Wednesday , 28 June 2017
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The Bracket: Some Drafting Errors

Okay, so the world of competitive SolForge is starting to get rumbling again, so this column will start to get moving again as well.  The First Forge Watch Invitational was a huge success, so after some lengthy discussions amongst ourselves, some consultations with SBE, and some lengthy nap times, we’ve decided to do it again!   Details about the invitational can be found here; here details about the tournament series, which will earn you invites to the invitational.  The first qualifying tournament is February 15; sign-ups will start next week, but it’s never too early to start thinking about your decks!

Also, last week saw the first major Unheroic Tournament since the patch.  Congratulations to SilverTail on an impressive victory.  From a metagame perspective, Tarsus Deathweaver decks were clearly dominant.  Only time will tell if another deck will arise to defeat it, or if Tarsus is simply master of the unheroic format in the current card pool.

Okay, enough with the Spring Cleaning, let’s talk about draft.  I’ve been playing a lot of draft, and I’ve noticed my opponents making the same three mistakes over and over again.  So, in case any of you happen to be reading this column,  I thought I might try to offer some constructive criticism.  I’ll call those three mistakes:

  • Too Much of a Good Thing
  • Stallin’ for Nothin’
  • Limpin’ Outta the Gate

Read More »

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 »

Bracket #19: In Which I Attempt to Shake-Up the Metagame

I’m tired of writing up column after column describing the latest Shaper-dominated decks in SolForge Tournaments.  Until this past weekend, it seemed that the metagame was slowly evolving away from them… unfortunately, from that perspective, we just took a large step backwards.  (More on that later.)

So with that in mind, let’s talk about how to beat Shaper decks.  Hopefully, that might inspire some of you to play something else in the next few tournaments.

Read More »

Bracket #18: Success Isn’t Necessarily Legendary

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. 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 »

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.

Bracket #11: It’s ALIVE! The Tournament Scene is ALIVE!

On Saturday, Forgewatch hosted the first live, public SolForge Tournament ever.  The gods themselves surely took notice!

The Set-Up

Here’s how it worked: games were hosted by one of the players, who would enter the other player’s deck into their own client and then play against an “Offline Friend” while their opponent called out their own moves over Skype.  This system works quite well; if you haven’t played a game like this yet, you can find people willing to accept challenges over on the Steam SolForge Community Group.  Each match was best two games out of three, and a player was not eliminated from the tournament as a whole until they had lost two matches.  Grimgaunt Devourer and Rageborn Hellion were both banned.

Given that Hellion and Grimgaunt were banned, and that the client is using the old versions of Uterran Packmaster (which was relatively weak) and Sonic Pulse (which was relatively strong), I fully expected Stall decks to dominate this tournament.  And apparently I wasn’t alone in that assessment—nine of the thirteen people (70%) who entered this tournament played some kind of Stall deck.  (Full decklists are available here.)  All nine of those decks played Alloyin and included Scrapforge Titan and Synapsis Oracle, eight of them used Technosmith, and seven of them used Sonic Pulse.  As for their second factions, six of them chose Nekrium.  Epidemic was an oft-used card in this tournament, as were Cull the Weak, Grave Pact, Vengeful Spirit, and Scourgeflame Sorcerer.  Meanwhile Nekrium’s best bomb, Corpse Crawler, only appeared in two of those decks.  Clearly Nekrium was preferred because of its creature removal, not because of its creatures. Read More »

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.

Forging the Deck #8: Deck-Builder Celebration Stream

On Monday, six of the Forge Watch staff gathered together to celebrate the launch of SolForge’s new deck-builder live on stream.  We each built a deck and paired off for three really fun (for us, anyway) matches.  You can watch that stream below, but more importantly, you can see the decks we played as well!  The video will have explanations on the purpose behind each deck and how you might play them. The decks weren’t meant to be the very best, but rather a representation of a few of the different popular deck types from our experience.  We hope you enjoy them!

