My name is Thomas Dixon, though my user name will be Samoht Noxid on the app. I’ve been playing card games since the early 90’s, heavily concentrating on Magic: the Gathering. I’ve spent times with many other systems, but competitively I haven’t strayed much from M:tG until recently. It all started for me a few years ago walking the halls of GenCon where I stumbled across Darwin demo’ing Star Realms. Downloading the App and playing on my off turn through Round 1 let me pick up the game quickly and I ended up winning the tournament, but more importantly learning a lot about White Wizard Games. When EPIC was announced I was excited for an LCG model. I grabbed myself a set and really got to work when they announced the $100,000 World Championship. I organized a bunch of old M:tG ringers and we formed Pluck U. Of the four members to play in qualifiers, we had a 100% success rate of converting to invites (even though it took Sullivan winning the LAST last chance qualifier). I am one of the few players already qualified for 2017’s World Championship by virtue of my win at the First Chance Qualifier event held on Monday while the top 8 was going on. I focus heavily on Constructed, and in that Control as an archetype. One of my favorite aspects of EPIC’s rule structure is the various ways in which the timing of effects take place.
In so many different ways, EPIC is a binary game. It’s not just because of the 1’s and 0’s, but also in how things happen. When one person can cast spells or use abilities, the other can not. It is elegant in design in that this negates many timing issues that present themselves with other games. Yet it doesn’t decrease the complexity level, it just shifts the decision tree points a bit further up the path. Often when describing the timing rules, I reference Captain Jack Sparrow’s speech to Will Turner, “The only rules that really matter are these: what a (person) can do and what a (person) can’t do.” Due to the binary nature of the games interactions, traditional evaluations of card mechanics or interactions from other games fly out the window. Damage based removal is significantly better while pump spells get dramatically worse. A damage spell will always kill the target, where as a pump spell can no longer be used to save a champion that would die to damage. While you can no longer respond to a pump spell with burn equal to the base stats of a champion, you can still use any other number of methods to deal with the attacker like bouncing, direct breaking, direct banishing, or removing from combat. Counterspells don’t even exist at all! It’s a whole new world that you really have to explore to extrapolate maximum value of your cards.
Beyond the timing complexities of playing cards, there is an element of timing that instead focuses on when do you want to be playing your cards. If you understand the game to be a war, and each turn a battle, then the player that uses their gold first in any given turn almost always loses that battle. They have ceded control over the gold resource for the turn and thus lost the ability to heavily impact the game any further while allowing their opponent to make the highest level of impact with their gold while the proverbial defenses are down. Tom has written much content on how to spend your gold effectively from behind or ahead on board, and he captures the essence of the struggle quite well in doing so in his Getting Ahead and Staying Ahead article.
I find the most common mistake of newer players is looking for the most powerful 1 gold cards and then fleshing out their 0 cost cards with cantrips. This is severely problematic in any game that you fall behind in, because your hand quickly fills with 1 gold bombs throttling you to 1 card per turn. I typically start my decks the other way around. I want the most impactful 0’s on the board, and mold my 1’s to keep my hand from running empty or recover from unmanageable board states. By doing this, I can easily pressure my opponent to spend their gold on my 0’s or fall behind.
Further, there is another restriction on when you can play your champions. Most champions in EPIC may only be played on your turn. However, Ambush champions can be played any time you could play an Event. This makes any champion with Ambush very valuable. When constructing your deck, in any of the various formats, making sure you maintain strong off turn plays is critical and Ambush champions go a long way in doing that. Further, they are great ways to punish your opponent for spending their gold on their turn before you. Doing this enables you to likely have your Ambush champion ready to attack and threaten them into using their gold first on your turn too! Certain champions, like Thought Plucker in particular, have punishing effects for allowing them to deal damage to an opponent. Other champions, like Vampire Lord or Angel of Mercy have great on turn abilities that are exploited exceptionally well by waiting until your opponent’s gold is down on their turn and utilizing their Ambush capability.
This power is even contained in one of the most popular Events in the game, Surprise Attack. Initially touted as one of the best cards by many early adopters of EPIC, Surprise Attack has been a main stay in competitive events. After much experimentation, I have found Surprise Attack to be significantly weaker than I had initially evaluated it to be. At first I thought it was one of strongest cards in Constructed like everyone else. My problem became that I was trying to play the strongest non-Ambush champions with it in order to make its use the most potent. Sadly they felt like they were stuck in my hand when I didn’t have Surprise Attack while Surprise Attack often felt stuck or wasted without them. Keeping enough impact champions without Ambush in my deck to get the payoff made me come way down on Surprise Attack as a card. With Tyrants and Uprising bringing a plethora of powerful Ambush Champions and establishing Events, Surprise Attack has fallen out of most of my constructed decks. Heck even on my turn I’m looking to cast Blitz champions, not slow ones in most of my Wild decks. Any deceleration of threat tempo allows many of the control (mostly Kark) based decks the opportunity to turn the corner and establish themselves in the game.
The biggest gap between the high level players is gold management and understanding its impact on timing issues. If you tune into my stream on twitch, https://www.twitch.tv/dazedyoubro I will be playing some decks that exemplify the value of Ambush and timing.