Monday, October 20, 2014

Wiz-War streamlined magic deck

This is proposal for a reformed 85 card magic deck which incorporates cards from the Malefic Curses and Bestial Forces expansions. The goal is to remove card redundancy found in the schools, ensuring some uniqueness in the magic deck composition using the expanded pool available, as well as giving a more concentrated experience for those who are either beginning or infrequent players of Wiz-War, while still being fun for vets to play.

It mimics the "big book of spells" special rule in a way, yet is more deliberate and calculated in how and with what it is constructed.
80-90 cards seems to be a sweet spot where the deck is large enough that you aren't guaranteed to see every card in every game unless it runs long and the deck is reshuffled, but small enough to where variety is ensured between the 2-4 player scale, eliminating the major shortcoming of the "big book of spells" special rule, who has a more negative impact as expansions are released and the average odds of good distribution are reduced.

To facilitate this goal, with the help of trial and error, was to consider the criteria of what comprises the fundamental hook that makes Wiz-War a subjectively attractive and compelling game experience on an intrinsic and even extrinsic level.

  • The expectation of a covenant formed between players for light-hearted, mutually assured schadenfreude.
  • Static and dynamic game state manipulation at a highly interactive and creative level. (Modifying the board during the game and having a chance to respond to modifications made. From the creation and destruction of obstacles on the board, to attacking and countering in order to attempt to thwart opponents goals.)
  • Granting meaningful agency on a primary level where actions are immediately resolved, that consequently allows for quicker gameplay and less player frustration at what the random card draw has granted them as choices for their actions. As opposed to secondary or tertiary level where the agency relies on specific conditions arising before the action can be instituted. (An "Add" spell which relies on multiple energy cards in hand before the choice to use it becomes relevant, for example.)
  • Unique variety offered when redundancy is drastically reduced. This is made possible with the 2 noted expansions with the increased card pool and the interesting designs with them.

With these criteria in mind, the following justifications of choices are submitted for your consideration:

The historical magic deck ratio was roughly:
Neutral 45%
Numbers 25%
Counters 8%
Attack 22%

Yet, as we see in the link above regarding ratios, its not as simple as that. We can't just throw all straight damage cards into the attack category, we have to add something less boring. Half of the attack deck wwas comprised of spells that were PITA (pain in the ass) and screwed with your opponents in interesting and fun ways. Same goes for each other category as well.

The one major departure in FFG's 8th edition that we must address is how energy has changed. You get a lot more energy through hybrid magic/energy cards now. But unless it is random energy, it never goes above 3 and averages at about 2.5 on the whole. Since you cannot combine 2 energy cards without the aid of a third to power a fourth or boost speed, and it sacrifices a likely needed potential game effect, I feel that trade-off is fair. The energy amount is still high, but still reasonable. This is the main reason why I only added 10 energy in 85 cards. Because 20+ other cards are hybrids.

So the ratios now look a bit like this 8th edition deck proposal:
Neutral 49% (this counts for neutral, neutral/counter, and items combined)
Energy 12%
Counters 14%
Attack 25%

This may seem like a considerable boost to the counters category, but again, the ratios only tell half the story, inside we find more utility cards such as fools gold and ward, and others that thwart in interesting ways other than merely straight denial. Its still only 12 card, about only half of which have a direct denial approach. In line with how the deck classically worked.

This gave a good starting point in which to tweak the deck to test it out. Below is the culmination of those many games in the last several months, adding and removing cards as expansions are released.

