developer's blog

Error 404: Options Not Found

Nov 14, 2017

Oath of Blood has officially hit the shelves, and I am extremely excited to see what players are starting to brew for the upcoming Dragoborne Championship regionals in California, and of course, in the Finals. Will we continue to be oppressed by the power of Tauris, or will other nations steal the limelight and clinch the top spot instead? We cannot be certain, but it’s safe to say that the current tournament environment will definitely be shaken up by the new release!

Of the many types of abilities available, some of the most debilitating ones mess with your opponent’s ability to play the game in the way that he or she planned to. With Oath of Blood now in the fray, we have access to a multitude of ways to deny your opponent’s options during their turn. I define “options” here as the amount of choices a player can make, and the amount of resources (not necessarily just the cards in his resource, mind) they have to make those choices. How viable is a deck centered on crushing your opponent’s options?

One Very Angry Dragon and His Dislike for Large Hand Sizes

One of the most talked about cards from the new set - and one of my personal favorites - is Sennes, Lord of the Rampage. Yes, it can salvage creature cards from the discard pile and become a near-unblockable attacker, but the real reason why it’s so hyped up is because it annihilates your opponent’s hand. That it still has a pretty decent 5/5 stat-line just adds icing on an already loaded cake.

A deck centered on discard effects would also run cards like Flesh Shredder and Dark Diviner as backups. Granted, these are cost 5 cards that pretty much force you to use nearly all your resources for the turn in the early game, but you are still limiting your opponent’s hand size and ability to play optimally. Despair is also a viable turn one play, preferably complemented with a 1 cost creature so you don’t leave yourself completely undefended.

No Resources for You, Sir

One method that armies of old used to win sieges against garrisoned forces is by cutting off their supply routes. It stands to reason, then, that a card game like Dragoborne can be won in the same way.

We can do that quite literally with Remorseful Succubus, a new card from Oath of Blood that temporarily disrupts your opponent’s resource count by shuffling two of their resources back into their deck. Against decks that aim to play powerful, high-cost threats early, hampering them for one turn can be enough to throw off their tempo and buy you time to make a play of your own.

Vainglory Incarnate and Merciless Punisher from Oath of Blood and Reaper’s Gift respectively are capable of destroying opposing resources as well, although they both come with restrictions on their use. Vainglory Incarnate can only destroy red and black resources, while Merciless Punisher has a hefty Siphon 6 on it.

If you want to completely crush your opponent’s hopes and dreams, there’s Devour as well, but beware - it gets rid of resources from both players’ resource zones, so you will be left without much resources to work with either. Devour would be a great card in aggressive decks looking to disrupt opposing mid-range, control, or Offering of Souls decks before they can stabilize the board.

You can never truly lock your opponent out of their resources though, because they will still keep their banners, so while they won’t be able to drop their big threats, they can still field smaller creatures.

I Can See Your Future, and All I See Is Bad Draws

So after emptying your opponent’s hand and disrupting his resources, we turn our attention to their deck. We don’t want them drawing an answer to our lockdown, so we include cards that can mess with their draws.

Two cards in Oath of Blood are able to do this - The Gardener, and Merfolk Tinkerer. The Gardener lets you look at the top of your opponent’s deck and get rid of it if you don’t like it, while Merfolk Tinkerer can dig as deep as three cards in to see what’s in your opponent’s future. In addition, it gives you knowledge of your opponent’s deck, which will help you from game 2 onwards.

Merfolk Tinkerer also gives you the option of putting the top of your opponent’s deck into their discard pile, which can help to get rid of some of their answers as well. Tidechaser Cannoneer can help with this endeavor too, although it’s less surgical compared to Merfolk Tinkerer, and is more akin to swinging a blunt axe at the problem by forcibly removing cards from your opponent’s deck to reduce threat density.

The Board Must Be Emptied

Of course, we cannot forget the most basic form of control - creature removal. With Oath of Blood, our removal suite has expanded greatly, with cards like Righteous End, Violent Gale, Sudden Eruption, Supreme Power, and Raid, just to name a few. Even with such a large number of choices, though, players still have to choose carefully as to which ones they want to include, as each spell has its own limitations.

Making your Opponent Hate You - The Reality

While this combination does sound like a great way to make your opponent want to upend the table in frustration, Dragoborne is not a game that can be won by simply making your opponent livid. You’d still have to attack and hit your opponent’s forts, which will give your opponent cards, ultimately defeating the purpose of trying to throttle their hand size. The fact that players can choose to gain resources each turn also makes your job all the more difficult.

In addition, an extremely slow, “grindy” deck like this would be hard-pressed to stabilize the field considering the amount of low-cost aggressive options that players have access to, and that players will always have at least 3 cards in the resource - their banners - to work with.

While controlling your opponent’s draw is still a viable option, if you cannot deny their hand size and resources, its impact is greatly lessened, as the opponent may still have answers in their hand that you cannot see.

So, while this deck archetype may sound feasible (and fun, in a cruel way), it is unlikely to truly break in to the metagame. However, some of these cards may still find a home in decks that want some form of disruption to hinder their opponents. Sennes, for one, will surely find himself in a large number of decks.

A man can dream, though…

By Matthew Lee
Developer, Dragoborne -Rise to Supremacy-