Author Topic: How to Win: A Guide to Tactics and Strategy in IW  (Read 6926 times)

Offline MerliniX

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How to Win: A Guide to Tactics and Strategy in IW
« on: January 11, 2016, 10:28:10 PM »
Note: This is a work in progress, screenshots will be added, and it will likely take me multiple weeks to get this to a point I would consider it complete, so I ask people to bear with me as I work on this.

Topics to cover:


When to attack and when to defend.
How to order your characters for both attacking and defending.
How to use unknown information to your advantage in combat.
How to minimize the impact of your opponent's unknown information.


When to play characters from hand vs from command.
When to play abilities instead of characters.
Playing efficiently - maximizing board control per resource spent.
How to anticipate your opponent's actions, getting a read on 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.


How to develop a long term strategy for the game or match from turn 1.
How to identify your opponent's strategy and play around it.
How to think multiple turns ahead and plan each turn accordingly.
How to sideboard effectively to increase your odds of winning in games two and three of a match.
How to recover and win in a losing game.
How to prevent your opponent from recovering in a game you are winning.

And possibly more to be added if I think of something I feel is important enough to include.


When to Attack/When to Defend

One of the largest mistakes I see players make as they learn IW is attacking when they should be defending, or defending when they should be attacking. Most games are won or lost on these correct and incorrect decisions, and it is one of the most fundamental and powerful concepts to learn in IW, which is why we are starting with it.

For anyone who has not read it, please check out this article from Mike Flores about MtG.
The article is written with MtG in mind, but it applies to virtually every card game in which there is an aggressor, and a defender, and the core concepts translate very solidly to IW.

Now, let's take a look at attacking and defending in IW. On your turn you can choose to do one of three things with every Character you control. You can attack, you can defend, or you can keep them back in support.

When to attack:

Whenever possible! Seriously - attacking wins the game, or gets you closer to winning the game. Every time you choose not to attack with a character you are saying 'this action I am doing (defending or leaving in support) is more valuable to my chances of winning the game than dealing fortress damage to my opponent'. Outside of a dedicated morale or alt win con deck you will be winning through fortress damage 95+% of the time. Attacking as often as possible maximizes your chances to get that damage in and get the win.

Dangers of Attacking:

When attacking be aware of your opponents options for defending. Trading two or more characters for one of your opponents is rarely advisable, and it is good to be prudent. Don't make your minions waste their lives because you did not look at everything your opponent could put into defense!

When to defend:

There are two key reasons to defend.

1) You get the opportunity to kill off one or more characters your opponent controls, using only one character you control. This can obviously be incredibly impactful, especially if you can kill three or more enemy Characters with a single one of your own. Often this leaves your opponent playing from an incredible disadvantage for the rest of the game, and usually results in your getting the win.

2) Not defending will result in a game loss. This is the case generally when you are low on life and you have no way to kill your opponent and secure a draw.

Dangers of defending:

Every time you defend it comes with an opportunity cost. All of those characters in defense could be in assault that turn, helping you get closer to the win condition of your opponent having 0 or less health remaining. If your opponent chooses not to attack into your carefully structured defense, you have wasted the turn for all those characters. What is worse, if your opponent has the means to take out a key character via something like Death Ray you could watch them eat all your defenders without losing any attackers of their own.

When to Hide in Support:

There are a few reasons to keep your character's in support.

1) Putting them anywhere on the battlefield will cause them to die. You just know your guy is getting Death Rayed this turn, and want to keep it alive for a later turn. Likewise your Wealthy Noble has no relevant combat stats and defending with it will just make it squish. (Defending with Wealthy Nobles is a legitimate strategy that should be considered every turn you have a Noble deployed. I have won dozens of games with less than ten life left because I blocked with a Noble on a crucial turn).

2) You don't yet have a read on your opponent, and want to wait until you understand what they plan to do better before you commit to the board. If you are a new player and this is your excuse for keeping your guys in support - don't. Put them in attack or defense where they belong. You will need to play many, many games before pulling back for a turn to understand your opponent will become beneficial.

3) You have a Matriarch in play/you just played a Noble Protector and want to get everyone under his Umbrella. These are both niche cases, but worth mentioning.

