Epic Puzzle: Turn 1 Champions

Epic Box


This article is a contest to discover the optimal answers for 3 related Epic questions. The person to score the most points, by providing the best answers the earliest, will win the Sea Hydra playmat pictured below.

Sea Hydra Play Mat


**Updated to include more clarifications**

If you start with

  • 5 cards in hand
  • a deck containing no more than 3 copies of a card
  • an opponent with infinite health
  • promos are legal
  • no cards in play for either player
  • no cards in discard pile for either player
  • do not draw on your turn

what are the best solutions to the questions below. (Essentially you are taking the first turn of a standard constructed game, but your opponent has infinite health.)

1) How many total champions can you get into play, under your control, during your turn?

  • A champion does not need to survive until the end of the turn to be counted. (This is only for this first question.)
  • Token champions count.
  • Your opponent may neither play cards nor put cards into play.

2) How much total offense can you have in play at once on your turn?

  • Offense is the sword stat on a champion.
  • Champions must be in play to be counted, but they may be expended and/or deploying.
  • Token champions count.
  • Buffed champions count: Dark Leader expended would give 4 offense from Dark Leader and 2 offense from the human token he created.
  • Your opponent may neither play cards nor put cards into play.

3) How much total defense can you have in play at once on your turn?

  • Defense is the shield stat on a champion.
  • Champions must be in play to be counted, but they may be expended and/or deploying.
  • Token champions count.
  • Buffed champions count: a wolf token after Battle Cry is played would give 5 defense.
  • Your opponent may neither play cards nor put cards into play.

Additional Rules

  1. Each solution may, and probably will, be different.
  2. To Enter, post a comment below with just the numbers (example below). Then, send me the solution through the contact field at the bottom of this post. I will respond to the comment within 24 hours to verify if it is valid. If it is not valid, I will respond to the email address provided why it is invalid.
    1. When posting a new submission, create a new comment, do not reply to your original comment.
    2. Feel free to post general questions, cheer on participants, etc.
  3. After a week, on 7/25/16 at 7pm CDT, 1 point will be awarded for the first, highest verified solution for each question. I will also reply to each submission in the comments with their solutions at that time.
  4. New submissions (with just the numbers) may still be posted until 8/1/16 at 7pm (sending me the solution through the contact field). On 8/1/16 at 7pm CDT, .5 points will be awarded to the new highest verified solution for each question (if any).
  5. The person with the highest point total will win the playmat.
  6. In the unlikely situation of a tie, the person with the most winning solutions on 8/1/16 will win the tie. For example, Anne submits winning solutions for questions 1 and 2 by 7/25/16. Bob submits a winning solution for question 3 by 7/25/16. Anne has 2 points and Bob has 1 point. Then, Bob improves Anne’s answers for questions 1 and 2 by 8/1/16, and Carl improves Bob’s answers for question 3 by 8/1/16. Anne has 2 points, Bob has 2 points, Carl has .5 points, and Bob wins the tiebreak.
  7. Playmat will either be delivered in person at Gen Con or shipped. This can be worked out once the winner is determined.
  8. Anyone that enters is welcome to send me a picture to post on the blog, or to take a picture with me at Gen Con and have it posted to the blog.

Non-Optimal Example


89 thoughts on “Epic Puzzle: Turn 1 Champions”

  1. You’re gonna want to specify whether we can start with any cards in the discard pile – presumably not? Otherwise the answer to all three of those questions is going to involve the same card. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Agreed. I also want to know if we get to draw a card for the turn in addition to the 5 we start with. I think the intention is “it’s the first turn of the game”, so there is no draw for the turn, no cards in play, no cards in discard piles, etc.

    1. The intention of the challenge was not to draw at the start of the turn, so you have 5 cards in hand when you start playing cards. Due to this,
      the solution is invalid.

  2. You lot are giving me a hard time! I’ve got you beat on one count. But the other two aren’t working out for me. Just a few shy in one case, MILES behind in another. Will be here with my answer, better or not, if I can.

  3. A clarification for 1?

    Are we talking A: “at a given moment in time, how wide can your board possibly be?” or, B: “how many champions entered play on your side this turn in total”?

    I.e. if I played a champion, removed it, played another, removed it, played a third, would my score for question 1 be A:1 or B:3?

    My understanding from how it’s worded that you mean B?

    1. Darnit! I just hit 113 on (3). I thought I was gonna sweep it! Back to the drawing board. But Tom, my 113 is updated in the same place as my previous answers (on a new page).

  4. Another clarification – this time a rules of the game one, believe it or not! Actually, a “how are we interpreting the rules of Epic here for this puzzle?” question.

    White Dragon allows you to Recycle “If you played a 1-gold good card this turn.”

    Surprise Attack allows you to “Put a champion from your hand into play.”

