Most players play and encounter certain decks that seem to require virtually no thought – they almost play themselves. And since many players find much of their enjoyment of Spellcraft to be its rich strategies, these decks are a disappointment – especially when they are highly successful. This thread is to discuss certain decks that players find “mindless” as well as means to bring strategy back. It is inspired by insights offered by Tsiflikas in global chat, but I invite participation of any interested players. I am moving the discussion from global chat because I find the forum a more pleasant venue for in-depth discussions.
Incidentally, many decks that require very little thought to play actually required substantial thought and ingenuity to create. They often revolve around well-planned power point utilization and numerous clever combinations, as well as designs that facilitate quickly drawing critical cards. But during play, power point utilization and quick drawing are almost automatic, and combinations, once discovered, become routine. As a player, I have heard a few complaints about mindless decks, and there is probably a lot of grumbling I don’t hear.
So my first question is “What makes (contributes to) a mindless deck?” And I can think of several factors.
Card interchangeability is an obvious one. If all cards are equal, I don’t need to consider which one I play. I have a very successful ocean/swamp “might” deck. It is designed to quickly play cheap 5/5 stitched golems. It is loaded with strength 3 and 4 cards like bone dragons, sea dragons, vampire consorts, wraith soulcatchers, sea snakes, as well as sunken treasure to facilitate quick draws (and discards), sink to undermine strength based counters, liquefy to handle special effects minions, and dancing jellyfish to quickly defend or fill lanes. The strategy is mindless: get two minions in discard, play a stitched golem, and repeat. If stitched golems are unavailable (or discard pile is not ready), play anything. If a sink or liquefy is needed, play it with a stitched golem or with a cost 4 minion. I typically don’t care what a card does – only that it’s big – and they’re all big. And my opponent tends to respond mindlessly too; subtlety is rarely possible responding to wave after wave after wave of big.
The insidious aspect to card interchangeability is that it is also a part of what makes decks effective. Combinations that require two specific cards may be spectacular at times, but they are not a sound foundation for a deck because they demand a draw where both cards become available at the right time – far too dependent upon luck. But if you can find combos like playing rage on a board with any regenerating or high health cards, the combination works because it arises frequently – especially when you can substitute for rage cards like law of the jungle, dreadmarsh plague, or burning world favorably on the same board. To a large degree, this deck plays as though it has two cards: a generic high health minion, and a generic “exploit high health” card.
A second big contributor to mindless decks is the drive toward (and almost need for) quickness. If I can defeat my opponent quickly enough, I don’t need to respond to, or even pay attention to what that opponent does – I just play to forward my own offense. A classic example is my air/jungle blitz deck. The whole idea is to inflict enough damage to kill my opponent with quick units on open lanes (or power dive) before the opponent can play his generally superior cards. As much as possible, I avoid enemy cards, focusing solely on inflicting damage.
Fire prism decks also illustrate this point. The basis of most prism decks is to establish a situation where the prism inflicts so much damage that an opponent can keep no forces in play. Once this occurs, an opponent is helpless. The whole key is to establish this situation before losing. This focus on establishing one’s own strategy faster than one’s opponent establishes his leads to formulaic play where the situation on the board is secondary to obtaining the “right” cards.
If one looks at the popularity of “accelerator” cards (power generators like captured flame, hand renewal cards like sunken treasure, or extra action cards like energize), one could argue that there are a lot of mindless decks out there.
A third contributor to mindless play – despite the goblins’ diligence in preventing this – is the existence of over-powered cards. It frankly does not take much thought to defeat an opponent holding vastly inferior cards. Although I may be biased, it seems to me that several players owe their success more to their ability to recognize overpowered cards and to effectively load decks with them (and perhaps a bit to luck in drawing those cards) than to brilliance in playing cards well.
Also, when a card is overpowered, it tends to take control of a game. The strategy almost completely narrows to using or destroying (depending on your perspective) that card.
