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Topics - DeckBuilder

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Alternative Play / Mage Wars Delayed Cantrip Variant
« on: January 31, 2014, 01:20:04 AM »
Has anyone tried this obvious variant rule?

"At the end of the Planning Phase, return all discarded cards that are not creatures or Epic to spell books"

Thinking it through, it should create a lot more emphasis on creatures (good) and far more variety in games
Because all books will be more Toolbox hence more diverse and there would more emphasis on play skill
No need to commit to Poison or Psychic and play match-up lottery, you have diverse strategies in one book
So seeing opponent play Rock, you play Paper, so he changes to Scissors, you to Lizard, him to Spock etc

It lessens the Spell Point Resource (attrition strategy is Holy with Resurrection as Raise Dead obliterates)
It lessens "taxes" like Teleport, Dispel, Dissolve (both Incant and target are cantrips, just tempo removal)
It means spells with Immunity (Psychic, Poison etc) can be included in books so not rely too much on them
As for Wands, all they'll do is give you an additional option to cast, just like Mordok's Tome but far weaker
That Wizard's Tower won't be so sick, I will be able to rely on just 1 equipment in each slot, it all feels ok
And the really important spells that destroy strategies (Orb, Obelisk, Pestilence etc) will not have Cantrip

It seems such an obvious variant that I was wondering if anyone has tried it?
(I'm a bit time/opponent starved to test it but my feeling is it could be good)

Rules Discussion / World's Worst Web Experience?
« on: January 25, 2014, 10:18:08 AM »
Here is a quick tale of woe

I had forgotten to pack my FAQ (which is out-of-date) when visiting a friend to play MW
We needed to reference it to clarify how Tanglevine interacts with Blue Gremlin and Grey Wraith
So we went to the web

Googled mage wars and clicked on the first link which was titled "Mage Wars"

This auto-redirected me to

404 Error

Lower down in the search list, we found this link

The old helpful intuitive menus had "Downloads" big and bold before - but not anymore

In the new one, after searching each of the branches, many of which led to blank dropbox links or pages that seemed to be missing pictures, texts lines with huge gaps, I finally came across

\Mage Wars\All About Mage Wars\Resources and Downloads (which is weird submenu to keep a key need)

Only to find a link to the Spellbook Builder and nothing else there!

So then we clicked to the Forum - aah, something familiar at last!
Logged in as me

Resources and Downloads sounds promising

Sadly there is no thread where I can see FAQ

Eventually I find a thread (only one NOT in bold) with a FAQ link

Dropbox says "Nothing Here"

This wasn't the only link as we got the same message here

Starting to worry I've been blacklisted by Arcane Wonders!

So then I go to Rules Discussion \ Frequently Asked Questions \ Updated FAQ

No help here either

By now, our game delayed incredibly, my friend has gone past laughing and has nothing but scorn
We make up a rule decision (Gremlins and Greay Wraith just slip out of Tanglevine) and finish the game
But he's not impressed, does not want to play again and I can't blame him really

Please get your act together, Arcane Wonders!
This is lack of intuitive access to basic resources with so many red herring paths is just plain shoddy!
It looks so amateur, it's embarrassing.

I am so furious that I spent some time building these playtest books and it's been a waste of time

Before DVD, there was VHS.
When VHS first came out, there was also Betamax and it was smaller with better picture quality.
But it went the way of the dinosaurs because of rubbish marketing, distribution channels etc.

This website experience we just had should NEVER happen to anyone who plays this game
It will only push people away

I'm posting on the public forum cos I'm furious and I'm sure I'm not the only one with this frustration

I'm off to the FFG site where everything is intuitive, they have downloads flagged right from the start etc

Get with the 21st century.
If you aren't going to invest in a tablet version (and miss that boat), at least make the website better!

Such a shame when the game has so much going for it. Just like Betamax.

General Discussion / The Dangers of Groupthink
« on: January 14, 2014, 10:32:23 AM »
First they came for the Spawnpoints and I did not speak out, because I do not play Spawnpoints.
Then they came for the Warlord and I did not speak out, because I do not play the Warlord.
Then they came for the Wands and I did not speak out, because I do not play with Wands.
And then they came for my favourite card - and there was no one left to speak for it.

I confess that my Mage Wars development is in a rut.
I play the same local players who have settled into the same local meta.
I know there are other innovative strategies out there.
But because of my environment, only certain strategies remain optimal.
If we all promised to build an experimental book totally unlike a prior book, maybe this staus quo would change.
But old habits die hard and everybody's books will be influenced by what worked and what didn't in prior games.

So this is a just a short note to say: we should be more receptive to ideas that break with accepted convention.
We should encourage experimental books that open new avenues in this game, that brealk with the orthodoxy.
We should be more receptive to "mad but might work" ideas that challenge preconceptions of good game play.
We should applaud heretical assertions when it's intelligently supported for evolution is but aberrant mutation.
Because even if that insight does not transfer into your local meta, there could be something valuable to learn.

I have often used the phrase: "The Wisdom of the Forum".
But sometimes, I think it can be more like a straightjacket.

So break free! Try the unusual! Fail spectacularly - but at least you tried.
Because you'll learn something about the game you didn't know before.
And you will be a better player for the experience.

Spellbook Design and Construction / What does Beastmaster Swarm look like?
« on: December 10, 2013, 07:33:19 PM »
This is a sequel to my "Etherian Lifetree and Corrode Meta Change" strategy thread where I argued that both mechanics should help the rarely played Beastmaster Swarm strategy become more competitively viable.

I shamefully confess I've never played Swarm strategy with Beastmaster (or any mage, my mind can't cope with too many action options). From my first ever build (posted on BGG), I have always played Battle Forge Few Big Aggro-Tempo Beastmaster (a variant posted in this section). But I really want to try something new here (for me) - hopefully without losing my almost unbeaten Straywood local meta record (I've only lost to my own Golem Pit book).

So I'm asking "The Wisdom Of The Forum" to critique the following unpolished concept...

Beastmaster Swarm

2 Ring of Beasts [2]
6 Thunderift Falcon [6]
6 Bitterwood Fox [6]
6 Feral Bobcat [6]

4 Rajan’s Fury [8]
6 Marked for Death [12]
2 Call of the Wild [2]

1 Etherian Lifetree [2]
1 Renewing Spring [3]
1 Renewing Rain [4]
2 Fortified Position [8]
2 Shift Enchantment [2]

4 Dispel [8]
4 Dissolve [8]
2 Acid Ball [4]
6 Wall of Thorns [6]
4 Force Push [8]
1 Eagle Claw Boots [1]

6 Tanglevine [6]
2 Teleport [8]

1 Dragonscale Hauberk [3]
1 Elemental Cloak [2]
1 Regrowth [1]
1 Cheetah Speed [1]
1 Mongoose Agility [1]

(Edit: Aylin's Shift Zonal Enchantments trick added at cost of mage buffs; Unicorn Pet too expensive, slow, blocked by Walls of Thorns)
(Edit: Cheetah Speed and Mongoose Agility added as defence against ultra-big threats, prompted by Lettuce's thread below)

It feels odd building so counter-intuitively for the Beastmaster, with no toolbox buffs for your Few Bigs. Instead, there are global pumps like Rajan's Fury (so all Charge/Fast), Marked for Death (reveal just before hit by many, main target of enemy Dispels) and the much maligned Call of the Wild (doubles as a finisher). There are defence reducers (Dissolve, Dispel, Acid Ball) and Force Push to position Fast Charge, both synergising with Wall of Thorns (which lets level 1s through). In addition, we have Etherian Lifetree and Shifting Fortified Positions for global resilience, Renewing Rain (only full action) against burn like Ring of Fire, Renewing Spring empowers your Fast creatures to heal themselves (if you prefer to sacrifice tempo for a slower game). The strategy is very strongly based on leveraging global effects as befits a swarm build. The build is obviously played in the Mage Assassination style with movement spells to isolate enemy from multiple guards (Tanglevine against single guards) and to enable a zone that all can Charge into (Falcons often doubling back).

Epic control conjurations will cause you problems but at least Fast creatures can quickly focus on their removal, aided by Hurl Boulders which doubles as  finisher. Your main attack task force are fast falcons and foxes with bobcats serving as guards or guard distractors.

The theoretical optimal opening (never happens due to reacting to enemy) would be...
(19) Ring of Beasts (17) Falcon (12)
(21) Rajan's Fury (14) Falcon (9)
(18) Rajan's Fury (11) Falcon (6)
(15) Rajan's Fury [8] Falcon (3)
(12) Rajan's Fury (5) Falcon (0)
Falcons leaving and re-entering a stationary mage's zone to gain +4 Charge each seems strong...
The intention is to most definitely fast cast a creature each turn (usually in Final QC to avoid enemy attacks).
Hence having a spare Ring of Beasts is important as this is your only (very cost-efficient) mana augmenter.

The theory is that, as long as level 1s survive one attack (Lifetree), they are better value than a buff on a Big as level 1s only cost a quick action like a buff with Quick Summoning. Whether this theory holds water, however, is entirely another matter...

