When you start your deck building you must begin with choosing all 3 PP minions you want to play. They should be at least 2 or even 3 card types. Then you need to combine each of those with the 2 PP minions to complete the tandem set.
What is the criteria to couple such tandems?
There should be no card in the full set able to destoy both of them.
I really like Ruby Hatchling (2/1 Quick 3 PP Fire) and set that as opener.
Now I must choose the tandem. Can I tandem it with Aquamancer (1/1 Elusive 1 PP Ocean)? No! because Fire rain could destroy both.
I think fire rain sets a standard. Which means that 1 of the 2 tandems should health as 2 or more.
Ok, let's say that I choose Ruby Hatchling and Pyromancers (2/2 2 PP Fire).
How do I place them in the game?
For sure NOT in adjacent paths. Why? because If you do so opponent could destroy both of them with a single card (detonation).
Some cards are not good openers but still can be used in tandem.
Examples are: Trickster (Forest), Aquallid Hunters (Ocean), Aquallid mages (Ocean), Dreamfeeder (Underworld), Stitched Golem (Swamp), Lightning Golem (Air), Hungry Crocodile (Jungle).
If you choose them you must add the number of cards with the same PP cost, as they can be considered valid for tandem but not as openers.
There is real wisdom in this advice -- some hidden between the lines. I am increasingly drawn to the notion that the heart of deck design is dealing with the initial, three power point turn. To do nothing on this turn relagates you to playing one turn behind your opponent: this sort of half turn start is very important to game balance.
To get a good start, one card -- even four copies of that card is not sufficient as there is a nearly 57% chance the card will not be drawn in your initial hand. I recommend at least 12 cards (counting multiplicities) with which you are willing to open.
Now that 30% of your deck is committed to these cards, they have to work throughout the game. Since 3 cost and lower cards do not usually compete well alone with an opponent's 5 cost cards, it is critical they also work in tandem.
Another very important point that Valentino raises is that simply because two cards can be played in tandem does not mean they should be. Having two minions vulnerable to destruction by a single card is one example -- probably the most frequent -- of poor choice.
Whenever two cards are destroyed on the same turn, you lose more cards than are naturally regained, your opponent likely spends less power destroying than you spent playing those cards, and your opponent gains tempo by dealing with multiple threats simultaneously.
Given a particular 3 point card, I do not find it helpful to pick a specific 2 point card to pair it with -- the odds of having that specific card when needed is not good enough. Rather, I try to find cards where any of my two pointers will pair with any three pointer I have taken.
I also keep in mind that there are options for power points other than playing another card: drawing a card and invoking certain creature specials. I want to be sure I also have means to include those as tandem plays with cards.
Getting everything to work together well is very tricky. But I believe it to be the heart of Spellcraft.
So? which are the best openers and why?
Which are best openers and why?
I don't know that there is a best opener. But good openers do share several properties:
1. most obviously, they can be played with 3 power points and have an effect despite an empty board.
2. they fully utilize the card played. There are some cards that are "initiators", that is they are better if played with no opponent opposite. Other cards are "responders": they derive some effectiveness from being played opposite an existing enemy unit. Others are neutral: it doesn't matter whether they are played first on a lane. Good openers are initiators.
3. they maintain initiative. They pose some form of ongoing threat that requires response. Moreover, the response (including all actions on my opponent's turn) leaves my opponent with less advantage than I had before the response.
4. they account for the current situation. Yes, even before any cards are played, there are situational concerns: what will help the deck I'm playing, what other cards are in hand to work with my opener, what might I expect of my opponent based upon his deck color and any propensities I might know about him.
I don’t think there is a “best opener”, but I think there are good and poor openers. And the number of good openers is really too numerous to reasonably analyze. So let me apply a typical analysis to a few informative examples.
First, some poor choices:
Hungary crocodiles (jungle). This is a responder card, not an initiator card. If played in an open lane, its stats are only 1/3 as opposed to 3/3 if played opposite an enemy minion. This is a significant waste of the card’s potential – better I guess than discarding the card, but not much.
Spell net (air). This is a useful card – I’ve no doubt that it will eventually trigger. But on the first turn, it fails to inhibit my opponent at all. I doubt an opponent will cast a spell when there is nothing to cast it on, so it surrenders initiative to my opponent, who will likely be able to keep me busy with his threats.
