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Shadow Era TCG  »  Articles  »  SE Strategy: Race vs Attrition, Control Decks, and Inevitability
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(This is a guest article by He-Man, which originally appeared here.)


As a follow up to the Who's the Beatdown article, and an excellent comment on inevitability by NinjaDucky over on the forum, I figured I'd also do a write-up on this subject. As not everyone in this community speaks Magic: The Gathering (MtG), I have translated it to SE. It is based on articles originally written for MtG, by Jeff Cunningham and Ben Rubin, so credits go to them for initially summarizing the conceptual ideas herein, and any direct quotes come from these articles.

Race versus Attrition

In MtG, generally two types of gameplay can be recognized. The first is the race, where you try to achieve your win condition (a combo, a fatty, quick massive damage, or something else that will win you the game) before your opponent does. The second is a "duel of attrition". Here, players trade threats and counters (e.g., allies and ally removal) until one deck runs out of steam from which point the other player has an easy road to the finish line. Both types of play also occur in SE, but the current rules (such as first strike for all allies, and the ability to decide which ally to attack) and cards strongly skew the game towards the race type of gameplay, which is why the matches are relatively quick, and not drawn out too long.

Control Decks

Control decks focus on the other type of gameplay: attrition. They are built to draw out the early and mid games, and come up with a win condition in the mid to late game. At this point, race decks have usually already run out of steam.

Characteristics of control decks are:

  1. Removing threats at a reduced cost compared to the opponent's investment. This means, (a) spending less resources to nullify a card than your opponent spent to play that card (e.g., playing Crippling Blow on a Brutal Minotaur), or, (b) spending less cards to remove a larger number of your opponent's cards (e.g., Lightning Strike on 2 Puwens).

  2. Not playing early threats. All early plays are geared towards countering any threats of the opponent. This in turn creates what is called "virtual card advantage", as the opponent will be left with a bunch of useless cards in his/her hand. (Say, if he/she has a Flaming Arrow, but you do not play any allies, that is a dead card for him/her.)

  3. Focused on disrupting synergies. (E.g., if you destroy the allies on the board, your opponent cannot do anything with his/her Life Infusion.) This is often more a skill of the pilot than a charachteristic of the stack of cards.

  4. Dragging out the game. This is the whole point of a control deck. They answer anything you throw at them, until you are out of rocks. Then they throw a whole mountain all at once.

The logic behind characteristics 1 and 2 is explained in an earlier thread.

Control decks are generally more complicated to build and require a lot of experience and skill to successfully pilot, which is why many advanced players like them so much. As of yet, the only thing in SE that we could call control decks are the Killtrend's Zaladar, and other versions that aim to mill the opponent, and some of the priest decks. It is my hope that more control decks will show up in SE in the future.


"Inevitability is the strategic consideration that, all things being equal, one deck will beat another given enough time." This situation may have arisen because of a specific situation on the board, it may due to specific cards in a player's deck or hand, or it may be an intrinsic aspect of the match up between two heroes. In other words, if you do not have inevitability, you will lose the game if you do not take action. Thus, you are on a clock to kill your opponent. It follows from this, that whoever does not have inevitability, inevitably has to play the beatdown.

Which deck has inevitability can be looked at, and may change, at various points during the game:

  1. During deck building. If you are playing an aggro/beatdown-style hero and deck, certain cards are not a good fit for such a deck. This is why I for instance do not like to run a card like Aeon in a Boris or Amber deck. Aeon is a control-style card, while the rest of the deck is geared towards aggro. The King's Pride is also an interesting card in this respect. It has all the style of an "inevitability card". It could be included in an aggro-style warrior deck, but, imho, the only right time to play KP is when it wins you the game that turn or the next. Otherwise, at that casting cost, you are better off playing 2 allies.

  2. At the start of the game. As a rule of thumb, you could state that the more aggressive a deck is (as predicted by the hero), the less its chance of having inevitability. This is because aggro decks usually pack a lot of quick, low-cost cards that can deal a lot of damage early, but they tend to run out of gas mid to late game.

  3. After seeing your opening hand and the first few turns. This is the point of the game where initial board control is established, and the early situation on the board strongly affects inevitability in SE.

  4. Mid to late game. Here several factors have to be taken into consideration: (a) life total (the hero with high life will take risks and race the one with low life), (b) cards and resources available (card advantage really starts to weigh at this point in the game), (c) "degree of trump" (will the card you are waiting to draw/play just further your advantage, or will it immediately win you the game--if the latter is the case, you play far more controlling than when the former is the case), and (d) risk (what is the chance racing your opponent will actually work out for you?).


Observant readers probably already figured out that with the current limited card pool and relatively simple metagame, not having inevitability, and playing the beatdown, is generally a consequence of choices made during deck building, and of whether you are going first or second. This is a major difference from the situation in (far further developed) MtG, where deck building also plays a major role, but where board and hand situations often arise that strongly affect inevitability. Hopefully, with further development and the release of many more cards, similar layers of strategy will be (further) added to SE in the nearby future.

Again, hope this has been insightful, and please leave comments and ask questions if you have any!

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