So is this a viable strategy? I'm rather apprehensive as it's very different to my usual Straywood build. But I just want to play him differently. Has Etherian Lifetree, Acid Ball and Renewing Rain made weenies more viable? What says "The Wisdom Of The Forum"?

Ok, it's late over here and I really shouldn't be posting.

But I thought I'd share a half-formed Druid spell book and ask for tips from those who have actually played her.
Because this is sadly all theory craft as finding copies of DvN here in the UK seems to be difficult.

Druid (Vine Tree build)

4 Raptor Vine (12)
4 Thornlasher (8 )
4 Vine Snapper (8 )
1 Kralathor (4)

2 Harmonize (4)
4 Bear Strength (4)
4 Rhino Hide (4)
1 Barkskin (2)
1 Decoy (1)

1 Vine Tree (2)
1 Etherian Lifetree (2)
1 Suppression Orb (4)
2 Mana Flower (2)
4 Bloodspine Wall (4)
4 Tanglevine (4)
4 Corrosive Orchid (8 )
4 Nightshade Lotus (12)

1 Leaf Ring (1)
1 Enchanter's Ring (1)
1 Sunfire Amulet (3)
1 Dragonscale Hauberk (3)
1 Elemental Cloak (2)
1 Healing Wand (2)
1 Mage Wand (4)

4 Rouse the Beast (4)
4 Dispel (8 )
1 Teleport (4)
1 Renewing Rain (3)

It's the obvious "vine range remote control" build with a Teleport Wand, keeping enemy beyond Dissolve range.
Rouse the Beast as Spawnpoint deployment is so telegraphed, unarmoured and you want to ambush that turn.
Orchid is key against control which relies on Mage Wands, as well as any Lash of Hellfire and Fireball Wands.
Lotus is key against prevalent Few Big including elite flyers like Lord of Fire (or a Flame Hellion reaper).
The Flowers also serve as extra free attacks which help concentrate damage in your Tangled Vine Pits.
Against Warlock or Fire Wizard, you may bind Rain instead, more suited for remote fire fighting/mass healing.

Everything else seems quite obvious. This worries me that the Druid is like the Forcemaster. Her plant spells and abilities are so niche that there is currently only variants of one obvious way to build her. I hope not.

Anyway, this is me humbly (!) asking for advice and constructive criticism from those more experienced than me in playing the Druid.

Everyone has to start somewhere and this is my first untested draft. Please advise where I've gone wrong.

Strategy and Tactics / Resources
« on: November 05, 2013, 06:44:14 PM »
This thread only aims to look at one aspect of this deceptively deep and multi-faceted game: the resources you trade if you view the game in the abstract. This article is inspired by recent discussion following the release of Meditation Amulet and ringkichard's comment below.

I've been thinking that strategically the real currency in Mage Wars is actions more than Mana (at least right now). I should write something longish about that, but for now-if you'll indulge me- I'm going to propose that whoever takes more actions wins. Yes, I know it's not true. I'm saying that it might be true enough.

The consequence of this model is that Mana is only important because it let's you take actions: Available mana limits actions, but actions almost never limit mana: it's rare that you'll have huge amounts of mana and just not enough actions to use it all. Usually you'll just use a more expensive spell, or a more expensive mode of a spell you already plan to cast (e.g Teleport for 12 instead of 6).

From this perspective, competitive agro books either have to play a cheep spawnpoint with cheep actions (usually Battle Forge and low cost equipment) or use free actions like the mage's melee attack to save Mana to power a more expensive spawnpoint. Usually they do both.

Firstly, I agree with this thinking. But only to a certain extent. I feel it is an incomplete view as it focuses on just 2 resources in the game (actions, mana) and there are more.

Most (all?) games can be deconstructed into resource management. So what are the resources in Mage Wars?


The first resource you balance in the game is when you build your book: spending your budget of spell points. You will create a coherent strategy and compensate for weaknesses when building a well-rounded book. This often requires compromising: everyone would like 6 Dispels, 6 Dissolves and 4 Teleports but not everyone can afford it (Charmyna's Watergate build is the epitome of spell points efficiency). This deficiency is sometimes alleviated by spell-binding cards, a trade-off of mana and extra action for the flexibility of being able to cast the same precious spell points repeatedly. Spell point cost is the interaction of the spell’s School and the mage's Training.

Linked to spell point costs are the traits Cantrip, Unique, Legendary and Epic. Cantrip lets you never worry about running out of that spell. Unique restricts abuse by having multiples in play, often making multiples in your book potentially a redundant spend of your spell point budget. Legendary enhances Unique constraint further by accepting that even your single copy may become redundant if opponent casts it first. Finally Epic are powerful cards that players may only have 1 copy of hence timing of its play should be optimal (e.g. Cheetah Speed 3 away from enemy's horde and cast Orb and Obelisk in adjacent zones 4 away). These traits all influence or hard limit how many copies hence spell points are spent on that spell.

Zone Exclusive is also a trait that influences spell point expenditure by imposing a constraint on the total number of all such conjurations. You need to balance your Zone Exclusive total in your book by the finite limit of 12 zones in the game and the ability of your creature base to establish control over that number of zones. A creature-heavy book with a spawnpoint could aim for more than half the arena. It is fine to have “spare” Zone Exclusive conjurations, especially at 1 spell point cost, for when other Zone Exclusives are destroyed. Balance must be made between a strategy of naked assets (tempo distractions) and the creature support that exists to make them stick. When some will pay 4 mana on a Block (Forcemaster pays 2 with 2 rings), a Wizard sees great appeal in dropping 1 spell point Crystals for 4 (with ring), naked as a distraction attracting 1 or 2 attacks not made on you or pay for themselves then generate mana if left alone. An Earth Wizard playing Pestilence, Deathlock, Suppression Orb and Mana Siphon would need to spread his 4 Iron Golems to protect them as they are all valuable assets. Distinction should be made between valued (often Epic) Zone Exclusive conjurations worth protecting and other assets.

Spell Points are most important in the longest of game strategies: Attrition. I win because you ran out of spells to counter my threats.


This covers manipulating your own and opponent's mana generation. If the spell points are the body's shape, then mana is its life blood. Without mana, all those spells are meaningless. This can be used both proactively (increasing your channelling) and reactively (reducing opponent's mana spend).

Increasing or decreasing Channelling, either directly or indirectly (via optional upkeep or cost to perform action) has a cumulative benefit, rather than a one-off burst benefit. The classic example of changing the valve, not the pool, is:

Assume all Wizards wear an Arcane Ring, cost 2 mana + 1 quick action (1 mana + no action with Battle Forge), hence:
2 Mana Crystals + Mana Siphon = 19 mana, 3 quick actions set-up, 5 spell points, 3 zone exclusives
Mage Wand + Drain Power = 20 mana, 1 quick action set-up + 1 quick action per use, 5 spell points

Drain Power transfers 8 mana on average between mages (so opponent loses 8, you lose 7 with Arcane Ring). Over 4 turns, this same transference occurs with 2 Crystals and a Mana Siphon (ignoring they would be cast in sequential rounds). It's obvious the conjurations, as a persistent effect, is better early game. However, later in the game when you have removed all threats and the opponent (depleted of Dispels) is in a Force Crush, the latter as a repeatable burst mana damage effect is a win condition, repeatedly casting it in First QC (at range 2 beyond Dissolve of Wand), preventing the opponent casting any creature threats without a Spawnpoint (or Quick Summoning). Here we have the greater efficiency of changing the rate of mana generation (early game) compared to the crippling repeated removal of mana (late game).

Generating more mana is always better and generating less mana is always worse. However, this benefit scale is not linear. Channelling follows a diminishing returns curve. The difference between effective Channelling of 1 and 2 (due to “mana burdens”) is far more than the difference between 15 and 16. The benefit of a change can be quantified as New Channelling / Old Channelling.  Your next Channelling upgrade (Crystal, Medallion, Harmonize, Flower, Familiar, Spawnpoint) is worth slightly less than the last upgrade (not counting the extra round’s benefit of being cast earlier) and every additional point of Channelling burden (Mana Siphon, Essence Drain, Suppression Cloak, Pacify, Mordok’s Obelisk,  Suppression Orb) is worth more than the last burden because it reduces a greater % of their remaining mana available. This relationship is key to understanding mana tempo, taking that calculated risk by ignoring a growing mana disadvantage in favour of aggression or slowing down tempo to narrow the growing mana gap with your opponent. Or early life loss for mana advantage.


Actions are a complex resource. There are many different types of actions. It is even hard to rank the value of these action types. Let us categorise action types.

Basic Actions

Creatures are the source of your basic action. Having equal actions with the opponent means that you both alternate in having a valuable resource, the action burst of consecutive actions (acting last in a round then acting first in the next). If you have 1 or more actions than the opponent, you deny him this action burst whilst gaining more action bursts yourself. Thus there is an arms race in the quantity of actions to achieve/deny this action burst. It isn't all quantity, quality plays a crucial part and there are ways to have action bursts with less actions.

All creatures can be measured on 3 dimensions: Mobility, Threat and Resilience (how long it stays around as a threat or guard). All those keywords and numbers contribute to these dimensions, sometimes more than one. For example Elusive aids Mobility to ignore hindering but also Threat as it bypasses guards. It is the interactions of the mechanics of these 3 dimensions that is the heart of the game.

