Thursday, May 11, 2017

Set One Constructed: Army of the Apocalypse Combo

Having been thoroughly distracted from testing full constructed for the Origins qualifier, I have a Set One only deck that I've been working on through the Alpha app. This deck has been a long process in the making for me starting all the way back when Set One first came out. I knew I wanted to make a sweet Army of the Apocalypse deck after reading through the cards for the first time. My favorite idea was to bring back multiple Drinkers of Blood (DoB) and Crystal Golems with Army of the Apocalypse. The idea was to break the Golems and make a bunch of DoB triggers while also drawing a bunch of cards and playing a hand full of 0s all in the same turn. The deck would always start out with three copies of each and then diverge from there with many variations. With the Alpha online and only Set One cards available, I set out to tune a deck and find a list with which I was happy. I'm currently very happy with the below list, only occasionally tweaking a few cards here and there.

The deck is clearly centered around Army of the Apocalypse as well as Drinker of Blood. The dream combo is as I described above, but there are plenty of other things you can do with Army of the Apocalypse. The first being a once sided reanimation effect thanks to Amnesia, Guilt Demon, and Keeper of Secrets. Discard banish effects can be very powerful in general preventing your opponent from utilizing their discard pile for recall, recycle, and other effects. This deck gets extra utilization out of these cards by allowing you to setup a massive Army advantage. They also work to setup a Zombie Apocalypse (ZA) advantage by having more champions in your discard pile than your opponent. ZA is a favorite card of mine and I've played it many times to simply put a bunch of zombies into play for a follow up DoB combo with Wither or Flash Fire.

The rest of the champions try to give you some advantage immediately when you bring them back into play with Army. Juggernaut and all the 0 cost champions with Blitz can attack or use their expend abilities right away. Winter Fairy gives you a card if broken when your opponent answers with a break all champions mass removal effect. Thought Plucker and Muse demand an answer if not immediately, before your next turn. Memory Spirit is a good blocker, but not much else when brought back with Army. However, it effectively functions as an additional three copies for every event in the deck. One of the most common ways I've used Army is simply putting two or three one cost champions into play. This is not a massive blow out, but can be very strong to establish a board and chip away to gain incremental value.

I usually don't put Rain of Fire in my constructed decks. However, it functions as a quasi one sided mass removal card that can trigger multiple DoB effects. It also serves as direct damage to help close out games. I originally only played a single copy but have been impressed with it's actual utility in testing. Ancient Chant is a great way to draw cards and combat discard from your opponent. Drain Essence is essential to survive against the direct damage decks and can take out larger champions in conjunction with the other 0 cost direct damage cards. Wither and Flash Fire are necessary for the DoB combo. Erase is consistently good giving you two cards and another strong effect which is rare in Epic. Hurricane serves as an addition mass removal card and Surprise Attack can get DoB or Winter Fairy into play on your opponent's turn.

There are a lot of cool interactions happening in this deck and so many sweet plays that can be made. Though, one of the ways to make this deck fall apart is to keep it's discard pile as empty as possible through out the whole game. This cuts off it's most powerful plays while minimizing the effect of Memory Spirit. If you can keep up the pressure with large champions while doing this you should have more than a fair chance against this deck. Juggernaut can be a problem to handle, but there is not much consistent aggression to follow from this list. I had originally played cards like Psionic Assault, Stand Alone, and even Frost Giant instead of these Juggernauts. Ever since I started playing with the set I haven't wanted anything else. This deck likes to chip away turn after turn, building up a discard pile for a devastating combo that will either win the game immediately or create a massive advantage.

If you're interested in hearing me talk about the deck you can check out my twitch stream where I upload my videos here Right now these are mostly Dark Drafts, but I do talk about the deck at around the thirty minute mark in the Epic Card Game Broadcast 5 video. The video quality is quite horrible, but the audio is adequate if you want to hear me talk more about the deck. With this list under my belt I'm satisfied to move on to real testing for Origins. I'll be working on understanding the popular Constructed lists and fine tuning my Random 60 building method. I intend to write about both in future articles and look forward to talking to you all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

In Depth Game Analysis I

In this article I will share an in depth game analysis of a dark draft transcript from one of last year's early Worlds Qualifiers. The purpose of this exercise was to determine what actions were the most relevant towards the outcome of the game in order to better understand how the game was won. Throughout the analysis are italicized sections which denote the post-game analysis for that particular turn.

