Quintivarium's guide to SWAMP

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Quintivarium's guide to SWAMP


Feel: A swamp is a creepy place, festering with disease and death.  Its murk hides horrors – real and imagined.  Tread lightly – and with braced heart.
Characteristics:  Swamp is home to some of the world’s potentially most dangerous creatures: bone dragons, ancient ghosts, stitched golems, and blood vapours.  Its minions have the highest average health of any faction (tied with jungle).  In bodyswap, it has one of the most useful, table-turning cards in the game.  It tends to be slow, with no quick cards and only 4 evasive cards.  Its responses tend to be ponderous but enduring.  Many of its cards beg for combos and synergies; they are cards with significant potential to enhance and receive enhancement.  But it is easy for Swamp cards to work against each other – and to hurt their owner too much.  Swamp is generally based upon brute might, but might that, if not wielded subtly, turns on its owner.

Signature Cards:
Bone dragon – 4/4 stats plus an ability to instantly destroy opposing minions of lower health makes the bone dragon extremely difficult to contain.
Ancient ghost: Combat immunity plus unblockable gives this unit its effectiveness.  Of course, you pay a price in its low stats.
Bodyswap – The quintessential “reversal” card, bodyswap is amazing in ability to turn enemy strength to your favor.

Other Important Cards:
Eternal knight – This is a card with 3/5 stats and a special that guards against deck exhaustion.
Undead giant – Giants have 3/5 stats plus a special that erodes the enemy.  They require a well-stocked discard pile – especially if you have multiple copies in play.  They work against stitched golem and rise again by competing for the same discarded minions.
Vampire consort – Vampires have a 3/4 stats with a special that discourages “sacrificial blocking” by weak units.
Gorger – Although gorgers can burn themselves out, their growth is dangerous – especially in combination with health granting cards.
Howling banshee – The banshee, although a bit weak, has an excellent deterrent to the placement of opposing minions, and is especially crippling in multitudes.
Screaming skulls – Although I am not enamored with “hand attack” strategies, screaming skulls is a strong contributor to such decks.  If not devastating, it is always at least annoying.
Stitched golem – At three power cost, a stitched golem is usually a great bargain.  Since the average strength of a minion is over 2 and the average health is close to 2.4, even with no effort, a stitched golem is very likely to be 3/5 or even 4/5.  Compare this to the equivalently priced grizzlies card at 3/2.
Blood vapour – With the recent adjustment to the blood vapour’s health, it has become a very dangerous card.  Anything that automatically gains both health and strength is very dangerous as it becomes almost impossible to kill and very destructive unless handled immediately.  But be careful of its life drain.  More than 2 in play is a recipe for disaster.
Grave robber – The grave robber’s special helps keep the discard pile stocked for undead giants, but may fill it with junk inimical to rise again or stitched golems.  It also takes cards away from skeleton crew and  ravenous ghoul.
Necromages – Necromages is a card with a nice power, but one that needs care – especially if one also uses blood vapours.
Undead tritons – Undead tritons are one of my favorite cards.  The immediate strength drain is often worth the 2 power cost, but a unit surviving to block adds more value.
Zombie mob – health 5 makes zombies a pain.  It is a throw-away card with considerable staying power.
Necropolis. – The card is great for obstructing lanes.
Betrayal – A card that is too random for my taste, betrayal is, none-the-less, a direct damage dealer that swamp faction needs.
Cloud of bats – I first thought nothing could be more useless than a bat.  Not only is it quick (hence an awkward blocker), but its stats make it meaningless.  Only later did I discover what excellent fuel it is for undead giants and blood orbs.
Decay – Decay is by no mean as effective at removal as many cards, but timer 6 is fast enough to be at least somewhat useful.
Horrify – Horrify is excellent both for clearing lanes and for reducing enemy strength.
Cull/Post mortem – These cards can be valuable contributors of life, something needed in blood vapour or necromage decks.
Accursed – Accursed is another hand-attack card.  I have not found it useful, but it does open some combo and even deck design possibilities.
Death is inevitable/Mortality – These are also cards that might have potential as a hand-defining feature.  But I have not yet found a way to effectively exploit them – yet.
Dreadmarsh plague/Heart of darkness – two cards that are potentially useful contributors to a number of decks or combos.
Blood orb – Blood orbs are the basis for numerous decks.  They can also be handy to make use of otherwise foredoomed units.
Dark secrets – Dark secrets are swamp’s way of building one’s hand.  The card is quite useful but must be used in moderation.