Let's rank some Mobility-based keywords and conditions: Fast > Normal > Lumbering > Slow > Restrained > Incapacitated. You evaluate your actions in all 3 dimensions and find the Scissors to their Paper, the Rock to their Scissors.

Here's an extreme example from the Beastmaster vs. Warlock cover. The Beastmaster has Ring of Beasts and using Quick Summoning, he has spent 6 quick actions and 24 mana to summon 6 Bitterwood Foxes, costing him 6 spell points of his book. The Warlock has spent 1 full action, 24 mana and 6 spell points to summon Adramelech, Lord of Fire. With no mages around, the latter most definitely trumps the former, able to pick off 2 per round without worrying about being hurt back. But against unarmoured mages, those 6 foxes deal average 18 damage per round whilst the demon only deals 6 plus burn. Unable to race even with accumulating burn, the demon must cull the foxes before they kill its master then it has board control. This is very simplified as the game is too complex to quantify in metrics but illustrates the interaction of the inherent abilities of the actions you have available to you.

Quantity of actions is important but your actions having just the right qualities to defeat your enemy's actions is even more important.

Spell Actions

Without spell actions, you can't cast spells to improve your board position. However you pay a steep premium for them as they are below par in the traditional 3 dimensions. And there is only so much mana you can spend in any round so you can have too many spell actions. Hence you can over-invest in spell action generators as you only have mana to support so many at any one time.

Ranking Spell Actions is difficult as some are more versatile than others. A provisional ascending order ranking could be something like...

Wand Familiar: Thoughtspore is an example. It's like a living Wand with a bound spell you cannot change but casting it doesn't expend it, allowing for repetition. You need to wait and time its action in the alternating action sequence.

Category Familiar: Huginn, Felella and Goblin Builder are examples. They each cast different spells from a spell category, expending it. Again, you must wait and time its action in the alternating action sequence.

Creature Spawnpoint: These don't generate actions for action overlap and they telegraph what will be active next turn early in Deployment. But they save the mage's precious full actions. These are mostly stationary, the current exception can be destroyed by a Dissolve.

Quck Spell Spawnpoint: Battle Forge is an example. These are an alternate source of a category of spells and like other spawnpoints, do not generate action overlap. They only replace a quick action but do it at range, not static, hence its Deployment appearance, fully effective, can preempt a first action so this timing becomes an advantage.

Spell Ready Marker: The Quick Cast marker and Wizard's Tower are examples. Like spawnpoints, they do not generate action overlap but they are even more flexible in being able to string together action bursts. The Wizard's Tower is limited in its choice of spells but does not expend its spell, much like a hugely flexible but stationary Wand Familiar.

Mage Action. This is your most valuable resource. The reason why mages suffer less from Stun is because losing this resource, even temporarily for 1 round, is too debilitating. During your mage action, you can cast any spell you have prepared in Planning if you have the mana (unless keywords like Unique, Legendary or Zone Exclusive prevent this). If a quick spell, you can move before casting. Mobility of casting source point (protecting your Life resource by moving away from danger) and versatility of spell choice is why this is your most valuable resource.

Ready Marker Actions

Although they are not actions per se, they let you to string together consecutive actions at will, bypassing the reason to gain action overlap. This stacking of actions is open to abuse. The base set cards with this ability open to everyone, Hand of Bim-Shalla and Temple of Light, were adjusted down as this ability to time an action burst without a response action is too imbalancing. The other cards, Akiro's Hammer and Sacrificial Altar, are niche and restricted access. The latest set brings Flower attacks into this category, albeit localised to their zone.

Deferred Anytime Actions

Better known as "Revealing Enchantments", you pay a quick action up-front to have a surprise anytime action later, often with a persistent benefit. Any Magic player will view this as preparing a "Flash Aura" (while Attacks and Incantations are cast at "Sorcery speed"). The game elegantly requires a set-up quick action to gain this (almost) absolutely anytime benefit. This revealing can be freely sequenced (restricted only by mana cost) to create an action burst which is even more flexible than ready marker actions. This ability to string together deferred actions from nowhere is why Enchantment Transfusion was mechanically the most ground-breaking new card as it enables a no-action multiple transference of these effects at a cost of 1 extra quick action (as well as spell points and mana), the casting of that Transfusion.

Actions Summary: So what do all these different action types mean? Well, say 2 Warlocks rush at each other and just attack, using quick spells to augment their Mobility, Threat or Resilience (or handicap the enemy). However, one has cast Battle Forge in Near Centre in his first turn while other cast a corner Mana Crystal (generating the same 1 mana each turn). The warlock with the Forge has an extra quick equipment action every turn after the first so is far better positioned to beat his mirror. In this deconstructed example, it easy to see how extra actions could grant a big advantage, often worth the up-front investment. But not always. Substitute Forge with Pentagram and that warlock has actually sacrificed aggression tempo for dubious advantage in a longer game. Spending wisely on appropriate extra actions and being able to manipulate the "windows of opportunity"  that are well-timed action bursts is the path to victory.

TEMPO (Time)

Tempo is leveraging a temporary advantage for long-term benefit. This is best seen in an Aggro Rush strategy where getting a threat out earlier is more important than getting mana advantage. Because that extra action should undo the benefits of the opponent's extra mana. If your threat starts a round in the opposing mage's zone, it gets to attack any threat that mage summons (if you have initiative next round, a second attack). That mage summoning as late as possible with initiative next round is one way to minimise his disadvantage.

Rouse the Beast, Sleep and Banish are classic tempo plays. Rouse the Beast converts 1 or 2 spellpoints, 1 quick spell and target's level mana for 1 extra action. Spawnpoints trade tempo loss early game for tempo gains later. Meditation Amulet is designed to speed up this transition. Distractions like Mana Siphon can regain you tempo.

Tempo is related to timing. Casting Lord of Fire if surrounded by 6 Foxes with 18 life left and no armour is poor as opponent has tempo. Casting Lord of Fire in turn 4 after Beastmaster has cast 6 Foxes is good as it culls his tempo action advantage.

Tempo advantage is linked to action advantage and position but it is the cumulative benefit, the pyramid benefit of gaining accumulating actions over a beleaguered opponent. It is paying a premium (usually mana) to avoid or impose delay.


Position is also a resource, albeit a function of creatures' Mobility dimension. The game starts with this resource being least important, the mages as far apart as possible. But Position soon grows more important. When a Rush strategy mage double moves, he trades his mage's ability to cast a second spell to gain positional advantage. When a mage casts Force Push, Force Wave or Teleport, he trades a quick action, spell points and mana to gain a better board position. Position has value therefore is a resource that you trade in the game.

Position is the hardest resource to quantify (without resorting to Euclidean geometry). In some ways. as other resources can be easily quantified and trade-offs evaluated, the real skill of the game is how you evaluate the positional gain or loss ensuing from any decision.


Life is the final resource in the game. it is a function of your mage's (and guards') Resilience dimension and your opponent spell's Threat dimension. It is also the game's victory condition.

At the start of a game, Life is the least important resource. Generating more Mana, more Actions, gaining Tempo and Position advantage have higher priority. But as the game progresses, Life becomes more important. The objective of the game is to reduce your opponent's remaining Life to 0 before he reduces yours. It is a race, pure and simple, and every other resource is a means to this end. No matter how much greater mana generation and extra actions and positional advantage you have (you have destroyed every enemy non-Mage card in play), if your opponent has reduced you to 0 Life remaining with the last spell in his book, he has won. Checkmate.

Never forget that behind the smoke and mirrors of finesse, it is a brutal game of racing the opposing mage to the death. Spending actions to alter a mage's remaining Life via bursts (attack or heal spells) is rarely good play in the early and mid game as you trade actions, spell points and mana to simply change race positions, it does not help you get a better board position.

However, once your Life remaining crosses the "Finisher Threshold", this resource becomes critical. This threshold depends on board position (threats in play) and what you expect the opposing mage can play. If you are facing an Earth Wizard within range 3 with Initiative and 16 mana and you have 14 life left, you better First QC Heal or another defence. Else you may die to 2 Hurl Boulders cast at you. Your Life left is influencing your play, handicapping you further. So it is not advisable to let remaining Life get too close to this threshold.

Life as a resource trumps all other resources during end game. But you only need to have enough to survive. Anything more is excessive, it is "win more". The Priestess that wins with 60 Life remaining has subjected her opponent to an unnecessarily long and tortuous ordeal. Because your Life resource does not help you win. It just stops you from losing as quickly.


I hope this article helps some view the game in a new light and make better choices when building books and playing the game. When viewing the game, I hope some may see it like most games, sophisticated trade-offs, exchanging resources using different conversion rates at opportune moments. The skill in the game is evaluating which trades are advantageous and which are not.

There is so much depth to this game including the Lifetime Value dimension, central to business modelling and cost-benefit analysis.

This article is long enough as it is and limited to Resources. I hope it has helped change how you evaluate decisions in this wonderfully intuitive yet deceptively deep game.

