MMDOC Tempo, Card Advantage and Deck Types Guide by Sjonegaard
Hey people, I am Sjonegaard, a longtime MtG/Warlord player and thought of writing a guide for some subtle strategies and tricks that is the same in DoC as well. These are old news to veterans, but it might help the players that are new in card games.
Tempo (or else Board Control)
The first thing you need to learn is what tempo is. The term describes ‘the condition under which, if nothing changes in the game state, one of the players has the advantage and will win in some rounds’. If you have the tempo you have ‘the upper hand’.
For example, let’s say only two creatures are in play, my opponent has a fearsome Juggernaut (4/3/4) in a row.
I have a mere Wretched Ghoul (2/1/2)in play in a different row.
However, my life is at 20, his is at 4. Under this condition, I have tempo in my hands, since I can kill him in 2 rounds, while he needs 5 rounds to kill me
As an easier example of tempo, let’s say that you have 3 creatures in play and your opponent has none. You obviously have the tempo. In order for the opponent to regain tempo, he will need to kill/block them all and have his own creatures in an empty lane attacking your health. That is a difficult feat and you also have cards to answer to whatever plans he has.
Of course, the game state changes every round! Since each round a player can play spells, tempo is in reality a ball that gets passed all the time between the two players. However, the winner of the match is almost always the one who had tempo consistently during the match or the one who managed to grab it at the end, sneakily or by force.
So, once you are done with the first step of understanding tempo, you can use it to become a better player and win games. The trick is being able to jump into two different mindframes multiple times during the match. Ask yourselves these questions when it’s the beginning of your turn:
1) Do I have tempo?
1a) If I have tempo, how do I preserve it?
1b) If I don’t have tempo, how do I retrieve it?
Let’s say for example that your opponent starts with a most annoying Plague Skeleton (1/0/3 Immune to Retaliation, Infect 1). You have a Loyal Griffin in hand (2/1/4). What do you do? You might think that it would be good to play it in front of Plague Skeleton, in order kill that pesky critter. However, if you play it in another row, you suddenly have tempo. Sure, the Skeleton will attack first, but it needs to attack 20 times to kill you, while you only need to attack 10. If nothing changes, you would win. So your opponent needs to react to you, not you to your opponent. A reaction could be to move Plague Skeleton to Griffin’s row, which means he loses an attack, which means he sacrifices tempo in order to hopefully regain it.
Somewhat different to tempo, but linked to it, is card advantage. Its theory is quite simple. In card games you and your opponent continuously kill off each other’s cards. If both players draw an equal amount of cards, and cards have more or less an equal power, then the player who plays most of his cards efficiently in order to kill his opponent’s cards while his survive wins. So what you can do to gain an advantage in this perspective is:
a) Draw and play more cards. This is a very simple way to trample your opponent as you keep playing more cards than him.
b) Play X-for-1 cards. For example Fireball, with which you spend one card in order to kill multiple of your opponent’s cards.
c) Discard your opponent’s cards. If your opponent doesn’t use his cards, then you will have an advantage.
d) Use combat tricks. For example, your opponent has a shooter hidden in the back, a fattie in front of it, while you have a melee creature but can’t reach the shooter. If you play a Lightning Bolt (6 dmg) to the fattie and kill it off, then you can kill the shooter as well. Your opponent lost 2 cards, you only lost 1.
e) Destroy a better card with a worse card. If your opponent plays a huge creature at 8 resource and you simply play Soulreaver (4, kill target creature), the trade of cards are efficiently 1 for 1, but you still get an advantage over it if you play your strong card and they don’t have cards to answer that threat. Plus you get resource advantage.
I’m not discussing resource advantage separately cause you can’t win just by that, it simply supplements card advantage and tempo.
There is also another interesting and subtle kind of card advantage: if you are about to win with 0 cards in hand and your opponent has 6 cards in his hand, all super strong and powerful and expensive, then actually card advantage was for you, since your opponent never got the chance to play them. Remember that card advantage doesn’t simply mean drawing, it also requires you to play these cards.
Let’s look at some events under the prism of card advantage.
This is obviously clear card advantage and actually quite good at it. Losing 1 life is totally worth it.
No player actually gains card advantage from this. However, if you get a chance to play all your cards because your deck is fast, while your opponent can’t use the cards he draws because he’s too slow, it could prove good for you. At the same time, if your deck is full of fatties then it doesn’t matter if your opponent plays a weak card and you play a super strong one, thus gaining card advantage.
This seems to not give card advantage at first glance. However, if you have a worthless card in your hand, eg. a card that kills fliers or ongoing effects while your opponent has none, you are actually gaining card advantage compared to your previous state.
Types of decks
It is very important to understand what each deck’s goal is, both in order to play yours correctly and to counter your opponent’s deck. If you are in the same situation with two different decks, you might make different decisions that are not obvious at first glance. I am going to use terms used in other games, not sure what DoC’s terminology is.
