Quintivarium's guide to FIRE

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Quintivarium's guide to FIRE


Feel:  Fire.  The word itself suggests power; suggests danger.  Fire is primal, elemental.  It is a wild beast at best half-tamed.  Fire is final.

Characteristics:  Fire is loaded with big spells, nasty auras, and dangerous items.  Moreover, fire has three of the most immediately dangerous minions in the game: ruby dragons, pyrohydras, and pyrosaurs.  Almost every fire card is highly geared toward destruction – even the one barrier (the outstanding primeval flame).  But despite the impression this destructiveness leaves, fire is a surprisingly subtle faction as productively harnessing this destruction often requires finesse.

Signature Cards:  

Meteor – As a card capable of killing nearly all big minions, meteor makes frequent appearances in fire decks.  It is best used offensively – not simply to destroy an enemy threat, but to destroy an enemy threat while opening a lane for a friendly threat.

Ruby Dragon – Fire’s one strength 4 minion has an excellent special power, rendering it hard to oppose.  But that power must be used judiciously – its cost is quite high, wasting tempo if not carefully timed.

Pyrohydra – Pyrohydras are strength 3 minions that are more dangerous than most strength 4 minions due to their ability to grow after taking damage.  Since clever opponents avoid damaging pyrohydras, it is often the case that players of pyrohydras incorporate means of damaging the hydras in their own decks.  This also requires careful timing, as a health 2 minion is far more vulnerable than a health 3 minion.

Other Cards:

Pyrosaur – A pyrosaur were it not an unlockable card (hence expensive to obtain) would probably be as popular as ruby dragons and pyrohydras.  It is certainly capable of substantial devastation very quickly.  But it does require help clearing its lane in order to move beyond threat to harm.

Lava Giant – Fire’s 4th and last big minion, a lava giant is a significant potential threat, with an ability to inflict life damage in addition to its 3 strength.  The ability to avoid attacking stronger opponents should not be overlooked.

Berserk Djinn – At cost 3, a berserk djinn seems a bit pricy for a mere 2/2 creature.  Although I have won games by a timely djinn explosion, I believe other cost three creatures will usually be more effective.

Cinderlings – Cinderlings are an interesting card; one of the few enemies one often tries not to destroy.  Of course, the special is only invoked when the cinderling is destroyed in an attack.  It is also important to note that effects that change a cinderling’s strength also impact the amount of strength the cinderling distributes.

Feral Elementals – The feral elemental is, in my opinion, the weakest of the strength 2 quick minions.  The special has occasional value, but the cost of that special (both power and loss of the elemental) is usually prohibitive.

Flamespider – Flamespiders are very handy for one critical point of damage when it is most needed.  And while 2 strength is not impressive, the 3 health and evasive skill allow a flamespider to stick around for further havoc.

Lavaworm Ravager – Maybe it’s just me, but while the 6 health and the occasionally helpful special seem impressive, I find lavaworms far less dangerous – even in burning world/rage type decks – than a flamespider.  The evasive ability of spiders can really make a difference.

Magmasphere –  A magmasphere is the quintessential trench minion; with enough strength (3) to be formidable, incredible durability in its 6 health, yet a reminder in its non-permanence that it is basically a throw-away unit.

Molten Elemental – Sometimes it is easy to get so caught up in unit mechanics that the fantasy is lost.  The concept of a molten elemental hardening as it cools so perfectly matches its mechanic of converting strength to health that I can’t resist observing it.  And although molten elementals are not currently popular, they are an effective unit in many situations, very similar to magmaspheres.

Ruby Hatchling – The strength of hatchlings is their versatility.  They can use their special to eliminate a health one opponent.  They can use their quickness to inflict two life damage.  And afterward, they don’t have to die in a fruitless attack against a stronger minion – they can inflict their 1 damage and stick around to block for a round.

Smoke Elemental – Combat immunity is nice, and the evasive trait which allows smoke elementals to be played, then moved where needed is a plus.  But the paltry 1 health makes playing them in open lanes risky as they are vulnerable not only to spells, but to creatures like flamespiders and lightning golems.

Fire Wolf – Despite the tempting price and the similarity to ruby hatchling, I find fire wolves underwhelming.  They are too weak and too fragile to play opposite most minions, they are easily handled if played in open lanes, and the cost of their special offsets any benefit I gain by their low cost.