Neutral: 31
Around the Corner (cantrip)
Astral Projection (mentalism)
Bone Armor (necromancy)
Boneyard (necromancy)
Booby Trap (conjuring)
Chaos Claws (chaos)
Create Door (conjuring)
x3 Create Wall (cantrip, conjuring, elemental)
x2 Destroy Wall (cantrip, elemental)
x2 Dispel (cantrip, conjuring)
Dust Cloud (conjuring)
Glue (conjuring)
Mad Dash (transformation)
x2 Meditate (mentalism)
Mist Body (elemental)
Nevermind (chaos)
Pass Through Wall (thaumaturgy)
Prismatic Mist (chaos)
Rosebush (conjuring)
Rotate Sector (cantrip)
Stone Block (elemental)
Stone Spikes (elemental)
Strength (transformation)
Thornbush (conjuring)
Treasure Lust (draconic)
Wallivore (transformation)

Neutral/Counter: 4 cards
Invisible (thaumaturgy)
Pain Link (mentalism)
Teleport (mentalism)
Wall of Fire (elemental)

Counter: 12 cards
Absorb Spell (mentalism)
Backlash (thaumaturgy)
Counter Curse (hexcraft)
Delay Death (necromancy)
Dispeleport (chaos)
Featherweight (transformation)
Fool's Gold (alchemy)
Full Shield (cantrip)
Magic Resistance (draconic)
Mercy of Quetzalcoatl (mythology)
Negate Neutral (cantrip)
Ward (conjuring)

Attack: 21 cards
Brain Burn (mentalism)
Chaos Shards (chaos)
Curse of Ice (hexcraft)
Embrace of Jorogumo (mythology)
Fireball (elemental)
Fire Darts (conjuring)
Globe of Pain (thaumaturgy)
Ka-Bong! (conjuring)
Lightning Bolt (elemental)
Medusa's Gaze (mythology
Mental Force (mentalism)
Mind Meld (chaos)
Prismatic Bolt (chaos)
Prismatic Storm (chaos)
Screaming Skull (necromancy)
Siren Song (mythology)
Swap (conjuring)
Terrify (hexcraft)
Thought Steal (mentalism)
Winged Strike (draconic)
Yoink! (Thaumaturgy)

Items: 7 cards
Handful of Tacks (conjuring)
Dagger (thaumaturgy)
Fire Cloak (elemental)
Null Powder (alchemy)
Powerstone (alchemy)
Universal Solvent (alchemy)
Wizardblade (thaumaturgy)

Energy: 10 cards
x4 "Four" (conjuring, elemental)
x2 "Five" ( conjuring, elemental)
"Six" (cantrip)
Random Energy:
x2 "D4+2" (chaos)
"D4+3" (chaos)

That sums it up. Give it a shot. The worst that can happen is that your group didn't find it enjoyable, but at least you explored another avenue to approach having fun. And that is never a bad thing. Let me know how it works out for your group, good or bad.

The rest of this article is just me blathering on about why certain card choices were made and other suggestions to tweak it. If that doesn't spark your interest, then consider this article complete.

Still here? Welcome to trying to follow my stream of concious as I attempt to vomit out coherent and complete thoughts.

The choices from the schools are fairly lopsided, with conjuring school having the strongest showing with 15 cards taken from it, with chaos school a close second at 12 and elemental school at third with 11. These three schools make up nearly half the deck.

Conjuring is essential in my opinion, predominantly because of the obstacles and a few other key spells within it.

Chaos' strong showing is mainly due to effects that are interesting tweaks on classic ideas. Choas also offers a bit more randomness in their effects and energy generation. Randomness in this form is not a bad way to implement design space, as it helps replay value for certain effects with the lack of predictability. For many, this just translates to more fun. I would even go so far as to say that the chaos school is the essence of the game, distilled into 24 cards.

Cantrips aren't completely used, as spells like pick lock were just too situational to warrant a spot in an 85 card deck. Space is too precious when swiss army knife utility spells like universal solvent work more readily for general purposes.

Cards which rely on specific situations are a double edged sword. Their inclusion needs to be minimal, and their effects need to be good enough. You dont want spells in hand that you feel have no purpose. It makes for a longer, unsatisfying game when you are carrying a card that equals dead weight. Hence spells like pick lock are out. Master key, if you really must be able to open opponents doors, is the key choice for inclusion. (No pun intended)

Bluffing, which is a fairly important player generated component of an experienced meta game, is also enhanced with the omission of such situational cards. The chances are greater that an opponent will likely have a relevant card to play in response. So bluffing works a lot better.

