TacticsWhen to Play Characters from Hand vs From Command
When you choose to play your Command Zone Characters can have a huge impact on how a game develops, and ultimately whether you win or lose. Characters in Command have some really big advantages over Characters from your hand, but also some notable weaknesses. Advantages:
1) Every Character in command has haste, meaning it can affect the board state immediately on entering play. Characters in hand typically do not (unless they are a Haste, Charge, or Vigilance Character).
2) Every Character has a psychological impact on how the opponent plays. They need to keep your commanders constantly in mind as they plan their turn, because at any moment your Command Zone could leap onto the battlefield.
3) Characters in command can be used to absorb removal without being played, for instance if your opponent keeps trying to Death Ray your Splitter Robot, while you continue to keep it in Command.Disadvantages:
1) Characters in Command all constitute known information, where Characters in hand are unknown information. It is very difficult to surprise an opponent with a Character in command, as that player has known it is there since the start of the game.
2) Characters in Command can be targeted and removed, either prior to being played, or as they are played. For instance when you choose to play a Kali from command and your opponent predicts it with a Death Ray it can be devastating for you.
So when choosing to play a Character from command vs one from hand what you are ultimately trying to do is maximize the advantages of Command, while minimizing the disadvantages
. The best way to do this is to wait as long as possible in the game, without lowering your odds of winning, to deploy your commanders.
Sometimes as long as possible is on turn one, for instance you have a Klore in command, he needs to be out on turn one getting as big as possible as fast as possible. Likewise if you have a Hulking Sniper in command and they have a Soldier of Purity - you want to play that guy on turn one and kill their flier before it ever becomes a nuisance.
More often than not, however, with higher cost commanders, choosing to wait a turn or two after you can deploy them is the correct move. This will frequently result in bad predicts from your opponents that you can take advantage of, and helps to build small board state advantages as your character count grows and they misevaluate combats and removal. As you play IW take note of your commanders at the beginning of every game, and then on the final turn of the game ask yourself - what would have happened this turn if I still had the option to play one of my commanders? This is more applicable in draft than in constructed, as in constructed your commanders often fill a vital predetermined role, but try and keep this idea in mind at the end of every game regardless. If you can find a way to subtly boost your own performance in the game by doing something simple like waiting a turn or two to play a commander, why not do it? When to Play Abilities Instead of Characters:
This is a bit tricky, as there is such a wide array of Characters and Abilities, and so many different scenarios where one is correct and the other is not. To try and help you figure this out for yourselves I am going to go into a subject called Board State Advantage
. Every turn you want to try and maximize your own Board State Advantage while reducing your opponent's. Board State Advantage can be roughly quantified by the raw amount of stats you have in play. if you have two characters at 10/10 each you have 40 stats worth of Board State. If you have one 15/15 character you have 30 stats worth of Board State.
This is an incredibly rough explanation of the concept, as having multiple characters is generally better than having all your stats on one guy, and in some situations the attack stat is far more valuable than the health stat, and sometimes it is the other way around, but it will serve as a good baseline to help you make decisions on what to play and when.
For instance - on turn three you have a choice between playing Kali, or playing a Death Ray on your opponent's Inspiring Soldier. The choice here is easy - playing Kali is correct in virtually every conceivable scenario. The reason is - if you play Kali you will put 18 points worth of stats onto the field, if you Death Ray the Soldier - even if your opponent doesn't dodge by pulling back to support, you will have removed only 15 points worth of stats from the field. Since 18 > 15 playing Kali gives you a greater Board State Advantage than using the Death Ray.
Now that you have a rough idea of when it can be worth it to play an ability, you must also consider the odds of the ability being successful (your opponent can dodge most abilities one way or another in IW), and whether that same ability will be more valuable later down the road if you hold onto it.
For instance Death Ray can kill that Inspiring Soldier on turn three - or you can wait another turn and kill a Glorious Warrior. I know which of the two I would rather kill.
Keep in mind also it becomes harder for an opponent to dodge an ability as the game goes on. The longer a game of IW the more critical each resource is to each player (meaning the cards they have available to them, not the resources they use each turn to play things), and as pressure mounts it becomes harder to leave characters back in support, more of them must be committed to attack and defense each turn. This makes it far easier to land abilities such as Death Ray later in the game, than in the first few turns.
In short, remember the old chess adage when deciding to play abilities or characters - development first, then attack!Playing efficiently - maximizing board control per resource spent:
This topic is a bit more clear cut - but many players ignore this in game. The resources that you spend every turn are limited - you only have so many cards in hand, and so many resources to spend playing them, or activating abilities of cards you have already played. So how do you decide which cards to play and which to activate and when?
The answer is: play whatever gives you the biggest advantage per resource spent.
For instance, if you have a choice between playing a One of Many from hand (3 resources), or Enraging an Enraged Hulker (3 resources) typically the best play is to play the One of Many. One of Many is an 8/9, or a total of 17 stats for 3 resources. Enraged Hulker gets a +6/+6 bonus when Enraged - but you are still only generating 12 total stats for 3 cost. There are, of course, exceptions this this, for instance you might need that Hulker to be big enough to kill off a fatty your opponent is going to put into defense this turn - but in general you want to maximize the amount of raw stats you put onto the field every turn, per resource spent.
