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5 Essential Card Game Skills





Every card game is different, but certain principles apply across the whole genre. Understanding these principles is crucial to your success in Gods Unchained as they form the foundations of all viable strategies and tactical depth. 

This article will recap the Essential Skills video series that encompasses: Card Advantage, Mana Efficiency, Board Control, Tempo and Time Management. We’ll explain each concept, link to examples and provide everything you need to know to accelerate your journey up the ranks.

1. Card Advantage

Though the ultimate goal is always to reduce your opponent’s health total to zero, there’s a multitude of other resources to consider on your quest, all equally crucial to achieving victory.

The most straightforward resource to consider is the number of cards in your hand. If you have five cards in your hand and your opponent only has four, you literally have more options to work with. 

If you were able to trade a card for theirs evenly, you’d come out on top. Of course, not all cards are equal in strength or mana cost, but consider this: if you put your opponent in a position where they must respond to your threats, and they only have one removal tool like Apocalypse Now, something way more powerful than what’s necessary in the situation, they will nevertheless have to use it to slow you down.

There are multiple ways to gain card advantage. Certain cards generate other cards – for instance, playing Ambitious Adventurer or Backstreet Bouncer places a 1/1 on the board without reducing the number of cards in your hand. 

Alternatively, cards like Sacred Lore immediately increase the number of cards in your hand. Creatures in combat can also help generate card. The same logic applies to a card like Amazon Hearteater, whose Roar effect guarantees an advantage as your opponent will have to use something to deal with the 4/4 body left behind. 

We’ll go into further detail about this in the Board Control section. Finally, Area-of-effect cards like the aforementioned Apocalypse Now also serve as a powerful way to gain card advantage if you get to use it to remove multiple creatures at the same time. It’s also worth mentioning that cards like Writhing Spirit show the other side of the equation: a 1 mana 3/3 would be ridiculously good on its own, which is exactly why it obliterates a card when played.

2. Mana Efficiency

Like cards, mana is also a resource. It is essentially non-renewable, making its efficient use a core skill for any card game player. If you pass your first three turns, you wasted (“floated”) six mana’s worth of resources. 

Likewise, using a five-mana answer to your opponent’s threat when three would have sufficed reduces your available options in the long run. In many cases, these decisions trickle down across the match, and sometimes you won’t even notice the opportunities you’ve lost until much later in the game.

The Bag of Tricks serves as an important tool to play in an efficient manner, allowing you to “smooth out’ the mana curve on critical turns and avoid floating your mana. Your God Power also serves as a useful way to make use of your resources even when you don’t have a desirable card to play. 

As a rule of thumb, you want to consider playing your most expensive card whenever possible (for instance, a four mana creature instead of two two mana creatures on turn four) simply because it’s more likely you’ll be able to spend all your mana on subsequent turns if you can squeak in a two-cost card alongside something else rather than having to crowbar in the 4-mana monstrosity into your five-mana turn.

Again, this is just a rule of thumb. Mana efficiency is often trumped by other considerations based on how the gameplay develops – there’s no achievement for spending all your mana while a Slayer War deck quickly bashes your face in – but it should nevertheless always be on your mind when considering the right play, if only to ensure you have the most options available to you in future turns.

3. Board Control

The dark arts of board control is one that’s mostly the purview of slower archetypes. If you can kill your opponent’s creatures while keeping yours alive, not only does that provide an edge in resources (remember the concept of card advantage?) but also severely limits your opponent’s options in the game. Since most creatures have to wait a turn before they get to act on the board (except if they have Blitz or Godblitz keywords), having board control ensures that you can deal with the emerging threats on your terms.

Correct trading and procedure is a very important mechanical skill in card games. You want to ensure that as many of your minions stay alive as possible while dealing with your opponent’s threats – simply because your opponent will have to use additional resources to remove each and every one of them later down the line, and, again, to provide yourself with the most options possible.

If your 8/8 creature kills a 5/5 and stays alive, it remains an important threat going forward. If your opponent can only deal with it by summoning another 5/5 and you make the trade, you quite literally went two for one in that situation, taking off 10/10 stats in total with your 8/8 creature. Numbers add up quickly in card games!

This is also a principle which doesn’t come instinctively to many newer players. Hitting your opponent’s God tends to seem like the sexier move, an unanswered jolt of aggression which gets you closer to your ultimate goal. However, in most cases it means you don’t get the most out of your cards, and a more efficient player will eventually choke you out if you’re not careful. Being able to dictate what happens on the board is often more important than dealing damage on a given turn.

