Here is a complete analysis for the non-hero cards in Thunderstone Advance: Caverns of Bane. Other analysis/strategy articles for Thunderstone Advance can be seen here, here, here and here. Caverns of Bane is a fantastic expansion to the game, let’s look at some of the cards that explain why.
Animal Talisman is a cool card. It costs 3 Gold, and produces 0 . See what I mean about cool? It also has the ability Dungeon: Add one of these to a hero: Magic Attack +2 OR Light +2 OR Strength +4. So, a lot of flexibility at a low cost. That’s pretty rad. It duplicates and strengthens the effects of 3 of your basic cards while taking less room in your deck. It gives you more Strength than a Thunderstone Shard, more Light than a Torch, and more Attack power than a Longspear. It’s also a Magic item for Spellsword. It’s what you need it to be at the time pending different circumstances. 2 Light for 3 Gold is good. 2 Magic Attack for 3 Gold is good. The Strength will not see a lot of action, but when you do need it, it shines. Here are the issues with the card as I see them: First, it takes a Hero in order for it to do anything. It doesn’t glow on its own like a Torch, it doesn’t add Attack value on its own like a Spell. Without a hero, this is a completely dead card. Secondly, it’s a jack of all trades…which means it’s a master of none. Its flexibility is awesome, its effects are not weak, but not exactly something to write home about. If I’m adding a card to my deck, I want fireworks. It does bear mention that Animal Talisman does pair nicely with the Disowned set, as it provides light, can help you get past Magic Attack restrictions, doesn’t take a Weapon slot, and doesn’t get murdered to death by your Hero.
Bloodhound is one of the few Mercenaries I really like. It costs 5 Gold and produces 2 Gold. It has two abilities, Dungeon: Physical Attack +2 if at least one hero is present. Dungeon: Physical Attack +1 if at least one other Blood hound is present. So, easy potential for +3 Physical Attack for 5 Gold? And it produces 2? And it’s immune to Hero killing nonsense? Release the hounds! It’s not the most powerful strategy, but it is pretty consistent and easy. Great card for all players, but especially new ones who haven’t quite grasped the deeper complexities yet. Bloodhounds, being man’s best friend, go really well with the Disowned set. She’ll kill everyone else in her party, but she’s got a soft spot for animals.
Castellan isn’t your grandpa’s Town Guard. At 7 Gold with no Monster slaying power, he’s a pretty hefty investment. He comes with 2 abilities, Village: Draw 3 cards. Village: Destroy Castellan to draw 3 cards. You may buy an additional card this turn. So, you sacrifice a turn (and a lot of money) to make future Village visits more productive. As the game is Dungeon-centric, this sounds like it’s not great, but it’s pretty solid. By itself, the worst this can do is refresh your options faster and increase your buying power by half a turn each. Admittedly, Village draw power when you have a lot of Regulars is annoying and somewhat non-productive, but you get the cards you want to see faster too. When you decide to cash him in for his second ability, you are getting a full refund on your initial investment, as you are getting 2 turns worth of cards and 2 purchases. Castellan is also a powerhouse for other Village abilities, pairing your cannibalistic Innkeepers with your Regulars faster. Or Castellan plus Historian to quickly turn your Regulars into rock stars. Use him with Hysterical Villager to accelerate into outright buying higher level heroes (I don’t actually recommend that one, but it is there) Really, most Village abilities are augmented by Castellan by virtue of frequency. Castellan is an early game powerhouse, and one of the best turn one purchases available in Thunderstone Advance, provided you get the 7 /3 Gold split. While his usefulness is short-lived, it’s high-powered.
Charm of Venery presents an interest set of questions and decisions. It is a Magic item, which makes Spellsword happy. It costs 2 Gold, produces 2 Light AND is worth 2 VP! This makes it the first non-hero card in Thunderstone Advance that allows you to straight up buy VP. And it glows! Just one little hitch, if it’s in your hand, you can’t go to the Village. So if it shows up at an inopportune moment, it may cost you an opportunity to Level someone up. (Whetmage enthusiasts rejoice!) Light is only rarely useful past 3, so buy too heavily in and it not only keeps you out of the Village, but it decreases your Dungeon effectiveness as well. Still, 2 VP and 2 Light for 2 Gold is not something you want to be left completely out of. Knowing how many to buy is the key to success with this card. I normally will buy 1 or 2, but not until early midgame. If the boss is in the hall and you can’t fight a Monster, it’s a no-brainer to pick up 2 VP in the Village unless you’re ahead and want to shuffle the boss to the front ASAP.
