Drums in the Deep
ermergerd erts der derp dervs. der derp dervs der mer ferverer. ey ruv der derp dervs. derp. dervs.
I don’t know why but this is how I imagine all underground fantasy races sound. Perhaps its because Dungeons and Dragons had the svirfneblin as one of their token deep cavern races. And choosing one of the most unpronounceable Nordic mythological races as your direction just leads to stupid moments at the gaming table.
Though, I guess the D&D dwarves are called duergar. That doesn’t make it better.
We’ve arrived at the top four for the Master Set Showdown, however. The Deep Dwarves just missed the top cut, edged out by the Benders by one game. They managed a poor fifth position in this tournament but really turned things around in the Free for All with claiming a very respectable fifth place again. Just a quick reminder that the second tournament had three times the contenders and not only that but the Deep Dwarves crawled their way up through that bloody gauntlet of a loser’s bracket. Their victims were the Demagogue, the Swarmp Orcs and the Mercenaries respectably.
In fact, I can’t help but feel that the Deep Dwarves were often the loser’s army. How the second tournament worked was the winner of a round had their choice of faction in the next round (which were determined by weighted seeding). Generally speaking, the winner grabbed for their favourite faction of the pair. And Kait hates the Deep Dwarves with a passion. Invariably, this meant that I was playing them.
Part of the reason for the Deep Dwarves mediocre performance is that they do not mesh with Kait’s playstyle at all. Going over my records and I don’t see a single victory for the faction attributed to Kait’s play. This is understandable. They simply cannot smash their opponent’s face. They’re a slow, deliberate, defensive faction that relies on building up a powerful economic advantage through their inherent economy engine to cinch the game in the final moments through powerful combo pieces and a superior magic pool.
Kind of like the Filth from last week, actually.
Unlike the Filth, however, they don’t have the flexibility that mutagist provided the Demagogue. They are pretty reliant on chance draws – perhaps more so than the average summoner because of how combo focused their events are. As such, the Deep Dwarves are most vulnerable during the early and mid game as they try to establish their strong position. But they lack the cheap defenders that the Demagogue has in his 0 cost fanatics. Those first few early turns can really dictate the pace of a Deep Dwarves game.
So you’re looking at trying to capitalize on that inherent defender’s advantage as much as possible. Since Kait is really terrible at that, I have a pretty easy time destroying her in those moments – barring the magical double wall draw opening hand. Overcoming the defender’s advantage is far more difficult so her losing to the Deep Dwarves in the early tournament is understandable as she hadn’t developed the effective tactics for destroying them.
As for the games in the Grand Tournament, all three of them were very close affairs that hinged on key dice rolls and little else. The Demagogue, Rallul and Mugglug are all defensive champions in their own right and any of them could have taken the fight.
But let’s just say the battles against Krusk and Abua Shi were not.
I’m tired of commenting on the 2 range, 6 wound spread so I’m not going to this time. Instead, let’s discuss that meditate. This ability likely won’t trigger that often in a fight. The reason for that is, if the enemy hasn’t started coming at you from the start then a turn or two of you generating “free magic” is going to prompt them across the board. And that’s what you want.
As Tundle, you don’t want to have to assault the opponent and you don’t have to either. You can recall how the Filth’s mutagist offered them a way to recur magic but needed a few turns to setup properly? Well, Tundle doesn’t have those issues. He has no free units in his deck so if you need to get magic into your discard you can summon just about anything that you draw. Not only that, but all his units let you spend magic to do things which can get you spending that money like an obedient little capitalist consumer.
What’s the hitch? You can only attack with one unit. What does this mean? You’re trash on the defensive. This is why meditate doesn’t trigger often. If the opponent has three (or more, heaven forbid you’re facing a good aggressive faction) units charging down the derpy dwarves position, you’re going to need your attacks to save your bacon. If you draw your walls and can funnel the enemy down murder lanes that only need a single entrenched gem mage to do the killing, then you’re laughing. If not, you’ll probably need Tundle and some illusions to hold back the tide while you build up that font of power to eradicate your opponent in one grand, laser fuelled turn.
Magic Torrent is an event that lets you deal one one wound to each enemy (barring summoners and conjurations) within 4 spaces of Tundle. It costs you one magic to do so, however. Granted, there’s no laser in the name but that’s how I imagine it’s done. I mean, these are the guys that are obsessed with gems and crystals. You know, for focusing light. Work with me.
It’s a good event that I rarely have the magic to pull of because my sister is smashing my face. But being able to clear blockers for your artillery and draw even on the cost is good. However, there are other things that invariably stuff my hand that I usually pitch this event away.
Alright, so if I’m not playing magic torrent, what am I doing with my time?
Playing every other event.
