Sunday, September 20, 2009

Deck Construction: Full-Faction Forsaken Wastes 1- Champion Selection

I find it fascinating how unevenly rune distribution seems to break down when picking up packs. There are 8 factions in Pox, and 10 runes in a pack; I don't know how they handle pack sorting but I don't believe there's a ton of care put into ensuring that every faction is represented. This isn't a bad thing, since the game's setup really encourages sticking to one or two factions and developing your ability with them.

Still, there are a couple of factions with what feels like really lackluster representation in my collection. I often feel like the Wastes are one of them, even though I should ostensibly love this faction. It's almost entirely made up of undead, be they skeletons, zombies, or more exotic creatures. It's focused on debilitating effects, weakening your opponent in ways that your own creatures can ignore, and profiting from the death of your own and your opponent's pieces. This meshes extremely well with the Wastes' faction bonus, which is a reduction in the wait time before your dead creatures recover (the cooldown). To reflect this, many of the runes are extremely fragile, sometimes ridiculously so. Cooldowns for creatures are based on total nora cost, and there are many runes which a full-faction FW deck can cast every few turns; a few, I believe, can even be cast every turn if you don't do much to upgrade them.

As someone whose favorite color in Magic when he started was black, whose first truly great Magic deck was a black deck focused on graveyard reanimation, and who gradually came to appreciate the permission assholery of Blue in conjunction with black, I should love everything about FW.

Unfortunately, FW decks seem to be extremely dependent on a few crucial, excellent runes. That's one thing that runs differently than Magic or DnD Minis: certain runes simply become must-haves. Although some cards are simply excellent in Magic, the tight 60 card limit most serious players try to adhere to and high percentage of resource cards that are necessary combine to prevent any color from having must-play cards. Particular deck archetypes might hinge on a few key cards, but a different deck in the same color might ignore them entirely. In Pox, certain runes seem to be must-haves across the board- if you're playing the faction, you're playing it in part to have that rune (or two of that rune). It's no surprise the runes in question aren't commons.

I don't have most of the critical runes in the FW set. I don't have the Unholy Tomb, which damages non-undead and pays you for it. This is a critical rune not only because you're profiting and hurting all the living foes you face globally, but also because it sets up all the extant creatures to be targeted by Festering Wounds, another must-have (non-rare, surprisingly!) rune of which I only possess one. Festering Wounds inflicts a disease effect on all wounded creatures currently in play; disease both reduces the creature's attack/defense stats and inflicts continual damage over the next 5 turns. Not only does this soften your foes for the killing blow, it also breaks stealth on hidden units, mediates the effects of regeneration, and increases (albeit slightly) the damage all of your units do.

FW runes don't have great area of effect spells, and generally aren't doing the greatest damage. Many runes are initially slow, and as I mentioned before they're often fragile. Those hurdles are overcome in part by the FW having some of the techiest abilities of any faction. There are powers that screw with healing, powers that feed your bank or repair your home base, and many keyworded powers that just don't exist anywhere else.

Starting with my champions, then, here are the key pieces I'm interested in using:

Animated Blade-C Stupidly fragile, the blade is a quick flyer with multiattack and shatter. Shatter helps me avoid dealing with equipment, and I'm simply a sucker for multiattack. Multiattack feels like breaking the game to me; getting more attacks with fewer points means increased efficiency. On an Animated Blade, though, the rune is usually dead before it can pick up enough AP to achieve the fabled 3-swing turn- at least without Mobilize.

Anthropomancer-U I love healing because I feel it lets me get greater use out of my runes; Anthropomancers heal the entire group when they come into play, and I think that's valuable. They also have curse 2, which lets you gang up on a creature and tear him down, or nerf an opponent's speed in order to drastically reduce their threat. Their third ability, auruspicy, grants an extra rune reveal and bonus action points when the Anthropomancer scores a killing blow. While neat in theory, it seems difficult to set up.

Arctic Beast-C This is another one of those runes which are presumably horrible, but I can't help but love. The picture for this rune would actually display when the game loaded during an expansion in which it wasn't released, and the grinning, skeletal zombie-G'hern was very attractive. I like that the beast has climb, which is an easy 1st turn font on a couple of maps which are otherwise tricky. Chill and attack-frost are also nice, because outside of the Savage Tundra you don't run into a lot of frost resistance/invulnerability. Their base damage is also high- the only real problem with the Beast is that it has horrible defense.