Noetherian’s Nekrium/Tempys Deck

Creatures:
3x Grimgaunt Devourer
3x Corpse Crawler
3x Death Seeker
3x Magma Hound
3x Windcaller Shaman
3x Wind Primordial
3x Flameshaper Acolyte

Spells:
3x Cull the Weak
3x Grave Pact
3x Uranti Bolt

Raidrinn’s Nekrium/Uterra Deck

Creatures:
3x Grimgaunt Devourer
3x Scourgeflame Sorcerer
3x Corpse Crawler
3x Death Seeker
3x Vengeful Spirit
3x Spring Dryad
3x Echowisp
3x Grove Huntress

Spells:
3x Cull the Weak
2x Grave Pact
1x Soothing Radiance

Racecar0’s Tempys/Nekrium Deck

Creatures:
3x Flamestoke Shaman
3x Cinderfist Brawler
3x Ashurian Mystic
3x Riftlasher
3x Windcaller Shaman
3x Flameblade Champion
3x Air Spirit
2x Magma Hound

Spells:
3x Uranti Bolt
2x Cull the Weak
2x Firestorm

Hoywolf’s Alloyin/Nekrium Deck

Creatures:
3x Brightsteel Sentinel
3x Forgeplate Sentry
3x Ionic Warcharger
3x Matrix Warden
3x Spark Bot
3x Scrapforge Titan
2x Synapsis Oracle

Spells:
3x Sonic Pulse
2x Tech Upgrade
3x Cull the Weak
2x Hungering Strike

SeomanReborn’s Alloyin/Tempys Deck

Creatures:
3x Synapsis Oracle
3x Scorchmane Dragon
3x Magma Hound
3x Brightsteel Sentinel
3x Ionic Warcharger
3x Windcaller Shaman
2x Alloyin General
2x Scrapforge Titan
2x Forgeplate Sentry

Spells:
3x Uranti Bolt
2x Sonic Pulse
1x Firestorm

grim2103’s Tempys/Uterra Deck

Creatures:
3x Rageborn Hellion
3x Wind Primordial
3x Rumbling Earthshaker
3x Deepbranch Prowler
3x Echowisp
3x Spring Dryad
3x Ashurian Mystic
3x Windcaller Shaman
3x Cinderfist Brawler

Spells:
3x Enrage

Stream


Watch live video from forgewatch on TwitchTV

Module #17: To Stall or Not To Stall

In Module #6, we discussed how uneven creature trades could be used to generate Card Advantage. Today, we discuss even creature trades. Typically, it is clear who benefits from an uneven creature trade (i.e., the player with the creature left standing), it is much less obvious which player benefits from an even exchange of creatures.*

For simplicity, we restrict our attention to perfectly even, one-card for one-card trades. That is, I spend one of my cards to completely counteract (or destroy) one of my opponent’s cards and obtain no other benefit. For example, consider a situation where my opponent has a Bonescythe Reaver 1 on the board and I block it with a Wind Primordial 1. The expected outcome is that  both creatures die and so I have counteracted one of my opponent’s plays with one of my own. Such plays have no effect on the relative card advantage of the players. They serve only to protect the life totals of both players and to move the game one step closer to the next reshuffle. That is, even creature trades extend the game.**

At any point in a SolForge game, there is one player who is more likely to win if the game goes long. A player who, based on the cards she has played, will have the stronger deck going into the future reshuffles. That player’s opponent expects to lose the game the game unless he can find a way to end things quickly. Let us call these players the “Long Player” and the “Short Player” for convenience. Even card trades prolong the game and benefit the Long Player. If you are the Short Player, you should avoid even trades and seek out plays that reduce your opponent’s life, even at the cost of your own life. (This general concept is likely familiar to players of Magic or other TCGs, but plays out somewhat differently in SolForge due to the evolution in deck composition due to card leveling.***)

Most new SolForge players find it easier to play as the Long Player than as the Short Player.  When given the chance to take 10 damage in order to deal 8 damage to your opponent, it is natural to see this as a bad option. Indeed, this is quite often a bad option. However, if you are the Short Player, you should seriously consider making this play because you probably don’t have the time to wait for a better option to come along.

