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Subject: Grassland VS. 2 Fertile Grounds rss

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Kirkwb
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There aren't a lot of Strategy Threads yet, and I'm still wrapping my head around this new Crafting Mechanic so I wanted to get everyone's thoughts on what is a better 4 Mana play:

Is it better to pay 4 Mana to buy a Grasslands and put it on a Cursed Land or to buy 2 Fertile Grounds and put them on the Cursed land?

My friend and I are debating if Grasslands are good or not. Our conversation was around him buying 3 Grasslands for his deck essentially blanking 3 cursed lands so that he only had 6 Decay Symbols in his deck, but he also loses 3 Mana Symbols. The advantage is that he sets up bigger fields with more cards and has better odds to press his luck making them even bigger.

The results were good for him, as he won and scored pretty high in comparison to our first few games.

My thought on buying 2 Fertile Grounds instead makes your Cursed Lands produce more Mana, so you don't need bigger fields and you don't need to press as often. I feel like it's a gain of 3 Mana instead of a loss of 1 mana.

What are your guys' thoughts?
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Victor Aldridge
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First off, there's context to consider. If it's early in the game, buying the 2 Fertile Soils (and putting them on blank cards) makes more sense because then those blank cards become productive the second time around.

As you've noted, the thing about Grasslands is to realize that although you are losing 1 point of Mana, you're gaining the potential chance to draw several more before hitting another Decay. It may not always work out that way, but statistically it works in your favor, especially as the game progresses. However, if it's later in the game, there's far better cards you could probably be picking up.
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Jordan Booth
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This weekend I tried from the beginning of the game to push for 5 coin to get the advancement that cancels all decay on a card. I spoiled every time for 3 times through my deck before giving up. The takeaway is that during the early game you really have to increase your mana base. Grasslands is a cheap way to remove decay if you are trying for the whole deck in the field strategy, but it will slow you down a bit, and all of the other growth cards are 6 or 7 mana. So maybe you have to pass on the early Grasslands, openly disparage them a bit so others don't take them, and then snatch them up when you know you can make a 5 or 6 mana turn.
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Gabriel Burns
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Zombifying this thread, mostly 'cause I'm board. One thing to realize about grassland is that (at least in the early game) it never actually reduces the mana in your field. This is because it allows you to put one additional cursed land in your field, and that cursed land gives you a mana. It actually has the net effect of increasing (on average) the amount of mana in your field, because you put more cards into it, some of which may be fertile soils or other mana-granting cards.

I think I'm a pretty strong player (I play frequently and have a >90% win percentage, even in multiplayer games), and I actually like grasslands a lot. The key is to understand how to play with it. If you buy a lot of fertile soils, your fields will tend to have a fair amount of mana in them, so you will rarely want to push, because the opportunity cost (that is, the best card you can buy without pushing) is pretty significant. As nice as it might be to buy that Will-o-the-Whisp, if you spoil a field with 6 mana, it all goes to waste, and you're pretty unhappy. It's probably better to settle for one of the many good options at 5 or 6 mana (or 4 mana + a fertile soil). Pushing less means your deck cycles slower, though, so those nice cards you're buying will take longer to be played. Also, since you don't push as often, your mana token is a precious resource, which is often best saved for turns when you have a lot of mana anyway (so you can buy something awesome instead of something pretty good, although this depends heavily on the available advancements.) Saving your token, though, means it's more likely to be active on turns where you might want to push, creating a self-reinforcing feedback loop of conservative pushing decisions and thus slower deck cycling. That said, this is often the fastest way to build something like a Dawnsinger+Moon Wolf+Feral Chieftan Combo, or something like a Hawk/Hulking Thornhide rush strategy, Though if you're going for something like that, it will often behoove you to push more frequently in fields that don't contain your key card(s).