Strategy and Tactics / Warlock Lord of Fire: a good meta choice?
« on: November 02, 2013, 07:16:16 PM »
Gaps in the new set

So we have now seen almost all the new cards (only Refreshing Rain remains unknown currently). Most of these new cards have been really interesting. But how many of them are actually competitively playable?

My main concerns are:
(1) a lack of tech to make existing creature spawnpoints more playable
(2) a convergence in what hurts both new mages: fire
(3) a lack of anti-flyer tech for both new mages (even Sardonyx failed the cut)

Let's deal with these points individually

(1) "Assassination not warfare"

Both new mages are swarm (Druid in combination with conjurations). They rely on spawnpoints to create a swarm. These spawnpoints are slightly better than the existing ones. But they are slow, an upfront investment for mid-range play.

But there are existing Aggro Tempo builds that come at you from the start and generally take apart spawnpoint openings. Opening with a spawnpoint is often risky. Because these Aggro Tempo builds simply target the opposing mage and assassinates him/her before troops can repulse his assault. "Going for the throat" may lack finesse and bypass some of the game's subtler ideas. It's not pretty but it works.

So what's changed? Have we got anything to help spawnpoints be more viable? Meditation Amulet is exactly as per promo. So not much help there. There is no new tech to encourage the existing aggressive mages to change their builds, dust off those creature spawnpoints and play mid range.

Admittedly Battle Forge, a staple of Aggro Tempo builds, has been weakened by Corrode (and indirectly Orchid). But Battle Forge is strong because it is not linked to its zone but deploys at range 2. And what it deploys comes into play immediately, not inactive. The attacked mid range mage has enough problems surviving to spend mana and actions on Acid Balls at Forge. If he does, that is tempo loss on his side.

Thus against existing mages, these aggressive builds are still credible. How they fare against the 2 new mages with their spawnpoints is yet to be seen.

(2) "The mage that burns brightest burns shortest"

Given time, Fire is the most destructive element (Earth has more upfront damage, Air is for control, Water is for utility). And both the 2 new mages have a vulnerability to fire.

In the case of the Druid, it is universal. There have been hints that Hydro Immunity will be changed. Which will mean Geyser can be used on her plants (as well as her). Refreshing Rain should also provide succour. But all her plants are Flame +2. That's a huge vulnerability.

With the Necromancer, burn direct damage is a solution to his resilient zombies with lower life. And you can be sure that he will be testing out his spanking new Cloak of Shadows instead of Elemental Cloak, one less item to Dissolve.

So what are the best fire spells?
Attacks: Ring of Fire for range 0 area. Flameblast for range 1 unavoidable. Fireball for range 2.
Persistent: Circle of Fire against swarm. Fire Demons. Lash of Hellfire.

(3) "Death from above"

Both of the 2 new mages lack anti-flyer tech.

The Druid's vine spells target non-flyers. Kralathor (overcosted except against undead), Togorah (rooted uproot 2) and Vinewhip Staff all have reach. Her other cards are ground level. Nightshade Lotus is her control spell against Few Big but can only attack non-flyers hence Sleep them. Even her Surging Wave can't Slam flyers. Yes, she has Raptors and Galador but they are range 1 full actions and dilute her plant synergies, those animals designed more for the Jokhtari Beastmaster.

The Necromancer is missing his flying Skeleton Dragon. He has Skeleton Archers which are at least range 2 but that's about it. He even lacks in-school ranged attack spells (beyond curses). He will need to pack Maim Wings but how many will remember to do this? Overall, like the Warlord, he's a pretty down-to-earth type of mage.

Flying is powerful because it prevents the opponent's mainly ground creatures from converging and removing the threat. It can pick and choose its target, focusing on a mage, ignoring guards if enchanted with Mongoose Agility or just by Sweeping if the flyer has that ability.


The common silver bullet behind all 3 meta developments is Adramelech, Lord of Fire. As successfully piloted by piousflea in those early days of the tournament scene, this highly aggressive build could tear apart many builds.

Since that early dominance, the Warlock gained Circle of Fire (ideal against swarms that will return with Etherian Lifetree) and Drain Soul. He now gains the excellent Cloak of Shadows, Risen Again for curse-weaving recursion and most Necromancer cards that take his fancy (like Zombie Brute). His Flame Hellion, a control piece, now competes with Dark Pact Slayer for Blood Reaper against some match-ups.

More importantly, the dominance of Wizard has been dented with the new set. Not only is the impregnable Armour + Voltaric Shield (now available to all to a lesser extent via Veteran's Belt) been weakened by Corrode but so has the armoured Wizard's Tower, also weakened by Cloak of Shadows. The Tower cannot cast full action spells needed to cope with swarm. Even Nullify is bypassed by Orchid and Lotus. Whilst wizard has gained Jelly as an arena cleaner (like Earth Elemental, a Slow full action attack nonliving), the designers have definitely attempted to bring him back on par with the other mages. This will make Wizards a less popular choice in the meta. Which is good news for the Warlock who feared Purge Magic on his stacked curses and the Wizard's Tower utility-change to Geyser to free action douse burn.

In fact temporarily, the popular choices will be the Necromancer and Druid. Because everybody wants to try out the new kids on the block. Even though, due to fear of creating something too powerful, these 2 new mages may not hold their own against current traditional builds that will evolve to cope with them. But only practice and experimenting (and having a whole lot of fun doing this) will discover if this is true.

So the meta could temporarily turn full circle. Enter Adramelech, Lord of Fire, the apotheosis of Aggro-Tempo, that sweeping bringer of fire and burn who soars safe above, swooping down to deal fiery death on enemy mages. The time has come to shine again and burn bright.

[Please feel free to critique this conclusion below]

Experienced players: please move along, there's nothing to see here.

This is a prequel to how DvN will change Beastmaster. There are many Beastmaster builds, some currently more viable than others. This is "Tempo Beastmaster" who plays a constant pressure game where opponent is forced to waste mana investments defending himself from the onslaught. So although you may have lower Channelling, your aggression overlap results in inefficient use of opponent's mana. That's the theory behind the "aggro tempo" strategy anyway...

It leverages Battle Forge, Ring of Beasts and Enchanter's Ring to have deceptive mana efficiency, pressuring on turn 2 with a fast flying 4 dice attack. It's main game (it has variant plays) is a buffed up Grizzly, Beastmaster, a Pet and maybe weenies to manipulate action order, create and distract guards, expend Voltaric Shield use etc. So first, "show and tell" time, let's look at a typical "Tempo Beastmaster" build...


1 Dragonscale Hauberk [3]
1 Eagleclaw Boots [1]
1 Elemental Cloak [2]
1 Enchanter's Ring [1]
1 Gauntlet's of Strength [2]
1 Mage Staff [2]
1 Moonglow Amulet [2]
1 Regrowth Belt [1]
1 Ring of Beasts [1]
1 Storm Drake Hide [2]

1 Battle Forge [5]
1 Hand of Bim-Shalla [2]
1 Renewing Spring [3]
3 Tanglevine [3]
2 Wall of Thorns [2]

1 Cervere. The Forest Shadow [4]
2 Feral Bobcat [2]
1 Galador, Protector of Straywood [5]
1 Steelclaw Grizzly [4]
2 Thunderift Falcon [2]
1 Timber Wolf [2]

3 Bear Strength [3]
1 Cheetah Speed [1]
4 Decoy [4]
1 Eagle Wings [2]
2 Falcon Precision [2]
2 Mongoose Agility [2]
2 Regrowth [2]
2 Retaliate [4]
3 Rhino Hide [3]
2 Vampirism [8]

2 Battle Fury [4]
4 Dispel [8]
4 Dissolve [8]
1 Force Push [2]
1 Purify [2]
2 Rouse the Beast [2]
3 Teleport [12]

In Mage Wars, there are no hard-and-fast rules. Your opening moves depend on
(a) the opponent's mage
(b) who won initiative
(c) what you know about the opponent's play style
(d) what you know about the opponent's spell book
(e) most importantly, the opponent's opening moves

Generally you will turn 1 double move and QC Battle Forge in a central zone, Deploy a turn 2 Ring of Beasts and a turn 3 Enchanter's Ring. You can always attack in turn 2, even opponent's start zone with a Roused Falcon Pet. Then you apply pressure with Grizzly, buffing it each turn with 1 enchantment (Bear Strength, Vampirism, Mongoose Agility), Battle Forge kits you at range (gauntlets, weapon, armour, belt etc) with free spell actions, letting you also attack (each turn's mana is usually spent on 1 equipment and 1 enchantment to sustain pressure). Passive healing adds resilience. Both these features are what generate your relentless tempo.

Synergies Leveraged
Grizzly + Bear Strength + Hand of Bim Shalla + Vampirism + Battle Fury + Retaliate
Teleport or Tanglevine + Grizzly Full Action Attack
Cervere + Eagle Wings
Falcon Pet + Rouse the Beast + Mongoose Agility
Galador + Eagle Wings
Armour + Rhino Hide + Regrowth or Belt

Constantly pressuring with Grizzly, a Pet and mage while Forge gives extra pre-emptive spell actions in 10 zones, you can end a game with these mage stats:

Quick Melee Attack: 9 Dice * Vampiric * Ethereal * Reach * Unavoidable
Armour 5 * Flame -4 * Lightning -2 * Regenerate 2
Fast * Elusive * Unmovable * Climbing

Using Battle Fury and Retaliate (triggered at the right time), you and your Grizzly leverage attack synergies. It is hugely satisfying applying the coup de grace with your own mage. Quick summoning Bobcat guards (with ring, a 4-cost Block with Defence 8+) who also serve as guard distracters that may survive a counterstrike or Falcons Pets (hard to gang up on), the build tries to leverage all 3 mage abilities.

