In this article I list the cards I expect to see the most play in the Epic Digital core-set alpha. Then, to explain those lists, I discuss a bunch of Epic concepts.
Cards I Expect to See or Play
Below I list the cards I expect to see significant play. Afterwards, I list the cards I expect myself to play the most.
Most Expected Cards
These are some of the most generically powerful and generically popular cards in the base set, by my observation. I expect to see these cards a lot, and if you are looking for extra cards to add to your deck, these are always worth consideration.
Other Expected Cards
I expect these cards will also see play across a lot of decks; however, they are more specialized and therefore won’t appear in as many as those above.
Evil (6): Army of the Apocalypse, Dark Knight, Final Task, Guilt Demon, Wither, Zombie Apocalypse
Good (3): Avenging Angel, Gold Dragon, Inheritance of the Meek
Sage (5): Amnesia, Ancient Chant, Frost Giant, Hasty Retreat, Wave of Transformation
Wild (5): Fireball, Lightning Storm, Rampaging Wurm, Surprise Attack, Triceratops
Alignment-Specific Expected Cards
These are cards that I expect will appear in most decks that focus on each specific alignment (and rightfully so). Most are incredibly strong Loyalty 2 champions.
Evil (4): Angel of Death, Necromancer Lord, Medusa, Murderous Necromancer*
Good (5): Palace Guard, White Knight*, Angel of Mercy, Noble Unicorn, Angel of Light*
Sage (5): Juggernaut, Steel Golem*, Psionic Assault, Ice Drake, Forcemage Apprentice
Wild (7): Raging T-Rex, Hurricane, Rain of Fire, Strafing Dragon, Cave Troll, Fire Shaman, Rage
(*I don’t expect to see a lot of these cards, but they are/can be strong)
My Most Common Cards
These are the cards I am most likely to include in any deck I make. (All of them appear in at least 3 of the 4 core decks I’ve made so far.)
Other Cards I Really Like
This is a list of other core cards I like a lot. (Some are stronger/more playable than others.)
Evil (6): Dark Knight, Demon Breach, Medusa, Murderous Necromancer, Plentiful Dead, Wither
Good (7): Angel of Mercy, Avenging Angel, Banishment, Lord of the Arena, Noble Unicorn, White Dragon, White Knight
Sage (8): Blue Dragon, Crystal Golem, Djinn of the Sands, Juggernaut, Memory Spirit, Steel Golem, Warrior Golem, Winter Fairy
Wild (3): Cave Troll, Raging T-Rex, Triceratops
In this section I break down why certain cards/mechanisms/archetypes are inherently powerful. I also discuss the weaknesses of those cards/mechanisms/archetypes e as well. Many of the concepts are interconnected.
Return Champion(s) to Hand from Play (Bounce)
Cards that bounce champions are some of the most inherently-powerful cards in Epic. Bounce is strong on its own because it can effectively negate an opponent’s entire turn. They spend their gold on a 1-cost champion. You return it to their hand. They potentially accomplish nothing on that turn. However, if your bounce card cost a gold and only returned a champion to hand, you would be down 1 card in hand for that exchange. Thankfully for bounce cards, they come with other enormous upsides. (One of which being that bounced tokens are removed from play and returned to the token supply pile.)
Erase, Hasty Retreat, and Sea Titan are the most generically-powerful bounce cards in the core set. Erase attaches a bounce effect to a draw 2 (something you want to do anyway). Sea Titan comes with an enormous 11/14 body, and it’s untargetable too. Hasty Retreat is a 0-cost bounce effect that can return 1-cost champions. “Oh, you spent your gold on that big Rampaging Wurm and you’re attacking me now? I’ll play this Noble Unicorn, block your Wurm, and bounce it back to your hand. Yeah, I just got a Noble Unicorn (or other ambush champion) into play and removed your 1-cost champion on the same turn. It was a good turn.”
Time Bender and Time Walker‘s power are more situationally strong. Time Bender lets you bounce a champion off-turn and keep a 4 defense champion in play to keep bouncing champions. Or, it can bounce a champion on your opponent’s turn, then bounce itself on your turn. This can essentially let you keep a fast bounce effect in your hand permanently.
Time Walker can reset a board where your opponent has more/better champions in play while leaving you with a 10/10 human champion. If your opponent only had tokens in play, this can be even more devastating. One of the most interesting uses is to bounce your own 0-cost blitz champions though. Play and attack with a Dark Knight or two, then play Time Walker, return your Dark Knight(s) to hand, and finally replay them and attack again.
