Board Gaming, Strategeries

Thunderstone Advance Strategy 4: Caverns of Bane – Heroes

CoBCaverns of Bane is the first expansion into the Thunderstone Advance era. You can see the breakdows for Towers of Ruin here, here and here.  Towers of Ruin, being a base set, needed to keep pretty basic. In Caverns of Bane, we had less of these restrictions for design so we got to get creative with what we were introducing. This post will introduce the 7 new Heroes in Caverns of Bane.

The Disowned set is not the first time that Thunderstone has ever touched on a Berserker style fighter, but definitely the best one so far.
Disowned Berserker (level 1) 6 Gold, 6 bone crushing Strength, Physical Attack +2. The Berserker is a disaster waiting to happen. An awesome disaster. With that amazing Strength, she can wield a Dwarven Bear Hammer at Level 1! Which she could anyway because of her Dwarfiness. The thing that makes her interesting is her, ummm… “ability.” Aftermath: Destroy 1 other hero. Oooh, Aftermath. That’s an effect normally seen on Monsters, happening after the point where you are done with your actions.  That means it’s not optional to activate. It’s also the very first Hero (or any card available for purchase) to ever have an Aftermath timed effect. The good news is, Aftermath happens after the Monster combat is resolved. This means that Regular is going to help you fight, even though after the fight,  the Berserker, still caught in the throes of bloodlust will slaughter him. Hooray! Combined with some other Monsters that eat Heroes, this is a pretty quick way to chew through your Regulars. Just make sure that you’re paying close attention because this can quickly become a liability after you run out of chaff.
Disowned Reaver (level 2) is a beast. her cost only goes up to 8 Gold, her Physical Attack jumps to +5 (Only the Criochan has such a dramatic shift from 1 to 2). Her Strength stays 6, because apparently Dwarves rarely get stronger as they level. Her ability becomes proactive, which is delightful. Dungeon: Destroy a hero. This is fantastic in that A: It’s optional. She will clear out any Regulars still hanging out, and put down any rabid Level 1 Berserkers that are threatening to kill better heroes. She can even kill herself this way, though there are very few situations where you would actually want to do that. Bear in mind that Dungeon abilities activate before combat, so whomever she murderizes is going to be a big crybaby and not help fight.  She also has Aftermath: If equipped, destroy 1 other hero. So, barehanded, she’s a cold, deliberate, methodical killer of her own party. Give her a weapon and she loses control. Got it. It’s still optional in that you don’t have to give her a weapon, but if you do, you’ll pay for it later, probably with a smile on your face. It even happens in Aftermath, so it’s after you’ve slagged a baddie. This is a really solid Level 2, but is of course bested by…
Disowned Bloodrager (Level 3). 11 Gold. 7 Str 1 VP. Physical Attack +8. So she keeps up with the Criochan here, and then gets crazy. She can equip two Weapons. With her awesome Strength, there are very few Weapons in the whole game she will not be able to equip. That’s not even the best part. Aftermath: Destroy all other heroes. Put this card on top of your deck. You may be thinking “What the actual fuck, she kills all of my other dudes? Dealbreaker.” but truthfully, this is SO worth it. 1. Climbing the Disowned chain, you probably don’t have a lot of Heroes anyway. 2. She’s a Physical Attack +8 BEAST. 3. She can equip two Weapons, which helps because you were killing all of the Heroes to spread those weapons out against. 4. As long as you are heading to the Dungeon (which you should be frequently at this point in the game) SHE COMES BACK EVERY TURN. She is, in short, a lawnmower. Once you get her in hand, if you ever go back to the Village, something has gone terribly wrong. It’s important to remember that if you invest in the Disowned stack, Light has a higher premium, as you will likely have a very low Hero count.
The Forcemage hero set has the potential to be a high-octane powerhouse of wizardry, depending on the other cards in the Village, but is dicey and costly. 
Forcemage Shaper (level 1) is 8 Gold. Oof. Forcemage Shaper and Spellsword Venturer are the most expensive level 1 Heroes we’ve seen in Thunderstone Advance. He’s got a mighty Strength of 3 (which isn’t bad for a Wizard) and Magic Attack +2. He also gets an additional Magic Attack +1 for each Spell present. As a general rule, I like cards that promote synergy like this. I want Spells, this guy encourages me to buy Spells and rewards me for doing so. Cool. This said, he doesn’t glow, is more expensive than Thundermage, and his getting better is dependent on other draws. Hrm.   