How to Order Characters for Attacking and Defending:

To start, watch this video made by Adorabear back in the game's infancy. and

The basic idea to keep in mind while choosing the combat order for your characters is, you want as many characters to survive the combat as possible, and to cause as many as possible to die on your opponent's side (unless you have lethal damage, then you just want to win the game). Thus a very basic rule is your stronger characters go in front, and weaker characters go in back. This is because the character at the front of a combat zone is much more likely to see combat than the one in the tenth or twentieth position.

There are, however, exceptions to this rule. If your opponent controls two Aspirants (4/2) and a Bromich (10/10 and makes the Aspirants 6/2), and you control a Splitter bot (10/10) and a Support Drone (2/2), and you have decided to defend, you need to choose what order the two characters should go in to trade the most efficiently. This is a tricky decision, because you will need to outthink your opponent here.

If you choose to put the Splitter in front and the Support Drone second, and your opponent chooses to place his Bromich as the back of his line then you will trade your Splitter for two Aspirants, and the Bromich will survive killing your Support Drone. If you place the Support Drone in front, and the enemy leads with the Bromich, the same situation will happen.

In order to make the most of this position you need to decide where your enemy is most likely to place his Bromich. The majority of players would place it at the back of their line, as it is the most important Character they control, and the one they most want to survive combat. However, an experienced player might know this, and attempting to outthink you, might place the Bromich at the front. You need to make a decision based on the information you have available to you, which is: what do you know about your opponent? Have you played against them before? Seen them stream before? How aggressive have they been in the past, and how much thought do they put into their actions?

If you have not played against them before, what have they done in previous turns? Have they swapped their characters combat positions each turn? Or have they let them remain stationary? Where was Bromich positioned in previous combat phases?

Knowing the answers to these questions can give you some insight into how your opponent is thinking as they play, and help you to make an appropriate decision.

How to use Unknown Information to your Advantage in Combat:

Take him unaware by surprise attacks where he is unprepared. Hit him suddenly with shock troops. -Sun Tzu

Every game of IW contains vast amounts of Unknown Information. You do not know what your opponent has in their hand and is playing this turn, and likewise they do not know what you are playing or have in hand. As soon as a card has been played it becomes 'Known Information', and both you and your opponent can then factor that card into your plans easily because it is on the board staring up at you.

The trick that wins games is making sure you get an impact out of the Unknown Information as soon as it becomes Known Information.

For instance, you have an Upgrade in hand (target character gets +5/+5). If you target a character that you leave in support that turn did you get full value out of your Upgrade? While technically the character DID get +5/+5, you could have used the turn to do something immediately with that bonus, something your opponent did not expect. If, for instance, you both control only one character at 10/10, you could use the Upgrade to kill off the enemy character, and leave you with a 15 power attacker with 5 life remaining.

Any time you play something from hand that has an immediate effect on the board, you should try and take advantage of it on that turn. Your opponent doesn't know you are about to play that buff, or debuff, but as soon as you play it they will know to play around it and not put their characters in needless danger.

How to minimize the impact of your opponent's unknown information:

So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss. -Sun Tzu

So, here is a challenge for the reader. Your opponent is playing a two purity Warpath, one Purity Flame Dawn deck. They have five resources to spend this turn. Name every card or effect off the top of your head that they could use this turn, that would have an immediate impact on actions taken this turn. (This means characters with haste or charge, Ability cards that have an immediate impact, characters with deploy effects like Flame Dawn Commando or Hulking Sniper).

Did you get them all? Are you sure?

Go through your collection, or the wiki if your collection is incomplete, and look at every single card that can possibly have an impact immediately when played. Note their purity requirements and costs. You want to be able, from turn one of a game, to know every single threat your opponent can generate on every single turn of the game. It is impossible to know exactly what your opponent does have in their hand, but it is very much within your power to know exactly what they could have.

Once you are aware of the threats they can generate you will begin to find yourself playing around them more naturally. It will likely take some time to get used to dodging things like Mass Death, but you will dodge them much more often by being aware of when your opponent can play them and when they cannot.