    Do we consider 1-gold good champions put into play from Surprise Attack as cards “you played this turn”?

    I’d say no: we didn’t use the standard “play” action, they just were “put into play”.

    But what ruling is being used here?

    1. You are correct, “playing a card” and “putting a card into play” are not the same.

      So, if you Surprise Attacked in a Lord of the Arena, that would not enable White Dragon’s recycle trigger. (I specifically asked Ian this regarding Angel of Mercy putting a 1-cost Good card into play at Origins.)

      1. Well there goes my idea involving playing out a bunch of (censored) while still getting to (censored) before I play my (censored). 137 defense to beat! A worthy challenge. >:D

  5. 3) 163

    This one may hinge on a technicality. Hopefully it’s valid. Details are in the same place as last time.

    Regardless: I reckon this is the best I can do! If it doesn’t fly, well, it was fun to create.

  6. Current High Solutions as of 5:45am CDT
    1) 38 Greylag
    2) 148 Greylag
    3) 163 Greylag

    1 hour and 15 minutes remaining

      1. but alas! a moment too late. nevermind: it can stand as a possible improvement over the winning number, if 151’s verified.

        Erwin, you’ve got to be using the same method as me here… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. 2) 159 (Verified, with a practically insignificant change)
      A champion was not counted in the final tally bringing the total up to 159 in the solution. In addition, a small sequencing error was in the answer, but it dealt with the order 3 cards in hand were played out. If that order is corrected, the solution is valid. So, I am verifying the solution.

      The solutions will be posted soon.

      Edit: Erwin Bonsma actually sent me the correction before 7pm through email, and I just didn’t see it.

  7. The winners of the first week are

    Greylag (2 points)
    1) 38
    3) 163

    Erwin Bonsma (1 point)
    2) 159

    If anyone can improve on these solutions, follow the same format as before (comment and send me the solution). The same ideas may be used, or new ones may be used. After 1 week, .5 points will be awarded for the new best solution for each question (if there is one).

    1. Erwin, I don’t understand your attack solution for 159. Some of the steps are confusing with what cards are in hand. For example these two steps:

      Play Flash Fire. Recycle Surprise Attack, Flash Fire -> X2
      In play: Rabble Rouser, Paros (2x), Human (2x)
      Discard: Warrior Golem, Mist Guide Herald (3x)
      Hand: X2

      Play Paros
      In play: Mist Guide Herald (3x), Rabble Rouser, Paros, Human
      Hand: Warrior Golem, Flash Fire
      Discard: Surprise Attack

      Warrior Golem and Flash Fire can’t be in hand, when Warrior Golem was previously in play and Flash Fire just got played.

      I assume something has gotten mixed up with the X2 and X3 etc. (Funny to see this – I do the same on my plans using C1, C2, C3 etc. to refer to cards which I’ve drawn but haven’t decided on yet!) But without knowing exactly what, it’s hard to duplicate & try to improve on your solution.

      1. Yes, the Hand/Discard bookkeeping was not entirely accurate due to a very last minute fix to the ordering of plays. The submission deadline was two hours past midnight in my timezone and I only found the solution twenty minutes before that, and discovered a minor ordering flaw, a leftover from an earlier dead-end attempt, five minutes before time was up while mulling it over after submission. I fixed the ordering and most of the bookkeeping, but not all to avoid missing the deadline. Even though you meanwhile worked it out, I will add my cleaned up solution to the document as well.

        Given the rush, I am also not entirely surprised it could be further improved by squeezing in an extra recycle. Nevertheless, by denying you a clean sweep at least the competition is still on. In theory that is. With my solution already broken, it’s me that needs a clean sweep now. Wish me luck! ๐Ÿ™‚

        1. One hour past midnight in mind. Nontheless, you pipped me to the post! I wouldn’t have been able to cook up my improvement to yours in the remaining time, so nicely done.

          Your method’s very nice. I’d never have thought of foregoing the yellow ally just to get the good Inspiration uses; I was tunnel visioned on Paros’ excellent ally ability.

        2. Corrected my copy paste from the old submission for the shared link for Erwin Bonsma’s winning solution from the first week.

  8. Nevermind, I think I’ve pieced it together.

    2) 161 as an improvement on Erwin’s method (squeezed out an extra recycle)

    updated in usual place, and Tom, I’ve tidied up that spreadsheet so you can see my 3 answers cleanly together.

    1. Ah, I see how you got to 161 but unfortunately do not see how to further improve this solution nor do I have high hopes that an entirely different approach will beat it. ๐Ÿ™

      1. If you do find an improvement, what do you think about forming a pact?

        We’re both in a time zone where the puzzle deadline is late for us. I’m in the UK, and I think you’re within an hour of me.