Forcemage Evoker (level 2) OK, so with a name like that, we want to see this hero step on the gas, which the Evoker does. His Strength stays the same unsurprisingly. He tips the scales at a hefty 11 Gold while his Magic Attack increases to +3. Ummm…where’s the beef? In his ability. Dungeon: Draw a card. If it is a Spell, draw an additional card and gain Magic Attack +1. So, let’s stop here and talk for a second about the very architecture of deckbuilding games as a whole. It is my firm belief that the single most powerful ability in any deckbuilder is the ability to choose and remove cards from your deck, because it increases consistency in you drawing what you want to draw. It’s why Innkeeper is the clear winner of the Villagers in Towers of Ruin. That said, hot on its heels is card draw. Card draw sometimes whiffs on what you want to draw, but never truly misses in that it always accelerates your reshuffle and saves you from drawing whatever you didn’t want to draw next turn. Back on topic, if you’re buying into Forcemage, odds are, you’re buying into Spells. At worst, this card cantrips, which isn’t so bad. Magic Attack +3 that doesn’t take a slot in your hand  is good times. Hitting a spell makes it official draw power beyond replacing himself and increases his effectiveness. Obviously, again, make sure you have some spells, because whereas a +3 Magic Attack that replaces itself is good, it’s probably not a solid strategy to build on. 
Forcemage Blaster (level 3) says it all right there in the name. At 14 Gold, he’s the most expensive Level 3 yet, not that you should ever have opportunity to outright buy this guy. He gains a completely superfluous Strength boost to 4, 2 VP, and his Magic Attack climbs to a base of +4. His ability is the nuts though. Dungeon: Draw 2 cards, if either of them is a spell, draw an additional card and gain Magic Attack +2. So, wow. So, potentially drawing 3, and with no limitations like on Mass Teleport. and either +4 or +6 Magic Attack from a single card. Hot. I’ve played many a game where this whiffed on spells, but still drew me into other Forcemages and kept the chain going. I may never get an attack bonus from Spells, but drawing other Heroes is just as good if not better, and with rocket-fueled draw power like that, you’ll be repeating turns like that faster than anyone else.
The Patternmage set is one of the MVPs of Caverns of Bane,  and Thunderstone Advance as a whole so far. Her usefulness goes for days. It’s also a hero set I love and hate in equal measure. This set is rock solid from start to finish. 
Patternmage Auger (level 1) costs a somewhat prohibitive 7 Gold, provides Magic Attack +2 and is predictably weak at 2 Strength. Her ability is pretty awesome though. Village/Dungeon: Look at the top 2 cards of your deck. Discard one of them, put the other back on top of your deck. This combos with so many things. It can help ensure your Battle Scarred Soldiers bring warm bodies to the fight or keep Regulars away from the Village when you’re digging for Gold. It helps increase probability that  you’re going to draw a Spell with your Forcemage. It lets you know before choosing your opponent if that Corvaxis or Salamander is going to wreck your face. It puts things in the discard pile for Stablehand to manhandle. It makes sure that any draw effect will have the best outcome of the two available choices. There are 8 gazillion applications for this ability and if I listed them all here, there would be no room for anything else. Outstanding.  
Patternmage Diviner (level 2) is a steal at 9 Gold, not that you will get many opportunities to pay for it. She actually picks up a point of Strength at Level 2, when it might actually matter a little bit, and her Magic Attack climbs to +3. She’s not bad in a strictly physical means as far as Wizards go, but of course, it’s her ability that you’re here for. Village/Dungeon: Look at the top 3 cards of your deck, discard 2 of them, returning the last card to the top of your deck. So, basically, the same thing as her level 1, but with a deeper digging range. Hot. But wait, that’s not all! Dungeon: Draw a card. So, not only is she setting up the best possible draw for any number of situations, but now she’s making sure you get it. The interesting thing here is that with all the various ways to use her searching power, I find that I am rarely actually using her draw power to draw that card. More often, I am using it as a set up for other draw effects, and then hers is just a bonus. Still, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using her just to add the best of the top 3 to the fight.