Lava Elementals – The bonus damage allows lava elementals to pack a powerful punch for a cost 2 unit.  But they do demand finesse.  With no elusive ability and only two strength, they are vulnerable to being countered to the enemy’s advantage by a stronger minion.
Pyromancers – With the introduction of the fire prism card, pyromancers are being given a lot more attention.  Even without prisms, I like pyromancers for their special ability, which, while often not directly helpful, at least allows the unit to avoid suicide attacks against a stronger foe.

Fire Birds – Fire birds are a good cost one unit with quick and an ability to almost certainly damage opposing foes.

Lava Imps – Imps can be a bit awkward.  The magic immunity is definitely a mixed blessing as it precludes the imp from being the target of either detonation or living bomb.

Primeval Flame – Do not overlook this card, it is one of the often under-appreciated gems of the fire faction.  Magic immunity plus the ability to damage enemies of your choice is a difficult combo to counter – especially when combined with health granting effects.

Heat Seeker – Although heat seekers can occasionally be useful, the four power cost is usually better spent is other ways.  Even when life damage is paramount, something like meteor will usually be at least as effective and far more inconvenient for my opponent.

Catastrophe – Catastrophe is an interesting spell that essentially resets the board, but I find it doesn’t synergize well with other fire cards.  A board reset works best if either your forces are immune or you have a lot of cheap, quick units that benefit from opening lanes.  Fire really has neither, and really lacks cheap forces to trigger the spell at all.  Although catastrophe can make some unique decks, I do not expect to see it as a major shaper until better synergies are possible.

Detonation, Fire Rain, Flamespike, Implode – Fire is rich with direct damage spells.  Each of these is very useful in the right circumstance.  Because the “right circumstance” for each differs, it is wise to take a selection of different cards rather than large multiples of only one.

Ashes – Ashes is, in my opinion, still too costly and too specialized.  One damage is rarely worth 2 power points, and the discard pile is really of value to only a handful of cards from two factions.
Fire Shroud – Fire shroud is a very nice card in a large number of situations.  It is very often the case that raising a strength 3 unit to strength 4, or strength 4 to strength 5 is invaluable – even at the reduced health.  And because it acts immediately on a chosen target, the benefits can be maximized while the negatives minimized – unlike the similar rage card.

Living Bomb – Living bomb serves two useful purposes: combined with a cheap unit (like firebirds), it removes dangerous enemy minions.  And it provides utility to an otherwise foredoomed card (e.g. a minion with a rapidly expiring timer or one obliged to attack a stronger enemy).  Beware, it does not work with magic immune imps..

Melt –  I’m not a big fan of cards that only target one type card.  It is entirely too frequent that no objects are played to be worth taking space in one’s hand – unless one has some other combination with the card in mind.

Burning World – The burning world card is quintessential fire: substantial, barely controlled destruction.  Burning world is one of a handful of cards that demand a total deck redesign to be useful. But that redesign is usually not hard

Inferno – Inferno is a difficult card, although an interesting one.  Because, under the wrong circumstances, it can be as devastating to you as to you opponent, effective use of inferno requires planning in deck design.  Even then it is not useful against all opponents.  Thus I recommend viewing inferno more as a tool than as a deck focus.

Rage – Rage, while not as destructive, is similar to burning world in that is requires planning to be helpful rather than damaging.  Fortuitously, designs that promote rage also promote burning world, so the two cards synergize very well.

Volcanic Eruption – Volcanic eruption is a nice lane control card with substantial influence on the board.  It is hard to use without self-inflicted harm offsetting its benefits – but I think that issue is not overwhelming.  I’m surprised not to see it more often.

Burning Blood – The only drawback to burning blood is the difficulty of drawing units into its lane.  This is another card that is used less often than it deserves.

Fire Prism – When it first came out, due to bugs and mispricing, fire prism completely imbalanced the game.  Now that it has been fixed, I think the jury is still out on the prism being over-powered.  Under the right circumstances, fire prism is unstoppable – in part because one fire prism can be triggered repeatedly every round.  But it is not easy to set up those circumstances, and I do not find prisms overpowered in the same way certain other cards are.

Heart of Fire – By the time I account for both casting cost (2) and the cost of drawing a replacement card (2), I figure one needs to play 4 fire spells for each heart played in order to break even.  You can figure the odds of that occurring for you.