Slow (Non-Ambush), 1-Cost, Non-Immediate-Benefit Champions
The effectiveness and prevalence of Sea Titan, Erase, and Hasty Retreat make Non-Tribute/Loyalty/Blitz/Untargetable/Drinker of Blood champions largely unplayable. (Trihorror, Thundarus, Burrowing Wurm, and Soul Hunter [although Soul Hunter still has a role]). Essentially, since these champions do nothing when they enter play and can only be played on your turn, getting them bounced can be an absolutely crippling tempo loss.
Gain Control of an Opponent’s Champion(s) (Turn)
Turn is another inherently powerful card in Epic. It can let you essentially remove an opponent’s champion from play (ignoring unbanishable, unbreakable, and on-break effects), put your own champion in play, and prevent your opponent from having a champion enter their discard pile. That is a major power shift similar to Sea Titan or Kong.
However, since bouncing a champion returns that champion to its owner’s hand instead of its controller’s hand, a champion you Turned would return to your opponent’s hand. In that case, it is the same as if they bounced your slow, 1-cost, non-immediate-benefit champion (even if that champion had a loyalty/tribute effect since you didn’t get it), and they drew a card too (since the champion returns to their hand). Nasty.
The most obvious weakness of bounce is that it gives your opponent a champion that they wanted to play back to their hand. This becomes even worse for the bounce player if that champion has a powerful Loyalty/Tribute effect or if it has blitz.
For example, one of the worst champions to bounce is Strafing Dragon. With its loyalty 2 effect, it deals 5 damage when it enters play, either to a player or a champion. It also has both ambush and blitz, so it can be played effectively on either player’s turn. Returning this to your opponent’s hand essentially guarantees that they will deal 5 more direct damage to you (or break a champion of yours), and its versatility means they will almost certainly have an opportunity to use it again.
Due to the strength and popularity of bounce, the competitive scene has seen a shift towards powerful loyalty/tribute champions. In many constructed games, Erase becomes relegated to picking off a token because the 1-cost champions aren’t worth bouncing. Also, Erase is significantly less powerful if you have to use it while your opponent’s gold is still up for the turn (as long as your opponent has on-turn/off-turn gold punishers like I discuss in my Get Ahead, Stay Ahead article).
Control (Board Clears)
The first control deck I saw at a tournament was Derek Arnold’s Four Color Control deck. Since then, I have seen multiple variants including more all-in Drinker of Blood combo decks, Forced Discard Punish decks, aspects of Kark decks, etc.
These decks tend to focus on extremely high value champions like Sea Titan, a lot of board clears, health gain, and other ways to stall out your opponent’s aggression and/or run them out of resources. This makes them strong against aggressive decks, burn decks, and big slow champions decks.
Before Uprising and Kark, these decks could take a very, very long time to play against, win or lose. Damage is hard to push through, and if you can’t keep the pressure up, they will stabilize, then heal.
I beat my head against different versions of these decks a lot at first. However, I was quite happy to find my Limited Get Ahead, Stay Ahead strategy was the best way to combat them. Due to a reliance on off-turn board clears and minimal proactive champions, if you can get ahead against these decks and maintain a consistent flow of cards without needing to just draw 2, you can make it nearly impossible for them to stabilize.
It was around this point that I discovered how great Rampaging Wurm is as an on-turn gold punisher. While terrible against these decks if played while their gold is up, while their gold is down, 14 damage to the face is brutal. In addition, it survives Drain Essence and Kong (still bouncable with Sea Titan next turn), so the control player basically has to board clear just to remove the Wurm. Follow that up with an ambush champion and keep on rolling. Brute Force (pre-uprising) was my first deck that really smashed control decks. (It also had no 1-cost champion that died to Drain Essence and a lot of 0-cost removal. Unfortunately, bounce decks wrecked this deck.)
1 for 1 Targeted Removal
Aside from Erase and Drain Essence (Flame Strike technically too), 1 for 1 targeted removal (like Bitten) sees very minimal constructed play. Essentially, 1 for 1 targeted removal is not seen as providing enough value in and of itself. They only answer a single threat and are largely worthless against 0-cost cards. With the value of board clears and establishing champions like Sea Titan and Kong, targeted removal has largely been untouched so far. (I do have a core set Incremental Targeted Removal deck though, coming soon.)
Many decks have relied on significant amounts of burn cards (cards that can deal direct damage to a player) to win games. These decks generally either rush you down with excessive amounts of burn and blitz champions, or they disrupt you until they assemble enough burn to finish you off over 3 or so turns.
