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Author Topic: Book Archetype Primer: Aggro  (Read 11931 times)

reddawn

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Book Archetype Primer: Aggro
« on: March 30, 2013, 11:54:51 AM »
While there has been some "in general" discussions about the different book (deck) archetypes, I'd like to delve deeper into what makes each strategy tick in MW.  This is the first of a series of articles I plan to release and refine as my experience with the game becomes stronger.  Mage Wars has a lot to offer strategically and tactically in terms of book construction and actual play, but with that kind of depth comes a steep learning curve; my goal here is to attempt to make the learning process faster and more coherent for players who want to get into the finer points of competitive play.  That being said, this is a work in progress, but my hope is by releasing it to the community, we can create the kind of strategic foundation Mage Wars deserves.

Let's start with the arguably the most straightforward archetype; Aggro.  

The goal of an aggro book is to kill the opposing mage as quickly and efficiently as possible.  In an aggro (aggressive) book, you aren't looking to build a large mana advantage that you can leverage later in the game for lots of huge creatures or other expensive spells; you want to end the game as early as you can and, when possible, prevent your opponent from building up any kind of lasting advantage.  Your goal is to keep the game in its early stages, where your book's density of efficient creatures and spells can overwhelm your opponent.

An aggro deck should empty its initial starting mana very quickly in order to put pressure on its opponent as fast as possible.  The most efficient way to do this is by initially summoning very powerful threats then supporting them over the course of the game with smaller ones; here's some typical aggro opening for each mage:

Warlock:

-Turn 1 Enchanter's Ring/Ring of Curses + move twice (17 mana), Turn 2 Adramelech, Lord of Fire + Nullify on the Lord (0-1 mana)

-Turn 1 Goran, Werewolf Pet (4 mana), Turn 2 Dark Pact Slayer (Bloodreaper) (0 mana)

Priestess:

-Turn 1 Brogan Bloodstone (5 mana), Turn 2 Highland Unicorn + Divine Protection (0 mana)  

-Turn 1 Asyran Defender + Crown of Protection (11 mana), Turn 2 Valshalla, Lightning Angel (0 mana)

-Turn 1 Hand of Bim-Shalla, move twice, Turn 2 Samandriel, Angel of Light + Crown of Protection

Beastmaster:

-Turn 1 Ring of Beasts + Thunderift Falcon (12 mana), Turn 2 Steelclaw Grizzly (Pet) (0 mana)

-Turn 1 Ring of Beasts + Redclaw Alpha Male (2 mana), Turn 2 Timber Wolf (Pet) (0 mana), Turn 3 Bitterwood Fox + Bitterwood Fox (0 mana)

Warlord:

-Turn 1 Sir Corazin (3 mana), Turn 2 Garrison Post + Orc Butcher (0 mana)

-Turn 1 Dwarf Kriegsbiel (8 mana), Turn 2 Thorg, Chief Bodyguard (0 mana)

Forcemaster:

-Turn 1 Force Ring +Invisible Stalker (3 mana), Turn 2 Dancing Scimitar + Psi Orb (1 mana)

Wizard:

-Turn 1 Darkfenne Hydra + Enchanter's Ring (2 mana), Turn 2 Cheetah Speed on Hydra + Reveal Cheetah Speed + Blue Gremlin (1 mana)


As you can tell, the goal is to get as much board presence possible within the shortest amount of actions.  This is why we use very large creatures at first; it gives us that powerful start that really defines an aggro book.

Okay, so you have some haymaker guys out!  Chances are, however, your opponent isn't just sitting there...you need ways to make sure each of your guys really hits hard and protect them as well.  Here are some keywords a good aggro book should be on the look out for in order to augment their starting forces for success:

Melee +X: The main way you'll be increasing your effectiveness in battle in aggressive books is through increasing the power of you and/or your creatures' melee attacks.  There are a lot of effects that give the Melee +X bonus and in varying ways, which are too numerous to list here, but I can suggest a general rule when it comes to buffing friendly creatures; for more expensive creatures and your own mage, use persistent effects like enchantments (Bear Strength being the "go-to" choice) and equipment (each mage has a respective weapon or two), while I suggest using temporary effects like incantations for cheaper creatures, such as the various "command" subtype of War incantation spells like Power Strike, Piercing Strike or Call of the Wild (for the Beastmaster), etc.  The reasoning behind this is simple; bigger creatures last longer, so the additional investment for the enchantments/equipments will usually pay off while smaller creatures don't survive as long, so a 2-3 mana buff for a turn will usually suffice.

