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Thunderstone Advance: Root of Corruption» Forums » Strategy

Subject: A Detailed Look at: Debased Wizard rss

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Will M. Baker
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Inspired by Joe's comments here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1006849/pretty-sneaky-si...

As Joe examined, Debased Wizard provides Gold, Light, and a Veilminder's ability to ignore a Battle effect, all at a reasonable 4 Cost. That combination of attributes is enough to make me take the card seriously. Considering all Thunderstone cards to date (inclusive of the Starter Set), and then looking only at village cards and level 1 heroes (i.e., cards that would be easily procurable at the top of a village stack), there are only 10 cards with at least 2 Gold, at least 1 Light, and at least 1 trait/ability (and Debased Wizard is cheaper than 6 of them). So Debased Wizard is already in rare company.

But I want to focus specifically on Debased Wizard's other, stranger ability:

Debased Wizard wrote:
Village/Dungeon: Gain 1 curse. Use an ability on a card present that you have already used this turn.


At its face value, allowing me to double-dip on an ability of my choice seems like a sweet deal.

Comparison to Bluefire Staff

To date, only one other card offers a similar ability:

Bluefire Staff wrote:
Dungeon: If Bluefire Staff is equipped to a Cleric or Wizard, you may reuse a Spell card you have already used this turn. If you do, destroy that Spell at the end of the turn.


Bluefire Staff is much more restrictive, in that:
1. It must be equipped.
2. It must be equipped to a cleric or wizard.
3. It can only duplicate spells. So a spell must be present.
4. That spell then gets destroyed.
5. It can only be used in the Dungeon.

Debased Wizard jettisons all these restrictions, but with two caveats:
1. Debased Wizard generates a curse.
2. Debased Wizard only duplicates a single ability on a card, whereas Bluefire Staff effectively duplicates an entire spell card. For example, Debased Wizard could re-use the attack from Summon Storm, but not its Light; Bluefire Staff would get both.

Nevertheless, Bluefire Staff is inferior. Its highly restrictive three-card-combo is not one I would ever seek out except in the most unusual of circumstances. In contrast, Debased Wizard's ability is much easier to use, and more useful.

Which Abilities Can I Reuse?

Which abilities does Debased Wizard allow me to use again? Spoils will be inaccessible because of timing. Reacts will also be inaccessible because of timing (I can't preemptively re-activate the React, but then delay using it until its criteria is met). Trophy Village and Trophy Dungeon are also off them menu, since Trophies are effects, not abilities.

That leaves us with Village and Dungeon abilities. But that's not so bad. At first blush, there are 364 such abilities available to us. Though not quite as versatile as, say, the Cathedral Priest's "Destroy 1 card to draw 1 card" (which can combo with all 854 unique Thunderstone Cards), that still an awfully long shopping list.

Many abilities result in the ability's corresponding card being discarded or destroyed, or the player's turn ending, or the player being unable to use any additional abilities this turn. Once we've omitted abilities with these restrictions, we're down to roughly 300 abilities to choose from; still not too bad.

Which Abilities Would I Want to Reuse?

Except in one case which we'll see below, I would never want to reuse an ability that doesn't stack (e.g., Pseudodragon's "You may buy 2 cards this turn."). And Repeat Village and Dungeon abilities are already repeatable, so she's no help there.

Among those abilities that do stack and aren't already repeatable, there are still very few abilities so juicy that I'd buy a Debased Wizard just I could use that ability again. In most cases I'm better off with two copies of a card in my deck, rather than one copy and a Debased Wizard, because the Debased Wizard is only useful when paired with other useful cards. E.g., better to have two Summon Storms than a Summon Storm and a Debased Wizard (one-card combos are better than two-card combos). Whatever strategic reason prompted me to add that card to my deck will probably suggest that I double up on the card itself, rather than rely on Debased Wizard for the doubling. And as mentioned in contrast to Bluefire Staff, Debased Wizard will only allow me to reuse a single ability on a card. I don't get to reuse its other abilities, traits, or keywords.

