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Subject: Ranking the Villagers rss

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Will M. Baker
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Villagers are the cheapest cards in the village, costing a median 4 gold (items, spells, and weapons cost 5 gold; level 1 heroes cost 6 gold). Their low cost makes them easy to buy, and the self-destruct on non-mercenaries ensures they bow out when their usefulness has run its course.

There are currently 24 villagers in Thunderstone Advance. Below I rank them from my most favorite to least. I place a premium on deck thinners, and don’t care much for mercenaries, who are weaker in the village than non-mercenaries, and weaker in the dungeon that heroes and spells.

(When calculating average gold per card, I consider that the starting deck averages .83 gold per card, and that if card A destroys card B to generate 2 gold, together they are averaging 1 gold per card.)


Tier 1
It would take an extremely unusual opening situation for me to not grab these tier 1 villagers as soon as I’m able. Most of these cards form the core of my Thunderstone strategy: dump my starting cards.



1. Village Jack
Thinners don’t get better than this. Village Jack can destroy just about any card (including all 12 starting cards, diseases, Kobolds, and himself). He gets to pick the reward (2 gold or 1 XP) depending on whichever is most useful at that moment (the flexibility of being able to choose shouldn’t be underestimated). Only Drill Sergeant can generate more XP, and not as consistently. With two Village Jacks in my deck, I could have a complete turnover in my deck by the ninth round or so, if I’m willing to wait that long.

2. Drill Sergeant
Drill Sergeant can only thin my Regulars (not my Torches, Longspears, and Thunderstone Shards). He does so during combat, which is a drag, except that he replaces the Regular and himself with two other cards. Early in the game, when I’m likely to draw another Regular, this is the equivalent of destroying 1 Regular and gaining 1 XP almost for free (there’s the cost of uncertainty). Ridding my deck of Regulars, while either getting lucky and defeating a monster, or sending one to the bottom of the dungeon deck, accelerates the game and gives me up to 6 XP, enough to level up 3 heroes. Like most mercenaries, Drill Sergeant has no self-destruct, but his Village ability will at least make him useful later in the game, if I return to the village and am flush with XP.

3. Trader
It’s a tough call between Drill Sergeant and Trader. I favor Drill Sergeant, because I love getting free XP, especially while taking down a monster. But Trader is an awesome card. Like Village Jack he may destroy almost any card (including diseases and himself). On top of that, he gets a free buy, though at a restricted price. Only the most delicately balanced village will allow me to step up from a basic card to cards I actually want. But at a minimum I’ll eventually be able to destroy him and replace him with a 6 cost card (86% of village cards have 6 cost or lower). In the dungeon, he replaces himself, and tries to draw me a non-monster. Useful, but I’d buy him even without this ability.

4. Opportunist
She destroys 10 of my 12 starting cards, retaining the gold value on the Torches and Longspears and generating gold on the Regulars. (Because she is discarded, I’m averaging 1 gold per card.) She doesn’t have Trader’s raw destruction power, or Nevajin’s high-gold production, but she contributes nonetheless. And her exit nets me 1 XP, which I’ll never say no to. One downside is that her two abilities cannot be used in the same turn.

5. Nevajin
As a thinner, Nevajin can only destroy 6 of my 12 starting cards. But he gains 3 gold for each Regular destroyed, meeting me an average of 1.5 gold per card. On his own, he can help me grab even the most expensive of village cards or level 1 heroes. When paired with cards that give me additional buys, however, he can really shine. First, additional buys means his gold doesn’t go to waste. Second, I can start to dig into a hero pile. I can destroy a hefty fighter to gain enough gold to buy another copy of that same fighter. Net result? I’m one card closer to being able to buy a level 2. With Nevajin on the table, players will need to be more careful than ever to not expose higher level heroes; sometimes there’s just no avoiding it (especially in a many-player game), and Nevajin will be there to exploit the situation. Just as a thinner, Nevajin is great; but if I can try to pull off high-level buys, I get really excited, especially if my opponents seem strapped for cash.