This isn't to say it's necessarily a bad idea to give a big creature a temporary buff; a Whirling Strike at the right moment, for example, can be extremely powerful when used on something like a Steelclaw Grizzly or Dark Pact Slayer, or even your mage.  In general, however, you want to save your long-lasting or more powerful effects for your larger creatures, and support your smaller ones with shorter effects.

Piercing +X: Armor is one of the main enemies of an aggro book; understandably, it's a very straightforward way of mitigating damage, since it requires the attacker to roll critical damage to be effective.  The best way for aggro to approach dealing with armor is to use creatures that naturally have piercing, such as a Dark Pact Slayer or Malacoda (Warlock), Blue Gremlin (Wizard), Brogan Bloodstone (Priestess), Steelclaw Grizzly (Beastmaster), etc.  Alternatively, if your book has the correct support, your mage can use other spelltypes; conjurations like Tooth and Nail (Beastmaster), Sacrificial Altar (Warlock), equipment like Sectarus, Dark Rune Sword (Warlock), or incantations like Piercing Strike and Vampiric Strike in particular all help towards getting around armor and remaining aggressive.

Unavoidable: Defenses are a good way to make aggro books lose actions; put frankly, you don't want to have to deal with a ~50% chance to miss every round.  If you suspect enchantments like Block or Reverse Attack or Cobra Reflexes, or you're simply battling defensive powerhouses like Knight of Westlock and others that have a natural defense, back up your attacks with cards like Falcon Precision, Perfect Strike, or Sniper Shot.  This way, even if the hidden enchantment on your target is a Decoy, you're not losing potential attacks and attack spells and at worst, your opponent spent an action and a card to make you spend an action and a card (Decoy for Falcon Precision, etc).  There are very few spells that can stop an unavoidable attack cold (Helm of Fear and Forcefield are the only two I believe), so they're usually a safe bet is you suspect Arcane or Mind school trickery.

Elusive: Now we come to an aggro book's other main concern; guards.  Guards prevent you from getting to key conjurations or creatures you need to destroy in a zone, most prominently the opposing mage.  Elusive creatures or spells that give the Elusive trait, such as Mongoose Agility or Evade are great ways to ignore guards and get your actions and attacks where they need to be.  Elusive also prevents hindering, so you're much freer to move around the board as you choose.  I personally like Cervere, Forest Shadow when playing Beastmaster, since he is Elusive, has a nice defense, and is Fast, which leads us to our next keyword.

Fast: A creature with the Fast trait has the ability to take two move actions then take another non-move quick action.  Most of the time, you'll use this quick action as a quick attack.  What this means is that your Fast creature will be able to move two zones and attack, making it very difficult to escape from it due to how hindering works (when applicable).  Now, fast creatures themselves can still be hindered as normal (unless they're Elusive, like Cervere), which could very well end a creature's movement prematurely, so you'll still have to be wary of opposing creatures or conjurations like Mangler Caltrops that are tactically placed...but overall, the Fast trait is a great boon.

Flying: Dedicated aggro books should try to compliment their ground forces with a couple cheap flying options, like the Darkfenne Bat or Thunderift Falcon.  While they aren't pound-for-pound as cost effective as say a Firebrand Imp, Goblin Grunt, or Feral Bobcat in terms of dice and/or health, they're difficult to profitably interact with.  Used correctly, your opponent will have to spend more mana than he or she would like summoning creatures with ranged attacks, casting equipment with reach or range, or their own flying creatures.  This is important because it helps you force your opponent to play on your terms and keep them from casting things that they could need to help further their own strategy, like mana conjurations and such.