Bodyswap combos – To be most effective, bodyswap requires either a low strength minion with the evasive property (to move in front of something strong), or something cheap (to play in the same round).  I especially like to play bodyswap on ancient ghosts.  But pulsars, (great health, nice special, and evasive), zombie mobs (great health), or aetherfish (quick to destroy enemy after stealing strength) are also excellent.
Aerovore/time eater/uncontinue combos – since both decay and festerplague inflict timers, they work well with air cards that deplete those timers.
Bat combos – because cloud of bats fills all lanes immediately, it works well with cards that require sacrificial units (blood orb, sacrificial blade, inferno, even undead giants) or cards that exploit mass quantities (pack attack).  Of course, for some applications, the bats must survive…
Relocation combos – because banshees and horrify send enemies into different lanes, they work well with cards that render lanes unpleasant (for example, triton assassins, volcanic eruption, tornado, lavapult, etc.)
Growth combos – Because of the difficulty / undesirability of blocking them, vampire consorts and ancient ghosts become even more potent upon receiving strength increases.  Bone dragons become more potent with health boosts.
Dreadmarsh plague combos – dreadmarsh plague works well with high health and regenerating units (especially pyrohydras).
Law of the jungle combos – High health units make swamp a natural companion to jungle in law of the jungle decks.
Heart of darkness/fire prism – A couple of hearts of darkness together with a couple of fire prisms can create a cascade of damage that annihilates an enemy’s minions on the board – even when those minions might appear overwhelming.
Hand attack combinations – I have not been impressed with hand attack decks – in part because multiple cards work together to all attack an opponent’s hand – when what is truly needed is a combo that makes hand attacks more devastating.  The obvious cards to add to swamp’s miasma, screaming skulls, and accursed are either underworld’s mind transfer, darkling snatcher, and tentacles from below, or jungle’s gargantula and cursed idol.  But the true key to such a deck is also making it hard for an opponent to operate while short on cards.  I typically find the resources I spend draining opponents cards do not leave me enough to also exploit that shortage.
Life exchange combos – Cards like death is inevitable and mortality suggest themes revolving around both draining life from both players and restoring enough of one’s own life to ultimately win.  Swamp has both cull and post mortem to restore health, or it can combine with forest’s life granting cards.  I have typically found that while I a busy exchanging life, my opponent is busy harming me – to a larger degree than I am able to restore.  To a lesser degree, health restoration cards combined with cards like necromages and blood vapours can be considered life exchange combos, and I have found these more useful.
Gorger combos – Simply combine gorgers with cards like barkskin, wild growth, living essence, or glade faeries to give gorgers the staying power to be truly dangerous.
Lich touch combos – Lich touch is another card that begs for good combos.  The problem with lich touch is, at cost 4, I expect something as effective as taken under or meteor.  But usually, with neither complete control over target nor complete removal of an enemy, as well as with degradation of one of my own minions, lich touch is anything but comparable.  What is really necessary is to have my army upgrade while my enemy deteriorates, or at least to do something really spectacular with my zombie – and that is hard to accomplish.  Cloud of bats works well with lich touch as the bats would upgrade.  The problem is in getting by without a more costly minion on the board when playing lich touch is an opportunity.  Lich touch also works decently with expensive magic immune creatures (e.g. cloud dragons or wraith soulhunters) as at least your most expensive minion will be targeted but unaffected.
Friendly fire combos – Many players are unaware that necromages can attack barriers as well as minions, and friendly as well as enemy units.  So you can use a necromage to trigger your pyrohydra’s growth, to implode a berserk djinn, or to crack that ominous egg your opponent has been avoiding.

Secondary Factions:
Air: air has a number of impressive synergies/combos with swamp.  Decay and festerplague work nicely with chronomancers aerovores and uncontinue spells.  Horrify can clear paths for time-eaters to destroy cards granted timers, and aetherfish can remove festerplagues timers on friendly units.  Overload can make a 3/4 vampire into a 5/4 monstrosity with a price extracted when sacrificial blockers are used (aetherfish can remover the timer).  Pulsars are nasty in combo with bodyswap.  Aeromancers can summon bodyswap to increase the probability of it being available when useful.  Blood orbs give a useful finale to foredoomed units like aeromancers or lightning golems (an alternative to power dive for a better balanced deck).  Wraith soulhunters can join with cloud dragons, time eaters, and astral armor to form an effective magic immune deck.  Energize can offer banshees or necromages an extra special attack, as can overworld elixir.  Null wand removes immunities that swamp otherwise has difficulty handling.  And spellnet gives swamp a counter to spells.  In short, swamp partners well with air for several different deck ideas.

