most questions by far was...

Art Description for Kar Fai (PAP)

Show Kar Fai, and in the background Zheng Yi Quan. Both of them are fighting against a large number of chinese palace guards. Kar Fai has just punched one guard, perhaps we see the guard being knocked back off toward the left side of the frame. In the background, Zheng Yi Quan has just kicked another guard. Give the impression that these two guys are surrounded and outnumbered, but they're winning anyway. Emphasize Kar Fai; if it's not possible to show both him and Zheng Yi Quan, then drop Zheng Yi Quan (see art refs for these two guys).

The art was commissioned and completed before Kar Fai was changed to a plain reprint. It's since been used on a Z-Man card (after Throne War). Bonus points if you can name it without looking in your card binder.

Why, oh why, was Kar Fai reprinted?
According to the Daedalus storyline planned for Throne War, Kar Fai was to play a large role for the Dragons, trying to organize a mini-faction called the Seven Masters (the Taoists) to help their efforts in the AD69 juncture. The Seven Masters didn't make the cut for the Z-Man set (they've since appeared in their own set, Seven Masters vs. The Underworld, in 2004), but Kar Fai stayed in. Now, Kar Fai is not the most popular or effective of Dragon hitters, the kind of card that doesn't exactly cause jubilation when you find him in a pack, so he was planned to be an upgraded, play-as-printed version. But after a long period of testing there were persistent comments that he was good enough as he was, that he didn't need improvement. That certainly shocked me, since I've only played Kar Fai in a goofy "I can even beat you with this crap" type of deck. But you already know the rest of the story: he ended up a straight reprint, and my opinion hasn't changed. I'd say that, as a designer, Kar Fai is the most disappointing card in the set to me because he could have been so much more—we had several interesting, playable and balanced versions ready to go. So now the poor Z-Man Kar Fais join the poor Daedalus Kar Fais as dust gatherers in your card box. Sorry. (some of you will wonder why I don't rate Who Wants Some as the most disappointing card in the set, but that's another story...)

The art for the set is a mixed bag, with a lot of artists new to Shadowfist (and some new to print, period). I was most impressed by Stephen Snyder's work (Seven Evils, CDCA Scientist in Year of the Dragon, Silver Band promo) but your mileage may vary. Mike Kimble also did some great work with Shi Zi Hui. The cards are printed just a bit darker than Daedalus versions, and the corners are cut a bit differently, so you can readily distinguish them by the card backs if you have good lighting. This lead to much squinting at initial Feng Shui Sites, trying to figure out if that face-down site was a Temple of the Angry Spirits or some more benign Daedalus site :)

The "random" sorting ended up not. I never did find out exactly why, but I have my suspicions. If you open a display box and want to check it out, keep track as you open packs. The rares will be in alphabetical order. The uncommons will be in one of several possible groupings, but always in the same order within a particular grouping. Ditto for the commons. Two lessons learned: (1) the number of commons/uncommons in the set should not be evenly divisible by the number of commons/uncommons in a pack and (2) don't let the printer do the sheet layout.

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