I recently held the Newlyst to Duelyst Twolyst, the second in my tournament series aimed at introducing newer players to the wonderful world of competitive Duelyst. Just like the previous NtD tournament, I was impressed at how well these battlers played. Hopefully, this tournament inspires you to jump headfirst into the competitive scene, particularly if you’ve shied away from it in the past.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a tournament comprised of entirely newer players, mistakes were made. In the aftermath of the last NtD tournament, I wrote an article detailing what I felt was the biggest mistake I saw throughout the day. I’d like to continue that tradition today.
So what was the common misstep this time? Bar none, the biggest error I saw players make was their reluctance to clear the opponent’s minions. Folks would waltz past a perfectly good target and forgo killing it. Sometimes they would attack the opposing General. Sometimes they wouldn’t attack anything at all. Too many missed opportunities for board control!
As far as I could tell, there were two main reasons for this behavior: First, players seemed more interested in “going face” rather than wasting precious damage on a useless minion. This is understandable—after all, the point of the game is to defeat the opponent’s General. Second, players were extremely resistant to using their life total as a resource in order to clear opposing forces. This too is understandable—you lose if the opponent does enough damage to kill you.
Both of these justifications are occasionally correct in Duelyst. There will be matches when you need to ignore the board in favor of going face or preserve your life total. These situations, however, weren’t the case and the player would have been better served to kill off an opposing minion with their General instead.
Why is keeping the opponent’s board clear so important? There are two main reasons, both of which boil down to the following aphorism: “Board control = Game control = Game win.”
Limited Impact of Beneficial Effects
Players specifically put cards in their deck that benefit their minions. There are three main way these benefits manifest themselves.
The first is through pump spells. Being able to immediately reap the benefits of a pump spell is a huge way to capitalize on the tempo-based nature of Duelyst and other similar games. If your opponent has a 2/3 near your 4/4 at the start of their turn, a Greater Fortitude will allow them to essentially turn a 1-mana spell into a piece of removal that also leaves behind a sizable (albeit fragile) body and allows them to further develop their board with their copious leftover mana. If you had the opportunity to kill that 2/3 on your previous turn and decided against it, you allowed your opponent to use a cheap spell to wrest back control into his hands.
If, instead, you had removed your opponent’s 2/3, that Greater Fortitude is nowhere near as useful. He can cast it on a creature that he plays this turn, but unless that creature has Rush, it won’t be able to use it to clear your minion and establish board control. That Greater Fortitude has gone from awesome to awkward.
If he decides to cast his Greater Fortitude on an exhausted, newly summoned minion, a lot can go wrong for him on your turn. The creature can be dispelled, essentially negating both the card and mana spent to cast it. The creature can be removed with a removal spell. This is the very definition of a 2-for-1; you’re using one card to remove two of your opponent’s. At the very best, you now know your opponent’s plans and can adjust yours appropriately, perhaps by simply running away from the giant behemoth.
Similarly, the bonuses granted by until-end-of-turn effects are useless if they don’t have a way to capitalize on them. Primus Fist is the obvious example here. If there are no minions on the board, Primus Fists’s +2 attack bonus is wasted. I didn’t count the number of times where a player let a minion survive and was punished by the power bonus granted by Mr. Fist, but needless to say it was at least a few. At best, the Primus caster is dealing you 2 extra damage. At worst, they’re using their teeny minion to clear your bigger one.
The final, subtler way your opponent can reap beneficial effects is through triggers that occur because you’ve left the option to deal damage up your opponent. The Abyssian Swarm archetype exemplifies this. If you ignore your opponent’s creatures in order to, say, deal damage to their face, you’ve simply set the stage for them to play a Bloodmoon Priestess or Shadow Dancer on their turn and net trigger after trigger that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get. I would have thought this was fairly obvious if you’ve played against the faction before, but I saw a few times where an opponent had the opportunity to clear Wraithlings before it was too late and elected not to.
Limited Beneficial Trades
Another reason that controlling the board is so important is because it limits your opponent’s ability to “trade up.” I vividly remember the following two scenarios occur in the Newlyst tournament:
- Player A has a Vale Hunter (a 1/2 Ranged unit) near 2 of the opponent’s 1/1 Wraithlings. Player A elects to shoot the opponent’s face rather than either Wraithling. Player B uses both Wraithlings to kill the Vale Hunter.
- Player A is at 22 health and plays a sizeable minion (we’ll say a 4/4 Emerald Rejuvenator). Player A then decides to not attack the damaged 2/1 Primus Fist nearby. He in fact attacks nothing, a trend throughout the game. Player B unsurprisingly uses the 2/1 and his general to clear out the 4/4.
Both of these examples illustrate the issue with not clearing minions. In each scenario, Player B is able to use less valuable minions to deal with a more powerful opposing threat.
Limiting the ability of the opponent to “upgrade” his minions by removing yours strikes me as a fundamental principle behind succeeding at Duelyst. This is why players use their Generals to attack minions in the first place. This is why positioning is frequently so important. Both methods allow you to protect important minions from an unenviable early death at the hands of lesser minions.
Why is that so important? If you use your 2-drop to kill your opponent’s 4-drop, he likely won’t have an effective way to clear your 4-drop. At that point, he’ll likely deploy a larger threat which your 4-drop can then potentially trade into (potentially with the help of something like Primus Fist). Every time you “trade up” in this regard, you’ve “gained” mana. If you use a 2-drop to kill a 4-drop, you’ve effectively used 2 less mana than your opponent. In a perfect world, this inequality manifests itself in eventual card advantage: you can use this mana to develop your board more so than your opponent at which point your opponent will need to expend additional cards just to keep your increasing forces in check. Eventually you’ll play a minion that your opponent won’t have an easy answer to. They’ll need to spend multiple cards on your single threat. Profit!
The important ramification of these lessons is that the effects and benefits snowball. By keeping the board clear of opposing minions, you limit your opponent’s ability to leverage pump spells and other tricks to develop their board or decrease yours. Further, by keeping your opponent’s options limited, you thereby increase the chances you’ll have more minions on the board, at which point you can then use your lesser minions to pick off your opponent’s more imposing ones.
I tried to tackle a rather broad subject here. Even though there’s a lot more to be said, hopefully you better understand the primacy of board control.