Know Your FoW: Counting Stones

Welcome to Know Your FoW! It’s the blog series here on Friend & FoW that deals with the decisions involved in the game and explores the probabilities and statistics behind each topic.

For this week’s topic, we look into what can be considered as the most straightforward aspect in the game: the Magic Stone. I call it straightforward because once you have determined that you need to call a Magic Stone, there is little to no decision making involved afterwards – the stone that gets put into play is at the mercy randomization. For the former magic players, there’s no mulligan for lands or sequencing of which to play first. For the former World of Warcraft players, there’s no need to identify which card is best to row as a resource. It’s as if we have no control whatsoever.

But we do have control. Not during the actual game, nor during shuffling (hopefully you do so as truly random as possible). We have control during deck-building. For mono colored decks this exercise is simple, just make sure you build our Magic Stone Deck with 10 of your chosen color and you’re all set. The challenge comes when one needs to find the right balance for multi colored decks.

The Ratio Method

A relatively simple method in balancing stones is to sum up the total number of attribute symbols found in the casting cost of cards in your deck and proportion your magic stones according to the identified ratio. Let’s take the following deck for example:

4x Brainless Scarecrow {G} 4x Cowardly Lion {G} 4x Heartless Tin Man {G} 4x Dorothy, the Lost Girl {G} (1) 4x Glinda, the Fairy {G} {G} 4x Deadman Prince {B} (2) 4x Pumpkin Witch {B} (2) 4x Jewels on Dragon Neck {B} (2) 4x Spire Shadow Drake {B} (2) 4x Mephistopheles, the Abysal Tyrant {B}{B} (2)

In our example, one could count up 24 {G} symbols and 24 {B} symbols, resulting in a nice 50:50 ratio. That would lead us to constructing our Magic Stone deck containing equal parts Wind and Dark, 5 of each stone without any duals, or 3 of each and 4 duals. While the ratio technique is good for a quick estimate of attribute balance, it overlooks a key factor in gameplay. Indeed half of the deck needs {G} and the other half needs {B}, but all turn one plays require {G} and only needs {B} by turn three at the soonest. This leads us to my preferred method:

The Curve Analysis Method

While taking just a bit more time and effort to implement, this method paints a clearer picture of how the deck would want to operate and the Magic Stone deck would hopefully reflect that. One would need to list out his deck by “ideal turn played” and identify what color requirements are necessary at each point in the game. Again for the example deck:

  • Turn 1: {G}
  • Turn 2: {G} (1) or {G} {G}
  • Turn 3: {B} (2)
  • Turn 4: {B} {B} (2)

On turn 1, this deck really wants to play a one-cost resonator. By this point, only one Magic Stone would have been called. The likelihood of calling a stone that can play a {G} casting cost resonator can be computed by the formula:

(# of stones that can produce wind) / (# of stones in magic stone deck)

The (# of stones in a magic stone deck) would be 10 at the start of the game, so there’s nothing we can do to improve our chances by manipulating the divisor. We can improve our probabilities by modifying the (# of stones that produce wind).

In a perfect world, we’d want to reach 100% certainty, which would require 10 out of 10 magic stones to produce wind. But as we shall see, we can’t always get 100% certainty, and maybe 90% or 80% or even 70% would be enough.

In order to cast Glinda, the Fairy on turn 2, two magic-stones should be called and both need to produce {G}. Thats actually two dependent events that need to have happened: turn 1 call a stone that produces {G} and turn 2 call a stone that produces {G}. In a formula: (# of stones that can produce wind) / (# of stones in magic stone deck) * (# of stones that can produce wind – 1) / (# of stones in magic stone deck – 1)

Note the “minus ones” in the second half of the equation, caused by the calling of the first stone decreasing the magic stone deck size. Again, to reach 100% certainty one would need 10 out of 10 magic stones to produce wind. While 9 wind producing stones amounts to 80%, 8 to 62.22%, 7 to only 46.67%. If we had followed the values specified by the ratio method we’d only be able to cast the turn 2 Glinda in our hand about half of the time.

While both Glinda and Dorothy are two-cost wind resonators, the difference in (1) {G} and {G} {G} is quite significant for your Magic Stone balance. For Dorothy, the Lost Girl, at least one of the two magic stone’s called would need to produce {G}. The event consideration is slightly more complex: if turn 1 call a stone that produces {G} then turn 2 call any stone if turn 1 call a stone that doesn’t produce {G} then turn 2 call a stone that produces {G} In formula:

(# of stones that can produce wind) / (# of stones in magic stone deck) * 100% + [(# of stones that can’t produce wind) / (# of stones in magic stone deck) * (# of stones that can produce wind ) / (# of stones in magic stone deck – 1)]

Fortunately for us, another way of considering this equation would be: what is the likelihood that we get both stones that do not produce wind and subtract that value from 100%, formula:

100% – [(# of stones that can’t produce wind) / (# of stones in magic stone deck) * (# of stones that can’t produce wind – 1) / (# of stones in magic stone deck – 1)]

This time, to reach 100% certainty we only need 9 wind producing stones. Even dropping to 7 wind producing stones, still provides us with a 93.33% certainty of being able to cast the Dorothy in our hand on turn 2.