Patternmage Ordainer (level 3). She’s a brick…HOUSE. 12 Gold, a beefy 4 Strength (that’s pretty good for Wizards) Magic Attack +4, 1 VP . Village/Dungeon: Look at the the top 3 cards of your deck, discard any or all of them, returning the rest to the top of your deck in any order. The bad news is, this can sometimes cause a little bit of analysis paralysis, but not often, as she shouldn’t show up until late game. The good news is that ability is bananas. Oh, and she still has Dungeon: Draw a card. Boosh. 

The Rapparee set takes a different approach to the Thief class than has been seen in previous Thunderstone sets. As opposed to “stealing” through forced discards, he’s the guy you talk to about getting stuff. 
Rapparee Scrounger (level 1) costs 5 Gold, has a 3 Strength and Physical Attack +1. This makes him a Regular without a potential Draw ability. Badass. He also produces 3 Gold, which is a first ever on a first level hero in Thunderstone History. This is a pretty big deal as he allows you do thin out things like Longspear and Torch without crippling your ability to buy things. Cheap 3 Gold producing cards are never a bad thing. 
Rapparee Skimmer (level 2) picks up a point of Strength, a point of Physical Attack (now +2) for the low low cost of 9 Gold. He also picks up the ability Spoils: Buy 1 Item or Weapon. While his stat line isn’t anything to write home about, he’s pretty solid. Yeah, you may be saying “uh, dude? Didn’t you call Bounty Hunter bad?” Yeah, I did. There are a number of differences between this guy and Bounty Hunter. Namely: Rapparee can carry a Weapon. That’s a big deal. Rapparee can get buffed by a Glamercast. Rapparee contributes more Gold. Rapparee contributes more Attack. In a game where you are just hitting the mark fairly often, the difference between +1 and +2 is substantial. Yeah, Rapparee Skimmer is more limited in what he can buy, but honestly, these are likely to be the kinds of cards you want most in midgame anyway. You’ve probably bought most of the Spells or Villagers you want already. Besides, Skimmer has growth potential in that he can become…
Rapparee Looter (level 3) keeps his 4 Strength, increases to 12 Gold cost, and produces 4 Gold. He’s worth 1 VP and his Physical Attack  tops out at +3. His ability gets a significant upgrade. Spoils: Buy a Village card, place it on top of your deck. This is pretty significant for a few reasons. First, by the time you get this guy, you should be able to trigger Spoils pretty consistently. At this point in the game, you’re typically not too interested in adding Village cards to your deck, but the fact that he puts it on top of the deck is HUGE. This means that situationally useful card you can guarantee to be a part of your hand next turn. Further, you didn’t have to spend a turn in the Village to get it. You get it only when you want to, and you don’t take precious Monster killing time to do it. 