A forth contributor is dangerous cards with few counters. In Spellcraft, there are far too many possible threats for one to think he can take a specialized counter for each. Specific counters (like melt) are really only helpful if I am expecting to face a particular threat (e.g. fire prisms). And if I can’t defend against most threats, I really have 3 logical options (all of which reduce the strategic level of the play). I can take a shot in the dark, and hope the counters I include are the right ones for the deck my opponent plays, which reduces the game to a matter of luck (deck selection). Or I can try to endure the threats, which is not viable if it is a good threat. Or I can try to beat my opponent to the punch by having my own offense come faster. And that not only focuses my efforts on me rather than my opponent (I believe this is less strategic, although that might be debatable), it also tends to reduce the game to luck (who draws their critical cards faster).
Generally, to have interesting back-and-forth play, I absolutely must be able to respond to any card my opponent might play with either a general purpose counter (e.g. liquefy), or a card I am likely to actually want in (and naturally take for) my hand (e.g. countering voltas with pyrohydras). If 100 of Spellcraft’s 294 player cards are beneficial against any given card my opponent plays, I am likely to have thoughtful responses in hand (or at least in deck) making for interesting exchanges with my opponent. If only 10 cards are viable responses to certain cards, reaction based strategies become non-viable and a thinking, strategic component to the game is lost.
There are other important questions that remain to be addressed. For instance, at what point does a deck become “mindless”? Certain combinations have become almost cliché: volta/pyrohydra, kobo/blood orb, triton ritual/fire prism, nobbling trickster/hunt, ancient ghost/body swap, etc., etc. But does a deck become mindless for including them?
And what can be done to promote richer strategies? How much does this depend upon me? How much does it depend upon my opponent? How much upon the game designers?
I hope these and other questions will be addressed in other posts – for now, this one is long enough.
As usual, a thougtful and thought-provoking post from a highly analytical player. Certainly, it speaks well for this game that players like Quintivarium can devote such deep attention to its intricacies.
I am currently not in a position to respond to the many issues raised (time is at a premium for me right now) but I do at least want to state a few things at the outset so there are no misunderstandings:
1) I am, I would judge, an average player and a slightly less than average deck builder and have great admiration for the people (in my mind genius gamers) who come up with decks that require little thought to attain victory. Still, I don't think one needs to be a great player to comment on gameplay - playing hundreds of games (as I have) should suffice.
2) I've played quite a few ccg's in my time from Magic through to VTES and L5R and others and I think this is one of the most balanced I've ever encountered. I think therefore that even a discussion on this issue probably throws more attention on it than the game deserves but all games benefit if there are multiple paths/strategies/styles to success.
3) I feel that there are a few cards that do create imbalance (fire prism was the one that prompted the discussion) but not inordinately as there are responses. The problem is,however, that a fire prism deck has a good chance of succeeding against any opponent whilst an anti-prism deck is far more constrained - it can do well against a prism deck but is mediocre against others.
I can write more but am busy currently - just wanted to put in these preliminary comments.
I have 3 such "mindless" decks maybe 4 depending
2 heart of darkness/ prism
3 quick deck
The last one runs maybe 7 creatures and no more than 10 the rest spells(spells, spell draw cards and extra "regular" card draws)
I currently have a wolf deck that's ok at the moment
All of these decks I use against specific players to achieve victory, but with the prism decks, yes it's true u have to play certain cards in order for fire prism to work effectively but I wouldn't count them among "mindless" decks.
I don't think any deck is truly mindless, almost any deck requires reasonably good play to be formidable. But some decks do not require the same level of thought during play -- and some do not really allow for thought-filled responses. "Mindless" is definitely a relative trait.
I do not play prism decks (prism is a card I don't enjoy and I avoid it) so I hate to comment on how much thought such a deck requires in play. I do know from playing against them that there are two big risks for prism decks against standard decks (decks not specifically designed to target prisms). One is that the prism deck falls too far behind by the time the prism is played, and even a prism doing 6 to 10 points damage a round cannot save the game, the second is that so many resources are expended trying to draw the prism that nothing remains to trigger it. But I think these are more problems of deck design than deck play.
