Getting Bogged Down
Here we are at the end. Our king of the Master Set round of Summoners is none other than the green menace himself, Mugglug. Oddly enough, Muggles hasn’t actually won a single tournament. But he’s come close each time and that top four finishing is consistent enough for him to come out on top after weighting results.
And if there is one way to describe the Swamp Orcs is that they are consistent. They’re a good faction and I’ve seen numerous players able to pick them up and do well with them. They’re not crazy but they are fairly intuitive. And their base mechanic – getting walls on the enemy’s board – is strong. Mugglug in particular is the defensive approach to spreading the swamp through the poorly named vine walls. But that isn’t to say that he doesn’t have any teeth to his side while he’s poking around his garden.
For one, Mugglug has always been a common focused deck even back when the game revolved quite strongly around champions. This mostly grows from the issue that the Swamp Orcs have, for the longest time, really bad champions. Their reliance on their commons was bred more through necessity but it helped that they had really good commons.
And there really isn’t anyway to discuss the Swamp Orcs without talking about Vine Walls. Walls are really important in Summoner Wars as they give you unprecedented board control. The high life value of walls is key to keeping defensive summoners alive and thwarting early attacks with kill lanes and creating pockets of inaccessible territory to hide your precious summoner. Then, of course, is the need to have walls on the board in order to summon your forces. Staggering walls is an important tactic to leave as many summoning spots open as possible to prevent the disruption of timely wall crowding. And anyone that has lost their starting wall and had the misfortune of their deck placing the last two on the bottom know just how important preserving summoning spots are.
So, being able to spam walls is an incredibly powerful ability and no other faction really does it quite like the Swamp Orcs. Of course, their walls are a meagre two health compared to the nine of a standard wall. This would be a weakness – and is in a select number of matchups – but isn’t quite the problem you would normally expect. Due to the restriction on the number of attacks a faction can perform a turn, a round where your enemy is attacking your wall is a round they have less attacks to throw at your forces. A lot of the game, it’s simply ineffectual to deal with the spreading swamp and the opponent is simply left being overrun. Only in the late game, when the threat of summons are reduced due to diminishing magic piles or empty draw piles, can an enemy really handle these little thorns in their side.
As such, it’s quite common for Mugglug to slowly plod through his deck, not building or playing more than he needs to keep the swamp spreading and the harassment on his enemy flying. The enemy has to respond since Vine Walls are just as effective as units as choking summon points – more effective really since they give the Swamp Orcs new avenues to summon and attack. Oh, and they block line of sight and potentially wound and stop enemy units that try to crawl over them.
Unfortunately, the major stumbling block for Mugglug is that there are simply a handful of decks that really make his match-up very difficult. The Guild Dwarves are masters as wrecking walls and destroying the hard earned swamp with one or two event cards. Rallul, the other master of wall destruction, can rip down vines while fuelling his draw power or churning out even greater economic advantages. And without vines, the rest of the Swamp Orc forces are simply not the terrors to handle as they normally are.
Mugglug sports the standard orc high health and attack value. You’d think from his statistics he’d be a good bruiser summoner but he actually sees very little combat. His high attack value is simply good for crushing little attempts to assassinate him and not much else. The extra health means that there’s still a bit of bite if you manage to grind the Swamp Orcs to the late game as he fulfils the champion slot of his forces once there’s no threat of an instantaneous counter assault. When it comes down to summoner versus summoner, that extra little durability will give him the push through a ranged summoner’s first salvo to get up and crush his face.
Granted, that’s never the real end goal and Mugglug’s route to victory is pretty clear. Rampant Growth necessitates that his swamps are constantly fertilized and you will be providing them plenty of blood to really hydrate that soil. He is capable of sprouting roots from any body – whether it be friend or foe. During the early game, it’s going to be mostly your own forces giving their life to grow forward. While the classic example is a full regiment of imported Apprentice Mages so Mugglug can develop his economy while sowing his weeds, Shamans work well in a pinch from the base deck. The goal isn’t to make all your units grass seed. You’re just getting close enough that your opponent will have to respond to your actions and once they start stepping beside your vines, you’ve got the growth you need.
As such, Mugglug has three Vine Growth to give a free wall to push forward. Vine Guard and Ambush both grant an ability from one of your commons to the rest of your forces and are really great for it. Ambush is the least useful of the pair since you can’t stack the abilities on your Hunters and they form the backbone of your army. However, it’s fantastic for giving your Savager a surprise boost and – more importantly – the ability to extract himself from the swamp should he get overwhelmed himself.
Finally, there’s Ensnare. It’s a bit of a non-combo since it places enemies on your walls which means they can’t get you more vines but it does rip blockers away from your opponent’s summoner as well as put vulnerable archers right in the middle of your swamp where they will be surrounded and eliminated.
It might not be the sexiest collection of events but they’re all pretty solid. And, for the most part, if you aren’t playing them when you draw them they’re not so vital that pitching them immediately for magic is an issue.