Rush decks are super tempo based. You want to win fast and you have the tools for that. Your creatures are generally small but work better in larger numbers. Your spells focus on getting more damage through to your opponent, mostly by removing obstacles for your tiny hordes. A big creature with 6 health is a good example of annoying obstacles.
How to play them
– Always have tempo, especially the first turns. Whenever you lose it, make sure you get it back as soon as possible. If your opponent plays his bigger threats, you need to stop them fast otherwise you will lose. Of course, your cards should be helping you do that easily.
– Combat tricks are your best friend. They are the best way to make 2-for-1 and regain tempo.
– Prefer to place creatures in empty rows, not in a defensive spot in front of opponent creatures. Since you can easily regain tempo, your opponent will probably be forced to move to your rows to stop your hordes.
– If your opponent is in low life (less than 8) then you might want to actually spread your monsters, in order to manage to get a little more damage through while your opponent can’t cast enough creatures to block everything.
– Stack your creatures in rows. When you play rush, your creatures will have 2 or 3 Attack, which means that you want them to be in a stack in order to deal 5 or 6 damage to the new creatures your opponent plays.
– Temporary removals are just as good for you. Sometimes you just need 5 more damage through, and you don’t mind if your opponent will play the same creature next round, you’ve already won.
– When building the deck, make sure you have a nice curve of creatures that cost 1, 2, 3 or 4. You might want one or two stronger creatures as backup, but they are not helping your main strategy.
How to play against them
– Rush loses when it ‘runs out of steam’. It is explosive at the beginning, but later turns (after 7th) are much slower and weaker. If you survive until the 8th turn, the game is probably yours.
– Don’t play your big threats first. All rush decks keep combat tricks and might even throw 2 or 3 at the same threat you play. Try playing your lesser creatures at first in order to receive the initial heat and afterwards you can play your threats with less danger of losing them right away.
– Area of Effect spells, like Fireball, Chain Lightning etc are devastating against rush because most creatures are low health. If you have any, save them until your opponent is too spread out in order to kill 3 or 4 enemy creatures.
– Stop creatures that give or get bonuses first. Honour, Enrage, Guard and Heal creatures are examples of dangerous ones.
– Rush against rush is simply a fight for tempo. Try avoiding to place creatures in defensive spots, instead place creatures in empty rows in order to force your opponent to take a defensive stance. Rush are not designed to play defensively, so you can win them.
Build decks are slow and super defensive at start, aiming to get to round 7 or more in order to play their big baddies, becoming an unstoppable force afterwards. These decks are often more expensive and built around a few epic or heroic cards. For example, Eleonore, the Voice of Harmony is pretty much unbeatable unless your opponent does something against her fast.
How to play them
– You need defense for early game. Lowering your opponent’s health early on is of zero importance, as you will deal chunks of 6 or 8 damage later on. Simply focus on killing early threats.
– Prioritize the threats. Sure, a creature with 1 power dealing unstopped damage for 8 rounds means 8 damage, but the same spell to stop that could be played on another creature with 3 or 4 power.
– Be prepared to lose the first threat you play. Opponents know you plan something nasty when you just build resources and play defensively. They almost always will have an answer to your first threat, so don’t play your main one unless you are desperate. Have a plan on how to follow up from a fallover.
– You will often win games at life lower than 5. More on that below.
– Cards that increase your resources could help you play your big threats one round earlier, meaning the difference between winning and losing. They are quite useful for you.
– Similarly, cards that prevent your opponent from attacking could give you that one more round you need to play the big threat and win. Still, the threats will still be there, so these cards are not a failsave solution.
– Don’t overdo it with expensive creatures when building the deck. If you have too many expensive creatures in hand you may lose due to lack of card advantage, because you will never get a chance to play them.
How to play against them
– Easiest way to beat a build deck is by playing faster. Even if your deck is not very fast, play it in fast mode against build decks, because you won’t need your defensive cards (they won’t save you later on)
– Discard cards are great against them, but save them for later. If your spell is discarding 2 cards, wait until the opponent has 2 cards, almost always it will be his best 2.
– Don’t be afraid to give cards to him, if you think you are faster. He will probably not get a chance to use them anyway.
– Try to keep cards that can remove big threats for later. If you have a Lightning Bolt, don’t waste it on a 4-health defensive creature unless necessary.
These decks are usually based around one or two cards that synergize between themselves super well. You play defensively until you get a chance to play them, and when you do it’s pretty much game over for your opponent. I haven’t seen many arise in DoC, but here are some cool combos with which you can build a deck around:
More cool combos in this part of the forum: http://forums.ubi.com/forumdisplay.php/414-Forum-Events
How to play them
– Get the combo running at all costs. Throw other threats first in order to receive your opponent’s removal, play protective cards, wait until the last minute if needed.
– Drawing cards is much more important for you, because the combo might be stuck at the bottom of the deck. Cards that search the deck are obviously super important, as they highly increase your likelihood of drawing the card you need.
– A lot of the tips that apply for build decks are also true here.
– The rest of the deck might be able to win even without the deck, but it doesn’t have to. It’s a better idea to just aim at defense cards and cards that help the combo.
