Thursday, June 15, 2006

Strategy of a Game: Blue Moon, Part One: Hoax & Vulca

Over at RPGnet these last few months I've been writing a series of reviews of the Blue Moon expansions. Each review has also included some strategy notes on the deck. Since I know folks aren't necessarily reading reviews for strategy, I've decided to collect those strategy notes here, at Gone Gaming, along with some additional card counts and other info. Each of these articles will cover two of the Blue Moon decks, and I expect you'll see about one a month until I hit them all.

I'm starting off with two decks that I haven't discussed before, the inhabitants of the original game, the Hoax and the Vulca.

You may also want to take a look at the general strategy notes I included in my article Anatomy of a Game : Blue Moon.

Card Counts

First off, here's a break down of the cards in the first two decks:

Card TypesLeadershipCharactersBoostersSupport

As we'll later see, this is a pretty standard split of cards, which the Hoax being a little off-balanced toward support.

Here's card icons. Note that these first decks are very conservative and thus don't include much in the way of special icons.

Card IconsFreeGangPairProt.Repl.Retr.EShieldFShieldStop

* Keep in mind that each deck tends to have a mutant with the icons: earth shield, fire shield, stop. Thus a base number of 1/1/1 for these last three icons is normal.

** This count includes 1 paired card whose matches don't appear in this deck.

Finally, here's some combat value counts:

CountsEarth SumEarth MaxFire SumFire Max2C Max Play
Hoax44555510 earth
Vulca46569714 fire

Max shows the highest card of the type while "2c max play" shows the highest value possible when playing two cards, usually a character plus a booster or support.

Of note here: A heavy bias toward fire in the Vulca deck, and a pretty massive two card combination. However the Hoax also has a slight fire bias.

Deck #1: The Hoax

Strengths: Special effect characters, a few retrievables, and some nice support cards.

Weaknesses: Generally low-value characters. Strengths are also a limited resource.

Cards of Note: The following cards are of particular note in the Hoax deck.

Brain Drain (Support). Prevents your opponent from playing more than one card on their turn. This can shut down most decks unless they have a leadership or character card that discards support. It's thus best to play when you're already assured of a 6-card win.

Duplicator of Strength (Support). A powerful card because it doubles the Earth value of your character card. Unfortunately, the Hoax are generally pretty weak. There's a 5, Catsuan, the mutant is a 4, then you're down to 3s. However, you can use this as a one-two setup since the Duplicator is a support. Play the Duplicator of Strength on one turn, then play a character with either the Potion of Prodigious Passion (increases value to 5) or the Battling Boomerang (2/2) booster on the next turn. This can give you a 10 total, or a 14 with Catsuan and the Boomerang.

Hank Highflyer Hawk (Character). I hate to highlight this character, since it's from the Flit deck, but it's nonetheless one of the best defenses in the deck. You get to ignore your opponent's character value and also any of the special effects on their card, which can get you out of many a jam. This is a great card to hold onto until your opponent really thinks they have you.

Strategy: The Hoax deck is pretty subtle. As already noted, its characters are weak, mostly running 1-3, with a few higher values in fire and just Catsuan's 5 in earth. It only makes up for that with its support and special effects.

I think of the five 2/2 characters as the core of the deck. They're somewhat similar to the Shamans of the later Mimix deck, in that they have nice special powers, but they're hard to play after the first round of a duel. However in the Hoax deck you actually have the opportunity to play them later in a duel if you're building up support, which can itself give you quite a good total even before you play a character.

Of these 5 special characters you have one superb defense (Bethenitana, who prevents your opponet from attacting dragons, and should be played one turn before you retreat) and a strong attack (Genathones, who allows the play of an extra support). You also have 3 that you only want to play if you think you're going to finish off the duel immediately: Thirkomedas (who prevents the play of leadership/booster/support), Redamikanas (who attracts an additional dragon if you win), and Demegodas (who doubles the value of your support). Each has some pretty obvious times to play. For example, you play Thirkomedas if your opponent is only matching duel values through the play of boosters and Demegoas if you've already got out a good set of supports.

There are three retrievables in this deck, and they're all nice: a 3/3 character, a 2/2 booster and a 1/2 support. If you're playing against the Flit, remember that a retrievable can't be retrieved if your opponent also has one out. This might be a nice way to get rid of a particularly powerful retrievable character that your opponent is using without having to throw the fight. Other than that, consider these very nice resources. Play them when you're treading water because your opponent isn't increasing the values quickly enough, and you can cost him nice cards. Since you just have three you don't want to put more than one out in a duel, lest you lose them all in a retreat ... unless doing so would result in a 6-card and thus 2-dragon victory.

Beyond that, pay attention to your supports, because they're your only real advantage. Try and get them out early in a fight, to constantly cause your opponent to play higher numbers. Also see the earlier notes about Brain Drain and Duplicator of Strength.

A nice card combo with the Hoax is Muster Reinforcements/Trigger Brainstorm. The first one lets you draw five cards. Then on the next turn you can play the Brainstorm and drop a number of supports. This can both increase your value and push your card count to 6 quickly. It's also one of the ways to more easily play a 2/2 special-effect character late in a duel. It works best if you already have supports in your hand, and if it's late enough in the game that you don't mind losing a few of your support (or, alternatively, if it gives you an instant 4-dragon game win).