        Rather than us both having the option to stay up late on the last night to try and get in the winning result, how about we both agree to lay off at an arbitrarily earlier time that evening?

        The deadline is 1am for me, and I think 2am for you (if you’re 1 hour after British time).

        So how about we move it back, say, 5 hours? That way, it is 8pm for me, 9pm for you? (And, I suppose, 2pm for Tom!)

        I agree not to submit any answers past my 8pm on the last day if you agree not to submit any after your 9pm…

        It’s all very exciting, but I also want my sleep! ๐Ÿ˜‰

        1. A deadline pacts sounds fine by me. My last minute submission for the previous deadline was not by design, only by accident, as I had entered the competition too late, and ran out of time.

          However, I then propose postponing our voluntary deadline by one hour, or even two hours, as otherwise I don’t have any time on the last day, as I don’t expect to be able to do anything before 8pm.

          1. I’ve realised I’ll actually be out on Monday night. So it’s just a little bit of Monday daytime for me. I’ll wish you the best of it on Monday evening, and look forward to seeing your solutions if you manage to top mine. (Though I’m afraid I bumped a couple of them up a bit today, pending verification…)

  9. I’ve also improved my defense solution, also by putting in an additional recycle (good old demons):

    3) 167

    Tom, because I already have a winning result for defense, I don’t want to overwrite it in case I’ve made a mistake.

    Instead I’ve made a new spreadsheet containing my attack & champions results along with this new defense result. If everything’s correct, that can be my new results sheet.

    I’ll send you the new URL in the message form above.

  10. I’ve improved my champions count by one.
    1) 39

    Tom, from now on I’ll send you new answers in individual separate sheets, to keep things clear. Comment form incoming…

      1. Make that 2) 164, and I’m leaving off for tonight. ๐Ÿ™‚ Sorry for the repeated results! I’ll overwrite the previous one for 2) 163

  11. Greylag, you’re making it very hard on me. I really look forward to seeing your updated solutions!

    Meanwhile I managed to break all the Week 1 records as well, but only one beats Greylag’s latest answers.
    3) 177
    This is using a new trick. Hopefully it’s valid, but if not, I have no idea at all how to get a Defense higher than 164, which is the best I managed without this trick.

    1. I’m looking forward to seeing your stuff too! I wonder if we’re going in the same directions or not. With the slow increments, it kinda feels like we keep making minor improvements on each others’ ideas, but perhaps we’re following wildly different paths…

      Tom knows, I guess… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. This is an amazing puzzle duel!

    I submit for Tom’s approval:

    3) 178!

    Now I’m starting to dip into my library of purest jank ideas…

  13. As a reminder, a deck can have any number of 0-cost cards because a legal constructed deck needs 60 (or more) cards. Talked with Ian at Origins and he confirmed decks don’t need to be exactly 60 cards (at least at that point).

  14. Well, Greylag, I admit defeat. I can beat none of your current best scores, and only match one, the Champions played. I am especially curious how you get the high Defense score. I managed to improve the Week 1 solution by a little (to 164), but do not see much opportunity for improvement. One of my assumptions about how to get the best solution must be invalid, but I have no idea which one. My invalid 177 attempt tried to break one of those assumptions, using a 30 card deck, which was not allowed, and even included a tallying error (again). Nevertheless, amazingly, you still managed to beat it. I really look forward to seeing how did that. So, congrats on winning this puzzle challenge and thanks to Tom for organising it. I am happy to have played my small part. Prolonging the competition into the second week has resulted in even more impressive answers.

    1. Congratulations on a battle well fought Erwin. ๐Ÿ™‚ Your last minute sally on week one pushed me to bigger & better scores this week, and I discovered some possibilities I hadn’t imagined.

      I’m looking forward to unveiling my methods, and also to seeing your 39. My 39 is quite specific, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d found a completely different path to the same number.

      I’m also interested to know how you planned to exploit a 30 card deck! Presumably by looping through it and redrawing a previously banished card, digging deep with Mist Guide Herald? But exactly how you make that work for you mechanically would be cool to see – even if it is outside the rules for this puzzle.

      I look forward to meeting you in the comments fields of future puzzles here, I’m sure you’ll be a fierce contender. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Greylag is officially the winner with 3.5 points

    The final solutions are:

    1) 38 Greylag / 39 Greylag

    2) 159 Erwin Bonsma / 170 Greylag
    3) 163 Greylag / 179 Greylag


    Anyone that would like to share their answers is now welcome to add them to their comments, or post a new comment with their solutions.

    Congratulations Greylag on winning the first Epic Puzzle Challenge with a prize.

    Thank you everyone for participating, all of the submissions were incredible, but the final solutions were ridiculous (in an awesome way).

    I have plans for future puzzles, but no date for the next one. There will be at least 1 more before Worlds.

