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Spoiler Level 4: Sight Is So Meta

Welcome to Player Level 4: where we take your game to the next level!

This week we have a super awesome episode and a spoiler to boot! Make sure to tune in! Read More »

Player Level 4: Double Feature

Welcome to Player Level 4: where we take your game to the next level! We’ve got a double feature for you, so let’s get started!

Episode 4: Oh Canada

This week our special guest is the one and only JakeAlmighty, hailing all the way from Canada! We discuss card changes, Thundersaur (at the Thunderdome), the metagame and draft, so make sure to tune in! Read More »

Deck Upgrade #5: Evaluating Cards in SolForge

Evaluating cards is a key part of deck building.  You need to be able to figure out which cards are broadly strong, which are narrow but strong, and which are just plain weak in order to figure out which ones belong in your deck.  Card evaluation skills are important in general, but they will become particularly important with the upcoming release of drafts (estimated for later this month or next month).

Reviewing other people’s evaluations of card strength is useful, but only up to a point.  I recommend that everyone check out columns like Raidrinn’s card reviews (available for Nekrium, Tempys, Alloyin, and Uterra), but those evaluations are necessarily general—they don’t take into account the specifics of how you will be using those cards.  Likewise, comparing a creature’s attack and health to the averages for its level (a summary of those averages is available here) is useful but is only a starting point.

In this column, I want to focus on three specific points about card evaluation in SolForge.  First, you have to evaluate a card across all three levels, not just at one level.  Second, to paraphrase the traditional rule about property, the three most important things in evaluating a card are context, context, and context.  Finally, context isn’t just about your deck—it’s about your opponents’ decks as well.

Evaluate the Whole Card, Not One Level

During the period before the Core Set’s release, whenever SBE spoiled a new card, players would comment things like “Level 3 is overpowered” or “Avatars aren’t that good because their Level 3 isn’t very impressive.”  Both of those comments are of a type that are not even wrong—they just don’t make sense as a way of analyzing cards.  A single level of a card can’t be a reason, on its own, to conclude that a card is weak.   Similarly, it is impossible for a Level 3 version of a card to be overpowered without considering the other levels of the card, and virtually impossible for a Level 1 card to be overpowered without considering the other levels.  I can easily construct cards with arbitrarily powerful Level 3s that are still balanced or underpowered overall.  I can’t promise that these cards would be fun, but they could be balanced.

Consider a hypothetical spell, “Nekrium Death Curse,” which has the Level 3 text “Your opponents lose all life and lose the game.”  Overpowered, right?  Not necessarily.  Imagine the Level 1 version reads “You lose 50 life.  This card cannot be leveled without playing it.” and the Level 2 version reads, “You lose 45 life.  This card cannot be leveled without playing it.”  That card would be weak.  Playing it would make you extremely vulnerable to any burn or any card advantage and would give up card advantage to boot.  It might be possible to play it as a less good Arboris, Grove Dragon, pairing it with life gain cards like Glowstride Stag and Lightbringer Cleric.  But even then, it would be a sufficiently fragile strategy that it would not be overpowered.  Likewise, a 25/25 Level 1 creature could be balanced, if the Level 2 version reads “You must play this card if it is in your hand.  You lose the game.”

Of course, a particularly powerful level or a particularly weak level matters for evaluating a card.  Chrogias would be massively overpowered if it had an even average Level 1 and Level 2 version—the powerful Level 3, weak Level 2, and terrible Level 1 are what make it balanced.  Similarly, the Avatars are all powerful in monofaction or monofaction with a splash, because they have phenomenal Level 1s, strong Level 2s, and average Level 3s.  Who cares that 15/15 is only so-so at Level 3 when you’ve been 2-for-1-ing for two Player Levels?

Whether a card with one strong level and two weaker levels is worth playing depends on the central point in card evaluation:  context, context, context.

Context, Context, Context 

Cards are not strong or weak in the abstract, but only in context.  Which is a stronger card, Deepbranch Prowler or Chrogias?  It depends entirely on what cards you’re playing it with, what the game plan of your deck is, and what the circumstances of the board are.  If you’re playing a deck filled with Technosmiths and Synapsis Oracles, designed to level up cards without necessarily playing them and then win with Level 3 bombs, Chrogias is the clear winner.  If you’re playing a rush deck designed to seriously damage your opponent during Player Level 1 and win in early Player Level 2, Chrogias is worse than worthless and Deepbranch Prowler is a strong card.  The difference is all about context.

When I think about the context of cards I’m evaluating, I consider synergy; my deck’s game plan; and important niche filling.  Each of these topics deserves more consideration than I can give it here, but I’ll lay out the basics.

Synergy is the way in which a card becomes stronger when played with certain other cards.  Battle Techtician and Alloyin General are both reasonable cards on their own, but together they become much more effective because of the strong synergy they have.  I’ve written about synergy (and its cousin, dependencies) before, and I suggest reading those articles and considering their applications to card evaluation.  One particular thing I’ll mention is the difference between constructed play and draft or other limited formats.  Soul Harvest is a much stronger card if you know that you can include cards like Zimus, Death Seeker, and Flamespirit Mystic in your deck.  In constructed, you can make sure that will be true.  In draft, you’re unlikely to get a Zimus and may not even get a Death Seeker, which means you have to lower your estimate of the value of cards like Corpse Crawler and Soul Harvest that need sacrifice targets.

A deck’s game plan is how that deck wins games.  It’s not “what would the perfect draw for this deck be?” but rather, what are the realistic, tested paths to victory.  For a deck based on playing spells and triggering powers, the game plan is level up Savants/Flamespeakers/Master of Elements, then chain together strings of free spells and use the combination of Savant/Flamespeaker triggers and the spells themselves to win the game.  For an Uterra/Alloyin leveling deck, it might be level up Chrogias, Echowisp, and Scrapforge Titan, and then use them to overwhelm your opponent.  Typically, a strong deck will have multiple paths to victory—if you build a silver-bullet deck around one card, your deck will fail if you don’t draw that card.  And flexibility in your game plan also lets you play around an opponent’s deck.  If your plan is to Phytobomb and play Deepbranch Ancient and Lifeblood Dryad, you may find yourself in trouble against a Grimgaunt Devourer and Spring Dryad deck.  If you can switch to playing your Shardplate Delvers and Spring Dryads as an alternate path to grow to victory, you have a much better chance of winning.

In general, a card that fits your game plan will be more valuable than one that doesn’t.  Matrix Warden has mediocre stats and an only so-so ability, but in decks that rely on boosting attack, it can be an important support card for core cards like Hinterland Watchman or Oreian Warwalker.  It’s not just that the card has synergy with the rest of the deck—a card that fits the game plan gets additional value because it enables the deck to achieve its design.

The last major aspect of context I want to discuss is the role niche cards can play in a deck.  While typically you want cards that fit within your core game plan, sometimes you need to include cards to deal with problems that may come up.  For example, a power-leveling deck may nonetheless include Deepbranch Prowler.  Prowler can serve the twin purposes of providing early game board presence if you are otherwise in danger of being overrun by a rush deck, and giving you options when you get an unlucky Level 1 hand in later Player Levels.  In that context, Prowler is not a part of the deck’s game plan—if the deck performs ideally, the Prowler would never see play.  But it still has higher than ordinary value, because it fills a necessary niche in the deck.  It provides a tool to deal with the other part of the context—what your opponent runs against you.