6. Innkeeper
Of my starting cards, Innkeeper can only destroy the 6 Regulars. I say ‘only’ in the context of the villagers I’ve ranked higher; Innkeeper is still an awesome thinner. He comes with 2 gold, and so also averages 1 gold per card, like Opportunist. Unlike Opportunist, he is only thinning the no-gold Regulars. I’d prefer to thin my Longspears and Torches as well, but at least Innkeeper lends himself to a hand flush with cash, and gives me an additional buy to take advantage of that cash. His exit is weak: he gives me an additional buy, but takes his 2 gold with him. Innkeeper is the last of the great thinners in this list; there are a few more thinners to come, but not in this same class.

7. Castellan
At 7 cost, Castellan is the priciest of villagers (the other 23 have a cost of 5 or less). But what a power. He is Town Guard with an adrenaline shot. He draws 3 cards in the village, increasing my gold by an average of 2.5. Between that and his 3 card exit, he could nearly pays for himself in a single turn. If I survey the setup and am planning to spend more than just a couple of turns in the village, I’ll want this guy anchoring my deck. He increases my gold, increases my chances of pairing a thinner with a trash card, and gets my heroes ready to be leveled up. He has one of the strongest exits, not only drawing me 3 more cards, but also giving me an additional buy to really cash in on the extra gold.

8. Historian
XP? Gimme gimme. With so many Regulars clogging my starting deck, Historian’s Village ability is sure to fire. His 2 gold helps me buy useful cards. And although he’s not a thinner, it’s possible to leverage his XP to upgrade my Regulars (not my first choice, but a possibility). His self-destruct is an odd one, adding a card to my next hand, rather than to this hand. On the one hand, since I’m in the village this turn, it’s nice that he contributes to my dungeon-ready next hand, to balance me out. On the other hand, since his first ability gives me XP, which typically I spend in the village, I’d rather have that extra card now, in the village, in case it’s a hero I want to upgrade.


Tier 2
I’ll take a serious look at Tier 2 villagers. There are common situations where they prove useful, and the mercenaries in particular can go up in value if there has been a run on the heroes and there isn’t much left in the village to supplement my attack.



9. Debased Wizard
Her 2 gold and 1 Light makes her a no-brainer replacement for my Torch; only 17 other cards have that much gold and Light, and only three others (including Torch) cost 4 or less gold. That’s incredible value. Her two abilities both generate diseases; depending on the availability of a good cleric, this will either be a show-stopper, a minor annoyance, or, in the case of the disease-loving branch of the order, totally awesome (see Drua, Skinshifter, Honormain, Profaned, and Woodfolk). Assuming I can weather the disease, these are some of the best abilities in the game. First, she completely ignores, for my entire party, a Battle effect on a monster (45% of monsters have a Battle effect). Second, she allows me to use another ability again. This requires a two-card combo, which isn’t as good as just delivering a punch herself, but as I’ve discussed here, her chameleon-like ability to boost another card present makes her the ultimate flexible card. When she’s in the village, she’ll double as a thinner or card draw engine. In the dungeon, she just shines. Of 259 unique hero and village cards in Thunderstone Advance, 160 have a Dungeon ability (62%). As my deck grows more powerful, so too does Debased Wizard. Of 54 level 3 heroes, 33 have a non-repeatable Dungeon ability she might want to reproduce. The possibilities here are almost too juicy to contemplate, as level 3 abilities are the most bad-ass in the game. If she pairs with Dark, Clan, Aird, etc., it’ll be a bloodbath. Her dream pairing is probably with either Skinshifter or Charming, both of whom have awesome abilities to duplicate, and can handle the disease she generates. Unlimited Power! She would be ranked higher if it weren’t for the uncertainty of having a good disease-destroyer available.

10. Shield Bearer
With his 2 gold, 1 Light, and Physical Attack +1, he’s almost as good as a level 1 Lorigg or Strong-willed. He can’t equip a weapon or level up, but he can evade hero-targeting effects on his own, or sacrifice himself to protect other heroes present. If all I have are level 1s, I’d rather just lose a level 1 than have bothered with the Shield Bearer. But as my deck improves, I’m going to have better and better heroes worth protecting. Although I’ve never seen this done, a player could destroy him to prevent another player’s hero from being destroyed. In co-op mode, this could be awesome. In competitive mode, maybe I’d do it to keep a Regular in my opponent’s deck, but I doubt it.