    1. Thank you Tom for running it! It’s been a blast. And it’s so much fun that the most effective solution I could find for defense/attack actually involves the beastie on the mat! That’s going to make the prize even more delightful – it is already my favourite playmat image for Epic (until they make an Angel of Light mat…)

      A few words on my defense/attack submissions, because they’re basically the same at the start, then with a different finisher. The Surprise Attack / Vanish loop looks confusing, but there are a few basic principles at work:

      1. By Vanishing a Mist Guide Herald before the next Surprise Attack, effectively I am simply placing a Sage card in discard for no cost (it took a while to realise this).

      2. By using Wolf’s Bite on a Mist Guide Herald, I’m effectively exchanging any two cards in discard for a Wild + Sage card in discard.

      The combination of 1+2 above saves me an entire card (Flash Fire / Wither) as well as leaving me more champions on the board. Refining these two ideas is where most of my later gains came from.

      3. Small tweak: I actually wolfbite an Owl Familiar instead. I love that I managed to squeeze this card in! Owl Familiar is usually an effective loss of one card from discard, roughly card-neutral otherwise.

      But if you’re playing 4 one-cost champions and you’d like to Surprise Attack them all, the gain of a 4th Surprise Attack pays you back in terms of discard pile count. Owl Familiar now just works out as a “free” champion, neutral in terms of both cards in hand and discard. And a great target for Wolf’s Bite, since it has only 1 attack/defense and lets you leave your bigger MGHs on the board.

      4. All those Sage cards in discard is great because 4 lets you run out a full sequence of Inspirations, for card gain in hand.

      5. Then it’s the Hydra/Squire/Spite combo, as many Recycles as you can pull off, and 3 terminal cards. Paros x2 + Revolt in one case, Priest of Kalnor x3 in another. Hat tip to Erwin for the insight that Priestess of Angeline is a great recycle if using a human buff strategy!

      Credit also goes to Derek for being the first one (afaik) to come up with the Hydra strategy. In the end, it was just such a powerful path that it overpowered all the mass Paros/Revolt/Rabble Rouser combos for me.

      I have less to say about my 39 champions solution. It works, but it’s a mess! This is the one with most room for improvement, IMO – but I’m damned if I could tell you how…

      Thx again Tom and everyone who took part, and I’ll see you in the next one!

      1. Greylag, I only had time today for a quick scan of your Defense solution, but those are some beautiful tricks you found. I hope to have some time tomorrow to share some of my refinements. They are not nearly as intricate, but who knows, there may be some synergies.

        1. No synergies, it looks like.

          One small refinement I made to my Defense solution is to replace Wither by Fire Shaman. Fire Shaman would trigger four times. Breaking three Mist Guide Heralds, and finally assigning three damage to Sea Hydra. Fire Shaman can then be broken by a Wolf’s Bite. So like Wither, it ends up in the discard pile so it’s neutral in that respect. The only effect is that there’s one extra damage to Sea Hydra (as it takes three damage from Fire Shaman, instead of two from a Wolf’s Bite). This combo does not work anymore on your solution, as vanishing the Mist Guide Heralds means they do not need to be broken anymore, saving a costly play which is better used for playing the third Priest of Kalnor.

          My Put Into Play solution is a bit different from yours. I play two inspirations before the Flash Fire, enabling four plays of Paros. This leads to ten breaks, so gains a bit extra there compared to your solution. On the other hand, it leaves me with only one Inspiration subsequently, so I can do less afterwards. In the end, both solutions get the same result. I had also come upon the trick to use Arcane Research for loyalty, but did not see a need for it in the end.

          My invalid Defense solution assumed a 30-card deck. It also used Arcane Research, but differently. Here the trick was to play Inspiration first, Surprise Attack second, and recycle them. With help of the Mist Guide Heralds, Arcane Research, and recycling it was then possible to draw these before playing the Sea Hydra. This was a complicated way to effectively increase the discard pile by two, enabling more recycling. Your trick of vanishing Mist Guide Herald results in more draws, but unfortunately not enough to cycle through a 60-card deck. However, who knows what cards future expansions of Epic will bring. This trick may eventually work. ๐Ÿ™‚

          Till the next challenge. It was fun.

          1. Oh, the opening Inspiration, just to draw one – nice! I’ve been wanting to find a way to use that since the first puzzle, but could never find a use for it, it just wasted an Inspiration. To make it come around again – very nice!

            I like the Fire Shaman over Wither, too. Very clever. Both nice innovations!

  16. Come to think of it, Sea Hydra starts with 5 attack, right, and has 5 heads.

    If each point of damage results in an extra point of attack, and since mythological hydras grow two new heads every time one is cut off…

    … the hydra in my defense example ends up with over 120 heads…

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