Fire: as has been lamented elsewhere in these forums, swamp has limited synergy with fire.  Both have nice units, that can certainly play together, but little from one faction actually adds to the other.  There are a couple of exceptions: dreadmarsh plague or necromage can trigger pyrohydra growth.  And horrify can free a hit for a pyrosaur.  High health swamp units work well with rage (and fireshroud) as well as burning world.  There are swamp cards that combine with fire prism (notably heart of darkness).  Aside from these combos, fire direct damage spells can balance swamp’s strong minions and utility spells.  Fire’s strong minions insure swamp decks have ample strong minions to oppose almost any enemy deck.

Forest: forest has interesting support, and several combos with swamp. But many swamp/forest decks are hard to pull off.  Many swamp/forest combos revolve around forest’s ability to grant health or life.  A healthier bone dragon can destroy healthier opponents with it special.  A healthier ghost is harder to kill with one spell or special power.  Regular health boosts offset dreadmarsh plague losses, etc.  And extra life can pay for necromages, blood vapours, death is inevitable, or mortality losses.  Faerie enchantress opens the possibility of decks built around accurses, mortality, or dreadmarsh plague.  Deepwood fey are a tool to remove enemy immunities (something with which swamp struggles).  Absorb and natural order bring means of handling auras and items.  Evolve provides a mechanism to stop blood vapour damage without having to sacrifice a good, mature vapour.  And other forest cards can be useful simply because they are useful cards.

Jungle: jungle can contribute to a handattack deck with its gargantula and its cursed idol, and law of the jungle can accentuate swamp’s high health minions.  Mortal wound can accelerate the impact of blood orb or of minion strikes.  Snake pit is great for “directing” dreadmarsh plague as snake pits are best played in lanes void of enemies while plagues are wanted to strike enemy lanes.  Both swamp and jungle can be “reckless” factions, so combinations of the two often throw caution to the wind – with great potential return.  But alas! proportional propensity for disaster.

Ocean: perhaps because ocean has so many potential combos, it also has numerous combos with swamp.  Deepsea thing is great with horrify, giant octopus with dreadmarsh plague, and sea dragon allows re-use of spells like horrify or bodyswap.  Voltas work well beside ravenous ghouls or swamp’s high health minions.  Whirlpools also work well with the high health units.  And ocean’s numerous outstanding cards work well with almost anything.  I am not aware of any strongly coordinated swamp/ocean decks, but the two factions do generally work well together.

Underworld:  both thematically and pragmatically, swamp and underworld are natural together.  Underworld’s kobo miner coupled with swamp’s blood orb is the core of the well-known blood orb deck theme.  Bodyswap with darkling slavers creates a formidable “minion theft” deck.  Shadow fiends and shadow dragons, with telepathic link makes an interesting mimicry deck.  Simply combining growth cards (deepspawn and blood vapour) poses a significant challenge – as it is hard to stop both before they get out of control.  Banshees and horrify can send enemies directly to a waiting assassin.  Because of these combos and others, underworld is a natural faction to back a swamp deck.

Swamp as Supporting Faction:
     Swamp contains several interesting spells, items and auras to support unconventional strategies: dreadmarsh plague, festerplague, blood orb, heart of darkness, accursed, miasma, dark secrets, mortality, death is inevitable, lich touch to name a few.
     Otherwise, swamp contributes excellent health units (undead giant, eternal knight, a very powerful unit (bone dragon), a defense by-passing unit (ancient ghost), cheap and fast de-buff cards (undead tritons, horrify), and an excellent theft card (bodyswap).
     I find swamp useful for specialty decks (e.g. blood orb) or added punch.

Representative Decks:  Of all factions, I have probably been least effective with swamp – at least as primary faction.  I will share a sampling of the best decks I know, but I’m sure better decks exist.

