TCGs like Hex: Shards of Fate are all about choice – it permeates almost every aspect of the game. Do I want to include a Ragefire or a Burn in my deck? Shall I play my Countermagic now, or save it for later? Do I want to attack now and lose some of my troops, or save everything for a big push later on? Some cards take this a step further, though, and force you to make bigger decisions. Today we’re going to talk about these choice-based cards.
Head Games is the kind of card that a lot of players tend to hate instantly upon seeing it – I’m not a huge fan of it myself – and due to its unreliable nature it will almost certainly never see any kind of competitive play. That said, it’s a pretty interesting card, and isn’t entirely without its uses. Of course, there are actually two choices involved in this card – first you need to make a choice between 5 and 10 damage, and then the opponent has to try and guess which you picked. Which ever number you pick will obviously depend on the current game situation, but the key is that due to the second-guessing nature of the card, there’s never going to be an “obvious” answer.
Lets say you play this card towards the end of the game. Your opponent has 7 health left, and you have 5. The “obvious” choice here is to pick 10, but of course your opponent is going to assume that too, so you pick 5. 5 damage won’t win you the game, but what your opponent doesn’t know is that you also have a Burn in your hand to make up the additional 2. Assuming the only way you are going to win the game is with that 10 damage, they pick 10, are wrong and take the 5. You then play the Burn and win the game. Of course, this is a fairly simple example, but it demonstrates that the situation you are currently in plays heavily into both yours and your opponents choice.
This card also has a couple of interesting combos. For example, if you wanted to make a bigger gamble you could play this card while you have Te’talca The Ascended in play making the amount of damage dealt 10 or 20 – a much riskier choice as choosing 20 will basically end the game one way or another unless there’s a lot of life gain going on, but if you’re very close to losing the game then this offers the potential for an incredible comeback. As I said, something like this will almost certainly never see play in any competitive environment, but in a casual game you can just imagine the look on your opponents face as Head Games smacks them for 20 damage!
There’s also a thematic question surrounding Head Games – what exactly does the card do? Does it literally chop the top off your opponents head and replace it with a game board? Does it initiate some kind of psychic mental battle? Almost every other card in Hex is fairly obvious from a thematic stand point – it summons a troop or shoots a fireball or whatever, but Head Games is pretty ambiguous on that count.
Next up we have the Alabaster Sphinx. The sphinx is a fairly classic monster, as far as these things go, and the effect on this card is a nice way of interpreting the “riddle” aspect commonly associated with it. The choice here is a little more broad-ranging than that of Head Games – at the start of your turn, you (optionally) pick a troop from your graveyard, and then your opponent has to try and guess which one you picked. If they guess correctly, the troop goes into play on their side, otherwise it goes into play for you.
You need to consider a few things before you decide to go ahead with this. For starters, how many troops do you have in your graveyard? If you only have a single troop, it’s going to be pretty obvious which one you picked, so you would essentially be giving your opponent a free troop. Is the troop you are thinking about picking incredibly obvious when compared to the other troops in there? If your graveyard has 4 Battle Hoppers and a single Jadiim buffed to 10/10, any sane opponent is going to guess Jadiim simply to stop you from getting it back for free. On the other hand, if your graveyard is filled with a variety of different troops of differing power levels, it makes it much harder for your opponent to reason out which card you are going to pick – would you have picked the most powerful troop, or would you know I’d guess that and pick the second most powerful? How about this relatively weak troop that also has a currently-useful effect? This is why the Cover of the Whisperer PvE equipment mills 10 of your own cards – to create a larger pool of troops in your deck to make it harder for your opponent to guess. It becomes even more difficult for them if you have multiple copies of a number of troops, as even if they reason out which troop you would pick, they then have to pick essentially randomly between the copies of those troops.
This card also has the added bonus of being a pretty decent troop – a 4ATT/4DEF troop with Flight for 6 resources isn’t terrible (only 1 cost more than the Cloud Titan) so it’s definitely a very reasonable cost for what it does, so really it all comes down to whether or not you are willing to risk incredibly deductive/lucky opponents getting free troops instead of you. Personally, I’m a fan of this card and in the right deck I suspect it would be incredibly powerful so I’d be pretty happy to end up with 2 or 3 of them!