Blood Fiend-U For a short time, these guys were insane. They have an interesting mechanic whereby they don't gain action points through regular means, and instead damage themselves for 8 action points- enough to swing twice. Blood Fiends used to be able to activate this power as soon as you cast them, meaning they were faster than any other unit in the game. Now, though, there's a 1 turn delay before the ability is available- I believe it's the only rune in the game with that trait. Since the change I haven't bothered to return to them.

Carrion Colossus-E I have this weird luck when it comes to getting rares, exotics, and limited editions; I very, very often pull runes from the Forsaken Wastes but they tend to just suck. The Colossus is no exception; I'm not sure how to make him great, and he's so expensive to play that once he comes out I really want to see him win the entire game. He does not. I wish he would, though.

Dark Enchantress-R See above. At one point I think I had three or four of these. Her base damage is just ridiculously low, and her defense is wretched. Back when Possess was good she still wasn't able to get the best version. I simply don't understand what the developers want me to do with her. She can serve as an okay road block between charm, fear, and (I suppose) possess; but she's so fragile that she just dies at range and her damage is too low to really help restore her with lifedrinker. She does have Phase Shift though, and I'm eyeing an insubstantial BG which that would benefit.

Dark Seductress-U Yeah, creativity reigns in the naming here. I like this quirky piece, and it would go well with the stealth-insubstantial concept. She also has zealot-lich, but all the liches I have I generally don't care for.

Death Harvester-R I want this piece to be awesome; profiting me to no end as my foes fall. However, his Dead Eater power wants him to be in combat, but he can't attack undamaged opponents. I'm sure this is no problem for people with Unholy Tomb, but as I said earlier...yeah.

Essence Devourer-U I was reading a deck-building column one of the devs for the game maintains, and he built a concept around this guy. It's something I could pursue, I think; I probably have enough token generators to keep him fed and he is big and scary.

Eternal Lich-R I think the name is woefully misleading. When this guy is summoned he produces a relic; when he dies he returns to the space where the relic was, assuming the relic is there. What I was expecting, though, is that he'd then drop another relic. Without that he's not really eternal, he's just something who pops back. Unfortunately, that is his only ability. Despite being a floating wisp he doesn't even fly. His range is awkward and his stats don't blow me away.

Shadestalker-C This is another strange rune; Energy Thief was originally an iconic ability for a sort of stealthy Skeezick creature without much else going for it. Given to a creature without stealth removes the biggest frustration associated with that guy, which was when you'd run around losing action points, no clue where it was. However, I'm eyeing a concept that would give insubstantial creatures stealth, meaning that the Shadestalker might be worth trying out (he has Phase Shift).

Utterdark Spectre This is the guy I'm angling to use. He surges off of stealthed units, gaining increased attack and damage. Since his damage starts at 12, that's already quite impressive. He also gives all insubstantial creatures stealth at the end of each of his turns, and so I think there are several ways I could make that useful. The real challenge is that I think this deck would be best served as a split-faction deck, bringing in the Underdepths for all of their excellent stealth champions and the new stealth spell available there; plus the Shadow Master, which has an area stealth it can drop on all of your units.

I think I'm going to pursue the stealth/insubstantial concept as a full-faction experiment, but I'm already preparing myself to abandon this project in favor of a split faction approach.

Tenative Selections:

Dark Enchantress x2
Dark Seductress x2
Disturbed Spirit x1
Eternal Lich
Ethereal Soldier
Lich King
Mute Stalker
Shadestalker x2
Skeletal Berserker x2
Utterdark Spectre
Wandering Zombie x2

For the most part this is a lot of folks who can go insubstantial, and thus profit from the Spectre. The pieces that aren't that are generally intended for offense (Lich King) or clogging the ground (Zombie). I'm already not crazy about this build, but it is a starting point. I'm already anticipating the need for more range and a little more beef on the ground; if I cave and buy the FW starter to mine for parts I'd definitely add a second Ethereal Soldier.

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