Welcome to the Legion. This is no ragtag group of fighters with checkered training. This is the army! Organized, highly trained, disciplined - a force for a better world!
There is another kind of soldier portrayed in Shadowverse: the eastern soldier typified by the Japanese Samurai. They are not included in this article. Here let us look at the portrayal of the soldier as inspired by European medieval archetypes. This is also the popular Fantasy archetype of the soldier.
Let us also distinguish between soldiers and warriors or mercenaries. Soldiers belong to a structured army; warriors and mercenaries form loosely structured groups. And mercenaries, unlike soldiers, have no specific loyalties - except to coin.
There is also another kind of soldier called Fencers in Shadowverse. I have also excluded these because they strike me as more in place at Court in spite of their Officer/Commander traits.
Let us look at these soldiers in their natural element: the battlefield.
A Roman legion is 6,000 strong with more than one Legion being deployed at one time. The Persians deployed around the same number. The entire ancient Egyptian army numbered around 100,000. Alexander marched with 60,000. The point is: there are usually a lot of soldiers. An organizational nightmare. Some kind of structure was needed and thus: the Command.
The commnd recruits the army, trains them and worries about how they're going to win.
You hardly hear the word 'vanguard' in modern military discussions. The more contemporary word is 'recon' or 'reconnaissance'. This is the part of the army that goes in advance of the the main force and scouts the terrain, spies on enemy movements, and guards the main army from ambush situations.
Typically, the vanguard or van would ride horses because they have to move faster than the main army. The members are also referred to as scouts. The not unfamiliar term 'harbinger' is actually a vanguard term. To us a harbinger is a bringer of coming news, a person who warns of coming events. In the vanguard, Harbingers have a less foreboding but more practical role: they look for good places for the main army to camp.
Aside from armed soldiers, the vanguard would also have a contingent of messengers and sappers. Sappers are the precursors of today's engineering corps. They fix bridges, unblock or block roads - all sorts of practical non-confrontational stuff the military needs.
Some cards have the word 'Vanguard' in their name like Captain Latham, but I think other cards are naturally a part of the vanguard, like Quickblader.
No one's quicker to the fight than Quickblader. I'm sure you've encountered him both on your side or your opponent's - turn one, he hits the field and immediately pings for damage. I always like him to be around on turn one.
I'm looking at the Quickblader's armor and it is extremely non-traditional. This kind of design is more typical of boiled leather armor but he's obviously wearing metal here. It is designed for speed at the expense of protection - look at the unprotected forearms. The Quickblader also has something of the assissin or knife fighter about him. He's weilding a pair of long knives rather than a proper sword. I like the choices for his equipment and armor because it is in line with his description as a fast attacker. This is the exactly the kind of gear a "quickblader" would have. He's the one who sneaks into enemy camps and does the damage on the sly. More of an assassin-soldier hybrid this guy.
The Main Army
Here is the part of the army primarily tasked with winning the battle, whether it be a battle to invade or defend.
At the leading edge of the main army are the frontline troops arranged in ranks. A very dangerous position to be in, frontliners are the first to encounter the opposing force. One would think that the toughest soldiers should be assigned here. Some armies do that, the Romans famously kept the greener troops in the front lines and the veterans right behind them.
In Shadowverse, first encounters belong to the lowest costed Followers. So among the lowest costed soldiers we encounter our frontline skirmishers.
Compared to the Followers of other classes soldiers are not very powerful. One of the ways soldier cards compensate for this is by going wide. Ascetic Knight will summon an heavy or armored knight (1/2) while Oathless Knight will summon another Knight (1/1). What strange names. Ascetic means 'severely self disciplined'. In the real world, during the age of knights, the Roman Catholic religion had tremendous influence on peoples' lives, including the lives of the knights. The Church being the Church, it enforced self-punishment and denial on everyone. Thus the Ascetic Knight, presumably a self-styled holy warrior along the lines of the Crusaders.
All knights swore an oath to their liege as part of a feudal system. The Oathless Knight is an anachronism. How can you be oathless and still be a knight? An oathless knight has no liege and presumably no land, titles and position. What a strange card. Well, at least the Oathless Knight has a friend he can bring to battle.
Also in the frontline we encounter the Fervid Soldier. Fervid means 'enthusiastic'. Whenever a Commander comes into play Fervid Soldier gets a +1/0. That's for each commander. If a situation permits the entry of three commanders, Fervid Soldier becomes a +5/+2 until end of turn. The power of morale. This shows the effect leadership has on the troops
The heavy troops are here in the main army and so are most of the command structure. But let's start with the cavalry. Just as higher ground gives a nearly insurmountable advantage in battle, a soldier riding a horse will almost always best a soldier on the ground. For a very long time army cavalry was the win condition in battle.