Summoning a flier or two also helps "test the waters" against a book you don't really know much about.  If you cast a flier and your opponent doesn't respond soon with something that addresses it, like a Goblin Slinger or other relatively expensive commitment, that could be a good sign his or her book is not prepared for a flying rush, and thus a good opportunity for you to press the advantage with more fliers, and possibly earn you an earlier win or concession.

Multiple Strikes: Creatures with Doublestrike or Triplestrike not only roll a lot of dice on a target, but with how combat works, can ensure that those creatures get damage on something even if it has a defense.  This is due to the fact that only a single defense can be used per strike, but multiple strikes can still occur.  What this means is that creatures like Goran, Werewolf Pet, Darkfenne Hydra, Ludwig Boltstorm, and other with multiple strikes don't have to worry about their entire attack getting avoided, even  without making that attack unavoidable.    

Sweeping: While not very common, the Sweeping trait is yet another ability that lets you get around guards--this time, by removing them through attacking.  This is because (for those unaware) a creature loses its guard marker after it is attacked.  While often a good defensive trait as well since it addresses multiple attackers, sweeping also works as an offensive trait if you're dealing with multiple guards, since it gives you two attacks for the price of one (usually, as a full action) which translates into removing two guard markers.  This frees up your other creatures or mage to strike at vulnerable creatures or objects.  Creatures with attacks that have the Sweeping trait include Adramelech, Lord of Fire, Dwarf Kriegsbiel, Selesius, the East Wind, etc.  There are also other cards like the Warlord's hammer that give Sweeping to his attack, as well as Whirling Strike, which is kind of like an even better version of sweeping for a price.

As a side note, be sure to support your creature or creatures with Sweeping attacks.  Creatures with this trait are generally very expensive and while they usually have lots of armor and health, if you plan on using Sweeping aggressively against guards and not just conjurations, you should make sure to heal them liberally, or perhaps give them their melee attacks the Vampiric trait so they can heal while they do their job, leading us to...

Vampiric:  The Vampiric trait ties in most of what we discussed previously, because its effectiveness, how much you heal, is based on how much damage your mage and/or creatures are dealing and thus how aggressive you are.  Spells like Vampirism, Vampiric Strike, and the Warlock's Bloodreaper ability depend on you being very dedicated to dealing a lot of damage to your opponent in melee each round, as you only heal 1 point of damage per 2 points of melee damage, though dice results are rounded up.  Whereas most middle-of-the-road or control books will rely on straightforward healing spells that heal for a set amount per card, truly aggressive books that invest heavily into increasing their dice count are rewarded with the ability to continually heal off of a single Vampiric effect rather than need multiple healing cards over the course of the game.  The Vampiric trait also allows aggressive books to keep momentum, making it difficult to remove their threats as they heal over and over, all while attacking.

Elemental Attacks/Spells: Though each elemental school has its uses for attacking in general (not so much water at the moment, that will come in the next expansion), the main elements you will be looking to include in an aggro book are Fire and the Lightning subclass of Air attack spells.  First, Fire provides you with pure damage; Fire spells roll the most dice for their cost and have a chance to roll even more damage later through burns.  Fire attacks should be your go-to against vulnerable targets and your preferred way of dealing as much damage as possible to the enemy mage.  Lightning attacks serve a separate purpose; unlike fire spells, they allow you to interact with ethereal things, which are often problematic for the focused goal of the aggro book.  Lightning attacks also tend to have bonuses against heavily armored creatures like knights or dwarves or the Iron Golem.  Lightning can also inflict Daze, making later Fire or melee attacks have a higher chance to hit against a defense.  Finally, this combination of schools gives an aggro book the highest density of efficient, unavoidable attack spells; you won't have to invest nearly as much time or resources making sure your attacks actually go through defenses, because most of the time it's guaranteed.

Counterspells: Competent opponents will know how to defend against an aggro book and with how focused aggro books are on the early game, losing any momentum at all can prevent you from finishing off the opposing mage when you really need to.  Spells like Nullify, Jinx, Block and Mind Shield can be integral to preserving your early game dominance, preventing the opposing mage from destroying key equipment, enchantments, mortally wounding important creatures, or using powerful psychic spells like Sleep, Mind Control or Charm to make you waste actions or worse, render your mage or key creatures ineffective.  They're very cost-effective ways to ensure you start the game strong and I recommend that you cast one or two during the very beginning rounds of the game when you're summoning your initial retinue of creatures, equipment, and enchantments.      