Use Decoy as cheap Seeking Dispel to trigger a Nullify before Dissolve or Teleport (rebate if not) and are decoys against Seeking Dispel as you reveal enchantments at opportune moments (e.g. Regrowth before upkeep). They are also to bluff Block or Nullify (opponent does not know you don't play them) or other enchantments, cost 1 with ring but provide 2 extra mana that the opponent will not have accounted for in his calculations; this unanticipated mana can create tactical coups. They add guile to what is otherwise a very straight-forward book.

The hidden mana use of Decoy opens up a dimension of the game which is rarely discussed, the mind games you play during Planning. Will he move out of range or can I risk Cervere and Rouse the Beast? Turning his Shield on is a signal (soaks your weakest attack). Look how quickly he picked his spells. Or how long he took to choose. So far incantations always seem to come from the back of his spellbook. These tricks are more related to Poker than Chess, it is why Magic players (annoyingly) constantly shuffle their cards to not give any "tells". I won't derail this thread by discussing this tactical facet of the game. But having Decoys in a non-wizard book instead of Seeking Dispels opens up far more opportunities than it closes. And adds to the game's enjoyment with satisfying trickery, like revealing late as possible.

The toolbox spells are meta choices including Galador (vs. Lightning +2, incorporeal and flyers), Falcon Precision (defences), Purify and Renewing Spring (conditions). With plenty of Dispel, Dissolve, Teleport and Tanglevine, as well as the option to Force Push through Wall of Thorns (used more to block line of sight), there are far more control elements than in most "aggro" archetype books.

Weaknesses include
1. Purge Magic hurts it bad (every wizard in my local meta includes one because of this build), requiring spreading enchantments more evenly across the (small) creature base, reducing their synergetic effectiveness.
2. Deathlock shuts down the passive healing that gives the threats resilience hence needs to be destroyed.
3. Lack of ranged (Galador) and flyers (Falcon Pets, Mage Staff's reach) but your focus should be enemy mage.
4. Obelisk then Mind Control on my buffed Grizzly (thankfully Mind Mage only and rarely played by Forcemaster)
5. Although enchantments stack for cumulative benefit, against any attrition build, the longer the game lasts, the more it loses momentum (but Battle Forge creating 2 Rings and a Medallion as its first 3 free actions makes it deceptively mana efficient against mid-range builds).

Does anyone spot any other weaknesses? And any possible solutions? The book wins consistently against non-Wizards, just that Purge Magic destroys its stacking synergies, breaking the game plan. After Purge, any Wizard book that is built well and played well can beat it.

There's nothing particularly insightful about this "Me and my Bear" build. I posted it because I've seen many versions of it and I still believe Beastmaster does it best. Please feel free to disagree, replying with reasons.

Does anyone want to share any Beastmaster tricks this book could benefit from? I would really like to improve it but I don't know how with the current pool.

Straywood Beastmaster will evolve into something better with the new set. However, in the meantime, feedback is more than welcome.

That earth wizard build sounds really similar to something I'm working on. We should compare notes!  And yes, my secret suspicion is that its the best book in the game at the moment, if the player can play tight enough to complete all the games in time and on plan.

Here is my Earth Wizard Kill Zone book. Although there is superficial similarity to Charmyna's “fabled Watergate" book (as all wizards use essentially the same tools with our current nascent pool), this book is played quite differently. It is easy to play for a wizard spell book thus is ideal for newer players (Watergate is subtler and requires far more patience). You can win without ever leaving your start corner zone!

1 Arcane Ring (1)
1 Enchanter's Ring (1)
1 Moonglow Amulet (1)
1 Dragonscale Hauberk (2)
1 Storm Drake Hide (2)
2 Elemental Cloak (2)
1 Leather Gloves (1)
1 Eagleclaw Boots (2)
3 Mage Wand (6)
1 Elemental Wand (2)
1 Regrowth Belt (2)

1 Battle Forge (4)
2 Mana Crystal (2)
1 Wizard's Tower (2)
2 Wall of Stone (4)
1 Wall of Thorns (2)
1 Fog Bank (2)

4 Iron Golem (12)
2 Darkfenne Hydra [8]
1 Gorgon Archer (4)

3 Harmonize (3)
1 Rhino Hide (2)
2 Hawkeye (4)
2 Cheetah Speed (4)
4 Nullify (4)
2 Enchantment Transfusion (2)
2 Jinx (2)
1 Spiked Pit (3)
1 Teleport Trap (1)

4 Dispel (4)
1 Purge Magic (3)
2 Seeking Dispel (2)
4 Dissolve [8]
3 Teleport (6)
1 Force Push (2)

2 Hurl Boulder (4)
1 Jet Stream (2)
1 Surging Wave (2)

Your opening differs by opposing mage and who has initiative, what you know about his book and his style of play. However, I try to follow a game plan, obviously diverted when an opportunity arises (e.g. to Wall of Thorns / Force Push / Jet Stream with Wizard’s Tower) or if the opponent threatens to disrupt my plans (e.g. Nullify and Teleport Wand in case Teleported out). You must preempt a "check" on your king.

Turn 1: build Battle Forge where you start and an adjacent Mana Crystal
Turn 2: forge Arcane Ring for other adjacent Mana Crystal and an Iron Golem in your starting corner kill zone
Ok, so you have very early on revealed your elemental specialty but you often need a guard on turn 3, especially if you started with initiative.

After that, a game is fuzzy (turn 3 Forge is usually Enchanter's Ring) but once you are at 14 Channelling (2 Crystals, Medallion, Harmonize) as early as turn 4 (reveal Harmonize on self just before Channelling to claim Arcane Ring bonus), you can summon a Golem each turn (it guards henceforth) and also cast the trap set-up enchantments (Transfusion, Nullify, Jinx) on the same healthiest Golem for cost 13+1.

As early as Turn 7, you could set the trap off: Spiked Pit in corner zone and Teleport the opponent’s mage onto it then as late as possible Transfuse Jinx Nullify onto him to hit him with 4 Iron Golems. Next turn, you Early QC 2 Stone Walls to enclose him before he escapes.

But the Turn 8 win is very rare. Often it is better to get 2 sets of stacked hidden enchantments ready. With 14 Channelling and 2 Hawkeyes (you and Gorgon) and a Harmonized Wizard’s Tower, you can cast 2x Hurl Boulders and a Gorgon's arrow for 8+7+5 dice focused attack each turn. This forces the opponent to pause to amass troops out of range, which plays into your game plan due to superior Channelling and 7 top class elites.

The 3 Teleport Wands can be used aggressively to move your Hydra about for 3x3 dice attacks then return them to safety before they are killed to heal back up. But the style of this book is not board control but simple assassination: create a kill zone that no enemy dare enter without a big assault that starts beyond range 2 then trap the enemy mage in that kill zone

That just leaves a short explanation of cards. You have a toolbox of 2 breastplates, 2 cloaks, gloves, and Rhino Hide to fully leverage your Voltaric Shield when needed. With the boots on, opponent’s Push effects (to Wall Bash, the danger with corner) cannot effect you or your Golems and it also lets you cross your Stone Walls (as full action). The tempo advantage you get with a Battle Forge (often safe in your kill zone to Harmonize) is well known. Teleport and Hurl Boulder are the default Wand binds.

The very existence of the Thorns trick (props to Charmyna) in your book forces opponents to play in a certain way to avoid cheap damage but beware of doing this too early. You want to do damage spikes in short periods of time (including Hurl Boulders) when approaching the end game as opponent will retreat to regenerate an early spike.

Fog Bank is there just for problematic range 3 Akiro’s Hammer (you venture out 1 to Teleport a range 3 Sniper into your kill zone). It's also great (with Wall of Thorns) for other match ups to break LOS to their Battle Forge or from multiple ranged threats (Gorgon Archer obviously get Teleported in and assassinated). Fog Bank is there to cheaply disrupt line of sight in opponent plans that you predict, a finesse card.

Teleport Trap is there to extend your Teleport lure into your kill zone if the opposing mage stays in his start corner. It is also there for if the opponent Climbs out of your Stone Wall zone after Escaping Stuck in 1 round of being battered, donning Eagleclaw Boots; you (outside) Dissolve his Boots, cast Teleport Trap on an empty zone within 2 of the walled-in kill zone and Teleport opponent onto it as Teleport Trap, like Divine Intervention, requires no line of sight, moving him back into the kill zone.

Harmonize all 3 mana sources, Hawkeye for yourself (don't forget ethereal Zap) and your Gorgon, Cheetah Speed for sustained attacks by your Teleported Hydras (until Dispelled), all of them leveraging your Ring(s) for mana advantage.