Deck 1 (Swamp/Air): A classic bodyswap/might deck.  The main idea is to effectively use bodyswap to make strong ghosts, strong pulsars, or, if necessary, strong aetherfish that immediately destroy the opposing force.  The overload can be used to bolster an otherwise foredoomed or stagnated unit, but remember that aetherfish will remove timers from units that do not naturally have timers so overload can be effective on almost anything as long as an aetherfish can be sacrificed.
   4 bone dragon
   4 undead giant
   4 howling banshee
   2 grave robbers
   2 necromages
   2 ravenous ghoul
   2 shadow fiend
   2 undead triton
   4 bodyswap
   4 pulsar
   4 aetherfish
   4 overload

Deck 2 (Swamp/Underworld):  A stitched golem might deck.  No finesse here!  The idea is simply to build massive strength.  Remember that discards can be your friend if they come back as stitched golems.
   4 bone dragon
   4 vampire consort
   4 stitched golem
   4 ravenous ghoul
   4 necropolis
   4 horrify
   4 underdark worm
   4 phantasma
   4 dreamfeeder
   1 underworld elixir
   3 mesmer

Deck 3 (Swamp/Fire):  A plague deck.  The deck exploits your army’s high health.  Even if the opposition can deal with auras, you have good spells to tip balance in your favor.  The deck’s major problem is costly units make reactions rather sluggish.
   4 bone dragon
   4 eternal knight
   4 undead giant
   2 shadow fiend
   4 zombie mob
   4 horrify
   4 dreadmarch plague
   4 pyrohydra
   2 flame spider
   2 lavaworm ravager
   4 fire shroud
   2 rage

Deck 4 (Jungle/Swamp):  A deck focused upon law of the jungle, highlighting some of the many synergies between jungle and swamp forces that allow swamp to be a strong supporting faction.  The deck, with its high health units, ferocity, and deadly bone dragons plays like a deck of much larger creatures.  Do not panic if law of the jungle hits your own minions – rise again brings them back cheaply, and your opponent will probably have a harder time maintaining high health than you.  The deck is vulnerable to forest’s health granting cards, however.
   4 dactyl
   2 gargantula
   2 hungry crocodile
   4 savage blooddrinkers
   4 colossal eggs
   4 ferocity
   4 law of the jungle
   4 bone dragon
   4 eternal knight
   4 horrify
   4 rise again

Beginner Decks:
     In my opinion, swamp is ill-suited to beginner decks.  Or at least beginner decks may require a bit bigger investment as I don’t think one can rely upon only common swamp cards to create anything approaching an effective deck – and certain, specific uncommon cards (e.g. undead giants and howling banshees) are needed.  No common swamp minions have cost – or strength –above 2.  And that is just not enough to either defend well or to have any damage potential.  While cards like horrify, decay, necromages, undead tritons, rise again, miasma, and cull are very utilitarian, they don’t win games by themselves – you have to be able to protect yourself from enemy minions and inflict damage on your enemy.  Even including uncommon cards, only undead giants, wraith soulhunters, and possibly howling banshees fit this bill – and one might need several 40 card boosters to get decent numbers of these cards.
     A typical swamp beginner deck will make generous use of miasma, decay, and horrify to keep strength 4 enemies at bay, probably use wraiths to hunt down errant enemy minions, and rely upon undead giants (which may require maintaining an occupied discard pile) to erode opposing blockers and gradually inflict damage.  Banshees may also inflict damage if the opponent is timid about accepting the wounds to units that oppose them.  Swamp rare cards can add significant flexibility and variety to this formula, but obtaining them will be very hit and miss.
     Supporting factions for beginning swamp decks should offset swamp’s lack of readily available dangerous minions, while exploiting swamp’s very nice utilities.  
     I strongly prefer ocean as a support faction.  The common razor sharks and sea snakes, as well as the uncommon deepsea thing benefit from decay and horrify with significant damage potential. The uncommon giant octopus and the common triton warmachine have defensive staying power.  And ocean has numerous debuff units to supplement swamp’s.
     Fire and jungle are adequate supporting factions.  Both have good mid-level minions to offset swamp’s weakness, and mechanisms to clear enemies to allow relatively weak units to actually inflict life damage without reliance on rare cards.
     I do not recommend underworld or forest.  Without rare cards, damage from underworld combinations is possible, but slow.  Defending “long enough” is problematic.  Swamp/forest decks tend to really struggle to inflict life damage in sufficient quantities to win.  (I find this somewhat true even when I include rare cards.)
     And I don’t find enough synergy between air and swamp decks to justify the fusion until one starts getting rare cards like body swap, festerplague, chronomancer, and aerovore.
Summary Comments:
     Despite some incredibly powerful creatures and cards, I find swamp to be a rather difficult faction – especially in the current climate that features a lot of quick and shut-down decks.  I think it is particularly hard for beginning players; there are no common swamp minions of casting cost over two, and readily available cards provide little means of handling stronger enemies.
     Swamp faction has potential for a number of specialized decks (like the now well-known blood orb decks), but otherwise, it is geared more toward brute force than finesse, more toward gradual overwhelming of opponents than slipping through defenses or suddenly wiping the board of opposition.