As we move up the curve, we realize that representing the probabilities in a formula and calculating them accordingly gets more and more like a homework assignment instead of preparing for a fun card game. Worry not, because we have the internet to save us. Stattrek provides an effective hypergeometric calculator that we can use for these exact purposes (Available at: http://stattrek.com/online-calculator/hypergeometric.aspx). I’ll be referring back to this calculator many times in the future. To use it for our Magic Stone calculations, make use of the following inputs:

  • Population size = 10 (# of stones in magic stone deck)
  • Number of successes in population = up to you (# of stones that produce the attribute of your choice)
  • Sample size = Turn # (# of stones that have been called)
  • Number of successes in sample (x) = (# of attribute symbols are found in the casting cost of your card)

The “>=” result is relevant for our scenario because we want to meet the casting cost requirement but don’t mind going over.

So for Pumpkin Witch one would enter something like:

  • Population size = 10
  • Number of successes in population = 5
  • Sample size = 3 (assuming we want to cast her on turn 3)
  • Number of successes in sample (x) = 1

and be 91.67% confident that we’d be able to cast her on turn 3 even with just 5 dark magic stones.

For Mephistopheles, the Abyssal Tyrant on the other hand:

  • Population size = 10
  • Number of successes in population = 6
  • Sample size = 4 (assuming we want to cast her on turn 4)
  • Number of successes in sample (x) = 2

would give us 88.1% certainty that Mephistopheles can be played with 6 dark magic stones.

Now what do we do with all these numbers?!? With the Curve Analysis Method we’ve identified that it’s almost impossible to reach 100% certainty to cast all our cards in our multi colored deck, but we can come very close to it.

Assuming all the cards in our example deck are equally as important to be played as soon as possible, I’d probably balance the magic stones as 5 Wind stones 1 Dark stones and 4 dual stones. This leaves us with an 80% likelihood to cast Glinda on turn 2 and 73.81% chance to cast Mephistopheles on turn 4, all the other cards would be at least 90% certain that we would be able to cast them as soon as possible. Without any dual stones, I’d be very hesitant to try to make this deck work because the likelihood of successfully playing either Glinda or Mephistopheles would be too low for my preference.

It’s the cards with double casting cost requirement that are the most difficult to cast consistently in multi colored decks. However, not all cards are equally important to a strategy. Nor are all cards necessary to be cast as soon as possible. Knowing the strain Glinda and Mephistopheles are putting on our consistency, we now need to ask ourselves some questions:

1. Do we really envision casting Glinda on turn 2? Maybe we only need her later and lessen the wind stones needed.

2. Is Mephistopheles relevant enough in this deck to warrant the double dark requirement? Are we willing to play him at just 73.81% certainty, or can we remove him and lessen the dark stones needed.

3. Do we really envision casting Pumpkin Witch or Deadman Prince on turn 3? Maybe we only need them later and lessen the necessary dark stone count even further.

4. Why are there Jewels on the Dragon Neck in this deck aside from making the Ratio example all nice and balanced?

By analyzing the curve and attribute requirements, we can identify cards that don’t quite fit into the plan of our deck (even though they are powerful) due to restrictive casting costs. We also get to plan out when we envision each card to be played and increase the likelihood that we can play that card when we need it.

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Just Decklist: Arla Aggro – Vingolf Box Tournament – 1st Place

Ruler: Arla, the Winged Lord / Arla, Hegemon of the Sky

4 Artemis, the God’s Bow

3 Thunder
3 Demonflame
3 Ame-no-Habakiri

4 Rukh Egg
4 Guinevere, the Jealous Queen
4 Perceval, the Seeker of Holy Grail
4 Lancelot, the Knight of Mad Demon
4 Cthugha, the Living Flame
2 Snow White, the Valkyrie of Passion
1 Bedivere, the Restorer of Souls
1 Hector de Maris, the Acolyte of Mad Demon
1 Little Dread, the Fake Red Moon
1 Susanowo, the Ten-Fist Sword
1 Gilles de Rais, the Golden Dragon

4 Magic Stone of Heat Ray
1 Little Red, the Pure Stone
5 Fire Magic Stone

Sideboard:
1 Melgis, the Flame King / Melgis, the One Charmed by the Demon Sword
4 Laevateinn, the Demon Sword
3 Sign to the Future
3 Robe of Fire Rat
2 Dream of Juliet
2 Split Heaven and Earth

Matches:
2-0 vs Alice Wererabbits
2-1 vs Snow White Aggro
2-1 vs Blazer Control
2-0 vs Vlad Control

Notes:
This deck is the same list that won the Japanese Open tournament last week. Some changes I’d make if I were playing the deck again:

-1 Bedivere, the Restorer of Souls
-1 Ame-no-Habakiri
-1 Susanowo, the Ten-Fist Sword
-1 Thunder
+1 Demonflame
+1 Hector de Maris, the Acolyte of Mad Demon
+1 Snow White, the Valkyrie of Passion
+1 Blazer, the Eater of Dimensions

Sideboard:
-3 Sign to the Future
+2 Certo, the Blazing Volcano
+1 Split Heaven and Earth

5 Ways to Become a Better Competitive Player

Force of Will is just a new game in the Philippines, being only nearly two years old (or 11 months, if you’re a Grimm Cluster baby like me), yet just like other trading card games, the competitive spirit eventually ignites inside every new player – a drive to become stronger, better, and eventually rise through the ranks. Here are five tips to help one become a better competitive player – mostly dealing with methods and mindsets rather than specific, technical play. Continue reading 5 Ways to Become a Better Competitive Player

Ruler On A Budget: Yog-Yamata Reanimator Combo Decklist for $50

Just last week, I visited the local FoW community at Ongkeco’s Hobby Shop (OHS) in Taft Avenue. I met around six people throughout the afternoon, and after playing, exchanging ideas, and having a lot of excitement involving a couple of boxes of Vingolf, I went home in high spirits – it’s great to see the local community steadily growing.