11. Smuggler
The opposite number to Nevajin, Smuggler destroys the non-heroes in my deck, delivering a whopping 2.5 average gold for Longspears and Torches. That’s really, really good. I have to be mindful to reinvest that money in gold-bearing cards, though, otherwise I might find myself strapped for cash in the near future. His self-destruct is a bizarre one. It’s a pain that he has to wait around until he’s in my hand when someone (including myself) “loses a combat”. That’s not as good as me destroying him at my discretion. The upside is that his React behaves as a Spoils, in that my extra buy utilizes all the gold in my hand at that moment, rather than just giving me an additional buy in the village. Still, I’d like this card much better if his React were “Village: Destroy this card. Buy 1 card”.

12. Guide
There are only 6 cards with 2 gold and 2 Light, and two of those are level 3 thieves. So Guide is keeping elite company in this regard. The other three cards are Filigree Amulet, Moonstone, and Warder. Moonstone is the clear winner at only 1 additional cost, and in most cases I’d take Warder as well. Filigree Amulet is much cheaper to get, especially with its trait giving me a second buy. So unless I specifically need a villager in my deck, I wouldn’t take Guide over his peers. But in their absence, he’s a great way to quickly improve my village and dungeon stats.

13. Border Guard
The predecessor to Shield Bearer, Border Guard contributes a tiny amount to my Total Attack Value, just so he can say he’s doing his share. His primary ability is to sacrifice himself to save a hero. Whereas Shield Bearer’s text protects a hero from any monster effect (including Trophy, Global, and Raid effects), Border Guard’s is worded to protect a hero from Battle or Aftermath effects (even if not on a monster). This is a real edge case, but it means he can protect other heroes from Disowned, Moonclaw from himself, and the furious target of Rage of the Disowned. Border Guard’s second, secret ability is to draw and discard 1 card, either in the dungeon or the village. Drawing a card to replace himself is just common courtesy. But allowing me to discard a card is super helpful. He can discard a disease or some other nasty card before its Trophy effect kicks in; he can discard a Regular to feed Dark, or a hero whose ability I’ve already used, only to have that hero resurrected by Charming. He can stay true to his character and get a hero out of my hand right before a nasty effect comes down, in effect protecting two heroes instead of one. He can even circumvent Filigree Amulet and Phoenix’s auto-destruct/escape clauses. A lot of people see Border Guard’s discard as a cost; don’t be fooled! It is incredibly versatile. (For more about the power of discarding, see Learned: http://www.alderac.com/thunderstone/2013/12/13/look-learned/)

14. Town Guard
The second best card draw, after Castellan, and at a fraction of the cost. There’s basically no reason to draft Town Guard over Castellan if price is no obstacle, but Town Guard is a lot easier to pick up with an extra buy and some lingering gold. If I buy Castellan for 7 gold and destroy him at my first chance, I’ll draw 6 cards, averaging 5 gold. Town Guard would net me 5 cards averaging just over 4 gold, but at a cost of just 3. So if I’m hurting for gold, can afford Town Guard, and am not yet ready to call it quits in the village, there’s no reason to avoid this guy.

15. Village Headman
Finally a card that lets me explore an all-villager strategy. These guys offer exponential attack when teamed with themselves. If I clog my deck with Village Headmen, and chance into three at once, I’m looking at Physical Attack +9. That’s pretty good for some cheapo cards. His big liability would seem to be the issue of consistency. He doesn’t help me thin my deck, and if I’m lucky enough to defeat a monster, my deck only gets more diluted. I’ve stalled out many a time with this guy, where halfway through the game I’m forced to retool my deck because I just can’t draw this card consistently. However, I say this only seems to be his weakness because he has a built-in way to combat it, which is to partner with other villagers. If he teams up with a deck thinning villager, his lifespan in my deck will increase as my starting cards decrease. Once my deck is thinned, those conscientious-objector villagers can bow out, and make way for more Village Headmen, or some other mercenary providing their own attack. If my deck has nothing but mercenaries and monsters, Village Headman can stay competitive. Where he suffers, and I see this as his true weakness, is in a many-player game. In a 2-player game I can be assured of buying at least 4 copies, if that’s a priority; depending on my opponent’s strategy, I might grab nearly the entire stack before my opponent sees fit to block me. But with more players, his concentration in my deck will diminish. I should also mention that a deck full of Village Headmen will be able to dodge a lot of hero-centric effects.