The Context of Your Opponent’s Deck—The “Meta”

Your opponent’s deck is almost as important as your own in determining the strength of your cards.  Of course, you generally can’t build your deck based on what a specific opponent will play, but you can make some educated guesses about what might be in your opponent’s deck by considering what decks players in general are using.  Trading card game players traditionally use the term “the metagame” or just “the meta” to describe the overall play environment—what decks are popular, what cards are seeing lots of play, and equally importantly, what isn’t seeing play.  The difference between the constructed meta and the draft meta can be huge—even if Everflame Phoenixes are a must-answer in constructed, played by many players, they will never be a major presence in draft, where vanishingly few players will have even one.

In addition to specifics of individual cards (in an environment with lots of Savants, Gemhide Basher is stronger), speed matters.  The faster matches are likely to be over, the more important Level 1 is and the less important Level 2 is.  The speed of matches depends on how fast your deck is, how fast your opponent’s deck is, and how the interaction of the two decks affect things.  A lot of this has to do with play of the game—there’s no downside to playing a card like the Avatars, with a very strong Level 1, if you’re in the last Player Level the game will reach.  But it also affects deck design—bombs like Chrogias are more powerful in slow games than in fast games.  In particular, because we can expect draft and other limited formats to be on average slower than constructed, cards with weak Level 1s and strong Level 3s will generally be stronger in limited than they are in constructed.

Ultimately, reaching your own opinions on which cards are strong and which are weak—and critically on which are strong in your particular deck, in this particular meta—is one of the most challenging but also most enjoyable parts of a trading-card game.  This column outlined some of the aspects I focus on.  What do you rely on?

Player Level 4 Episode 3: Interview with a Dragon Master

Welcome to Player Level 4: where we take your game to the next level!

This week Kit and I get together with Noetherian to interview the one and only Brian Kibler about upcoming features and the future of SolForge! Read More »

Player Level 4 Episode 2: Shapers…what Shapers?

Welcome to Player Level 4: where we take your game to the next level!

This week Kit and I bring you the most recent tournament results along with our special guest this week, mnmike2002! Raidrinn is also back to join us on our adventure through the metagame. Let’s get started! Read More »

Player Level 4 Episode 1: Level Up!

Welcome to Player Level 4: where we take your game to the next level!

This week Kit and I are proud to announce that we’ve joined the Forge Watch team! Accompanying that announcement, we have Raidrinn coming back, and our special guest this week is Racecar0, the man behind Forge Watch. Join us in this week’s podcast as we discuss the most recent news, tournament results, upcoming events, and the state of the metagame! Read More »

Forging the Deck: You’re a Wizard, Raidrinn! + Tournament Report

Since the Core Set released, decks that contain mostly spells have been on a lot of people’s radar. Why? Because it is a new, unique way to play the game. The challenge of beating an opponent with only a few creatures in your deck is hard to pass up. As someone who likes a challenge, during Gen Con I built my first version of spells; Tempys/Nekrium. The deck had 2 win conditions. A single copy of Lyria, and 1 Scorchmane Dragon (I didn’t have Zimus). The deck was not great. It could win a few games, but not with any consistency. It felt powerful, but there was something missing.

Enter Flameshaper Savant, the man of the hour. Finally I wasn’t just trying to get bits of value with Master of Elements and Static Shock, I now had an engine. But an engine needs fuel, and realizing that Flameshaper Savant was the real centerpiece of the deck, not the fact it was mostly spells, I switched over to Alloyin as my Faction Pair.

The deck’s improvement was immediately noticeable. Ghox and Energy Surge allowed me to consistently find Flameshapers, as well as create far superior spell chains. I settled on 8 creatures for the deck because every creature I added made the spell chains less consistent. After a bit of theory crafting and testing, I settled on this list.

The Deck

Creatures:
3 x Flameshaper Savant
3 x Master of Elements
2 x Ghox, Metamind Paragon
Spells:
3 x Energy Prison
3 x Energy Surge
3 x Static Shock
3 x Lightning Spark
3 x Uranti Bolt
3 x Firestorm
2 x Metasculpt
2 x Disintegrate

Flameshaper Savant
The deck may be named spells, but this is the true engine of the deck. One of the mistakes people seem to make is clogging their deck with other… stuff. The deck doesn’t need stuff, it needs Flameshaper and cards that make Flameshaper better.

Master of Elements
Massive body and free spells = winner.

Ghox, Metamind Paragon
“Why Ghox?” some ask. “Why not Stasis Warden?” others inquire. The answer is actually very simple.

You don’t have to level Ghox.

I must stress the importance of leveling in this deck. When you level the wrong cards at the wrong times, you lose. It’s that simple. There are already 9 cards that are completely level dependent, why would you want to add more? Every level dependant card that is added is another card that is useless after Player Level 1.

Energy Prison
The obvious use is to lock down creatures that are too large for your damage based removal to handle, but there is an even more important function this card provides…

Giving your own creatures Defender.

One of the most powerful plays this deck has is locking down either your Flameshaper or your Ghox from attacking. Unless your opponent has a removal spell or large Aggressive creature, your engines will sit on the field for the rest of the game.

Static Shock
Free spells without a large body still = winner.

Lightning Spark
Kills creatures, goes to the face when the board is clear.

Uranti Bolt
This one is more interesting. Leveling this card is not really a priorit,y because the Defender clause remains useful all game. I’ll often cast one a turn on an abnormally difficult creature while I wait for an Energy Prison.

Firestorm
Aggressive Echowisp is a problem, this is your answer.

Metasculpt
I saw someone on the SolForgeGame Forums say, “…and we all know Metasculpt is terrible.” I couldn’t believe it. This is subtly one of the most powerful cards in the game. Can’t kill a Grimgaunt when its about to get huge? Sculpt it. Arboris 100/101? Sculpt it. Fleshfiend 3? You get the picture. On top of this, the card doesn’t need to be leveled until Player Level 2. That’s very important as card leveling order is critical.

Disintegrate
This is the card that I get the most flak about. I will be the first to admit that this card is awful. I hate that I need to play this in the deck. Looking at the current card pool, I’ve exhausted all the playable removal that doesn’t need to be leveled (except for Sonic Pulse and Electro Net, but those cards playtested awfully). On top of that, the problem I started running into was not a “need more removal” problem, but a “need cards that don’t target creatures” problem. Disintegrate is a card I can cast that doesn’t need a target, and until better options come along, its probably staying in.

The Gameplan

Spells is hands down the most difficult deck to pilot that I’ve used in SolForge. Spell sequencing, draw percentages, spell and combat math, as well as when to block, when to take damage, and when to just race your opponent to 0. Even in the finals match of the Tournament, I made many mistakes and I’m very practiced with the deck.

Player Level 1: Cast Flameshaper
The spell order is as follows:

Flameshaper Savant
Flameshaper Savant
Flameshaper Savant
Master of Elements
Energy Prison
Energy Surge

If you have Flameshaper in hand, find a way to cast it. I don’t care how much damage you are taking, if you can’t cast Flameshaper you lose. Of course there is the rare game where you draw only 1 or even 0 Flameshapers. That’s ok; don’t panic. That’s why you are allowed to level Energy Surge. Even in the games where you don’t have Flameshapers leveled, Energy Surge will dig them up for you. There was at least one occasion during the tournament where I only leveled one Flameshaper the entire game, and Ghox/Energy Surge made sure I found it every time.

