Epic is an inexpensive game ($12-$45), but it is also incredibly deep. In this article I am going to be discussing 5 important aspects of the game not mentioned in the rules but emergent from game play. These 5 aspects are Card Draw, Board Clear, Targeted Removal, Tempo through Champions, and Discard Pile Manipulation. They are helpful to keep in mind while playing. In this article I am assuming an understanding of the Epic rules.
Card draw is important for four reasons:
- It allows you to potentially play a card and spend your gold every turn
Since every card either costs 1 gold or 0, every card you play is going to have a significant impact on the game. While you do draw 1 card a turn, if your hand ever depletes to 0, you will only be able to play one 1-cost card for both your turn and your opponent’s. If your opponent is able to play a 1-cost card on both your turn and their own, they will quickly overwhelm you. In addition, if you get down to 0 cards in hand and draw a 0-cost card you will be in even more trouble.
The tricky part is deciding when to draw cards and when to improve you position in the game. If you spend all your gold drawing cards and your opponent spends all their gold playing champions and doing direct damage to you, you will lose even if they run out of cards because they will already be so far ahead.
The best times to draw cards are:
- When you cannot do anything else and still have a gold (such as the end of your opponent’s turn)
- When you are already ahead (such as having 1 or 2 champions in play when your opponent has none), nothing in your hand will give you a significant advantage, and your opponent has either spent their gold or you know they can’t make better use of their coin this turn
- As part of playing a card you want to play anyway (Erase, Triceratops, etc.)
- It increases the number of options you have to choose from each turn
Practically every card in Epic is very powerful, but each card is better in certain situations than others. Even though you only have 1 gold a turn, if you have 7 cards in hand, you are more likely to have a better play then if you only have 2.
1. It’s your turn and the board is empty: play Triceratops to stay at 7 cards or Thundarus to put a massive threat on the board
2. Your opponent is up by three creatures: play Apocalypse or Zombie Apocalypse to reset the board
3. Your opponent plays Courageous Soul followed by Secret Legion: Zombie Apocalypse stops that.
4. Your opponent plays their own Thundarus: You can’t Banishment it, but you can Erase it and +1 for 0 them (Net gain of +1 for you and opponent loses no cards in hand) in addition to wasting their gold for the turn. Or you could Dark Assassin and reveal Apocalypse and Zombie Apocalypse to give it Blitz on your turn
- It helps you hit your loyalty costs
If you do not have at least two cards of the same faction for a loyalty cost, you cannot use it. Having more cards in hand increases the odds of hitting your loyalty costs.
- You can win by drawing through your entire deck
Included in the pictures below are all of the cards that can potentially draw cards separated into 4 categories.
Recycle is almost exclusively on 0-cost cards, so their effects start significantly less overwhelming powerful. In addition, doing something without decreasing your hand size is so good, that the something starts even weaker then the something that does decrease hand size. For instance, Spike trap lets you deal 5 damage to all attacking champions. By itself, this card can break some 1-cost champions which is great, but if that situation never comes up, this card would be worthless, if that is all it could do. With recycle, when the situation occurs it is even stronger, but Spike Trap can always just be played to recycle to get a new card if needed.
Tribute -> Draw a Card
Similar to recycle, champions with tribute -> draw a card always give you something and replace themselves in your hand. While this is similar to recycle since the something you get is a 1-cost champion it is stronger and will need to be dealt with in some way. If you play one of these champions, and then your opponent immediately uses a card like Bitten on it, the net result is that your opponent has one less card in hand then before you played your champion while you have the same number (a 0 for -1). In other words, even though you lost a champion, only your opponent has gotten weaker.
Once again cards with tribute -> draw a card are generally less threatening in play, but still threatening enough that they cannot be ignored. This is what allows them to get you an advantage in hand size.
Draw 2 Cards – OR –
Events will frequently have the option of a primary effect – or- draw 2 cards. When I first started playing, I always valued these cards for their primary effect because they have more direct impact and are more interesting. When building your deck through draft or constructed, this is what you need to pay attention to when deciding to include one over another, but the draw 2 cards option is just as important if not more so for actual play.