« Last Edit: January 13, 2016, 10:35:23 PM by MerliniX »

Offline MerliniX

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Re: How to Win: A Guide to Tactics and Strategy in IW
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2016, 10:28:22 PM »

When 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.


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.


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.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2016, 12:16:49 AM by MerliniX »

Offline MerliniX

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Re: How to Win: A Guide to Tactics and Strategy in IW
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2016, 10:28:28 PM »

How to develop a long term strategy for the game or match from turn 1:

Developing a long term strategy is something that often happens even before you get into a match, on the deck builder screen, or during the pick phase of a Rift Run. However, often you get into a match and take a look at your opponents commanders and say something like 'wtf are they playing?'. At moments like these you need to be able to think on the fly, and develop a game plan that spans the entire game, and ends with a victory screen for yourself.

So how do we do that?

The first step is to know your deck. I do not just mean know what cards are in your deck, although this is very important as well (in fact if you cannot from memory tell me what all the cards are in your deck are, go right now to your deck builder screen and do not leave it until you can!) You need to have a real understanding of what your deck is and what your deck does, and what it is and is not capable of doing.

For instance, if you are playing a typical 2FD/SoA deck, you need to know what turns you are strongest on (typically 1-4 when you have early aggression), which turns you will likely need to regroup on (typically 5-6 as you pull back and generate tokens. Sometimes you play Sacullas in here, sometimes you Fear + Caltrops), and you need to know what turn you plan to win on (typically 7-9, depending on draws, trades, and whether your opponent can stem the early aggression).

Knowing this information, a 2FD/SoA player might formulate a strategy for a game vs a vanilla opponent that goes like this:

Turns 1-4 play charge characters or commanders into attack, deal as much early damage as possible.

Turns 5-6, block with one or two small characters to keep any enemy pressure off the fortress, make sure they can't come anywhere near winning while we build up for the final push.

Turns 7-9, build up in support, try and take advantage of any enemy misplays, look for a big stumble off of Intimidating Rally, a Fear + Caltrops or a Fear + Call the Crusade, or a big hit from Sacullas to end the game.

The strategy is a rough outline for how you want the game to go in order for you to get the win. Frequently, based on what your opponent is playing, the strategy will change. Against a 2CoV deck, for instance, you likely don't want to rely on a strategy that involves attacking with characters from turn 6 onwards. While the strategy may be sound against a number of other decks, trying to use that strategy in every situation will result in frequent losses against CoV.

Often identifying when and where your opponent can apply pressure is key for developing a successful strategy.

How to identify your opponent's strategy and play around it:

Even before you get into a match you should have a rough idea of your own deck's strategy. Once you are in a match you need to be able to identify your opponent's strategy and alter your own to address any weaknesses or vulnerabilities to what your opponent is playing.

Let's say you are playing against a 3SoA deck. Almost everyone has seen one of these decks before, and the deck's plan is pretty straightforward. Turns 1-6 play low cost characters into attack if possible, if not into defense. Do as much damage to the enemy fortress as possible, or trade off with as many enemy characters as possible. Turn 7 play Hehkeem, raise a massive army from the graveyard and smash your opponent into pieces. (There are 3SoA decks with more sophisticated plans than this, but if you see 3SoA you are usually facing some variant of this plan, at least initially.)

So how would playing against 3SoA affect our core game plan? We know that trading early characters is likely not to our advantage. The 3SoA player has the means to get their early characters back, while your deck probably does not, however if we can kill their characters with our own while keeping ours alive we can push through at least a little fortress damage each turn. The 3SoA player will likely have very little on the battlefield on turn 7. This is because turn 7 is likely the turn Hehkeem comes out and revives everyone. This makes turn 7 a very profitable window that your deck can exploit for an all out assault. Even if you cannot finish the SoA player on this turn, it will force them to keep a large portion of their army in defense on turns 8-9 so you cannot get that last little bit of damage through. Finally, you know that the enemy deck is susceptible to fliers (3SoA is notorious for how little flying defense it has) and Calamity, provided you can survive long enough to play it, and that you included it in your deck.

So taking all of that information together, a plan to beat 3SoA's plan might look something like this:

Turns 1-6: Try and attack as much as possible, but only with characters that will not die to enemy minions. 1 for 1 trades favor the opponent, try and do as much fortress damage as possible while keeping enemy characters off the battlefield as much as possible.