Player Level 2: Stay Alive
Flameshapers and Masters usually do a pretty good job of clogging the board but you are often battling from behind at this point. Now you finally get the opportunity to cast all those other spells you haven’t even looked at yet. It’s common to be able to play Flameshaper 2, Master 2, Static Shock 1, and any other spell. This will easily help you battle back from most board states. You’re objective is to clear the board and keep it clear for the rest of the game.

Player Level 3 and Beyond: Win the Game
Once Player Level 3 gets going, you’ll have a large percentage of your engines leveled. You are likely drawing extra cards and generating excess damage which you send at the opponent. Besides continuing to keep the board clear, your priorities now change to locking your own Flameshaper with an Energy Prison, or just chaining tons of cards with Ghox and Energy Surge. Usually, if you have made it this far and are above 40 life, you are golden.

The Tournament

In the minutes before the tournament, I’ll admit I was sweating a bit. I had spent some time looking through the decks, and while a majority of the tournament was playing Nekrium or Uterra midrange style decks (both of which are great matchups for Spells), there were a couple of decks I knew would be problematic with if pairings did not go in my favor. SeomanReborn, I’m looking at you and your 3 Jet Packs.

Pairings went up and I breathed a sigh of relief. While I was in one of the pods where I would have to play a winner (which means a potentially stronger deck) both builds were Nekrium midrange and therefore pretty favorable with my Energy Prisons and Metasculpts set to snap off the scariest of the threats. The Jet Pack deck was safely on the other side of the bracket, so I wouldn’t need to worry about facing it early on. Sadly for MNPaladin, who was playing the same 30 as myself, he got paired up with SeomanReborn and lost a close 3-game match.

Both seraphimscall and Voidhawk played very well. Early on, I had to stave off aggressively-leveled Fleshfiends, Zimus, and Lyria from seraphimscall as well as the Xrath, the Dreadknight of Varna in conjunction with Unrelenting Dead from Voidhawk. Its value and ability combinations like these where Metasculpt really shined for me. If I couldn’t kill or lock down a creature with Flameshaper or Energy Prison, Metasculpt made sure I would be able to do so on the following turn. Four intense matches later, I faced MrHyde.

MrHyde played a card that I hadn’t considered during testing, and it bit me hard in that first game. During Game 1, he aggressively leveled 2 Explosive Demise which countered my Prisons and in the end killed me only a turn or two before I could have had the game myself. I needed a change in strategy. Game 2, I mostly eschewed Energy Prison in favor of aggressively leveling Energy Surge. This would allow me better chains in the mid and late game for the extra damage needed to remove his creatures from the board instead of locking them down with Prison. The strategy was very effective. While I had to make concessions in the early game and take a lot of damage, I was able to stabilize at around 40 life each game and render his Explosive Demises useless by never leaving a creature alive on his side of the field.

Skies had me worried; the combination of large Aggressive creatures and Phoenix to finish off my life total during the end-game seemed very dangerous. I was fortunate in the fact that instead he played a more controlling role with the deck. I was able to out chain his Flameshapers with my own and move on to the quarterfinals.

Decurion’s deck had an interesting focus on recurring creatures and removal using Scourgeflame Sorcerer as its main engine. Sadly, he was unprepared for Metasculpt and Energy Prison. Once the Flameshaper engine was revved, I raced to the finals.

The final match was the only match that got officially recorded. You can watch the match yourself here. The pressure and length of time I had been playing must have started getting to me because there are a number of misplays I made that, while not costing me the match, show that I still have much to learn about this game.

Epilogue
I have to say, its pretty fantastic to have won my first official Stoneblade sponsored SolForge tournament. I had played in many of the previous community tournaments, and while I had fun, I didn’t do as well as I could have. This was an awesome tournament put on by an amazing community of people. I’d like to specifically thank Kit101, Racecar0, and MNPaladin for all their help just letting me grind games against them all. May you all draw your Flameshapers and play them often.

SolForge Tier List Update #4

Hey everyone! It’s time for another update to the SolForge Tier List! In this update, I am explaining the new cards with their placement as well as the cards that moved tiers (not just moved within their tier). This is mainly to keep the update a little more concise, since moving one or two spots within a tier isn’t a major deal when compared to the more interesting changes.

Additionally, starting this update, the Tier List will be focused only on the cards released in the client, and the interactions therein. On account of this, some cards may be stronger or weaker on the Tier List once more cards become available (even if the cards that “become available” are already known cards, such as Metamind Technician.)

Chrogias (up to Tier 1) – Well, I understand he was weaker than the other bombs before, however, 40/40? This guy is only dying to one of the following: Another Chrogias, Grave Pact, Blight Walker or Scourgeflame Sorcerer. With cards like Metamind Technician that make leveling much easier, Chrogias is not hard to get into a Level 3. With that level, there is no other bomb that compares to him.

Spring Dryad (up to Tier 1) – The buff to Spring Dryad makes it vastly better at staying alive right after being played. Additionally, even without playing multiple creatures (by virtue of Echowisp), Dryad should now be a 6/6, 12/12, or 18/18 at Levels 1, 2, and 3, respectively, before ever reaching combat. Dryad also functions perfectly in conjunction with Uterran Packmaster, since Dryad is nearly impossible to kill when getting buffs from both creatures entering as well as the Packmaster buffs. All the while, Packmaster is buffing the new creatures so that, if the Dryad were to die, the other creatures are already bigger than anything your opponent should have. Essentially, with the changes to Dryad, Packmaster, and Ferocious Roar, it is very easy to have a Dryad become unkillable very quickly (at any player level).

Deepbranch Prowler (up to Tier 1) – Prowler is a prime example of a card that got indirectly stronger by the changes to the rest of the cards. With the change to Uterran Packmaster, it has become significantly easier to time and buff a Prowler. In a midrange deck designed around turns 5-8, buffing a prowler to the size of 11/11+ creates a force that will be breaking through multiple creatures for serious damage on an opponent. If not dealt with immediately, the Prowler will subtlety do consistent and high damage to your opponent to kill them. Since many of the Tempys rush cards like Cinderfist Brawler and Flamestoke Shaman had their Health lowered, that deck has become much weaker and has a difficult time keeping creatures on the field. To solve this problem, the Rush deck has had to turn to cards like Prowler to be their major damage dealer in Player Level 1 (with enough stats to regularly kill two creatures to the one card). The Prowler also provides a major catalyst to consistently proc Rageborn Hellion each turn multiple times.

Ionic Warcharger (up to Tier 1) – While Warcharger wasn’t changed, he is easily Alloyin’s strongest and most versatile creature in the beginning player levels. He is particularly good at fighting a Uterran Packmaster deck since he has the ability to Move around the field and kill creatures such as Spring Dryad, Packmaster, and Grimgaunt Devourer before they get the chance to grow. Also, with its naturally high stats, he is a perfect target to receive Armor buffs from Tech Upgrade and Steelshaper Savant, which makes it so he can continuously play a “clean-up” role for your opponents creatures while taking very little damage. Once you have some Armor on the Warcharger, if you buff up his stats through Enrage, Grove Huntress, Ferocious Roar, or Matrix Warden, then he can continuously get big enough to deal with higher level creatures as you advance in Player Levels.