I’ve promised two of the players, Lenard and Fran, a deck that the latter would enjoy. Lenard has a grasp for the game and is experienced – just behind a bit on cards, while Fran is new to the game. After seeing her play an aggressive pre-Alice cluster Bahamut deck, it occurred to me how aggressive decks in FoW does a lot of stuff and it might be intimidating to newer players to remember them all and play optimally, not to mention that with the shortage of supply of the Melgis and Faria duel decks, upgrading to a better aggro deck might not be the best solution at the moment.

An idea came to me as I was perusing Lenard’s binder and came across Yamata-no-Orochi. The Nightmare/Dragon Resonator has been a centerpiece of most combo decks because it can OTK (One Turn Kill) the opponent from nowhere using reanimation (when you put a resonator from the graveyard directly into play, bypassing its actual cost) shenanigans. I remember Cesar, one of the prominent players in our local community, piloting a version which used Book of Eibon and Genesis Creation a couple of weeks before, and it did well. However, his list contained some hard-to-find cards like Guinevere, but I’m convinced that there might be a way to build it cheaper without compromising its power too much.

Image of Yamata-no-Orochi
The disaster refers to pulling out one of these from your TAT pack.

A couple of days later, I made this list:

Ruler: Blazer Gill Rabus (Php500)

4 Prowler of Niflheim (Php40)
2 Shantak (Php20)
4 Forty Thieves (Php40)
4 Card Soldier “Club” (Php40)
2 Arthur, the Dead Lord of Vengeance (Php150)
4 Yog-Sothoth, the Dark Myth (Php200)
4 Yamata-no-Orochi, the Eight Disasters (Php200)

4 Necromancy of the Undead Lord (Php40)
4 Book of Eibon (Php80)
4 Genesis Creation (Php200)
2 Realm of Pure Spirits (Php40)
2 Niflheim, the Realm of the Dead (Php50)

4 Magic Stone of Heaven’s Rift (Php600)
5 Darkness Magic Stone
1 Light Magic Stone

Total: Php2200 (or roughly $50)

So here’s a deck with a linear game plan, cheap, and can potentially be faster than any aggressive deck at the moment. Barring an initial learning curve involving the reanimation shenanigans (which will be explained in simplified fashion below), the deck is easy to pick up for the enthusiastic newbie. But before we move on, let us take a look at the cards in the deck and what they do:

Ruler: Blazer Gill Rabus

Image of Blazer Gill Rabus
He and Grimm are forever locked in a staring contest.

Blazer is our Ruler of choice primarily because of his ability to produce Fire Will out of any Magic Stone. This saves us a bit of money since we don’t have to invest in a set of Magic Stone of Scorched Bales (the Fire/Darkness one). More importantly, it lets us cast Forty Thieves, a key part of the deck’s engine, without any problem. A nice benefit of having Blazer as a ruler is that the opponent won’t be able to guess our deck’s game plan – a Blazer deck is mostly aggro or control, and it might lead to a slight advantage. They’ll also be more cautious when J-Activating.

Monsters: Yamata-no-Orochi, Yog-Sothoth, the Dark Myth, Arthur, the Dead Lord of Vengeance

Image of Yog-Sothoth
‘Sup Knights. 🙂

These three are the big hitters and are the main targets of reanimation spells. Yamata is the centerpiece of the deck, and allows as early as turn 3 kills. Yog is our other big toy to reanimate, with the added bonus of being able to come down early via the Incarnation mechanic. With lots of 1 and 2-cost Resonators in the deck, it should be easy to Incarnate Yog and stop early pressure. Note that his [Enter] effect won’t work when he enters play from the graveyard. Arthur, while having poor synergy with Yamata, is great with the rest of the deck should we find ourselves going for Plan B – which is good ol’-fashioned beatdown.

Enablers: Shantak, Prowler of Niflheim, Forty Thieves, and Card Soldier “Club”
These four cards make up half of the deck’s engine, as they put cards into your graveyard for reanimation later on. Forty Thieves is best used when we have the big monsters in your hand and need to discard them and/or we have to find our reanimation spells. Card Soldier best used when we already have reanimation spells in our hand, but lack targets in the graveyard. Learning when to use these two properly is one of the tricky, yet rewarding aspects of the deck, and requires a bit of intuition and luck.

As for Prowler, it’s almost always a good idea to cast him on turn 1. In the later turns, treat him the same way as Card Soldier when weighing your options. Finally, Shantak is a great early blocker, Incarnation fuel, and another way to discard any big monster that gets stuck in your hand.

Reanimators: Book of Eibon, and Genesis Creation

Image of Book of Eibon
Remember that it can also steal your opponent’s Resonators.