The Novice Trooper is an example of a cavalry card. Horse mounted, hair flying in the midst of a wild charge. The card reminds us that this is a fresh recruit we are looking at. The speed of a cavalry charge is shown by the card's Storm ability. At 3 for a 2/2 with Storm this is a fairly valued card. The only time I would not like this card is in the midgame where the field would likely be clogged with warders and more powerful Followers. Wonderful to draw at turn 3, I can also see this card popping in with Storm at the very end to close out the game. Wouldn't that be something?
I am pretty sure Veteran Lancer is a cavalry card. The lance she is holding was meant to be held on horseback; maybe she just hasn't gotten on her horse yet. Veteran Lancer is a 2 for 2/2 with ward which makes this a very good card. She's in full armor but I don't think that's the source of her toughness as typified by her ward ability. I think it's because she's a veteran - experience has shown her how to effectively block an opposing force.
Cavalry may be the win condition but Infantry is the foundation, the solid core of every army. Here we are looking at only one card: the Courageous Knight. In the proud tradition of his early-drop comrades, the Courageous Knight will go wide and summon a Steelclad Knight (2/2). There is a very thin line between courageous and stupid though and this knight should put on his armored helm post haste before that striking ginger-colored hair becomes a target for an enemy archer.
Typically Knights have horses and are part of the Cavalry. But horses are expensive. Like swords. I read somewhere that owning a longsword during medieval times was the equivalent of owning a car today. So the Courageous Knight, obviously financially challenged- as so many of us are - had a choice: horse or sword. He chose correctly seeing as this isn't the Kentucky Derby. On second thought, I have a feeling he doesn't own a helmet because of his straigtened circumstances . Oh well. 'Penniless Knight', how's that for a title.
Strange that we have two kinds of Shadowverse cards: Officers and Commanders. Where are the Troop cards? Anyway I'm thinking of Officers as troops and Commanders as officers. Let us look at two Commanders: White General and Noble Knight are four and five drops respectively.
White General buffs an Officer Follower as a Fanfare effect. He has a 3/3 body for 4 and gives a +2/+0 buff. This is fair, and, based on the numerous times I have cast him, the buff is a very much appreciated ability specially during the mid-game. Artwise, I'd say e's one of those rich kids who inherited a dukedom or something - I mean that armor looks posh. And white armor is so 'look at me I'm rich'. The rank was bought by Daddy and the sword looks like a Japanese robot sword (although that is a bit of the norm in Shadowverse).
The next Commander is much more representative. The Noble Knight comes in with two Knights (1/1) and therefore continues the soldierly tradition of populating the field with as many other soldiers as possible. He's a spear fighter and his gold-gilt armor is even gaudier than the White Knight's.
Between these two cards we can see that Commanders strengthen troops and bring more of them.
Ironwrought Fortress is an amulet card and when you have this amulet card in the field, everytime you play a Commander, you get a Heavy Knight (1/2). What is this amulet card showing? It is the amulet version of the Noble Knight card and shows the Commanders' propensity to bring troops to the field.
Strength In Numbers
Unbridled Fury is a useless card if you don't have anybody in the field. The game won't even let you cast it. It is perfect for soldiers because, as we have seen, soldiers tend to bring their buddies with them and this card deals damage equal to the headcount on your side of the arena. On a full field that would be 5 damage for 2 which is a bargain.
Beyond the game effect, Unbridled Fury is symbolic of the power inherent in an organized army - the card directly draws its damage capability on the condition that you have a "Shadowverse army" at your command. Flavorwise, this is excellent.
Buff means getting stronger or tougher. So how do soldiers get stronger or tougher? Royal Banner and Forge Weaponry shows us two ways that can happen.
Royal Banner shows us that soldiers - specifically Officers - can get stronger when they are reminded that they are part of a unified, highly trained, and vast army. The card gives every Officer on the field and every Officer arriving on the field a +1/+0 buff. One can imagine the troops looking at their flag or banner and finding strength in it - much like the ancient Roman legions and their Eagles, which they purportedly worshiped.
Forge Weaponry is a +2/+2 buff because of a weapons and armor upgrade. What could be more natural for soldiers? It's useable throughout the game and symbolizes the presence of blacksmiths among the troops.