Quintivarium's guide to JUNGLE

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Quintivarium's guide to JUNGLE

SteveGoblin
JUNGLE FACTION:

Feel:  Steamy, overgrown, primal, and mysterious, a jungle is both intriguing and terrifying.  Who knows what magic – or what monstrosity – lies beyond the next vine.  Listen, if you dare.  Is that a drum?  Or is it a foot fall?  Is that screech a warning or a guidepost?  Is that shimmer a glint of sunlight, the a scale of a snake, or an invaluable artifact?  Is this the smell of prosperous life, or of approaching death?

Characteristics:  What is it like to be at the top of the food chain?  That’s kind of how a lot of jungle decks feel.  Many jungle decks will have minions able to prey on any comers – perhaps with the help of ferocity or huge.  Many others will have seemingly innocuous creatures lying in wait with a nasty surprise.  Not only does a typical jungle deck come with mighty creatures, it has a considerable tendency to inhibit opponents – through some fine traps with creatures that exploit or facilitate them, as well as through the spectacular stranglevines aura.  Jungle can be played defensively, with three nice (if expensive) barriers.  And it finishes with very unique auras/items inspiring several odd-but-effective deck designs.

Signature Cards:  There are two jungle cards that make virtually any deck not only playable, but dangerous.  More than any other jungle cards, they make the faction.
Giant Constrictor – arguably the best minion in the game, constrictors quickly mash almost any opponent that is not evasive (and most evasive units are weaker).  If the strength drain isn’t nasty enough, the health drain often removes enemies to allow the constrictors a clear hit.  They become even nastier with strangle vines to remove elusive traits.
Strangle Vines – the perfect companion to a giant constrictor, strangle vines are also overwhelming on their own.  One vine can lead to the annihilation of a complete wall of enemy minions, but vines can be frustrating when they continually hop around the critical lanes.