Book of Eibon is probably the best reanimation spell in the game so far. It only costs 3, and with the current metagame being light on Addition-hate, it’s unlikely that the opponent will be ready for it. Take note that it’s an Addition:Field, meaning that we can target it with Genesis Creation, and it’ll reanimate another Resonator in the graveyard when it enters the field (e.g. if we have Yog, Yamata, and Book of Eibon in our graveyard and play Genesis Creation, we can reanimate Yamata and Book. Book then enters play and reanimates Yog).

Genesis Creation is our other reanimation spell and can be used as described above, though ideally, its main targets are Yamata and Realm of Pure Spirits.

Others: Necromancy of the Undead Lord, Niflheim, the Realm of the Dead, and Realm of Pure Spirits

Image of Necromancy of the Undead Lord
The Real MVP

Despite only granting minor stat buffs, Necromancy of the Undead Lord is one of the best cards in the deck since it never truly dies (hence no loss in card advantage), and latches itself for free to the Resonators that we play or reanimate. Just a couple of these on a Yamata is enough damage to close the game. As an added bonus, it turns the Resonator that it’s attached to into a Zombie, so it gets the bonus of Niflheim as well.

When there are little to no Zombies on our field, Niflheim can be treated as Card Soldier 5 and 6 – it’s an enabler that puts stuff into our graveyard, and can be brought back by Genesis Creation later if needed. Otherwise it’s a nice global buff to your Zombies (or anyone with a Necromancy attached to them).

Finally, a couple of Realm of Pure Spirits makes Yamata nearly untouchable since he doesn’t need to rest to attack, hence always “inside” the Realm’s protection.

Gameplay
Here are some general rules to remember when playing the deck:
1) Always keep the important enablers (Prowler, Thieves, Club).
2) Always keep at least one reanimation spell. Two is fine, if the other cards in your hand are enablers.
3) Always keep Necromancy of the Undead Lord, but not more than one. You may keep multiples if you have ways to discard it from your hand like Shantak or Forty Thieves.
4) You’re better off seeing the big monsters in the graveyard than in your hand. HOWEVER, do keep a big monster if your initial hand can allow reanimating it on turn 3 or 4.
5) Keep a Yogg against aggro, but only if your hand can support casting it via Incarnation.

The deck’s main plan is to hold off until it can pull the Yamata combo and kill the opponent in one go. How often this happens and at what turn can vary, but should the stars align, we can kill as early as turn 3. When we’re not raising eight-headed dragons from the dead, the deck’s plan B depends on the matchup.

Against aggro decks, we have to stall until we can pull out a big monster from our graveyard to defend with. Keep in mind that sometimes, clearing the field is better than going for face. Be sure to count damage before committing to a play.

Against control decks, we can be proactive with our enablers and use them to constantly pressure the opponent. Control decks tend to have solid removal spells, so relying on Yamata might not be the best option. However, do take advantage of any opening that comes up. Arthur might be the best among the big monsters in this matchup, since he’s a recurring threat that buffs our other attackers.

Despite having a plan B, most of the deck’s wins rely on an unanswered Yamata combo, and in some games it just doesn’t happen. Such is the nature of a combo deck that relies on the quality of cards in the graveyard – there will be times when it’ll be inconsistent, or we draw the wrong cards, or things don’t simply mesh together – and that variance is something we’ll have to accept in exchange for potentially winning regardless of any game state.

Just think of it as high-risk, high reward.

In terms of match-ups, I think the deck can go toe-to-toe with most decks. However, it has two nightmare matchups – Pricia (or anything that has Horn of Sacred Beasts) decks, and control decks. The former is almost unwinnable given how good Horn of the Sacred Beast is in ruining our main game plan, while the latter can reach a point where it can Cancel most of our plays if we don’t apply pressure fast enough. Blazer, the Eater of Dimensions, could potentially be bad for our deck as well, but he’s not a popular choice in the metagame at the moment.

Sideboard and Moving Forward

The sideboard is where we can get flexible with our card choices, and for this I suggest that we do a transformative sideboard instead to fight against the control matchups, and keep our opponent guessing regarding which strategy we’ll use.

1 Rezzard, the Undead Lord / Rezzard, the Desecrating Vampire
4 Death Scythe, the Life Reaper
4 Underground Dragger
3 Scion of Ancient Lore
3 Seth, the Arbiter

Death Scythe is a natural complement to Blazer’s J-Activate abilities, and those two combined can easily scare the opponent into holding back on their J-Activation. Since we’re using the Darkness Regalia, we might as well take full advantage of it by using Rezzard as our alternatre Ruler against heavy control decks. The Undead Lord adds a lot of pressure because he can come out early before control decks can truly stabilize, and is often huge enough that he can’t be taken down easily. With Death Scythe in play, he can easily dominate the field by stealing opposing Resonators.

The rest of the sideboard is dedicated to this Rezzard beatdown strategy. Underground Dragger serves as a natural Rezzard buff when in the standby area, and removal when triggered. Scion is really good beater for his cost, and is another great reanimation target.

Finally, we have Seth. He’s a secondary engine that allows us to retrieve cards from the graveyard whenever we kill opposing Resonators, and is still good even if we don’t have discard effects. There are a lot more tricks involving him, which will be covered at a future Rezzard article.

Image of Seth, the Arbiter
So. Much. Value.

