October 17, 2019, 11:41:53 AM

Author Topic: Starving the opponent.  (Read 7358 times)

The Dude

  • Hitchhiker of sorts
  • Playtester
  • Sr. Mage
  • *
  • Posts: 435
  • Banana Stickers 5
  • It's like... good gracious...bodacious.
    • View Profile
Starving the opponent.
« on: July 18, 2013, 02:25:53 AM »
Starving the Opponent and Other Concepts of Control.


Itís about that time for another article, folks. I donít think I have seen a good article posted on here in a while, and it seems I have seen an abundance of aggressive builds. Is this what Mage Wars has degenerated to? A bunch of overly powerful things to do, with your only hope of winning is to either do something more broken, or perfectly time your reactions to counter the opponents? I donít believe so. The easiest way to win a game of Mage Wars is to kill an opponent before he has time to react. This was, and is the norm. But what if everyone is doing the same thing? What if you were up against nothing but hyper aggressive/combo builds that relied on nothing but doing 15 dice of damage a turn? The game would break down into who has the better die rolls. I recently went and looked on the BGG page at Mage Wars ďgame weightĒ. This term simply means how hard, or simple, this game is to grasp.  To kind of put this into perspective, King of Tokyo has a weight of 1.5. Itís not too hard to learn, and it is very luck based. Seasons has a weight of 2.7. It is much tougher to learn, as well as there being a high amount of strategy involved with that game. So what does Mage Wars have? A 3.5. This means that this is a difficult, very high strategic and tactics based game. So it doesnít make sense that this game should degenerate into who has the better combo, or who has the better die rolls. There has to be something more than that. And there is.

There is a dark, dusty, cobweb filled corner in the depths of Mage Wars strategy. It has been talked about little, and has been given almost no love. What am I speaking about (hint: look at the title)? Control, of course. What I aim to do today is to show new players and old players alike how beneficial running a control build can be. Now, before we get into strategy, I want to address the first thought that came into your mind. ďBut I donít want to play for 2-3 hours on one game!Ē. Control does not mean slow. Nor does control mean weak. Let us try and define control as an archetype before we digress further. Webster states that control is to exercise constraint over: dominate; command. A second definition says that control is to hold in check; curb. To put this into simplified in game terms, to control is to hold dominance over a certain resource. Be it card advantage, mana, action advantage, any game that a player can exert control over an opponent has an abundance of resources.

So, why has that not been done successfully yet? There are many Mage Wars builds, millions of spellbook combinations, so why have we not seen a powerful control build? We have. Aggressive builds can be considered control as they use damage output to control you. They depend on good dice rolls, and lots of attacks, to stop you from acting, and to get to you to start reacting. But there is a problem here. There is a high risk reward output here, as you can roll terribly and just lose the game because of luck. The best control builds depend not on luck, but on the intentions of your opponent. This is what I set out to create. A build that depended not on only luck to win, but on skill as well. In order to do this, there are a few things we have to realize.

First, we need to realize that we will be damaged, even maimed, before we can take control. If any of you are familiar with Magic the Gathering strategy, you will know that often control decks will go down to 3-7 life before they can exhibit enough control to win the game. We have to take our licks if we hope to win the game. This needs to be taken with a grain of salt, though. You need to analyze the opponents damage output before you go accepting damage. If your opponent has the potential to do 8 d of damage, we can probably afford to take it. 16 d of damage, on the other hand, is a different story. Knowing how much damage you can take, and when you can take it, is the first lesson to winning with control. As well, when I say that we need to take damage, I do not mean that we should just put ourselves out there to be attacked. Light to moderate defense while setting up is never a bad thing.

Second, we need options. Not every opponent is going to do the same exact thing, although they all have the same end goal. For this reason, I believe the wizard is the strongest option when choosing a controlling mage. I also think the Warlock could be a good choice, for his curse option alone. We need to always be able to react to what the opponent is doing, no matter what we are trying to do. What gives us the most options? Familiars and spellbind cards, of course! Iíve been playing with Goblin Builder, for example, as a way to free up my planning for reactive cards, and letting the builder do the work for me. Deployment is our ďcardĒ advantage, and we are going to need to make as much use of it as possible.