Lava Bombs – Lava bombs (not to be confused with living bombs) are a much more efficient way to inflict life damage than heat seeker, but they are slow.  Early in the game, investing one’s power elsewhere is likely to have more return; later in the game, the effect is unlikely to trigger in time.  I am not a fan of lava bombs unless they are enhanced by some combo.

Lavapult – Lavapults are a bit slow, but very effective at breaking deadlocked lanes, or making enemy blocking plays unattractive.

Siege Cannon – This card is severely limited by the cost of firing it.  I cannot conceive of wanting more than 2 in play at a time.  But taken in moderation, a siege cannon can not only quickly clear certain barriers, it can make good use of two left-over power points.

Captured Flame – Captured flames are run of the mill power sources.  Some players like them; some do not.

Cinderbox – Fire’s only trap is OK but rarely significant in a game.

Pyrohydra Combos – Pyrohydras benefit from cards that also damage friendly units as these can stimulate growth.  Such cards include detonation, fire shroud, burning world, rage, volcanic eruption, volta, dreadmarsh plague, necromages (able to harm friendly units), law of the jungle.  They also benefit from astral armor as spells are a frequently used means to destroy pyrohydras.

Pyrosaur Combinations – Pyrosaurs are at their best when lots of enemy minions are in play, but the pyrohydra can strike in an open lane. Obvious combos involve cards able to remove opposing forces: direct damage spells, lost, taken under, as well as minion moving cards like tide caller.  They also benefit from lavapults and burrowing under.  Cards like fire shroud, wild strength, and astral armor that increase the pyrosaur’s ability to clear its own lane are also very useful.  

Lava Giant Combos – Lava giants have an ability to damage one’s opponent even when blocked, a very nice ability as long as the giants remain on the board.  Thus good combos are with cards that improve the giant’s durability – health and strength granting cards, as well as astral armor.

Cinderling Combos – Cinderlings have a nice special that makes them unattractive to kill in combat.  Unfortunately, opponents have time to react after a cinderling is played, often allowing them to avoid the special effect.  It is tempting to pair cinderlings with cards like energize or overworld elixir that allow the immediate combat death of cinderlings, but the cost of this maneuver is probably not worth its effect.  However, similar effects can happen pairing cinderlings with ominous eggs.  While there is a lot of randomness in such a pairing, it is very cost effective.  Since boosts in strength are most devastating with units already having high strength, try to use cinderlings in decks containing mainly strength 3 and 4 minions.

Magmasphere, Molten Golem / Evolve combos – Evolve is very useful to stop the negative special of these two cards.

Primeval Flame Combos – primeval flames are extremely hard to counter with their magic immunity and their two strength.  But as they are limited by their health; health granting cards (living essence, wild growth) work well in combo.  The magic immunity of primal flames also works well with catastrophe.

Direct Damage Combos – Direct damage is most effective when it also clears a lane for another unit to inflict life damage.  This can be augmented further if the cards inflicting life damage also trigger a special power – as with pyrosaurs, screaming skulls, deepsea things, or even lava elementals.

Fire Shroud combos – Look for cards that regenerate health (or at least have high health) when using fireshroud.

Living Bomb Combos – It is fairly obvious to use cheap, expendable minions with living bomb – but beware of magic immunity!  It is especially nice to use living bomb on units that serve a purpose beyond triggering the living bomb (aetherfish, berserk djinn, cloud of bats).

Burning World and Rage Combinations – combine these cards with minions that regenerate, or cards that grant health.  For ideal sequencing of effects, play burning world to the right of cards like wild growth.

Inferno Combos – Inferno works best with cards that are cheap – but not easily eliminated before your next move.  Cloud of bats or mass collapse might be tempting, but something a bit more enduring like zombie mob, wall of webs, or captured flame is often preferable.  Although I would have expected differently, I’ve not found lava bombs to work well either – I think the combo is too costly and too infrequent to work well.

Volcanic Eruption Combos – In addition to complementing the high health/regenerating minions that work well with other fire auras, volcanic eruption works well with minion relocation cards to send enemies into its path.

Burning Blood Combos – Burning blood requires two things: an enemy minion in its lane, and something to destroy that enemy minion.  It works well behind a card like ruby dragon as it deters opponents from using cheap, sacrificial blockers and ruby dragons can eventually kill virtually any enemy deployed against them.  It works well behind triton warmachines as the latter prevent blocking by barriers.  Ideally combine it with meteor and or implode to clear strong opposing minions.