Scorchmane Dragon (up to Tier 1) – With the buffs to the Dragon’s Level 2 in particular, he is much more efficient at keeping a late game deck alive against the mid-range decks with cards like Utteran Packmaster, Echowisp, and Grimgaunt Devourer. While he still puts you behind in Player Level 1, he will rarely not 2-for-1 in Player Level 2 (even against buffed Level 2 creatures in Uterran decks). This makes playing a Dragon much less of a risk in Player Level 1, as you can start rapidly coming back from being behind much earlier and faster than before.

Steelshaper Savant (up to Tier 1) – He specializes in what Alloyin suffers the most in: surviving. Armor, especially when stacked, creates creatures that don’t die. The best way to survive on Alloyin is by grabbing a creature with Move, like Ionic Warcharger, and stacking Armor onto it. If you are in Player Level 2, and play a Level 1 Tech Upgrade onto a Level 2 Warcharger (with Steelshaper 2 in play), you are looking at a 11/12, Armor 4, Move 1 creature. Nothing is going to kill that Warcharger, especially when you can continue to give it more armor later with the Steelshaper. Moderate amounts of Armor are major hurdles to jump through in any point of the game.

Lightning Spark (up to Tier 2) – Lightning Spark was enhanced to deal 5/9/14 damage, up from 4/8/12. This has a major impact due to the high volume of cards that this allows Lightning Spark to kill. The number 5 is a key number to focus on in Player Level 1. The most-played creatures typically have strong health pools going up to 5. Previously, getting Lightning Spark leveled was a pain, since it almost inevitably meant not killing whatever you Spark at Level 1. A fully-leveled Spark has a high potential to end games with plays that your opponent does not expect, by either clearing the way for a huge creature to hit the player, or directly dealing 1/7 of a player’s life in one unavoidable hit.

Echowisp (down to Tier 2) – While Echowisp has not been nerfed itself, changes to much of the removal spells as well as the lowered Health of many cards has encouraged the play of cards like Firestorm and Epidemic more which shuts down Echowisp too easily. However, he is still invaluable as a blocker to catch back up on a board in which you have fallen behind, or as major way to grow a Spring Dryad.

Firestorm (up to Tier 2) – With the latest change, multiple creatures’ Health has been reduced. In light of that, Firestorm is a primary way for a late game deck to survive. Previously, the minute damage it did was insignificant enough that it was too hard to find a good time to play it. However, with the increased number of opportunities to level it, the late game version of this card provides a steady method for a late-game deck to live.

Ferocious Roar (up to Tier 2) – Ferocious Roar has always had a monstrous Level 3 version. The only hindrance to Roar was that it was almost impossible to play the Level 1 version without falling massively behind. Double the Level 1 buff and you’ve increased Roar’s uses considerably at Level 1, making it significantly easier to get into its Level 2 version.

Epidemic (up to Tier 2) – Similar to Firestorm, Epidemic’s value has increased from the Health reduction of many creatures. Furthermore, the Health reduction of creatures with high Attack values has led to many decks playing creatures with low Attack and high Health instead. Essentially, cards such as Rageborn Hellion, Riftlasher, or Blight Walker make it easier to reduce many creatures to negative attack, or negative Health in the case of cards like Cinderfist Brawler, Flamestoke Shaman, or Echowisp. In either case, the creature is nullified whether or not it’s on the field. With the increase of cards being played with stats that fluctuate greatly (high on one end, but low on another), Epidemic also increases in play, being capable of nullifying a larger portion of cards.

Lifeshaper Savant (up to Tier 2) – The changes to all of the Shapers to trigger off of Level 2 cards while in its Level 3 form has substantially increased their value. Uterran midrange and late game decks focus on keeping a few–albeit major–creatures alive, which Lifeshaper (aside from Uterran Packmaster himself) is the most effective at.

Cavern Hydra (up to Tier 2) – With the changes to Ferocious Roar and Uterran Packmaster, Hydra has become a lot stronger. Hydra has always been a scary creature due to its ability to stay alive through Regeneration. However, its biggest pitfall was the low natural stats that the Hydra has. Due to its low Attack in particular, Hydra would often traded 1-for-1 against most creatures. Even though most combats would last two rounds, very few creatures didn’t have enough Attack to kill the Hydra through one turn of regeneration after two combats. With the ability to buff creatures much more easily, Hydra can overcome the low initial Attack in order to be able to kill off most other creatures of an equitable Level in one shot, leaving it alive to Regenerate back up.

Graveborn Glutton (up to Tier 2) – Yes he was nerfed. However, he is a necessary card in any Nekrium control deck. A serious control deck (not to be confused with a stall deck that is designed around playing a bomb such as Chrogias, Scrapforge Titan, or Scorchmane Dragon) has very few win conditions. More times than not, a control deck will win by incremental damage from small sources over a very long game. Glutton, not only has enough Attack to trade 1-for-1 (something a control deck is looking to do), but it also provides one of the biggest win conditions for a control deck through its death trigger.

Enrage (up to Tier 2) – Enrage got massively buffed. However, this change is often overlooked in Uterran decks due to the strength of Ferocious Roar early. The strongest use for Enrage is in Alloyin decks. You can use it on creatures with Armor to make sure they are getting at least 2-for-2, though likely they will trade 3-for-2 early game if they have enough Armor. Additionally, late game, the Enrage buff will start trading significantly more than 1-for-1, and if you can get it onto a Moving creature that you have given Armor (yes, we are talking about Ionic Warcharger), then you have a creature that can freely kill off your opponent’s creatures. Also, Enrage can bring Synapsis Oracle up to a stat level that will favorably trade with many creatures on par with its level (when other the Oracle just dies to almost any creature).

Alloyin General (up to Tier 2) – The General provides Attack to the faction that has the lowest overall Attack stats in the game. Since Alloyin is notorious for low Attack and High Health/Armored creatures, combat in these decks often last two rounds and end with a trade. While Alloyin creatures are good at being defensive, if you can buff the Attack on the creatures as well, fights will start happening in one combat instead of two (which leaves your creature alive with a small bit of Health.

Technosmith (down to Tier 2) – Technosmith is still a very strong card, but the Level 2 stat change is enough to make him lose to most any Level 2 creature, not to mention how far he sets you behind in Player Level 1. While his effect is still useful, he has become increasingly hard to play in a reasonable manner while still staying alive.

Windcaller Shaman (down to Tier 2) – Despite the serious change to him that requires him to be leveled, he is still a staple in rush decks. He is particularly effective at moving Hellions to give them time to build up Attack before taking the first points of damage to its Health. Additionally, he is one of the very few methods a Cinderfist Brawler will ever get through to hit an opponent (since Cinderfist only has one Health, it will not survive a combat).

Brightsteel Sentinel (down to Tier 2) – With the change to Brightsteel’s Level 3, he no longer is strong enough to warrant play “on his own in a vacuum.” While he is still strong enough to be a staple in any Robots deck, he has become much more conditional than what he was previously (which isn’t bad, but only that he has to be played more carefully, wisely, and with a bit of luck).

Bonescythe Reaver (up to Tier 2) – The use of Shapers has increased, and therefore the Reaver as well. Despite his Attack being nerfed a little bit, his effect to kill another creature is becoming using enough through the consistent play of Shapers and cards like Prowler to encourage a greatly increased play of Reavers.

Tech Upgrade (up to Tier 3) – The increase in Armor is what makes Tech Upgrade more valuable. Armor is significantly better at keeping a creature alive than Health is. Armor applies for every combat, not just immediately like Health would. This change to Tech Upgrade makes is significantly more adept at keeping creatures alive for multiple combats to get multiple trades out of your creature.