General’s Tent differs from the previous two cards in that this one has no component that involves the opponent making a choice. Instead, it relies on your ability to predict where the game is going to be a few turns in the future in order to pick the plan that is going to be most useful at that time. If you are confident that your opponent is going to be at 10 health or less very soon, Assassination will probably be the best choice, allowing you to spring out a surprise (or maybe not so surprising) win. If you think you’re going to need to slow your opponent down on the other hand, Trap might be a good choice – once ready, it will force your opponent to stop attacking entirely, or to only throw in one or two troops at time in order to bait you into using it. That is, of course, unless they don’t notice it’s ready and you’re able to wipe out their entire force. In any case, the opponent is slowed, allowing you time to set yourself up for the win.
The big problem with the General’s Tent is its cost. It only costs 2 to play it, but it requires 3 tokens to activate and each of those costs 3 resources too. This means that if you play it towards the start of the game, you’re not going to have the resources to do anything else in what is a fairly major part of the match, which will more than likely severely hurt your position far more than the General’s Tent is able to gain back. It could be useful later in a game to break a long-running stalemate, but at a cost of 11 resources, you may be better served by putting them to use on something else. That said, if you are running a deck that frequently has resources to spare (perhaps expressly for the purpose of these kinds of resource-sinks) then it might fit nicely.
The cost of its effect makes me think this card won’t see a whole lot of use, though it might actually synergize really well with a Dwarf deck, where cards like the Hex Engine are providing additional resources to power the tent, and the sudden appearance of 3 extra War Bots would be massively beneficial. Thematically though, this card is great, and really evokes the sense of an experienced General knowing exactly which way the battle is going to go and how to prepare for it.
Even though I’ve only looked at three cards here, I think it’s a pretty good distillation of the types of cards that use similar mechanics and you can get a decent idea of how widely these kinds of cards will be used. That is, not very. They are interesting, and fun thematically (or not, if you absolutely hate these kinds of things) but in most cases just far to unreliable to make the cut in any kind of competitive scene, though they may well get used by fans in unranked no-consequence casual games (note: I now thoroughly expect to be proven wrong and see Head Games win the first World Championship.) With a big chunk of Set 1 still left unseen it’s unclear just how many cards like this there will be, but honestly I doubt there will be many more (if any at all) – experience tells me that cards like this are very much a few-per-set kind of deal.
GenCon was last weekend, and as history is wont to do, there was in fact quite a bit of new info out from the last day of the con, and there has been a bunch of other great articles out since then too. Here are some highlights!
– A few new Shin’hare managed to escape GenCon on that last day, and they’re all pretty neat. You may recognise the Shin’hare High Born from the Speculation Contest I ran a while back – looks like I was pretty far off the mark with that guy! The other new cards are the Boltpaw Wizard and the Blood Bearer – cards that both have great art and great effects!
– Colin over at Hex Vault did interviews with some key Cryptozoic members at Gen Con, and they’re all pretty great – Cory Jones (transcript), Ben Stoll (transcript) and Dan Clark (transcript.) I also want to give an extra nod to Colin, who in a massive display of generosity paid for multiple community members to fly out to GenCon, and by all accounts is an incredibly nice guy. Also I heard one time he rescued like 700 cats from a tree.
– Prolific article writer HyenaNipples has produced a couple of great articles lately based on translating classic Magic: The Gathering articles into Hex-compatible goodness, one on Utopian Chaos, where he talks about the reasoning behind the existence of so-called bad cards (and one of the cards mentioned above is in there too!) and the other on his own site about deck building fundamentals. Both well worth a read.
– Mr SeriousBsns’ card breakdown series continues at a steady pace, with the latest video being the dragon revealed at GenCon, Zeedu, and Jax The Hexer has a great video out about when you should and shouldn’t Mulligan. Both of their channels are filled with great videos, so check them out!
– I realised the other day that Hex Realms was missing from the links page, so I’ve finally corrected that oversight. They have some great tools over there and regular articles, so you should definitely check them out, if you haven’t already!
So, that’s all for today! Check back next time, when I reveal how to make a cold fusion generator out of simple household goods!