Due to the popularity of these decks, Drain Essence has become a constructed staple. Health gain in general is a great way to make an opponent’s burn cards in hand essentially worthless.
Discard effects in Epic are incredibly efficient. In the core set, there is Psionic Assault and Thought Plucker. A single copy of Psionic Assault can be played every other turn, and even if an opponent uses a draw 2 each of those turn, they still net lose a card in hand. If the discard player is able to get ahead or stay even on the board, they can fairly safely continue this onslaught until their opponent runs out of cards in hand. Thought Plucker is the most powerful strictly card advantage card in the game (and it is super nasty with Final Task).
Due to the prevalence of discard effects, primarily Thought Plucker, certain decks like team Pluck You’s Soul Hunter deck, started to punish players for forcing them to discard. Soul Hunters, Necroviruses, and Ancient Chants were discarded without much pain, while ally->recall cards like Plentiful Dead were discarded and then immediately returned to hand. In addition, this deck ran significant discard pile banishment to prevent discard pile shenanigans as well (since it ran a lot of forced discard too).
Currently, it is common for many decks to include answers for forced discard (primarily from Thought Plucker) regardless of deck. Soul Hunter still sees play as well as Ancient Chant (although largely for the Lesson Learned -> Ancient Chant combo) and many of the ally->recall cards.
In many TCG/CCG-like games, pure health gain cards are generally seen as trash and rightfully so. However, in Epic their relative strength is much higher. Drain Essence is also removal so that is a bit more palatable to newer Epic players, but Inner Peace and Angel of Light are also great.
If a deck wants to, it can make it quite difficult for many other decks to do damage to its owner. With each player having access to 1 gold a turn, it can be a struggle to gain an edge against a defensive deck. (I like my Get Ahead, Stay Ahead strategy with on-turn/off-turn gold punishers as a counter.) In many cases, decks run out of effective cards to play in hand and are forced to use an “or draw 2” to continue their offensive. Inner Peace can be devestating in these situations, especially since it can be returned to hand again and again. (2 Inner Peace chains have been a thing.) Not only does this negate what damage was able to be pushed through, but it can also push the health gain player far above its starting health before its opponent is able to mount another sustained aggression. For hyper aggressive decks, banishing those Inner Peaces can be critical. Guilt Demon is great for that.
Human token decks scared me a lot initially, and I made that very clear. Playing Courageous Soul -> Secret Legion (22 damage) + 1 more buff (2nd Courageous Soul, Rally the People, or in play Standard Bearer/Dark Leader) could bring a player from around 30 to 0 in 1 attack with nothing/little starting on the board. I really don’t want to lose to that. Drinker of Blood/Deadly Raid were other potential alt-win conditions for it. While the deck existed and was frightening in theory, it saw minimal success or even play.
The entire assault can be easily stopped with the 0-cost answers Flash Fire or Wither. If your gold is still up, add Wave of Transformation, Zombie Apocalypse, Ceasefire/Spike Trap, Ice Drake, Plague, Surprise Attack -> board clear champion, etc. A lot of these are cards that decks already want to play.
In addition, the deck can frequently run out of gas after a single attack and then just fall apart. Overall, the deck has yet to materialize in a significant way, but support has been added to it in each expansion so we shall see. (I know I’ll keep trying to build one.)
Discard Pile Removal
Unless playing a control v control matchup where neither player has Amnesia, you are not going to deck out in constructed Epic. That being said, discard pile removal is still strong. Not only can it pick off recall cards like Psionic Assault or Lightning Storm, but it can also make it difficult for your opponent to recycle.
In addition, it can slow down an Evil deck’s/Angel of Mercy‘s ability to return champions from the discard pile or Memory Spirit‘s ability to return key events. Finally, there are the brutal Amnesia into Army of the Apocalypse or Zombie Apocalypse plays. In other words, there are a lot of great applications.
0-cost cards are easy to both underestimate and overestimate. 1-cost cards are usually significantly more impactful, but 0-cost cards allow multiple cards to be played in a single turn. In addition, those small effects can have a major impact, but if you only have non-“or draw 2” 0-cost cards, you will quickly get run over by your opponent’s gold usage. That being said, I always want to run the full 20 0-cost cards in my constructed decks (as long as at least half of my cards can draw/recycle/etc.).
0-Cost Blitz Champions
0-cost blitz champions are some of my favorite cards in the game. These cards let you put an immediate threat into play that your opponent is forced to react to or take damage. If they take the damage, excellent. Successful turn, passing with my gold up feels great.