16. Novice Mage
Only four village cards offer Light and attack: Dancing Sword, Summon Storm, Shield Bearer, and Novice Mage. Novice Mage is inferior to those other three, but he’s priced accordingly at 3 gold. He replaces himself in the village; quite polite. Nothing else to say about him except he’s the only mercenary to provide Magic Attack, which matters in a few edge cases.


Tier 3
It would be an extremely unusual situation that would warrant buying one of these villagers. For most, their theoretical edge cases just don't manifest; for the others, they are just never the best option.



17. Stablehand
The last of the cards I would consider buying except under duress, Stablehand is very, very inconsistent. His ability to destroy cards in the Village or Dungeon is counterbalanced by his dependency on targeting my discard pile, which is often empty. His 'shining' moment comes when he destroys himself, putting my entire deck into the discard pile and setting up another Stablehand to make himself useful. If I’m desperate for a thinner, I’ll add this guy to my team. But I’ve gotten burned as much as he’s been helpful, and I’ve yet to find myself in one of those edge cases where I both really want to discard my entire deck, and I happen to have a Stablehand at the ready.

18. Bloodhound
This mercenary provides 0, 1, 2, or 3 Physical Attack. Physical Attack +3 from a mercenary? Sounds awesome, right? But his two abilities are conditional on other cards being present. He gets Physical Attack +2 only if a hero is present, and Physical Attack +1 only if another Bloodhound is present. Now, I know what you're thinking: half my starting deck comprises heroes, so throwing a couple of these dogs into the mix is just easy attack, right? So let's say I spend two turns buying these mercenaries, and then head into the dungeon the first time they are paired with a Regular. They would each add Physical Attack +3, so between them and the Regular, I'm averaging 2.3 attack. That's not so bad. My problem is that unlike a level 1 hero (all of which offer either Attack +2 or some juicy ability to compensate, and some at the same cost as a Bloodhound), Bloodhounds aren't going to grow with my deck. They can't be leveled up, and they don't destroy themselves. Neither do they help me get rid of my Regulars (unless I'm spending my XP on upgrading the Regulars). So while I'm taking my dogs for a walk, my opponent is using a thinner to trade starting cards for level 1 heroes. A mercenary should provide attack as a bonus, to supplement its other abilities. But attack is all a Bloodhound has going for it (beside the 2 gold).

19. Veteran Trainer
Yes, I love XP, and yes, this mercenary can give me XP and save me XP. But he doesn’t help me win fights, which means he doesn’t help me to use his juicy Spoils ability, or to get monsters that power his juicy Village ability. He’s the guy who shows up to a picnic with a bottle of wine but no bottle opener. Also, other than his 2 gold, I will find it difficult to anticipate the circumstance in which he’ll be useful. Do I buy him now, in the hopes that he’ll be a member of my next successful dungeon party, even though his inclusion in that party actually decreases my chances of it being successful? Do I buy him before I have monsters to power his Village ability, or after, when presumably I already have access to XP? Just seems like a wasted buy in most cases.

20. Hysterical Villager
This is a really cool card that is just seldom useful. I have bought him on occasion for his self-destruct ability, to convert 2 gold now from a bad split into 3 gold later. His primary ability, to burn a hero from a hero stack, is great for exposing a level 2 hero for purchasing. A couple of these guys together might even dig me all the way to level 3, and give me the gold to take advantage. The down side is that through all my hard work, I’ve probably exposed a higher level hero to the next player as well. Usually not worth the effort. (This ability isn't all that different from Nevajin's, but Nevajin is primarily a thinner, which is what ranks him high on the list.)

