Quintivarium's guide to FOREST

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Quintivarium's guide to FOREST

SteveGoblin
FOREST FACTION:

Feel: The world’s heart beats in a forest.  A casual visitor may mistake the sheer size as strength, the verdant green as calm, the ancient voices as peace.  A casual visitor might miss the desperate groping of roots, the fury of spider webs, the wails of a falling leaf.  A casual visitor might feel forces channeled, but miss the transformation – while the forest beats in his heart.

Characteristics:  
     Forest tends to be slow and inexorable, with solid minions that are rarely flashy, auras that incrementally improve minions (and often barriers), spells that restore rather than harm, and cheap barriers that are purely defensive.  More than other factions, forest tends to rely on secondary factions for offensive punch, although forest’s plodding solidarity makes these strategies work.
     With numerous health and life granting cards, rather basic but solid minions, and cheap, defensive barriers, forest is effective at deadlocking lanes.  But it is not good at breaking deadlocks.  And with no traps and with counter measures that tend to be slow, forest is also weak in preventing strategies that break deadlocks.  At its best, forest’s regeneration fuels destructive capabilities of another faction.  Alternatively, it plods towards the depletion of enemy resources (particularly cards in deck).
     But while forest, as a primary faction, tends to be more defensive than most players like, that very characteristic makes forest a great balancer as a secondary faction.  Forest is, as of this writing, quite popular in that capacity.

Signature Cards:

Living Essence – In many decks, living essence is THE reason for taking forest faction.  Its ability to grant health is unmatched and its vulnerability is somewhat offset by its elusive trait and its own health gain.

Other Important Cards:

Ancient Oak – I like ancient oaks for their “play it and forget it” style.  All too many cards are extremely hard to block – Block a pyrosaur, a screaming skull, a giant constrictor, razor sharks, pyrohydra, ruby dragons, darkling assassins, and many other units, and you need to fear not only the enemy quickly overpowering the blocker, but spells removing the blocker and leaving you vulnerable to a nasty attack.  While oaks cannot eliminate the threat of elusive units simply moving away, they are not easily removed, and, if removed, often destroy the opposition.  Unfortunately, 5 power is a rather high price for the capability oaks bring.

Deepwood Ash – Ash are forest’s most potent offensive card.  But in most cases they are too slow unless their strength is increased (e.g. by a wild strength).

Forest Dragon – Forest dragon’s special power is as often a disadvantage as an advantage, in part because it is essentially controlled by one’s opponent.  But a 4/4 creature is always useful.

Blessed Unicorn, Deepwood Spider, Deepwood Unicorn, Giant Owl – All four of these cards seem like they should be better than my experience with them indicates.  For 1 extra casting cost, blessed unicorns offer the same statistics as a grizzlies card, and they grant three life.  For 1 cost more than a dragonfly, a giant owl offers a quick 3 attack strength (one better than any other quick minion).  Both cards seem to be bargains.  Deepwood spiders have the wonderful ability to remove the elusive trait, which would seem invaluable given how useful it is to have evasive.  And deepwood unicorns have two excellent traits: magic immunity, and the ability to flee to a new lane without losing their turn.  But none of these cards seems to actually play well – I think the problem is the casting cost 4.  None have the ability to stand up to most cost 5 units, but it is hard to find worthwhile cost 1 cards that play in tandem with cost 4 cards.  And the problem is exacerbated by the fact that forest (and many of the factions forest supports) have more useful cost 4 cards one wants more than these (for example, living essence, jungle trolls, undead giants, etc.)

Grizzlies, Dragonfly – That’s right, forest has only two minions costing 3 power.  As cost 3 minions are critical to the initial turn, I find they are one of the foundations of a good deck.  Even though both of these cards are good in the right setting, the dearth of alternatives is problematic for forest faction.

Ant Swarm – I consider ant swarm to be something of a gimmick card.  Its special power can potentially make the card dangerous, but the special is extremely hard to trigger, and, before it does, the card’s vulnerabilities are all too apparent.  Even special measures to help trigger the special (huge, fire shroud, overload, etc.) don’t work consistently enough for ant swarm to be a core part of forest strategy.

Faerie Enchantress – As the only consistent summoner of auras, enchantresses have an important niche.  They make possible decks like a pack attack blitz and psychic vortex decks.

