Welcome to the Fundamentals of Using and Countering Structures. In this guide, we will see how to use structures, how to counter them as well as some advanced tactics to be prepared on the battlefield.
Note that temples will not be covered in this guide as I have not played with these relatively new cards enough to give solid advice.
Most structures rely on staying alive to generate value, and so using structures to win requires playing defense. There are three main ways to defend structures:
- Keeping your structures away from the opponent
- Keeping your opponent away from your structures
- Blocking direct access to structures
Keep your structures away from the opponent
Just play them as far from your opponent as possible: in the corners of your back line. This forces your opponent to spend mana to come to you instead of generating value.
Keep your opponent away from your structures
The most obvious way to do this is to destroy your opponent’s units and structures. But you won’t always have the mana or cards to do this every turn. Here are several ways to deny board presence without needing to wipe your opponent entirely off the board.
Note that each of these examples are illustrations of the end of your turn, and the opponent’s units will advance at the beginning of their turn.
Basic Front Line Blocking: When the opponent advances, your units will block their front line. They’ll be forced to waste resources fighting your units instead of advancing their front line.
Protected Front Line Blocking: Your units will block their front line, and they’ll be shielded from harm by your opponent’s own units. They’ll have to use up their special abilities to advance or waste a turn.
Exploiting Attack Direction Priority: Despite not blocking all the opponent’s front line tiles, friendly units flanking the open tile will redirect units that might normally advance towards the base to attack sideways instead.
AOE Vulnerability: While this formation does defend the structure, watch out that it is vulnerable to AOE effects.
Punishing the Path of Least Resistance: If your opponent decides to advance with a speed 1 unit on tile D3, they will end up protecting your structure for you.
Freeze FL blocking: Freezing, even without a damaging combo follow-up, can help stall the enemy front line.
Block direct access
Should denying board presence fail and the opponent is able to advance their front line all the way to your structures, direct access to your structures must be blocked in order to keep them alive.
Structure Blocking Basics: On the right side, your own unit is protecting your structure. On the left side, the opponent’s unit is protecting the structure. Note that your opponent will often not be able to destroy their own units to gain access to your structures. Also, using weak friendly units to protect your structures might not always be enough to protect them from a 2 speed unit.
Second Row Defense: If your units are already placed in such a way to shield your structure on the second row, it can make sense to place your structure there to gain more board presence.
Exploiting Attack Direction Priority on the Second Row: Despite there being an open tile on the side, any enemy unit placed there will attack the Gifted Recruits first, not the structure.
More Exploiting Attack Direction Priority on the Second Row : Attack Direction priority can again be used to direct opponents away from attacking your structure placed in columns A or D and towards a sacrificial unit in columns C or B.
Sacrificing Structure Health: Sometimes, letting your structure take a little bit of damage in exchange for a safer plant is the best play.
- Play structures as early as possible. The earlier a structure is played, the more value it can generate. If your structure can’t be played on your first few turns, use them to deny your opponent board presence for when you can play your structures so that they are safe.
- The only real way around hard counters like Execution and Broken Truce is counter-cycling. You will either need to out-cycle your opponent to cycle back to your structure before they can cycle back to their counter (Freebooters and Snake Eyes work really well for this), or you can bait out their counter with a threat they can’t afford to ignore (like a large unit against their base).
- Sometimes structures will need to be sacrificed to stay alive long enough to slow down the game to build up a structure later. If your opponent is playing a rush deck, don’t be afraid to stall the match with a structure played like a Fort of Ebonrock if your base depends on it. This becomes applicable especially if your structure is relatively cheap, like the Hearth
- You don’t always need to plant structures as far back as possible. Sometimes, playing it further up can be a cheeky way to keep your front line advanced when protected properly, or as a bait before a finishing blow, or as a combo for Hearthguards.
- Your entire deck should not be just structures, units with 0 speed and spells. If you do this, you will almost certainly lose. A successful structure deck is a deck with some (usually 2 or less) structures, not a deck made entirely with structures.
