unlockable cards - my evaluation

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unlockable cards - my evaluation

Quintivarium
This thread is devoted to discussion of the special, unlockable cards available to each faction.  Although I will not systematically describe all the characteristics of each of these cards, I will definitely refer to certain properties of the cards.  Those who wish to be surprised by the card unlocked should abstain from reading further.

These comments represent my opinion of the cards; other players with different tastes and playing styles could have very different and equally valid opinions.  This post is primarily intended for those who want some guidance into how they should prioritize unlocking cards, although others may gain some insights into ways the cards could be used, or may simply be interested in the evaluations of other players.

FIRE FACTION:
     Overall:  Fire faction probably gains the most from unlockable cards of any faction except possibly air.  Both fire cards are potentially powerful and very usable.
     Minion (unlocked by defeating the AI):  While I think the initial exuberance over the pyrosaur has died down as players realize it is not as overpowering as it first appeared, the pyrosaur remains a nice card.  I personally find the card is a little pricy for its 3/3 stats, and the special power, while nice, is hard to trigger.  Moreover, the power is really only devastating if triggered repeatedly or at the right moment.  While I have not played a pyrosaur much, I found in the one case where I relied on it, the deck performed much better after the pyrosaur was replaced by a strength 4 minion.  And I am usually relieved to see an opponent play a pyrosaur over a ruby dragon or a pyrohydra – although this might be due to play style.  I think the pyrosaur provides a nice secondary threat in many decks –especially those with significant clearance capability, but I am inclined to use it for variety and a distractor of enemy attention more than a primary workhorse for a deck.  There is potential for pyrosaur to also be the focus of a deck, but, as of yet, I have not seen it realized.
     Non-minion (unlocked by wining PVP matches):  The fire prism is probably the most popular of the unlockable cards, and is certainly the focus of several deck designs.  However, it is rarely a good addition to an existing deck.  If you choose to pursue this card, expect you will need to design an entire deck around it.  I have never been successful with a fire prism deck (honestly, it’s really not my style), but I have played against several that are extremely good.  Of course, for every good prism deck, I probably encounter a half dozen others that are not good.  Also be aware that fire prism probably creates more animosity in opponents than any other card except for aquamancer.  Fire prisms definitely increase the role of luck in a game, and turn strategy on its side.

FOREST FACTION:
     Overall:  Forest, in my opinion, gets the worst of the special card selection.  I believe the non-minion card to be ineffective, and to likely never be effective.  The minion has potential, but consistently turning that potential into a meaningful advantage is problematic.
     Minion (unlocked by defeating the AI):  The Deepforest unicorn is e very rarely used card.  I believe most players have a hard time seeing it as a game changer.  But at cost 4, cards are expected to be very impactful.  In a sense, cost four is an awkward price point; very often the last power point ends up being wasted, so the card almost has to matchup against cost 5 cards – at least in the right context.  The deepwood unicorn is comparable to other cost 4 magic immune cards, and its special power is difficult to counter.  I find the card interesting, but have not seen a clear way to obtain significant advantage through it.  Until some good way to use the unicorn is found, it is likely to remain a secondary feature of those rare decks in which it appears.
     Nonminion (unlocked by winning in PVP):  The flowering aura is somewhat incongruous – typically cards generating power are used to accelerate decks, allowing early play of extra cards.  But with an initial outlay of 3 power, it requires 5 turns before flowering begins to run a profit.  By this time, most rush tactics will already have been resolved, the hand situation will have changed so much it is not clear extra power will be useful, and the board could have stabilized in a state where even the automatic 5 power points are not always usable.  The objects created are destroyed when used – they do not go to the discard pile, so they can’t even be used to power cards like silver hawks.

OCEAN FACTION:
     Overall:  Ocean gets one really nice card, and one that is worthless.  Even the nice card is rarely game changing, but it is often deck strengthening.
     Minion (unlocked by defeating the AI):  I find the triton illusionist to be one of the most strategic cards in the game.  It tends to be subtle, but is an excellent response in numerous situations.  At cost 2, it should not be expected to dominate games.  But it does exhibit significant and interesting utility.
     Nonminion (unlocked by winning PVP matches):  Overflow is incongruous in ways very similar to flowering.  Drawing cards to hand is generally a means of accelerating a deck.  But to trigger overflow, one has to have already have a deployment lead.  But the cost of playing overflow delays card development, and under the circumstances that one can trigger overflow, the extra cards are often not needed.