First up is Illusionary Warrior. This little baby let’s put put to the table for free any single common in your magic pile. This includes enemy commons if you happen to snag a timely savager or other expensive and scary unit. Mostly, this is looking to get a discount on gem mages but even that is good. The downside? It’s picky. You can only use this event if you have a living gem mage or a champion. Why not Tundle? Don’t know. I’m assuming he’s too busy nap-meditating to bother with light shows and magic tricks.
Second is Magic Stasis because you know what’s good? Preventing your opponent from reinforcing his attacking army. It’s especially great when your enemy drops a whole hand of four or five cards. The obvious champion build play is wonderful to delay by slapping this card on the board and giving your enemy your best shit-eating grin. Double style points if you have your second magic stasis to throw the turn after for maximum trolling. Will this win games? No. But you’re a late game powerhouse and looking for every trick you can find to slow the pace of the match and let you get there. Magic stasis is one of the best cards for accomplishing that.
Summoning Surge is your “making up for lost meditates” card. Since your opponent should be forcing you to attack with more than one unit a turn, they’re probably killing your guys to meet that pressure. If you’re losing guys then you’re meeting the requirements for the surge. It also lets you grab a good chunk of your discard pile to reclaim a juicy common to press gang as an illusionary warrior. Oh, and you can summon during this phase as well if you need just one more magic to pull out a champion that you didn’t have at the start.
Last but not least is Wake the Father Gem. This turns on your explosive turns. You know how I earlier mentioned that Deep Dwarves are looking to setup that game winning combo? This is it. If you have two or three gem mages on the board and in position, this lets you fire nine dice at range on units that can then hop back into cover for free. It lets you move units back and forth with your champions to open up firing lanes for said gem mages. And if you also have a scholar beside the target then you can simply laugh maniacally.
Realistically, however, you’ll be using it earlier while you’re trying to grow your magic pile or when you simply don’t have any magic to use abilities at all. The dream is to blow up the earth but the reality is that this lets you squeeze just a bit more from your early units before they invariably push up daisies in the bloody defence.
So, yeah. You can say Tundle has a powerful event suite.
Which is good because Tundle’s commons are rather… lacklustre.
I know this will probably get some flack under the gem mage description but it is what it is. Honestly, if it weren’t for Tundle’s ability and powerful events, gem mages probably wouldn’t be that amazing. They are because Tundle can afford them but I have to question whether anyone else could. Also, gem mages look really good when compared to the competition.
But let’s look at them. Two range attack is strong. One health is brittle. Two magic is expensive. Gem magic is costly and makes gem mages actually more expensive than they appear. Truth be told, you won’t hard pay for gem magic that often. Sure, when you really need to kill that wounded champion or managed to get a clear shot on a summoner you’ll pitch the magic to increase their attack to 3. Hopping them back behind cover for another magic is entirely dependent on how many mages you have left in your deck, how well you’ve been developing your magic economy and how safe the board really is.
Often, this means you aren’t jumping the mage. Granted, you can meditate and attack with a gem mage in a turn and use either the increase attack or jump ability and break even for magic. This is typical if you manage to draw your walls early and can limit the avenues the opponent has to get to you. But barring murder lanes, you’re probably better saving the magic unless the situation is really dire.
And then there were the bums.
Miners are your auto build card. You don’t ever want to place these guys on the board. They’re bad and there’s no way around it. Their stats are standard for a 1 magic melee unit. But tunnel is just plain awful. Note that your whole movement is spent placing the miner adjacent to another miner. Thus, for the ability to be useful, you have to be investing in miners on the board in the first place. Second, you need your first miner in a location where you’d want more miners. Third, this location has to be exactly one space away from whatever you want to target.
Basically, you literally need an enemy summoner one space away from your miner for tunnel to be useful. But an enemy summoner will never be in this location. If they’re attacking a miner it’s either in melee (so a tunnel will just have your buddies holding hands but the original miner is the only one in range) or they’re attacking three squares away so a tunnel will just leave your miner one space out of reach.
Granted, you could then tunnel another miner in front of him. But you know how else you could cover two spaces from that original miner? That’s right, by just moving him forward. Don’t forget that tunnel costs 1 magic too.
So, this is basically a naked 1 melee with two health. Maybe he could be a cheap blocker? Oh wait, no, scholars are a thing.
Really, tunnel needs to let a tunnelling miner to still move two spaces after joining their friend. Otherwise, the fact that it uses up a movement just absolutely kills this unit. For that reason you won’t even use them during a father gem awakening since you have other Deep Dwarves to putter about. You know, the ones that can hit for more than one die. More specifically, the ones that you can increase to three dice for free.
But thanks miner for giving them the energy to do their job!