Counter Strategy: Even more than most decks, I think it's a viable strategy when fighting the Hoax to throw duels in order to cost them their best cards. This works best to kill the retrievables or any of the better support cards. If your opponent has played these but hasn't hit 6 cards, I think it's almost required.

The Muster Brainstorm leadership, which gives a player 5 cards can be intimidating, but you can also turn it to your advantage. After a player is down to a normal hand size, he's even more likely than usual to have an unbalanced hand. If you're starting a new duel around here, consider keeping the element the same because you might be able to take advantage of that.

Perhaps the best way to defeat the Hoax is to brute-force them. You'll need to play low cards in some duels, to keep your hand clear of them, but in other duels jump straight up to a 6 or a 7, either on the lead if you have a great character or in the first response (preferably using a booster or pair). By doing this before an opponent can take advantage of his supports, you might have already locked him out of the duel.

Deck #2: The Vulca

Strengths: High-value characters, particularly in fire.

Weaknesses: Few special effect texts, and thus not a lot of versatility.

Cards of Note: The following cards are of particular note in the Vulca deck.

Charm Holy Dragon (Leadership). Trading 8 fire for 1 dragon is almost always a good idea, provided that you can do so efficiently. In general this is a great way to get rid of low-to-mid value cards that wouldn't deliver a victory in-and-of themselves. So, if you're ever in a position where you're holding two to three cards which meet the 8 fire requirement as well as this Leadership, use them!

Flamebreat the Dazzling (Character). The strongest character in a deck of strong characters: an aweinspiring 7/0.

Volcanic Gauntlets (Booster). A close mirror to the Hoax's Duplicator of Strength, but even better in this deck because of the high fire value that it features. This is a great card to finish off a duel, particularly in combination with one of the 5+ fire values.

Wall of Fire (Support). Like the Hoax's Brain Drain, this can be a duel-winning Support. When you play it your opponent either immediately retreats, or else decides to stay in a fight hoping to win with what he's got in his hand. Unless he's lucky, you'll beat him either way.

Strategy: The strategy of the Vulca deck is mainly to take advantage of its high-flying numbers. You have Flamebreath (7/0) and Scorch (6/0) as well as the aforementioned Volcanic Gauntlets and an Elemental Enchantment which increases a power value to 6. The Lightning Bolts (3/1) support and the Fireblast (3/2) booster are nice too.

The trick of this deck is to always make sure that if you're going to use your best values, you do so only when you'll win two dragons. Thus you should save them for your sixth card. Play low cards to get there, them jump from four to six in one move if you have appropriate boosters or support.

Though it's tempting to think of this deck as weak in earth it's not bad. Just looking at its straight values, it's actually a couple points more powerful than the Hoax deck. Thus, don't be afraid to start a fight in earth or continue one if your cards call for it.

There's not much special effect text on the Vulca cards, but there are a few which you might want to watch if you're playing certain other decks. The Ember (1/1) character prevents the play of characters without special effect text. This is great against a deck of plain characters like the Mimix (or the Vulca themselves). The Cast Cataclysm leadership, Cinder character, and Pandemonium support all have various ways to deal with support cards. Keep this in mind if you're playing a support-heavy deck like the Hoax. Flickering Fire, which is a support that prevents the play of leaderships, can be pretty mystifying as to how to play defensively. It really only works if you know an opponent has a deck strategy centered on a leadership and is about to play it. The Aqua's Adminster Water of Immortality is a rare card that you might be able to time, but in general you won't get good use of this defense unless you're a very experienced player.

In general, keep the strategy of your Vulca play simple, as that's all the deck demands.

Counter Strategy: The biggest counter strategy against the Vulca is simply to play against their strength. If you can, always be ready to stave off one high-power play, through armor or a character like Hank Highflyer Hawk. The Vulca usually won't be able to followup on their one high play.

In addition, try and force a final, high-value conflict before you get up to 6 cards. Playing something that will force your opponent to play a 6+ as your third card isn't a bad choice when playing against the Vulca.

Beyond that, take advantage of whatever special powers your own deck has, whether it be the Hoax's special powers, the Flit's retrievables, or the Mimix's pairs. These are the places where the Vulca won't be able to compete, and thus you'll have the best opportunity to beat them.


Seth Ben-Ezra said...

Good article! I really enjoy Blue Moon, so I'm looking forward to the rest of this series.

Just a brief pedantic note: Retrieval is only blocked on a character card if your opponent has Retrievable character cards. So boosters and supports are not affected by this rule.

Joe Gola said...

Always keep the Vulca's wins to one dragon; that's a bit of advice that applies to any deck, but it's easier to accomplish when playing against the Vulca because they are, I think, the only deck that has no way to play more than two cards on a turn. Every other deck has free cards or cards with special power text that let the player get extra cards out on a turn.

Also, like with any deck, it's a good idea to keep track of its killer cards. Cast Cataclysm is the biggie, particularly if you're the Hoax. Their mutant should also be kept in mind.

The easy mistake to make when playing against the Vulca is to assume that they're weak in Earth, which is not really the case; they can hold their own in both elements.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the breakdown of the base decks. My wife and I are just getting into this game and only just starting to get a handle on these two. Maybe now I'll have a chance against her ;)

Anonymous said...

A minor quibble. Catusan + Battling Boomerangs + Dulicator of Stregth is only a 12, not a 14, as the duplicator has no effect on the Boomerangs.