One aspect that makes SolForge particularly difficult to play well is that the identity of the Long Player (and the Short Player) will often change over the course of the game. In particular, whether you are the Long Player depends not only on the deck you are playing but also what cards you have leveled. Therefore, you will have games where you play cards early on that are strong at Level 3, and quickly fall into the role of Long Player. However, as you and your opponent play cards in the coming turns the composition of your deck changes and you need to be prepared to re-evaluate. In particular, notice that playing a Level 3 card does not improve your deck. Therefore, once the key cards in your deck are Level 3, there is a good chance that your opponent’s deck is improving faster than yours (that is, you are the Short Player or will be soon). In Module #5, I provide a concrete example of a game that I lost by missing an inflection point where I transitioned from being the Long Player to being the Short Player. (In the game in question, at the inflection point, I didn’t adjust my play appropriately and I lost the game.) Additionally, I discuss these Long/Short inflection points in general terms within Module #12 (on playing slow decks) and Module #13 (on playing fast decks).

FIRST DILEMMA

Today’s dilemma comes from a game in Community Tournament 5. You are playing a Nekrium/Tempys deck against your opponent’s Alloyin/Uterra deck. Decklists for these decks can be found on this supplemental page. (The supplemental page also includes information on what cards each player has leveled). You are the second player, and on Turn 7 you are faced with the following board position:

Module 17 Dilemma 1

FIRST ANALYSIS

In this scenario, it is somewhat difficult to determine who is the Short Player and who is the Long Player. Currently, you have Grimgaunt Devourer 3 in your deck and have the opportunity to produce a Corpse Crawler 3 and a Rageborn Hellion 3 with your current draw. Your opponent’s only Level 3 cards are Munitions Drone 3 and Matrix Warden 3, and so at the moment you appear to have the stronger deck going into the Turn 9 reshuffle. However, your opponent has five Level 2 cards remaining in her 15-card deck.  These Level 2 cards include Forgeplate Sentry, Brightsteel Sentinel and Scrapforge Titan; all of which are powerful cards in their own right and are particularly scary in a deck containing Matrix Warden 3 and Munitions Drone 3. If your opponent fails to draw any of these three cards on Turn 8, then it is probably safe for you to act as the Long Player (although you should be ready to reassess come turn 11 or so, based on your opponent’s draws). However, there is roughly a 75% that your opponent draws one (or more) of Forgeplate, Brightsteel, and Scrapforge, and in that case your opponent’s deck starts to look quite scary going into the reshuffle. Therefore, my advise in this situation is to play as though you are the Short Player, even though you don’t know precisely how strong your opponent’s deck will be during Player Level 3.

The key question in this scenario is whether you want to play your Corpse Crawler into Lane 4 to produce an even trade with your opponent’s Matrix Warden.  Your best play that involves blocking the Matrix Warden is probably to put Rageborn Hellion 2 into Lane 2, run combat and then play Corpse Crawler into Lane 4, sacrificing the wounded Windcaller Shaman in Lane 1. (Playing Cull the Weak on the Ionic Warcharger is also quite reasonable. Removing the Warcharger is valuable, especially since your opponent has two Brightsteel Sentinels in her deck, but the Hellion 3 is more likely to be useful late-game than the Cull the Weak 2.)  However, an even trade in Lane 4 benefits the Long Player, and so if you are playing Short, you should look for other attractive options.

I believe the best play that does not involve blocking the Matrix Warden is to put Rageborn Hellion 2 into Lane 5, run combat and then play Corpse Crawler into Lane 2 (sacrificing the wounded Windcaller Shaman in Lane 1). Assuming your opponent doesn’t draw Cull the Weak 2 or Brightsteel Sentinel 2, she most likely moves Warcharger into Lane 3, and play creatures into Lanes 3 and 5. (Setting up your Grimgaunt and perhaps your Hellion to die).  This leaves you with a full-health unblocked Crawler in Lane 2 (which will get a Hellion trigger when it attacks next turn!).  If she draws Cull 2, she kills your Grimgaunt, damages your Crawler with Warcharger and blocks your Hellion. In this case, your unblocked Crawler is at low-life, but still set up to do damage and get a Hellion trigger. The only situation where you may regret this play is if she draws Brightsteel Sentinel (which allows her to kill your Grimgaunt with Warcharger and still block both your creatures in both Lanes 2 and 5).