Player 2 goes first and mulligans one card. Player 1 does not mulligan.

Player 2 Turn 1: Player 2 plays Steel Golem revealing Warrior Golem and Djiin of the Sands and attacks. Player 1 plays Lying in Wait banishing Steel Golem.

Post Analysis: Without Lying in Wait, Player 1 would be facing down a massive, untargetable champion. He would likely have had to held of attacking and chump blocked until he fund an answer. This was a fortunate turn for player 1.

A more subtle note here is that player 2 elected to mulligan only a single card. This choice will later turn out to have been a mistake.

Player 1 Turn 1: Player 1 plays Raxxa, Demon Tyrant making two demon tokens. Player 2 does not spend her gold and the turn ends.

Post-Analysis: Player 2 falls behind in tempo by not spending her gold on her opponent's turn. As was elude to  earlier, player one elected to mulligan only a single card at the start of the game. What this means is that she decided to keep four cards in her hand that she could not play on her opponent's turn. It is possible player 2 did not draft enough ambush champions or event cards. I suspect player 2 wanted to keep Steel Golem and two other Sage cards in hand to trigger Loyalty 2, and also wanted to keep the Kong she plays next turn. However, it is more important when you're going first to have an opening hand that can utilize gold on your opponent's turn than it is to hold onto these powerful cards. 

Player 2 Turn 2: Player 2 plays Kong breaking Raxxa, Demon Tyrant.

Player 2 plays Plague to deal 1 damage to player 2 and draw a card, then recycle.

Post-Analysis: Even though Player 2 was able to break Raxxa and start to stabilize the board, there were still two demon tokens in play that she didn't deal with. Player 1 maintained the tempo advantage as the demons can start attacking next turn if the Kong can be removed. Additionally, player 1 is matching cards in hand with player 2.

Player 1 Turn 2: Player 1 plays Sea Titan returning Kong to player 2's hand and then attacks with a demon token.

Player 2 plays Hunting Raptors revealing Kong and Fire Spirit and blocks.

The demon token is broken, but player 1 plays Feeding Frenzy breaking the Raptors.

Post-Analysis: Returning Kong to hand with Sea Titan seems like a risky play. In hindsight, player 2 did not play the Kong again for the rest of the game. It seems this was a considered move from player 1 knowing that he was going to be able to put enough pressure on player 2. Player 2 was not able to convert the valued gained from this play onto the board. 

Another important note from this turn was player 2's choice to not use Hunting Raptor to break the second demon token. The damage from this token turned out to be significant by the end of the game. Additionally, player 1 did not attack with the second demon token knowing that Kong was in hand, ready to be played and break it anyway. This was likely a mistake and could have ended up ending the game a turn earlier.

Player 2 Turn 3: Player 2 plays Fire Spirit and Warrior Golem then passes.

Player 1 plays Time Bender revealing Stand Alone and Erase then banishes Warrior Golem with Time Bender.

Post-Analysis: Ambushing in a Blitzed Time Bender this turn after player 2 had already spent her gold was an incredibly powerful tempo play. Not only did player 2 not get the recycle trigger from Warrior Golem because it was banished, but Time Bender would be ready to use its expend ability again next turn and further player 1's tempo advantage. This turn put player 2 firmly on the back foot and she would need to find an answer for the board in order to try and come back in this game.

Player 1 Turn 3: Player 1 starts by playing Erase to return Fire Spirit to player 2's hand.

Sea Titan then attacks for 11 damage with no response from player 2 and the demon tokens follows for another 4 damage. Player 2 passes again without spending her gold.

Post-Analysis: Player 2 passing for the second turn this game without spending her gold was certainly the beginning of the end. Having passed up on two opportunities to use her gold, player 2 put herself in a very bad spot. Player 1 was able to convert his tempo advantage into a substantial health advantage with no response from player 2. The value gained by player 2 from having Fire Spirit returned back to hand was moot as player 1 was so far ahead on the board and in tempo that player 2 could not capitalized on the value. Player 1 played very aggressively this turn and it worked, but if player 2 had an answer like Zombie Apocalypse, the game could have gone on giving player 2 more time to replay Kong and Fire Spirit.

