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Ascension Strategy: Knowing the Deck

By Brian Durkin

The only monsters with the Fate effect.
In a game of Texas Hold ‘Em you have two hearts and two more hearts come out on the flop. Assuming no one else holds any hearts, what are your chances of making your flush by the river? You must learn the answer to these types of questions in order to improve your poker game. The same concept applies to all card games. Predicting what cards most likely will show up in the center row can give you a big advantage in Ascension, but what cards should you pay attention to?
Monster Mash
If you play with Chronicle of the Godslayer, Return of the Fallen, and the suggested amount of promos (1 Vedah, Sage of Swords, 2 Pathwarden, 2 Deep Drone, 2 Rat King, 1 Kythis, the Gatekeeper) the center deck will equal 125 cards. Fort-eight of that 125 will consist of monsters; monsters make up approximately 38 percent of the deck. A continuous run of monster cards hitting the center row will normally prove rarer than cards you can acquire, but it can happen. Gauge how many tokens will remain after the current onslaught of monsters. This will help you decide when to convert to power and start dashing for honor tokens versus waiting for those key constructs to appear, because the game may never last that long. A large supply of monsters early on will shorten the length of the game and hurt any player gaining the majority of their points from cards in their deck instead of tokens. Besides knowing the distribution of card types, you pay attention to specific card effects.

Destiny Draw

Return of the Fallen adds cards with the new keyword fate. Learn these cards and what each fate effect does. Askara of Fate allowing you to draw an extra card could change what you can acquire or defeat. Be careful not to lay down your entire hand because you could draw a Temple Librarian off of Askara of Fate and now you cannot use it.

The two heroes with Fate and
the two constructs with Fate.

Same goes for Arbiter of Fate. Playing Militia just to play it could cost you the opportunity of banishing it out of your hand. Stone Circle usually will help you decide which card in the center row to banish with an effect, because your opponents could use their Mystic before you with an effect to draw extra cards. Keep in mind that when acquiring constructs you might put one of them into your hand if Reclamax comes out.

All of the fore mentioned heroes and constructs typically promote accelerating the center row. The more cards that come out of the center deck, the better your chances to hit one of these fate effects. Ravenous Gorph’s fate effect helps this strategy; however, be mindful that his appearance could foil your plans on acquiring or defeating a particular card. If you need certain cards to stay in the center row for a while as you build up to acquire or defeat them, try not to accelerate the board too much. Monster effects like Mephit and Mistake of Creation give opponents the opportunity to banish the card they know you want. Another way to block players from the cards they want also involves a monster card: Rat King. The Giant Rat tokens force players to keep some power in their decks. The rats possess the potential to derail a player’s plans to acquire or defeat cards on the board. Try to evaluate how devastating a Rat King will affect your turn and plan accordingly.
How Many Times Will This Stuff Matter?
Including the Rat King as a card with fate, this effect only constitutes about ten percent of the deck. Some people might argue that planning around these cards will hurt you rather than help because the odds of hitting them do not justify expecting to see them. I say you should never expect to hit a ten percent chance event all the time, but you should stay aware of the possibility. Planning for Reclamax might accelerate you so much that you can catch up to your opponents, or put you so far ahead that no one can catch you. Acquiring cards in the right order can prevent the Rat King for disabling your ability to acquire the most important cards for your deck. The lesson: know the odds of certain special events happening, whether or not your want them to happen, and what you will do about it when they happen.
Today’s Challenge
Snapshot of your opening hand and center row
for Today’s Challenge
 
You go first in a two player game opening with two Militia and three Apprentice.
The center row consists of the following cards:


Mechana Initiate
Hectic Scribe
Wolf Shaman
Battery Monk
Arbiter of Fate
Rat King
Would you banish a card out of your hand with Arbiter’s fate effect (you do not know what your opponent decided yet)? What cards would your acquire and which Giant Rat(s) would you defeat? How does your opponent’s potential opening hand affect how you play out your turn? How does the probability of cards remaining in the deck affect your decisions?
Let us know what you think.
Additional Information:
For more information about Ascension: Return of the Fallen, check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer? Try the following links.
You can purchase Ascension: Return of the Fallen from here:
If you live in the tri-state area, consider stopping by AU to pick up a copy and play with the staff. Almost every staff member knows how to play, and most of the MTG community that hangs out in the store enjoys playing pick up games as well.

