I find that I really struggle to effectively defend against aquamancers, and would like to solicit advice from others who do not seem to struggle against the card in the same way. First, let me explain my difficulty with the card.
I do not struggle against an incidental aquamancer placed in a deck just because it’s a convenient cost or because it’s a powerful card – one aquamancer is generally vulnerable enough to handle – even if inefficiently. And 1 aquamancer is not that impactful – most of my decks can withstand one lost health point a turn – even if it is always the most inconvenient health point to lose. The problem is against decks that are designed to incorporate the aquamancer into their strategy – using it to enhance other cards and other cards to support the aquamancer.
The basic problem is this. In general I am not happy if my means of defense against a card consistently costs me more than it cost my opponent to play the card I defend against – especially if I get nothing else in return. I am not happy if I must take significant numbers of cards that do not organically fit my deck just to defend against one threat. And I am very unhappy if a game tends to boil down to luck (such as whoever draws their aquamancer first wins). And EVERY defense I can find with the exception of liquefy fits one or more of these cases.
The following features of aquamancers cause me problems:
1. Aquamancers really cannot be neutralized – they can only be destroyed. I can always stop a pyrohydra – a least for a time – by throwing something cheap in front of it. I can neutralize a spell net by not playing spells. But an aquamancer’s power is not stopped when the aquamancer is blocked, its power is not limited to opposing units, and it is virtually impossible to avoid using minions while still playing a viable game.
2. Aquamancers are very hard to destroy. Because they are evasive they simply run away from threats placed in their lane. Because they gain health easily, they become much harder to deal with if not destroyed immediately. Because my opponents are smart, they frequently combine aquamancers with other cards (like energize, ominous eggs, or barkskin) that insure the aquamancer will have augmented health before I have an opportunity to respond. Even if the aquamancer is not augmented, unless I hold appropriate cards in hand, I will not be able to destroy it before it grows – which means I need about twice as many of my “defense” cards as my opponent has aquamancers. I must yield 20% of my deck to cards that don’t really fit and were only chosen to counter the possibility of an aquamancer.
3. Aquamancers are cheap. To expect to play a cost 5 meteor to destroy a cost 2 aquamancer is not reasonable.
4. Very few cards can handle an aquamancer – especially if the aquamancer has gained health. It is not hard to get an aquamancer to health 3 before response is possible. In these cases, single card defense is limited to: meteor, implode (sometimes), cinderbox (if already in play and my opponent is too stupid to trigger it with something else first), liquefy, lost at sea (if already in play and my opponent does not trigger it with something else first), darkling slaver (if aquamancer is not sheltered behind a different unit of mine), taken under (temporary), lost (very temporary), lich touch (if aquamancer is most expensive card on the board), betrayal (with a lot of luck), decay or festerplague (if willing to wait ), waiting grave (if in play and opponent does not otherwise trigger it), dactyl (if already in play, but undamaged), poison darts (if in play and untriggered), snake pit (if in play, untriggered, and in right lane). I list these simply to observe that except for liquefy, every defense against aquamancers either depends greatly upon luck or costs considerably more than the aquamancer or both. There are cards that will destroy developed aquamancers in combinations, but they, too, are pretty limited, luck bound, and/or expensive.
5. Aquamancers cannot generally just be ignored – especially if combined with action granting cards (like overworld elixir) or with other cards that inflict damage on minions (such as a second aquamancer!) Typically a player is lucky to average 4 total health played a round. One unaugmented aquamancer effectively destroys a quarter of my turn. Very few decks can tolerate 2 or more health loss a turn as occurs with 2 aquamancers or one aquamancer augmented by extra actions.
6. Aquamancers – because they fit virtually any deck, are extremely powerful, and have a nice price point – are extremely popular. Unless the player does not own the card(s), I pretty much expect 4 aquamancers in any deck playing ocean faction. I can think of no other card with comparable prevalence.
Since I cannot defend against aquamancers at the card level, I find I have to defend at the strategy level. I can create decks (such as fire prism or pack attack decks) that kill anything (including aquamancers) if the right setup can be established. I can create decks (like quick, blitz) decks that win before an aquamancer can cause too much damage. I can create decks that try to fill lanes with major minions so there is no space for aquamancers to get established (but here, odds are against my opponent not drawing his aquamancers fast enough), or I can use tactics that buy a little more time (such as avoiding low health minions) that buy time for other strategies to win the game before the aquamancers overwhelm me. Or I can play my own aquamancer deck – even though I hate aquamancers and the effect they have on the game. All of these are very limiting, and tend to force me away from the defensive styles of play I prefer.
And that leads me back to my original question: how does one effectively defend against aquamancers?
I won't say specific cards necessarily, since there are actually lots of cards that can deal with aquamancers in the right scenarios, but I can give you some rules of thumb I use when dealing with them.
1. Get rid of them as soon as you see them if possible. If that means stalling your own strategy, fine. Don't let them get to 5 or 6 health.
2. Save your creature killing/neutralizing spells until there's a real threat. A piddly little thing attacking for 2 isn't a major threat. Even a 4/4 Underdark Worm isn't too hard to deal with, so wait for the game changers to use your creature killers. An Aquamancer or a Pyrohydra is a real threat, so save your spells until you see something like that.
3. Throw some creatures in your deck that are hard to kill, like Pyrohydras, Living Essence, and Giant Octopus for example. Aquamancers aren't as effective against these unless they have like three of them out, which brings me to 4:
4. Limit their numbers. Do what ever you can to keep your opponent from playing several of them and ganging up on your creatures.
Hope this helps some. I generally don't have a lot of trouble dealing with them in the decks I use. there are ways each faction can deal with them. That's not to say they aren't powerful. They aren't impossible, either, though.
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