Other Important Cards:
Jungle Dragon – the dragon specially is normally not impressive – it is merely a costly way to accomplish the destruction of something that will eventually be destroyed without the power.  But there are a couple of exceptions where the power is wonderful (notably with combat immune minions).  It balances well with dactyls, which have a very complementary type power.
Ravager – definitely the most dangerous minion in the game – unfortunately, the bulk of that danger is to its player.  A ravager does too much damage to one’s own forces to be viable in most situations.  And decks designed to minimize ravager impact tend to have sufficient weaknesses as to not be viable on a bad draw where no ravager appears for many turns.
Dactyl – many players, myself included, appear to avoid dactyls.  The price of its power, the destruction of the dactyl itself, just seems too high.  But I have come to really appreciate this card.  Just think of a dactyl as a meteor spell that doesn’t have to wait around in your hand until useful to destroy a creature; a dactyl can wreak havoc until called upon to destroy, say, a sea dragon.
Gargantula – Gargantula is a card mostly useful for its 3/4 stats with the evasive trait.  The special is useful against opponents who are showing a propensity toward dangerous minions like pyrohydras and bone dragons, or in conjunction with other hand draining cards,  The twist of bringing the discard into your pile can also be useful.
Jungle Troll – I have not really used trolls; I found them about one health shy of being competitive with gargantula and dactyl.  But the new update raises them from health 3 to health 5 – enough that I think they are now an excellent choice.
Savage Riders – The riders card is one I find potentially interesting, but have not really used to date (I don’t like its level of health burn).  I would rather defer comment to those who do use it.
Angry Hornets – With dangerous growth, but fragile health, angry hornets are sometimes a real threat, but usually just a gadfly.
Hungry Crocodiles – crocodiles are one of my favorite defenders: cheap enough to be considered a “throw-away” card, strong enough to be a counter threat, and healthy enough to be safe from cheap damage spells.
Mantid – mantid’s have good strength with an interesting special ability that deters blocking them.  But at only one health, they are too fragile to have enough staying power to really utilize that power to its fullest.  
Razorsaurs – I use razorsaurs in a blitz deck, where I actually find the 2 health a huge advantage over the common health 1 quick minion.  The special power is nowhere as useful as the similar power in a flame spider – it is quite had to trigger.
Saberine – the saberine is probably a matter of tast.  I do not like that a saberine can get drawn off of an important guard duty to chase a shimmerfish; Valentino and others love how it chases down and kills weak enemies without losing initiative.
Savage Blooddrinkers –I find the 2/3 stats a little unenticing, but blood drinkers can inflict a lot of damage quickly.  They are definitely a unit requiring caution.
Dactyl Hatchling – from a purely aesthetic point of view, the hatchling may be my favorite unit in the game.  I love the image of a big bird-like creature flopping out of an egg and blindly charging forward.  At cost two, its price is good, and the special allows interesting strategic thinking.
Piranha – piranhas area cards with a potentially interesting special power but that power is difficult to apply and the card’s vulnerability almost never allows it to trigger.
Savage Kobo – a nice addition to the kobo family, savage kobos’ ability to summon traps makes them useful.
Savage Shaman – this is undoubtedly jungle’s most disappoint card.  Not only is it rare card, but its only survival trait is its total lack of usefulness.  Even in rare instances when the shaman could use a special power, it is probably better for the minion to simply attack
Savage trapper – the trapper is an excellent jungle card.  It adds a little punch to all jungle’s traps, but can also be a deck focal point.
Toxipede –  Toxipede is a very nice minion for its price.  It has good stats and a nice special.