Other Considerations:

Rings: Every mage needs a way to cast their spells easier, but aggro decks can't really afford to be dropping Mana Crystals and Mana Flowers at expensive prices, or potentially waste time and resources protecting the zones they're cast in.  These conjurations provide a general boost in channeling, which is not something a very focused book-type like Aggro really needs.  Rings are much more preferable; while narrower in the scope of what they help you cast, they are far cheaper and get the job done just as well for the purposes of aggression.  Examples include Ring of Beasts, Ring of Curses, Force Ring, Ring of Command, etc.

On this same note, it is very important that for your aggro books, you are keeping the mana cost of your spells as low as possible because of how fast you burn through your initial mana.  In general, very expensive spells are the meant more for control books, wherein it makes sense to use a more expensive spell that might have more range, maybe an extra interesting effect, something that affects an entire zone, etc because you are not burning through your initial extra mana nearly as quickly.  As a rule, I heavily restrict the amount of spells I put into my aggro books that have a mana cost that exceeds my mage's initial channeling.  Aggro books simply cannot afford to keep casting successive expensive spells.  

For example, if you have a choice between including in your book a Ring of Fire (9 mana) versus a Firestorm (11 mana) in a Warlock aggro book, go with the Ring of Fire.  You are reliably going to be in melee for a good portion of the game, so the range isn't an issue, and they both roll the same number of dice.


 I'd appreciate any feedback, thoughts, and criticisms  I hope this helps people get a better take on aggro books!

Content Edits:

-Added two sections, one on counterspells and the other on flying

-Added a section on aggro openings for each mage
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DarthDadaD20

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Re: Book Archetype Primer: Aggro
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2013, 01:52:11 PM »
Very good read. This is done well, great job!
The only thing I could think of adding is conditions as a problem for aggro decks to watch out for.
Conditions stacked on your main creature or mage, can really slow aggro down, and slowing aggro down so that you can get to the next stage of your game is the best way to beat aggro...if I am playing control for example, stalling you until the last stage of your game is were aggro really falters, and in control that is the stage were control will win. (Im playing a control archetype with forcemaster right now, and if I get the warlock in the "Late stages" of the game, Im going to win.)

Also. It is mentioned throughout this article, but it might be worth at the beginning just making it clear, that a aggro mage should be using its quick cast action for equipment,buffs, damage effects,and countering. While using the full round action to move and attack. You state it well throughout here, but to give some one who is new a "This is what you do" kind of paragraph, is worth a thought.

Again, great job, it was a very enjoyable read.
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Within Shad0w.

Tim

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Re: Book Archetype Primer: Aggro
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2013, 02:03:49 PM »
Great write-up!

Tacullu64

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Re: Book Archetype Primer: Aggro
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2013, 02:20:29 PM »
Good job, easy to read despite its length.

You mention that you are starting with the most straight forward archetype aggro but don't mention the others. What are they?

sdougla2

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Re: Book Archetype Primer: Aggro
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2013, 02:37:55 PM »
Nice write-up.

My main quibble is with temporary buffs vs long term buffs. Long term buffs are much more efficient on more durable creatures, I agree with you there, but it doesn't necessarily follow that you should use temporary buffs on small creatures. In particular, Battle Fury and Whirling Strike are best used on powerful creatures. Using one of those on a Blue Gremlin is a waste, while using it on the Lord of Fire is quite powerful.

The other thing is that Hurl Boulder actually rolls more dice than a similar fire spell, but fire spells can inflict burn, so that's something of a wash. Where Hurl Boulder really wins out is against elemental resistance.
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reddawn

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Re: Book Archetype Primer: Aggro
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2013, 07:33:55 PM »
Quote from: "Tacullu64" post=10123
Good job, easy to read despite its length.

You mention that you are starting with the most straight forward archetype aggro but don't mention the others. What are they?


