TaKtiX: Chris Dyer

Chris Dyer is a lead playtester for Warlord, has been UK Champion in both Open and Campaign formats at the same time; he placed 2nd overall at his first KoHIT (2004) and highly in the second KoHIT (2005).

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The First Turn - Part 3

The third element in your first turn is the hand you've drawn. Now, this has a lot to do with deckbuilding, which may well be a topic I cover later. For now, let's just look at how you use your hand.

First things first. Barring any card draw, or warlords like Durin Kortouched or Saunginel, you're going to see 5 cards in your opening hand. To use that hand to it's maximum potential you have to end the turn with none in hand. Notice that this doesn't necessarily mean that you have to play the cards. Warlords like Rathe and Kara Wadreth, who have a discard mechanism built in to them, can pitch cards for alternate effects. That means they're far more likely to empty their hand every turn, because a card that would otherwise be dead becomes useful. Simon Abraxes has an edge here as well, as he's able to discard his dud cards and redraw. That's all okay: just like some Warlords have an easier time making themselves useful on turn 1, some have an advantage in using their hand.

But what about normal Warlords? How can they ensure that they use their hand? Take a look at what's in your deck. As a rule, characters are the easiest cards to put in to play (requiring only rank structure to be right), followed by items (which only need an appropriate character to equip them) and then actions (which require an appropriate character, and, in some cases, an appropriate trigger).

A while back I built a Dezi'crah deck. Among other things it contained Zaina's Treachery, Misear Diplomacy and Sniper Shot. I constantly drew a hand where there was at least one card that I couldn't use, because I either drew front rank cards with no solid movement or ranged cards without many ranged strikes, and especially a mixture of the two where I was forced to choose one strategy or the other, leaving me dead cards. That was a bad deck and I quickly took it apart.

Taking characters first, low level characters are always easier to play than high level characters. A level 1 character can almost always be played without problem. A level 5 character requires you to have a character in rank 4. Dragons and upwards are even harder, requiring two or more characters already in place before they can be played. (As an aside, level 3 characters can often be harder to play on turn one than level 4s. Should you lose two characters from your front rank, leaving you one in rank 2, you'll be unable to play level 3s until you somehow fill that void.)

On a practical level, that means that high end decks needs to think more carefully about their rank structure than low end decks. If you're playing level 5s, make sure you've got enough level 4s to support them. It's probably also wise to play a handful of level 3s as a precaution against your ranks crumbling. Similarly, decks focussing on level 3s should probably include a few level 2s for the same reason. Also, characters that have entering play restricions are bad unless you can easily meet that restriction with your starting army. Athril Gargoyle is the classic example here of a card that can easily be unplayable.

Items and Actions I'm going to group together. Both need you to have a character of the requisite class and level in play. Think carefully about including anything that can't be equipped or played by your starting army. Take our old friend Garn Hearthstone, who often includes a significant number of fighter items in his deck. You should ensure that you have plenty of fighters to equip those items. As a rough rule I would suggest a ratio of 2:1 (e.g. twice as many characters capable of equipping the items as there are items.) The same holds true of actions. Laurence has just finished reconstructing (for the thousandth time) an Ichaerus deck which plays Spirit Singing. Since that card can't be played by his starting army he should probably be playing at least 6 Bards in his deck.

A couple more notes on this. The first is about meta cards. These are generally actions (Rough Road, Certain Doom, Twist of Fate) designed to hinder specific decktypes. Now, unless you're playing against that decktype you're looking at cards that effectively do nothing in your deck. That's why top decks tend to shy away from meta cards. As a rule I only include meta cards if my Warlord has a discard mechanism, or if I feel strongly that I need to protect myself against a certain type of deck that my deck has little to no chance of beating without the meta and I'm confident that I'll be seeing a large number of those decks at tournaments.

The second note is about characters and items. Just because you play these cards doesn't mean they're effective. Playing Sedayah Rowan if she just sits in rank 3 is not a good use of a card from your hand. Similarly, equipping Duelling Sabre to Fasolt is no good if you don't get him to rank 1: effectively it's another dead card for the turn.

The final note on how to avoid dead cards is to avoid playing too many Spend Orders. Simply put, if you draw, for example, 2 level 5 Cleric orders in Garn you're going to struggle to play them both. In a 50 card deck 9 high level spend orders should average you out at drawing one a turn. Going over that number is asking for trouble. To avoid problems you should think about including back-up users in the deck: to contine the Garn example, think about playing Slate Gargoyle as an alternte level 5 Cleric.

If you want to test this in your deck do the old goldifshing routine again. Take your deck, play a few first turns and see how useful each card in your hand is. (This won't prove the value of reactionary cards like Too Fast to See which is why practical results are important as well) If you're playing all 5 cards from your hand on your first turn most games then you're on the right track.

So that's all on how to have a good first turn. If you particualrly like what I said, or you think I'm a moron please don't hesitate to tell me.

Next time I'm going to look at the most whimsical and often blamed element of any game: luck.

2 Comments:

At Wednesday, May 17, 2006 6:56:00 pm, Anonymous Casey (or Morghen, whichever) said...

I know the math says that nine Spend Orders will give you about one per hand in a 44-card deck, but unless I'm packing backup users for those SOs, I don't EVER exceed seven. I played a ton of Taoth blitz back in the day, and six SOs was what I almost always stuck with. That meant that sometimes I didn't draw a Spend Order, but clogging is worse than not pulling a Spend Order that you can use.

I used a calculator:
9 SOs in a 44-card deck = 4.8888
8/deck = 5.5
7 = 6.29
6 = 7.333333

 
At Thursday, May 18, 2006 10:00:00 am, Blogger Chris Dyer said...

Hey, thanks for the comment!

I agree actually. I wouldn't even go over nine even with the back up casters, really. Six is what I usually end up with too.

What I meant was that nine should be the absolute upper limit - if you go over that you statistically guarantee yourself a hand with 2 spend orders at some point in the game (assuming a 51 card deck, which makes all the maths easier!)

 

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