Tempo & Value

By  Subaiku · April 2022 · In DepthBack to guides

  • Tempo is combination of strength and movement and on-play effect - developing your own board (e.g. GP, Lost Psyches), and removing units for your opponent while developing your own board (e.g. Laurus, King in Exile).
  • Value is making a play that does not develop your own board significantly, with the promise of future resource generation (e.g. most structures, HV, etc.).
  • Resources: Mana, cards in hand, base health, opponent base health, unit strength, unit movement.

This guide is meant to be a way into how I, Subaiku, see the game of Stormbound. I don’t consider myself a top tier player and I’m not trying to say what’s right or wrong, I’m just trying to show how I view cards and their functions.

I see the cards in the game as a combination of tempo and value. These are often (but not always!) contradicting attributes. Tempo and value are largely based on choices you make during deck construction — not based on how “fair” or “balanced” each card is. If fairness were the goal, every game should end in a tie. Games are constructed to create and reward advantages, to expose and punish disadvantages. Tempo-based and value-based decks each have their own strengths and weaknesses, and your play has to respond accordingly.

Tempo is about progression through the match, which is a combination of strength and movement relative to the mana cost. The ultimate tempo card is Green Prototypes — it provides no strength on board because of the on death effect, but it provides inexpensive movement. Another great example is Lost Psyches, which has a very high strength for the mana cost, but at the expense of predictable movement.

Think of tempo as a measurement of which player is “ahead” in the match. The game is primarily tempo-based because the attacker has an advantage. You, as the acting player on a turn, decide where units go and how much to attack or defend. The player that has tempo is asking the questions, and the player that is behind on tempo is the one that needs to have the answers. Essentially, you are posing problems for your opponent until they run out of answers.

The advantage of having tempo is that you can make value-based plays without sacrificing presence on the board. For example, being able to spend 2 mana to put Wild Saberpaws into the opponent’s base to chip down their base health. Another example is playing Unstable Build near the opponent’s baseline to anchor your frontline.

A great way to visualize tempo is using some of the 4-mana cards in Stormbound. Cabin Girls is a unit with high strength but no movement. Rapid Mousers have high movement but no strength. Both are situationally useful but generally not as much tempo as a card like Siegebreakers, which can be used (even without the on-play effect) for a combination of movement and strength. Even playing Siegebreakers is not as high tempo as playing two 2 mana cards, though, which produces more strength AND more movement!

Value is a card you play to generate future resources at the expense of this turn. Structures are a great example — The Hearth or Frozen Core turn less strength than expected for the mana cost into future strength on board or mana to spend. Mirz, The Collector puts a small body on the board but provides a promise of a future turn with a 0-mana unit with movement.

Most area of effect (AOE) damage cards also fall into this category, as something like Toxic Sacrifice or Hunter’s Vengeance generates no strength on board for yourself but removes your opponent’s strength/frontline. The value is derived from using one card to remove multiple of your opponent’s cards, essentially allowing you to play more cards than them.

An inclusion in the value side are cards like Overchargers or Booming Professors, which have poor strength/movement but invest in chip damage now to make the game easier to close out later.

Some cards provide a combination of tempo and value. The best examples of this are Laurus and Crazy Bombers, which remove enemy units while putting strength/movement on the board for yourself. A worse example is Felflares, which removes an opponent’s unit for 3 mana and has a body to put on the board — but builds little board and has no movement.

Value-based decks are required to eventually convert all the stored “future resources” into tempo, to get ahead in the match. Often they have comeback mechanics built in to counter tempo plays from their opponent. This could be a combo like Archdruid Earyn, Needle Blast, and Bladestorm — which removes the opponent’s board and puts a large unit on your side — or Gift of the Wise to get ahead on board.

Value-based decks often run the same low mana cards as their tempo-based opponents, but deploy them defensively to control the early game. Later in the game, these same cards can be used to pressure an overwhelmed opponent.

I find the most success with decks that have 10-11 tempo cards and 1-2 value cards. This allows me to get ahead on board, stay ahead, and close out the match relatively quickly. This is probably classified as an “aggressive midrange” style of play.

Rush decks and aggressive midrange decks tend toward tempo cards, while slower midrange decks and control decks tend toward value cards. Note that no slower deck should be a complete set of control cards or you will never be able to convert your value to tempo once you seize control of the board! That style of play is purely reactive, and rarely pose a problem that the opponent feels pressured to answer. This is why I think tempo and value exist on a spectrum. Most decks exist somewhere in the middle, as it’s very difficult to create a viable deck on the extremes.

A horizontal green to red gradient where green is labeled “Tempo” and red is labeled “Value”

Most decks that are successful will likely fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, which we call midrange. Midrange decks can be built flexibly to allow for both tempo plays and value plays — with careful cycling (and some luck!) you can usually have the right card for the situation.

I’ll use the Winter Pact faction to show examples of this. An example of a tempo-based rush deck with some value generation would be a deck that includes The Hearth. Zhevana is a great tempo play — removing an enemy unit, replacing it with your own unit, and still having mana to develop additional cards from hand. Getting ahead on board allows for The Hearth to buff whatever units stick, or for you to throw Wild Saberpaws or First Mutineer into the opponent’s base.

An example of a value-based Winter Pact deck is adapted from The Mirc. This flexible HL Top 10 deck can play aggressively — you can play aggressively early to put Wolfcloaks into the opponent’s base until you stall long enough for Siren or Olf to finish them off. Or you can stall early with defensive plays, use HV to slow your opponent, and turn the game around with a Gift of the Wise play.

I hope that this guide helps you understand how to categorize cards as being used for tempo and for value. Think about the cards that you’re putting in your deck and why you’re including them. Understanding the purpose of the card, and applying the card at the appropriate time for the board state and game state, should ease your ladder climb!

Find me in the Brewed Sages podcast, and consider listening to Ep. 11 Valuing Your Tempo and Ep. 12 Tempoing Out Some Value!

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