Third, we are going to need utility creatures. There are so many creatures in this game, but there are only a few that give us multiple options. We need to utilize these creatures at whatever cost necessary. Look for creatures that not only have the option to attack, but as well roll to hit attacks, elusive, fast, etc. Our creatures will be doing the most damage, but they will also be out bodyguards. They will be threats that the opponent is going to have to deal with at any cost, and we need them to have as many options as they can as well. We also donít want to waste tempo and cards buffing our creatures. We need our creatures to do work as soon as they are cast.

Now, what resources do we have in the game that we can use to our advantage? There are two obvious choices, and one not so obvious. The two obvious responses are damage and mana. The third is action advantage. We, in order to be the most effective, need to be able to control two of these three resources at any given time. For this reason, using cards like Suppression Orb, Mordokís Obelisk, and Mana Siphon have a powerful impact. If we are gaining more resources than the opponent, than we can do more than the opponent. Cards like these also control the action advantage in the game. If they can only channel five a round, then chances are that they do not have a lot of options. Especially if we have 12 channeling to work with.

I see a huge problem when I do get the opportunity to see a control build, and that is that players will tip their hand before the game has even begun. I will see players cast Orb and Obelisk round two, and cloak on round three, making it incredibly easy for the opponent to play around. We need to play our control cards reactively. If we see two or three of the opponents creatures on the board, that is when we need to ease into control. Donít tip your entire strategy in the beginning. Use that time to build. Make your channeling much better. Cast some equipment, maybe a creature. Take your time, but mind the opponent. If the opponent tries to get aggressive quickly, suppress the threat either by utilizing positional control or guarding. When your opponent runs out of steam, pounce. Pacify any large threat, as well as putting the cloak on.  Mana Siphon them as soon as they get close.

Attacking with the control mage is not as difficult as you would think. Only make attacks that will afford you tempo, or that will end the game. The rest of the damage should be done naturally or by your creatures. Donít get greedy and think that you have enough tempo to just go aggressive. You will not win that way. Winning with control takes time, and discipline. If you keep hammering the opponents resources, eventually he will die.

There are many ways to kill a mage without ever rolling dice, and although it may take a lot more time, they are our way to victory. If we donít have to roll to attack, we can use our action to seeking dispel, force crush, teleport. Ghoul rot them, Enfeeble them. Make them so weak that they cannot do anything but watch you dance around them. This is easier than you think! Just remember not to get greedy at all. Know that you will win eventually if you keep them down. I repeat this because I feel it is the most important part of the game.


Control is not easy to play by any means. You have to really, really, really work to achieve what you want to do, any you will often almost die doing it. But if you want to base your games not off of the better die roll, but off the better player, I think the control route is the best way to go, especially in a hyper aggressive meta, because of itís flexibility and strength in the mid to late game. Mage Wars is a game of skill. Letís keep it that way!

Dude.
  • Favourite Mage: Johktari Beastmaster
Always carry a towel...

Fentum

  • Sr. Mage
  • ****
  • Posts: 353
  • Banana Stickers 2
    • View Profile
Re: Starving the opponent.
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2013, 03:53:49 AM »

Excellent article.

I have a couple of Wizard builds that work this way. Not mana denial, more positional control with nasty conditions such as weak and cripple. First few games I lost as I reacted too much to taking damage early on.

I had an epiphany in a particular game vs a Warlock where I had taken quite a bit of damage and he was in my face with his mage and a demon. I stayed calm and kept focussing on control and tricky spells (e.g. Sleep then reverse attack took care of Demon). I could palpably feel the tide turning as I started to dominate the board, push around the Warlock , give him six weak tokens and strip his armour. I was also able to heal via a belt.

It was a dramatic version of the tactics you are describing.

The key message for me was aligned to yours... Don't be afraid to take early damage. Keep focused on control and you may well win the long game.

Nowadays, I feel that a book can carry several routes to victory within its covers. Control can often be PART of that, but flexibility is key.



cbalian

  • Full Mage
  • ***
  • Posts: 113
  • Banana Stickers 0
    • View Profile
Re: Starving the opponent.
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2013, 07:10:29 AM »
I agree "control" comes in many forms, control position, mana, creatures etc.

