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Re: strategy esays
— by Quintivarium Quintivarium
Exploiting Your Opponent’s Moves

This article discusses ways you can use your Spellcraft opponent’s plays to your advantage.  I can think of 5 ways that your opponent can (inadvertently) be helpful to you.  I will discuss these from what I consider the most obvious to the most obscure.

First, you can use an opponent as provider of things to steal.  Darkling slavers, bodyswap, essence exchange, and tentacles from below allow you choice in what you might steal; while spell net, darkling snatcher, pirate raiders, pilfer, essence jar,  and skeleton crew steal without the choice.  In a sense, both grave robbers and gargantula also steal; although it is harder to access their loot.  And if you wish to consider duplication as theft, don’t overlook shadow dragons, shadow fiend, delusion, and evolve.  Many of these creatures/powers dare an opponent to become strong, then use that strength against him.  (Implosion and savage spite, while technically not a theft at all, share this characteristic.)  They are great equalizers.  But be aware that they can be used against you as well.

Second, you can use your opponent as a trigger for powers/effects.  Traps are an obvious example of this, as well as auras like burning blood or items like heart of darkness.  But your opponent’s cards can also be used with your minions.  A pyrohydra is great opposite deepwood ash, spore farms, or lavapults, as they trigger its regeneration/growth.  It is similarly excellent at thwarting specials of giant voltas or howling banshees.  It is even good played opposite a strength 4 enemy minion.  Berserk djinn can use stronger opponents to trigger a death explosion.  And don’t overlook ominous eggs’ use of enemies to summon a free creature.

These first two uses of an opponent are sufficiently obvious I feel no need to elaborate.  The next two are more subtle.

Although the following does not commonly arise, it can be very devastating to use an opponent’s forces to negate negative characteristics of your own cards.  Dragonfish, reavers, magmaspheres, and molten golems all have special abilities that you would rather not have.  Whirling djinn, saberines, jungle dragons all have traits that can be mixed blessings.  Sometimes, you would even love to be rid of a magic immunity.  Placing creatures opposite a primal ooze eliminates their bad effects.  Except for magic immunity removal, you can use evolve to even better effect – you might actually pick up a good power.  I’ve had great fun turning a magmasphere into an aquamancer or a reaver into a giant constrictor.

A fourth use of an opponent can be for sheltering your units.  Place an aquamancer, a pyromancer, a necromage or a chronomancer opposite, say, a necropolis.  Your opponent now cannot reach them with a stronger minion – except by sacrificing the unit behind which you hid.  This also works with strong units.  It is better to place a jungle dragon opposite a kobo miner than in an empty path.  Not only does this destroy the miner when it has to attack the dragon, but the miner prevents an elusive unit (like dark fey) from moving into the path to block that dragon (and significantly weaken it).  This technique also works with items/auras traps.  If I place a dragon in a lane with a heart of fire, I prevent my opponent from using lavapult or wild strength or ambush or any number of other nasty devices opposite my dragon – unless they are willing to replace their heart of fire.

Finally, one can use one’s opponent as information provider.  Most good players have learned to observe the power point expenditures of traps – combining knowledge of the cost of the trap with knowledge of opponent factions often identifies the trap played.  But there are other important things revealed with every play.  Suppose your opponent plays a narrow tunnels opposite  your 1/1 blood vapour, and then plays flamespike on your howling banshee.  This should tell you several things: obviously your opponent is playing fire and underearth.  Assuming your opponent plays well, they either saw the banshee as a bigger threat than the blood vapour (is this likely?) or they plan on dealing with the vapour later – which suggests they have the means to do so.  I would either expect another flamespike next turn, or something like meteor, taken under, or darkling slavers in the future.  That very much informs my next move – either I protect against spells or I cover the vapour before it harms me further!

As another example, suppose my opponent opens the game by playing kobo tunnelrunners and then drawing a card.  This is very informative on two levels.  What does it say about my opponent’s deck that it contains tunnelrunners, and what does it say about my opponent’s hand that he would choose this as his opening play?  I can think of only one good reason to include tunnelrunners in a deck.  It is not strong enough to be a threatening minion, its special (damage to barriers) rarely comes into play (especially in PVP).  It is very cheap (cost 1), but if you are only seeking a cost 1 card – say to utilize a left-over power point after playing a cost four card – there are numerous  spells and items that are far more influential in most games.  A tunnelrunner has some value as a cheap minion – or as a creature channeled by a kobo summoner.  So I am expecting a Kobo deck.  Most kobo decks currently in fashion also involve blood orb, although other combos are conceivable.  Now, if my opponent opens with a tunnlerunner and  card draw, I figure he is grasping for an opening.  If his hand held a good cost three minion – such as deepspawn or phantasma – surely that minion would have been a preferred play.  If he held a cost two minion (such as a kobo summoner), that would have been played with the tunnelrunner instead of the card draw.  Even a blood orb, if available, might be preferable to the tunnelrunner.  True, one could wait to play the orb until it will be used, but there is no guarantee three convenient power points to play the orb will be available later.  So if my opponent holds none of the alternatives preferable to this play, what can I infer is in his hand?  Expensive cards, spells, or cards like dreamfeeder or swarm of bats that would be premature to play immediately.  So how do I respond?  I definitely want to conserve cards capable of immediately destroying kobo summoners.  And I probably don’t want to expose my best minion to a spell like darkling slavers or taken under.  On the other hand, I definitely don’t want to be timid.  If my opponent is playing a blood orb deck – or an inferno deck which seems a viable alternative), it is important to inflict damage quickly before his tactics come to fruition.  Playing a couple of mid-strength minions seems ideal – they are sufficient to outmuscle my opponent’s kobos, but are not great targets for expensive spells.  Alternatively, if I have spell counters (like spell net or mesmer), those might be in order to prepare play of big minions.

The point of this article is that you should not plan your tactics in a vacuum.  There are many instances where your opponent can help advance your strategy, or guide you in thwarting his.  Use them!