Grasslands makes your deck cycle faster, and as mentioned, it does tend to increase the total mana available the turn it is played, but not by much. This means you tend to have lower-mana hands, so the opportunity cost of pushing is lower, and you should push more. Pushing more does a few things: first off, it gets you more mana, hopefully this turn (if you don't spoil), but possibly next turn (if you spoil with a spent mana token, allowing you to re-activate it) secondly, and maybe even more importantly, it makes your deck cycle faster. Since that's also what grassland does, an early Grassland buy often means you fly through your deck after the first shuffle. In fact, if you time your pushes right to optimize your shuffling (see https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1624885/efficient-deck-cycl... for what I mean) your second shuffle can come as few as 2 turns after your first. This is actually possible without grassland, but grassland means you only have to push on one of those turns to make that happen. With an early grassland buy, then, your plan is to make up for your mana disadvantage by pushing aggressively when your mana is low, and spending your mana token freely to make the most of your unsuccessful pushes (for the second time through the deck, I usually push if I have less than 4 or 5 mana, depending on what advancements are available) This means you tend to get fewer advancements (because you miss turns more frequently due to spoiling) of a slightly lower quality (because you have less mana available) but the number of turns between buying them and playing them is significantly reduced, and since even the slightly lower-quality advancements you buy on the second time through your deck will be be significantly better than those you bought the first time (which you can now play again as well) you start to have better turns than the fertile soil buyer around turn 7 or 8. He will then tend to surpass you for a moment after his next shuffle a turn or two later, but by then, you're nearly ready to shuffle again. Whether or not you maintain this speed advantage depends on what you were both able to buy. If you bought a hawk and a hulking thornhide and he bought, say, a Mindful Owl, a Lifebringer seed and a Bear totem, he will start to be faster than you, but you will have gained a point lead and put him on a clock, and the question will be can he catch up before you can end the game. But however the rest of the game goes, starting with a Grasslands still allows you to start playing your actual strategy (VP/decay grind, guardian combo, aroura, vale cards, etc.) significantly faster. To be honest, the only options I would consider over Grassland for 4 mana the first time through my deck are Wellspring (only if there is an Azure Lake available, +1 mana every turn is really good when it starts on turn 6, and still pretty good when it starts turn 8) or Hawk (only if there are other inexpensive point-earners available; a single hawk doesn't drain the pile fast enough to be worth slowing your deck down that much. Also worth considering if there is something like a Lifebringer seed to cancel the decay symbol, but only if there's a point gainer [possibly expensive] that will fit in the remaining card slot, otherwise you want to put the seed on a cursed land first, and then buy the hawk to double up on it, which of course you can't do the first time through the deck. If most of the cards on the board are acceleration [i.e. mana and cycling tools], Hawk's value increases, because it may be several turns until your opponent can start catching up to you. If you can play it twice before your opponent buys his first point-earning card, that's often pretty good, unless that card is something that earns 4 points per turn or [especially] if he gets a strong spirit symbol engine going, which slows down your rush by not contributing to the vp-pool drain and once it gets going can gain points in huge chunks. In short, you probably want to stay away from early hawk if the top row is something like Aroura/Woodland Warden/Ent Eleder, and there are no other hawks or hulking thornhides.)


TL/DR: Grassland is almost always better for your deck in the long run than two fertile soils because it not only helps you cycle faster, but encourages a playstyle of aggressive pushing, which further increases your cycling speed. Fertile soil on the other hand, discourages pushing and leads to a slow deck. To see this, consider a card with three fertile soils (two purchased, one printed), vs a Grassland (for symmetry, say it's also on a printed fertile soil) as the only non-cursed land in your field, and imagine you're deciding whether or not to push. If you push with the fertile soils and spoil, the fertile soils do you no good and you've lost a potentially good 5-mana turn. If you push with the Grasslands and spoil, you're only missing out on a 3-mana hand, and the Grasslands still achieves its purpose (of putting an additional cursed land in your field, which you now discard, bringing you closer to your next shuffle). The more aggresive pushing helps make up for the mana disparity on turns you don't spoil, and the fast cycling means your new cards show up sooner and more frequently, at the expense of a few missed harvest phases.
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