As for the cards to remove when siding in the Rezzard suite, we’ll want to take the combo pieces out entirely, but still leave the reanimation spells in. So we go:

-1 Blazer
-4 Yamata-no-Orochi
-2 Realm of Pure Spirits
-2 Yog-Sothoth
-2 Shantak
-4 Forty Thieves

So that’s it for our deck. If you want to try something risky yet fun, give it a shot! It’s quite easy to play and build, and won’t cost you an arm and leg to acquire the pieces. It can be frustrating at times, but when everything comes together, there’s no greater satisfaction than bringing the opponent from 4000 to 0 in one play.

A disaster indeed.

Until then!

Card images are from db.fowtcg.us

The 5 Best Resonators in Alice Cluster (so Far)

The Twilight Wanderer is upon us! With Dragons, Fairies, and our new Ocean Overlord coming, let’s take a look back and see which Resonators shook the metagame the most both here and abroad.

5. Arthur, the Dead Lord of Vengeance

Any non-Darkness deck that has faced Arthur knows how important is it to keep him off the board. He’s the whole package – a huge body to deal and tank damage with, along with a 400 ATK / 400 DEF stat swing which completely changes combat into your favor. It might not seem much at first, but when your Lancelots can be beaten by Loras, or you can’t play your Cheshire Cats as chump-blockers, you know that you’re at a huge disadvantage.

What puts Arthur over the top is his recursion. You need to remove Arthur from the game to permanently deal with him, otherwise he’ll keep coming back. Costing 4, he’s also a great target for Persephone. This however, is also the primary reason why I can’t rank him higher – there are some cards that are hard counters to Arthur (e.g. Grimm, the Avenger of Fairy Tales, Bedivere, and Savior of Splendor) which are fairly common inclusions. Left unanswered however, he can quickly bring games to a close whether by himself, or with other Darkness Resonators.

And don’t get me started when there are two copies of him on the field…

4. Celestial Wing Seraph

Image of Celestial Wing Seraph
“Hey, is that a baby she’s carrying? Oh wait…”

CWS is pure value that’s more than worth her cost. You get a total of 1800/1800 (you are getting that Dignified Seraph right?) worth of Flying bodies, and the ability to heal certainly helps! For most decks, playing CWS is a point of stabilization, as aggressive decks tend have limited options to get past the two huge angels.

The best part of CWS is that her “enter your field” effect triggers no matter where she came from – whether you raise her from the dead via Genesis Creation, blinked her out and in again via Dream of Juliet, or put into play from your hand from Alice’s Castling, she makes sure that she comes in with company.

As an Angel, she can be searched with Arla’s J-Activate, and given the defensive tools Light has, it is very possible to survive into the mid-game where she can easily take control of the match.

3. Perceval, the Seeker of Holy Grail

Image of Perceval, the Seeker of Holy Grail
Regalias, Knights, and everything nice. That’s what little Percy’s made of.

Ever since they broke into the international competitive scene, Knights of the Round and Regalias have been metagame staples – forever changing the pace of the game and cementing Fire and Light as the go-to colors for aggressive strategies. These decks thrive on consistency, and Percival plays a huge part in it. Digging 5 cards deep into a 40-card deck is a lot of searching power and, when built right, is almost as good as searching for a specific card and getting it.

The Seeker’s role doesn’t end there though – he also has the ability to prevent damage to his fellow Knights of the Round Table and, more importantly, your J-Ruler. All of these advantages for just the cost of one Light Will makes little Percy a definite addition to any deck that uses Regalias, Knights, or both.

2. Guinevere, the Jealous Queen

Image of Guinevere, the Jealous Queen
She’s jealous that you’re using Cheshire Cat in the same deck too.

As if Fire needed any upgrades, we get presented with a Resonator that:

a) Only costs 1.
b) Turns any Resonator into card advantage while improving the quality of your hand.
c) Pushes damage when you desperately need it.

It’s Guinevere’s first ability which makes her stand out. Repeatedly being able to draw into more threats or answers and filter unneeded cards is a welcome ability in any deck. She works best with Resonators that do something when they die such as Rukh Egg and Mozart, or ones with some form of recursion (meaning they can find their way from the graveyard into play, one way or another) such as Cheshire Cat and Rasputin. That aside, she’s flexible in any deck – even some combo decks such as Yamata-Eibon utilize her as an additional way to discard their key pieces, and Alice’s World decks put her in for her unique Resonator type (Queen), and synergy with Morgana, the Wise Servant.

Don’t forget that she can sneak some damage in with her second ability as well. It’s rarely used, but it’s always good to have. The mini Poison Apple-like effect could be enough to close some games (or trade favorably with larger opposing Resonators).

1. Lancelot, the Knight of Mad Demon

Image of Lancelot, the Knight of Mad Demon
Fair.

Lancelot might not be the metagame-defining card in FoW so far (that honor goes to Laevateinn), but he definitely has set a new standard for aggression, which sent other decks scrambling to adapt to. When Knights first came out, it steamrolled nearly every deck it came across in the old metagame (Odd Grimm, Midrange Grimm, Abdul/Scheherazade Control, among others), and a big part of it is due to the Knight of Mad Demon. He simply does a lot for his cost. 600/600 for 2 Will is already great stats and puts him outside of Thunder/Demonflame range. Swiftness on top of that makes him a really strong card, but the ability to shoot 700 damage and pump himself? INSANE!

Did I mention that he can be searched by two of the best search engines in the game (Rukh Egg and Perceval)?

