The Soviets have the largest majority of powerful and versatile elites compared to any other nation. Many of these cards no matter what the situation is are just incredibly good and are often core pieces in the various midrange soviet lists. Outside of a few specials this list is largely elites (8 out of the 10 choices are elite).
I-15 Chaika - The Ishak on it's own is not worth 2 kredits due to it's very average stats and high operation cost (for the time it normally comes). When you add a 1/2 fighter that is bundled with the Ishak however, you suddenly get a very sticky fighter that enemies are gonna stuggle to deal with. Due to how the stronger part of this unit comes when it dies the 1/2 fighter will often live for numerous turns and can be a nightmare for small bombers to attack into. This can in turn often allow the chaika to stick around to get buffed from various cards such as patriotic firestorm, blood red sky, and the countless buffs from other nations. However that isn't the only application the chaika can fill. It's a really good target for Ural Factory/Red Banner due to how you get the upgraded unit and it still spawns an Ishak. This means it can make a 1/2 fighter suddenly be 2 relatively big units.
15th Motor Rifles - 15th Motors is currently the only unit in the game to make your HQ completely immune until it dies. This effect can be backbreaking for some decks (namely aggro) becuase they have to find some way to kill the 15th motors before they can even attack your HQ. 5 health is not the easiest thing to just kill without multiple attacks and/or orders and often forces an aggro deck to spend an entire turn dealing with it. Burn decks often look to end the game with orders or effects that deal HQ damage but motors stops this dead in its tracks. Against decks such as midrange or control there is less use for the 15th as there is more removal and bigger units floating around with the addition of those decks often not looking to kill you as quick. That means 15th is a card meant to deal with aggro and this is likely one of the first ones you will look to as an anti aggro card.
329th Engineer Battalion - With how many units the Soviets are playing this card actually provides a metric ton of healing. Fortification is a British card that costs 3 kredits to heal your HQ for 7 that has seen play in numerous decks. The engineers need 3-4 units to die in order to match a 3 kredit card while only costing 1 kredit itself. Due to its cheap cost, high defense, and smokescreen it is often possible for it to either come down the turn you are going to lose several other units or will often survive for countless turns. The low cost but massive impact this card can have forces players to deal with it often by using removal even though they often spend several more kredits to do so. Gaining 10+ defense from engineers is surprisingly common unless the engineer is killed immediately.
Red Banner - Although this card at first seems like a direct upgrade to the common rarity card Ural Factories there actually are significant differences between the two. As talked about with Ural knowing what units can be pulled when going to different costs can largely impact how good these cards can be. The red banner jumping up by 2 kredits rather than 1 from Ural completely changes what can be pulled from it. Often Red banner will be pulling a bigger unit than Ural but these big units often lack any sort of ability. A good example of this is using banner on a 5K Soviet unit which will create only 1 of 2 large tanks (currently) and there is no chance of something like guard or some other ability. Ural on the other hand is able to create numerous different effects that could completely change how the game ends up since when going to 6K with Soviet units you are able to get stuff like guard, artillery units, or stuff like the KV 1941 which is a little further down this list. There is also the fact that red banner will more often be unable to upgrade expensive units since most nations don’t go much higher than 8 or so kredits. Even so red banner is very powerful if used in the correct setting and fits best in midrange type decks.
Zhukov - Drawing a card and discounting it by 3 kredits while only really paying 1 kredit is just absolutely insane. There's a lot of soviet infantry that is worthwhile in pulling (the infantry talked about in this article are among the best targets). An essentially free guard unit, a large infantry for only 2-3 kredits, or getting a deployment effect for way cheaper and earlier than normal is often a massive board swing in your favor. If you build your deck with few infantry units you can reliably hit key targets with Zhukov and turn it into a tutor (tutors are card game terminology for cards that draw you specific other cards which is a powerful effect).
4th Kuban Cossacks - A 3/3 blitz infantry that operates for free is very powerful in most circumstances. When you're behind it can essentially be 3K deal 3 damage to a unit in the frontline and when you're ahead you can get a 3/3 infantry in the frontline for little cost. The smokescreen is the most niche effect on the card but it's useful to allow you to play out the coassacks without worrying about it dying to something like a bomber or artillery piece. Obviously anything that works well with infantry is useful on the cossacks and anything that cares about the frontline can also benefit from this somewhat cheap blitz unit. This isn't a card that defines any deck but if you have it (like most soviet elites) it doesn't hurt to run it.
6th Airborne - A 5/7 Infantry for 5K with a deployment effect is not something to underestimate. Being able to deal up to 5 damage to a unit while leaving that 5/7 on the board is the absolute worst this card can get (which is kinda insane if that’s the worst it can be). The Airborne can be much more disgusting when you start combining it with Zhukov and Ural/Red Banner. Zhukov making it only cost 2 kredits to play is just stupid and this is pretty much in the top 2 of best targets to pull. Then using Ural or Banner on the spawned t34 means it won’t die at the end of the turn meaning you get a 5/7 and then either a 6k or 7k unit possibly in the frontline. Those facts alone are all the justification needed to make 6th Airborne good but it’s has few more benefits just because it feels like it. The fact that the enemy is unable to retreat the infantry part is massive since that is usually the way to cleanly deal with larger infantry. Finally on top of all that, a 5/7 isn’t very easy to kill and it costing 5K makes the infantry itself a good target for Ural and Banner. There isn’t even a noticeable downside it’s just all upside.
83rd Naval Brigade - Another card that is just stupid good (just like every other card on this list). Critical Hit costs 4K and that's stapled on to a 4/4 ambush guard as a deployment. Deployment effects that can seriously affect the enemy board are just stupid powerful no matter what nation has them (see previous articles for stuff like the B17 or Panzer IV F2). Not to mention that the Soviets have bloody sickle and katyusha as cheap ways to make sure the deployment hits what you need to kill. The 4/4 guard ambush can also be pretty hard to deal with becuase they often need to kill it but if you can keep their units below 4 health they would have to sacrifce 2 units to kill it (or just use an order which is way easier). If you have this card then you should be running it no matter what soviet deck you are playing it is just that good.
KV-1 1941 - For the final card in this article we talk about a massive tank. The KV is going to almost always deal at least 2 damage to the enemy unit and essentially shuts down the ability of the enemy to draw cards or they could very easily die from how much damage the take. Garunteed 2 damage every turn is something that simply can't be ignored and makes the KV a must kill. A 3/6 tank with heavy armor 1 is very tough in it's own regard. Few orders can kill it on their own and even fewer units can kill it outright. Due to how it's ability triggers with just the KV sitting on the board it's also possible to leave it in the support line making it even tougher to kill. The KV is a fantastic finisher in aggressive decks due to it's consistent damage and in slower deck decks it will mostly funciton as another big threat the enem needs to deal with.
With that done we're over halfway through with all the nations! Next week we'll tackle one of the two remaining main nations and their standard and limited cards.