This is the first in a series of articles written by Darwin Kastle, Founder, Creative Director and Game Designer at White Wizard Games.
Breaking the Rules!
Part 1: Ambush
We designed Epic Card Game with a basic framework of mechanical rules:
- You draw one card on your turn and none on your opponent’s turn.
- You play one card per turn.
- You may only play champions on your turn.
- Cards are played from your hand.
- Champions must deploy for a turn before attacking.
- Champions can be targeted, broken, banished, blocked, and/or returned to a player’s hand.
- Cards don’t do anything after they are put into the discard pile.
After that, we made a bunch of cards and abilities that allow you to break this framework of rules as you’re playing. Breaking these rules are some of the most powerful things you can do in Epic, and exploiting that rule-breaking expertly is one of the biggest keys to winning games of Epic.
For this installment of Breaking the Rules, I’m going to talk about ambush.
One of the basic rules of champions is that you can only play them on your turn. This limits their power. A Burrowing Wurm seems incredibly powerful because it’s an 18/18. However, it doesn’t present an immediate threat to your opponent or any of their champions. If you play it while they still have their gold to spend, they can efficiently deal with it with cards like Erase and Medusa. Even if they’ve already used their gold, they can deal with it efficiently on their turn with cards like Palace Guard, Sea Titan, Dark Assassin, Turn, and Inner Demon. Even Wild can answer it pretty efficiently, if they are playing with Feeding Frenzy.
Efficiency is one of the biggest keys to finding the right line of play in Epic. When I use the term efficiency while discussing playing Epic, I’m referring to card efficiency and tempo. For example, if you play a Burrowing Wurm on your turn and I immediately break it with a Medusa on that same turn, I’m being efficient in both cards and tempo. My one card completely dealt with your one card that you invested a gold in, and on top of that, I now have a threatening champion in play, all for one card and one gold. I got more out of my card and my gold, than you got out of your card and your gold. I also now have the tempo edge, because I can attack you with the Medusa without having to spend a gold. This forces you to spend a new card and a new gold to deal with it or it will eventually win me the game. The fact that if neither of us spends a gold or a card I will win, means I am ahead of you in terms of tempo.
For example, if you ambush in the Wurm during combat when they are attacking, this will usually result in them losing the champion they are attacking with and the Wurm threatening to make a devastating counterattack on your turn. Even if they have their gold available to spend, options like Palace Guard, Dark Assassin, and High King aren’t available from their hand during combat, and if they play Erase or Medusa on their turn, it’s not quite as devastating as if they were to play at the end of your turn.
Ambush is such a powerful effect that it makes Lurking Giant a higher pick in draft than Burrowing Wurm. While an 18/18 with breakthrough is clearly a bigger threat in combat than a normal 11/11, the ability to play the Giant on your opponent’s turn, including during combat, gives it a significant edge.
When we originally designed the card Muse, it did not have ambush. It was an airborne 2/2 that you could only play during your turn and then it had to stick around until your next turn before it could draw you a card. This meant that the number of ways to deal with it efficiently was incredibly high: Blue Dragon, Lightning Storm, Hurricane, Turn, High King, Kong, Banishment, Force Mage Apprentice, Dark Assassin, and many other cards. It was so weak that it became a late pick in draft and almost unplayable in constructed. Then we amped up its power level by adding ambush to it. Boy did it…
Now Muse is a strong first pick in draft and makes frequent appearances in constructed. Now you can wait for your opponent to spend their gold on their turn, before playing your Muse. You can even lure them into spending their gold by spending yours if needed, since Muse is free. Then, unless they have a free answer ready to go right away, they can’t stop the Muse from drawing you a card. Once the Muse has drawn you a card, it’s too late for them to deal with it efficiently. At that point, spending a gold, a card, or worse yet, both, to get rid of the Muse after it’s already drawn a card means that the controller of the Muse is way ahead on efficiency.
By making it so champions don’t have ambush by default, we’ve made it possible to create champions that are much more powerful than a champion like Lurking Giant once they are both in play. Ambush is one of many dials that we can make use of when adjusting the power level of a champion to the point we’re trying to get it to, like we did with Muse. When used expertly, ambush can give you a huge edge in efficiency, which in turn greatly increases your chances of winning the game.
Read Breaking the Rules! Part 2: Hand Size here.