Glade Faeries – The ability to immediately add health to adjacent minions is very handy, especially in circumstances when that health contributes to triggering powers or to making a unit more survivable.

Nobbling Elder – Although there are certainly times when destroying objects is critical, the elder must survive long enough to use its special – and in the presence of some of the most dangerous objects (fire prism, overworld elixir), this is problematic.

Nobbling Trickster – The trickster is one of forest’s most popular cards.  Its strength in nothing spectacular, but its theft of enemy health often allows easy destruction of otherwise problematic units.  It is almost as effective as implode, but far more controllable.

Nobbling Warden – Wardens are the only card that really deals with enemy traps.  Unfortunately, as traps are not a significant feature of many decks, the warden is often reduced to a role of 2/2 minion with elusive – not bad stats for the price, but better stats are available.

Wolf Pack – This biggest problem with wolves is that a player cannot take enough.  AI wolf pack decks are some of the hardest in the game – but they cheat by having far more than four copies.  With the limitation on copies of cards, it is extremely rare to trigger wolf growth fast and often enough to really matter.  Wolves are not bad as cannon fodder, but it is not advisable to try to make them a deck’s bread and butter.

Chanting Druid, Deepwood Fey , Fey Spirit, Horde of Animals – Cost one (and less) minions are often under-appreciated: they inflict minimal damage, are rarely durable, and generally demand little immediate attention.  But they are very flexible cards, rarely useless or unusable (like auras and traps can be), and support good power point utilization.  Each of forest’s cheap minions is well worth its cost in many situations.  Chanting druids have high health and evasive, so they almost certainly survive to re-coup their casting cost.  Deepwood fey are perhaps the most graceful means available to any faction to deal with immunities, at least on a limited scale.  Fey spirits almost always either inflict damage or restore life or both, well worth their cost.  And horde of animals, if played at the right time, draws a replacement to itself – essentially providing a sacrificial blocker at no cost in either cost or power.  And, of course, cost 1 minions really support forest’s penchant for cost 4 minions, as well as often being great support for cards like blood orb, pack attack, body swap, living bomb, inferno, etc.

Living Maze – a combat immune barrier can be problematic for deck that deals with combat immunity by cards like bone dragons or aquamancers that only affect minions.  At the very least, living maze usually costs more to destroy than to deploy.

Overgrown Forest – At first glance, overgrown forest appears to have little attractiveness to a tree of life which at one less health can restore life points.  But that health really does matter.  An overgrown forest will block strength 3 or 4 minions for 3 rounds, as opposed to a tree of life, which only blocks for 2.  Against strength 2, it blocks for 5 rounds instead of 3, and against strength 1, it lasts 9 rounds instead of 4.

Tree of Life – The nice feature of a tree of life is that it serves a purpose even when not blocking minions, so unlike most barriers which have use unless they can be deployed opposite an enemy, a tree of life always has use.

Wall of Webs – At cost 0, one shouldn’t expect much, but wall of webs can be deceiving.  It can, if played on an empty lane, often shut down that lane for some time – very useful for enhancing the value of voltas, berserk djinn, stormships, lavapults, volcanic eruptions, detonation, magic missile, etc.  It can diffuse the threat of implode or smash.  Or, of course, it can provide the obvious turn or two of cheap blocking.

Absorb, natural order – I am always hesitant to select a card which is irrelevant against a significant proportion of competitive decks an opponent might play.  And that is the case with spells that target items or auras.  A minion that also destroys items has value as a minion, even if the opponent has no items, but not so, a spell.  On the other hand, I must admit that there are getting to be more and more decks that hinge around, and make devastating use of, auras and items.  And as more cards are introduced, I expect to see far more of them.  Minions might not survive long enough to have an effect; spells are immediate.  I like absorb because it has power to affect auras or items; I dislike its cost.  I like natural order’s cost (and that, unlike calm seas, it doesn’t affect me); I dislike its very limited effect.

Rebirth – Rebirth has the significant drawback that the minion brought back must be at the top of the discard pile – something often not the case.  And while it has its uses, I am not a big fan of the “discard an expensive minion, then bring it back cheaply with rebirth” strategy because I lose control of placement, I need a full deck to use it, and I burn two cards to do so.  Rebirth is still a very fine card, but not the game changer it appears to be at first glance.