If my deck is lacking in draw in a draft, I will prioritize these cards regardless of the non-draw option. Being able to draw 2 cards at the end of your opponent’s turn when they have spent their gold is that important.
Draw 2 Cards and…
Since hand size and card advantage are so important in Epic, any card that lets you draw 2 and do something is incredible. Erase is unquestionably one of the strongest cards in the base set because of this. If your opponent plays any champion that does not immediately affect the game, you can return it to their hand wasting their gold and gaining a net 1 card to hand. Erase, Raging T-Rex, and Ceasefire are the 3 main cards that do this well.
Discard Pile Manipulation
Some cards in Epic continue to be serious threats even after they are sent to their owner’s discard pile. These cards can be particularly difficult to deal with, especially in draft formats. Since the ways to directly banish cards from discard piles are so limited, it is important to keep track of specific cards even after broken.
Included in the pictures below are the 4 ways cards can interact with discard piles.
Directly Return Cards From Discard Pile to Hand or Play
Some cards such as Necromancer Lord and Angel of Mercy return a champion directly to play each turn they remain in play themselves. If your opponent has access to champions in discard piles and these cards stay around, they are essentially able to play two 1-gold cards a turn.
Soul Hunter will automatically come back from its owner’s discard pile every turn until it is banished.
Ally or Gold Triggered Recall Abilities
These cards allow for continual reuse as long as the recall ability can be triggered. Cave Troll is one of my favorite cards because, while it is not a huge threat, it is so useful having a potential free blocker every turn or attacker every other turn.
Some cards with recall abilities such as Wolf Companion and Ancient Chant have effects that occur when they leave the discard pile. These can be triggered either when recalled or banished from the discard pile.
Cards Requiring Other Cards in Your Discard Pile
Certain cards like Zombie Apocalypse and Unquenchable Thirst become more powerful the more cards you have in your discard pile. Recycle cards are also included in this list because you cannot recycle without at least 2 cards in your discard pile.
Cards That Banish Cards in Opponent’s Discard Piles
In the base set (not including year 1 promos), there are only 4 cards that can directly banish cards from your opponent’s discard pile. I highly value these cards (particularly Amnesia and Guilt Demon) because they let me stop cards I called out specifically above.
These cards are also good because they make it harder for your opponent to win by drawing through their deck. For each card banished, that is one more card they need to draw, Amnesia will generally completely stop that strategy.
Tempo Through Champions
Since Champions are the only cards that permanently stay in play until dealt with, they are the most important aspect to determining the current state of the game. All champions give you an advantage by having them in play, but when and how that advantage is applied is drastically different. A champion is a threat for possessing attributes defined below.
- The higher the offense of a champion, the more damage it can do at once. This make a champion a threat because it can deal a lot of damage to you if unblocked and will break many other champions that block it.
- The higher the defense of a champion, the more damage it can take in a single turn. This makes a champion a threat because it is harder to get rid of and can block a greater number of champions without breaking.
- Airborne, Ambush, Blitz, Breakthrough, and Unblockable make a champion a threat because it makes them more likely to deal damage to a player directly.
- Ally, Expend, Loyalty 2, and Tribute make a champion a threat because they allow them to have an effect without needing to attack. In addition, that effect is immediate and can happen before the opponent has a chance to prevent it.
- Ally and Expend effects can also potentially be triggered multiple times.
- Static Effects make a champion a threat because they immediately make other cards stronger for as long as the static effect is in play.
- Recall, Unbreakable, and Untargetable make a champion a threat because they are significantly harder to permanently stop.
- Righteous champions are a threat because they make it harder to reduce a player to 0 health.
- Ambush also allows champions to be played on your opponent’s turn allowing you to use your gold that turn, potentially have an unexpected blocker, or get an immediate effect at exactly when needed.
The most important distinction in my opinion is whether a champion has an immediate effect or not.