There are circumstances, however, in which buying two copies of a card up might not be an option. Consider the case where but a single copy of a card is in my deck, and I can't get any more. This will most likely happen with Level 3 heroes, which are scarce and in high demand. Even if I'm lucky enough to obtain both copies of a hero's highest level, Debased Wizard can effectively net me a third copy of their juiciest ability, the equivalent of buying a Level 3 ability for 4 Cost. Joe already mentioned some great pairings in his article. Here are some additional team-ups to ponder. Debased Wizard + Aird Seductress allows me to borrow two heroes of my choice from my opponents, which are then discarded at the end of my turn. +Tholis Oracle to practically ensure my opponents can't go to the dungeon turn after next. +Gohlen Hunter to double my chances of claiming a juicy monster at the end of my turn. +Slynn Longbowman to perform a double upgrade. +Highland Captain to buy two heroes, each with my total Gold present, and add them to my hand.

(Keep in mind it's often not sufficient to merely bag the best monster in the dungeon each turn, if my opponents are doing the same. Yes, I need to defeat the best monsters, but I'll be in better contention for the win if I'm also strengthening my deck, dinging my opponents, or performing some other helpful action in addition to defeating that tough monster. So I like to keep my eye out for Dungeon abilities like those above that do more than just increase my Attack Value.)

Similarly (though less importantly), familiars are unique. Their abilities are not typically so mind-blowing that I'd be drafting Debased Wizard with familiars in mind, but the familiar can sit in front of me until I need it, increasing the chances that I'll have a Debased Wizard on hand at just the right moment. Treasures are also difficult to come by. A Debased Wizard paired with a Golden Hammer nets me double the total Gold in the dungeon hall; paired with Immolation Orb allows me to destroy 12 cards from my deck (probably not advisable, but early in the game could be a huge accelerator). There's also Rage of the Disowned; because of its negative VP and static-cling personality, I'll want to limit the number of these in my deck; but that doesn't mean Debased Wizard can't coax another Regular into offing himself for the cause. Curse of War's destruction is optional, which means Debased Wizard gives me two chances to randomly select a card I care to part with (I'd incur a replacement curse, but at least it wouldn't be in my hand).

Other than card scarcity, there's also the issue of how difficult it is to use a card's ability in the first place. Multi-card combos are difficult enough to pull off once, let alone twice. Joe mentioned re-using an equipped Maul's hefty bonus. Mercenary-loving heroes like Deep Wrecker prefer to be in the company of a couple of Debased Wizards, rather than with another Deep. And any time I need to put together three or more cards to get a Dungeon ability rolling, it'll probably be easier to repeat the combo with a Debased Wizard than to build the combo again from scratch in the same hand (like with the afore-mentioned cleric/wizard + Bluefire Staff + spell).

Flexibility

It is the purview of mercenaries to be useful in both the village and the dungeon. They excel at neither, but can contribute in both. What distinguishes Debased Wizard is that her 'reuse' ability doesn't make assumptions about what else is in my deck (other than that my deck contains cards with abilities), the way Pious Chaplain assumes I have a disease problem, or Village Mob assumes I'm hopped up on mercenaries. To varying degrees, all other mercenaries to date have static, unchanging abilities. Debased Wizard's role in my deck, on the other hand, can evolve as the constitution of my deck changes, keeping her relevant long after rather mercenaries might become burdensome. At first she'll help my Polearm-equipped Regular to draw an additional card, but eventually she'll super-charge my Level 3 heroes.

Thus she is flexible in the long term, in that her role can change over time. But she is also flexible in the short term, in that she can react to individual card draws to help me maximize my visit to the village or trip to the dungeon. The core mechanism of Thunderstone is to use buys and deck-thinning to mitigate the effects of a random draw. Weapons and thieves, with their gold production, do their best to contribute whether I visit the village or enter the dungeon. Likewise, Debased Wizard wants to be useful in all circumstances. As discussed in the opening section, her Gold, Light, and secondary ability already contribute a mercenary's share to my draw. But she is unique in that she is prepared to amplify another card.

We see this to some degree on cards like Illusory Blade and Armsman Citadel, which allow me to make last minute strategic decisions about which weapon to draft. Debased Wizard takes this to the extreme by picking the single most useful ability present, and double-dipping. Let's say I have a deck filled with Physical Attack and Light. At various times I might need a bit more of one or the other than my hand draw yields. If I sprinkle in a few Debased Wizards, I'll have more options of massaging my hand of cards to take down the best monster possible, on an as-needed basis. If the monster is immune to Magic Attack, she can double up a hero with Physical Attack. Monster isn't in the right rank? Let a ranger move the monster twice. This monster is immune to fighters? Juice up a non-fighter. Immune to unequipped heroes? Reuse a spell.