Evolve – Evolve not only gives forest’s many minions without useful special powers after they are played a chance to pick up something useful, it is great for removing disadvantages from minions like magmasphere or dragonfish.

Life Force – One health to every friendly minion on the board is definitely useful.  Consider how much health this one card can grant relative to the typical amount of health played in one turn.

Reemergence – I find it almost always more useful to have another minion in hand than the ability to bring used minions back to my deck.  Perhaps certain decks or playing styles find this card useful, but I’ll pass.

Healing Sap – Healing sap is not a horrible card, but I find I would usually prefer to hold something else, even if I get a free draw with healing sap.  So usually, I’ll take something else.

Hunt – Direct damage spells are very handy and hunt, at cost 0 is cheap.  The limitation to enemy minions opposing forest minions can be limiting.

Life Berries – I find life berries to be relatively ineffective as a general purpose card – the tempo it burns is rarely worth the life it grants.  But I think there are special purpose uses that are worthwhile, mainly to offset harm from decks that use a number of cards that drain one’s own health.

Flowering – Flowering is a card I find something of an enigma.  It is a power generating card, but, in a sense, it is the opposite of typical power cards like shimmerpearl in that you pay now for more power later, rather than receiving power now at a cost (lost card in hand) that is played later.  In a sense, it is an anti-rush power card, and not one I’ve seen effectively used except to trigger fire prism.

Rooted – As a lane closing card, rooted is certainly nice; I do like its immediate and total effect.    But I like rooted less well than others of its ilk (narrow tunnels, tornado, volcanic eruption) largely due to its shorter duration, but also because it does not protect friendly minions from suicide attacks against stronger enemies, and it lends itself to fewer combinations.

Wild Growth – Extra health is almost always welcome.  I also like the ability of wild growth to work on barriers.  Many health granting cards only apply to minions.

Wild Strength – Almost always helpful, wild strength is a good addition to many decks.  Buffing auras can be excellent additions to buffing spells as the difference in mechanic often makes one useful when the other is not.

Barkskin – Barkskin is more potent than it first appears.  Think of it not just as an additional two health, but as an additional two health to every minion in the sequence of minions played in a given lane.  It also grants durability to units like aquamancers, angry hornets, and blood vapours whose major drawback is their vulnerability.  And it can provide the health needed to trigger some creature specials (bone dragons, dactyls, etc.)

Heart of the Forest – I have never played, nor seen played, a heart of the forest card.  The challenge of using heart of the forest well is similar to the challenge of any life granting strategy: it is too slow to guard against quick strategies, and too limited to protect against board domination strategies.  Heart of the forest tends to work best when one has lots of cheap minions and lots of open lanes to play them on – a situation which where life boosts seem least needed.

Forest Canopy – Forest canopy is another card that is completely worthless against many decks.  I would only take it if my deck is particularly vulnerable to quick units, but some players find it useful insurance.  How often do you experience games in which your opponent quickly inflicts a lot of damage, but slowly you fight back to equalize health with a superior board position – only to lose because your opponent can slip in a cheap attack?

Fey Staff – A fey staff is still another way forest has to boost health.  Having an item (rather than an aura) to do so can be convenient and it can be inconvenient. The ability to control the unit that gets that health is a boost, but being unable to affect barriers is a disadvantage.

Combinations:

Health Granting Combinations – Cards that grant health work very well with cards that damage friendly units: burning world, rage, giant voltas, fire shroud, volcanic eruption, detonation, primeval flame, jungle trolls and the ilk.  They also work well with cards like bone dragons, dactyls, and law of the jungle that base powers upon health.  And finally, especially health granting cards that have immediate effect (barkskin, glade faeries, fey staff) are wonderful to protect growth based cards (aquamancer, deep spawn, blood vapour, etc.) during early stages of their development when they are very vulnerable.  For example, adding even 1 health to an aquamancer reduces the number of cards able to destroy it by over half.  Beware, health boosts can be harmful if applied to pyrohydras or if facing implode.  On the other hand, they can greatly offset harm from enemy fire prisms, pack attack, etc.

Life Granting Combinations – The key to making life granting strategies effective is finding good combinations that use added life because added life alone does not win the game, it merely delays losing.  The most obvious combinations involve offsetting life draining cards.  Blood vapours are a nice card, but hard to use because I’ve found that more than one in play tends to drain my own life too quickly.  Life granting cards can also be used with slow strategies to assist with survival until the strategy can come to fruition – provided the resources used for the extra life do not make the strategies even slower.

