Thursday, August 30, 2012

What to scheme when you're scheming

One very common issue a lot of new players face when they try to improve from beginners to intermediates is that they never really have a plan on how to proceed with the game, but rely on the opponent making mistakes which they can hopefully recognize and punish.

Yes, it's pretty easy, and after playing for a while you soon begin to recognize when you can punish, and how to keep yourself safe. But when these sorts of players somehow get handed the advantage, when they get some breathing space, when they somehow gain initiative, they tend to waste it by mindlessly attacking a crystal, or making a few meaningless hits and backing off, or throwing more units out there.

I've therefore picked a situation in one of my recent games, where i managed to get into a neutral position, after he took out one of my units in a trade. I had quite a few options open to me, and I'll go through each of them and my throw processes through each one - hopefully, you'll find this setting out of thought process helpful!

So this is the position at the start of my turn - since we're doing a DE v DE, I've set out all the HP counts just so you guys can follow along. =) I had a VM protecting my equipped imp on the bottom, who got taken out by the opposing imp and phantomed. So it's my turn now - apart from my buff imp being in danger, who I need to take care of, there's not much else threatening at the moment. I can't see any obvious moves to make, either. How do I make something happen? What's my plan?

At this point, I know that he's used both his soulbombs (this game was done pre-patch, so no handy reinforcement count for me!), he's got 1 scroll left, and one more imp in his hand.

Option 1: When in doubt, go nuts! Take out the phantom with a soul bomb, go all in and bust the crap out of everyone. The necro can't take out the VM, even with scroll (5*300*0.6 = 900). You need to use the soul bomb to kill the priestess, otherwise, the VM only does 800 splash (200*4), and the priestess rezzes the imp who killsyour VM and phantoms the body. No good.

Even then, my opponent can move the priestess down, rez the imp, scroll kill the VM, and phantom the body. That's no good either! So going nuts didn't help - let's move on.

Option 2: Back the hell off and buff up. I take out the phantom on the teleport tile because that opens up the option of the VM teleporting in and wrecking up stuff, as in option 1. At the same time, anything he places on the teleport tile is vulnerable to my imp, and if it's valuable enough (looking at the opposing imp), I'll take the trade no question - looking at my hand, I have the option of creating a monster VM, and a buff imp is probably the only practical way he's going to be able to take down that monster VM.

Now, with this move, I spend another sword prepping for my next attack. Note that both his deploy tiles are occupied, and it'll be hard for him to bring out more units and maintaining initiative, so I'm comfortable with backing off here. At the same time, with only 880hp, the newly buffed necro is vulnerable to getting 2 shot by the buff imp (at least he needs 4 shots from the buff necro, so we're safe there). However, it's difficult to see what happens after the imp moves up, 2 shots the necro, and retreats. I'm pretty sure he won't stomp and trade a helmed sworded necro for a fully buffed 1040hp imp, but what's my option after he retreats?

I can rez and pot, but then with 3 AP left, I don't have any good moves. I can rez, move my imp up, scroll kill his imp and phantom, but my necro will have 100 hp, and my imp will end up sitting next to the sword tile - BAD. If he moves his wraith in and scroll kills my imp, I only have a 100hp necro and a buff VM left - and next turn I have to spend 3 AP healing up and giving him position.

Remember also that DE are weak to physical damage and strong against magic damage - DE only has helms, and even a sworded necro needs 4 hits to down a 880hp helmed unit (300*3*0.8=720). I generally don't like to sword necros because of that, but I'm not sure if 2 monster VMs give me that many more options.

Option 3: Back the hell up and spend your hand. Similar to option 2, but using the pot to boost the necro over 900hp. Now, the imp can't 2 shot the necro any more, unless he spends his scroll. But that also means that I can't make a monster VM any more - I need 1 pot and 2 soul bombs to get above 1080hp, and out of 3 shot range from a buff imp. Or, I could use the soul gem instead, but I tend to think that the gem on a necro is a bit of a waste.

Option 4: Surgical strike! The imp is the issue for my monster VM, and I want to get rid of it. So get rid of it! It's not a bad trade - an imp for an imp, and if he decides to kill and phantom my imp, I can teleport my VM in and kill his necro (if he rezzes, he doesn't have enough AP to kill my VM). Or, he spends his scroll early to kill my imp, and blocks the telepad - we're even on the trade then, and I still got rid of the problem.

The worse case for me after this whole sequence, is that he has an imp AND a scroll in his hand, and pops the imp (stomping his own necro), and scrollkillstomps my VM.

In the game, I take this bet, and use Option 4.




BUT. 1 hour later, when I'm almost in bed, it hits me. I DONE DID IT WRONG!! =( There in fact was an "ideal" solution to this problem, and I should have, ought to have, seen it. Did you see it?

Option that I didn't take: The right option. Instead of moving to the telepad to scrollkill my opponent's buff imp, I OUGHT to have moved one tile short. After scrollkilling the imp, the body would be on the telepad, and my VM would be able to telestomp! Then, the same analysis would apply - except even better - if the necro scrollkilled my VM, I would be able to soulbomb/pot, and now I have a truly monster VM, and he's out of scrolls. If he instead moves the necro to the gem tile and scrollkillphantoms my buff imp, I can 3 shot the necro, stomp and retreat no problem.

This move most probably would have won me the game, had I thought of it 1 hour earlier. And here I was, doing up all the diagrams, and I completely missed it! Ah well. Live and learn, and hopefully I'll get the right option next time!

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