A common mistake for new players is to assume that success in SolForge tournaments is a solely a function of who has the most powerful and hard to acquire cards. I certainly understand how it can feel that way, especially after you’ve been run over in consecutive games by Grimgaunt Devourer, Zimus the Undying, and Lyria, Muse of Varna.
I won’t deny that powerful cards can lead to success. Surely they can. But it is very easy to overstate their importance. In particular, the strongest cards in the world won’t win you any games if you don’t understand their synergies and weaknesses. Just as one example, there was one player in last weekend’s constructed tournament whose deck contained 18 Legendaries… and yet finished with a losing record. Meanwhile, Regalian3’s sixth place deck contained only 3 Legendaries–and the core of the deck was largely made up of Rares and Commons.
It isn’t enough to have more Legendaries or Heroics than your opponent. It is much more important to have a complete grasp of the ones you do have: when to use them, when not to use them, and which supporting cards to use in tandem with them. Grimgaunt Devourer, for example, is capable of being an extremely powerful, almost game-breaking card. That being said, I cannot simply throw Grimgaunt into any deck and expect it to dominate. A good Grimgaunt deck will contain a variety of ways to either generate extra deaths per action (like Death Seeker, Fellwalker, or Echowisp), and/or will contain a variety of ways to kill creatures before combat (either by sacrificing my own or removing my opponents’). Good players understand that Grimgaunt is most powerful when you can generate deaths in large bundles while Grimgaunt is on the field; otherwise he’s just a weak chump-blocker.
The same goes for the Shapers. There are decks that want to play their Shapers every time that they are drawn; Raidrinn’s tournament-winning deck from the Aug 23 Constructed event is a good example of such a deck. But most decks need to play their Shapers more carefully. Noetherian won the Unheroic event last weekend with a deck that contained six Shapers (three each of Steelshaper Savant and Flameshaper Savant). However, he only leveled the Shapers aggressively in certain matches, most often relying on his late-game Robots (particularly Forgeplate Sentry and Forge Guardian Beta) to win him games. Noetherian needed to understand when to use each Shaper–and when not to–based on the particular match-up that he was facing. And there were many times that he needed to forego leveling a Shaper in order to maintain board control or level a card that he would need later on in the game.
Of course, as an analyst, my job would certainly be easier if all decks that included Shapers were identical. Instead, I have to try to figure out what purpose the Shapers are playing in any particular deck. Why were they included? When will they be used to greatest effect? Are they the engine that makes this particular deck go? Are they key supporting cards that will usually be leveled, but exist mostly to ensure that another card is used most effectively? Or are they situational cards used to gain advantage in particular match-ups?
These are the questions that I struggle with; and the biggest reason that I’ve been very slow to identify a set of archetypal decks since Set 1 was released.
On the other hand, the fact that two very similar decks can be piloted in dramatically different ways is one of the factors that makes SolForge an interesting game, so maybe I shouldn’t complain too much!
In any case, here are the results from last weekend’s Constructed and Unheroic tournaments:
There was a (pleasantly) surprising balance between the factions in last weekend’s Unheroic tournament; Uterra and Nekrium were played slightly more often than Tempys or Alloyin, but none of the factions were really underrepresented. Of course, Darkshaper Savant, Lifeshaper Savant, and Flameshaper Savant were all extremely popular cards–but so were Shardplate Delver, Corpse Crawler, Alloyin General, and Magma Hound.
Among the Top 8 decks, Uterra was clearly the dominant faction, appearing in six of the decks. Tempys appeared in four of the Top 8; Nekrium and Alloyin appeared in three each. The most common theme among the Top 8 was to play some kind of Growth or Buff deck: playing some combination of Lifeshaper, Ferocious Roar, Spring Dryad, and Delver, with either Alloyin General or significant creature removal. That being said, the Top 2 decks both diverged substantially from that strategy. As previously stated, Noetherian won the tournament played a late-game deck focused on bringing out powerful, armored Robots. Zrandles finished second with a very aggressive, Shaper-less deck that focused on grabbing early card advantage with strong Uterra and Tempys creatures. Below you can see the full breakdown of the Top 8 decks, in order of finish:
- Noetherian: Alloyin/Tempys; Shapers and Generals to support his Forgeplates and Betas
- Zrandles: Tempys/Uterra; Aggressive deck to grab early Card Advantage with creatures
- Grunix: Alloyin/Uterra; Shapers and Generals to crab Card Advantage and protect Dryad
- IkoRn: Alloyin/Uterra; Shapers and Generals to facilitate buff-stacking
- Hans: Tempys/Uterra; Shapers to protect and support his Dryads and Delvers
- ParkerMD: Nekrium/Tempys; A removal-heavy Shaper deck
- Azilirith: Nekrium/Uterra; Shapers and Removal to protect Dryads and Delvers
- Lhefriel: Nekrium/Tempys: Shapers, Corpse Crawler, and significant creature removal
The Constructed tournament also saw a general growth in the variety of decks being played. Shapers and Grimgaunts were clearly the most common strategies, but the details of those decks varied wildly and only a minority of decks could reasonably described with either term.
Grimgaunts did dominate the Top 8, however, with five players (including all of the Top 3) playing some type of Grimgaunt deck. Hope won the event with a fairly slow version of a Grimgaunt deck, focusing on leveling Grimgaunt Devourer, Grimgaunt Predator, and Zimus, the Undying and using substantial creature removal and creature sacrifice to power the deck. JmanTheThief finished second, using a Grimgaunt and Dryad deck and combining it with a number of Nerkium and Uterra creatures that are capable of spawning multiple copies (and generating multiple corpses). As for the rest of the Top 8:
- Hope: Mono-Nekrium; Zimus, Grimgaunts, and substantial creature sacrifice
- JmanTheThief: Nekrium/Uterra; Creatures that spawn multiple copies to feed Grimgaunt and Dryad
- PTKTempo: Nekrium/Tempys; Grimgaunts plus significant creature removal
- Holyllama: Alloyin/Tempys; Ashurian Mystic, Rageborn Hellion, and substantial creature-buffing
- Alca: Uterra/Nekrium; Grimgaunts plus substantial creature buffing
- Regalian3: Nekrium/Uterra; Shapers and Creature Removal to protect Dryads, Delvers, and Grimgaunt Predators
- Whitefyre: Nekrium/Uterra; Grimgaunts and substantial Creature Removal
- Johnny C: Alloyin/Tempys; A late-game deck built around Robots and Everyflame Phoenix
As for upcoming events, Forgewatch will be running both an Unheroic event on Friday and a Constucted event on Sunday. Snook organized a series of small, 8-man events this week (I apologize for not covering those in this column, but I ran short of time; sorry Snook!), and will be organizing a larger Single Elimination tournament on Tuesday. And as always, I encourage you to sign up for this thread to stay up to date on all the latest tournament news.