Trapvine – while a trapvine is probably worth 4 power givens its stats and its automatic play of a trap (which could be worth 3 power alone).  Unfortunately a cost four trap does not fit my vision well; I usually play a trap when I really want something cheap to block a lane.
Colossal egg – An egg is not a bad card, but it is one that requires adjusting one’s mindset from “barriers are cheap.”
Razorweed – razorweed is a nice, and often annoying, defensive card.
Savage spite – This is a rather costly spell applicable only in situations when I really ought to play a minion or barrier.  Although combinations are possible, I prefer other cards.
Ferocity – despite a lack of control over what ferocity hits, the spell is almost always useful.  Ferocity is a card that improves if its use is carefully timed.
Huge – with the capability of transforming the weaker of two opposing cards into the stronger, huge is quite useful.  It is also nice for an unexexpected boost in damage at opportune moments.  But the short duration is a significant drawback.
Law of the Jungle – Law of the jungle is a tricky card to use well, but one that can significantly contribute to the right deck.
Mortal wound – I have yet to use, or see in use, an impactful mortal wound card.  This is likely just my failure as the card certainly seems viable, but I have found that the energy I put into drawing and playing the card is better put into more direct efforts to inflict damage.
Pack Attack – pack attack decks are amongst the most devastating.  Unfortunately, they tend to be very inconsistent.  On a good draw, they are almost unbeatable; on a bad draw they can be pathetic.  The good draws do not occur often enough for my tastes.
Rampage – rampage is another rather inconsistent card.  If an opponent is careful, rampage can be very hard to trigger.  But at 0 cost, the constraints imposed on an opponent may be worth the card, even if it doesn’t trigger.
Cursed idol – idols are another card that primarily impose constrains on or deterrents to enemy actions.  I do not find them worth the cost, but that is likely a matter of taste.  They do have combo potential.
Drums of War – drums of war is a card that appears virtually useless.  But here, appearances are deceiving.  The re-balancing of minions is extremely powerful in quick strategies and in combatting barriers.  And because the card’s owner controls the timing of its play, it can often be played to advantage.
Jungle Juice – this is another somewhat self-contradictory card.  Generally one wants power generation to accelerate a deck.  But it takes two rounds to re-coup the power spent on this card; it’s not a paragon of speed.  On the other hand, one card can generate a net plus of six power (at a cost of 8 cards in one’s deck).  Not bad, although not to my taste.
Sacrificial Blade – while I suppose receiving power and life in exchange for a unit destined to die anyway is not bad, I am not drawn to the card for a couple of reasons: it takes space I would rather have accessible to strangle vines and its timing is wrong.  I usually want to remove a card and then replace it.  Extra power has no use until I have spent power, but the power I want to spend removes the card I want to get power from.
Lost Spellstone – This is a card too random for my tastes.
Ambush – Ambush is the only trap almost completely in the control of its player.  While it is often as useful as a flame spike (but cheaper), it does have limitations: it does not assist a unit already in existence on the board.
Scavengers – Some may have uses for this card; I don’t.  It is generally helpful only if drawn early, and only in some circumstances.  I want cards with more general usability.
Backfire – Backfire is certainly worth the cost if it triggers – and it almost always does.  The question is whether there are other cards that can do more to help one win.
Essence Jar/Smash – these are two nice, defensive cards that could be invaluable, marginal, or worthless depending on the composition of your opponent’s deck.  Not one appreciative of chance playing large roles in strategy games, I dislike these traps.
Poison Darts – Poison darts are nice, but limited by the fact that it is pointless to have two or more in play simultaneously; they all trigger the first time you opponent plays a minion.
Snake Pit – I love pit traps; they are a guaranteed protection for a particular lane.