Fire Prism Combos – Of course, you want power generating cards.  But those cards must carry their weight until a fire prism is drawn.  Because prisms are expensive, you need a lot of mileage from each prism played.   And since prisms have no defensive value, you must endure the turn they are initially deployed.  Thus ideal fire prism combos trigger the prism multiple times, trigger it at very low cost, and still do something else productive at the same time.  Dancing druids and pyromancers provide an attack lane presence as well as triggering the prism.  Cards like hearts of fire, hearts of darkness, and triton ritual are nice because one event can trigger multiple cards which then trigger a fire prism multiple times.  But these combos, often requiring several cards, are inconsistent as they may not arise in time unless the draw is a good one.

Lava Bomb Combos – Both melt and inferno can trigger lava bomb prematurely (absorb does not).  The cost of these combos relative to their impact does not make them alluring to me.

Secondary Factions:
Air – Despite a couple of natural synergies between air and fire, I do not find Fire/Air decks particularly compelling.  Fire has enough quickness that it doesn’t really need air’s quickness (and if I were creating a blitz deck, I would probably choose Air as primary faction).  Although energize and overworld elixir are never bad, fire does not particularly benefit from them.  And except for extending a rage, fire rain, or lavapult, fire does not really need air faction’s timer effects.  Finally, air’s destructive spells are far less useful to fire (which already has a surplus of its own) than they are to most factions.  Of course there are exceptions.  Aeromancers are nice to draw fire’s spells.  Aetherfish are wonderful with fire’s timer cards, and air’s magic immunity works very well with catastrophe.

Forest – Fire/forest decks generally try to use forest’s health granting abilities in support of cards like rage, burning world, and primal flame.  Chanting druids and flowering are good supports for a fire prism decks.  And deep wood ash can combine with pyrohydras and ruby dragons to create a line that is very hard to oppose.  Finally, faerie enchantresses can accelerate the summoning of fire auras.

Jungle – Fire/Jungle decks have the potential for extremely formidable minions, backed by dangerous auras.  While there is no plethora of strong, obvious fire/jungle combos, there is a convergence of purpose and style that allow harmonious interaction.

Ocean – In many ways, ocean is the most obvious complement to fire: its voltas stimulate pyrohydras; its octopi withstand volcanos and burning worlds; its sharks love meteor cleared lanes; sirens beg for the backing of lavapults; aquamancers draw attention from magmaspheres and even dragons.  Ocean spells like tide shift, sink, and liquefy balance the shear destruction of fire spells.  Fire/ocean decks can go in many different directions, and one almost has to try to keep them from working.

Swamp – While good Fire/Swamp decks exist, they are surprisingly difficult to create.  In part, I think the problem lies in the two factions’ different approaches to dealing with resistance: blasting it to oblivion, or subverting and eroding it.  Beware making fire/swamp decks too “top heavy”; both factions have a dearth of highly threatening, low cost cards, but good decks need a solid backing of cost 2 or less cards.

Underworld – Fire/underworld decks seem to work well in many different forms.  In many ways, this is more due to a good synergy of card costs than a synergy of card effects.  Fire tends to have many good three power cards: fire rain, detonation, flame spike, implode, magmasphere, ruby hatchling, ruby dragon special ability.  And underworld has some great cost two and cost one complements: dreamfeeder, cave-in, narrow tunnels, stalagmites, dark fey, deepspawn special ability, ominous eggs, etc.  Good power point utilization on good cards is more important to most decks than good combinations.

Fire as Supporting Faction:  Not surprisingly, fire tends to add destructive force to those decks in which it is included.  This seems to be true whether it is chosen for its deadly minions, its devastating direct-damage spells, or one of its interesting auras or items.