Turn 7: All in with everything you have. Hehkeem is coming out this turn, and it will be your last chance to launch an effective assault.

Turn 8-9: Try and ping that last little bit of health off the enemy fortress with fliers. Defend against their attack as best you can with the other characters you have remaining. Prepare for a turn 10 Calamity to reset the board and help you close out the game.

Obviously this plan is a bit generic, and does not take into account what you are playing, which might have a more favorable game plan available to it. Identifying your opponent's plan early on will also take time and experience with the game. Some decks, like 3SoA are relatively easy to analyze, while others will be much more difficult. In best of three games it is often beneficial to take careful note of how your opponent managed to win game 1, or how they appeared to be trying to win game 1, and factor that information into your counter plan for the rest of the match.

As a more generic approach, go through all of the factions in the game in one, two, and three purity. Look at how each faction combination typically wants to win. An example might be 3DoD wants to win by playing Avatars and then attacking with them, 3FD wants to win by playing charge characters and stumble effects. Know how each faction combination wants to play can help you get a rough understanding of your opponent's plan from the game start.

How to think multiple turns ahead and plan each turn accordingly:

Thinking ahead is one of the most critical aspects of any strategic game, and yet many people fail to do it in their games. To think ahead effectively you need to know two key things; what you can do, and what your opponent can do. Often it is easiest to refer to that plan you have developed for the game, and the plan you think your opponent is working toward. Then take a step back and look at the actual state of the game. Who is ahead? Who is behind? Who is following their plan more closely?

If the game has deviated from your overall game plan you need to use the next turn or two to try and get things back on track. Look for ways to gain an advantage or to blunt your opponent's momentum. If things are going to plan for you, then likely your opponent's plan is in shambles. They will be looking to make equalizing plays over the next few turns - keep an eye out for desperation moves and play accordingly. Remember: if you have the advantage, and you are in no immediate danger of losing the game, there is no reason to overcommit to the board or to any single attack. You are in control, don't give the opponent opportunities to get back into the game via a good predict.

How to sideboard effectively to increase your odds of winning in games two and three of a match:

This basically just applies to ranked or to tournament play, but I see people do this incorrectly so often that I felt like it needed it's own section.

So remember what I said before about identifying your opponent's plan? Your sideboard should be entirely devoted to cards that do one of two things.

1). Either interfere with or nullify your opponent's plan, so that you can spend your resources primarily advancing your own plan without having to stop and prevent yourself from losing. Examples of cards that do this are Veroria the Lone Keep, or Disruption Sphere. These cards are very effective at shutting down specific strategies that are used in certain decks. You do not want these cards against all decks but in certain situations they become incredibly powerful.

2). Cards that modify, advance, help, or tweak your own plan to account for the particular matchup you are facing. Examples of cards like this might be Martyr Golem or Noble Protector against an AoE spam style deck. By bringing these cards in you are choosing to slow the pace of your plan, usually by a turn, in order to pull it off more consistently by removing one of the core methods your opponent will use to prevent your plan from succeeding.

Now that we have covered what you want in your sideboard, here are examples of things you don't want.

1). Graverob. You don't want this. Ever. I mean ever. Seriously. If your deck is being beaten by Infested Abomination, or Oblivion, or something else that you feel you need Graverob for, you either need to come up with a different way of beating those strategies, or you need to rethink your deck entirely.

2). Vandalize. Ditto what is said above about Graverob. Every time you put Vandalize in your sideboard God kills a kitten. Think of the kittens. Don't use Vandalize.

3). Any other card that you do not directly have a plan for. If you cannot say exactly when and why you would use a card in your sideboard it has no place being there. Also putting things like Death Ray into your sideboard, and then justifying it because 'well their deck might have characters', is not a valid reason. Cards in your sideboard must either advance your own plan or directly interfere with your opponent's plan. Anything that does otherwise is only hurting your chances of winning the match. (This is not to say having Death Rays in your sideboard is incorrect. If you are struggling vs a particular Warpath deck that relies heavily on Packleaders, for instance, Death Ray would be an entirely acceptable Sideboard choice. This is because you have identified that the Packleaders are key to the opponent's plan, and eliminating such a key aspect is likely to set their plan back several turns, during which you can advance your own win condition.)