No Immediate Effect
The above champions, aside from Djinn of the Sands, have no inherent immediate effect. Most of these cards have high stats and good abilities making them incredibly high value targets. If they survive, they can do a lot; however, they can also be removed in a 1 for 1 trade. Due to the existence of Erase specifically and the rest of the targeted removal, I am incredibly hesitant to pick any of these cards. Each card has its place and can excel in certain draft pools, but by playing these cards you are opening up yourself to lose tempo.
If I can spend my gold on your turn for an even or better trade, that is a big deal. These cards are potentially terrible to play when behind because if your opponent has an answer, since you will stay behind.
On the other hand, if you are already ahead and you force an even trade on your turn, that is not bad. If your opponent does not have an answer for these cards while you area already ahead, they are so strong you will get a good deal more ahead. If they have an answer (while you are ahead), you stay ahead, which is good, but you lost an opportunity to get further ahead.
Immediate Effect Champions
These are the champions that I try and prioritize above all other champions (some more than others). All of these cards are either Loyalty 2, Tribute, or Blitz with an expend power. Due to this, assuming you can meet the requirements (loyalty, a viable target, etc.) you are guaranteed an effect and either a strong body or the potential to get that effect again.
For example, Kong breaks almost any champion and leaves you a 13/14 body. Necromancer Lord puts any champion into play on your side and will keep doing it every turn until removed. Raging T-Rex draws two cards and leaves a 12/10 body behind. These cards will almost always get you further ahead or less behind.
As a note of caution, when building a deck, be very careful not to over-extend into too many factions for loyalty abilities. Necromancer Lord and High King are amazing, but if they are your only Evil or Good cards respectively they will generally be more of a liability since they die to literally everything.
Epic is absolutely filled with crazy strong champions that will quickly crush you if unanswered. While in theory it is a legitimate strategy to just play more crazy strong champions then your opponent, I personally tend to stick to a more balanced approach. For me targeted removal is a big part of that (targeted removal, tempo gaining threat champions, card draw, and board wipes).
Particularly in draft, if I can take almost all of the targeted removal in the pool, even if I gave you “better” champions, if my strong champions cannot be removed and I can remove your most threatening ones, I will generally win. I would say it is impossible to prevent someone from getting strong champions, but targeted removal can be undervalued and over-ignored.
Especially valuable are cards that can be used as removal – or – draw 2 (Bitten, Transform). Targeted removal that can be played safely on an opponent’s turn are also high value for me (Erase, Lying in Wait, etc.).
Cards that break, banish, or deal damage to all champions in play are board wipes (board clears, wraths, etc.). In Epic you will almost certainly get to a point where you opponent is 2 or more champions ahead of you and getting rid of everything is the only way to stabilize. It will happen to you, and you will do it to other players. Having board wipes are basically mandatory in any deck.
Board wipes also do not target champions, so they are one of the few ways to get rid of untargetable champions (Lying in Wait does not target either).
There are board wipes that can only be played on your turn (not including Surprise Attack into Time Walker or Angel of Death), and these have no caveats, just break or banish all champions. These are good, but they give your opponent the first chance to start gaining tempo with their gold on their turn. One thing that is really fun is if you expect your opponent to ambush a champion in at the end of their turn, you can try to end your turn without spending your gold. Then if they play the champion, you can play your “your turn” board wipe afterwards. If they do not spend their gold, you would be unable to play your board wipe, so it is a risk.
The second type of board wipes are the ones that can be played either on your turn or your opponent’s. These are generally more restrictive which can be a good thing. For example, if your deck is mostly champions with 10 or higher defense, Hurricane will not break your champions while potentially breaking all of your opponent’s (unless they are all 10 defense or higher too). Board wipes playable on your opponent’s turn are more important because they can stop combos like Courageous Soul followed by Secret Legion.
These 5 aspects are, in my opinion, the most critical to understand to improve as an Epic player. If anyone feels like I left something more important out, feel free to let me know in the comments below, and we can discuss.
As a heads up, all of this does come from the perspective of 1v1 play as I have not had much opportunity for higher numbers then that. My next planned article is to dissect and rate each card in the set for limited play individually. I will be doing this faction by faction.
I love playing, talking about, and thinking about Epic, so I am more than happy to delve into any aspect of it, just let me know what people want to see discussed.