Minion First Combos – Since minion effects occur before aura effects, cards like deepwood ash and living essence apply their effects before auras like law of the jungle, burning world, or pack attack.  This adds utility to these special powers.

Ant Swarm Combos – Unless it grows, ant swarm is a rather inane card.  But even one growth makes the card formidable, and 3 growth makes it overwhelming.  So it combines well with cards like wild strength, ferocity, fire shroud, or especially huge and overload (if the timer can be eliminated) in order to get a quick kill of an opposing enemy.

Faerie Enchantress Combinations – Because of her aura summoning ability, the faerie enchantress is useful in decks that call for rapid deployment of auras, or use of multiple copies of auras.

Trickster Combinations – Nobbling tricksters work best when paired with a card that finishes off the opposing enemy.  Hunt is obvious, but other cards like fire rain, forked lightning, auras like law of the jungle, burning world, or pack attack, even ambush as the trickster special triggers before the ambush does.  The trickster’s special power also works on barriers, which can be quite nice.

Wolf Pack Combinations – Cards that wipe abilities do not wipe names, so a wolf pack remains a wolf after being evolved.  Thus, casting evolve on a wolf pack allows the wolf to pick up some useful characteristic of an enemy AND still grow when another pack is played.  Cards like sunken treasure can increase the odds of drawing multiple wolves.

Chanting Druid Combinations – With both evasive and high health, a chanting druid is perfect for body swap.  It is also the perfect card for a lane with rooted as it need never attack, but is protected from enemy attacks.  Of course, it supports a fire prism, and, if played first, might enable another card to be played with the prism.

Rebirth Combos – The most famous rebirth combo is to discard a cost 5 minion, then play re-birth to bring in a cost 5 creature for only cost 2.  But, as this burns two cards to only play one, there is not that much gained, especially since one loses control over the lane of deployment.  Rebirth can also be played to gain a second incidence of a “when played” effect.  Rebirth is also nice with gargantula – the gargantula moves the most costly minion in your enemy’s hand to YOUR discard pile, thus it is quite likely you will get a nice minion to bring into play.  Grave robbers also move enemy cards to your discard pile, but it is far less likely that such cards will be very good.

Evolve Combos – I have mentioned these elsewhere, but will repeat them as they also belong here.  Evolve can be used very nicely to remove negative specials (dream feeders, magmasphere, molten golem, dragonfish, ravager).  It can also terminate special abilities before they become negative (blood vapour, gorger).

Natural Order Combos – It is not really a combo, but natural order works well with friendly auras, because it only affects auras targeted.  Incidentally, despite some wording on the card that might indicate otherwise, natural order does work on friendly auras, so it can be used to terminate friendly auras that have become disadvantageous.

Secondary Factions:

Air – Despite forest’s giant owl, dragon flies, and quick fey cards, it does not synergize well with fast elements of an air deck as it tends to duplicate rather than complement quick minions.  Moreover, forest minions gain very little from air’s energize effects.  Air’s timer manipulation is very alien to forest as well.  The forest/air decks I’ve observed to work best are those where air units systematically open opportunities for forest attackers, or where forest provides survivability necessary for more inexorable air threats to run their course.  

Fire – Forest and fire work very nicely together as forest adds stability to forest’s explosiveness and fire adds spark to forest’s plod.  Obviously, extra health work well with several fire cards like burning world and rage.  Fire also has numerous cards to help break the deadlocked lanes to which forest decks are prone: meteor, flame spike, lavapult, primeval flame (supported in turn by health granting cards), etc.

Jungle – At times, jungle seems like an extension of forest, and the factions work great together.  Jungle has a number of auras that suit forest extremely well, from huge to pack attack to law of the jungle.  Jungle’s plethora of costly minions complements forest’s surplus of cheap minions to create a good balance.  Jungle brings traps into forest’s arsenal.  All while jungle’s general hardiness fits forest’s themes.

Ocean – Ocean supports forest by weakening opponents, giving opportunities to cards from ant swarm to forest dragons.  It also supports forest with cards like voltas and aquamancers that erode enemy health.  Big ocean minions can make forest decks seem massive once forest’s health generation is factored in.  And ocean cards like shimmer pearl and sunken treasure can support forest’s quick element.

