Positioning 201: Advanced Combat Maneuvers

by Counterplay Games  /  July 12, 2016

Chapter 3:
The way of the Mantis

Despite the challenges that you have faced thus far you’ve once again returned to us unbent, unbroken, and undeterred from your path. Truly it is an honor to teach such a determined student! Now let us not stand on our laurels but strive for new heights. Come take a seat and pull out your reference sheet, as today we will take our first steps into complex positioning.

There are many forms for two-minion positioning, however most are Zokusuji (poor positions). We will refer to the more common of the Tesuji (good positions) as the Horizontal Trap, the Vertical Trap, Bait-and-Switch, and the Phalanx. We will discuss the merits of each of these forms today, and just like we did it on Chapter 1 we will assume your opponent is at Position Five while you are at Position Four.

position zero


This maneuver aims to limit your opponent’s vertical movement by placing minions on Positions Two and Eight. This has the effect of severely limiting the opponent’s general’s ability to withdraw, and makes it impossible to body block either of your minions with a single opposing unit.

The resulting effect is – and I ask that you use your inner focus to fully understand this – that the opponent is encouraged to (1) pick the side with the weakest minion, (2) move directly in front of it and attack it, and then (3) attempt a two-minion block over the remaining minion by playing units on Positions Seven and Eight relative to the enemy general’s new position (See Example 1 below). Either this or they will have to fully withdraw by backing up two spaces and then attempting to body block the stronger minion with two units (See Example 2 below). From an offensive perspective you are forcing your opponent into trying to body block, or trying to body block and take damage. Neither are good options for your opposition if they are already losing the game.

example 1

example 2


The Vertical Trap is set up by placing a weaker minion on Position Two and then a stronger one on Position Six. Similar to the Horizontal Trap, this one lures your opponent into making a certain move. By placing your weaker minion either above or below the enemy general you bait him or her into attacking it, which consequently cuts off their movement. In practice, if they forego their movement to clear your minion, they will be forced into a multiple-turn engagement, allowing you to attack with both your general and stronger minion.

If however they value the Defensive Stance over clearing the smaller minion, a likely result is that they will move towards the wall. More commonly they will move two up or down and attempt to two-unit block the stronger minion.

As I said, this maneuver is similar to the Horizontal Trap but more aggressive. The Vertical Trap’s objective is to force the opponent to take the Perfect Provoke Stance. As we’ve also learned during Positioning 101, Positions Four and Six mark the Aggressive Stance as they limit the horizontal movement of the enemy general. The Vertical Trap effectively combines your toughest minion with your general on Positions Four and Six to severely limit the opponent’s movement options.


The Bait-and-Switch maneuver is all about using a minion that “should” die to influence the board state. While examining this move, however, we will need to change our grid relative to your own general.

This maneuver requires you to position a strong minion in an offensive position (Position Nine in this case) and then a second weaker minion in the opposite corner relative to your general (As shown in the image above). In effect this forces the opponent to decide between (1) moving into Position Two above your general to deal with your vulnerable minion, or (2) make a move against the strong minion and leave the weak minion alone. By sacrificing itself the weak minion greatly influences the strong minion’s effectiveness. Alternatively, if the weak minion lives through the opponent’s turn he will now be able to influence the board.

The most common use of the Bait-and-Switch maneuver as opposed to the Vertical Trap maneuver will be when attempting to avoid big blow out spells (Such as Holy Immolation, for instance), something we will discuss in more detail next week. For now however, understanding the Bait-and-Switch basic positional design can be very useful in learning how to control the board state by using all of your options even if they appear to be “dead” plays.


In Chess, a Phalanx play aims to create a low point defensive barrier that deters your opponent from whittling at it with high point pieces. For the purposes of Duelyst however, the Phalanx works best in dire situations in which you need to be on the defensive.

On the image above you can see your general (Reva) hugging the bottom wall with two enemy minions standing dangerously close. In that and all other cases, the key to setting up a successful Phalanx is to make it so that the enemy’s weaker minion is the only one that can reach in and attack your general.

A Phalanx move begins when you play a minion directly below you and then move back two tiles, following up by placing a second minion on the tile you previously occupied. It’s important that you assess which enemy minion poses the greatest threat to you so that you place your strongest minion in front of him. To be perfectly clear, if you place the weaker minion in front of the opponent’s biggest threat the opponent’s weaker minion and general may together attack and kill your minion, which would allow the big minion to move in and attack you. In other words, the order in which you play your minions is key to a successful Phalanx maneuver.

It is worth noting that this same maneuver can be applied to withdraw vertically if we have already managed to get into the Defensive Stance we discussed on Positioning 101.

Mantis, at this stage you have completed the two lessons on basic positioning and are now beginning to understand how different maneuvers can come together to influence and sometimes even control your opponent’s decisions.

This coming week won’t teach you all there is to know about complex two-minion positioning, and that’s only because there are too many variables to your opponent’s decision making process.

But worry not, for the door to enlightenment is beginning to crack open, and if you remain mindful of what your opponent is doing in response to your own maneuvers a wealth of knowledge will rain upon you. Come prepared next week brow soaked with your efforts, and be ready for the storm; Positioning 202: The Thunderstorm, Mantis vs. Scorpion. (Maneuvering around Removal spells).

If you ever need anything you can hit me up here, and I’ll do my best to help:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Goodguy_Hopper
Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/goodguyhopper
Discord: https://discord.gg/ZzjMD52

Bring an umbrella,
– James “Goodguyhopper” Hopper