21. Hedge Witch
Sometimes there’s just no other way to get ride of disease, and I would buy her just for that purpose. Her other two abilities live off my excess XP, which I’ll only have late in the game. I don’t want her clogging up my deck before I have XP to burn, and by the time I have that XP, I don’t want to head back to the village to buy her (unless I’m heading there to level up, in which case I’m spending my XP). She seems to want to be in Drill Sergeant’s class, leveraging my XP. But he helps me gain XP reliably, and he doesn’t consume it.

22. Bounty Hunter
There is very little reason to buy this card over any available level 1 thief. Her gold is good, and her Spoils ability can help save me a trip to the village or two, but she already cost me that trip by hopping into my deck. Pass.

23. Bio-salvager
Believe it or not, there was a time during playtest when this card was too good. But we overcorrected. In the village or dungeon, she replaces herself, and maybe gets a bonus card if the card I draw is a monster. Since even in my most successful games my deck is seldom more than 50% monsters, this means her chance of obtaining that bonus is somewhere between 0 and 50%. Not so good. And that would seem to be her primary ability! In the dungeon, if there is a monster present, she delivers a whopping Physical Attack +1! Great effort, but the moment I add her to my deck, my #1 priority is to get her out of my deck.

24. Battle-scarred Soldier
What could be worse than Bio-salvager? Like her, Battle-scarred Soldier replaces himself in both the village and the dungeon. But in place of her 0-50% chance of an extra card, and reasonable chance of Physical Attack +1, I get a smaller chance of a Physical Attack +2. I mean, if I’m building a hero-heavy deck, I might be more confident in these odds. But why on earth would I want to chance it with this guy, when I could just buy another hero, or rest out a card to increase the chances of drawing a hero I already have? I would argue that, with the possible exception of Summon Aid, this is the worst card in the entire game. I would need to be building some mercenary-heavy deck of desperation where adding this guy to my team is preferable to ignoring him for all time. He should have a trait: “When you buy this card, your opponent may immediately chuckle.”
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I'd like to start my response to the above by stating that I hold Darquil in the highest regard. He's the newest member of the Thunderstone Advance Design Team, and he really does a lot of homework when it comes to design. Like, way more than I do. My design process goes something like "You know what would be cool? This thing that we haven't done yet." That's it. Darquil does this, and then compares it to every Thunderstone card in the history of ever, and probably a few M:tG and V:TeS cards just for sake of thoroughness. When I say "(blank) is a solid weapon" he will generally know in a matter of minutes how quantifiable that statement is based on odds of being able to regularly afford it and percentage of heroes that can equip it unassisted. When there are questions on the BGG forums, his answering speed is damn close to lightning. He's probably the game's single biggest proponent, and he's working for you, the fans of the game.

That said, man oh man does he get a few things wrong here.

We are agreed that deck thinners take priority to non-thinners, and suicidal Villagers are typically better than Mercenaries who don't know when to leave.

Village Jack is the undisputed King of Thinner Mountain, and probably an auto-buy for people serious about trying to win the game.

Drill Sergeant (in my considerably-less-than-humble opinion) soooooo doesn't deserve the #2 spot. The most crucial time for thinning out the chaff is early game, which is also typically the worst time to crash into the Dungeon. Now, I know that there are a lot more better L1 Monsters to fight nowadays than in earlier TS history, but even with that statement being true, I think that Drill Sergeant a situationally useful card. Not Tier 1 by any stretch, and certainly not #2 overall.

By comparison, let's look at Nevajin. Nevajin doesn't put you at risk in order to cash out a Regular. He also kicks out a HUGE 3 gold in those early buying phases. That's kind of a big deal. Furthermore, he gains a bit of flexibility in that unlike Drill Sergeant, Nevajin's usefulness doesn't strictly expire at the end of Regulars. I have before murdered a beefier hero for a huge cash bonus. I'll trade most L1 Heroes for a Fireball every day of the week. Or sometimes a Polearm. Or if I have a good multi-buy ability. Or in the magical unicorn scenario where I still have Nevajin in my deck when there are exposed higher level heroes. Nevajin thins my deck at a crucial time while facilitating better buys. Drill Sergeant is a bit of a crapshoot and is only really useful against low level Monsters, which I am happy to let you fill your deck with. The game clock argument isn't one I'd stand on because it's only advantageous to speed up the game if you're ahead.

