Positioning 202: Conservative Combat

by Counterplay Games  /  August 29, 2016

Chapter 4:
The Thunderstorm: Mantis vs. Scorpion

Welcome again to the Temple of Enlightenment, Mantis! Today you’ll be fighting a clever opponent: Meet Scorpion.

This resourceful lady is here to see how quickly you can react to her moves. You will learn to fend for yourself so worry not about attacking. Let’s see how long you can maintain your defenses against the mighty scorpion! Good luck, noble soul.

position zero

A quick refresher on the positioning chart: Consider your General to be at position five. To avoid removal spells, we’ll go over the optimal positioning for your minions.

Area of Effect Removal (AoE)

Lyonar Holy ImmolationMagmar Makantor Warbeast
Commonly referred to as “AoE damage”, Area of Effect cards make for a very popular form of removal in Duelyst. For instance, a Makantor Beast at Position Five could potentially hit eight adjacent enemies. Pretty powerful, right?

Luckily, the Temple of Enlightenment has the knowledge that’ll teach us how to answer these seemingly devastating effects.

You see, this type of removal has a fair amount of counter play, and the way you read and position yourself on the board plays a vital role on reducing or altogether avoiding the impact of such cards.

As a rule of thumb, the right way to position yourself to reduce the impact of most AoE spells is to align your minions at an angle around your General. To make it easier for you to visualize this, those positions would be One and Nine or Three and Seven. This formation should look familiar with last article’s Bait and Switch Maneuver.

In most cases this will limit the removal from hitting more than one creature plus your General. Most of these removal spells/abilities are only going to sweep the game if they get to kill two creatures and deal some damage to your General. The bait and switch maneuver forces that to be impossible.

Let’s talk about the two exceptions to our rule of thumb for AoE effects:

Bone Swarm:
Vetruvian Bone Swarm

Unlike our classic bait and switch where we align with our General in the center, when playing against Bone Swarm we want to summon our minions away from our General to keep Bone Swarm from hitting more than one of our minions.

Grasp of Agony:
Abyssian Grasp of Agony

Although very similar to the other AoE spells, Grasp of Agony allows you a little more freedom of movement. You can position your minions following either the Vertical or Horizontal Trap layouts—and as long as your minions aren’t adjacent to one another, you’ll be fine.

Grid Based Removal

Abyssian Shadow NovaLyonar Sun Bloom

The second category of removal spells are Grid Based Removal spells. They hit a specific area like the AoEs mentioned above. Unlike the AoEs which must be positioned and maneuvered, however, grid based spells can be targeted onto specific points on the map. In our two examples above, the spells hit a 2×2 area, and you can avoid enabling huge blowouts using the horizontal trap, vertical trap, and the bait and switch maneuvers. There is a third Grid Based removal spell in the form of Kinetic Equilibrium; however, because it hits a 3×3 area, it’s so much harder to position around it that doing so is more detrimental than simply allowing it to hit your minions.

Magic Numbers

Magmar Plasma StormSonghai Ghost Lightning

Kinetic Equilibrium suggests that some spells exist without much you can do about. If your opponent plays them, the best you can do is to be prepared by not exacerbating the situation. For example if you’re Lyonar Argeon playing against a Magmar General, you could take an alternative five mana play intentionally neglecting to use your Bloodborn spell or play your Ironcliffe Guardian. This would allow you on turn six to play the Ironcliffe Guardian and pump it using your Bloodborn spell. This allows your Ironcliffe to avoid Plasma Storm because his attack power is now five instead of three. Magic numbers is a nickname for the amount of damage or specific health/attack that a spell will target. By being mentally aware of those numbers you can avoid allowing those spells to destroy more than a creature or two. By being mindful of the magic numbers you will avoid being blown out. Here is a list of the magic numbers for each faction:

Lyonar :Tempest 2
Songhai : Ghost Lightning 1 and Ghost Lightning + Eight Gates 3
Abyssian : Breath of the Unborn 2
Magmar : Spirit Harvester 1 and Plasma Storm 3

General Centric Removal

Vetruvian Dominate WillAbyssian Spectral Blade

All of the weapons in the game qualify as General Centric removal spells. And, for the most part, there isn’t a lot you can do about these spells getting value. If you have a creature whose effect you are more interested in than their damage potential, you can withdraw and position them far enough away so that the enemy General cannot get next to them. The best strategy for not getting behind against General Centric removal is to play more than one creature a turn. This is especially true when playing against Dominate Will.