They are control and midrange.  I was thinking about an article for combo, but I don't think that archetype really exists in a strict sense in MW (which is probably a good thing since I was never a fan of that archetype in other games).  Control is going to be the next one I do, followed by midrange.  

@ sdougla2: If you read the paragraph after when I explain buffs, I believe I address exactly your concern.  You are, of course, correct; powerful effects for powerful creatures is a good plan (I think I actually use Whirling Strike as my example for an incantation better used on powerful creatures).  I meant more that low-cost incantations like Charge or Power Strike are better (in general) when used on cheaper creatures whereas enchantment equivalents, Cheetah Speed and Bear Strength, are best used on expensive already-powerful creatures.  

I was going to point out an exception for the Warlord with his Helmet of Command since you can technically not lose card advantage via spellbinding incantations, but the article was already dragging in length and the applications of spellbinding could deserve their own mini-article.  I will add the exception about the Warlord soon though.  

I was on the fence about discussing Earth attack spells.  I did very generally mention that all elements have uses for attacking as a kind of peripheral catch-all for stuff I didn't mention.  And while it's true that Hurl Boulder rolls more dice at first compared to Fireball, a cheap ring can increase the damage of ALL your fire attacks (barring zone attacks) unlike with Earth.  Burns are also superior to dazes or slams for the purposes of dealing damage, strictly speaking.  The main reason I did not choose to talk about Earth attacks is that, in aggro books, I value cheap ways of applying pressure, like Flameblast and Arc Lightning, in addition to the fact that unavoidable attacks are so important to aggro books (Hurl Boulder is understandably avoidable; you can dodge a rock, unless someone has Sniper Shot senses  :) ).  Lightning attacks also offer a combination of aggression and ethereal damage, which other than a Mage Staff, is very difficult to come by and can snag up an aggro book's plans if you aren't ready.    

Put simply, I'll reintroduce Earth spells, both attack and incantations, when I talk about the Beastmaster and Warlord in particular when I later update this article, because I believe they're at their most useful with those mages.

@Darth: You're definitely right about conditions.  I was considering mentioning it in this article's first iteration, but decided it's a topic that requires more mental unpacking and thus more time and individual attention as I explain each condition and its affect on an aggro book.  I will be sure to mention it, especially as I incorporate all the other things.  

Thanks each of you for the feedback, it was exactly what I was looking for.  I'll be sure to address all of your concerns as I refine the article, with a nod to being explicitly clear as Darth and SD pointed out.
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Tacullu64

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Re: Book Archetype Primer: Aggro
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2013, 07:58:48 PM »
Quote from: "reddawn" post=10126


They are control and midrange.  I was thinking about an article for combo, but I don't think that archetype really exists in a strict sense in MW (which is probably a good thing since I was never a fan of that archetype in other games).


I was originally in the camp that believed there was no place for combo strategies in Mage Wars. I think I may have been wrong. Now I'm not saying combos exist in the MTG sense but there may be combo maneuvers that could reduce nearly full health mages to zero health in a single turn.

sdougla2

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Re: Book Archetype Primer: Aggro
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2013, 08:12:46 PM »
Sure, you can setup a 1 turn kill on a full health mage. I setup a turn with my Earth Wizard once where I got to attack 3 times for 6 dice (3 Iron Golems), and twice for 8 dice (Hurl Boulder with Hawkeye), and the enemy Warlord was going to end the turn in a poison Gas Cloud. That could easily kill someone from full health. Of course, my opponent wasn't at full health, and 3 of those attacks were completely unnecessary, but still.

I don't really think of that as a combo deck though. I try to lock my opponent down and force them to fight my slow melee creatures, but I don't see it as a combo. Even if I can't lock them down like I hope to, I can still get individual attacks in.
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Tacullu64

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Re: Book Archetype Primer: Aggro
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2013, 08:19:54 PM »
@sdougla2 you are of course, correct. I'm thinking along different lines.

sdougla2

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Re: Book Archetype Primer: Aggro
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2013, 08:25:05 PM »
Could you give an example of a combo play then?
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reddawn

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Re: Book Archetype Primer: Aggro
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2013, 08:33:31 PM »
The most stand-out combo cards to me at least are Call of the Wild and Gate to Hell.  They bear a strikingly resemblance to old-school tribal combo like elves, though I like the theme and execution immeasurably more in MW.  I don't think MW is the type of game that really facilitates instant-kills to be honest, but Call of the Wild is definitely an Overrun type of effect and produces a similar result, though perhaps not as lethal.  Still, I will be covering a segment on the subsets of aggro books, such as aggro-control and aggro-combo.