Purge Magic (note can be Nullified unlike Dispel) gives you momentum via action (and often mana) advantage, forcing your opponent to avoid stacked enchantment synergies (no more Bear Strength + Vampirism + hidden Retaliate), and counters curse Warlock Transfusing all his Enchanter Ring hidden curses onto you as a free action. As an Earth Wizard should leverage excellent Hurl Boulder via Elemental Wand, this build is more brutal and less subtle to Watergate’s Dispel Wand, one card I had previously dismissed but now appreciate its value. Nonliving Golems are immune to many negative enchantments and you can use Forge to free action swap Wand if low on Dispels.

Finally you have a small toolbox of range 2 attack spells (nothing that a cloak resists), 2 utility and 2 for damage spikes (and very useful Slam). An opponent’s aggressive opening of move 2 and Near Centre Battle Forge will lead to your Wizard’s Tower hosing it down with Surging Wave (also used on Blue Gremlins). Use Jet Stream on Flyers and threats best pushed away to prolong approach (and Thorns).

A variant of this build (and a prior interation) could be:
-2 Darkfenne Hydra, -1 Gorgon Archer, -2 Cheetah Speed, -1 Hawkeye
+1 Idol of Pestilence, +1 Deathlock, +1 Suppression Orb, +1 Mordok's Obelisk, +1 Wizard's Tower, +1 Hurl Boulder

The problem with this build was guarding the control conjurations (which you bring out appropriate to each match-up) which actually serve as lures. With emergence of Swarm in the coming expansion, this Control version may be the future. However, currently, the simplicity and brutality of the above build is better. I've also experimented with Force Hold and Turn to Stone but, because this book does not have many "must Dispel" visible enchantments, they were soon Dispelled as opponent's Dispel quota had not been depleted (if you include restraint, use them in large quantities). I far prefer Tanglevines to Force Hold as they are cheaper points and players run out of Teleports faster than Dispels. However all of these cards are perfectly reasonable to be considered in your variant to suit your local meta. I just prefer good old fashion creature toolbox quantity (all high quality) and position, removing opponent's reactions in an action burst via Transfusion. Combo (this build hybrids with spell points-conscious Attrition) is about "opportunity windows", gaining a burst of free actions to deny responses.

So what are the problems faced? Cervere is a problem but your Shield plus armour should be enough while you mana-efficiently remove her. Fragile Huginn is rarely played (usually with Bull Endurance and Regrowth for resilience) but this causes major problems as it peeks over your Stone Walls etc and can return the opponent to safety, so you need to have the second set of Transfusions ready for it before you spring the trap. Nullifies need to be rooted out first, costing an action window, meaning you need to time your trap well (always leverage Last QC then First QC double fast action when you gain initiative), even worse when they have that timed Nullify using Transfusion which can't be rooted out (just accept the mana loss from your Teleport Wand to use up their trick). Divine Intervention (needs no line of sight to escaped walled-in) is also there as Holy Epic so accept you need to do the trick twice (don't wall in first time) and Seeking Dispel any face down enchantments before doing it (reveal gets round Jinx Nullify). Multiple ranged units (zonal control) can, if timed properly with a Force Wave, cause problems so you need to adopt more aggressive Cheetah Speed Hydras and Gorgons approach, with Teleport into my kill zone assassinations to ensure opponent does not get zonal control over your "L" 3 corner zones. Finally, lucky Seeking Dispels may hit a key piece twice to break the combo trap, forcing you down the walled-in route or change to the standard Teleport attrition strategy. That is the main advantage of this book over prior iterations which used control conjurations as, although it lacks any finesse, this has a plan B.

I believe this build has even stronger match-ups vs. non-wizard decks than Watergate (but now that Charmyna has shared his book, I feel his build has a slight edge in a match-up). Golems are almost an auto-win against the Forcemaster, Beastmistress and Curse Warlock. Against Air Wizard or Priest, it may be best to bring out living creatures first (so toolbox based on match-up). The whole build is a result of a meta where swarm is currently not viable (for reasons given in a strategy thread) hence multi-target attacks (as range 1 or 0 full actions) are not played, allowing for congregating your forces in a kill zone. Once the new expansion is out, with Corrode and Etherian Lifetree and the meta changing to popular swarms resulting in zone attacks being added to books, this book will not be tier 1. So make the most of the build while it is dominant, a current strong and easy-to-play build (unbeaten in our local meta against variety of mages and strategies). Be warned though that, although an easy idea, it is still a wizard build hence there is much subtle skill mastering the book. It is however more brutal than Watergate’s attrition which seems a daunting and draining book to play requiring far more skill.

This build leverages the benefits of not needing to invest resources like move actions in closing in with the enemy, summoning very cost efficient, resilient and control immune threats to guard you in time that then becomes suicidal to assault until a larger force is summoned out of range of your significant ranged threats. But this increases your advantage (better channelling) until you finally spend accumulated resources to lure and trap your opponent for an end game spike damage kill.

Alternative Play / Teaching Variant
« on: September 17, 2013, 06:29:59 AM »
I'm sure I'm not the only one who ends up teaching Mage Wars at their local Magic club. But it is so intimidating for new players because:

(a) the "choose 2 spells" mechanic is awesome if experienced but overwhelming for newcomers and lends itself to analysis paralysis

(b) book unfamiliarity makes it hard to understand strategic options available (e.g. to open aggressive or mid range with 2 crystals etc)

(c) there is a steep learning curve (chess-like optimal openings etc) so they are at a huge disadvantage unless I'm teaching 2 newbies

In life, you often only have one opportunity to impress someone. Fluff it and you rarely get a second chance. So that first game is critical.

In order to impress, I often demo 2 "seeded" books with markedly different strategies which make the game an epic equal battle (they are often wargamers). Beastmaster Swarm vs. Warlock Elites is good as this is shown on the box, demos many elements of the game (Lair. Battleforge, flyers, damage barrier, zone attack, Bobcat guards, burn, Geyser etc). If I am playing a new player (who often nervously turtles), I usually give him Priestess 4 Temples attrition (Archers, Guardian Angels, Knights, Unicorns) and I handicap myself with Air Wizard Mana Denial control to create another epic battle of contrasting styles with (Cheetah Speed) Hydras guarding Epic conjurations, tricksy but rarely deadly Teleports, Force Pushes by him to use Archers engaged in melee or to move Hydras, awesome Chain Lightnings etc.

However, I have been mulling over a heretical variant that may be The Best Way to Teach Magic Players. But because that first game is so important, I'm nervous of trying it out without first consulting The Wisdom of The Forum.

Mage Wars The Gathering

1. There is no spellbook as this unique "advanced game" choice mechanic is what overwhelms new players, causing analysis paralysis.

2. Instead you have a deck of minimum 60 cards (thin decks are good, minimum size is an extra constraint to required 120 spell points).

3. New Planning phase: if you have less than 7 cards in hand, you draw until you have 7. First turn, you may reshuffle and redraw 7 once.

4. To use Deployment or Spellbind, you must have that appropriate card in hand. Cantrips can always be played from your discard pile.

5. Extra to Reset phase (not relevant in the first turn): you may place any number of cards in hand at the bottom of your deck in any order.

So what is the point of this variant?
It makes the game far more random and less like a high learning curve game of chess so new players feel they can beat their teacher.
It is similar to many Magic mechanics that the new player is totally familiar with, increasing the comfort factor.
It reduces the overwhelming choice available, removing analysis paralysis and adds that "sweet! I just drew 1 of my 2 snipers!" moment.
It dramatically changes the game dynamics into an interesting deck-building and game play variant (for me).

Of course, once they are familiar with this limited choice set game (choose from 7), they progress to the full spellbook "advanced game".

Mindful I don't want to put off any potential recruit with a silly variant, what is The Wisdom of The Forum on this idea? (Please be brutal.)

Rules Discussion / House Rules to retain realism (and some clarifications)
« on: September 16, 2013, 04:09:20 PM »
Mage Wars is incredibly intuitive. Its best selling point is it is religiously "fantasy realistic". Whenever we have a rules issue, we usually just rule it like a GM would in a RPG. Because that is plainly the spirit of the game. So we make House Rules. Some of them are below.

"Immunity does not prevent you being targeted and benefiting from attacks that heal or remove conditions."

This first occurred when an Asryan Cleric healed Samandriel. It also occurred when dousing a burning Tanglevine with a Geyser. But a sleeping Lord of Fire still won't be woken by a Ring of Fire. Clear Mind, a promo card psychic purify (to be released with Siren probably) won't be able to remove the lightning Stun from your Psychic Immune Iron Golem. All of this makes sense.

"Enchantments are perpetually targeting the object it is attached to."

No, you cannot reveal or Shift or Transfuse a Poison enchantment onto a Poison Immune creature. So the future Plagued promo card can't be Transfused onto an Iron Golem or Malaconda (he's already got it twice). This rule is not explicit but needs to be.

"Your mage may ignore the effects of any equipment worn."

This occurred when a player wearing Eagleclaw Boots (and no other boots in his book) wanted to Force Push himself out of melee. "But of course I can choose when to use the claws and when to retract them!". "Look, the rules specifically let me use my fists and not my Lash as you are wearing Dragonscale so why not ignore my boots?" And so logic prevailed.