Ashurian Mystic (down to Tier 3) – With the decline of cards like Cinderfist Brawler due to their survivability, rush decks have to focus a lot heaving on sustained early damage. While Mystic has the potential to build up over time, Rush decks need beefier bodies from the start, even if lanes are full. Frequently with a rush deck, you are playing to avoid your opponent’s creatures, which means the lanes will quickly fill up with unopposed creatures on both sides. Due to this, it can get much harder for the Mystic to get through to get going.

Scrapforge Titan (down to Tier 3) – While he didn’t get nerfed, the other bombs got stronger. Still, his Armor 10 provides a very hard shell to penetrate (even if it no longer beats a Scorchmane Dragon in an even fight). If you are playing Alloyin to level cards, it is likely in your best interest to be aiming for leveling up a Dragon (to have a more survivable mid-game) or a Chrogias (to have an unbeatable end-game).

Hungering Strike (up to Tier 3) – The increase to the drain is enough at all levels to drastically change combats. If you are playing a rush deck, you can use this to nullify a lane you don’t want to have to waste a creature block, while pushing through damage on a creature like a Deepbranch Prowler. In a late game deck, using Alloyin, your hardest challenge is the low Attack on your creatures. Hungering Strike can remedy the issue of having a hoard of creatures with four or lower Attack, as well as save your creatures with Armor to take even less damage.

Corpse Crawler (down to Tier 3) – While he still is a big body, his two best targets to sacrifice have been reduced in strength (Vengeful Spirit and Death Seeker). Furthermore, other options such as Fleshfiend have also been buffed so that it isn’t as favorable as it once was to sacrifice off the weak Fleshfiend Level 1. Blight Walker will become another major creature to sacrifice (after the Blight Walker kills off an opposing creature) with the decline of other good targets.

Synapsis Oracle (down to Tier 3) – Oracle remains the primary method to level cards into the late game. However, with the Attack changes to Oracle, the Oracle will not be likely to ever get a kill out of it again (unless combined with buffing from other creatures). It does still get its job done for a few turns, even if it leaves you behind for a few turns physically. A key trick for Alloyin players will be to use Metamind Technician to get the same ability on a stronger creature.

Darkshaper Savant (up to Tier 3) – The primary change that has helped Darkshaper is the change to Cull the Weak. With an upgraded Darkshaper, it is significantly easier to get good uses out of Level 1 or 2 Cull’s on higher level creatures.

Flameshaper Acolyte (up to Tier 3) – Flameshaper is most effective when combined with cards such as Firestorm to have multiple burn effects that add up to enough to kill off multiple creatures. However, in terms of removal it doesn’t quite match up to the Darkshaper, who synergizes with the same cards as Flameshaper, as well as cards like Cull the Weak or Epidemic.

Death Seeker (down to Tier 3) – Death Seeker’s Level 3 version has become too weak to consistently deal with most other Level 3 cards. While he is still a strong card in order to fuel Grimgaunt Devourer or Corpse Crawler, he doesn’t stand on his own well enough to earn a top Tier priority in decks.

Grave Pact (down to Tier 3) – While Grave Pact is incredibly efficient at taking down big bombs like Chrogias, the client card pool is heavily favored toward mid-range decks, which makes Grave Pact not as useful. As new cards enter the client that makes stall decks better at surviving and accelerating their leveling, Grave Pact will become a lot more influential.

Uranti Bolt (down to Tier 4) – While Uranti Bolt is still useful at delaying a creature from attacking for a turn, Lightning Spark has shown itself to be a significantly better option for a Tempys removal spell since it does comparable damage with the option of hitting the player to help finish games. Uranti Bolt isn’t to be under-looked, however, since in a control-based deck it can still buy you time to draw a better answer to a big card.

Cinderfist Brawler (down to Tier 4) – While he can still be used in combination with cards like Windcaller Shaman and Flamestoke Shaman, his one point of Health makes him incredibly unreliable on getting damage through. He still is a heavy hitter if you can reliably push him through, but playing him poses a great risk and gives a vulnerability to simple removal.

Flamestoke Shaman (down to Tier 4) – Flamestoke has had its Attack increased at the cost of its Health. This made the Flamestoke too vulnerable to removal to counteract the increased damage of other cards. Flamestoke needs to stay alive to get his utility, and with decreased Health, that is a difficult task.

Volcanic Giant (down to Tier 4) – While Volcanic Giant has a good sized body, he doesn’t provide the utility that would be needed in most decks he would find himself in. In a rush deck, the damage done to the player doesn’t help keep you ahead on the board position, which is the biggest struggle for rush decks. In more late game decks, there are bigger bodies available for the end game, and the extra damage isn’t appetizing for a deck designed around dragging the game out anyway.

Vengeful Spirit (kind of new? Wasn’t in last Tier List update – oops, Tier 4) – The nerf to Vengeful Spirit has seriously hampered her ability to be used favorably for effects like Scourgeflame Sorcerer and Corpse Crawler. She is still very efficient at killing creatures, but she is a poor method of reducing threats based on her death trigger alone. However, there are many other options to just kill a creature (especially in Nekrium), so he finds the sidelines compared to other removal.

Matrix Warden (down to Tier 4) – Matrix Warden has little to no survivability at any level. He does help provide one thing that Alloyin is missing: a decent Attack statistic. Though, there is a problem when you essentially use the whole card to buff another, since his meager stats on his own are hardly worth mentioning.

Hunting Pack (down to Tier 4) – While you have the potential to get lucky with Hunting Pack and subsequently get a large number of buffs from a Uterran Packmaster or Ferocious Roar, the Hunting Packs have such low stats that they are not a threat, even in large numbers.

Magma Hound (down to Tier 4) – The changes to Magma Hound heavily impacted his utility for any deck. In a rush deck, he isn’t enough of a threat from his own Attack, and he doesn’t have enough burn to make up for it. In a more control type deck, there are much more efficient ways of removing creatures.

Riftlasher (up to Tier 4) – Riftlasher’s change to be based on his Attack rather than a flat amount is a massive boon to him. However, he can still only proc on your turn, and still has a low base damage. You are significantly better off running Flameblade Champion.

Stonefist Giant (up to Tier 4) – Stonefist got reworked into a more defensive creature. While he still doesn’t put up nearly the stats that other creatures have, his high Health makes him survive quite well and he’s receptive to buffs from a creature like Rageborn Hellion.

Primordial Surge (down to Tier 5) – Primordial Surge’s only use now is to end the game on a particular turn.  Lightning Spark is much more efficient at doing this. So, since the buff from the Surge is not permanent, the only value you are aiming to use this card for is to close a game that has gone longer than a rush deck would like.

Toxic Spores (down to Tier 5) – While this is Uterra’s only removal, buffs to Utteran cards have made the faction much better at trading favorably, simply based on their creatures. The removal is a wasted slot in the deck except in very fortunate circumstances, and the card slot is better spent on other cards that buff and keep your own creatures alive.

Scout Drone (down to Tier 5) – Without the use of cards like Fangwood Field, Scout Drone becomes a lot less of a benefit to have leveled. While he is a free play at Level 2 and Level 3, more times than not you are better off having just leveled a stronger card. This fact is exemplified by the decline of card-levelers due to nerfs to Synapsis Oracle and Technosmith.