While not strictly thinners, I would buy Castellan and Historian before I invested in Drill Sergeant. Historian gets free XP more reliably than DS, does so in a safe environment, kicks out Gold, and even helps thin out Regulars, by virtue of upgrading them into real heroes with the XP you got as a Village action. This timing is not to be overlooked. With DS, any XP gains you have will require at least a turn to be used, and that's assuming that you go to the Village. Historian's XP gain causes no loss of tempo.

Drill Sergeant keeps on getting bumped further down the list...

Speaking of the list, Battle Scarred Soldier is most certainly not the worst Villager in the game, and not laughter-inspiring. While not my first choice if I have good Gold to spend, it is a very solid 3 cost card. It cantrips most of the time (save when you rest or prepare) and in the Dungeon, cantrips to a potential bonus. It is rarely a completely dead card. I buy this card fairly frequently. How you think something that the overwhelming majority of the time doesn't cost you hand space is somehow worse than Bounty Hunter or Veteran Trainer is simply beyond my understanding. I would also take BSS over Smuggler every day of the week. 5 Gold is just waaaaay too much to pay for him (although I have done it before in dire circumstances)

Since my work is not paying me to debate cards with you (well, technically they are right now) I'll have to pick up more arguments later, but not before I say that Stablehand is far from Tier 3. While a teensy bit inconsistent, it's thinning powers are incredible. It's not limited to what's in your hand (which is HUGE) and by virtue of the ability to *specifically* destroy cards not in hand, it bypasses the destruction cost on all of the Curses, as well as getting rid of Blood Debts and Rage of the Disowned which is such a big deal. Stablehand is probably Tier 1, and most certainly better than Drill Sergeant.

Ball's in your court, my friend.
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Will M. Baker
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I should have equipped Drill Sergeant with a kevlar vest before slotting him at #2. His mileage in the dungeon will vary, but I don’t see his dungeoneering as risky. I would only enter the dungeon with him if I’m going to defeat a monster (I wouldn’t consider an L1 monster deck clog in the early game, since I’d be trading a Regular for a monster with gold, and getting XP in the bargain), and/or I can go up against a monster who will help me thin out other cards in my deck (even if I lose). Roughly 36% of Advance monsters have an effect that could destroy one of my starting cards, which, in a purely random dungeon, works out to about a 75% chance that the dungeon will contain at least one of these monsters at any given time. Also, if I head in with the guarantee of winning, or comfortable with losing, his Draw 2 is either a non-factor (unless I have diseases), or might help me win something better (or at all). If I’m looking at the dungeon and don’t see a way to do better than only using Drill Sergeant’s ability, that’s when I’d head to the village, where he might even help me draw cards. So I value him as a thinner above Nevajin because he’s more likely to help me thin the non-heroes than is Nevajin. I’m not disparaging Nevajin, though; I love that guy.

Battle-scarred Soldier is bad. Bad bad bad. He only has one ability: to maybe add Physical Attack +2 to a hero. Without Patternmage in the mix, I’d expect this to work at most 50% of the time. And that power has a cost: I don’t know what my sixth card is going to be. A cantrip is a bonus for an already useful card, because whatever card I draw is a bonus, and even if it’s trash, my cantripping card still offered value. Cantripping is a cost for an already useless card, because it decreases certainty. If I draw a monster, a disease, a villager, a weapon I can’t equip, or a hero I didn’t want to bring to the fight, I’m worse off than if I had had that information prior to entering the dungeon. If I’m looking to add Physical Attack +2 to a hero, there are near endless better ways to do it, all of which involve knowing the hero is already in my hand to be buffed. I would rather buy nothing than spend 3 gold on this guy; I would rather spend a turn resting out a Battle-scarred Soldier than spend 3 gold on this guy. I would rest out a Battle-scarred Soldier before I’d rest out a Regular. I wouldn’t even buy this guy to pair with Mercenary-loving cards.