Dwarven Ale reintroduces Food to Thunderstone Advance. It costs 5 Gold and produces 2. It’s a decent party buff by means of Dungeon: Your heroes gain +1 Physical Attack and +1 Strength. Just like real life! Fulfilling racial stereotypes, Dwarves in Tala are alcoholics without a shred of self-restraint. Trophy: Destroy Dwarven Ale (or as they call it, “Ale”) to give a Dwarf hero +4 Physical Attack. This is a Trophy effect, so if it can be activated, it must be. This can be a strong pump, and if you draft Dwarf heroes, it can be used proactively. Additionally, while a Trophy must be activated, you still choose the order of activated abilities, so you can get the whole party tipsy before Stumpy gets chugging and turns violent. It bears mention that just because you’re not in the Dungeon doesn’t mean you can’t activate the Trophy. If you’re in the Village, your dwarf is getting drunk, costing you some money that turn, and not even punching anyone in the face.
Force Blast sounds way cooler than it is. It’s an offense spell for 7 Gold with 2 abilities. Dungeon: Magic Attack +2 and Dungeon: +1 Light for each level of one Wizard present. So, one one hand, I like things that are cool. A spell that gets more effective when paired with a Wizard. Thematic, nice! On the other hand, I like things that are effective. If I don’t have a Wizard, it’s a Summon Storm that doesn’t produce light, can’t stack itself in the Village and costs 1 Gold more. Even if I do have a Wizard, it has to be midlevel in order to beat out Summon Storm in Light output. Even with a 3rd level Wizard kicking out 3 Light, this still only puts out Magic Attack +2, and at a certain point, Light stops mattering. It’s not a terrible Spell, but it’s pretty far from great.
Historian is the modern day equivalent to Trainer, which may be one of the most brokenest cards then ever done broked a break. However, when you’re dealing with a card that feels Trainer-y, even a watered down version is pretty hot. 4 Gold in, 2 Gold out, and two abilities. Village: If a Hero is present, gain 1 XP. Village: Destroy Historian to draw an additional card after refilling your hand. So, you DEFINITELY want to buy into this stack, but the real question is, how hard do you want to buy in? Personally, I go, 2, on rare occasions 3, pending other cards, but never higher. His 2 Gold production will help you buy more heroes for him to level, and he’ll help you turn your Regulars into better things. When you’re ready to go break some asses in the Dungeon, he even gives you a super-size hand to do it. Skip this guy at your own peril. Castellan + Historian makes for exciting Village turns.
Liveoak Staff is a Weapon totally made for Wizards. 5 Gold cost, 2 Gold Production, 1 Weight. Just one. Physical Attack +6!. Oh wait, there’s more on the card. Subtract the Hero’s Strength from the Attack value of this weapon. Well…ok. This thing is still red-hot. Equipped to a Regular, it’s 3 Physical Attack that produces 2 Gold. Liveoak Staff is the key to making the level 1 Whetmage work, as you’ll be able to collect some early XP cracking skulls with this. In a Wizard heavy game, this may allow you to overlook many or their arcane abilities. However, in a Fighter heavy game, this sinks to largely unplayable.
Owl Eyes is an interesting spell. It costs a reasonable 4 Gold and has the ability Dungeon: Ignore Darkness Penalties. You also suffer Attack -2 for every point of Light you have. Neat, a reversal of how Light works. Thin out your Torches and this makes for a much for card-effective Light solution. Don’t buy this if you buy Heroes that glow. Doi. This is a great combo with the Caliginite set, as you’ll be able to trigger all of their Attack buffs without them having to compensate for Darkness Penalties. Pretty straightforward. Extra value if you’re playing with things that extend the Dungeon like the Dryad Monster group.