Lightning Wyrm (down to Tier 5) – The stat nerf to the Lightning Wyrm was unnecessary. Lightning Wyrm already had low Attack, and lowering it further for increased Health (which is still far below the average) is useless bonus. The Wyrm will not survive better than it had previously, and now deals even less damage.

Munitions Drone (down to Tier 5) – The Drone now buffs any other creature, not just Robots. It can’t buff itself anymore, and its stats have been lowered. It is too easy to kill by being blocked with any creature, and so cannot live long enough to make an efficient use out of its buff.

Sonic Pulse (down to Tier 5) – I honestly don’t know what to say about this one. Reducing 3 Attack is powerful at Player Level 1, but I would rather level a Deepbranch Prowler than Sonic Pulse.

Forging the Deck #9: Hellion Lays an Egg

Note: This article includes only those cards and changes available on the Steam Client as of the 7/16/13 update.

Since the latest card update, I’ve been experimenting a lot with deck designs.  In today’s Forging the Deck, I’ve decided to write up my favorite (and most successful) of these experiments.  Before I describe the deck, let me start by saying that the deck has three paths to victory: Rageborn Hellion, Enrage and Scorchmane Dragon.  If you don’t think that those can comfortably coexist in the same deck… well, read on.  I hope to prove you wrong.  Also, while you read this article please keep in mind that this deck relies on building Card Advantage quickly, and using that Card Advantage to either win quickly or to allow it to get away with playing a Level 1 Scorchmane Dragon (aka an Egg) early in the game.  If you do not understand Card Advantage, I strongly recommend that you go read both Noetherian’s and Cerebral Paladin’s excellent discussions of the subject before you continue reading this article.

The Deck:

Creatures: (all cards x3)

Spells: (all cards x3)

Releasing the Inner Fire

Card #1: Scorchmane Dragon is normally thought of as a late-game bomb.  You stall out, get to Level 3, and let the big fire-breathing monstrosity win the game for you.  And sure, if you get that far, go ahead and play Scorchmane 3.  But Scorchmane is really here because of his Level 2 stats.  12/12, Move 1 is incredible.  Now, what if put an Enrage 2 on him, and have a 19/19, Move 1 creature?  Or instead, put him on a board with a Hellion 2 so after he attacks he is just gave +2 attack to the whole board?  In short, don’t think about Dragon as just a Level 3 bomb.  Think of him as an extremely powerful Level 2 creature.

The problem with this deck is laying that egg without getting too far behind on the board.  We’ll get to that.

Card #2: Rageborn Hellion will functionally win you most games.  If nothing else, it’s the card that will draw the most attention in most games, thereby freeing up your other creatures.  Hellion is wonderful for growing your creatures, especially if you can get multiple copies of it on the board at the same time.  Hellion is also a good target for Enrage; a 5/11 creature can be annoying to deal with, and it keeps the Hellion buff on the field for that much longer.

Card #3: Ashurian Mystic has two roles in this deck, the same two that he serves in most decks.  First, Mystic’s job is to proc Hellion, growing the attack power of all the other creatures on the board.  And second, Mystic is a great finisher, especially if you’ve been leveling Enrage (and yes, you’ve been leveling Enrage, right?)

Card #4: Cavern Hydra is one of the great Card Advantage generators in all of SolForge, so of course it is in this deck.  And you should never be afraid to play it.  In fact, with this deck, Turn 1 Hydra is my favorite play.  If my opponent ignores it, because its base Attack is a bit low, I’ll make him pay for it with Enrage or Hellion.  If my opponent tries to kill it, in most cases doing so will only give me the Card Advantage that I’m looking for.

Card #5: Deepbranch Prowler is mostly here as a low-depreciation card to minimize the negative impact of late-game Level 1 draws, although Prowler’s natural Breakthrough does make it a fabulous target for Enrage.   A 10/10 Prowler is difficult enough for your opponent to deal with that it’s not a horrible play on Turn 2; a 19/19 Prowler (which is a Prowler 1 + Enrage 3) is never a bad play anytime.

Card #6: Echowisp is a low-depreciation card that is excellent at recovering from bad board positions.  It plays a much smaller role in this deck than in most decks you’ll find it in; leveling Echowisp is by no means a priority.  But sometimes you’ll find that your opponent has you out-gunned and you just need to clear out the lanes, and Echowisp does that admirably.

Card #7: Magma Hound serves a very similar function–recovery from bad board positions–although it’s special ability is also often useful at helping to take down Grimgaunt Devourers (in tandem with another attack, of course) before they can feed.  Of course, both Echowisp and Magma Hound are useful cards in their own right, both of them can be grown by Hellion, and both can be Enraged.  That’s just not their primary function.

Card #8: Enrage is one of the primary leveling concerns of the deck, along with Hellion and Dragon.  Early game, Enrage can help you generate Card Advantage; late game it can help you push through a punishing amount of damage.

Card #9: Lightning Spark is the primary creature removal in the deck.  I have a slight preference for it right now over Uranti Bolt, although either spell works just fine here.  It is mostly here to protect Hellion and to kill Grimgaunt Devourers, Spring Dryads, and other dangerous creatures before they can wreak havoc.

Card #10: Firestorm is here as an anti-Uterra spell.  To be blunt, I would just as soon replace this spell with a creature like Flameblade Champion, Flamestoke Shaman, or Flameshaper Savant.   But nothing takes out Echowisp (and Hunting Pack) like Firestorm, Echowisp is ubiquitous in competitive play right now, and this deck does have a little trouble against the fastest Growth decks without Firestorm.   For all of those reasons, I cannot justify removing Firestorm from the deck at this time.  As it is, if you are playing against anyone playing Echowisp, then you should plan on leveling Firestorm.  Otherwise, it’s highly situational.

The Gameplan

Early Game (Turns 1-4)

Try to get through this phase of the game, if possible, having played at least one each of Enrage and Scorchmane Dragon.  Other than that, focus on generating Card Advantage using Cavern Hydra and Echowisp, and try to get the most out of your Rageborn Hellions, playing your Ashurian Mystics, Deepbranch Prowlers, and Magma Hounds only as needed to maintain Card Advantage and trigger your Hellion.  If playing against a Growth deck, make sure to level at least one Firestorm.

Mid Game (Turns 5-10)

The Level 2 versions of Enrage, Hellion, and especially Scorchmane Dragon are your priorities at this point.  Focus on playing and getting the most out of those cards, using them to push through as much damage as possible.  Alternatively, if you are playing against a faster deck, you will probably need to just survive–stall the game out until Level 3, when you can win with your bigger Dragon and your Level 3 Enrage.  In that case, use your Echowisp, Magma Hound, and Firestorm to drag the game out, although do your best to level your Enrages and try to make sure you have at least one Level 3 Scorchmane in your deck.

Late Game (Turn 11 and beyond)

At this point you are reliant on Enrage 3 and Scorchmane 3 to win the game for you, so do your best to get those cards into your deck if they are not there yet.  In particular, look for opportunities to play an Enrage 3 on a Prowler or a Mystic, which can thereby push through damage even if you do not control the board.