To me, good, thinking play requires three things: a variety of choices, choices that matter, and choices that require creativity and insight. Suppose, on first move, I hold 4 bone dragons and a howling banshee, there is little variety of choice -- playing the banshee is a mindless decision. If, on first move, I am playing my blitz deck and hold an aeromancer, a storm fiend, a razorsaur, a lightning golem, and a dactyl hatchling, I have about as much choice as possible. But aside from saving the dactyl hatchling for a later tandem play, it is unlikely the card I play will make any difference at all and to the extent it does matter, it matters in ways I cannot predict -- another mindless decision. Finally, suppose on initial move, I hold howling banshees, stitched golem, undead triton, grave robbers, and post mortem. I could play any of the 5 cards. But selecting the banshees is a mindless choice -- playing the golem, the tritons, or postmortem effectively wastes the card, while playing grave robbers is likely to waste tempo.
To assess how "mindless" a prism deck is to play, ask how much variety of choice it offers, how significant those choices are, and how obvious (or formulaic) those choices are. I would guess a good prism deck to be somewhat mid-spectrum -- deeper than most blitz or brute strength decks, on a par with burning world and aquamancer-energize decks, less thinking than most relocation (e.g. tide caller) and trap decks.
I think the big concern with prism decks is they allow relatively few thought-filled responses. Against a well-designed and well-played prism deck, either I choose a deck specifically intended to deal with fire prism, I choose a deck so quick I don't worry about the fire prisms, or I lose -- and it doesn't matter how I play. I think this is an exaggeration, but it is certainly a perception.
The more I think about it, the more I think the crux of the "mindless deck" issue is addressed in the last paragraph of my response to Hellspawn above. I really don't care if my opponent doesn't have to think deeply -- there are times when I don't want to think deeply either. The real problem is when my opponent's choice of deck preempts (or seems to preempt) my desire for a thinking game from my end.
There are a lot of attitudes towards the game: some players approach the game very competitively, wanting to win as much as possible. Some approach it casually, wanting only the enjoyment of a pleasant pastime. Some look for the excitement of a close match -- however it turns out. Some, win or lose, value brilliance and creativity in moves. Some view it whimsically, enjoying the fantasy. And I'm sure there are other mindsets as well. Many, if not most players, may play with different mindsets at different times -- I know I do. It is really amazing how Spellcraft accommodates so many different attitudes simultaneously. But that doesn't stop me from speculating how it could do so even better.
My feeling is that this is one of the best statements explaining what most players mean by balance in games such as this that I've maybe ever seen:
" If 100 of Spellcraft’s 294 player cards are beneficial against any given card my opponent plays, I am likely to have thoughtful responses in hand (or at least in deck) making for interesting exchanges with my opponent. If only 10 cards are viable responses to certain cards, reaction based strategies become non-viable and a thinking, strategic component to the game is lost."
In light of that passage, however, I would say that prism decks are not the worst offenders if we use the above criteria. Sure they are usually boring and one-dimensional (race to the prism) but at least there are responses. Timer decks and decks with massively healthy minions can really create problems for them beyond just aura/item destruction.
No the real offender (and the only glaring example of below par game design in my opinion) is the dreaded blood orb deck. That requires about as much thought as blinking. With such a deck you're not even considering what the opponent is playing or not playing - you are literally, throughout the course of the entire match, playing with yourself. From the opponent's perspective - lets just say you better have brought some trap destruction...
This post was updated on .
I can intelligently respond to criticism of blood orb decks as I do play one. But there are many versions of a blood orb deck, and vulnerabilities can differ widely.