Cards which effect more than one wizard or creature or object as it is cast also seem to enhance the experience. It makes the game a bit quicker as well, and makes the interaction deeper. There are at least a half dozen cards in the deck which were eventually included because of this quality.

The attack cards I had some difficulty with "balancing" out. I wanted to include more interesting damage effects, but you can't have a wizard battle without a fireball or a lightning bolt. The more "asshole" cards were what gave me fits. Thought steal, mind meld, brain burn, etc. are fun, but reducing card advantage is almost as painful as losing a turn for some people, especially new players.

Counters were even more difficult to decide what cards get used, as it is a very tight supply. So after the energy was reduced because of hybrids, everything was boosted a few percent and counters were given the largest boost. Only to include interesting counters through evasion and reduction, as straight denial in cancellation is not the most fun and should be rare. Yet absolutely should exist.

Anything that reduces how effective treasure running is in the game will always be welcome in the deck though, without prejudice.

Here are a few supplemental deck ideas we've been using to take the basic 85 card deck to 100, with the addition of 15 card thematic "packs" that change the gameplay drastically.. The fundamental feel of the foundation deck is still there, but results will be greatly skewed as the percentages are not adhered to. These are merely for the sake of adding or reinforcing a specific theme that a group may enjoy.

It works much like adding and removing schools to the deck, yet are more focused in how they are utilized. Redundancy occurring only when absolutely required. These examples should be a decent starting point to create your own thematic supplements.

"Mechanic deck":
Eye of horus
Hermes sandals
Ilmarinens astrolabe
Thors hammer
Stone dead
Extra arms
Just a fun diversion by adding 10 more items, including the 4 powerful relics, and ways to deal with them or better utilize them. Using them reminds me of a character in Robert Aspirin's Myth books, by the name of Massha. She was a mechanic wizard. That is, her sole magical power came from her baubles, as she had no inherent talent herself.

"Spirit deck":
Primal scream
Feral strike
x2 spiritual infusion
x2 wrath of the ancestors
x2 spirit of the cat
x2 spirit of the raven
Summon totem spirit
Spirit of the serpent
Spirit of the bear
Spirit of the wolf
Spirit of the owl
I'm not particularly a fan of the totem school, as it is very combinatorial and reliant on feeding off of itself in order to function. But there is no denying it is powerful and still fun to play with on occasion. Its better than letting someone take sole control of the school using the specializations optional rule. Down that road lies power gaming madness.

"Creature deck":
x4 planar call
Summon minotaur
Summon boggart
Summon genie
Summon grendel
Summon drake
Wrath of quetzalcoatl
Flame breath
Tail slap
Fearsome bite
Spectral grasp
Gotta love the creatures. Very fun to play with and really changes the dynamic of the game. Like obstacles, but aggressive. Its a much better game with them included now. This is the default setting when we expand the deck.

"Junkyard deck":
Prismatic Mist
x2 Create Wall
Hex of Pain
Hex of Amnesia
Hex of Teleportation
Destroy Wall
Astral Projection
Mist Body

This deck supplement is as yet untried. Created under the presumption that if you like crap laying everywhere as obstacles and other effects that alter the board and allow you to treat the labyrinth as your personal toilet, then hopefully this may help quench that thirst. Sadly this will add redundancy to the deck, as there are very few unique obstacle creations in the game as it currently stands. But it's a good thematic opportunity to add Hexes. The fourth hex was omitted as it just stops wizards in their tracks, and felt to similar to wasting/losing a turn. I hope it is as fun as it looks on paper.


  1. Thanks for your tips! I'm excited to try them out in our next game :)

  2. These look like great options for a more focused deck. One question though, you don't seem to suggest any of the "change form" transformation spells. Maybe you could elaborate on your reasoning why? I've always found gnome form and big-man form a lot of fun!


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