Summary

I’ve found this deck is a bit complicated to play, but also a lot of fun.  Enrage and Hellion both have great synergy in their own ways with Scorchmane 2, Hydra, Prowler, and Mystic.  And of course, it is always nice to have that bomb in your deck if the game goes long.  I’ve won with this deck on Turn 6 by stacking Hellions, I’ve won on Turn 9 by putting an Enrage 3 on a Mystic 2, and I’ve won on Turn 20 with a belated Scorchmane 3.  Moreover, I like it because it doesn’t neatly fit into any of the current deck archetypes; I’m not sure what this deck is.  And if nothing else, I hope it demonstrates that the latest patch opened up new metagame possibilities that we haven’t yet explored.

[Editor’s Note: At the time of publication, the card tooltips still reflect the old card text.  We’ll get that updated as soon as possible for future readers. Sorry for the inconvenience!]

SolForge Module #18: Hunger for the Devourer

Today, we look at how to effectively play decks built around the card Grimgaunt Devourer. Periodically, I spend a column discussing gameplay considerations for specific archetypes of decks. (Module #12 covers general considerations for playing slow decks, and Module #13 provides some insight on fast decks.) The purpose of this column isn’t to explore the merits of particular decklists. I recommend you check out Forging the Deck #5 for one particular approach to building a Grimgaunt deck.

As anyone who played the Nekrium Starter Deck knows, when Grimgaunt Devourer gets huge it can take over a game. Decks whose primary goal is to maximize the effectiveness of Grimgaunt Devourer must produce a lot of deaths (e.g., using one card to produce multiple bodies) and/or carefully control the timing of deaths (e.g., creature removal spells, or sacrifice cards to produce pre-combat deaths). Obviously, such decks require an alternate path to victory for those games where you aren’t able to level-up your Grimgaunt Devourers. However, that’s an issue for someone else to discuss. Today, we are going to look at how to play effectively in those games where you are able to level-up your Grimgaunt Devourers.

Before we get to the dilemmas, there are several points to keep in mind when you play a Grimgaunt deck.The first point is that Level 2 Grimgaunt Devourer is incredibly strong. With only three creature deaths, Grimgaunt 2 becomes 13/11 and trades favorably with the vast majority of Level 2 creatures. After four or five creature deaths, there are very few answers* to Grimgaunt 2 and even double-blocking** Grimgaunt will often fail to kill it. By contrast, Level 1 Grimgaunt Devourer grows quite slowly. After three creature deaths Grimgaunt 1 is still easily killed by a wide variety of Level 1 creatures. Even after five or six creature deaths Grimgaunt 1 is not deadly enough to get your opponent to low life before it dies to a Level 2 creature.

The take-away point is that Level 2 and 3 Grimgaunt Devourers win you the game. Growing a Level 1 Grimgaunt can get you an early lead, and you should take advantage of Grimgaunt 1 when you can. However, growing a Grimgaunt 1 is much less important than putting yourself in a position to win with Grimgaunt Devourer 2 (or 3). In particular, it is vital to level up the cards that will allow you to win during Player Levels 2 and 3. For instance, if you have a choice between using Windcaller Shaman 1 to save your low-health Grimgaunt 1 or leveling a Scourgeflame Sorcerer, you should generally level the Sorcerer. Even at Level 1 Windcaller Shaman is sufficient to pull a Grimgaunt 2 out of a tough fight, but Scourgeflame Sorcerer needs to be leveled in order to kill dangerous creatures and grow your higher-level Grimgaunts later in the game.

The second point is that you want to play Grimgaunt 2 (or 3) with lots of creatures on the board. Ideally, you want there be lots of creatures on the board who are about to die. You don’t know when you will draw your Level 2 (or 3) Grimgaunt, but it is very important that you maximize the chances that when you do draw it, it is devastating. Therefore, you should play each turn as though you are going to draw your Grimgaunt 2 (or 3) on your next turn. When considering your possible moves, think about what the board is likely to look like on your next turn. Are you likely to have a good (safe) lane in which to play your Devourer? How many deaths are you likely to create on your next turn? You should avoid blocking when you don’t need to, since Defensive creatures in empty lanes are likely to be alive when you draw Grimgaunt next turn. (This allows you to generate deaths if your opponent blocks or perhaps to sacrifice to Grave Pact or Corpse Crawler if needed.) When you need to block (to avoid getting too far behind in life), you should prefer blocking with high-health creatures that will take multiple turns to trade.

When you are waiting to draw your Level 2 (or 3) Grimgaunt, you should be happy to play cards that generate multiple bodies (e.g., Echowisp) into empty lanes to maximize the number of creatures you have on the board next turn. Creatures with the Move ability also make excellent plays, since they give you the option of forcing trades (and generating deaths) even if your opponent doesn’t block. Additionally, you should avoid playing creatures with Swiftness. A Defensive creature in an empty lane is likely to be around on your next turn when you draw Grimgaunt, whereas an Offensive creature (e.g., one with Swiftness) creature can easily be killed by your opponent before you draw Grimgaunt.

The final point to consider is that once you have a Level 2 (or 3) Grimgaunt on the board, everything changes. Your highest priorities are keeping your Grimgaunt alive and generating deaths to maximize the amount of havoc your Grimgaunt can wreck upon your opponent and her creatures. Cards like Grave Pact and Corpse Crawler become important because they can generate deaths before combat (and thus cause your Grimgaunt to trade more favorably with whatever blocks it). Additionally, removal spells (e.g., Cull the Weak) to take out blockers or Windcaller Shaman (to avoid blockers) are useful tools for keeping Grimgaunt alive. Finally, Offensive creatures in other lanes  can force your opponent to make difficult choices. If she ignores your Offensive creatures to deal with Grimgaunt then you get free damage on your opponent, whereas if she chooses to destroy your offensive creatures then your Grimgaunt gets bigger.

FIRST DILEMMA

In this dilemma, you are playing an Uterra/Nekrium Grimgaunt deck against an Uterra/Tempys Growth deck. (You can find the decklist for your deck on the supplemental information page.) You are player 1 and on Turn 4 you are faced with the following board position:

Module 18 Dilemma 1

FIRST ANALYSIS

In order to keep the Grimgaunt Devourer alive and to clear your opponent’s side of the board, it might be tempting to play Vengeful Spirit into Lane 4 and then Grave Pact to kill both the Vengeful Spirit and the Spring Dryad. This gives you three creature deaths (i.e., the Vengeful Spirit’s special ability will kill the Magma Hound, and allows you to hit your opponent with a 10/6 Grimgaunt.

The problem with this approach is that your opponent is quite likely to block and kill your Grimgaunt (e.g., with something like Echowisp, Deepbranch Prowler, or Wind Primordial). You would then begin your next turn with an empty board, which is a disaster if you were to draw Grimgaunt 2 on Turn 5. (Indeed, drawing a Grimgaunt 2 with an empty board is particularly bad since passing up the opportunity to level an additional Grimgaunt on Turn 4 gives you fewer chances to see Grimgaunt 2 during Player Level 2.) In my opinion, the risk of drawing Grimgaunt 2 on an empty board is not worth doing 10 damage to your opponent with Grimgaunt 1.

Therefore, I prefer to pass up the chance to do damage with my Grimgaunt 1 and instead work to maximize the chances that to crush my opponent with Grimgaunt 2. To do this, your first priority is to level-up the Grimgaunt Devourer in your hand.