If they react and spend their gold, excellent. I get to play an on-turn gold-punisher like Rampaging Wurm and most likely get in for a lot of damage.
0-cost disruption is an excellent safety net against hyper-aggressive decks and on-turn gold-punisher decks. These cards help protect you from that Rampaging Wurm when your gold is down, or that Lurking Giant trying to get you to spend your gold first. These cards can frequently negate an opponent’s entire gold for a turn while setting you up for extra value from a board clear or reestablishing champion. Even just a Watchful Gargoyle or Brave Squire can prevent a lot damage from hitting your face.
These cards can be brutal. Attacking with a big champion while your opponent’s gold is down and you have one of these in hand almost guarantees you will get a lot of damage through. Rampaging Wurm + Lash/Rage is particularly nasty. (Without Tyrant’s Blind Faith, these are a lot scarier, especially if you don’t run Hasty Retreat.)
In addition, Rage can let your weaker champion take out a bigger champion and survive, while Lash can break Thought Plucker/Necromancer Lord/High King/etc. If nothing else, they can also always just be used for an extra 4 damage by boosting the offense of an unanswered attacker.
Small Removal (Muse/Thought Plucker)
Due to the popularity and the strength of Muse and Thought Plucker which I go into more depth on in my Epic Constructed Process article, 0-cost small removal is essential. Aside from answering two of the most inherently powerful cards in the game, it can also stop a human token swarm or zombie horde. It can pick off other 0-cost champions, certain low-defense 1-cost champions, or even just finish off damaged champions as well. I don’t build constructed decks with less than 3 of these cards.
My favorite answer in core-set only is Forcemage Apprentice. Opponents want to ambush both Muse and Thought Plucker into play at the end of your turn. If they do, you get the chance to play your Forcemage and snipe it (leaving a Forcemage Apprentice in play too). Even in decks with the bare minimum 1-cost Sage cards to bring Forcemage Apprentice, it is still great (in theory) for this role.
Expend -> Remove Champions
These cards are incredibly powerful and can control games, if they are left unanswered. An untounched Dark Assassin prevents an opponent from playing most champions because they will just die next turn. In other words, Dark Assassin/High King/etc. can almost win a game by themselves, but they are so easily answered they are rarely played in constructed. This is especially true with the fact that including cards to break Muse/Thought Plucker is already so important. These cards are essentially just slow removal that require at least some effort to remove. Still not bad though.
Unanswered blitz champions can get a lot of damage through. Playing a 1-cost blitz champion without a beneficial tribute/loyalty ability while your opponent’s gold is up is incredibly risky. If they answer it with an Erase, Drain Essence, etc. you essentially just gave them resources and a free turn. I almost never take that risk.
Playing and attacking with a 1-cost blitz champion while your opponent’s gold is down, on the other hand, is amazing. This is particularly strong with airborne blitz champions because they are much more difficult to chump block and basically require your opponent to have exactly Hasty Retreat or get hit. I love playing Rampaging Wurm after an opponent spends their gold on my turn. Absolutely love it.
Tribute -> Draw a Card Champions
I love tribute -> draw a card champions. They let me play midrange champions for an extended period of time without needing to use an “or draw 2” card. This is especially powerful against decks that rely on board clears for removal. “Another board clear? That’s fine, you’ll run out of answers before I run out of threats.”
An alternate preference that many players hold/held is incredibly high value champions and high value removal (primarily board clears) with card draw. Their argument is that each higher value card they play will put them further ahead and gain them an insurmountable advantage (I’m paraphrasing). My response, “I won’t fall too far behind, I’ll take the momentum when you need to draw, and I won’t ever give it back.”
I don’t like All-In cards that either win you the game or put you further behind. I would much rather incrementally build my advantage and beat you down. This is especially true since my decks want to “or draw 2” as little as possible. Therefore, including cards “or draw 2” cards that will be worthless for most of the game and require other set up to become live is extremely unappealing.
I do admit that these cards can snatch a victory out of a game you would have surely lost, and it is impossible to create a deck that will never lose, but I don’t feel like these cards increase my win percentage by a significant margin. They may even decrease my overall win percentage because they’re taking the place of better cards. I might be wrong and it varies by deck, but I rarely include them.
Let me know if you agree with these lists of cards and/or explanations of Epic aspects in the comments below. Or, if I left out anything in my ramblings that you would like me to touch on, feel free to let me know, and I’ll probably have a long answer for you.