This is what puts Lancelot a league above the rest – he’s a card that can dish out damage and provide field control at the same time while being almost always readily accessible for very little resources. Granted, you have to get him to 1000 ATK, but it can be done very easily with Hector (which can also be searched by either Rukh Egg or Perceval). In the worst case, you have to spend four stones to pump Lancelot, and even then it’s still a fair price to pay. Killing two resonators for three resources (Lancelot + Hector) is a lot of value. Killing an opposing resonator and then hitting your opponent for a fourth of his or her life total is also great value, and Lancelot can easily do either. The “drawback” of him having to attack first each turn is negligible most of the time, as that’s what you’d want him to be doing that anyway.

While there are numerous ways to deal with Lancelot, most of these are ineffective because they either cost the same, or greater as him (which means they have to forfeit their turn 2 or 3 play just to prepare for him early in the game, or risk taking huge damage or being behind in field advantage), or he already did his damage by the time he’s answered (such as Rapid Decay or Bind of Gravity). The fact that he’s so cheap and can easily be searched means that your opponent has to always account for the possibility of being hit with multiple copies and play accordingly.

Finally, he’s godlike with Ame-no-Habakiri. In fact, there’s an interesting deck in the Top 4 of the local Halloween Event here which centers on the setup of Little Red, the True Fairy Tale with Lancelot, Ame-no-Habakiri, and Protection of the Seraph to create a fast, unstoppable beast, and then protecting it with Cancel spells.

Red is having a field day in our top 5, and hopefully we see some of the other colors make the cut with The Twilight Wanderer comes in! Are there any Resonators that you have in mind which didn’t make the list? Let us know at the comments!

Until then!

Card images from http://force-of-will-tcg.wikia.com/ and http://db.fowtcg.us .

Mono-Darkness Midrange

Earlier this week, I shared an untested list of a Dracula deck on our Facebook group which looks like this:

Ruler: Dracula, the Demonic One

4 Artemis, the God’s Bow
3 Death Scythe, the Life Reaper

3 Stoning to Death
4 Dark Purge
2 Bloodsucking Impulse

4 Rasputin
3 Servant of Vampire
3 Lora, the Bloodspeaker
3 Scion of Ancient Lore
3 Carmilla, the Queen of Vampires
4 Nyarlathotep, the Usurper
4 Arthur, the Dead Lord of Vengeance

1 Grusbalesta, the Sealing Stone
1 Little Red, the Pure Stone
8 Darkness Magic Stone

Notice how I purposely left out Laevateinn because it’s really hard to get a hold of a set locally nowadays. The idea behind the deck is to beat variants of Fire Aggro, and other mid-range decks such as Pricia and Grimm by establishing an aggressive suite of Darkness Resonators that caps off with Arthur. The sideboard can be designed to fight control decks by shifting to Vlad along with discard effects and topping it off with Necronomicon to settle in for the long game. In theory, a turn 5 J-Activation via Carmilla would be enough to stabilize, and from there Dracula can wreak havoc on the opposing team.

That’s all just theory of course. I was soon reminded in testing that there are a lot of stuff nowadays that kills good ‘ol Drac, even with the Death Scythe around to boost his stats. Also, the T5 dream wasn’t as awesome as I expected – some decks go under it and just burned me out, while others simply get bigger with their Resonators and answers. Dracula’s strength turned out to be his greatest weakness – oftentimes I was playing to J-Activate, only to learn later that it wasn’t the best course of action. Finally, I found myself siding in Vlad in more matches and getting better results.

She may have been the better option from the start.

Image of Vlad Tepes
Best Vampire Awardee

So I rebuilt the deck from scratch and ended up with this:

Ruler: Vlad Tepes

4 Rasputin
4 Mozart
3 Lora, the Bloodspeaker
1 Servant of Vampire
4 Scion of Ancient Lore
4 Nyarlathotep, the Usurper
4 Arthur, the Dead Lord of Vengeance
2 Carmilla, the Queen of Vampires

4 Stoning to Death
4 Dark Purge
3 Soulhunt

3 Artemis, the God’s Bow

1 Grusbalesta, the Sealing Stone
1 Little Red, the Pure Stone
8 Darkness Magic Stone

Sideboard:
1 Blazer Gill Rabus
4 Death Scythe, the Life Reaper
4 Spiral of Despair
1 Artemis, the God’s Bow
3 Dark Pulse
1 Soulhunt
1 Carmilla, the Queen of Vampires

Mozart is the deck’s newest inclusion. While having small stats, she will almost always take a Resonator with her to the grave by dying through combat, being Banished for Soulhunt, or paying for Nyarlathotep’s Incarnation cost. Definitely a great addition in fighting the ever-popular plague of Fire decks.

Image of Mozart
No idea why that’s the flavor text.

Speaking of Nyarlathotep, the Cthulhu does a lot to stop early aggression when Incarnated on turn 2. It’s a huge blocker for that phase of the game, ruins the opponent’s game plan, and helps you plan ahead with the information you gain from the opponent’s hand. Follow it with a turn 3 Scion and turn 4 Arthur, and you’re on your way to sealing the game in your favor.

Sealing games proved to be a lot easier with Vlad. She provides the inevitability that the deck sorely lacks with Dracula, and shrinks any opportunity for the opponent late in the game to mount a comeback. The main difference between this build and the control variant is that this deck is more proactive, and Vlad plays a more supporting role with her ability late in the game where we inevitably run out of cards and need something to do with our excess resources.