Combinations:
Constrictor combinations – any card good against quick or evasive units is a good combination with giant constrictors: use constrictors when they work and the alternative when constrictors don’t.  I especially like strength 4 dragons and ancient oaks.  Strangle vines are also an obvious choice as they often make the constrictors work.
Ravager combos – I don’t like ravager decks; they are too problematic if ravager is not drawn early.  But some cards are very nice: evolve to remove the disadvantage from ravagers, cloud of bats, kobo summoners, or scavengers to fuel the ravager.  Savage spite can be used to exploit situations where the ravager has depleted friendly forces.
Dactyl combos – any card that benefits from an open lane might work well with a dactyl snatching the enemy from in front of the critical unit.  Units like voltas or aquamancers might reduce an enemy’s health to the point a dactyl can snatch it.
Mantid/Cursed Idle combinations – these are cards that work very well with forced movement effects – e.g. ocean mist.
Razorsaur combos – triggering a razorsaur power can be problematic unless particular cards are chosen to help invoke it.  Thus, magic missile and fire rain are great to do an initial point of damage.  Gravity well and burning world might inflict some initial damage.  So do nobbling tricksters (which have evasive to move out of the razorsaur’s way).  Cards like giant voltas, aquamancers, and necromages can also make enemies vulnerable to a razorsaur.
Bloods-drinker combos – Blood drinkers, with their substantial damage bonus, work well with any lane clearing cards.  They also work with energize or underworld elixir.
Hatchling combos – At only cost 2, a dactyl hatchlingis a real bargain, if you can get it to enter the right lane.  While doing so is largely a matter of playing probabilities together with good timing of the play, but sometimes a combo helps..  Any card like detonation that might make more good lanes combines well with dactyls.  So do cheap cards that can be sacrificed to occupy undesirable lanes.  And finally, tideshift might be able to move a misplaced hatchling to a better lane.
Trapper combos – savage trappers can inflict considerable health damage with their special, but good combos can facilitate this.  Savage kobos help insure traps are available in one’s hand.  Triton hunters, by recycling traps, allow trappers to use their special without filling the hand with so many traps.  And choosing the right traps is also important.  Playing two poison darts along with a lost at sea is pointless – all three trigger on the same minion and the poison darts are effectively wasted.  On the other hand, three pit traps are all useful, but they take a lot of slots and my not be quickly triggered.  Traps related to spells probably work best, as every trap will be useful whenever played, but spells are common enough that the traps are very likely to trigger.
Egg combos – a colossal egg is really of value, not because of its stats (compare to a wall of webs), but because of its ability to summon minions.  And this has the most potential when the minions summoned are as valuable as possible.  To make minions summoned powerful, one can avoid cheap (cost 0, 1, 2, and possibly even cost 3) minions.  But decks without low cost minions encounter other challenges – making a good play on an initial 3 power turn, responding quickly to enemy threats, efficiently utilizing power points, etc.  A good card to combine with colossal eggs is a card that removes some of these issues.  Razorweed can cover two lanes a turn with a power point to spare – very efficient.  Delusion can also play the role of a cheap minion, as can rise again or rebirth.  Mind transfer, pilfer, or telepathic link could take minions from your opponent, allowing your deck to focus on cost 4 minions.
Huge combos – huge gives a brief, but often very welcome boost to minions..  Cards like aetherfish and especially chronochime that extend its duration are great in combo.  So are cards like ant swarm or vampire consort that benefit from destroying enemy minions in combat.
Stranglevine combos – obviously stranglevine’s ability to remove elusive traits makes it a great support for constrictors.  It also combines very well with pit traps – youwant strangle vines moving into lanes occupied by enemy munits, while you want pit traps in unoccupied lanes.  The traps funnel the vines into the lanes where you want them.
Law of the Jungle Combos – Law of the jungle works well with high health minions (gargantula, dactyl, jungle trolls, and similar cards from other factions).  They also work well with barriers which are immune.  Note that law of the jungle triggers after the piranha special, so they do not work well with piranhas, but they may soften an enemy for a rasorsaur.  I recommend only a couple in play at once as law of the jungle will eat up friendly forces as well – and I usually expect to get friendly fire damage from them.
Mortal Wound Combos – Mortal wound theoretically works well to finish off an opponent after other cards have injured him.  An ideal combination would improve timing – allowing mortal wound to be summoned later in the game, while cards able to initially wound an enemy (like quick minions or heat seekers) are drawn early.  Unfortunately, I know of no way to do this.
Pack Attack Combos – Pack attack can be a part of two strategies: a rush strategy in which one tries to get three or four copies of pack attack out quickly while outnumbering opponent minions an thenceforward, destroying enemy minions as they are played, or an opportunistic strategy, using pack attack for an occasional damage when possible.  The former strategy absolutely requires a faerie enchantress to be able to consistently draw enough pack attack soon enough.  The second strategy still benefits from aura summoners: ancient turtles and faerie enchantress.  Otherwise, pack attack benefits from cards able to automatically destroy minions at the start of turn: deepwood ash, pulsar, undead giant, and giant constrictor amongst minions; volcanic eruption burning world, lavapult, whirlpool, air pressure, and law of the jungle amongst items and auras.
Rampage Combos – Generally rampage can be triggered once, by playing it on a lane where one of your minions will destroy an enemy minion in the upcoming attack phase.  After that, a decent opponent will avoid playing units in the rampage lane unless they can avoid losing in combat.  Thus rampage works well with forced movement (e.g. ocean mist) that might send a weak unit into the lane, it works well with elusive units that can switch into and out of the lane, and it works well with units like triton assassins that are able to reduce enemy strength.
Cursed Idol Combos – to trigger cursed idol repeatedly, use forced movement, or lane clearing spells and minions.  Strength reducing minions may also work.
Drums of War Combos – Drums of war are invaluable in blitz decks because they shift the “tipping point” (the amount of damage inflicted by cheap, fast cards before slower stronger cards are able to catch up).  They are also useful with cards whose effect is based on attack strength: sacrificial blade, savage shaman, power dive, betrayal, and cinderlings.
Sacrificial blade combos – sacrificial blade is especially worthwhile on minions whose attack strength exceeds their power point cost: phantasma, dreamfeeders, molten golems, arcane thieves, cave rats, flesh golems, and often stitched golems.
Ambush Combos – Nobbling trickster with ambush will destroy any minion.  Flame spiders and lightning golems will destroy a health 3 or less enemy minion.  Ambush also sets up the possibility of a bone dragon or dactyl special applying.