Alternate Universes – Ascension

Thunderstone Strategy: Abusing the Destroy Effect

 

All the cards in the base set with some type of destroy effect.
When I worked construction for a brief time with a friend of mine we used to build decks. I did not care much for the job; however, it did provide one task I still enjoy: Destroying stuff. The first day on a new job we had to demolish the old rotted deck in order to build a new one. Good demolition clears the way for a bigger and better structure, and you can apply this same concept to building exceptional Thunderstone decks.
Why Would I Want to Destroy My Deck?
Would you rather add on to an existing but old and rotted deck, or would you rather build something new and strong? An obvious answer, but one you should always remember. Destroying the starting cards will help build a more efficient deck to compete against the monsters of the dungeon and other players. Stronger monsters will come out as the game progresses, and the card quality of your deck will improve as you purchase new cards and level up your heroes. A card like Militia just does not cut it when you face down Lord of Death. You need to draw your better cards more often and with other equally powerful cards in order to defeat difficult monsters. Your starting deck’s wood will eventually rot out, so you need to destroy it.
How Should I Destroy My Deck?
Take advantage of the rules of Thunderstone. Unlike most deck building games, Thunderstone allows a player to destroy cards as part of his or her turn. A player can take a turn off from purchasing new cards or fighting monsters and choose to Rest, which allows the player to destroy a card in his or her hand. I recommend exercising this option any time you do not have enough attack to defeat an important monster or money to purchase an important card. In the base set of Thunderstone three cards allow the player to destroy cards outside of resting.
Banish
Banish
Allowing you to remove any type of card, Banish provides the most consistent way of destroying cards. Its other effect to disrupt the dungeon makes it the perfect card for controlling who can fight which monsters. Banish allows you to improve the card quality and power of your deck while denying other players the monsters they want to fight. Effective use of Banish will force other players to visit the village in order to improve their deck.
Pawnbroker
Pawnbroker
Nothing helps you add new cards to your deck better than Pawnbroker. Even after you destroyed your entire original deck, Pawnbroker self destructs into more gold. Prioritize this card because it allows you to purchase those big and expensive cards in the village much faster than any other player. Opponents can only keep up with your ability to purchase by using their own Pawnbrokers or by leveling up their heroes.
Trainer
Trainer
Usually a player needs to defeat several monsters in order to take advantage of the experience point game mechanic. Trainer accelerates this normal waiting time, allowing a player to level a hero all the way to its third level before ever entering the dungeon. Similar to Pawnbroker, Trainer destroys itself for Gold when you run out of uses for it. I recommend using only experience to add new heroes to your deck when playing with Trainer. Do not purchase the first level of a hero. Just use the experience mechanic on one of your remaining Militia. This way you can spend your gold to purchase something else, giving you the effect of adding two cards to your deck.
What Other Tools Help me Build My New Deck?
Although Barkeep does not destroy cards in your deck, it does allow you to purchase more than one card when visiting the village. After several visits, you can remove Barkeep from your deck. Town Guard also possesses this ability. Instead of allowing you to purchase multiple cards, Town Guard draws you extra cards in hopes of adding more Gold or good Village effects to your hand. I really like Town Guard’s ability to draw through your deck faster than usual. It accelerates when the new cards you have added to your deck will show up in your hand. The fact that both of these cards remove themselves also aids the strategy of improving the average card quality of your deck and minimizing the useless cards. Once you feel ready to face the Dungeon, all these cards destroy themselves; therefore, they make your deck as efficient as possible when preparing for the dungeon. The tough part comes when you must decide which of these cards you want for your deck at any given time.
Today’s Challenge
Below includes a set up for a four player game.
Village
Village cards in addition to basic cards for Today’s Challenge
  • Banish
  • Pawnbroker
  • Trainer
  • Barkkeep
  • Town Guard
  • Battle Fury
  • Feast
  • Fireball
Heroes available for Today’s Challenge
  • Iron Rations
  • Torch
  • Dagger
  • Militia
  • Selurin Magican
  • Reblade Killer
  • Feayn Archer
  • Outlands Warrior
Dungeon
  • Ooze
  • Doomknight
  • Undead – Doom
Monsters in dungeon for Today’s Challenge
How would you build your deck? What cards would your prioritize? What game plan will not only effectively defeat monsters in the dungeon, but provide the most efficient means of reaching high power level before other players?
Let us know what you think.
Additional Information
For more information about Thunderstone check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of Thunderstone? Try the following links.
If you live in the tri-state area, consider stopping by AU to pick up a copy and play with the staff. Although not many staff members know how to play this game, I always want to play more. Interested in playing at AU? Drop Next Level Card Games a line. Contact us at info@nextlevelcardgames.com. Use the subject line: Playing Thunderstone at AU. Let us know your schedule and we will try to set up a time to play together.