By playing the Grimgaunt Devourer, you have at least a 31% chance of drawing a Grimgaunt 2 on Turn 5 (possibly more if you managed to level your third Grimgaunt on an earlier turn). I therefore recommend making the board as favorable as possible for a Turn 5 Grimgaunt 2 draw. This means not blocking the Magma Hound. If you block the Magma Hound, you save yourself 5 damage, but you also generate two deaths on your opponent’s turn – before you have a chance to draw Grimgaunt 2! Given that you still have plenty of life, I strongly recommend leaving the Hound unblocked.

Therefore, I recommend that you play Grimgaunt Devourer into Lane 1***, running combat and then playing Echowisp into Lanes 2 and 3. This leaves you with three creatures on the board: a 7/5 Grimgaunt 1 and two Echowisps. In the best case, your opponent sets up a trade with the Grimgaunt 1 and blocks an Echowisp with something like Hydra 1. If you draw Grimgaunt 2 on Turn 5 (and block Hound), this would give you five deaths, a 17/15 Grimgaunt 2 and an Offensive Echowisp! Even in the worst case where your opponent kills Grimgaunt 1 with Uranti Bolt, blocks one Echowisp with Magma Hound and uses Hound’s ability to kill the second wisp, you still get 4 deaths on your turn 5 and a 15/13 Grimgaunt 2. (Not bad for a worst case scenario.)

The other play that you might consider is to level-up your Corpse Crawler. Level 2/3 Corpse Crawlers can be quite difficult for certain decks to deal with and as such Corpse Crawler serves as an excellent alternative win condition in a Grimgaunt deck (for those games when you have bad luck drawing your Grimgaunts). However, in this match, you have the opportunity to level (at least) two Grimgaunt Devourers, therefore you have (at least) a 90% chance of drawing Grimgaunt 2 during Player Level 2. This means that if you can set up good board positions to maximize the impact of your Grimgaunt draws, then you are unlikely to need Corpse Crawlers to win this game. Additionally, Corpse Crawler is a low-depreciation card in a Grimgaunt deck. In many situations, drawing Corpse Crawler 1 with a Grimgaunt 2/3 on the board will not only put a decent-sized body into play, but also allow you to grow your Grimgaunt before combat. All else being equal, I might prefer having Corpse Crawler leveled over Echowisp, but it is close and the board position from the Echowisp play is much better.

SECOND DILEMMA

In this dilemma, you are playing a Tempys/Nekrium Grimgaunt deck against an Alloyin/Tempys stall deck. (You can find the decklist for your deck on the supplemental information page.) You are player 1 and on Turn 7 you are faced with the following board position:

Module 18 Dilemma 2

SECOND ANALYSIS

Your opponent looks to have a strong deck going into the Turn 9 reshuffle (at the very least it includes Scorchmane Dragon 3 and Forgeplate Sentry 3). Fortunately, you have a Grimgaunt Devourer 2 in play. You will definitely need to get good use out of this Grimgaunt because if you don’t, things have the potential to go downhill quite quickly during Player Level 3.

One option is to play Death Seeker into Lane 5, then Grave Pact the Forgeplate Sentry in Lane 1 (and sacrifice the Death Seeker). This generates three creature deaths to give you a 17/12 Grimgaunt Devourer in Lane 1. However, if you take this route, you will also need to Move your Wind Primordial into Lane 2 to trade with his Scorchmane Dragon. If you don’t make the Lane 2 trade, she Moves Scorchmane Dragon to Lane 1 on his turn and easily dispatches your Grimgaunt with Firestorm, Magma Hound, Uranti Bolt or – if you don’t draw removal text turn – virtually any blocker. Making the Lane 2 trade generates two more deaths and gives you a 21/16 Grimgaunt, which is excellent. Your opponent will need to spend at least two Level 2 cards to dispatch your Grimgaunt, and the only way the Grimgaunt dies on your opponent’s turn is if she draws both Uranti Bolt 2 and a Level 2 creature.

Also, note that although Uranti Bolt gives creatures the Defender status—which prevents them from initiating attacks—it does not stop them from using abilities like Move. Therefore, plays that involve Uranti Bolt on the Scorchmane Dragon don’t help you protect your Grimgaunt 2. (For example, a play like Uranti Bolt on the Scorchmane then sacrificing the Magma Hound to Grave Pact the Forgeplate.)

I definitely like the Death Seeker play; however, in this situation I have a slight preference for playing Windcaller Shaman. I believe the best Windcaller Shaman play is to Grave Pact (sacrificing the Magma Hound) to make the Scorchmane Dragon 4/4. Then play Windcaller Shaman into Lane 5 to Move Grimgaunt into Lane 4. This play only generates two creature deaths, and leaves you with a 15/13 Grimgaunt 2. However, this play does do 23 damage to your opponent this turn, leaving her at 33 Life. Additionally, this puts your opponent in a very bad position on her next turn. Unless she kills your Wind Primordial, she takes at least 10 additional damage on your turn, and 23 Life is extremely dangerous when you have a Wind Primordial 3 in your deck. If she does your kill your Wind Primordial, then barring a lucky Brightsteel Sentinel 2 she takes at least 17 damage on your turn (from Grimgaunt). Even if she does draw Brightsteel 2 along with another card that can kill Wind Primordial, the Brightsteel only has 4 Health after blocking your Grimgaunt and so you have many Turn 8 draws (e.g., Magma Hound 2, or any Grave Pact or Uranti Bolt) that would allow you to dispatch the Brightsteel and get your opponent below 16 Life.

Overall, I think that both the Death Seeker play and the Windcaller play described above are quite strong. However, given that your opponent will be drawing from an extremely strong deck during Player Level 3, I would recommend playing Short and making the play that maximizes the chances that your opponent is below 20 life before she gets a chance to draw her powerful Level 3 cards.

FINAL THOUGHT

Decks built around Grimgaunt Devourer can be quite strong, but they take some practice to play well. With online play coming to PC next week, now is a great time to hone your Grimgaunt technique. I am the wrong person to ask which faction is the best complement to Nekrium when it comes to winning with Grimgaunt. Fortunately, online play should provide a great venue for experimenting with different decklists and getting the most out of your Devourer.

As a final thought, consider if it were Turn 3 instead of Turn 4 in the first Dilemma. A key reason that I recommend the Echowisp play in the first Dilemma is because you want to set up the board to take advantage of a possible Grimgaunt 2 draw next turn. However, if it is Turn 3, then any Echowisps you play are likely to be dead before a Grimgaunt 2 appears. Similarly, there is little reason to leave Magma Hound alive if you have no chance of drawing Grimgaunt 2 next turn. In that situation, is Echowisp still a strong play? Are you better off leveling up the Corpse Crawler? Or does it make sense to level Grave Pact and save your lane 2 Grimgaunt 1?

I encourage you to discuss the Final Thought in the comments, as well as to debate my analysis of the dilemmas. Until next time, I am the Noetherian and these are the SolForge Modules.

FOOTNOTES:

*: After four or five deaths, Grimgaunt 2 can be killed by Nekrium creature removal (Cull the Weak 2, Blight Walker 2, or Scourgeflame Sorcerer 2) and if it is Offensive it trades evenly with Brightsteel 2. No other Level 2 card in the current card pool can eliminate a Grimgaunt 2 once it reaches 13 Health.

**: By ‘Double-Blocking’ I mean playing a creature across from the Grimgaunt before combat, then running combat, and finally playing a second creature across from the Grimgaunt after combat.

***: I have a very slight preference for Grimgaunt into Lane 1 instead of Lane 5, but that’s a subject for a future Module.

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