Scholars are… not great. You’ll mostly need them if you need those cheap blockers that miners could have potentially been. Three wounds is better on a blocker and their lack of attack isn’t really a negative in a faction that’s happy to only attack once a turn anyway. And they can increase the attack of any units shooting at whatever they’re standing at? That’s pretty great too, right? It should really stick it to champions.
And, yeah, it does. But you’ll mostly be building these guys for magic because you both need a large magic stack and you want to be drawing lots of cards. Draw them early and you’re still (hopefully) being a nuisance with your starting scholar and miners. Draw them late and chances are you’ve got better units to be using your movement and attacks on.
I suppose I should point out that you don’t spend 1 magic for each of these guys but 1 magic for all of them. Same with the miners for all that’s worth.
I just find I never pull these guys out. Their need is very niche. But they’re still ok for those rare times that come up. They’re just not great.
Well, if I’m saving all this magic, how am I going to us it? Surely I don’t need that much magic for my gem mages.
No, you need it for your champions. Because your champions rock. Remember the Sand Goblins and how they had incredibly cheap champions that came with negatives. Well, surprise! Deep Dwarves have cheap champions that come with crazy positives!
That said, you’re paying through the nose with them. The whole Deep Dwarf shtick is that everything costs money. That’s why you’re building your bad and mediocre (and often your good gem mages too) commons for money. You need your champions and you need their abilities.
Kynder is your heartiest with 6 health for 5 magic. Two attack is ok but he really shines with his mage push. Remember how Silts was super good because he had that rare “at any time” trigger for his ability. Well, grin like a devil because Kynder has it too. Yours costs magic, however, but you’re getting essentially two free uses with your starting cost discount. Plus, you can meditate. Oh, and I guess the father gem can help as well.
But basically this is Silts’ cunning only at two range. Is it better? Eh… hm, there’s lots of factors to take into account before I’d claim that. I will say it’s just as good and, much like cunning, is game winning but at a price point for more digestible.
Ok, Kynder is good but where’s the real powerhouse of the faction? Where’s the Biter?
Oh, here he is. Wait, he only has 4 wounds? But you complain how 6 wounds is so fragile! How can this mewling, bald Deep Dwarf be so good?
Well, that’s because Lun can pinch your opponent’s units from the wrong side of a wall and deposit him right in the middle of a clan of angry Deep Dwarves. Do dwarves congregate in clans? Or are they more gaggles?
Either way, for a single magic investment, you’re whittling your enemy slowly down. Probably in a position where they can’t retaliate. And remember all those issues with attacking and how getting around walls is difficult and reinforcing takes time and all that jazz? Yeah, Lun makes it all apparent. You have to kill this jerk but he’s hidden in the back row behind as much obstruction he can plucking hapless victims from 4 spaces away to deposit them at a murder feast and your opponent is on the menu.
Both Lun and Kynder are actually priced at expectation but I consider both under costed simply because their abilities are that good. Yes, even with them costing a magic to use each time. You use these guys basically to isolate the weakest portions of the enemy’s forces and destroy them. Then, as your opponent’s assault is crumbling, you line up your gem mage artillery, drop down an awoken father gem and leave a pretty little crater where your enemy once stood.
Oh. I’d forgotten about Sprong. He’s pretty bad. You’ll be building him for magic almost every time.
What’s wrong with him? His numbers look fine, right? I mean, he’s priced how we’d expect him just like the other two. Well, put simply, his ability is way too niche to really ever need Sprong. He doesn’t help you on the big play turns. He doesn’t help you build to your big play turns (since his cost cuts into the magic you’re building). He simply doesn’t fit the style and game plan. Draw him early and you don’t want to waste all your magic on a guy that provides so very little to a defence. Draw him late and you’re looking for three dice gem mages or your pushy other champions.
Toss him. You won’t miss him at all. He works better as laser fuel.
I like the Deep Dwarves if only because my sister hates them. They’re certainly not a favourite of mine, however. But the interplay you get in the first couple of turns with them against your opponent are some of the tensest you’ll find in Summoner Wars. There’s this race against the clock on either side. You’re trying to stall it while your opponent is trying to break it. And struggling through the hectic rushes that come your way make your victories all the sweeter.
That said, they can really grind a game if an opponent isn’t going to co-operate. If your enemy decides to hang back they you’re going to be in for a tedious game. It may not be longer but it will certainly be less interesting. And you’ll probably win it too, assuming you don’t offend the dice gods. But the Deep Dwarves dynamism requires that an enemy is going to play ball. If you happen to match up against an aggressive summoner then it’s all good. But if you’re against a defensive one then it can really sap the enjoyment of the game.
Thankfully, my sister plays everything aggressive whether it should be or not.