An important note from this turn is that player 1 elected to play Erase on Fire Spirit and spend his gold first rather than use the expend ability from Time Bender. It is generally good practice to save your gold until after your opponent has spent theirs first. However, in this case, it makes sense to use Erase on Fire Spirit rather than Time Bender's ability because it plays around an ambushed 0 cost card. Time Bender can be used to banish a 0 cost card that player 2 might ambush into play to block the Sea Titan. Erase will only put it back into player 2's hand to be played again immediately.

Player 2 Turn 4: Player 2 plays Jungle Queen.

Player 1 returns it to hand with Time Bender then recycles with Spike Trap and plays Ancient Chant.

Post-Analysis: Player 2's play of immediately playing a champion that draws a card for the last two turns implies that he is digging for an answer to the board. However, playing Kong is simply better as it breaks the Time Bender and puts a champion into play that can survive a Sea Titan attack. Player 1 has maintained his tempo dominance and is now in a position to attack next turn for the win.

Player 1 Turn 4: Sea Titan attacks and player 2 ambushes in Pyromancer which breaks the Time Bender.

Player 1 breaks the Pyromancer with Necrovirus and then plays Flash Fire to remove the potential zombie token blocker. 

Player 2 plays Second Wind gaining enough health to survive the Sea Titan strike. The demon token attacks bringing player 2 down to a single remaining health.

Post-Analysis: The nice sequencing to enable the second hit from the Sea Titan all but guaranteed the win for player 1. Time Bender finally went down, but its damage had already been done. The game at this point was all but done.

Player 2 Turn 5: Player 2 replays Jungle Queen and then a Wurm Hatchling and Keeper of Secrets. which banishes Necrovirus.

However, player 1 has Memory Spirit which player 1 uses to return and then play Flash Fire.

Post-Analysis: Although player 2 was able to develop a substantial board presence this turn, she was much too far behind in tempo for it to matter. All player 1 had to do was produce any direct damage effect in the game in order to win and he did just that.

Summary: This was a simple game overall with only a few turns and not many interactions. The tone of this game was dominated by player 2's failure to spend her gold every turn. The first missed opportunity put her on the back foot while the second put her in a spot where she had to find an answer to the board immediately. The largest lesson to take away from this game is how important it is to use your mulligan to craft an opening hand that can use gold on your opponent's turn when your going first. Other lessons to take away from this game are in the details.

Sea Titan dealt a total of 22 damage this game. Demon tokens added up to a total of 8 damage as well over the course of the game. Any number of modifications to player 2's play decision could have changed this. She could have mulliganed more cards at the start of the game in order to craft a better hand. She could have been more conservative and held back on playing and immediately attacking with Steel Golem on turn one. She could have broken the second demon token with Hunting Raptor's ability after blocking the first. Had player 1 not had Lying in Wait for Steel Golem on turn 1, he likely would not have been able to play as aggressively and the game could have gone very differently. Player 2 could have had more time to deploy the valuable cards in his hand and gain more effects off of Fire Spirit and Jungle Queen.

I believe another key for this game was Player 1's ability to replenish his hand size throughout the game and make use of his gold every turn. Player 1 saw more cards over the course of the game and therefore had more options than player 2. Player 1 used banish effects to not only answer his opponent's threats, but also to nullify his recycle opportunities. Player 1 had multiple recycle triggers where as player 2 could use none.

This type of detailed analysis is critical to deeply understanding what is actually going on in Epic. There are little tactics that can be found by looking carefully at a game and thinking about why a player did what he or she did. Overtime these tactics accumulative to an arsenal that you have at your disposal to draw from. I highly recommend this type of analysis for anyone wanting to improve their play and become a better player.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Epic Combos and Rules II

Epic Combos and Rules: Part II

Expanding on my previous combo article, I bring you more combos! Some of these you may have seen before. Others may be new. They’re intended to be more fun than anything else. However, you may find yourself in a draft where you can take advantage of one of these interactions. Or you may be inspired to build an entire constructed deck around them. (See the final combo for said inspiration).

Murderous Necromancer with Secret Legion or The Risen

Murderous Necromancer has a powerful expend ability, but doesn’t have Blitz. Therefore, it often won’t last in play long enough to use. One unexpected play you can pull off with Secret Legion or The Risen is to give Murderous Necromancer Blitz on your opponent’s turn. Play Murderous Necromancer on your turn, then, if it survives until you have initiative on your opponent’s turn, play Secret Legion or The Risen to give it Blitz. Then, not only can you get to break a champion a turn earlier than expected, but you’ll also have a small army!