Secondary Factions:

Air:  Aerovores work well at accentuate jungle’s timer imposing cards, the toxipede and poison darts; unfortunately they work against strangle vines.  Aetherfish and chronochime work well with jungle’s timers – especially the very short huge spell, but extensions on strangle vines are also nice.  Except for timer based combinations, I find little synergy between the factions.

Fire:  Fire prism can enhance sacrificial blade and jungle juice, berserk djinn and fire birds can prime enemies for razorsaurs or piranhas, and lavaworm ravagers give a card addressing barriers (something jungle lacks).  Smoke elementals, with combat immunity, offer another feature jungle lacks.  Although costly, primal flame can be hard to counter.  Burning blood can be nice to back several jungle cards, especially trolls and constrictors.  Heat seeker may work with mortal wound (but I find the combo a bit too slow), and fire shroud supplements ferocity nicely.  But a big reason for choosing fire is its direct damage spells and its big minions.  Unless specifically built to exploit one of the combinations listed, I would expect a typical fire/jungle deck to have several difficult to counter minions (pyrohydras, ruby dragons, constrictors, and trolls), together with big spells to grow creatures or to remove enemy obsticals.

Forest:  Forest is a natural combination with jungle, both for general purpose and specialty decks.  Forest has the natural summoner (faerie enchantress) for jungle’s pack attack, mortal wound, law of the jungle and stranglevines auras.  Forest’s deepwood ash complement jungle’s giant constrictors, and forest’s health granting cards complement jungle trolls, dactyls, and law of the jungle.  Nobbling tricksters work very well with ambush, and forest offers numerous barriers to supplement Jungle’s in a stall style deck.  As you may surmise from the combos mentions, there are many possible characters to jungle/forest decks from a blitzy pack attack deck to a slow barrier deck, from a might deck revolving around constrictors, ash and dragons, to a power building deck using wild strength, huge, and ferocity, to health based decks using jungle trolls, dactyl, wild growth, barkskin, living essence, and law of the jungle.

Ocean:  Ocean is also natural as a secondary faction to jungle.  Offering cards to recycle jungle’s used traps, spells, and items, ocean supports a trapper deck, a ferocity deck, and a lost spellstone deck better than any other faction.  Ocean also offers a good summoner (giant turtle) for auras like strangle vines, good regenerating/health gaining units for law of the jungle decks.  Ocean’s liquefy card is excellent for a faction that has little means of directly destroying potentially problematic minions (like aquamancers or pyrosaurs), and war machines are good against barriers (another jungle weakness).  Like jungle/forest, jungle/ocean decks offer incredible variety from special purpose/combination decks, to the all-purpose, good at everything style deck.  Jungle/ocean decks usually do not featuredramatic fireworks (the way jungle/fire decks can), and they don’t have the blitz features of jungle/air decks or some jungle/ forest decks.  But they do tend to be very solid, methodical, and hard to stop.

Swamp:  Because jungle does not have weak (cost 0 or cost 1) minions, it does not benefit from the bodyswap card to the extent other factions do.  (Bodyswap is a big reason for including swamp.)  Swamp does still offer bone dragons and ancient ghosts (both very worthwhile minions), and swamp’s high health minions work in law of the jungle decks.  Horrify is always helpful, e.g. it is very convenient if a giant constrictor gets blocked by strength three elusive or quick minions.  Swamp also has hand attack cards to supplement jungle’s cursed idol and gargantula.  Jungle/swamp decks are not particularly popular, but they do offer some symbioses, and interesting decks.

Underworld:  Neither of underworld’s two great strengths (minion removal and slipping past defenders ) are particularly useful with jungle.  You probably don’t want units weakened by constrictors or strangle vines sent back for your opponent to play again at full strength, and only savage blood drinkers has a nice power triggered by doing life damage to your opponent.  But there are still reasons for wanting underworld to back up a jungle deck.  Primeval ooze works very nicely with giant constrictors – the ooze removes special abilities, then swaps places with a constrictor that quickly kills the target.  Deepspawn can be a nice threat to bolster other jungle threats.  Mesmer protects jungle from spells, while working with savage kobos and savage trappers.  In fact, underworld’s kobos might fit a jungle deck well – either for summoning or for ravager feed.  And, finally, underworld elixir is invaluable for cards without the evasive trait (e.g. toxipedes or savage blooddrinkers).

Jungle as Supporting Faction:  Jungle has excellent minions (especially at cost 5, 4 and 2), interesting barriers, auras, and items (any one of which might be the reason for choosing jungle for support), and sundry impressive traps.  What deck would not be enhanced by strangle vines?  Who doesn’t want a giant constrictor on his side?  And toxipedes are virtually certain to poison at least one stronger enemy.  Huge can be very nasty, and ferocity might be just the strength boost needed to give a deck permanent advantage.  Not all jungle cards are universally useful, but jungle does have a plethora of cards that are good in many situation, and is easy to envision as a partner for any faction.  It will tend to add a level of brutality and strength to a deck.