So far I've never lost a game playing as the Wizard, regardless what the other opponent mage was.  My only issue with the Wizard is I kept running a predictable, mana denial then load up weak counters that it has been almost too easy.  If something weird happens and get in trouble whip out a Chain Lightning or something else to lock down several mobs etc.

Mana control (starving them):
When I am regenning 14 mana per turn and they are getting 6 mana AND having to pay mana upkeep costs to keep their creatures on the board what are they really going to do to you with such little mana to spend?  They can't mount much of an offense and if they go defense mode it is just a matter of time.  I can summon more creatures, cast more spells or just do more with double their mana (one of the most powerful features of the wizard is the starving/mana denial).  No that alone doesn't win the game but it sets you up SO well to have control.

Position control:
With teleporation, push, and other avenues you can control position.
You can also control if creatures move towards you with the basilisk.
Probably my favorite Wizard combo is Basilisk + Gorgon Archer.  If a creature walks within 2 squares of you or you teleport/push them in the Basilisk (or other methods) keep them in position while the Gorgon Archer shoots at them applying weak conditions.  IF they get lucky roles and keep moving (because they want to kill the Archer) by the time they get to you they are like weak kittens and you just finish them off.  If they want to play the ranged game vs the Wizard I say have at it and if they want to kill the Archer she regens every turn so they spend so much time/turns on that you can build up other ways to kill them (all while still regening double their mana).
« Last Edit: July 18, 2013, 09:11:55 AM by cbalian »

Fentum

  • Sr. Mage
  • ****
  • Posts: 353
  • Banana Stickers 2
    • View Profile
Re: Starving the opponent.
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2013, 07:20:45 AM »

Hi cbalian,

Those Wizard builds are exactly what I was running...until I played Charmyna.

His builds eat those builds for breakfast. You should give him a game on OCTGN and see how you do. It would be genuinely  interesting to see how it played out.

I still retain the gorgon basilisk combo, but it is part of more flexible book now.

cbalian

  • Full Mage
  • ***
  • Posts: 113
  • Banana Stickers 0
    • View Profile
Re: Starving the opponent.
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2013, 09:20:57 AM »
Cool.  I've never played on OCTGN I keep wanting to try to figure out how that works though.  I will give that a shot sometime.  Having a wider playing base would be awesome.  I guess I've been nervous to even try because I'm a pretty new mageling and feel that is playing witht he "big dogs" and I will get eaten.  Plus since I've never used the system I'm not sure if there is a learning curve and I don't want to be that "slow person" while figuring it out.

I definitely hear what you are saying about a "flexible book".  I try to never rely on any one or even two strategies, and put a few different "win conditions" and counter their win condition in so it can adapt to different builds vs different op mages.

I think the coolest thing about Mage Wars is there are SO MANY ways to win and so many ways to counter ways to win.  Like folks say those temple builds are so rough but they can be beat, I don't think they are OP I look at is as a challenge.  Same with anything I play myself... if this Charmyna person would eat my build for breakfast that would actually be cool because I'd learn something from that. 

Out of curiosity do you have a rough couple comment summary of what the counter method is for the mana denial + ranged strategy I listed.  Like I said so far it has been winning but it very well could be my opponent is allowing it to happen, but if I can adapt it to counter the counter for it (in case I come up against that) it would be cool.  I'm always tweaking my Wizzy spell book, he's probably my favorite mage, with Preist being a close 2nd.  I usually play an Air/Lightning based Wizard for reference.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2013, 09:25:38 AM by cbalian »

Fentum

  • Sr. Mage
  • ****
  • Posts: 353
  • Banana Stickers 2
    • View Profile
Re: Starving the opponent.
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2013, 10:23:38 AM »
Hey Cbalian,

You would love it on OCTGN. I have read your posts here and OCTGN gives you a way to try stuff out very easily against good guys. There are new players ( including me), experienced guys, all sorts. Very friendly. No Big Dogs, just helpful people. I'd be happy to teach you the few system mechanics, but it really is JUST like a FTF game.