But there are also common traits. Unlike prism decks, which can kill generally kill cards like tenticles from below before they can act, blood orb decks are vulnerable to tenticles and nobbling elders. To me this is a bigger vulnerability than prism's to uncontinue or aeromancer as they are available to two factions instead of just one -- although I admit that neither of these cards is very popular. And anyone can benefit from a stolen blood orb -- unlike a stolen prism. Another vulnerability is to high strength cards. Orb decks can inflict a lot of damage very quickly, but they require time to set up. Orbs take time to draw (even with kobo miners and kobo summoners), are expensive to play, and unlike fire prisms, one on the board is usually not sufficient. It is hard to both block multiple strong units and have sufficient minions to sacrifice for meaningful damage.
As my orb deck has no minions above strength 2, and only 4 minions with health above 1 (tunnel runners), my deck is very vulnerable to mass destruction cards like fire rain, giant volta, stormship, burning world, law of the jungle, etc. Players who opt for more strength or for higher health barriers trade this vulnerability for trouble consistently drawing the minions they need to sacrifice when they need them.
As blood orb decks are much more rare than prism decks, I can't say I've played against them enough to assess accurately how my typical decks play; but in the experience I've had, I never felt I had no options (unlike how I can feel against fire prism decks.)
One thing I really appreciate about blood orb decks is that they provide options against a plethora of decks like the aquamancer - energize decks that easily reach a state where they destroy minions as fast as I can deploy them. With clever play, I can keep my opponent's minion's damage fairly low (generous use of undead tritons, body swap, and darkling slavers) even with no forces on the board -- at least for a few rounds. So my sacrifices can almost keep pace with my opponent's minion damage. Thus orb decks are viable responses to numerous decks that don't normally allow intelligent counter-play. Of course, I guess this argument is a two edged sword as it also shows how hard it is to actually defend against blood orbs!
I should amend my last sentence in my previous post to read "item" and not "trap" destruction and I think you meant to write "orb" (not prism) are a viable response in your last sentence above Quintivarium no?
I'm not really disagreeing with any of your points but I feel we may be straying a bit off topic here - we were talking about that elusive trait called mindlessness, not overall lethality. To me, firing off some Kobo summoners and popping your blood orbs really doesn't require much tactical acumen - less even than waiting for your triton ritual/fire prism to devastate your opponent. It is, in any event, both cheaper and faster - both of which traits are critical in a game like this.
(As an aside, however, I should say that I think I've only seen a nobbling elder played once and although tentacles are more common than that they are still quite rare. Including either would automatically downgrade the effectiveness of one's deck against any other opponent besides an orb deck - a fact which sort of makes my point. In contrast, timer decks and blue/green huge minion decks are far more common because they are not just useful against prism decks.)
For me, however, the main problem is the gameplay of an orb deck. It's not about action v reaction. Sure, if you're unlucky enough to be playing an opponent with a fast-hitting minion killer or one packing a ton of item destruction/theft cards it is bad for you. Otherwise, you're golden. Either way you almost don't have to play the actual game because the result is basically predetermined. That for me at least is the very definition of mindless.
You are right, I meant orb decks (and have edited a correction in the original post).
I do not find playing my blood orb deck to involve any less thinking than most decks; actually I find the contrary. Most of the thought revolves around when to sacrifice rather than leave a minion for a suicide block, and when to expend an expensive slavers or bodyswap card. This may easily be just a difference of opinion, but I would like to post my deck, hoping you might try it a few games to see if that changes your opinion. (I assume a player of your level has access to these cards; it is definitely not worth buying them if you don't.) Then I will share a snippet of a recent game that illustrates the thought that can go into playing a match with it.
4 kobo summoners
4 darkling schemers
4 kobo miners
4 kobo tunnelrunners
4 ominous eggs
4 darkling slavers
4 undead tritons
4 cloud of bats
4 blood orb
This is the most successful blood orb deck I have put together. I have encountered others with considerably more muscle and they play quite differently. At least for me (and it may have to do with my poor deck designs, my poor play, or general bad luck in drawing cards), muscle versions don't work as well.