How to recover and win in a losing game:

This is a matter of knowing your deck and what it is capable of. Sometimes in certain games, you will get to a point where there is absolutely no way to pull out a win. Don't be upset when you get into these situations, instead back up a turn or three, and try to identify exactly when the game went from 'playing from behind' to 'hopeless'. Knowing when those moments come up in a game is critical to avoiding them.

When all hope is not yet lost, but your opponent clearly has the edge you first need to identify a few key factors.

1). How long from now will it take your opponent to actually win the game?

Sometimes it is one turn, sometimes three or more. Knowing this lets you know how quickly you need to find an answer to the position, and what in your deck that answer will have to be. For instance if it will take your opponent 3 or more turns to win, will you be able to ramp up to Calamity and draw it before they can get lethal in? Is your only hope to Intimidating Rally for a bunch and try to produce lethal? In the first scenario it is perfectly fine to expend all your characters blocking to try and save life while you ramp for Calamity. In the second you need all your guys alive to try for one last ditch attack.

2). What outs do you have to deal with the situation?

'Outs' would be things like Calamity or Intimidating Rally in the above examples. Most decks contain outs in one form or another, cards you can play to get back to an even game when things start to fall apart. These cards are critical to save for these situations. For instance, if you have drafted a deck where you only have 3 Fight!s as your outs, don't be using them on the first few enemy characters to rear their heads. Save them instead for critical characters at critical moments. You only have so many outs in a deck. It is vital you use them when you need them, not just because you can.

If you know what your outs are you need to start playing to them. If the only way you recover in the game you are currently losing is to play Intimidating Rally and attack for loads, then wasting all your characters on blocking to give yourself extra turns to draw the rally is incorrect. Sure, you might have given yourself more time to draw Rally, but you have also made it useless to yourself as an out, as you now no longer have sufficient damage on the board to ever turn the game into a win. Perhaps by not blocking you never reach a point where you actually draw the Rally. That is fine, sometimes it just can't be helped, but by playing in this way you gave yourself the best possible chance you had to win the game.

How to prevent your opponent from recovering in a game you are winning:

This is the reverse of the above. As soon as you have turned the game in your favor you need to start asking yourself, what can my opponent do here in order to not lose this game? They will attempt to play to their outs, it is critical you know what their outs are so you can prevent them from using them effectively.

For instance, if the only way the opponent can recover the game is Calamity, then start drawing cards now. Don't wait for them to up resources or play the card. If they only have one scenario where they don't lose, start playing toward that scenario immediately.

Similarly Mass Death. If the only way they can hope to prevent you from winning the game is landing a lucky Mass Death on all your guys, then make sure that doesn't happen. Don't put your entire force in a position where it can all be removed with one card. If the opponent's only out is Intimidating Rally, then make sure you have more guys on the field than they have cards in hand, or make sure that they are unable to build up a large enough assault force in support to make use of the Rally should they draw it. Force them to block and waste their guys so they have no opportunity to all in you later on.

When a player is losing they become desperate, and easy to read. They will use their outs as soon as they can, so as to stave off inevitable defeat. That makes them much simpler to play around. Don't get so caught up in winning that you forget to think from your opponent's perspective. The worst feeling ever is losing a game you should have won, because you made one tiny mistake.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2016, 11:44:46 PM by MerliniX »

Offline MerliniX

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Re: How to Win: A Guide to Tactics and Strategy in IW
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2016, 10:28:34 PM »

Offline MerliniX

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Re: How to Win: A Guide to Tactics and Strategy in IW
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2016, 10:28:40 PM »

Offline MerliniX

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Re: How to Win: A Guide to Tactics and Strategy in IW
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2016, 10:28:46 PM »

Offline MerliniX

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Re: How to Win: A Guide to Tactics and Strategy in IW
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2016, 12:37:28 AM »
Rough sections on Combat and Tactics are complete - they need to be polished up with screenshots and the like. Will be working on the 'strategy' section next. If anyone has any feedback on the two sections I have blocked out I would welcome it - I'd rather have all my revisions planned before I begin work on the final versions.