"You can guard a conjuration against a flyer."

Read as Written in the rules, this is not allowed. Only because the rules use "creature" when it should use "object". But when conjurations can be as small as a Flower or a Crystal, this made no thematic sense. So like every other player, we instead applied Read as Intended. But surmising intention is often subjective...

"Text effects that do not cite Line of Sight do not need it"

So Enchantment Transfusion does not need LoS but Shift Enchantment does. Teleport Trap does not need LoS but Teleport does. We decided on this because we all remembered D&D teleport traps which transported the victim(s) from one part of the dungeon to another. But did we rule right? We went with what we felt was right.

"Cards are read as printed. During Reset, only 1 of your conjurations may revert to Ready, chosen in Initiative order."

This is a House Rule I only apply when playing against the Priestess book I often give to any new player (as new players generally turtle). It means they don't need to remind themselves about the 2 changed Temples. But with Ballista coming, it may not be such a shabby idea, permanently solving the stacking ready marker free actions issue.

Feel free to criticise the above rulings. I'm sure we've applied other House Rules on the fly. And I'm sure "I'm not the only one" (Lennon). Some cards do not fully make sense currently but will in future. It took Etherian Lifetree to understand why Tanglevine is Living (as it can't be healed). Apart from highlighting the Living FAQ needs updating, I posted this thread to ask everyone to share your own House Rules. Because some House Rules may actually be good ideas that Arcane Wonders will use, to make the game even better.

So c'mon. who else has House Rules they are willing to share?

From Druid vs. Necro cards previewed so far, Etherian Lifetree and Corrode potentially have a huge synergetic effect on the current meta. Etherian Lifetree is level 2 playable by any mage, Unique not Epic so you can base a strategy around it, supported by multiples. Corrode combats armoured targets, the bane of low dice attacks. Together, they have the potential to raise the Straywood Swarm build to tier 1.

Although I currently play Earth Wizard in serious matches (will change as Golems will be far weaker), my Mage Wars heart belongs to my first love, the first mage I ever played in Mage Wars, the Straywood Beastmaster. I always have a love affair with suboptimal factions (e.g. Jinteki in Netrunner, Lannister in Game of Thrones). But each time I return to Straywood, I always end up with the same build: Battleforge + Beast Ring + Enchanter Ring + Few Bigs + Few Pets + Few Level 1s + Buff enchants + Aggro equips + Utility incants. Yes, he now has Galador (great in the current Golem meta), both Dragon Scale and Storm Drake, plus other single toolbox copies of Eagleclaw Boots and Falcon Precision (mainly for Forcemaster match-up). But otherwise he is exactly the same 1 Core pool Beastmaster I nervously posted on BGG when I got such a warm reception from The Dude and Scott Douglas, stalwarts here. However, Etherian Tree and Corrode hopefully makes an unloved archetype playable again.

The Good. The game theory behind Straywood Swarm was simple:

1.   Only the Straywood Beastmaster can generate 2 creatures in 1 turn (without a spawnpoint) or freely move 1 zone to attack as well as cumulatively generating 1 independent threat

2.   Ring of Beasts provides maximum % benefit with cheaper creatures (albeit once per turn)

3.   The Straywood has an alternative quick action: a Fox costs 1 spell point 4 mana (with Ring) and creates at range 0 a new 3 dice fast attack threatening from next turn while Bear Strength costs 1 spell point 4 mana (with Ring) and upgrades an existing range 2 threat by 2 dice right now just before it attacks

4.   A 1 spell point Bobcat guard costs the same (with Ring) as a 2 spell point Block yet may survive on an 8+ to block again

5.   Animal upgrades (Tooth & Nail, Rajan’s Fury, Call of the Wild only for the mirror match) are most efficient in a Swarm

6.   A Swarm avoids placing “too many eggs in 1 basket” that control builds can efficiently remove (stacked buffs or curses Purged, buffed threat neutralised with Force Hold, Turn to Stone, Mind Control, Charm, Banish etc)

The Bad. However, the issues with a Swarm were greater than the benefits, namely:

1.   The lifetime of a 3 dice Fox is shorter than the bonus 2 dice you have placed on a Grizzly; a Bear Strength will give you at least 1 benefit use (cast just before, revealed after any Defence or Block) while that Fox may never get to attack (though this diverts an attack on you)

2.   Low dice attacks are blunted by armour (X dice attack vs. Y armour becomes more efficient if X > 2Y threshold) then popular Wizard’s Voltaic Shield absorbs critical damage

3.   Vulnerability to zone attacks, damage barriers and Epic control spells (Obelisk, Orb, Idol, Suppression Cloak etc)

4.   Lack of spike damage synergies (e.g. Big + Bear Strength + Vampirism + Retaliate + Battle Fury)

5.   Outside the Straywood, creature spawn points need to be played for swarming and the popular belief is that the current meta is too aggressive for such heavy early investment (Watergate bucks the trend)

6.   The game’s most valuable resource is the fleeting “opportunity window” (hence having that ideal card from a toolbox) and casting your biggest affordable threat is often the best expenditure of that resource

The Summary
Your swarm may get more actions per turn but each are more short-lived so less actions in total.
Your swarm may roll more dice combined but deal less damage due to the armour soak mechanic.

The current meta reflects the lack of swarm being played by others. Zone attacks are minimal, culled from books as they are full actions (no Wizard’s Tower utility) and often pricey spell points. Epic control cards (Obelisk, Orb, Idol, Cloak) see less play (although Earth Wizard kill zone plays them, along with Deathlock). In fact, as players remove anti-swarm cards in books (often to make way for expansion toys), this “gap in the meta” makes the game ripe for a blindside meta-call: The Return of The Swarm.

If you summon a Swarm of creatures and your opponent is following a Few Big strategy, then the Etherian Lifetree is far more beneficial to you. It also gives your weaker creatures a greater % life gain, raising your Foxes and Falcons to 7 life. For the usual attacks encountered to deal 7 damage is far harder than 5 damage, hence your threats live to attack 1 more turn. This is like doubling the potency of their threat (turning them from living attack spells that can be one-shot removed to probable two-shot attacks). Flying makes fast Falcons far harder to target with creatures, increasing their lifetime further. Obviously this growing overlap of attacks will then accumulate.

The Straywood always had multiple Tooth & Nails to help penetrate armour. But this was inefficient against Few Big, the most common strategy played. Now however against Few Big, we have a stronger targeted anti-armour effect in Acid Ball. Permanently removing 1 (33%) or 2 (67%) armour before your swarm attacks while also dealing 2 dice damage is better than the swarm staple Marked for Death.

There are so many other benefits. The Swarm often attacks the opposing mage after his guard is in Tanglevine. Etherian Lifetree makes those vines that bit tougher. Those Mana Flowers you rejected before have become more viable, giving you the option to switch tempo to mid-range. Those Walls of Thorns (no barrier for your level 1 swarm) you plan to Jet Stream or Force Push opponent through once you Corrode all his armour is now harder to destroy, giving your swarm ranged cover. Your Unicorn pet used in a Swarm build has even more life buffer to leverage its regeneration. It's all good for the Straywood Swarm strategy.

I confess I was underwhelmed by the Druid mage card (I appreciate this is grossly unfair without seeing all her new cards). I am however excited to see Straywood Swarm resurrected as competitive. Maybe I've misread the impact Etherian Lifetree and Corrode will have on the meta. But if I am right, Arcane Wonders is to be congratulated for simultaneously weakening Iron Golem (much needed) while addressing some of the weaknesses of Swarm, making a Swarm archetype competitive.

Player Feedback and Suggestions / Feedback on Promo Cards
« on: August 18, 2013, 09:20:32 AM »
Shad0w told us that promo cards serve as beta testing to obtain player feedback.
I explained feedback would be limited without a list of cards for everyone to discuss.
Someone kindly posted this link (with images) below.

Power Creep
I personally believe that to keep players interested, a slow LCG like MW ideally needs to bring out new mechanics hence new competitive strategies. But there must also be a small amount of power creep to keep established mage builds happy. The trick is to keep this power creep as small as possible to prolong the obsolescence date of the oldest cards whilst giving us a tiny dose of power gaming. I've been pretty happy with AW because their expansions so far have brought in new innovative strategies. Some cards are currently never played competitively but the meta can always change to incorporate them (e.g. more Incorporeal creatures/conjurations appearing in competitive meta for Divine Might to be added to enchantment toolbox like Falcon Precision). In an ideal world, you would want every card to be costed just right but this never happens in practice hence the same (slightly under-costed) cards appear in competitive books. The fact I'm more concerned about wasting future release space with under-powered cards than overpowered cards is a tribute to the patient design team. So well done AW.

I also appreciate that promo cards are some of the "sexiest" cards being tested. It appears only Galador has been released so far and it is a sexy card, addressing flyers, metal armour guards and guards with no intercept. But it is not overpowered.

It is also hard to feedback on cards in isolation without knowing the context of the other cards in the set. Falcon Precision and Iron Golem being in the same set as FM is an obvious example. In the same way, the next set may introduce a solution to Iron Golems and kill zones (e.g. "reveal to teleport 1"). Even if a mistake is made, it can be corrected in the next expansion,

With the above caveats, after analysing the new card images, below is my initial feedback. I am sure players far better than me have far better points to make and I hope they will share them here. So, in order of images in the link...