In a recent game (which I eventually lost) I encountered the following. My opponent, with opening move, played an aquamancer -- bad news for this deck. As I had no slaver, I responded with a blood orb and a darkling schemer which I immediately sacrificed, both for damage and to prevent aquamancer growth (not that the growth would really matter here -- in my deck, only slavers can possibly remove an aquamancer). My opponent plays a deepsea thing. Here is where it gets interesting. I face a board with an enemy aquamancer and deepsea thing vs. my single blood orb. In hand, I hold an undead triton, a bodyswap, a cloud of bats, and two more schemers. What do I play? The situation is pretty bleak. The !%##?! aquamancer effectively prevents any blocking of the deepsea thing; in fact it will prevent long-term blocking of anything through the entire game. Even a bodyswap only temporarily reduces the deepsea thing. And given what I see, I fully expect my opponent's deck to contain cards like voltas, energize, more aquamancers, etc. Even if I had drawn a darkling slavers, I could not keep up with cards I needed to slave. What would you do?
Here is what I finally figured out: I played a cloud of bats! I sacrificed the one in front of the aquamancer and shuffled the others. Then I tapped my deck (in retrospect, it might have been better to play the undead triton opposite the aquamancer to force the aquamancer to deal with the triton and spare myself a bit of damage but I think that is one of the decisions that really does not alter the game in a significant way). Next round I moved a bat opposite the deepsea thing and used bodyswap. With the deepsea thing at 0 strength, it, at least, was neutralized. That maneuver bought me enough time that I was able to reduce my opponent to 4 health before losing. Had I gotten a little better draw (I never did get a second blood orb or a miner to summon one, and if I got a slaver, it was far too late to be able to afford), I might have won.
The point of this example is twofold. First, it shows how creative decisions enter into blood orb play. Second, it shows how very common and natural features of an opposing deck can be used to cope with blood orbs.
I'm one of those players who has competitive decks, but I tend to save them for the really, really good players (and even then only occasionally). I tend to favor the more "fun" decks that do unique things, or that I don't see many people using. I think mindless decks only really annoy me when I'm playing one of these fun decks, and my opponent destroys me with an ultra-competitive prism deck and I think to myself "I have a deck just like that." I feel like I'm losing to my own deck. This frustration isn't really because of the opponent. He or she has the right to chose any deck he or she wants. It's more just me losing when I want to just have fun, knowing I have other decks I could have played which probably could have beaten the one I'm losing to. Personally, I get bored beating everyone with the same old deck all the time. That's just me, though. I'm not an ultra-competitive personality, though when I'm on a losing streak, I have to admit, I do like to break out my mage deck or my heart of darkness/prism deck just to prove that I can win when I want to.
More on topic, I don't have a problem with these "mindless" decks, because, as you said, a deck which requires a lot of thought to put together often doesn't require as much to play, whereas a deck that's easy to put together often requires a lot more thought to play. That being said, a lot of decks these days are pretty much carbon copies of every other competitive deck out there, and there definitely isn't much thought in putting together a carbon copy. For me, the best feeling is putting together a very competitive deck on my own, and being the first or one of the first to play such a deck.
"For me, the best feeling is putting together a very competitive deck on my own, and being the first or one of the first to play such a deck. "
I woul really appreciate to see what you call your "mage deck" :-)
One thing I certainly believe might support richer play strategies is the sharing of decks that are fun to play because of their strategic richness. I will submit 4 such decks with my comments. I welcome response from others, as well as other's decks.
The first of my decks I have posted elsewhere, but will repeat here. It does not win against top notch decks often, and is also vulnerable to decks with massive numbers of huge creatures (decks fairly typical of players who recently acquired enough big cards to create such a deck, but who have not yet recognized the effectiveness of more subtle cards).