These guys are good. For Mugglug, they’re essentially a 2 range, 2 health unit for 2 magic since you’ll almost never attack with them without dancing on or off a vine wall. For those stats, they’re pretty economic. That they’re ranged as well is just icing on the cake. The best part is, since they need to be on your swamp to get their ability, they’re really hard to surround. A lot of the time, they’ll only have one unit to return fire and that two life can get them to last an extra round or two. It’ll allow most of your exchanges to be in your favour and if you’re winning exchanges, then you’re winning the economy game.
The Savager is a rather fearsome unit, coming in with stats that are comparable to cheap champions. Three attack is a pretty big threat for champions and summoners alike and their Fear ability makes it a tricky proposition for melee units to retaliate. Fear is more likely than not to fail, so if you’re facing these brutal shock troopers, it’s often in your best interest to go for the attack anyway. Especially if the alternative is letting the Savager rampage through your forces. Course, ranged units are able to attack without the worry of running away in fear but Savagers also eat ranged units if they managed to catch up to them.
A point of interest is that the Savager doesn’t natively have any way to traverse the vine walls so is at mercy of getting stuck in them and picked off by ranged units as the enemy is. Course, you can rescue them with Ambush or, typically, just summon them on the edge of the swamp and run these guys into your enemy’s ranks. Savagers definitely make up for the lack of champion play on the Swamp Orc side so their prohibitive cost isn’t nearly as problematic in other decks that want to play their champions.
I feel like Shamans are a little underrated. Partly because they’re competing with Hunters and Savagers for your precious magic and, in comparison, the greater damage output from the other two are hard to pass up. Shamans mostly live to die and grow your swamp further, however they’re a pretty resilient unit in their own right. Requiring a 5 or 6 to hit is no insignificant amount and these guys can hold a flank like no other common. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of situations where you need to stuff a flank especially since you’ve got Vine Walls to accomplish the same and Vine Walls don’t give magic when they’re destroyed.
As a third common, they’re not the worst and you can get the odd one to hold up a champion longer than he’s worth. Mostly, though, these guys will be going to your magic pile for fuel or summoned for a vine wall instead. Ultimately, that 1 attack just holds them back too much like most single attack range units.
And here we have a prime example of why you don’t play Swamp Orc champions. Blerg is overpriced for his stats, offering you the same threat as a Hunter but at melee and for more than three times the cost. Adaptive is certainly not worth the extra two magic that Blerg is priced beyond expectation, especially since it takes additional magic to use. If you’re looking at giving him 3 attack, you’ve now sunk 8 magic into the guy – and made him more valuable to kill to boot.
That said, his heal does trigger without spending the magic but at two attack, you’re likely looking to have other units set up the kill or he’s killing commons. Issue is, the Swamp Orc commons are already good at killing commons.
Blerg is nearly the cost of two Savagers and chances are those two Savagers would probably get you further than this Swamp Orc that trips over vines.
Glarg is the exception to the rule. He is fantastic. For one more magic you can have twice the health of a Savager. He’s a super hunter and you should play him as such. Glarg is certainly the champion I try to get out every game and is the other reason that Mugglug at 5 magic is so scary. At a moment’s notice, a Glarg or Savager could emerge from those vine walls and start wreaking havoc.
Glarg is less exciting without Vine Wall support, however. He certainly isn’t as good in the Swamp Orc bad match-ups or reaching around walls you haven’t fully enveloped. He is the first in a line of Swamp Orc champions that work really well in the vines and so long as you’ve grown a good swamp, he’ll help you secure a victory. Also, he does stack with Ambush for scary 4 range attack turns assuming you’re standing on a Vine Wall.
Splub is, yet again, a little too expensive for what he does. Seven magic is a large investment and all Splub brings to the table is more Vine Walls. Mugglug, however, isn’t really in need of help in that department. His events and ability give Vine Walls readily enough and having an ability strictly for growing the swamp means that in champion versus champion engagements, Splub will likely lose out to those that are geared more towards the killing.
He does have three attack, however, which is a good base. And if you were ever in a situation where you need to generate Vine Walls, Splub is definitely adept at it. He just fills a niche that Mugglug doesn’t need to fill. I’m not even certain I’d deck build him because it seems more cost effective to work around the Swamp Orc summoners’ abilities for generating walls than spending lots of magic on it.
For the most part, the Swamp Orcs are pretty straightforward. I think this really lends to their popularity and their success. There aren’t unintuitive tricks you need to master with this deck. You aren’t handicapping yourself by focusing on commons and cheap champions while throwing out your events and marching your forces towards your enemy. That you get such strong units for your magic makes each summon a threat as well.
Mugglug is simply a good, well-rounded summoner. His weak base champions are easily ignored. The only blemish are those handful of decks that just ruin his swamps with hardly any effort. But if he isn’t facing his arch nemeses then chances are he’ll be playing with defenders advantage even if he’s halfway across the board.
And it’s really easy for enemies to get bogged down and drown in Mugglug’s murky waters.