Welcome to our second Syndicate card review focusing on the Crownsplitters gang, led by none other than the infamous Carlo "Cleaver" Varese. Written by Hippotompotomus and Pajabol.
While you're at it, you can look at our reviews of the other gangs. Tidecloaks - Blindeyes - Firesworn - Cutups.
Cleaver could unfortunately be considered the runt of the Syndicate leaders litter. His ability doesn't add value to your deck and on top of that, he suffers from the Calveit syndrome. Ironically, Cleaver's leader ability gets worse the better your hand quality is. However, he does have some versatility. You can build his deck in a myriad of ways, none of which seem particularly good. Everything from a Shupe deck, a control deck with Scorch, a dedicated Crime deck with Portal and Cutup Lackeys, or even a cheese deck with Adrenaline Rush. Until the tinkerers out there find "the correct list" that takes a real advantage of his leader ability to play two cards in one turn, Cleaver will remain the worst Syndicate leader.
Novigradian Justice is one of the standout Syndicate cards. It can be used for raw value on Cleaver's Muscle for 10 points. You can play two engines such as Bare-Knuckle Brawlers in a dedicated Crime deck. Scoia'tael can use it to spawn Dwarven Mercenaries in a dwarf deck or potentially some sexy combos, for example playing two Mahakam Defenders and using Dana's leader ability in order to boost both units with Dennis Cranmer. Novigradian Justice is a solid tempo play which thins your deck.
The Sausage Maker is a card that effectively plays for 8 value at the cost of 10 provisions. You can get more value by utilizing his Intimidate tag and playing a few Crime cards. His Resilience ability makes you spend 5 coins, which actually means you lose carry-over in form of the coins themselves, so it generally isn't very efficient. However, it could be a way to exploit your coins at the end of Round 1 or Round 2 when you're looking to pass.
Ferko can pull any Crime card out of your deck. He's similar to NG's Menno Coehoorn, giving you the added flexibility of being able to tutor exactly what you need. We are yet to see whether Ferko will be worth playing or not. Just like with Menno, pulling an expensive Crime card such as Novigradian Justice is a huge commitment and often not a good idea until Round 3, which is where you can get into consistency issues. If Cleaver ever gets more relevant as a leader, Ferko could see play in Crime decks.
Caesar Bilzen seems like a bargain, with a ridiculous ceiling of 13 value for only 8 provisions when used alongside Sigi Reuven or bonded Beggars. You can utilize his built-in Fee ability if you ever need the additional tempo. However, he is easily disrupted and bad in shorter rounds, so the dream scenario won't happen all that often. Although he might find a place in greedier decks, he strikes us as a win-more card.
Harald Gord is a dual-faction card for SY and ST. You want to play him in a deck that is full of specials. His max value is 14, as you can put a maximum of 12 special cards into your deck. He might see some play in Crime decks or spell ST decks with Francesca as a leader. You can use him as a powerful finisher, but at the very moment, the cost of making your deck "worse" by putting in "too many" special cards seems to be inefficient.
Tunnel Drill is the new gold standard among artifact removal. It plays at a respectable 6 for 6 value and gives you the option to keep on removing artifacts, as long as you can pay the Fee.
Shakedown provides solid 6 for 5 value, but is outclassed by Dip in the Pontar. You need to have some board pressence to get full value with Shakedown. Swindle into Dip in the Pontar forces your opponent to play proactively, which is a lot better.
Cleaver's Muscle is the last dual-faction card for SY and ST from this set. At the first glance, this card might seem like a filler card with average value. However, the dwarf tag makes this card good. Novigradian Justice and Cleaver's Muscle is a great combo for ST, giving them two dwarfs that boost Milva and Gabor by 1, while offering bodies for Barnabas and Oak. Sometimes they can help with thinning Mahakam Volunteers.
Coerced Blacksmith is a very reliable coin sink. This makes him a fine choice for decks that don't run the Bounty package, where you obviously opt for Witch Hunter Executioner instead.
Halfling Safecracker is yet another card that can be played in Crime decks. It's a nice opener, rewarding you for drawing your Crime cards. The downside is that similarly to Doppler, it gives your opponent a lot of points to damage, while with Crimes you often want to chain non-interactive turns to deny some points from your opponent's removal cards.
Crownsplitter Thug plays for 5 value on Deploy, but it has the Intimidate tag. This allows you to get an additional point each time you play a Crime. It's a decent filler card for Crime decks and since its initial value is okay, you won't lose out on too many points when it gets removed.
Swindle is a great non-interactive card which gives you coins. You can utilize it to set up cards with Fee and Tribute abilities, or to get some coin carry-over for the next round. Swindle has already found its place in the vast majority of Syndicate decks.
Bare-Knuckle Brawler is a 4 point engine that gets boosted when you play a Crime card. Novigradian Justice allows you to play two Brawlers in one turn. Very solid card for Crime decks.