This deck is not built toward a specific purpose; rather it started as an experiment to see if I could build an effective deck with only one copy of any given card. What I discovered by playing the deck was not only that it was often viable, but that it was highly instructive and fun. It has dozens of combos -- some planned, some not planned -- all depending upon what cards are drawn at a given time. You could literally meet this deck a half dozen times before realizing you were always facing the same deck.
Interestingly, while the game tends to vary highly depending upon what is drawn, the overall effectiveness of the deck is less dependent upon luck than most of my decks. The incredible variety of cards almost always leaves one with a reasonable play. By the way, I have tried other one-of-each type decks without nearly the same success. I think this points to one of the reasons fire and ocean decks dominate PVP play -- the cards of these factions work well in numerous combinations and circumstances -- they are both threatening and defensive.
One of a Kind (fire/ocean)
1 ruby dragon
1 lava giant
1 beserk djinn
1 smoke elemental
1 fire wolf
1 lava elementals
1 lava imps
1 primeval flame
1 fire rain
1 fire shroud
1 siege cannon
1 deepsea thing
1 giant octopus
1 sea dragon
1 triton assassin
1 aqualid hunter
1 aqualid mages
1 giant urchin
1 triton aquamancer
1 dancing jellyfish
1 sunken treasure
1 tide caller
1 lost at sea
I must admit, I am embarrassed to publish this deck as it violates my boycott of the overpowered aquamancer. But given the general deck composition, I think it justifies an exception.
This is the second of my favorite strategic decks. It began with an idea to exploit combos involving the back to the depths card, but evolved into a very interesting deck. Mobility of units is key to success; much of the strategic element is placing the right units in the right places. Be aware that it is a very slow deck, usually winning by wearing out the opponent's minions. It is vulnerable to both to cards that remove elusive traits and to cards like voltas and fire rain that can quickly burn a lot of health. Note: the cost four cards are often a problem to deploy -- I'm sure there are ways to improve the deck by improving power point management.
4 triton assassin
4 aqualid hunter
4 water elemental
4 back to the depths
4 vampire consort
4 undead tritons
One ironic fact is that another of my best decks (one I will not post here as it is pretty mindless to play) is also ocean/swamp. It is designed to play massive numbers of huge creatures very rapidly. I find it ironic -- and a tribute to the Goblin's design -- that 2 almost totally opposite but powerful decks can be designed from the same factions.
The third strategy deck I am sufficiently satisfied with to share is posted below. It is far more erratic than the previous two, but often interesting. Be aware that a general problem with copy-cat type decks is that stolen cards rarely work as well for the player who steals them as for the original owner -- they are less effective outside the context of the deck they were designed to support. Thus, key to this deck is to effectively enhance your own units by judicious use of body swap, and to use other theft cards to gain tempo as much as force.
Ali Baba (underworld/swamp)
3 shadow dragon
4 primeval ooze
2 mindvenom spider
4 tentacle from below
4 ominous eggs
3 darkling slavers
3 mind transfer
2 essence exchange
4 bone dragon
4 ancient ghost
I'll post one more deck -- with some hesitation as it is a relatively new deck. While it has proven highly successful, I'm not sure it is as strategically rich as I would like -- it will take more experience to be certain it continues to feel as strategic as it has so far. Incidentally, this deck was motivated by a PVP discussion with a player whose name I don't recall. That player disagreed with a negative assessment of the fluidity card I had once posted (although that critique occurred before the goblins tweaked the card in an update). As it now stands, the fluidity card is a valuable addition to many decks -- and this one is an example. You will be absolutely amazed how rapidly sky hydras can get out of control -- but be aware that cards like darkling slavers and bodyswap can turn that against you. While the aetherfish are obviously intended to cancel out the timer imposed by overload, I have found a key element of strategy is a timely use of overload even when aetherfish are not available. Sometimes 5 or 6 damage from an unblocked unit is worth the eventual loss of that unit.