UNDERWORLD FACTION:
     Overall:  Both underworld cards are certainly usable, but the strategies they best support tend to be strategies that are not especially effective.  I would get these cards to add some variety, but I would not expect to find them to have a huge impact on a good deck.
     Minion (unlocked by defeating the AI):  Brainhound can certainly be a pain in an opponent’s side, but I really think their best use is as a decoy.  Paying two power to force an opponent discard tends to cost tempo – over time, a lack of card selection will hurt the opponent’s play, but initially, the opponent will have five power points to respond to the three you have remaining to play.  As a strategic system, I also find hand-attack decks to be relatively unsuccessful.  The problem is that the resources necessary to quickly and consistently reduce an opponent’s hand enough to dramatically impact his play tend to leave you too few resources for threats that actually lead to victory.  Brain hound itself is not a horrible card – its stats alone are probably worth its price, but the special power is not going to be a major tool in the arsenal of good decks – at least not those of which I’m aware.
     Nonminion (unlocked by winning in PVP):  Telepathic link is interesting, but not devastating.  The problem with most “copycat” type cards is that, against a good opponent, cards synergize with other cards in the deck.  It is only rare instances that you will find a given enemy card as useful as your opponent will find it.  And the power point cost of initially playing the card leaves you with a big disadvantage in tempo – even though the card will eventually pay for itself in drawn cards (assuming you have a use for them).  That said, there are two benefits to telepathic link that many may not consider.  It does alter an opponent’s play – encouraging immediate use (or discarding) of cards he does not want copied.  And it is a nice “spy” card to give a feel for an opponent’s holdings (although I can usually do just as well by observing what is played).

SWAMP FACTION
     Overall:  Swamp gets two nice cards, although neither one will be the primary strength in a deck.
     Minion (unlocked by defeating the AI):  The gorger is a nice card with some serious drawbacks that makes it hard to consistently use well.  Because of its initial low strength, it needs to be quickly triggered or it will lose all its health before having much impact.  It also needs some health boost, or the lost health is likely to destroy the unit before it has much impact.  Balancing how fast the gorger triggers is usually key to it being effective, and this is not always easy.  Although I don’t want to rely upon a gorger to by my major threat in a swamp deck, I like to use it as an additional potential threat.  It is nasty enough it could become the primary threat, I just cannot rely upon that.
     Nonminion (unlocked through victory in PVP matches):  Beytrayal is a nice direct damage card for a faction other than fire or air.  While it is a bit random, its damage is not totally random.  It will never be a dominating card, but it is frequently useful – well worth its cost in many decks.

AIR FACTION
     Overall:  Air gets one exceptional unlockable card, and one decent such card.
     Minion (unlocked by defeating the AI):  While I have seen wild mage used very effectively in at least one deck, I generally find the card too expensive to be enticing.  Spending 2 power to duplicate a spell already drawn rarely seems worthwhile (although the fact that it is an additional card in hand reduces the effective cost).  One problem with wild mage is that it must survive long enough to use its power, and a second problem is that it copies a random spell in one’s hand – some care is needed to insure the spell copied is the one desired.  I like to contrast wild mage to sea dragon: both effectively allow reuse of important spells.  But sea dragon is a creature of great uses even without its power; wild mage is not.  Sea dragon uses its power for free, wild mage special ability costs two power.  And sea dragon will tend to bring back spells one actually wanted to use rather than spells languishing in one’s hand.  There are a few advantages to wild mage such as its potential to repeatedly use its power, but given access to both, I would certainly choose the dragon.
     Nonminion (unlocked by victories in PVP):  I am prepared to argue that Brainstorm has had more impact on Spellcraft strategy than any other single card.  While not useful in every deck, brainstorm is the quintessential accelerator card, facilitating a large number of rush decks.  It is perfectly balanced – its ability to speed play is offset by significant drawbacks, but it enables a wide selection of otherwise mediocre decks to become outstanding while rendering many “slow” decks obsolete.

JUNGLE FACTION
     Overall:  Jungle unlockables are definitely a mixed bag: one outstanding card and one virtually worthless card.
     Minion (unlocked by defeating the AI):  Although players have been slow to recognize the usefulness of the jungle troll, I think it is finally catching on.  With good stats for its price, as well as a very handy special power, trolls are almost always useful, and add a new dimension to jungle’s arsenal.  Trolls stand with constrictors and toxipedes as my favorite jungle minions.
     Nonminion (unlocked by victories in PVP):  I know a few players who absolutely stand behind the claim that scavengers are vital cards in their deck – and they should know their own deck far better than I.  But I have yet to consider a deck in which scavengers would be useful, let alone important.  Scavengers is a card that is best if triggered early in a game, and often ineffectual if triggered late.  It is generally better triggered on an enemy turn than triggered on one’s own turn.  And it generates junk prone to get in the way of much more important mobile cards.  I, at least, steer clear of this one.