Turn and Powerful Champions

Turn is a powerful card that can permanently gain control of one of your opponent’s champions. You can also use the first mode to take their champion for a turn to attack, or block, or whatever. However, this first mode is not limited to just your opponent’s champions. You can use it on your own champions to great effect. If you do, turn will prepare your champion and give it Blitz. You can return a champion to play with Necromancer Lord, use Turn, and do it again in the same turn. You can also attack with a Burrowing Wurm to deal 18 damage to your opponent, then use Turn to prepare it and attack again in the same turn.

Forcemage Apprentice, Deadly Raid, and Rage

Forcemage Apprentice has a unique ally ability that prepares it whenever you play a one cost Sage card. You can leverage this ability in an unexpected way with the following sequence. Play Rage on your Forcemage Apprentice and attack. Before blockers are declared, play Deadly Raid to make it unblockable and trigger its ally ability. This prepares it and now you have a 6/5 Unblockable attacker with Breakthrough that can attack again in the same turn.

Corpse Taker and Sea Titan

Sea Titan is a powerful champion with Untargetable and can be a nuisance for your opponent. In conjunction with Corpse Taker, it can become a nightmare! Play Corpse Taker to return Sea Titan from your discard pile to hand. Then immediately play Sea Titan returning Corpse Taker back to your hand. This is one of the more powerful combos in this article as it only requires two cards and has few vulnerabilities.

Brachiosaurus, Final Task and Mighty Blow

Bring on the Dinosaurs! Put Brachiosaurus into play with Final Task and receive an additional gold from its Tribute effect. Then, use that gold to play Mighty Blow which gives Brachiosaurus an additional 10 attack and Unbreakable. Attack with an 18 power Breakthrough, Blitz Dinosaur that won’t break at end of turn from Final Task (unless Blind Faith…sad day).

Necromancer Lord and Brachiosaurus (and Surprise Attack)

For those waiting for Time Master to become legal to have more than one gold a turn at your disposal, you don’t have to wait! If you’re lucky enough to have Necromancer Lord survive until your next turn with a Brachiosaurus in your discard pile you can bring it into play and voila! You have two gold.

Bonus: With Surprise Attack, you not only increase the likelihood Necromancer Lord survives by putting it into play on your opponent’s turn, you can eliminate the Gold restriction from Brachiosaurus by putting a champion of any alignment into play.

Time Master and Temporal Enforcer and Teleport and Owl Familiar

If you’ve ever wanted to win by drawing your entire deck in constructed, here is a guaranteed way to make that happen. It requires a lot of setup, but is an uninterruptable combo that will result in you drawing your entire deck in one turn when executed properly. To execute the combo, you’ll need to climb Everest. Uh, I mean have a Time Master in play ready to use its expend ability and a Teleport, Temporal Enforcer, and Owl Familiar in hand… Well, same difference I guess. Once you’ve reached base camp… I mean, got this setup, complete the following sequence;

1. Expend Time Matser to gain 1 Gold.

2. Play Teleport targeting Time Master to return it to play Prepared with Blitz and draw a card.

Then, use Temporal Enforcer’s ally trigger from playing Teleport to return Owl Familiar to your hand. If Temporal Enforcer is not already in play, you can put it into play before playing Teleport by using your normal gold for the turn. The same applies to Owl Familiar except it’s free to play.

3. Play Owl Familiar targeting Teleport to return it to your hand.

4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 until you’ve won the game.
If you’re less interested in drawing your entire deck and more interested in dealing infinite damage, sprinkle in a Forcemage Apprentice or Blue Dragon and substitute Turn for Teleport. You can also get funky with Keeper of Secrets and stack the cards from your discard pile to the bottom of your deck. If you want to jump start the process, bring back a broken Time Master with Final Task. It’ll come into play with Blitz and that end of turn trigger won’t even matter. You can even maneuver Time Master straight to your discard pile with the new card Frantic Digging from Uprisings. This ensures your Time Master won’t be banished before bringing it into play with Final Task. Kalnor’s Blessing is also an option for those wanting some extra protection.

Sadly, this combo is not currently legal for tournaments as it requires the Kickstarter promos. However, it will be legal once those cards are release in their retail set and the combo can be done without passing initiative. So when that time comes, be on the lookout for crafty players trying to Time Master combo their way to an instant win.