Conditional Removal

Neutral ZenruiNeutral Dancing Blades

There are many removal spells in our examples above that are avoidable with careful planning or positioning. Knowing how much effort to invest into avoiding these effects is largely about understanding their popularity in the meta game. I picked these two examples based on their high popularity in the current meta.

Please remain mindful that these tactics are subject to change based on the popularity of the cards themselves as well as the cards that interact well with them. The Quick and Dirty on how to avoid each spell currently:

Zen’rui, the Blight Spawned – Can withdraw a creature you do not want stolen far away from where Zen’rui could be played since it can only capture minions next to it. Additionally, you can opt for lines of play that do not play out two damage creatures.

Dancing Blades – This is all about “hiding” your minion from its effect. You nearly always have the option to play a creature behind your General, and since it is very difficult to move a General it will be nearly impossible to hit your minion with Dancing Blades effect.

Magmar Metamorphosis

Although it is impossible to “avoid” the effect of having all of your minions transformed into 1/1’s,  it is possible to mitigate the damage Metamorphosis will deal by keeping Spirit Harvester off the table, and by continuing to position around Makantor Warbeast so that it’s difficult for your opponent to kill multiple minions while they’re weak.

Star’s Fury:
Vetruvian Stars Fury

This can be mitigated by placing and stacking all of your minions into one row on the board. This means that all of your minions “faces” will have your own minion in front of them, and therefore it is impossible for a Dervish to spawn.

The Blast Mechanic:
Vetruvian Pyromancer

Thankfully unpopular at this time, because positioning around the Blast mechanic is about spreading your minions. Which is the exact opposite of what your would want to do against Star’s Fury.

Lyonar Decimate

The reverse of defending against Holy Immolation. You want to keep all of your minions close to your General, or be very sure that the enemy General cannot fully get away from your minions. Although difficult the best positioning is to box in the opposing General so that he has very little freedom of movement. This is one of the few ways to position against both Decimate and Holy Immolation when playing against Lyonar.

Hearth-Sister and Juxtaposition:
Vanar Hearth-SisterSonghai Juxtaposition

This is one of the most difficult mind wars to play with your opponent. There is little you can do to prevent your opponent from placing your minion far away from the fray using these effects. However, you can limit the damage it deals to your General’s attack and defensive position. When playing against Vanar or Songhai, always be aware of “what happens if this minion is replaced by an enemy minion, will it block me from retreating, or block me from attacking?” If you keep those questions in your mind you will position as well as you can against these spells.

Vanar Avalanche

Largely this is about getting a read on what your opponent is playing. The spell is not incredibly popular because most Infiltrate minions are weak or removed easily. This has the effect of encouraging you to fight for the mid line but not necessarily pushing into your opponent’s side of the board anyways. The only truly dangerous position when you should be mindful of Avalanche is when your opponent is one or two squares onto their side of the board. From that column they could move back to the mid line leaving you on their side of the table to eat the Avalanche alone.

Hollow Grovekeeper and Sand Trap:
Neutral Hollow GrovekeeperVetruvian SandTrap

These are the last removal spells we will cover. They both have a similar interaction that can be used as counterplay against them. You can dispel your own minion. While not the most desirable thing to dom dispelling your own taunt minion can keep you from being blown out by Hollow Grovekeeper. So when you find yourself in that seven mana situation where you are pretty sure you win as long as the Ironcliffe Guardian sticks then go ahead and throw an Ephemeral Shroud at your own Ironcliffe.  Additionally, if anyone ever Sand Traps one of your minions, do not forget that Sand Trap is an effect that can be dispelled.

Congratulations Mantis, through your careful maneuvering you have managed to survive Scorpion’s onslaught. For the next week be mindful of what removal spells your opponent has access to and attempt to mitigate the damage those spells do to your board state by being prudent with your positioning.

A warning: always consider that positioning around removal slows you down, so in your mind picture if avoiding the removal spell would prevent you from winning the game next turn, and if it would stop you from winning, would you be able to win if you allowed the spell to hit you for full effect? Being too zealous when avoiding removal can sometimes be more damaging than allowing the spell to hit you.

Go and seek enlightenment on the field of battle and return to the temple next week when you are ready to gain more knowledge. Positioning 203: The opening moves and fighting for mana.

As always, 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

Good luck this coming week,