COMPARATIVE RECAP
Minions (unlocked by defeating the AI)
     excellent (top priority):  jungle, ocean, fire
     good (medium to high priority): swamp, forest
     fair (medium to low priority): underworld
     poor (low priority): air
     worthless: none
Nonminions (unlocked by victories in PVP)
     excellent (top priority): air, fire
     good (medium to high priority): swamp
     fair (medium to low priority): underworld
     poor (low priority): none
     virtually worthless (no priority): jungle, forest, ocean
     
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Re: unlockable cards - my evaluation

markturnergoblin
There will be some changes to some of these cards in the next update,mainly for the weaker ones.

Wildmage : Reduced to casting cost 2
Overflow: Reduced to cast cost 2
Telepathic link. Timer increased by 2
Scavengers: Scavengers come into play with elusive
Triton illusionist : Stats increased to 2/2
Deepwood unicorn: Gains Elusive
Brainhound :  will be revamped slightly
Brainstorm : You loose 2 cards from your deck when cast. Maybe even 3 cards lost, currently seems too powerful otherwise
Fire prism :Timer reduced from 15 to 12



let me know your thoughts

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Re: unlockable cards - my evaluation

Quintivarium
Wow!  Many of these tweaks are exactly what I think the card would need.  Let me comment on each individually

Wildmage:  I have a "mageblitz" deck designed to draw lots of mages (and the power to play them) as quickly as possible, then to inflict massive damage through spellstorm.  I think it is indicative of the problems with wildmage that I have not included this seemingly ideal card into the deck -- choosing instead chronomancer which has no synergy with the deck and whose power is sufficiently slow that games with this blitz deck always end before the chronomancer power has any effect.  A simple cost two, 2/1 stat card with worthless power (for my deck) is more useful than wildmage with its perfect power!  But wildmage at cost 2 changes everything.  I don't know if this will entice me to take it with decks that do not need the name mage, but I think it will.

Overflow:  The card is interesting, and may very well serve an important role in a deck I have not yet considered or seen.  Unfortunately, at this time, price is not the real issue for me; finding good ways to use the card is.  That said, I think the change is a great idea as the current pricing makes it too hard and too slow to re-coup the initial investment.

Telepathic link: A lengthened timer increases the return on the initial investment of playing the card which is helpful.  Even as it stands the card is not bad so much as the strategy behind the decks that use it is often bad.

Scavengers: elusive raptids substantially increase their value.  No longer are they forced to attack and die; no longer do they get in the way of more important elusive units like savage trappers.

Triton illusionist: I really don't think a change is needed to make this unit attractive, but there is no problem with more health -- the reason illusionists are very useful is unrelated to health so I don't fear them becoming overpowered.

Deepwood Unicorn:  The real problem I find with unicorns is neither the unit design nor the cost -- it is the price point.  I find cost 4 cards awkward in almost every deck.  Because there is such a high risk of a wasted power point, I am inclined to only take cost 4 cards if I actually prefer them to cost 5 cards in my deck.  And forest already has a lot of nice cost 4 cards.  The change most likely to make unicorns appealing to me would be greater availability of effective cost 1 cards and abilities to utilize the that last power point.

Brainhound: I await hearing about the re-vamp, brainhound is not a bad card as it stands, but neither is it a standout.

Brainstorm:  Although I'm not sure the card is overpowered -- 3 life loss is pretty significant -- it does strongly promote rush tactics which I do not consider a good thing.  A forced discard of 2 cards is a reasonable change as it both increases the risk of deck exhaustion and introduces the possibility of a critical card being lost.  It also inflicts a price to those who would shelter behind safehole.

Fire prism: I do not play prisms because I do not like the style of play they force me into.  But, unlike many players, I find them neither objectionable nor over-powered.  Thus, I am not a person whose feedback you need on this card.
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Re: unlockable cards - my evaluation

Aurore Aileblanche
In reply to this post by markturnergoblin
Great changes overall ! I think some of them are a little bit shy but nice try :-)
I hope other cards will benefit these kind of changes (like the 1/1 in air that gain +1/+1 when opponent plays a spell : cant remember its name...)
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Re: unlockable cards - my evaluation

MadAdaM
In reply to this post by markturnergoblin
I would really like Scavangers to have quick rather than (or as well as) Elusive.
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Re: unlockable cards - my evaluation

markturnergoblin
I think maybe spell leach could use some small boost. I hardly ever see anyone use these in 2 player . Scavengers may be too dangerous if they had Quick, I am imagining some nasty decks dealing 5 damage on their first turn.