That said, knowing you can kill your opponent with a card from your hand with some sort of direct damage option means you don’t have to concern yourself with board control anymore. There’s also a proposition to this: if you are playing a deck which can only deal damage via creature attacks, you can never afford to fall behind on the board. 

The importance of board control ebbs and flows based on the state of the game and the sort of deck you are playing, but it’s almost always important to at least one of the players, and is therefore important to consider every time you make a move.

4. Tempo

Gotta go fast! None of the previous principles matter if your opponent isn’t alive long enough to make use of their resources. This is where tempo comes in. In effect, spending more mana than your opponent does is tempo advantage.

There is an inherent tempo imbalance in card games: the player going first will always have an advantage by being the first to act in the game as a whole and being the first to gain the additional mana on a new turn (or to put it a different way, the player who will have 10 mana on their turn one extra time compared to their opponent). The Bag of Tricks serves as a counterbalancing tool to this, and Gods Unchained’s developers have put a lot of work into the game’s mana system to make this aspect of the game less match-deciding than in otherwise can be.

Since most minions have “summoning sickness” – meaning they cannot attack on the turn they were played – a tempo lead often translates to board control, or in a more generalized way, an ability to dictate the pace of the game as a whole. This can be worth a lot of resources to execute your gameplan. 

For instance, the aforementioned Writhing Spirit costs you an extra card to play but allows you to put more stats on the board for one mana that you would otherwise be able to. Similarly, Trapdoor is a zero-for-one from a card advantage perspective, but is nevertheless an incredibly powerful tool in your arsenal because it only costs you two mana to force your opponent to spend a whole heck of a lot more in order to re-develop that big threat you temporarily got rid of. That is often more than enough tempo to win the game.

Mana efficiency plays a large part in gaining a tempo edge over your opponent and trading cheap creatures for more expensive ones also ultimately turns out to be a resource advantage. A Switch Duelist killing a Skeleton Heavy and dying in the process may “only” achieve parity on a board, but it cost you one mana to deal with a two-mana creature, which is a clear upside from a tempo perspective.

Tempo and board control can be seen as two sides of the same coin – and by a similar logic, tempo is valuable to faster, more aggressive decks in the same way slower ones benefit from board control. Also, as the game goes on, tempo edges become smaller (as a one-mana difference means a lot less when you have ten available instead of three and more powerful options are available late in the game, often with instantaneous impact), shifting the focus to board control. This is a big part of why aggressive decks want to close out the games as quickly as possible against their slower counterparts.

5. Time Management

There’s the game being played, and then there’s the person who is playing it. Yes, you! Time may not specifically be written on your cards and doesn’t have a numerical value associated with it next to your God of choice, but it is nevertheless an invaluable element of the game. 

Remember those times when you ran into a difficult turn with a complicated decision tree, couldn’t quite figure out all its complexities in time, and had to settle for a subpar play? This is where time management comes in.

The more you understand the basics and the better you plan ahead, the easier it will be to have enough time (and free mental capacity) left for those big decisions. Gaining a good understanding of the previously discussed skills will already help in a great way – to veteran players, the optimal value or tempo play is often straightforward and doesn’t require a conscious calculation. This allows them to focus on the “big picture” and plan ahead

Your first big chance to formulate a gameplan comes immediately after the mulligan, when you receive a multitude of cards in your hand. When are they the most effective? Do they synergize effectively with one another? In what order do you want to play them out, and what board state are you trying to achieve when they’re ready to go? 

With experience, you can figure many turns out in advance – as a rule of thumb, three is a pretty good baseline. Your current turn, your opponent’s immediate reaction and your immediate reaction to that will be enough to keep you busy for a while. It’s also a realistic enough timeframe that you can still have a pretty good handle on the potential plays possible. Who knows what card combinations will arise eight turns from now? That’s right, basically no one, so let’s stick with a manageable decision tree.

Your opponent’s time is your time as well. Ending your turn is not the moment where you should look at your phone and lose focus – you should continue planning in the meantime, the same way it does in a game of chess. In many cases, the cards your opponent plays will also provide added information about the state of the game, allowing you to fine-tune your plans. This is also why most experienced players tend to wait until they have their whole turn figured out before executing it, because stopping to re-evaluate after playing a card gives their opponent more time to do the same.

What happens when you get into time pressure? The best solution to this problem is to avoid it in the first place using the techniques described above. However, if you are staring down the clock with just a few seconds to go, defaulting to the rest of the skillset in this article will serve you well. Even if you know you don’t have the time to find the optimal play, focusing on card advantage, mana efficiency, board control and tempo will at least ensure that you won’t make a catastrophic error.

Credit ~ Luci Kelemen

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