3 sea dragons
2 triton illusionist
3 dancing jellyfish
2 essence drift
4 sunken treasure
4 sky hydra
4 arch mage
2 astral armour
In reply to this post by Tsiflikas
Quintivarium those decks are pretty cool. The first one reminds me of an MTG Commander deck, having only one of each card. Aurore Aileblanche, I'm posting the Mage deck below (which could also be called a spell deck I guess) along with some of my "fun" decks. The Mage deck isn't really that original, I don't think. I have seen others that are similar. It is consistently my best deck though, and it can beat just about anything, especially with a good draw:
2 Sky Hydra
2 Magic Missile
4 Spell Storm (a real killer in this deck)
2 Power Surge
4 Storm Core
4 Triton Aquamancers (sorry, Quintivarium lol)
2 Calm Seas
2 Sunken Treasure
Basically use Archmages and Sky Hydras with lots of cheap spells, also Spell Storm with tons of mages and mancers. Some card draw. It's usually pretty devastating. I can usually take out Prism decks before they have the chance to develop their mechanism, and with other decks, it takes out their creatures pretty quickly. It does well against speed decks, too, because it's pretty quick itself, but a little more well balanced than the usual blitz deck.
Some fun decks:
4 Lava Giant
4 Lava Imps
4 Primeval Flame
4 Cloud Dragon
4 Astral Armor
4 Spell Book
I haven't seen anyone else play a deck like this one yet, but I'm sure it's out there somewhere. I call it "fun" because I took a card that seems to have no real advantage in Catastrophe and worked out a deck where it gives you awesome advantage, since many creatures have spell immunity, and you can use Astral Armor on those that don't. It can get clunky sometimes since you need at least three fire creatures to play Catastrophe, but I love wiping out my enemy's board completely when I still have a Cloud Dragon, two Pyrohydras with Astral Armor, and a Lava Imp.
4 Giant Constrictor
4 Jungle Troll
4 Deepwood Ash
2 Deepwood Spider
4 Living Essence
4 Ant Swarm
Basically, with Ant Swarm, Rampage, and strength boosters, you make big creatures that get even bigger as they "eat" your opponent's creatures. This isn't that effective against the most competitive decks but it's fun to play, for me at least. Also, I love how Living Essence and Jungle Troll work together, as well as Giant Constrictor with either Stranglevines or Deepwood Spider.
Here's the last one for now, and my personal favorite:
4 Ancient Ghost
4 Wraith Soulhunter
4 Undead Tritons
2 Dark Secrets
4 Giant Constrictor
Basically, lots of cards that cause your opponent's creatures to lose strength, along with cards that cause your creatures to gain strength. Bodyswap is the star, especially with Ancient Ghost. I love swapping a 5 strength Stitched Golemn across from an Ancient Ghost. I've beaten some of the best players in the game with this deck. I won't mention names lol
I am in awe that you guys got 4 of all your cards in those decks. Did you do that just by buying booster packs?
I've been playing nearly three years. Every card I have has been purchased with gold earned by playing (although I have purchased extra deck pages with cash).
It is possible to purchase cards individually, as opposed to in packs. Boosters are much cheaper so I strongly reccommend players limit individual card purchases to cards that are desperately needed or to the last two or three cards needed to complete a faction.
I would like to return to the question of what can be done to promote richer strategies during play.
First, I want to re-emphasize that, to me at least, a rich strategy generally involves reacting not just to my card draw, but to my opponent's plays. And that reaction cannot always be rote (e.g. simply playing a stronger minion opposite any minion my opponent plays, or repeatedly playing and recalling a triton wave rider in the presence of triton ritual and fire prism to destroy any force my opponent deploys). To me, the play of a strategically satisfying deck must depend significantly and creatively upon what and how my opponent plays; a strategically satisfying game has ebb an flow as both players respond strategically to the other.