Note: I have a slight preference for Corpse Crawler into Lane 2 and Hellion in Lane 5,  instead of the reverse, because your opponent is very likely to move her Warcharger into Lane 3 (if she doesn’t draw the Cull she has no way to kill your Grimgaunt with a single card). Given that a full-health Corpse Crawler is a bit more problematic for my opponent than a full-health Rageborn Hellion, I like playing the Corpse Crawler into Lane 2 and letting the Hellion take the 4 damage. Note that with 8 Health the Hellion still trades favorably with any Level 1 creature. The wounded Hellion trades unfavorably with some Level 2 creatures (e.g., Forgeplate 2 or Titan 2) but this is true even at full health.

Leaving the Warden unblocked causes you to take 16 damage between now and your next turn. Trading the Warden for the Corpse Crawler causes you to take 12 damage before your next turn (you need to play the Corpse Crawler after combat or else the Munitions Drone becomes a serious problem for you). For most opposing draws, you pay 4 life and get a dangerous, unblocked Level 2 creature on the board in exchange for leaving his Warden alive. This is a good exchange if you are the short player. Additionally, if your opponent draws poorly and is unable to set up both your Grimgaunt and your Hellion to die, then you enter the turn 9 reshuffle with a dominant board position and are extremely likely to win the game.

SECOND DILEMMA

This dilemma also comes from Community Tournament 5. You are playing a Tempys deck against your opponent’s Alloyin deck. Decklists for these decks can be found on this supplemental page. You are the second player, and on Turn 2 you are faced with the following board position:

Module 17 Dilemma 2

SECOND ANALYSIS

So given that your opponent already has a Synapsis Oracle and two Brightsteel Sentinels leveled-up, it seems pretty clear that you are currently the Short Player. That is, your focus should be on doing damage to your opponent and ensuring that the game ends quickly.

The most obvious way to do damage to your opponent is to play Lightning Wyrm. However, given the deck your opponent is playing, she is likely to block with something like Synapsis Oracle, Spark Bot, or Ionic Warcharger in order to gain card advantage. Given that your opponent is still at 100 life, I think 4 damage is too small a benefit to give up a bit of card advantage early game. (In particular, your deck should have no trouble converting early-game card advantage to damage and so, as the Short Player, I like playing for card advantage in these situations.) Also note that Lightning Wyrm is most useful in this deck to trigger Rageborn Hellion or to close out the game later on, and it doesn’t need to be leveled-up in order to serve those roles. (A similar argument can be made against playing Uranti Bolt to kill the Lane 5 Brightsteel Sentinel. Even as the Short Player you don’t want to give your opponent card advantage for a small amount of early-game damage.)

Another tempting play is to use Uranti Bolt to kill the Synapsis Oracle before it can activate its ability to level an extra card. In many situations, it is valuable to kill creatures with powerful activated abilities (such a Oracle) before they get a chance to activate them. However, in this situation, I don’t like the Uranti Bolt play for several reasons. First, Uranti Bolt 1 is a low-depreciation card. Even a Level 1 Uranti Bolt can be useful late game if its special ability stops a Brightsteel Sentinel 3 or a Scrapforge Titan 3 from attacking and buys you an extra turn to draw the Ashurian Mystic 3 you need to close out the game. Second, Uranti Bolt is not very useful in this match-up. Your opponent’s deck is full of creatures like Forgeplate Sentry, Brightsteel Sentry, and Spark Bot (and others) that have more than 9 Health at Level 2. Leveling Uranti Bolt is much more useful if your opponent’s deck has Level 2 creatures that trade evenly with Uranti Bolt. Finally, and most importantly, you are the Short Player and you need the game to be over quickly. Your deck has no good answers to Brightsteel Sentinel 3 and Synapsis Oracle 3. Therefore, if the game goes too long, you are in serious trouble regardless of whether your opponent gets to use her Oracle to level-up an extra card.