Swamp – Forest/swamp decks can be interesting both thematically and synergistically.  Forest’s ability to regenerate life makes extensive use of cards like blood vapour or necromages potentially feasible.  Decay and horrify open deadlocked lanes.  Blood orb can convert cheap forest minions into life damage to the opponent.  Ghosts and bone dragons become increasingly nasty with every health boost given, and bodyswap is natural with druids.

Underworld – Forest fares well with underworld support as well.  Taken under and burrowing under are likely to be very impactful with forest decks.  Spore farm and deeper darkness add some slight aggressiveness to a possible barrier deck.  Narrow tunnels protect living essences.  And underworld’s primeval ooze, mesmer, essence exchange, essence eaters, darkling snatchers, and tentacles from below work with nobbling elders, nobbling wardens, and evolve give the tandem numerous defensive options.

Forest as a Supporting Faction:  I think forest is generally used as a health enhancer, or cheap defender when supporting other factions.  Whether one’s deck is built of low or high health unit, more health is almost always usable.  Occasional decks choose forest for the faerie enchantress summoning, dancing druid’s or flowering’s power generation, combinations with the evolve spell, nobbling tricksters, or simply the nice barriers.  Forest will tend to stabilize the more inconsistent factions, to balance the more aggressive factions, and to solidify the slower factions.

Representative Decks:

Deck 1 (Forest/Fire): While wolves do not work well as the theme of a deck, they do add value to one another and are very potent in support of other strength – as this deck illustrates.
   4 deepwood ash
   2 forest dragon
   4 grizzlies
   2 nobbling trickster
   4 wolf pack
   4 wild strength
   4 hunt
   3 ruby dragons
   2 cinderlings
   3 magma sphere
   4 fire wolves
   4 flamespike

Deck 2 (Forest/Swamp): A blood vapor deck, using forest life granting ability to offset life drain.
   4 deepwood ash
   4 blessed unicorn
   2 living essence
   3 chanting druid
   3 deepwood fey
   2 tree of life
   2 life force
   4 barkskin
   4 bone dragon
   4 blood vapour
   4 necromages
   2 bodyswap
   2 horrify

Deck 3 (Forest/Ocean): A deck revolving around giant voltas allowing ample regeneration of health.
   4 forest dragon
   4 living essence
   4 nobbling trickster
   4 tree of life
   4 life force
   4 rooted
   4 giant octopus
   4 sea dragon
   4 giant volta
   4 triton aquamancers

Deck 4 (Jungle/Forest):  Support doesn’t have to be in the form of flashy combinations or overwhelming power.  In this deck, forest’s support is subtle: evolve to improve hungry crocodiles (or to turn any minion into a ghosts or an aquamancer), life force to bolster health (especially for constrictors that may take hits defending against strength 4 or dragons that have lost some health along the way), deepwood ash to handle most cards that thwart giant constrictor.
   4 giant constrictor
   3 jungle dragon
   4 hungry crocodile
   2 dactyl hatchling
   2 toxipede
   4 ferocity
   4 strangle vines
   1 snake pit
   2 deepwood ash
   2 forest dragons
   2 glade faeries
   2 deepwood fey
   3 rebirth
   2 evolve
   4 life force

Beginner Decks:
     Forest’s grizzlies and deepwood spiders provide a solid backbone of common cards – especially since they can be bolstered by the common card wild strength.  But many common forest minions (including the grizzlies) are quite low in health.  Glade faeries, wild growth, and barkskin can all assist this.  Forest’s common cards share many of the deficiencies of forest decks in general: namely the lack of cards able to break deadlocks.  Beginners are advised to steer toward dragons and deepwood ash to add offensive fire power to the deck.  Eventually, a forest player will also want living essence, but better strength is a higher priority.  It is also advisable to choose an aggressive secondary faction (fire or jungle) as forest decks easily become too passive.  

Summary Comments:  Forest decks usually lend themselves to a patient, defensive style.  Health gaining cards form a tough shell to crack – especially if the cards begin with high health.  But forest struggles to break through the very deadlocks it is prone to create.  It is important to maintain a balance of cards effective in deadlock situations, even if that balance comes from a secondary faction.  Auras often play a significant role in forest decks: wild growth, wild strength and bark skin are quiet giants that add just enough boost to forest’s creatures.  Play forest for its rootedness, its whimsy, or simply to be green.