The rest of the deck plays out like the original plan: play dudes, gain field advantage, close the game.

The sideboard is a mix of tools against decks which are heavily reliant on their J-Ruler, and control decks. Because recurring Arthur and/or Death Scythe consumes much of our graveyard (not to mention having Vlad’s power to sink our spare resources in), Necronomicon was removed. In it’s place, we add Dark Pulse, which is a great tool against Knights and Grimm variants.

So if you’re looking for a more proactive twist on a popular Ruler, mono-Darkness midrange just might be a good fit for you. It has solid removal, huge beatsticks, and can adapt to most matchups.

Until then!

Card images are from http://force-of-will-tcg.wikia.com and/or http://db.fowtcg.us/

Pure, Simple Aggression – Halloween Special Event – 1st Place

The day before all Saint’s Day marks a major point in the local FoW history – 49 people attended! It was way past the expected 20-ish turnout for a tournament, and is a clear indicator of how far we’re come (and how far we have to go) in promoting the game locally.

With SKL around a month old, the local metagame hasn’t been entirely defined. However, all of the popular archetypes are present. Both control and mid-range decks are viable – they are represented by the ever reliable Vlad Tepes, although some variants of Scheherazade exists. Pricia became the go-to mid-range deck, although there are a couple of Grimms here and there. Aggro, as always, is very viable with Bahamut, Melgis, and Cain leading the pack. Then there’s the occasional combo deck utilizing Yamata-no-Orochi and Book of Eibon. Finally, there are off-the-radar decks (at least in the local metagame) such as Rezzard, Valentina, and various Blazer builds. This along with some remnant decks from the previous cluster makes for a really varied field.

I think the safest approach for such a field is to play proactively. Fire remains the strongest Attribute in FoW as long as the game doesn’t go beyond turn 6, and is the prime choice for most aggressive strategies. The big question is which variant to use: Pure Fire, Melgis Knights, Blazer Knights, Bahamut Aggro, or Cain Regalia? All of these have their pros and cons:

Bahamut Aggro is the strongest in terms of raw power, but I still find it too much of an all-in deck. The mirror match doesn’t allow much room for the second player to maneuver and try to win because of the limited defensive tools that red has. The match simply becomes “who’s the bigger dragon?”. On top of that, some players put in a number of Susanowos main deck regardless of the deck they use. I personally find this too risky.

The same goes for Cain Regalia – it has the potential to be unstoppable, but clunky Regalia draws can leave you way behind the opponent.

Blazer Knights is a stable, consistent deck. However, I don’t really like the idea of having a reactive ruler in a proactive strategy, since you’re losing a lot of offensive power (and damage) that a J-Ruler provides. This also makes the deck fall prey into more controlling variants of Vlad, or really good mid-range Grimm builds.

Fire aggro is great. It’s fast and consistent, plus you get to choose either Cain or Melgis. It has two main problems however – first is that it plays badly from behind. It has limited ways to search for potential answers outside of Guinevere, which means that you have to draw really well to win against an aggro mirror. Second is that Cain and Melgis rely a lot on Laevateinn, and the deck loses a lot of edge by not seeing a copy of it. It’s a small issue against control, where you are given a lot of chances to draw into a copy, but against the mirror, it matters a lot that you draw the Demon Sword as soon as possible. As it turns out, Percival is an important piece to solve the aggro mirror puzzle.

This brings us to Melgis Knights.

I won’t mince words here, Melgis is an offensive powerhouse. The ability to J-Activate for cheap without causing a resource disadvantage is really nuts, his First Strike makes him nearly unmatched at combat, and his God’s Art is one of the best at the moment. His weakness though, as I’ve mentioned above, is that he is reliant on his Regalia. You absolutely need Laevateinn for him to work, otherwise it’s risky to even consider J-Activating him since he’s very susceptible to Thunder, Dark Purge, and Flame of Outerworld. His God’s Art also becomes significantly more expensive without the Demon Sword around.

Image of Melgis, the One Charmed by the Demon Sword
He’s more fragile than Valentina, despite packing all that muscle. The 500 DEF probably refers to his feelings.

I think there’s a big difference in choosing between Melgis and Cain. I picked the latter though, because he’s more flexible, and will work a lot better in a varied field… at least in theory. While slower, Cain has the potential to win the game by himself when left unanswered because his Activate ability combined with Laevateinn can be used to easily pick off opposing Resonators while he attacks for respectable chunks of damage. He’s also a bit tougher too. 700 Health makes a huge difference when Marybell is involved, as it spells the difference between still dying to a Flame of Outerworld (or two Thunders), and completely surviving it.

As for the Knights part, I’m no stranger to the power of it – having won our Nationals on the back of our team’s very first brew, which also won the Singapore Open soon after. The aggression it brings is on a whole other level than existing decks during that time. However, I think most of the players have caught up with it, and both control and mid-range decks have adjusted accordingly to counter Knights-based strategies. Despite most Knight lists being streamlined, there are some aspects of it that doesn’t fit well with the play style of the deck I plan to use. I find Gawain and Galahad too defensive, and lacking in power versus slower decks.

I wanted something faster and more proactive.