I do like Stablehand, and especially because he destroys cards in the dungeon without affecting my current hand. It’s just his consistency that bogs him down. At the beginning of the game, I’d say my discard is empty roughly 50% of the time, because my deck is so small. Later in the game, that’s slightly less, but various abilities will often be drawing cards into my hand without discarding, and if Stablehand is one of those cards, he will find himself with nothing to target. That’s true about Blood Debts and Rage of the Disowned; hadn’t thought of that.
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amigo de fuego wrote:
Stablehand is far from Tier 3


I should also add that for convenience, I tiered the list into even thirds (8-8-8), which maybe wasn't the best way to do it. For my tastes, there is a wider gulf between Stablehand and Bloodhound than Novice Mage and Stablehand.
 
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We agree that thinning cards (especially Regulars) is priority 1 in the early game. Both Drill Sergeant and Nevajin do this. You seem to be making the argument that an early Dungeon run is superior to an enhanced Village turn, which I couldn't disagree more with. In the first turns in your described situation where DS nets you a win and trades a Regular for some XP and a Gold generating Monster, this is your best case scenario, and is in no way guaranteed. If you don't have that win, you don't take DS into the Dungeon. Nevajin on the other hand trades a Regular for a Hero (most likely) or other card that actively improves my deck, which Monsters almost never do. This will happen with 100% reliability with Nevajin being paired with a Regular. This also puts the Nevajin user in a better position to beat more juicy Monsters early on. You can't really hope to consistently beat a L2 or higher with a DS and a handful of Regulars, Longspears or no. I can have a pretty good shot of doing so with beefier Heroes, Weapons and Spells. I'm not saying that Drill Sergeant is a bad card. I *am* saying that Nevajin is strictly a better choice save some extreme circumstances. I'm also saying that DS is one of the weaker thinning cards in Advance. Village thinning > Dungeon thinning, gold pumps (especially big ones) are better in early game than modest XP gains, adding better cards in the early game > adding low VP Monsters. I think I would take Smuggler over DS. Okay, that might be pushing it. Maybe

You may hate BSS. I disagree, and have gotten some good mileage out of it. I love me some zero-sum cards, but your points are not without merit. Sometimes you can draw into things that you actively don't want, like a Disease. But most times you don't. It doesn't cost you a hand slot. While without Patternmage it's a random pull, it's almost indistinguishable from just drawing the card in the first place. BSS could be a Longspear, a Torch, a stronger Hero, and if not, the only thing it ever cost you was a little bit of tempo, and if you bought this, you probably didn't have money to buy something better. What is completely dead wrong about your argument is that BSS is somehow worse than Veteran Trainer or Bounty Hunter. I'm not arguing that BSS is the bestest card ever, but there are a number of common situations where I would buy it. I have never once found a situation where I would buy Veteran Trainer or Bounty Hunter. Not once. By virtue of your rankings, you're making the statement that you would sooner buy one of those than BSS. Is that really the stance you want to take on this debate?

I think Stablehand is better than you're giving him credit for. While you sacrifice a little bit of consistency (it's damn annoying drawing Stablehand in the first turn after a cycle), the fact that he can thin cards outside of the 5 buddies he shows up with is huge. Look at some of the Machine Cult cards in Star Realms. While they are superior in that they can go hand OR discard pile, the fact that they can go discard pile means that they can almost always be useful. Which is something that no other thinner can say. There have been innumerable games where I looked at two lonely unemployed Trainers one turn, then 3 bumbling Militia who needed desperately to die the next turn. Stablehand doesn't care if they're in that hand, and that's a big deal. Being able to ignore the special conditions of Curse destruction is pretty sweet too. And let's not forget that not only is he thinning and combos with himself, but the instant cycle makes him one of, if not the only, thinner you don't mind seeing in the midgame. Firing off a superhand, then immediate recycling of those cards while situational, is powerful.
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amigo de fuego wrote:
I *am* saying that Nevajin is strictly a better choice save some extreme circumstances.


