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 found 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 over.

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 you're 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.


  1. This is a fantastic post and blog however, can you PLEASE make the pictures bigger! It would definitely help me if I could better see the cards and their text. :)

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I will keep this in mind for future posts.