This flexibility makes me reconsider all those abilities I discounted in the previous section. Sure, in a specific situation I'm probably better off with two copies of a card than with one copy and a Debased Wizard. But Debased Wizard is preparing my deck for all situations, which, absent a homogenized dungeon, I'd argue is the single most important strategy a deck can employ.

Embracing Disease

The biggest problem with Debased Wizard is that she begins to clutter my deck with diseases. There are numerous cards out there that help to cleanse my deck, and these cards are typically underfed, as there just aren't that many disease-dealing monsters. But a key strategy in Thunderstone is to be proactive, to find a way to leverage to my benefit some pattern that will emerge whether I benefit from it or not.

A disease engine will look for cards that get more utility out of a disease than they would have if they had been paired with some other available card. So an old-school hero like Chalice, though great at destroying diseases, doesn't come out any better than if the diseases hadn't been there. We're more interested in heroes like Regian Bishop, who can turn a single disease into 2 cards. Divine Prophet does the same, but in both the village and the dungeon. Belzur Cardinal trumps Divine by drawing 3 cards for a destroyed disease. Noone else matches Belzur's raw card drawing power, but several heroes have smaller, repeatable abilities. Woodfolk Druid, Drua Purifier, Skinshifter Terror, Honormain Paladin, and Profaned Patriarch are each quite happy to be paired with a handful of diseases.

Because dungeons are seldom disease-heavy, the above heroes seldom get an opportunity to shine. But a card like Debased Wizard can help me to maintain a steady supply of filth. Assuming I'm not relying on the infrequent disease-dealing monster, there are only 8 hero and village cards that generate diseases. Cursed Mace, Cursed Bow, Swamp Provisions, Profaned Acolyte, and Tincture of Victims will each gain me a maximum of one disease per turn, and only in the dungeon. So they are useful, but probably not enough to fuel my engine. The big three all come from Root of Corruption: Profaned Curate gains 1 disease in either the village or dungeon; Cursed Dagger gains up to 3 diseases in the dungeon; and our star pupil Debased Wizard gains 1 disease in the village or up to 2 in the dungeon. Any of those cards can keep a Woodfolk Druid happy. (And Profaned Curate can eat his own disease.)

Avoiding Disease

Joe's article cited a nasty combination of a Sidhe Natural/Druid ("When you gain a disease, place it in another player's discard pile instead") equipped with a Cursed Dagger. She would add Physical Attack +5, and dish out 3 diseases to angry opponents.

That got me thinking. What about Sidhe + Debased Wizard? The two don't seem to go together naturally, because Sidhe Natural doesn't have an ability to duplicate, and Sidhe Druid's ability isn't terribly useful when she's been preventing me from gaining disease in the first place.

But you know who does have an ability worth duplicating? Debased Wizard.

First, imagine this two card combo: Sidhe Natural/Druid + Debased Wizard (or, if there's no monster with a Battle effect in the hall, and no disease in my hand, add an additional card with a usable ability, regardless of what it is). Debased Wizard uses its second ability to ignore a Battle effect. Thanks to Sidhe, the disease goes to an opponent. Debased Wizard then uses her first ability on herself, to repeat her second ability: two more disease go to an opponent. Nasty, but still not as useful or as easy to pull off as Sidhe + Cursed Dagger.

Here is where it gets downright broken. Let's add another Debased Wizard to the mix. Once Debased Wizard 1 has used her first ability, that ability now qualifies to be reused! Debased Wizard 2 now steps up and repeats Debased Wizard 1's first ability, which Debased Wizard 1 uses in turn to repeat Debased Wizard 2's first ability (which has now been used). And the two go back and forth in an infinite loop, ad nauseum. Once these two start reusing each other's ability, I would be able to dump the entire disease deck into my opponent's discard pile, up to 28 diseases! That would be disgustingly brutal.

Summary

Simply put, Debased Wizard is awesome.
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Will M. Baker
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Silverton
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Correction: Inclusive of the curses supplied in Caverns of Bane and Root of Corruption, the curse deck could contain up to 36 cards, rather than 28.
 
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