Reckless Conjure is a pretty fantastic card that for whatever reason people are terrified of. Let’s clear up some misconceptions about this card. A utility spell that costs 5 Gold with the ability: Dungeon: Draw 2 Cards. Discard 4 cards. So, right off tips, it sounds like a losing proposition, right? You’re losing double what you’re gaining. This was something you had to expect with a card with “Reckless” in the title. Here’s why it’s good. As I referenced with the Skinshifter, Discarding does not follow the same rules as Destroying. Once a card has outlived it’s usefulness, send it packing. Starting with this one. That’s right, you drew your 2 cards, what more do you want out of this? Unless the Attack bonus generated by a Forcemage or Spellsword due to this card’s presence is the difference between beating a Monster or getting chewed up, discarding this is a no brainer, so already you’re down to only having to discard 3. This card shines in mid-late game when you have Monsters and Curses to chuck. Combo with Patternmage to increase the odds of a strong draw. At absolute worst, this card should bring you closer to a reshuffle. Actually, that’s not true. At worst, you went into the Dungeon when you had absolutely no business doing so under the idea that “hey, I’m going to draw 2 cards so maybe it’ll work out.” This is the kind of use that gives a great card a bad reputation. Don’t be that guy.
Seedbomb is way cool and a card that gets overlooked way too often. A Magic Weapon that costs 4 Gold and produces 2. It has a very accessible weight of 3 and provides Magic Attack +2. So, the goods: 2 Gold, 3 Weight and +2 Magic Attack for 4 Gold are just solid numbers. Able to be carried by Regulars and most Wizards and it helps you get over Magic Attack requirements and makes Spellsword happy. AND it has a solid ability. React: When you level up a hero, destroy Seedbomb to place the lower level hero in your discard pile instead of destroying it. How many times have you felt a twinge of regret upgrading your 2nd level to a 3rd? Yes, the 3rd level is almost universally better than the 2nd, but some of those 2nds are damn good, and you hate to see them go. With a Seedbomb, you don’t have to. Now, it goes without saying that anyone who uses this to save a Regular or any level 1 Hero needs to culled from the gene pool for the good of the species. Seedbomb and Disowned are the very definition of nonbo. Look through your Heroes and see how much synergy there is between your 2nds and 3rds and how happy they would play together. In many cases, they don’t get to much because the 2nd is the cost for obtaining the 3rd. In a sense, buying a Seedbomb is like paying 4 Gold for a Level 2 Hero. I’m curious to look around now and see what are the best case scenarios for Seedbomb. Off the top of my head, I know I love to use them on Spellsword, Tuath and Woodguard. Forcemage is probably a good call for them as well. Hmmm…
Taproot Blade – 6 Gold, a delightful 4 Weight (this opens a LOT of doors) and 2 Gold Production. It has Magic Attack +1 and the ability: Dungeon: Destroy a card to add Magic Attack +2 and 1 Light. Curiously, despite it providing zero Physical Attack and having an ability where it drinks the life essence of something until it crumbles into dust and then GLOWS…this is NOT a Magic Weapon (Spellsword is confused.) (Also, it would appear that Unicron had Taproot Blades). What it is is a Cleric in sword form. When you activate it, it’s Magic Attack +3 and Light 1 on most non-Wizard heroes. This is hot the same way Drua is, and cools off the same way Drua does. Still, an excellent purchase.
Thorn Caltrops round out the Weapons and conclude the Village analysis of Caverns of Bane. In a rarity for Weapons, they do not produce any Gold. With 1 Weight, it is equippable by everyone who can equip Weapons, which is important if you want to use the ability. It has the trait Cancel Raid effects, which is super nice as anyone who has been caught unawares by a nasty one can tell you, but in the whole of the Tala arc of Thunderstone Advance, there are only 6 Monsters with a Raid ability, so the odds of you getting hit by one are at absolute worst 27%, and that’s if all 6 Monsters (which are in 3 different groups) are present. If someone gets hit by a Raid effect while they have Thorn Caltrops in hand, they should probably leave the game to go buy lottery tickets. Tehy might even enjoy more success with that game than they are here if they’re buying Thorn Caltrops. It also has the ability Dungeon: Destroy to cancel 1 Battle effect. We’ve seen this before, and it was in the worst hero in Towers of Ruin, the Veilminder. What’s more, Veilminder is actually preferable to this. Veilminder can gain more Attack power, equip Weapons and protect you from Aftermath effects as well. So like Veilminder, the only time you should really buy this card is if there are some Monsters with super-nasty abilities on them, otherwise, don’t waste your time. Belac may be a royal pain in the ass, but he alone is not worth buying into this. …unless it’s being topdecked by Rapparee.
Thanks for reading, if you have questions or comments, you know what to do. Next up, the heroes of Root of Corruption, the rug that ties the Tala room together.