I won't fight you too much on this. Of my Tier 1s, the only one I am rock solid on is that Village Jack is the best. For the others, they're all great cards, and depending on the circumstances, I might favor one over the other. Even Historian, who as a non-thinner is the weakest of the bunch, can have his place if XP is scarce. I wouldn't drop Drill Sergeant out of Tier 1, but other than that I don't really care what his rank is.

amigo de fuego wrote:
I have never once found a situation where I would buy Veteran Trainer or Bounty Hunter. Not once. By virtue of your rankings, you're making the statement that you would sooner buy one of those than BSS. Is that really the stance you want to take on this debate?


Well, Hysterical Villager is probably as far down this totem pole as I would really go, and even then that's very situational. Both Veteran Trainer and Bounty Hunter bring above-average gold to my hand (only Nevajin, Castellan, and Smuggler can bring in more gold), so at least in the village they are guaranteed to help me improve my deck. If I've added a few low-XP monsters to my hand, and I'm looking to milk them for more XP because I can't seem to level up my heroes, I can see Veteran Trainer maybe having a momentary place. And although he doesn't have the Mercenary keyword, his grand finale takes place in the dungeon, and will save me a trip back to the village to destroy him and level up a hero. He's not doing anything to help win that fight, and really he's only trading his own village visit (in which he was purchased) for that of leveling the hero, but I might give him a passing look. Maybe 1 in 20 games I might be so strapped for XP that Veteran Trainer and I will sit down to discuss his resume. (Making up numbers here.)

Bounty Hunter is more difficult to make the argument for. I don't think I'd ever buy her. Her inability to equip a weapon is what separates her from, say, Stealthy and Blackhand. Maybe 1 in 100 games I might be trying to pull off some super-whacky Mercenary deck that might remind me that she exists. Probably still wouldn't buy her though.

Up against a wall, yes, I would take her over Battle-scarred soldier. But better yet: take neither.

amigo de fuego wrote:
You may hate BSS. I disagree, and have gotten some good mileage out of it.


Friends don't let friends buy Battle-scarred soldier! I have no doubt you've won with him (probably against me, too), but I contend that it was in spite of him, and that you would have won by even more if he hadn't been there.

Can we agree that you're worse off in the village than if he hadn't been in your hand? He does nothing except replace himself. He might be replacing himself with the hero or weapon I wanted to take into the dungeon next turn, or a ranger who will decrease my village gold. Maybe 4 out of 5 times or even 9 out of 10 times it doesn't matter, but it does matter sometimes, and at no benefit to my village run.

So, putting aside his hero-buffing power, he has the same effect in the dungeon, making me worse off. Again, it might not be often, but I'd argue it matters more in the dungeon than in the village, where 1 point of attack can be the difference between something and nothing. We must therefore weigh his hero-buffing ability against his marginal cost in the village and dungeon.

If we assume my deck is 50% heroes (generous), on average he is adding Physical Attack +1. That's what a Regular adds, and a Regular can equip a weapon and take a dive to protect another hero. Ah, but the card doesn't take up a slot like a Regular! True; but a Regular and a polearm can also draw a card, and in the early game, there is a greater than 50% chance that a Regular will be paired with a polearm.

If you played yourself, using the same strategy as both players, except one player bought Battle-scarred Soldier and the other didn't, I'd expect the non-buying version of you to win more than half the time. Not that any of us has the time to run these sorts of simulations. But I'm as confident of this card's negative value as I am of Village Jack's place at the top of the list.

amigo de fuego wrote:
I think Stablehand is better than you're giving him credit for.


I do like him. And with no other thinner available, yeah, I'd take him. He just doesn't fit as well with my play style. I value consistency, and predictability. I don't want a card that sometimes hits and sometimes misses. I want every card to work for me every turn. Partly I think that's good strategy. But partly it's just not fun to feel like I'm at the whim of chance, squandering my turn while my opponent scoops up some hefty VP in the dungeon. There's already enough chance built into the game without buying into a card that in itself is chancy. But yes, I do buy this card, and I do enjoy using him when the stars are aligned.
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OK. I can't really keep arguing for the BSS. I also tend to go super hero heavy unless there are some outstanding weapons/spells/whatever, so in a Hero dense deck, he connects more often, but at that point, he's just a mediocre weapon bonus that doesn't take equipping. I'd make the argument for Insight Blade, but I don't mix Classic and Advance.
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