Thursday, September 20, 2012

[Stacking the Deck: Summoner Wars] Mage Storm

This is the third in a new series of Stacking the Deck articles, focusing on the game Summoner Wars. If you’re not familiar with this fun tactical card game you can read my Design Review here. In each of these articles I’ll present one deck, talk about my process in creating the deck, and some strategies for how to use it effectively. For my first article I built a deck with the Tundra Orcs faction, and for my second article I used the Jungle Elves. This time I’ll be working with the Deep Dwarves. For some details on how deck building works in Summoner Wars refer to my first article.

Magic in the Earth

The Deep Dwarves were the first faction I played with when I first got into Summoner Wars. They have a few ways of letting you generate more magic than usual, but they also have a few more ways to spend it. I think there are basically two good strategies you could use with the Deep Dwarves. You could focus on putting out one really strong champion, like the Deep Troll, and then reinforcing him with Scholars. Or, you could focus on generating as much magic as you can and playing as many mages as possible, spending magic liberally to boost the mages attacks. This second option is the approach I’ve decided to take in this article.

So let’s look at the Deep Dwarves deck. Their summoner is Tundle. He’s pretty average with an Attack Value of 2 and 6 Life Points, and he has the advantage of range. His special ability, Meditate, presents an interesting trade off. If you only attack with 1 unit on your turn, you can move 1 card from your discard pile to your magic pile. This is great, because it gives you free magic, but obviously there will be a lot of times when you may want to attack with more than 1 unit in a turn. So, you’ll have to use this judiciously.

Now because of Tundle’s starting setup (basically, each summoner comes with a few common units that are already in play at the start of a game), this deck must include at least 1 Gem Mage, 3 Miners, and 1 Scholar. The Gem Mage isn’t a problem. The deck comes with 6 of them, and we’re going to keep all 6. The Miners and Scholar are a bit more annoying. That’s 4 cards that aren’t really contributing to our strategy. We’ll take out the other 4 Miners and 4 Scholars to make room for some more preferable common units.

To start with, we’ll add 5 Rune Mages. These are Mercenary common units that have 2 Life Points and can attack at range, all for a pretty decent Summon Cost. What’s better, is their special ability. If they’re adjacent to an opponent’s wall, instead of moving they can let you take a card from your opponent’s magic pile and put it in your own. That’s a pretty effective magic generation system. The remaining 3 slots for common units will go to 3 Battle Mages. These guys have reasonable Attack Value and Life Points for being common units, and they can 1 magic point to attack as if they were ranged instead of melee, making them a more versatile unit.

We need 3 champion units to complete our deck. Gren and Piclo are two Deep Dwarves that will help us generate even more magic. Gren lets you send fallen allies to your magic pile instead of your opponents, while Piclo essentially gains 2 magic for defeating a foe instead of the normal 1. Magos is a Mercenary champion that lets you draw up to 7 cards on the Draw Phase, instead of the normal 5. This helps you get important cards sooner, and it lets you generate magic quicker – more cards in hand means more you can discard to build magic.

Deep Magic

Now let’s look at our deck. I’m going to start by simply listing all of the cards in the deck, and then I’ll discuss how to use them.

Tundle (Summoner)

Illusionary Warrior x2 (Event)
Magic Stasis x2 (Event)
Magic Torrent (Event)
Summoning Surge x2 (Event)
Wake the Father Gem x2 (Event)

Wall x3 (Event)

Gren (Champion)
Magos (Champion)
Piclo (Champion)

Battle Mage x3 (Common)
Gem Mage x6 (Common)
Miner x3 (Common)
Rune Mage x5 (Common)
Scholar x1 (Common)

Overall, this deck is designed to generate magic quicker than your opponent. With this magic you’ll summon mages and spend magic to boost their attacks.

You start out with 1 Gem Mage, 3 Miners, and 1 Scholar in play. Unfortunately, the Miners and the Scholar don’t really contribute to your main strategy. Your best move might be to destroy them yourself as quickly as possible to generate magic. (Attacking your own units is legal.) However, since the Scholar, especially, does have a good number of Life Points, you might hang on to him for use later.

You really don’t want to have a lot of units out in the beginning, because you want to use Tundle’s Meditate special ability as often as possible, and more of your units on the battlefield won’t mean a lot if they’re not attacking. Get a Rune Mage in position to start gathering magic as soon as possible. Given the chance, use the Summoning Surge event as soon as you’ve got some of your starting units cleared out, so that you can bank a bunch of magic early.

Once you think that you have enough magic stored up, start summoning Battle Mages and Gem Mages. Move them into position and spend your remaining magic to power up their attacks. Don’t forget that you can use Illusionary Warrior to essentially summon either of these mages at half their Summon Cost. Hold Wake the Father Gem until you’ve got a few mages in play that can benefit from it. Throw out Magic Torrent if your opponent has a few weak common units in play, and use Magic Stasis to keep your opponent on the ropes. 

All of your champions can help you generate more magic, but they’re also pretty expensive to summon. I wouldn’t count on using any of them unless you draw them early on. Keep putting out mages and reinforcing them with extra magic instead.

That’s my idea for a mage-focused Deep Dwarves deck. I haven’t actually played with this deck, but I would be curious to see it in action. Have any thoughts on how this deck could be improved? Is there a better way to make use of these cards? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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