Healing Wand - alternative to Purify. cheap and versatile but very action-intensive, why release Dispel Wand instead of this?

Sersiryx, Imp Familiar - action-burst abuse with Enchantment Transfusion after safely casting curses on self; suggest "level 1-2 curse enchantments on enemy objects"; checking what was cast was legal is also an issue; otherwise it's cool to see warlock curses get more love, making warlock more control.

Asyran Defender - cost gap in Holy creatures filled, Guardian Angel is so good though so used more as a cheap resilient guard remover, would making him a cleric be too good?

Stumble - love it (user-timed unlike Jinx) but we then need more mobility beyond Teleport and Force Push

Summoning Circle - bluffs a zone trap, ambush in slow creatures, range 2 unlike garrison = 6 teleport cost

Sandstorm - a range 2 fast zonal attack to primarily disrupt position/attacks, great against zonal control

Elfric's Life Ring - overcosted rubbish, please never waste space by printing this

Meditation Amulet - why this over Moonglow? Equipment has to be good competing in this slot. This is the card to make spawn points more competitive. The game values temporary denial of a fast action spell at 3 (Jinx). A 4-cost amulet that trades a full action for 4 mana may be considered in some spawn point builds (and solo FM). It's a full action burst not no-action persistent so needs a greater benefit.

Hurl Rock - fine cost-effect (avoidable unlike Arc / Flameblast) but a bit dull, still it fills an earth attack gap

Akiro's Favour - ridiculously good and under-costed, needs "friendly creature" target if designed as a boon only else too versatile, fine at that cost (without Magebind) as a "may reveal to re-roll and discard" (so as timed bad luck mitigation) to make the game more skillful

Ballista - open to abuse with multiple sequential attacks without reply action, needs Unique (unrealistic, multiples needed for zonal control) or rule change to only allow 1 ready marker use before or after each action (the better solution as this removes HoB errata which then brings ToL back as a competitive option).

Bloodcrag Minotaur - fine for some future Charge-based build (e.g. "soldiers gain Fast and Elusive")

Critical Strike - fine command enchantment that obsoletes Piercing Strike (most existing commands poor)

Gravikor - I finally view it and it's definitely great in some books but does not seem overpowered, just wary of making Iron Golems better in the current meta...

Hurl Meteorite - more Earth love with their Thunderbolt, very good with Wizard's Tower spell-switching utility

Lion Savagery - fine, with Minotaur it hints at a future Charge-based strategy (so Force Wave better etc)

Morning Star - fine but is it too much nerfing of Defence/Block/Reverse Attack with too much unavoidable?

Vorpal Blade - fine vanilla aggro, equal cost to versatile Mage Staff, will be popular but not overpowered

Temple High Guard - wow, very good but may be what Holy needs (so best guards with Guardian Angel), makes slam attacks even more tactical which is good

Altar of Peace - missing control piece (split among 4 schools), mana denial boost, Epic so not overpowered

Mordok's Tome - a cool card, suspect it flatters to deceive but nice flexibility, arcane mage only is in theme

Oscuda - more interesting than Dire Wolf, more armour hate (zonal critical), more Golem love (poison), reminds me that I suspect Screeching Harpy missed zonal and Psychic Immunity to make it competitive

Clear Mind - psychic Purify, niche meta-dependent, a lot of unnecessary FM hate in these promo cards

Spiked Buckler - seems very good but probably not overpowered with Morning Star in the same set

Altar of the Iron Guard - ok, this is poor design, it is far too cheap for a global effect and Legendary so the player going first gets a huge advantage. For that cost, you should delete "which you control, you may" to make it a benefit for both players. Global effect conjurations benefit both players ("just that I have more animals than you"). As a benefit for both players, one players who builds around it (Guardian Angel, Temple High Guard) will still gain more.

Debilitate - why this over Agony? Does not work with Charge. Maybe 1 copy for an enemy aggro mage? Please don't print this. Why not "this creature's attacks lose all keywords"? Now that would be a cool curse.

Holy Strike - why? It's not even a command. Divine Might may be played in an Incorporeal meta but this?

Plagued - a very interesting curse but more Iron Golem synergy, nice soft control to separate creatures

So my first impressions are, based on their current text, a few seem too strong (Altar of the Iron Guard, Akiro's Favour, Ballista, Sersyrix), a few seem too weak (Life Ring, Meditation Amulet, Debilitate, Holy Strike). But most of the promo cards seem fine, even taken out of context of their future card pool.

I think the important thing is for AW to ensure there is a vibrant competitive scene hence promoting the various strategies and mages so they are roughly equal in competitive viability. So if Holy zonal control needs a boost, maybe Temple High Guard is brought out early etc.

The most important thing is balance between mages and strategies. We know the current meta is now more balanced than the game's early aggro dominance (esp. Warlock). But there may be mages (Warlord? Priestess?) that need a bit of a boost to join the others. As well as weaker strategies (mana denial? Get that Altar of Peace released fast!). I've got no issues with standout cards that address imbalance (Beastmaster needed Galador). There will always be good cards and bad cards (varies by strategy and mage access). However, a more even power-level distribution among new cards would be best to widen the choice pool when players strategise.

Overall, having finally seen the promo cards, apart from a few, they are not something I'd worry playing against (half the battle is knowing they exist and anticipating their play). So I feel far less handicapped not having them. Keeping them shrouded in mystery only promotes resentment. My misgivings proved unfounded so well done to AW; they are mostly pitched at a nice level (with a few mis-steps).

Has anyone else spotted any potential abuse / broken uses for these cards with our current pool?

General Discussion / Promo cards
« on: August 13, 2013, 08:01:53 AM »
I keep seeing card names I don't have, despite buying all expansions (available in the UK).
Meditation Amulet

I then realised these were promo cards and I read that they will be released eventually.
Sectarus (which is so out of place in that expansion) is evidence this is being carried out.

Now I realise "Kickstarter" donations are deserving of special unique rewards.
I certainly don't begrudge anyone who donates to the gaming hobby like that.

But these promo cards seem to be everywhere.
I don't know what people have done to deserve them.
But they have access to abilities that none of us mere mortals have access to.

I am a huge fan of AW and wish them every success with this game.
Just like FFG revised expectations of component quality (from AH!), AW have raised the bar further.
Unfortunately CoK costing me than FvW seemed odd (by all means move to paper boxing).
But overall, I am constantly singing the praises of "this independent games company called AW".
I hope AW shame FFG to similar Return On Investment (I doubt it as FFG is like Apple, once the upstart etc).

However, their decision to give access to cards with competitive abilities only to limited sources (outside of their Kickstarter base who deserve it) may possibly create a two-tier community...

I do appreciate that Tom Vassel's weighty recommendation is worthy of a "thank you" gesture at Dice Tower so AW are simply being nice, rewarding their advocates/evangelists and what they perceive to be the most active base (US games convention goers). As a marketing professional, I appreciate this is simply sensible promotion marketing.

However, this does create a bit of annoyance from the others. Is it really fair some players can cast spells that others simply can't? This is in a LCG where every expansion is bought by fans.

I would have no problem if these rewards (exc. Kickstarters who deserve all they get) were special artwork foil cards signed by the artist or Bryan Pope himself. The marketing promotion rewards should be "collector" cards and certainly not competitive cards that I've got and you haven't because I paid a donation to Dice Tower.

I really want Mage Wars to become as big as Magic (more accessible and fun, Magic is more cerebral). That is why I'd urge the Arcane Wars Marketing Department to think twice before releasing competitive spells to a very limited base. Why not just stick to foils, hallmarks, different artwork, signed etc? Or if it has to be a brand new spell (which then takes up space in a later expansion out-of-place), at least make it for some niche casual play strategy and not competitive.

Just to reiterate: I am a huge fan and will continue purchasing the product (barring further significant value erosion beyond CoK compared to FvW) no matter what AW do on this subject. But as a marketing consultant by profession, I can see the hole they are potentially digging by not promoting a "level playing field" when it comes to access to spells.

Keep up the good work in all other areas (well, apart from the GenCon tiebreaker and ToL pre-emptive errata to allow for more temples). The product is very good, very accessible and just ticks the Ameritrash "fun" box. So well done guys for providing so much fun to all of us.

Custom Cards / The Magician: a very different mage
« on: July 22, 2013, 04:37:06 PM »
Is the following hypothetical  mage too powerful or too weak?

The Magician
The Magician dabbles in all schools of magic. You never know what you are up against when facing the Magician.

Spell Points: 120
Life: 32
Channelling: 9
Training: the Magician is trained in the first copy only of each spell in his spell book.
Blank (no powers)

So, because of his unpredictability, the weird and wonderful different combos that he can repeatedly cast and always having just the right spell for any situation, I suspect this mage with such weak stats (no powers even) would be very playable (and great fun to play). I may even proxy him to test him. He is the ultimate Toolbox, the extreme of Versatility vs. Focus, what I believe to be the 2nd axis in this game (Aggro vs. Control is the other obvious axis).

So... would anyone else play him?

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