- Try not to trap your own units behind structures (with the possible exception of Unstable Build, which will decay on its own, or Upgrade Point, which will generate a hilariously strong construct that will discourage your opponent from destroying said Upgrade Point).
There are 4 main ways to counter structures. Which strategy is best will depend on your deck and your opponent’s faction and structures.
- Apply pressure before they’ve played their structure. Force your opponent into a situation such that playing a structure would be as bad a play as possible. This can include:
- Forcing them to play their structure on a middle column in front of their base
- Ensuring the only available tile to play a structure vulnerable to attack the very next turn
- Forcing them to play their structure in a way that wastes value
- Lining up units on row 4 so that if they play a structure on their back line, they will have blocked their own backline, leaving them without space to play cards on their next turn
- Destroy it immediately. It can’t generate value if it’s been destroyed. This is best accomplished with targeted/AOE spells and effects (think Execution or Crazy Bombers) or 2+ speed units (like Warfront Runners) to rush through a defense.
- Rush their base. It won’t matter that a structure can generate value if you defeat your opponent before their structure can begin to pay for itself. Ignore their structure and go for the throat.
- Compete for value. This is probably a last resort since most structure decks are geared for late game anyways, but if your deck can generate more value (strength in units or damage to enemy units and structures) than your opponent’s structures, you’ll be able to eventually overwhelm them even if they can defend their structures (for the time being).
Here I will post miscellaneous tactics advanced players can use to get more out of their structure decks or to counter structure more effectively.
- You can bait out a defensive start from your opponent if you play like a rush deck your first few turns. This might trick them into playing defense themself, which can put them in a disadvantageous spot when you plant a structure in the back.
- Certain structures can be played extremely aggressively, like Trueshot Post and Powder Tower, which your opponent will need to address very quickly or they will be more likely to get wiped the next turn. Use this to put on the pressure to force your opponent to make non-optimal plays and mistakes.
- Watch out if your opponent has Unhealthy Hysteria, Forgotten Souls, Herald’s Hymn, Siegebreakers or other cards that can make certain defensive positions listed above ineffective.
- Make sure you always leave some sort of defense for your base and not just your structure. A structure left on the back line with nothing else can easily lead to a 3 unit base-lock and a near-instant defeat.
- If you suspect your opponent is using structures, try to place your units such a way that none of them are in row 4 when your opponent has 5 mana. Otherwise, you’re giving your opponent free cover for a turn 3 Frozen Core and that is not fun to play against. Also, don’t play in columns A and D until you’ve reached your opponent’s back line so they have no chance of getting cover for a corner-planted structure on any early turn.
- If your opponent is using a structure that deals damage to a single target or has some sort of AOE buffing capabilities, try to stuff the board with as many cheap units as possible. A single token frog or Green Prototypes can block an 8-damage shot from Trueshot Post or deny your opponent a tile surrounding an Upgrade Point to get a buff from.
- You can use your opponent’s buildings as shields if they place them poorly. This works really well against structures like Mech Workshop and Upgrade Point.
- If you have a structure counter, like Execution, and you suspect or know your opponent has a structure, save it to actually counter their structure and cycle as fast as possible to get it back again every time you use it. You don’t want your opponent building a value advantage against you. Also, don’t fall for baits, that’s exactly what they need to win.
- If you have an elder and your opponent is playing with Trueshot Post, Siege Assembly, Mech Workshop or the like, go ahead and plop it down in the back and watch as your elder gets triggered every turn.
- Structure players need board presence to win, too. If you can’t do anything else, occupy every tile available to them and try to see if you can prevent them from having the space to play any cards at all.
- Tode the Elevated and Curse of Strings are hilariously effective at getting past a defensive hold and attacking vulnerable structures.
- Don’t forget that the opponent loses if their base is defeated. If you’re in a long game, don’t forget that your end goal is the opponent’s base and not their structures. Always keep an eye out for ways to slip past and deal damage to their base and not just their structures.
I hope you’ve learned a thing or two from this guide, and that you’ll find playing with and against structures more enjoyable, whether you’re a new player or a veteran. Oh, and don’t forget to experiment! The frontier of new tech starts with you!
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