Reply – Re: strategy esays
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Re: strategy esays
— by Quintivarium Quintivarium

In many ways, Spellcraft is a game of resource management.  Virtually everything in the game can be viewed as a resource.  Let me briefly discuss these resources – beginning with the most fundamental (major) resources.

1.  Power points.  Power points are, in many ways, the in-match currency of Spellcraft.  For power points, cards can be played to the board, powers invoked, or cards drawn to the hand.  As discussed in earlier essays, one of the best measures of a deck quality is how completely it utilizes power points each turn.  The goblins have done an excellent job pricing various items (like playing a card), so one who spends only three power points a turn will almost always lose to one who spends all five power points.

2.  Cards on the board.  Most cards have little direct value until they are on the board acting – minions on the board can damage the opponent, traps on the board inhibit enemy plays, etc.  Players definitely maneuver to have more (and better) cards on the board than their opponent.

3.  Cards in hand.  With few exceptions, cards cannot be played to the board before they appear in one’s hand.  More cards in hand equates to more choice and more opportunity to play multiple cards to the board (creating an advantage in cards on the board).  Hand management is an essay in itself.

4.  Life points (or player – as opposed to unit – health).  Life points are a resource that can be traded to power certain cards (dragonfish, dark secrets, etc.) or directly attacked (heatseeker).  There are certainly times when this resource can be exchanged for some greater good.

More minor resources include:

5.  Undrawn cards in deck – run out of this resource and you lose!  But I list it as minor because running out of cards is rarely a deciding factor.

6.  Cards in discard piles.  Several cards do draw upon discards – both friendly and enemy.  This is especially true for the swamp faction.  One very viable use of cloud of bats is to provide “discards” for undead giants to throw.  A few ocean and one forest card recall things from discard piles.

7.  Unit statistics.  Card health, strength, time remaining on timers, special powers, even certain unit names (e.g. “wolf”) can be viewed as a resource.

8.  Card readiness.  Only ready cards can attack or invoke certain powers.  Readiness is the primary value of cards with the quick trait or of the energize spell.

Finally, there are a few structures of the game that might also be viewed as at least quasi-resources.  These include:

9.  Attack lanes.  That there are only 5 lanes available does limit actions and requires management.

10.  Turns (or turn phases such as the attack phase).  Oh how my plans go awry because my opponent gets a turn in between mine!

11.  Space in deck.  There are many cards I do not take because I am limited to only 40 cards in a deck.  The only drawback I can think of to a card like sunken treasure is that it takes deck space I want for other cards.

So now that I’ve talked about how elements of Spellcraft can be viewed as resources, I’d like to talk a bit about the value of viewing them in that way.  It is probably easiest to begin with some examples.  My opponent plays an aquamancer (ocean).  I counter by playing meteor (fire) on the aquamancer.  We have both “lost” one card (my opponent’s aquamancer, my meteor) and neither of us has anything tangible to show.  But I spent 5 power points for my action, my opponent only spent 2.  Assuming he did something useful with the other three, my opponent definitely came out ahead.  A second example is playing and then activating a sunken treasure (ocean).  I spend 2 power points and one card to draw three cards to my hand – a net two card gain for 2 power.  Without sunken treasure, I can only draw one card for the same cost – clearly sunken treasure will always be advantageous.

Now let’s consider some ambiguous cases.  Should I use forest’s dragonfly in a deck?  The dragonfly is a 2 strength, 1 health creature with quick and elusive traits costing 3 power points.  When I compare other creatures, I note that a chronomancer (air), an aqualid mage (ocean), a firewolf (fire), a necromage (swamp), and a swamp faction undead triton (at least after being played opposite an appropriate minion) are also 2/1 creatures with nice secondary powers that only cost 2 power.  On the other hand, all cost 1 creatures have at most 1 strength except flesh golems (swamp) which is also 2/1 but has a significant drawback. So I figure, were it not for the quick trait, a dragonfly would only be worth about one and a half power points.  Of course, the quick trait could very well allow the dragonfly to inflict a quick two health damage to my opponent, and might allow an immediate kill of an enemy aquamancer.  It is unclear to me whether this is advantageous.  In contrast, consider including air faction’s aeromancer.  Like dragonfly, this is a 2/1 card with the quick trait costing 3 power.  It lacks the elusive trait, but instead draws a spell from one’s deck to one’s hand.  I figure this card draw ability to be worth about 2 power points (what it costs to tap my deck).  Since a 2/1 card is probably worth more than 1 power point, I would consider an aeromancer worthwhile even without the quick trait.  Finally, let’s consider ocean’s lost at sea trap.  Three power points is pretty pricey for a trap, but I am virtually certain my opponent will trigger it.  Clearly it is to my advantage it the trap destroys a cost 5 unit, and to my disadvantage if it destroys a cost 1 unit.  Since the only other cost three trap is air’s spell net, I assume an attentive opponent will know what it is and avoid wasting expensive units.  If that were the end of the story, I would probably reject using lost at sea unless I also had air faction in my deck to keep an opponent guessing.  But lost at sea also impacts the turn resource.  If my opponent has to delay playing a cost 5 minion to first defuse my trap, that might be worth the cost.

Valentino, CW88, I, and others have spent considerable effort trying to quantify these concepts and to effectively model the resource allocation ability of different decks and cards.

One final observation: as much as I try to quantify the value of resources, part of the richness of the game is that the value of resources is not static.  It changes with circumstance.  I recently berated (well, I hope it would be more accurate to say I gently corrected) a relatively inexperienced opponent for playing sunken treasure.  In a previous paragraph I argued that sunken treasure is always advantageous.  But my opponent had only 6 cards remaining in his deck – 3 cards after using sunken treasure).  Normally games end well before decks are depleted – cards in deck have very little value.  This particular game was an exception – cards in deck were worth more than cards in hand or even on board.