Also - it is generally advisable to spend all, or as close to all, of your resources per turn that you can. Once the turn is over you cannot ever get those resources back. There are exceptions to this as well, for instance you might have nothing you can play - or you might just want to save that Flame Dawn Commando for a target with 4 health, but generally using all of your resources is preferable to not using all of your resources.How to anticipate your opponent's actions, getting a read on them:
One of the greatest challenges in IW is learning how to predict what your opponent is about to do. Unfortunately there is no one single tried and true method that will work on all opponents. Players of various skill levels have to be approached differently. You may have even heard highly skilled Rift Runners in the past complain that they would rather face a veteran of IW than a complete rookie, simply because the rookie is almost impossible to predict.
Still, there are tells you can look for as you play, but you have to be paying close attention to catch them. Here are some of the easier ones to spot.Your opponent has failed to use all of their resources for a turn:
Keep a close eye out for this, because it often tells you what they have, or do not have, in their hand. For instance, if a Tinkercide deck ends the turn with 1 resource up and characters in play - then you know they do not have a Tinker in their hand or they would have surely used it.
Another example is a 2FD/SoA deck. This style of deck was all the rage in ranked up until recently. This particular deck plays a large number of 2 drops and 1 drops (FD Commando, Torchbearer, FD Paladin, FD Hound, Fleeting Footman) but is very light on 3 drops, often relying on Kali from command to flesh out its curve.
Now, let's say in a hypothetical game your opponent is playing 2FD/SoA. Turn one they play Klore from command into assault, and keep their opening hand of 5 cards. Turn 2 they pass, playing nothing. It is now turn three - what have you learned about your opponent and their likely plays?Your opponent fails to change the order of attackers/blockers over the course of multiple turns:
This is often a failure by newer players, who don't understand the amount of control they give up by doing this. By using scripted patterns for characters in assault or defense it allows the opponent to easily guess where your guys will be on subsequent turns, and to block or attack into your troops accordingly to inflict maximum casualties.Your opponent fails to ever leave characters in support over multiple turns:
When your opponent does things like this it makes it much easier to hit that Death Ray or Mass Death. You know they haven't been playing around it, and so are unlikely to start playing around it.Your opponent fails to respect/gives too much respect to specific turns:
The easiest example of this would be turn 6 vs 2CoV. As anyone who has played IW for any length of time can tell you this is a very dangerous turn, because of the possibility of Mass Death. Many players will pull all of their characters back on this turn, for fear of losing their army and the game. Others will all out assault, or split their forces between support and attack, trying to outthink their opponent. If you are the 2CoV player it is important to note things like: did they pull back or play a Martyr Golem on turn 5 to dodge Overcharged Storm? Did they pull back on turn 3 to potentially dodge Death Ray? If they did, then they will likely pull back on turn 6 as well, out of an abundance of caution.
If you are playing against 2CoV it is important to note things like: where are the enemy characters at the start of the turn? Did they commit vital characters such as an Aether Acolyte with multiple buffs to the battlefield? Then it is likely they will not be willing to destroy their own creature in the hopes they can catch you unawares. Be careful though, many experienced players will attempt to give you a false sense of safety here, or even try and trick you into pulling back so they can launch an all out attack of their own!
IW has a relatively small player base at the moment, so often you will battle the same player multiple times. Keep track of what they play and how they play it. Often a small insight into a particular habit they have can win you many games, while your opponent is left scratching their head, wondering just how you always out predict them.How to disguise your own actions to prevent your opponent from predicting your moves,
giving out false readings to your opponents to cause them to play sub optimally:
This is basically the reverse of the above. Keep track of your own actions, the same way that you would keep track of an opponents. Know what information you are giving away each turn. Try and put yourself into the mindset of the other player, they see your actions and are trying to predict what you will do before you do it. Give them information that makes them think you will do something you plan to do differently.
For instance, it is game 1 of a best of three ranked game. You are against 2FD/SoA, and you are playing a deck with Aleta Tinkerer, Support Drone, and Splitter Robot in command. For the moment let us ignore the favorability/unfavorability of the matchup. On turn 1 you buff your Support Drone with Aleta. The following turn you buff it again, and play it onto the battlefield, buffing itself. It is now an 11/11 character, which is burly enough to trade decently with any 2 characters FD can field this turn. You could choose to block with it this turn, but it is likely that the FD player will anticipate this, and try and keep their troops back for this turn.
Instead, you can choose to attack, dealing 11 damage tom their fortress, and indicating to your opponent that you are an aggressive player who wants to go for their throat. Now if we ignore everything else that happens over the course of this game, when game 2 happens, on turn two you are once again faced with the option to attack, or to defend with your 11/11 Support Drone. Keep in mind you gave your opponent information in the prior game that you would generally prefr to attack with the Support Drone on turn 2. By playing it into defense this turn you have a fair chance of catching them by surprise, and perhaps killing both their Klore, and a early charge character, possibly even leaving the Support Drone alive (if they played Flame Dawn Paladin for instance).
Another example would be deliberately leaving your characters stationary on the battlefield for 2 or more turns, and then pulling them back or rearranging them at a critical point to cause your enemies plans to go awry. This one is tricky to pull off, because if your opponent acts a turn before you anticipate it, it can backfire drastically.
In short: keep track of what information you are giving away, and plan/counterplan accordingly.