After much thought, I figured out that the answer might lie somewhere in the middle – take the best parts of Knights (Lancelot, Guinevere, Percival, and Hector), and combine them with the best parts of Fire aggro (Ruhk Egg, Cthugha, Milest). They actually blended better than expected, and the resulting brew was tested for the better part of the week, which led to the deck I brought to the tournament:

Ruler: Apostle of Creation / Cain, the Traitor of Gods

4 Laevateinn, the Demon Sword
3 Marybell, the Steel Doll

4 Thunder

4 Rukh Egg
4 Guinevere, the Jealous Queen
4 Percival, the Seeker of the Holy Grail
4 Milest, the Invisible Ghostly Flame
4 Lancelot, the Knight of Mad Demon
2 Hector de Maris, the Acolyte of Mad Demon
4 Cthugha, the Living Flame
3 Snow White, the Valkyrie of Passion

4 Magic Stone of Heat Ray
1 Little Red, the True Stone
5 Fire Magic Stone

Sideboard:
1 Melgis the Flame King / Melgis, the One Charmed by the Demon Sword
1 Arla, the Winged Lord / Arla, the Hegemon of the Sky
3 Breath of the God
4 Artemis, the God’s Bow
2 Demonflame
2 Crime and Punishment
2 Flame King’s Shout

The general strategy of the deck is to play aggressively in Game 1, and then adjust accordingly for Game 2 – which could mean anything from putting in a couple of Flame King’s Shout to shifting to a more defensive strategy using Arla and Artemis. The sideboard works like a flowchart, and being able to shift into a more defensive deck helps a lot against the dreaded aggro mirror match. Here’s a rough guide on which Ruler I planned to use against certain match-ups:

Going first vs aggro – Melgis
Going second vs aggro – Cain / Melgis
Going first vs control – Melgis
Going second vs control – Cain / Melgis
Going first vs Bahamut – Melgis
Going second vs Bahamut – Arla
Going first vs Rezzard – Melgis
Going second vs Rezzard – Arla
Going first vs Blazer – Melgis
Going second vs Blazer – Melgis

So why not just Melgis all the way? This is just my personal opinion, but playing against Cain and Melgis have their subtle differences. One gradually gains advantage and grows into an unstoppable force, while the other can hit for huge damage out of the slightest openings, and I think this affects the pace that the opponent perceives the match. If they were under the impression that damage flows in at a constant, steady pace in game 1, they might expect the same in the next game. Then they get surprised when they get blown out for lethal because they’re unaware of Melgis’ damage potential and played their turn without accounting for it. However, this is just my take on the matter. Starting with Melgis instead is just as fine.

Here’s the breakdown of the matches I’ve had throughout the day:
R1 2-1 vs Bahamut Aggro
R2 2-1 vs Bahamut Aggro
R3 2-0 vs Crimson Girl Oz Aggro
R4 2-0 vs Bloody Snow White Aggro
R5 Draw into Top 8
Top 8 2-1 vs Bloody Snow White Aggro
Top 4 Opponent had to leave – free win!
Finals 2-1 vs Scheherazade Control

Given the opponents I’ve met throughout the tournament, Breath of the God in the sideboard was a complete miss, even after fighting a Blazer from the opponent’s sideboard in the Top 8. A much better sideboard option would have been Robe of Fire Rat, which shuts down any Lancelot or Susanowo shenanigans. Another miss was Snow White, the Valkyrie of Passion. I think she’s too slow for the deck, and is only great when you’re ahead. There are better ways to spend three stones to take control of the game, like the Lancelot-Hector combo.

Image of Snow White, the Valkyrie of Passion
“You do nothing, White Snow.”

Arla and Artemis performed well against both Bahamut matches, with the bow bring a constant threat to the Dragon King. This slows down the pace of the match enough for me to control the board and catch up on damage.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the best characteristics of the deck is how nearly all of the cards work well together. Between Rukh Egg and Pervical, searching for Lancelot is very easy, and cracking the Egg through Guinevere or Cthugha is always satisfying. One resonator which stands out from the rest is Milest. He seems an oddball addition to the deck with all the Swiftness going on around. He makes the cut because of his versatility. Milest can affect the board immediately, and the 300 damage he does can be used for almost anything – from controlling the board to setting up Demonflame kills. In a pinch, it’s direct damage to the opponent, so even if he dies immediately on the same turn, he still provides a little value. His 600 ATK is also good, and even if only one attack gets in, he has more than paid for himself. Drawing multiple copies doesn’t hurt as a newly-summoned one adds a counter to the existing copies on the field. Finally, he fills that awkward 2nd turn when you don’t want to play a Lancelot yet, but don’t have any other relevant play.

Image of Milest, the Invisible Ghostly Flame
He can do it all!

Despite the deck’s successful run, there are still things that can be done to make it better. I’ll most likely be taking out Snow White and filling in the space with Susanowo, Blazer, the Eater of Dimensions, and Little Dread. These three excel in different match-ups (Dragons, Control, and Mid-range respectively), and can be searched with Rukh Egg when needed.

So there you have it, another boring ‘ol aggressive deck that’s added to the big list of proactive decks in the game. It’s nothing too flashy, and doesn’t win spectacularly (unless it’s one of those Melgis blowout turns), but it’s ruthlessly efficient in what it does without committing to too much risk like all-in builds or foregoing defense in hopes of winning the die roll. Give it a try on your next weekly, and let us know how it turns out!

Until then!

Card images are from http://force-of-will-tcg.wikia.com