Offline CommunistMountain

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Re: How to Win: A Guide to Tactics and Strategy in IW
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2016, 01:23:26 AM »
In that short test you gave the reader, you might want to link to my list which lists exactly what you're talking about.

Also, you should mention that even though Commanders have Haste, if you know that they are very likely to be killed if sent to the Battlefield, you can sacrifice the Haste advantage and play them into Support, if that is your most efficient use of Resources that turn, like the Kali example you gave later in the guide.

Offline IguanaMan

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Re: How to Win: A Guide to Tactics and Strategy in IW
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2016, 02:10:43 AM »
Rough sections on Combat and Tactics are complete - they need to be polished up with screenshots and the like. Will be working on the 'strategy' section next. If anyone has any feedback on the two sections I have blocked out I would welcome it - I'd rather have all my revisions planned before I begin work on the final versions.
Great so far.  I would like to say I think time woud be better spent completing the text of the guide, rather than adding screenshots right now.  Screenshots won't add much strategic info so mainly will make it look pretty and easier to read/understand for noobs.  Also setting up, taking and uplading screenshot takes a long time, time better spent writing, if there was a choice between the two. Thanks for taking the time to put this up.
"Seriously if we don't bug hunt they might end up a new faction!" - Junker99

Offline Klassick

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Re: How to Win: A Guide to Tactics and Strategy in IW
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2016, 02:40:24 PM »
I know this work is unfinished but, it already deserves to be 'sticked'.

By the way, there are posts/threads that deserve it too, will find them later.

Congrats for the excelent work (ok, in progress! ;D), MerliniX.

Offline MerliniX

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Re: How to Win: A Guide to Tactics and Strategy in IW
« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2016, 11:45:34 PM »
Rough section on Strategy is done. Any feedback is welcome. I will begin editing and cleaning everything up and adding screenshots, additional links, etc.

Offline Wayfinder1026

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Re: How to Win: A Guide to Tactics and Strategy in IW
« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2016, 04:05:36 AM »
The wise words of the great, Merlini.
*No one's noticed i'm a madman*

Offline IguanaMan

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Re: How to Win: A Guide to Tactics and Strategy in IW
« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2016, 10:38:50 AM »
"Seriously if we don't bug hunt they might end up a new faction!" - Junker99

Offline TheRealTuna

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Re: How to Win: A Guide to Tactics and Strategy in IW
« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2016, 01:57:17 PM »
Great read as expected, but I definitely disagree with the bit about Grave Rob and the notion that it should never be side boarded.

Even though I disagree, I can definitely see in a lot of cases why you'd say that -- if you're playing FD and can't deal enough damage by the time Infested Aboms tick you out, then something is very wrong, yes, and noble protectors / purify would be much better suited for the matchup anyway. Or if you're playing GI and the same thing is happening. But if you're playing a more control-style deck, Aboms will definitely have the time to tick you out, and not all factions have direct answers to Aboms.

If I'm playing Shrine (a far-fetched idea, to be sure  8) ) and I get caught with a yuanshi's which wipes my board, I am definitely going to be at risk of getting ticked out by aboms, because "my plan" will have been significantly hindered early on.

I have 2 grave robs in my sideboard, because even if I just draw 1, it is enough to essentially neutralize this entire situation, and gives me time to recover and continue onward with my plan.

You might say: "Well, put some martyrs in your SB, they are significantly better at dealing with this issue", to which I would say I already have 3 in the mainboard and it is still not always enough. I can't sideboard noble protectors or cassials either, given the purities of my why not grave rob? I have tried repairs as well, but they don't do enough to deal with 10 damage ticks per turn.

I feel like allocating 2 slots in the SB to completely counter a matchup that is specifically difficult to manage for a deck is very worthwhile, whether the card is grave rob or something else.

Vandalize is garbagio though for sure, no reason to run it at this time whatsoever.

Offline MerliniX

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Re: How to Win: A Guide to Tactics and Strategy in IW
« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2016, 04:01:00 PM »
My answer to you would be that you shouldn't be playing Shrine, lol.