Lava elementals (fire). A lava elemental is an initiator card – I prefer to have it on an open lane in play so it can inflict the additional life damage. And the card does force an opponent response – who wants to get hit for three points of damage? I can expect an opponent to address my threat. But at 2 cost, it will likely leave me with a wasted power point on the first turn. Perhaps I could combine it with a 1 cost firebirds, but for opening considerations, I do not consider such combos – they are too improbable. And the threat of the lava elemental is rather easily countered – to my disadvantage. I’m not really worried about flamespike. If my opponent uses it on my lava elementals, he now has 2 power points, a 5 card hand, and an empty board – a slightly worse position than I had starting the game. But my opponent almost certainly has a nice 3 or 4 strength minion to play opposite. Unless I can destroy this enemy minion (and would I really want to “waste” a meteor on, say, a phantasma), I will lose the elemental and the initiative with nothing to show for the loss.
Inferno (fire). This is not really a bad opener; it is a potentially bad opener – depending upon the current situation. Inferno does not do anything immediately to my opponent, but it definitely will as soon as a card is played – it succeeds in maintaining initiative by (hopefully) preventing my opponent from having nice plays for the next several rounds. Unfortunately it can have the same effect on me. Unless I have in hand several cards I am willing to play with the inferno in effect, it is a wasted play. It is a great opener if I also hold two fire birds, a lava bomb, and a lava giant as I have numerous nice tandems to follow it with. It is a complete waste if I hold a flamespike, a ruby dragon, and 2 pyrohydra. Since I will generally construct any deck with inferno to have numerous cheap cards it can burn, during deck construction, I consider inferno a good starting card. But I may need to re-evaluate when I get my actual hand.
Primeval ooze (underearth). This is another conditionally bad opener. First, an ooze is both an initiator and a response card. Its special is only useful if there is an enemy opposite (hence a responder), but the special deters an opponent from blocking it with most cards. Because it has evasive, the is no harm in having it on the board – I can always move it opposite a desired enemy later. And because an ooze is unattractive to block, it is a nasty threat. But there are times when an ooze special can work against me. Suppose my opponent is playing a jungle deck (which can be identified by the color of the power point markers displayed). If I think my opponent has a ravager to play opposite the ooze, I have no way to prevent my opponent from using the ooze special to remove the ravager’s disadvantage! I would count an ooze as a generally good opener when constructing a deck, but there are times when I would not play it.
Now some generally good openers:
Howling banshee (swamp): I definitely want the banshee already in play when a stronger enemy is opposite – I invoke the special to send that enemy away – with damage. If I play opposite the enemy, it could kill my banshee before I can invoke the special. And a banshee is problematic for an opponent. To ignore it costs two life per round; to destroy it with spell requires at least as much cost as the cost of the banshee. And to block it with a minion is only temporary – and will cost damage to the minion as well.
Deepspawn (underearth): I don’t want to have to play the deepspawn opposite a stronger enemy later – better to force my opponent to play the stronger creature opposite my deepspawn so I can grow it before taking damage. Although growing the deepspawn will not be a priority in the opening (I’d rather get out other minions) – it is an option and a threat.
Aeromancer (air): I do 2 damage to my opponent, plus I get a spell called to hand. Once on the board, the aeromancer is not great – I can easily lose initiative as with lava elementals, but I get good compensation for this loss.
Giant volta (ocean): This is another card that is very problematic for an opponent. It effectively seizes 3 lanes and forces any enemy attempting to use any of those lanes to accept the volta’s damage. And with 3 health, a volta can only be removed by expending big spells. Thus it often has free reign to inflict damage for several rounds. Unfortunately, while I love the volta in the game’s early stages, eventually I will want to use the lanes adjacent to it. And unless I have also packed my deck with creatures like octopus and pyrohydra, I don’t like this. Hence I will often forgo what I think is one of the best opening cards for the sake of later play.
Fey Spirit (forest): Forest does not really have any great opening cards, but I think I like fey spirit best. At only cost 1, there is a possibility of combining it with a cost 2 card. If not, I can at least tap my deck in addition to playing the spirit. And I do inflict one sure life damage on an opponent, I recover one life when the spirit is killed, and I get a card in play that could block an enemy for a round in an emergency. If I compare the spirit to an aeromancer, it really doesn’t fare poorly: both cards leave me with a net two more life than my opponent, both plays (areomancer, or fey spirit + deck tap) bring another card to hand, and both plays leave a relatively weak minion on my board. The differences are the aeromancer has one more strength, but the fey spirit has evasive and magic immunity – a pretty decent compensation. Certainly, if aeromancer is a good opener, fey spirit must be as well.
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