Representative Decks:

Deck 1 (Jungle/Ocean): A trapper deck
   4 jungle dragon
   4 giant constrictor
   4 hungry crocodiles
   4 savage trappers
   4 savage kobos
   4 ferocity
   3 stranglevines
   2 ambush
   2 snake pits
   2 poison darts
   4 triton hunters
   3 lost at sea

Deck 2 (Jungle/Forest):  A deck featuring trolls.
   2 giant constrictor
   2 jungle dragon
   2 dactyl
   2 gargantula
   4 jungle troll
   2 mantid
   2 savage blood drinker
   3 colossal egg
   4 ferocity
   2 stranglevine
   2 forest dragon
   4 living essence
   2 deepwood fey
   3 rebirth
   2 life force
   2 wild growth

Deck 3 (Jungle/Swamp): Pack attack decks don’t have to rely on blitz.  This one relies on high strength, high health, and patience – pack attack is incidental.
   4 giant constrictor
   4 jungle dragon
   3 hungry crocodile
   2 mantid
   2 saberine
   2 toxipede
   4 ferocity
   2 stranglevines
   4 pack attack
   4 bone dragon
   1 stitched golem
   2 necromages
   2 shadowfiend
   2 zombie mob
   2 bodyswap

Deck 4 (Air/Jungle): Jungle is the perfect faction to make blitz decks more stable.  Drums of war alter the tipping point in your favor, ambush clears low health enemies, and tornados give an alternate win strategy.
   4 aeromancers
   4 lightning golems
   4 storm fiends
   4 cloud fey
   4 arcane thief
   4 power dive
   2 tornado
   4 razorsaurs
   4 dactyl hatchling
   4 drums of war
   2 ambush



Beginner Decks:  Because jungle does not unlock until a player reaches something like level 10 in the campaign, decks built from jungle are a bit less “beginner” than most factions, and are probably not a players first “home-brewed” deck.  On the other hand, one has to start acquiring every faction somewhere.  And a first jungle deck may be built with only a couple of 40 cards boosters – which still probably means very limited access to rare and even some uncommon cards.

At the common card level, jungle has several noteworthy minions: hungry crocodiles, saberines, savage blood drinkers, savage trappers, rasorsaurs, dactyl hatchlings, and savage kobos come to mind (I would pass on piranhas – their special is hard to trigger).  Jungle also has ferocity – a nice boost to unit’s strength, although its random nature is somewhat limiting.  And the huge aura is very powerful – if short-lived.  And finally, jungle has several very nice common traps.  Ambush is almost like a direct damage spell as one controls its trigger oneself.  And both poison darts and snake pit are very useful.  Smash is a great trap against certain decks.  But it is not guaranteed that a given opponent will have any barriers or items to trigger it – and I prefer cards I can count upon actually using, even if not to full effect.  So I expect most good beginner swamp decks will be build around solid-midrange minions, bolstered by strength enhancements and/or traps that take a significant toll on opposing minions.  They are also likely to be built around a faction already held – perhaps in significant quantity – by the player.

Summary Comments  
     Jungle can play huge with its tough minions like constrictors, jungle dragons and trolls – especially when combined with ferocity and huge.  It can play to erode opponents with its many traps (especially snake pit and poison darts) and its stranglevines.  It also has some very nasty cards of subtlety (drums of war, cursed idol, pack attack, law of the jungle, and razorweed).  Despite no cost 0 or 1 minions, it can be designed to play very quickly as well.  While bad jungle decks are very possible, creating a good jungle deck is easy: both stranglevines and giant constrictors are extremely devastating cards that play well together – simply include 4 copies of each.  Of course, ample good decks avoid this formula as well.
     Fire is explosive; ocean is amorphous.  Underworld is ominous and lurking.  I would describe jungle as bold, with cards that draw – and demand – attention; cards that dominate a conversation.