Instead, Lane 4 is currently set-up to trade favorably**** and therefore I would focus your attention on setting up uneven trades or playing threats in other lanes.  Therefore, I recommend playing Wind Primordial into Lane 3 and Cinderfist Brawler into Lane 1. As the Short Player, blocking a Defensive Brightsteel Sentinel is unattractive (with a little luck you can kill off the wounded Lane 5 Brightsteel with Magma Hound next turn). In this situation, I would be happy to leave the Lane 1 Brightsteel unblocked if I didn’t have a creature that could trade favorably with it (e.g., if I had drawn a second Wind Primordial instead of a Cinderfist Brawler). However, since you have a favorable trade available, there is little reason to take the 8 damage from leaving the Lane 1 Brightsteel unblocked.

FINAL THOUGHT

Determining when you are the Long Player or the Short Player is often quite difficult, especially in games with inflection points that cause you to transition from one role to the other. That being said, knowing whether you are the Long Player or the Short Player is of little use unless you can play appropriately in either role. Hopefully, the above dilemmas provided a bit of insight on how being the Short Player affects gameplay decisions. I will be sure to include dilemmas in future columns in which you must play as the Long Player.

As a final thought, consider if you had drawn Flameblade Champion instead of Lightning Wyrm in the Second Dilemma. Flameblade Champion isn’t a good choice to block the Offensive Brightsteel Sentinel in Lane 1, but you could play it instead of the Wind Primordial (either into Lane 3 or Lane 5). Alternatively, if you like leveling-up your Wind Primordial, you could consider something like Flameblade Champion into Lane 5 and Wind Primordial into Lane 2. How do these plays compare with the Cinderfist Brawler + Wind Primordial play that I discussed in the analysis? Is it better to play Flameblade into Lane 3 to keep it at full health, or Lane 5 to ensure you can make use of Windcaller Shaman next turn? Does the fact that you drew two Uranti Bolts this turn affect your decision of whether (or where) to play the Flameblade Champion?

I encourage you to discuss the Final Thought in the comments, as well as to debate my analysis of the dilemmas. If you are new to the column, I highly recommend Module #6: Card Advantage and Module #10: Basics of Blocking. Until next time, I am the Noetherian and these are the SolForge Modules.

FOOTNOTES:

*: Long time readers of this column will recall that this is a topic that was discussed previously. That is,  the topic of even creature trades was discussed in Module #3. However, Module #3 predates the change from 40-card decks to 30-cards, and used the ancient GenCon Demo decks. I believe that these columns are no longer helpful to new players of SolForge. (Indeed, many current players are completely unaware that the GenCon demo ever existed.)  I have, thus, gone back and marked the three columns from the era of 40-card decks as ‘Obsolete’ and I will no longer be linking to those columns. The primary purpose of this week’s column is to move the important information from Module #3 into a column that is more accessible to current SolForge players.

**: For the purposes of this column, we will call a trade ‘even’ regardless of the levels of the cards involved. However, all else being equal, it is generally somewhat advantageous to trade a lower-level card for your opponent’s higher-level card. Typically, you and your opponent will expect to draw the same number of Level 2 cards during a given player level. Therefore, if you can spend a Level 1 card to counteract your opponent’s Level 2 card, you will often be able to generate an advantageous board position.

***: Mike Flores wrote a classic article on a related concept back in 2001: Who’s the Beatdown. In his article, Flores focuses on the importance of identifying which player benefits from a long game in Magic match-ups between similar styles of decks. In particular, matches where both decks are built to play aggressive. The key difference between what Flores discusses for Magic and what I discuss for SolForge is that in Magic, the identity of the “beatdown” (i.e., the Short Player) can be determined with near certainty based on deck composition and is fixed for the duration of the game. Whereas in SolForge, it is very common for the identity of the Short Player to be different in two matches depending on which cards are leveled, and more importantly, it is common for the identity of the Short player to change over time within a given match! For this reason, I prefer not to use Flores’ terminology, as some Magic players tend to associate that term with concepts such as “does this aggro deck win a race with this other aggro deck” which don’t translate directly to SolForge.

****: Obviously, your opponent could play a spell or a structure such as Ferocious Roar or Fangwood Field  to thwart your uneven trade in Lane 4. However, if she plays spells or structures, then she isn’t blocking your creatures and your will get damage through, which as the Short Player is perfectly fine outcome.

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