Recently, I have been collecting statistics on cards I encounter in PVP. With now over 600 games and nearly 7000 cards, I can confidently state that by far the most popular cards are power generating cards: the most popular card in the game is captured flame, the most popular ocean card is the shimmer pearl, the most popular air card is the storm core (with power surge 4th), and the most popular fire minion is the pyromancer. And this is not primarily due to fire prism (relatively few of the decks using these cards were prism decks). It is evidence of a strong trend to sacrifice future value (a non-depleted hand) for a temporary boost in speed (more power immediately). That so many players use these cards is evidence that speed overrides long-term stability. I postulate that at least some of this drive toward speed at all cost is the general ineffectiveness of reactive play. If you can't counter what your opponent is doing, the only alternative is to do something of your own sooner. These, long-term unsustainable plays would not be popular if there were reasonable counters that make games last to the long term.
So what can I do, right now, as a player? First, I have to accept that my favorite (strategic) decks will probably lose to a well-designed, well-played deck that revolves around cards that cannot be reactively countered. (Fortunately, this is probably less than 10% of the decks I have been encountering.) Second, I can be aware of how the decks I choose limit my opponent's options, i.e. I can try to avoid decks that leave my opponent without interesting strategic options even if they feel strategic from my end. Third, I can share with other players ideas in creating good reactive decks. (I have already done so in previous posts to this thread.) And finally, I can encourage other players to do the same.
But I think the best way to encourage strategic play has to stem from game design. We desperately need more, defensive oriented factions; we need richer play and more options regarding back-row cards (items, auras and traps). The goblins have really done a remarkable job keeping the game balanced and rich; there are significant challenges in designing cards that facilitate good, reactive play. The first is that, unlike offensive cards, defensive cards cannot be highly specialized. If a card is effectively wasted unless my opponent plays in a certain way (examples include natural order, forest canopy, essence exchange, melt, doomsong, etc.), I cannot afford the deck space -- there are too many potential threats to have specialized defenses against each. Offensive cards can be specialized because I can control how I play, but defensive cards depend upon how my opponents play. The second problem is that many of the problematic or potentially cards (for example, blood orb, fire prism, pack attack, triton aquamancer, chronomancer, etc.) are either all or nothing. They can only really be stopped by destruction: they can't be shut down, they can't be partially removed (injured).
So what do I suggest?
I would love to see more defensive cards effective against a gauntlet of potential threats. For example: a barrier that blocks special abilities of all cards in its lane for as long as it is in play and a minion that destroys objects in its path when first played (unlike nobbling elders which must first survive long enough to act). For that matter, a minion that strips special abilities from an opposing force when it is played (as opposed to primal ooze which must survive to have this effect) would be nice.
I would like to see additional immunities such as immunity to auras and items. I understand that this would probably require some retrofitting to give the immunity to select cards in existing factions, and extreme care would be needed with cards like burning world and gravity well that are balanced based upon their harming both friendly and enemy creatures.
And I would like to see more ways cards could be effectively used even if their primary target is unavailable. For instance, I don't feel horrible having darkling snatchers in my deck -- even if my opponent has no items. The snatcher always doubles as a cheap blocker should I need one. And, interestingly, while essence exchange was never used in my recorded card use tally, the seemingly less effective essence drift was used 11 times (not frequently, but significantly more). Why? Because essence drift could be effectively used on friendly cards, and, with the free card draw as well as the ability to trigger an archmage special, it can be effectively used even if not for its primary purpose. Essence exchange cannot be used in this way. And traps like smash or essence jar that may never be triggered still have value as a trigger for savage trappers or as way to channel stranglevines into a more desirable lane. Special purpose, reactive cards suddenly become viable if they have a meaningful alternative use. For instance, a minion with a special power, "double click and drag over a card in your hand to destroy that card and give this minion +1 strength" would give any otherwise unplayable card some value.
I'm sure there are other ideas along these lines; I strongly suspect the goblins already have several in the already planned future factions. But these are suggestions I have.
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