The main thing I see getting in the way of true combo is how the game severely restricts the number of spells you can cast in a single turn.  It's a pretty elegant way of promoting thoughtful tactics while at the same time preventing someone from "combo-ing out."  The fact that the game is also semi-simultaneous play in rounds also helps.  Lock-down combo could be possible if they print too many mana-drain kind of effects, but even still those are extremely expensive in this game, and they have already printed a conjuration that hard-counters draining strategies in the WvF expansion (some kind of obelisk for 7 mana, can't recall the name at the moment).  Overall, Arcane Wonders seems to be REALLY on top of regulating the metagame fairly, so I don't predict issues as long as they keep up the good work.
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Tacullu64

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Re: Book Archetype Primer: Aggro
« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2013, 08:36:40 PM »
Not yet. I believe there is basically only one (there are a couple of variations but they are basically the same play) that depends on a particular key card and I want to try it out on someone before I spell it out. I need to work out the best sequence of play too.

Tacullu64

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Re: Book Archetype Primer: Aggro
« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2013, 08:58:21 PM »
The overrun style combo is very unlikely to work in Mage Wars because of the turn sequence. The mage could/should teleport out of range before all the boosted creatures get to attack. The set up of the overrun tactic should be noticeable and thus avoidable. Maybe not the first time it is used against you, but it is something you probably won't fall for a second time.

Truth be told if the tactic I have in mind works I'm not sure how often it could be pulled off.

relknes

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Re: Book Archetype Primer: Aggro
« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2013, 09:35:31 PM »
I tend to think less about "Combos" in mage wars than "Synergy."  Synergy is a group of cards that work well together, often over multiple turns.  These are not insta-win combos like MtG had, but rather cards that increase each other's effectiveness.
For instance, the infamous example of a Warlock with a Lash of Hellfire, Fireshaper Ring, Gauntlets of Strength, Bear Strength, and a Mage Wand with Battle Fury could deal a whopping 18 dice of damage and an average of 1.83 burns per turn, every turn until something was disolved.
Without getting into defenses and resistances and ways to counter such defenses ad nauseum, I will simply say that this is a high degree of synergy.  There are 6 cards plus one innate trait of the Warlock all contributing to the atack.
The cental card in that setup is the Battle Fury, since it allows every other card to be used twice (in exchange for 5 mana and the Mage's quick action).
This is not a "combo" in the strict sense, but it is as close a concept as I could find in Mage Wars... and there are plentry of synergy combinations.  In fact, a book which has a strong theme is usually based around such synergy.
Perhaps, instead of talikg about combo themed books, we should talk about books where synergy plays a bigger than normal role?  Then again, every good book should have a lot of synergy, so defining it as a book type might not be that useful...

Tacullu64

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Re: Book Archetype Primer: Aggro
« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2013, 10:28:20 PM »
You're right that is why I called it a combo maneuver not a combo strategy or combo book. I just think it may be possible to execute a maneuver that might feel similar to comboing someone out in MtG  because of the suddenness of it. Then again maybe not, I might be mislabeling it. I don't think the MtG type of combo exists in MW, but MW wars might have its own style of combo. One of the major things that combo detractors in MtG complain about is the lack of interaction between the players. If the combo deck player gets his combo to go off you might have well been playing solitaire for the lack of tactics in the game. I don't think it is possible to play a game of MW without a lot of interaction between players. This is a decidedly good thing as I was not overly fond of combo decks in MtG.

The book I have in mind for the maneuver would be labeled control I believe. It would just have a combo maneuver (sorry about repeating that phrase so much, I just like the sound of it) that could bring a tight game to a sudden and unforeseen end. I would expect to try to grind out a win in most games.