In the end, the Rapparee set is all about phat loots. His value is explicitly tied to the presence of powerful expensive cards. If there aren’t any, then Rapparee’s greatest strength goes to waste.
Dwarves in the Tala arc of Thunderstone Advance have a cave-bear thing going on.  They have bear totems, bear themed weapons, etc. The Skinshifter set takes it a step further in that it’s a Cleric that venerates their totem by turning into a werebear. 
Skinshifter Clawhand (level 1) kicks the party off. He’s 7 Gold with a Strength of 3 and a Physical Attack of +1. Most Expensive Regular Ever! He also comes with the ability Dungeon: discard a card to gain Physical Attack +2 and Strength + 1, increasing him to a total of Physical Attack +3. Physical Attack +3 on a first level guy is a pretty rare thing, and you will almost always have a card ready to discard to make this happen. A funny thing about Discarding, it doesn’t follow the same rules as Destroying. You are free to use all the abilities you like and then send the card packing for a bonus. Nice! Battle Scarred Soldier has drawn his card. Awesome, now he gives your Skinshifter an Attack bonus. Discarding is useful for a number of other things. Don’t want to fulfill the destruction clause on that Curse? Cool. Toss it, deal with it later, and get a bonus for the privilege. Have a Monster that you want to kill but he wants to eat a certain kind of card that you don’t want to lose? Protect it by putting it in the discard pile safely out of harm’s way. Solid level 1 hero. 
Skinshifter Mauler (level 2) increases to 10 Gold, gains a point of Strength and a point of Physical Attack raising them to 4 and +2 respectively. His ability remains the same but with better numbers. Dungeon: Discard a card to gain Physical Attack +3 and Strength +2. For those of you keeping score at home, this is a total of +5 Physical Attack and 6 Strength, making him the less murderous equivalent of the Disowned Reaver. Humorously, this also makes the Cleric a considerably better Fighter than the Sternnkin Ettinbane. No wonder they got their asses kicked out of their caves by slime. At this point in the game, you should have Monsters pretty ready to toss with this guy. Solid. 
Skinshifter Terror (level 3) now has a base Strength of 5 – hey, a Dwarf that had Strength growth at all 3 levels, whaddaya know? Physical Attack +4 and 2 VP at the cost of 12 Gold. His ability gets another significant upgrade. Dungeon: Discard or destroy a card to gain Physical Attack +4 and Strength +3. If you destroy a Disease in this fashion, you may use the ability a second time. Now you’re cooking. +8 Physical Attack and 8 Strength puts him on par with the Criochan Captain and the Disowned Bloodrager with the additional power to thin a card. If you happen to have a Disease (and all Curses have the Disease trait), then you can burn it to raise him to a Physical Attack +12 Strength 11 monstrosity, making Skinshifter Terror the best solo hero since Thundermage Bolter. Skinshifter is one of the only heroes with a built in Strength buff, which makes him an excellent carrier for Maul.
The Spellsword set is one of my favorites, but like the Forcemage, his value is directly dependent on the presence of cards that trigger his bonuses, Spells, Magic Items and Magic Weapons. There are currently 17 cards in Thunderstone Advance that trigger Spellsword bonuses, more if you happen to draw a Treasure in your randomizers.   
Spellsword Venturer (level 1) comes with your standard level 1 Fighter 5 Strength and Physical Attack +2 for…oof! 8 Gold. He gains Magic Attack +1 if there is a Spell, Magic Weapon or Magic Item present. So, he can be +3 total Attack at Level 1. That’s nice. He also can satisfy Magic Attack requirements provided one of those keywords is around. Also nice. This bonus pairs rather nicely with Dancing Sword in that he is strong enough to carry it, though his bonus doesn’t care who carries it, or even if it gets carried at all. He’s not particularly weak. He IS on the expensive side, but like always, you’re paying a premium to get into the club. Personally, I prefer buying into Spellsword over Forcemage.  
Spellsword Challenger (level 2) holds steady at 5 Strength and increases to 10 Gold and Physical Attack +3. He also starts glowing with 1 Light! His trait now expands to get a bonus for each of the triggers, making him a much larger threat. Passive bonuses for things you were doing anyway are a win!
Spellsword Vanquisher (level 3) picks up a point of Strength (6) and a point of Physical Attack (+4). He costs 12 Gold, gives you 2 VP and 1 Light. His trait doubles up to make him +2 Magic Attack for every Magic Item, Spell, or Magic Weapon present, which makes him a hoss. With a little luck, you don’t need other Heroes as he effectively makes cards with those keywords pseudo-Dancing Swords. Gotta love heroes that can solo big nasties! He also gains the ability Spoils: Buy 1 Magic Item, Spell, or Magic Weapon. This will probably not be used much at this point in the game, and he’s such a house even without it, but it’s a nice little gimme.
Wrapping up the heroes in Caverns of Bane is a new Ranger, the Tuath
Tuath Tracker (level 1) has your standard Level 1 Ranger package of Physical Attack +2 and a Gold penalty, this time -1. She has a questionable 4 Strength, but she also costs 4 Gold. This makes her the first Hero in Thunderstone Advance to cost less than 5, and she kicks out the jams at +2 Attack for that, with growth potential. Nice!
Tuath Trapper (level 2) picks up that missing point of Strength, now 5, gains a point of Physical Attack, now +3 and costs 8 Gold, maintaining her -1 Gold Penalty. She also picks up a red hot ability Dungeon: Place a Monster on the bottom of the Dungeon deck. Refill the hall. Game clock control is a HUGE thing, and one of the easiest things to mismanage. Just like any timed score-based game, when you’re ahead, you want to run the clock out as fast as you can. It’s important that you don’t just use this ability flippantly because you don’t like the Monster choices. It can be okay, and you can get away with this, but if you’re not pretty sure you’re ahead on points, it doesn’t help you to bring your loss one turn closer.
Tuath Banisher (level 3) increases her Gold penalty to -2 (the horror!), her Strength climbs to 6 and her Physical Attack jumps to a respectable +5. She also one of the only Level 3 Heroes worth 3 VP, the other being Whetmage.  She keeps her ability from level 2 with an add-on. Dungeon: Place a Monster on the bottom of the Dungeon deck. Refill the hall. Ignore Darkness penalties. Sweet! Whatever new monster shows is going to do so in the furthest rank, which presents no additional difficulty for you! If you’re buying into this stack, hopefully you’ve been taking advantage of the speed offered by cheap Heroes with high Attack values and speeding towards game end. If this flips the Thunderstone Bearer, the additional ignoring of Darkness penalities may be enough to bag the boss and end the game. Suck it, Elf Archmage! 
Next time we look at the Village cards for Caverns of Bane and play combos. Questions? Comments? You know what to do.


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