Ref opposing effective strategies... GREMLINS, WALLS, PUSH, BALLISTAE...are important. 'Nuff said.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2013, 10:25:09 AM by Fentum »

Shad0w

  • Playtester
  • Legendary Mage
  • *
  • Posts: 2934
  • Banana Stickers 0
    • View Profile
Re: Starving the opponent.
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2013, 10:56:25 AM »
The Dude and I have been talking this over the past few days and soon we will have a something special for you all.  :P
"Darth come prove to meet you are worthy of the fighting for your school in the arena and not just another scholar to be discarded like an worn out rag doll"


Quote: Shad0w the Arcmage

Fentum

  • Sr. Mage
  • ****
  • Posts: 353
  • Banana Stickers 2
    • View Profile
Re: Starving the opponent.
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2013, 02:26:23 PM »
The Dude and I have been talking this over the past few days and soon we will have a something special for you all.  :P

Oh Mr Ambassador, you are teasing us!

reddawn

  • Playtester
  • Sr. Mage
  • *
  • Posts: 463
  • Banana Stickers 10
    • View Profile
Re: Starving the opponent.
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2013, 07:05:53 PM »
I'm going to write Arena Axioms 2: Introduction to Control by the end of this week.  It's taken a while since I'm more experienced with playing aggressively than defensively, but lately I've been playing enough control to see some patterns to success.

I think the three very important things control needs to do to succeed are:

1. Have a superior access to mana/channeling than the opponent

2. Restrain and Kill Enemy Creatures

3. Gain Life and Heal


Point 1 just means you need higher channeling than your opponent so that the longer the game goes on, the more of a mana advantage you have.  Few mages can actually full-on aggro out the opponent with no Mana Flowers/Crystals, so it's usually a good idea to cast 1 or 2 early on anyway; its the emphasis on MORE that is the distinction that signifies control openings. 

The mages that can get away with not increasing their channeling are probably the Warlock with Adramelech openings and the Straywood BM "dog pile" Redclaw openings (you still use the BM's ring though)--I've tried other approaches but I don't think they offer the brutal dice edge that those two do.  Just remember to bring Poisoned Bloods (and Nullifies, to a lesser extent), otherwise healing will screw up all your work mightily.

Point 2 means making it difficult for opposing creatures to get to your mage, and this usually involves some kind of Restraining spell.  Tanglevines are ok for that purpose, but I think they're much more useful when playing offensively as a way of bypassing Guards rather than controlling creatures, because all guards lack flying but some of the most powerful attacking creatures have flying (not to mention that giving flying to a creature is probably the best way to prevent your opponent's guards from gang-killing it).

I think two key Restraining spells that control builds should strongly consider using are Force Crush and the new Giant Wolf Spider.  They both accomplish two things you really want to be doing; restraining and damaging/killing creatures.  They're also pretty good at finishing off an opponent who already has some damage.

Point 3 means that, even if you try to control and kill creatures, you're still going to take damage of some kind.  Things don't usually go according to plan so having healing to fall back on is a must.  It's also usually a more efficient way of preserving important creatures than re-casting them. 

And this doesn't mean just sitting there and healing over and over, because a good build, especially an early-game focused one, will be able to dump more dice on you per turn than you will be able to heal off.  You'll also run out of heal spells eventually.

Other than those 3 base points, I think most other considerations are less mandatory.
  • Favourite Mage: Arraxian Crown Warlock

cbalian

  • Full Mage
  • ***
  • Posts: 113
  • Banana Stickers 0
    • View Profile
Re: Starving the opponent.
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2013, 08:00:27 AM »
Red I totally 1000% agree on points 1 and 2 but I'm a little on the fence with point 3.

Doing points 1 and 2 well you won't need point 3.  Agree it is good to fall back on but I've found heals to be a waste of spell book points.

Healing vs Summoning

Worse comes to worse a creature dies you summon a new creature at full health ready to go vs casting a heal (which usually won't heal it to full) thus you really only bought it 1 turn and it might die anyways and then you are out the creature and you used up mana and a action to heal it and you have to summon a new one.  Granted summoning a new creature is more expensive then healing one but if you heal it and it dies then you spent mana healing and still spending the same mana summoning new.

There are exeptions to everything of course, some tactically critical creature you only have 1 of in your book or if it is enchanted/buffed up to save all those enchants or maybe a strong creature with good position to keep it there.