How to play against them
– Two ways to win a combo deck: be faster or break the combo
– Going faster is often possible, as combo decks tend to be slow
– If you have played against the same combo deck before, remember what the combo does and think of what cards in your deck can break it. If there are any, draw them as fast as possible, and hold them like precious treasures until you need to play them
– If you haven’t played against the particular combo before, look for hidden synergies and try to think of ways to use initially-looking bad cards. You will often lose the first time you meet a new combo, as they are counting on that, but that gives you the knowledge to beat it later.
Health is a resource as well
A very important lesson that players learn sooner or later is that ‘if you win at 1 health, you still win’. Health is a resource that you can spend willingly in order to get yourself closer to winning. Don’t be afraid to lose some health, and at the same time be very careful when you deal damage because it might not be enough.
The earlier example with Plague Skeleton is again valid. Would you rather spend a card to stop him or 8 life? If you spend a card, it is possible that it was the exact card you needed to win, and you lost that card advantage when you decided to stop that threat, when in reality you didn’t have to cause you would have simply won at 12 life instead of losing.
While your health is high, let opponent’s creatures go through unblocked if you think you can get tempo soon. That Juggernaut that punched you in the face two times might be forced to change row and block your attacks, so you really didn’t need to place someone in front of him to receive the first attack.
Silver bullets are cards that shut down a very specific strategy.
For example, Father Sky’s Wrath stops enemy flier creatures (among other things). If the opponent plays mostly with fliers, he pretty much loses. If he doesn’t have fliers, the card is relatively bad.
Monsoon seriously stops two out of seven schools of magic.
Byebye infect and crippling decks.
These cards, while looking interesting at first, are generally not worth playing. They are mostly needed in campaign matches that you can’t easily win, because you know beforehand what your opponent will play. In matchmaking, you don’t so a card like that might be great 25% of the matches and junk 75% of the games.
There is only two reasons to play a silver bullet, and that’s only if a) you are seriously losing to a specific strategy every single time, so you are ready to sacrifice a card slot in order to beat them b) you have consistent ways to discard cards you don’t need, eg 4 Day of Fortunes in your Events deck or a Hero with an ability to discard cards, so these cards are not junk.
The role of spells and fortunes
Though the non-creature cards (spells and fortunes) in DoC are quite cool, there are no non-creature cards that can outright kill your opponent like a huge fat creature can, and most damaging non-creature cards are creatures only and not directly to your opponents. Any non-creature cards that actually deal damage to your opponent are not very cost effective or exciting anyway. Thus, the games are decided by creature damage most of the times (except if you’re playing with a strange combo like Tower of Oblivion that allows you to win even creatureless)
Since that is true, you should always think of spells and fortunes as creature-supplementary. You will win with creatures, and non-creature cards are there to help you do so. There is no point in playing a killing spell for your opponent’s creature if you can’t follow it up with a creature of your own right afterwards. Keep this in mind and when you design your deck: Unless you intentionally play a combo deck that wins without creatures, the only way to win is to get creatures in play, keep them alive and attack the opponent for damage. With that perspective, you can focus on what’s most important and win more matches.
Since you mostly win with creatures, as we explained later, your first and most important focus during deck creation are creatures. Personally I am playing 30 creatures in a 50 card deck and would never go for less than 25 in any deck. I tried 32 but sometimes I got too swamped and filled all 8 creatures slots, thus I decided to turn it down a notch to 30 and it works fine for my rush deck. Even if you have a combo deck or you’re playing a Stronghold hero with many spells in your disposure to kill creatures, never forget that you need creatures.
Also, keep in mind the three types of decks and follow them. For example, if you are a rush deck, Area of Effect spells like Chain Lightning are probably not good for you, since you’re going in tempo wars and your opponent won’t have many creatures. Sure, you might get in a desperate situation where your opponent has 4 or 5 creatures, but most of the times you won’t due to continuous trades, so Chain Lightning is a silver bullet and not a main necessity. Instead prefer Lightning Bolt, that actually deals with a bigger threat to your deck (fatties), since you can handle mass swarms of creatures in other ways.
When you mulligan, think this simple thing: Can this hand obtain tempo? If it can, then keep it, if not it is highly recommended that you change it. If you draw your full combo but have nothing to play for the first four rounds, then you won’t probably get a chance to play it. If you have 4 creatures that cost 4 in your hand, then you won’t be able to utilize them until much much later, thus making many of these cards dead until late.
MMDOC Key Cards for Base Set II Guide
MMDOC Raising Elo for Beginner’s Guide
MMDOC Tempo, Card Advantage and Deck Types Guide
MMDOC Probabilities and Combinations Guide
MMDOC Control Deck Guide
MMDOC Gold, Exp and Elo Guide
MMDOC Starter Packs Card List
MMDOC Achievements List
MMDOC Infernal Pit Guide
MMDOC New Player’s Guide
MMDOC Necro Sample Deck Build Guide
MMDOC Inferno Rush Deck Build Guide