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Frisco Del Rosario writes about chess960, women's basketball, minor league baseball, unsupported collectible card games, lettering in comic books, and Golden Age movies

Learning by losing 03/14/2018

clydemyscardMy third-rate orange-plus-two-green deck helped me today to a personal best rank of 45. I think 45 is pretty good for a deck that doesn’t follow the “meta flavor of the day” approach.

I credit two things:

1) Finding a reasonable assortment of cards to deal with the popular power combinations, and;

2) Getting lots of tactical practice during last week’s team event, after reaching the individual cap of 850 special ribbons but playing on to 1300 to help the team earn another group bonus.

When I set out to play with the freezing sci-fi cards, the deck looked like this:

Five base freezers
Freeze Ray
Program Stan
Ice Sniper Wendy
Powerfist Dougie

According to popular opinion, those are the third-best Cartman, the third- or fourth-best Stan, the worst Wendy, and a Dougie other than the playable Dougie. Like I said, a third-rate deck.

Astro Butters, a requirement in orange, I think.
Enforcer Jimmy. Storyteller Jimmy works against all the enemies, but Enforcer’s anti-charge specialty and lower cost won the coin flip.
Nelly, a neutral necessity.
Calamity Heidi, a blue must-have.
Lightning Bolt, because that’s a ton of damage to one enemy.
Smuggler Ike and Bandita Sally, quick hitters when the idea is to freeze them just long enough to sneak in an assassin.

That was fine for reaching 42, which was higher than I’d gone with the blue pirate crew.

Then the environment changed a month ago. When the development team decided to double the cost and reduce the effect of two vital green defensive spells, its orange enemies — mind control and poison — ran amok because there was nothing left to stop them.

The most-easily-replaced card in that set was Bandita Sally. I replaced Sally with Mind Control to fight fire with fire, but the mind control decks have three mind control cards to my one. I replaced Mind Control with Shaman Token, but learned with dismay that Shaman Token removes effects only to allies, and mind-controlled units are no longer your allies. After I’d lost 10 matches in a row to mind control decks, I quit the game.

With a day on the road to think about it, I decided if I wanted to keep playing, I had to play with the 2-cost Purify. And that meant replacing every blue card, when I’d only ever played with blue cards.

Lightning Bolt out, Purify in.
Smuggler Ike out, Gizmo Ike in (which was OK, since Gizmo is the cutest card in the game, and his charge power is worth the additional energy cost).

Which would substitute for Calamity Heidi and Bandita Sally?

I once read advice that if you think (or know) you’re up against mind control, but you have to play something, play a character that won’t hurt you too much if it turns. Applying that logic, I put in a swarm — if one member of the swarm was mindzapped, the others would take it out, and remain to fight on my side. Rat Swarm is the right group to attack Mecha Timmy, but Pigeon Gang is a more versatile defender.

The last card in was Hercules Clyde, whose warcry ability to rush and bind an enemy makes him helpful against Mecha Timmy and the suddenly-meta Stan of Many Moons. The Power Bind spell was the obvious answer to the Klingon Tokens and Sheriff Cartmans, but when I looked into my hand and saw Freeze Ray, Power Bind, and Purify, when I really needed someone who’d hit the snot out of the other characters, Hercules Clyde seemed an adequate middle measure.

Learning to handle all these cards is a challenge. Blue is easy — you send out blue, and let them clobber people. With green, Hercules Clyde still runs after an unintended enemy if I’m not careful, and applying Purify to two poisoned units takes a deft touch.

There was more to learn about the freeze units. I was limiting AWESOM-O to positions where I had a lead, and AWESOM-O could play “fat goaltender”. When I tried playing AWESOM-O in front, bunches of little assholes surrounded him, and down goes Cartman. To send AWESOM-O out to lead the troops, I found I needed two or more freeze cards behind him — Program and Ice Sniper on the field, and Freeze Ray in my hand. Those could hold off the little assholes while AWESOM-O kicked them away and built his own charge. I’ve learned to hold Program Stan back if possible, because Stan is the only card that does universal damage, so when the enemies come from both wings, it’s good to have Stan in hand. When dealing with an ememy Dougie, Freeze Ray plus Sniper Wendy is as good as having an assassin in hand. Freeze Ray is such a versatile card — during a melee, one Freeze Ray can result in their entire group being wiped out (for two less than Fireball!). If Terrance Mephesto or Cyborg Kenny is loose (and no Wendy for Terrance, and no pigeons for Kenny), Freeze Ray enables me to let them close in, before freezing and NK-zapping them.

I’d like to know why freezing Rogue Token in midair doesn’t cause him to shatter on impact, and why freezing Hookhand Clyde in warcry doesn’t break that stupid string of his.

I’m happy playing this third-rate set of cards, which might soon become the fourth-best sub-theme among orange. With the introduction of Robot Bebe, the Warboy/Astronaut/Hyperdrive speeders get another weapon, and if Robot Bebe’s speed turns out to be as dangerous as Buccaneer Bebe’s sheer power, well, that’s card we’ll each have to try.

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