Active vs Passive healing

This isn't saying not to heal, just not to "actively" heal.  Since I hold each action at a premium of the mage in higher value than the action of 'most' of my creatures if I do run any healing I run some "passive" healing so my mage isn't doing the casting.  I run the fountain in several decks so a wounded creature can go back there to drink/heal or the regen tree, unicorn etc depending on mage/build.  Sorry for lack of card names I'm at work.

I have dropped every direct heal spell from every single mage book (except for the Preist) but even then there is little need.  I do however run regrowth enchant, regrowth equip, vamparism, and a heal fountain in every non Warlock deck.

Vamparism probably my favorite passive healing method.  I'd go as far to say it is more spell book point cost and mana cost efficient to put extra vamparisms in a book over a heal spell.  Heck I even pay a premium cost and do run one vamparism in my preist decks (not super efficient for preist but so fun watching them heal themselves each turn).

Fentum

  • Sr. Mage
  • ****
  • Posts: 353
  • Banana Stickers 2
    • View Profile
Re: Starving the opponent.
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2013, 09:27:26 AM »

This is an interesting thread.

Reading the various takes on it is cool.

My tuppence worth is as follows...

1. mana & channeling- agreed. You want superiority here for control builds.

2. restraining or otherwise affceting creatures is fine, but i don't usually kill many creatures, just the mage.

3. I'm with cbalian on active helaing. i have dropped it and rely on regrowth belt, which is comforting but I never actually use it, and vampirism, which is also generally unused.








Fentum

  • Sr. Mage
  • ****
  • Posts: 353
  • Banana Stickers 2
    • View Profile
Re: Starving the opponent.
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2013, 12:42:48 PM »
Talking of control books, I am currently trying out a book without creature or Mage damage to see if I can control the opponent to death.

Several thorny walls, force pushes, dissolves, explodes, poison clouds, stumbles, jet streams, Huginn. wizard's tower...

You get the idea. I'll let you know how it goes. Not well so far but it sure is fun!

Edit...

I just tried that deck out vs a basic Warlock.

Lots of channelling from me, a Guardian Angel, Huginns, then walls and towers all the way. I didn't run any heals, I didn't attack his creatures at all, other than counter strike. Restrained and pushed them once or twice, but all damage was focused on opposing Mage.

He ran with lots of armour, Adramalech, Necropian Vampiress and some curses. I won the game without doing any damage with creatures other than a counter striking Guardian Angel.

Extended wall of thorns plus Huginns flying above the walls to cast Force Push were the key, along with a Wizard's Tower and Jet Stream. Took a while to wear down the armour and rhino hide, but ultimately worked as intended.

It is a highly themed book, though, so probably not very good in general. Six walls and six pushes limit one's options!


« Last Edit: July 19, 2013, 12:47:17 PM by Fentum »

cbalian

  • Full Mage
  • ***
  • Posts: 113
  • Banana Stickers 0
    • View Profile
Re: Starving the opponent.
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2013, 01:39:51 PM »
Very interesting Fentum!  I like the theme.  I keep wanting to run more walls and just haven't much, but going to be giving them a try in the next couple of rounds.

Shad0w

  • Playtester
  • Legendary Mage
  • *
  • Posts: 2934
  • Banana Stickers 0
    • View Profile
Re: Starving the opponent.
« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2013, 02:27:04 PM »
Fentum We playtesters do enjoy a good volleyball game every now and then. Not so much for the other player :P
"Darth come prove to meet you are worthy of the fighting for your school in the arena and not just another scholar to be discarded like an worn out rag doll"


Quote: Shad0w the Arcmage

Fentum

  • Sr. Mage
  • ****
  • Posts: 353
  • Banana Stickers 2
    • View Profile
Re: Starving the opponent.
« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2013, 05:06:42 PM »
Fentum We playtesters do enjoy a good volleyball game every now and then. Not so much for the other player :P

Thanks Shad0w. I reckon the new errata will cool things down a bit such that more unusual themed decks might have a chance. You won't have to be prepared to stop a four Bim plus Temple Rush all the time. That is a good thing. Still worry a little about ballistae, but not so much.

If ballistae were introduced as a Bim killer, maybe they can be left as promo or toned down now that Bim has been neutered?
« Last Edit: July 19, 2013, 05:10:18 PM by Fentum »