Nightfall Strategy: How to Draft Your Archive

By Brian Durkin
Different types of wounds
Synergy – the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.
In a multiplayer game of Nightfall, you have the chance to select cards for your private archive and build a synergistic deck only available to you. What should you consider when selecting cards?
Going Moonfinite
Look out for cards that can chain off each other. Marcus Toth and Alton Hickman may not seem that exciting on their own, but you can drop your entire hand if it consists of only these guys. Well timed moves like this can devastate your opponents and swing you into a commanding position. When drafting cards for your private archive, always consider defaulting to taking two cards that allow you to play them in succession over and over again. But what if your second pack does not contain a card you can do this with?
You can chain these two cards forever.
Kick It!
“You wake up late for school, man, you don’t wanna go.” You ask your neighbor for some help and she says, “No!” Did someone cut you off from going moonfinite? No worries. Hopefully the pack provides a card with a kicker ability you can exploit or a card that allows you to kick your first pick. Maybe you took Blood Rage as your first pick and your neighbor passes you Vulko. You can’t chain these cards forever, but playing them in the right order gives you a powerful bonus. I find kickers difficult to execute, so any player able to activate them on a consistent basis will pull ahead in a hurry.
You can activate the kicker of Vulko by playing Blood Rage before it.
Combos, Shmon-bos, I Got Nothing but Non-bos
Did you fail to pick up cards that chain forever or cards that can activate a kicker? Hopefully the commons will help add synergy to your deck. Try to avoid this situation because you never know what cards the other players will allow in the commons or what cards will randomly appear there either. Assuming you cannot avoid an archive with no synergy, just take the best card. If you made a strong first pick, your two archive cards put you in a great position to hedge your bets for the commons benefiting your deck. I recommend picking up cards out of the commons area first in the early stages of the game if you do not have a strong synergistic archive. The more people you play with, the faster the cards in the commons will disappear; therefore, prioritize them so you do not lose out on any combos with your archive cards.
Today’s Challenge
The picture below includes a commons set up and three opposing archives.
Cards in today’s challenge
What cards from the draft would you hope to have in your archive to effectively combat your opponents and have the greatest chance at victory?
Below includes a list of all the cards.
West Player’s Archive: Franz Orlok & Ivan Radinsky
West Player’s Archive

Ivan Radinsky
Franz Orlok
South Player’s Archive: Tag Team Takedown & “Big Ghost”
South Player’s Archive
“Big Ghost”
Tag Team Takedown
East Player’s Archive: Grim Siege & Blaine Cordell
East Player’s Archive
Grim Siege
Blaine Cordell

Commons
 
Death Grip, Zacharias Sands, “Overwatch Two,” “Indigo Six,”
Shock and Awe, Rend and Tear, Zombie Horde, Sir John Travail

Commons: Zacharias Sands, “Overwatch Two,”
Sir John Travail, & Zombie Horde
Commons: “Indigo Six,” Rend and Tear,
Shock and Awe, & Death Grip










Note: This exercise may seem backwards, but knowing what cards work best in a given scenario helps prepare you for drafting any game. During a draft you will realize that you cannot access many cards. Thinking about what the commons and archives will look like at the start of the game will help direct your picks when playing, especially your second and third picks.
With the remaining cards left available for your theoretical archive, pick your optimal set up. Comment below and tell us why you think those two cards provide the best options.
Let us know what you think. 
Additional Information

For more information about Nightfall check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of Nightfall? Try the following links.
Amazon: Nightfall.
If you live in the tri-state area, consider stopping by AU to pick up a copy and play with the staff. Most of them make up my play test group. We play usually every Monday.

Ascension Video Coverage: Brian vs. Paul and the Power of Path Warden

by Brian Durkin

Path Warden is a recent Games Day Promo

The following videos cover a game of Ascension between Brian Durkin and Paul Durkin. This game ends up demonstrating the power level of Path Warden, the importance of controlling the center row, and what can happen when you make mistakes banishing the wrong cards. The video below covers the first half of the game. Enjoy.
Video Coverage Part I – Brian Durkin vs. Paul Durkin
Wielding a deck with such high card quality, Paul really pushed ahead of me. Can I redeem myself by acquiring a few big Mechana Constructs? Check out the conclusion in the second part below.


 


Video Coverage Part II – Brian Durkin vs. Paul Durkin
Thanks for tuning in. Did you agree or disagree with the players’ moves? Did you agree or disagree with my comments in the videos? How would you play certain game states that appeared in the video? What did you think of the video coverage?
Let us know what you think.
Additional Information:
For more information about Ascension: Return of the Fallen, check the product page on BoardGameGeek.com.
Interested in purchasing a copy of Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer? Try the following links.
You can preorder Ascension: Return of the Fallen from here:

Gary Games – Ascension: Return of the Fallen Preorder

If you live in the tri-state area, consider stopping by AU to pick up a copy and play with the staff. Almost every staff member knows how to play, and most of the MTG community that hangs out in the store enjoys playing pick up games as well.

Alternate Universes – Ascension

Video Credits:
 Shot, edited, narrated, and produced by Brian Durkin
 Music sampling “Oscar Wilde” by Company of Thieves
You can find more information about that band here: Company of Thieves
Interested in purchasing their music? Try iTunes or the band’s store: Company of Thieves Store