Representative Decks:

Deck 1 (Fire/Underworld):  This is a typical direct destruction deck.  I tend to prefer an ample supply of minions in a deck; many players make this theme work with far fewer than I have included.
     4 pyrohydra
     4 ruby dragon
     4 magmasphere
     4 primal flame
     4 meteor
     4 detonation
     4 deepspawn
     4 dream feeder
     4 ominous eggs
     4 taken under

Deck 2 (Fire/Air):  This is a variant of my most successful tournament deck (about 65% vs. very good players).  It plays upon the magic immunity / catastrophe theme.
     4 pyrohydra
     4 ruby dragon
     2 flame spider
     2 magmasphere
     2 pyromancers
     2 firebirds
     4 lava imps
     4 primeval flame
     4 catastrophe
     4 cloud dragon
     2 time eater
     2 aeromancers
     4 astral armour

Deck 3 (Fire/Ocean):  This deck uses only one copy of every card.  While it might not often win against top completion, it fares very well against most players.  It is an excellent illustration of how versatile cards can be; how well ocean and fire cards synergize; and how, in a well-designed deck, strategies can be adapted to any particular draw.  I also like to play this deck against players who have a relatively low player rating – it wins by good strategy and not by overwhelming with vast quantities of cards superior to any cards my opponent might own.
     1 pyrohydra
     1 ruby dragon
     1 lava giant
     1 berserk djinn
     1 cinderling
     1 flamespider
     1 magmasphere
     1 smoke elemental
     1 fire wolf
     1 lava elementals
     1 pyromancers
     1 firebirds
     1 lava imps
     1 primeval flame
     1 meteor
     1 detonation
     1 fire rain
     1 flamespike
     1 implode
     1 fire shroud
     1 lava bomb
     1 lavapult
     1 seige cannon
     1 cinderbox
     1 deepsea thing
     1 giant octopus
     1 sea dragon
     1 triton assassin
     1 aqualid hunter
     1 sirens
     1 aqualid mages
     1 giant urchin
     1 shimmersquid
     1 triton aquamancer
     1 dancing jellyfish
     1 liquefy
     1 sink
     1 sunken treasure
     1 tide caller
     1 lost at sea

Deck 4 (Jungle/Fire):  This deck is a still unpolished attempt to use inferno as a tool rather than a focus.
     3 giant constrictor
     3 jungle dragon
     2 dactyl
     3 savage kobo
     3 savage trapper
     2 toxipede
     2 stranglevines
     2 scavengers
     2 backfire
     2 smash
     2 poison darts
     4 snake pit
     2 pyrohydra
     2 ruby dragon
     2 magmasphere
     2 ruby hatchling
     2 inferno

Beginner Decks:
     Players early in their adventuring career will probably have to build their fire deck around minions like magma spheres, flame spiders, lavaworm ravagers and lava elementals, backed by direct damage spells like flamespike and fire rain.  Fire shroud should be heavily utilized to bring spiders and lavaworms to at least three strength, and cinderbox could be quite useful to reduce enemy health to a level where flame spike can destroy it.  Remember, a destructive spell is doubly useful if it destroys a minion opposite your own farces as it not only removes an enemy, but grants you a direct strike on your opponent.  As they are acquired, lava giants, ruby dragons, and pyrohydras should probably replace the lavaworms and either the magma spheres or flamespiders.  Adding detonation and meteor is definitely worthwhile.  Be very careful of rage, burning world, catastrophe, or inferno cards.  It is hard to resist trying to use a rare card, but these will work against you unless your deck is designed for them, and such designs are probably not a wise use of resources this early.
     Most other factions support fire fairly well, although I would avoid air and swamp.  Not only do these factions synergize least well with fire, I think they are the hardest for a beginner to use.  
     Both ocean and underworld provide a good number of common cards that augment a fire deck well; they are probably my first choice.  Initially, fire/underworld decks will tend to have stronger minions with which one can directly confront an opponent.  Fire/ocean decks will probably require more subtlety as one will often need to hold stronger units at bay until they can be weakened by ocean forces or destroyed by fire spells.
     Fire/forest decks are also very viable.  Forest’s wild strength aura can help a beginner’s weaker minions match up against more costly opponents, and forest’s health granting cards also prolong defense and support the fire shroud spell.
     Fire/Jungle decks, although rarely true beginner decks, tend to quickly obtain almost explosive firepower, and also work well for beginners.

Summary Comments:  Fire is forceful and aggressive.  Its defense, like its offence, revolves around destruction.  There is subtlety in running a fire deck, but that subtlety is usually in the decision of what, when, and how to destroy.  Unrestrained, fire is reckless with numerous cards that easily backfire.  It has, on the average, the most expensive cards in the game.  For the most part, they’re worth it.