Now that you’ve got some of the complexities of blocking down, it’s important to understand how each of the various classes in the game approaches combat cycles. How you defend against one class is often entirely different from another, but they still all follow similar principles to those I explored in part one and two. Without further ado, let’s dive right into it with:
Brute is one of the easier classes to defend against, as they rarely have go again, and they have no in-class on hit effects. The major thing that you need to consider when defending against Brute is that they have among the highest damage potential in the game, and on their most explosive turns, they can virtually guarantee that you’re unable to stop them. Many an experienced player will have been on the receiving end of a wombo-combo like the one below:
There’s nothing like taking 15 damage with no cards to block with!
One of the powerful things about Brute is their efficient weapon and inherently high defense cards (all their in-class cards have 3 defense). This means that they can still pressure you effectively even while on the defensive. They also have access to Scabskin Leathers, which serves two purposes: granting them an additional 2 and 1 block throughout the game, and allowing them to occasionally have insanely explosive turns if they’re not pressured enough (though it’s not uncommon for a player to never roll Scabskin throughout the game).
The most important thing to manage against Brute is your life total; if you’re not considerate enough of it, all it will take is two monster turns and you’ll be dead in the water. Brute’s primary weapon is their ability to strip your defensive options away from you, so be sure that you’re more precious with your life total than in other matchups (especially as start to drift towards the teens).
Guardian, like Brute, seeks to limit your defensive options against them, and apply significant pressure with their powerful suite of on-hit effects. Crippling Crush, Spinal Crush, and Righteous Cleansing are some of the most threatening and game changing abilities available to any class.
The most important thing to remember about Guardian is their “4” threshold; they need to force through four damage in a turn in order to trigger their abilities, and they generally don’t have enough energy to both play an attack, dominate it, and play Pummel (although it is certainly something to be cautious of).
Because Guardian’s attacks are so expensive, they usually require three plus card hands to pull off anything substantial; otherwise, they’ll just swing with Anothos (which still hurts a lot). Keeping up the pressure against them is generally a good option as it severely limits their ability to pull of huge dominated crushes; just be aware that they also have the best suite of defensive options in the game, thanks to both their armor and their huge amount of energy, which makes playing Unmovable and Staunch Response a breeze. Ensure that you’re packing Defense Reactions and saving your equipment blocks for those big dominate turns; one big dominate turn can be a huge turning point in who the aggressor is, one dominated Crush can sometimes result in a repeat performance the following turn.
The final thing to be aware of is the Anothos + Pummel trick. When your opponent is swinging in with a 4 attack Anothos with plenty of cards in hand, it’s quite likely that they’re waiting to surprise you with a Pummel, which will not only boost up their attack from Pummel itself, but also from Anothos’s passive ability. When you’re on a low life total, be aware that Anothos can go from 4 to 10 Attack without warning – be extra cautious.
Ninja is one the more difficult classes to defend against. As their usual gameplay involves several go again attacks, it can be hard to gauge exactly how much damage is going to be coming your way that turn. In addition, the constant threat of Katsu means that every Ninja attack thrown at you has a very irritating on-hit effect; an unblocked Surging Strike threatens a Whelming Gustwave, which then threatens Mugenshi: Release, and so on. Moreover, Katsu’s Harmonized Kodachis are quite possibly the most effective weapons in the game. Due to their puny 1 damage, they’re generally not very enticing to block; however, as the life totals get lower and lower, they still eat a card each per turn, making low life yet again a scary place to be.
The best advice I have for blocking against Ninja (and I say this as someone who has played against Ninja many times) is:
- If you don’t want to block a lot this turn, block their second attack, and let the others go. This is just an easy way to prevent Mask of Momentum from triggering.
- If you do intend on blocking a lot this turn, try and hard block their third attack or anything else that’s going to draw them cards (e.g. Whelming Gustwave). Ultimately, you just want to try and prevent them from gaining too much advantage and not only wasting your entire hand, but also still forcing through damage.
Because Katsu has worse defensive options than many other classes, pressing the attack against him is often quite effective; even just a weapon attack each turn can be enough to really put an upper limit on the potential of his most explosive turns.
I could almost write an entire primer on how to defend against Warrior, because it’s far and away the most challenging class in the game to defend against it. Due to their plethora of Attack Reactions, coupled with their built-in on hit effect via Dawnblade, Warrior is often the bane of many players’ existence. There are, however, a few key rules that I use when playing against Warrior.
A lot of Warrior’s most powerful tricks (Ironsong Response, Glint the Quicksilver) allow them to absolutely blow you out if you’ve blocked for exactly enough, meaning that you get the worst of both worlds; not only did you block and lose cards, but you also still leaked out damage, and now you’re probably going to have to block the second Dawnblade hit anyway!
Against Warrior more so than any other class, I find myself blocking in very extreme ways; either blocking with nearly everything I have (and often over blocking) or blocking with absolutely nothing. Early in the game, I’ll usually try and goad my opponent into cracking their Refraction Bolters to try and secure that first Dawnblade token. I’ve found this to be highly effective, as it means that a naked Dawnblade attack is simply not a threat, unless your opponent leads off with Warrior’s Valor or Spoils of War. If your opponent leads off with these, or they have a +1 counter on Dawnblade, consider just giving up a turn to over block them; this will save you much heartache in the longer run. Also, remember that a Defense Reaction played from your Arsenal will not trigger reprise.
Mechanologist is another class that’s relatively straightforward to block. They lack on hit effects pretty much entirely, meaning that you’re only dealing with damage repeatedly. One of the most important things to understand in the Mechanologist matchup is that their late game transition is always going to be more effective than yours, as they simply build up strength over time thanks to their Induction Chambers and Plasma Purifiers. As such, try and continually mount pressure on them throughout the game and don’t be too worried about losing some life early on; if it gets to the super late game, you’ll likely lose out to them anyway. As such, in this match-up, I’ve often found that the best defence is, most certainly, a VERY powerful offence.
Ranger can be a difficult class to defend against, as they have many ways to subvert traditional modes of defending, either directly through effects like Remorseless, Increase the Tension, or even Azalea, Ace in the Hole’s ability. In addition, some builds like to Go Wide, meaning they can threaten tonnes of damage. In addition to all of this, they have a slew of irritating on hit effects, meaning that even if you decide not to block, you’ll still be in a worse offensive position.
Ranger is, however, the worst defensive class. Many of their cards defend for 2, with only their arrows and signature cards defending for that magical 3 number. Additionally, Ranger often needs 2-3 card hands in order pull off powerful turns; as such, forcing them to block with 2 cards on their turn is often the best way to improve your defense against them. Simply consider blocking their most damaging on hit effects (Red in the Ledger comes to mind) and you may be able to mount enough pressure back to force their onslaught to slow down.
One other thing to note is that, because Ranger has no natural weapon to attack with, they lack a way to force through damage without spending cards. Because of this, Ranger is much more susceptible to fatiguing out than other classes. This is just something to keep in mind in case you find yourself moving towards the super late game, as it is possible that Ranger may just run out of gas to threaten you with.
Runeblade is one of the easier classes to understand how to block against, but that doesn’t mean that stopping them from killing you is easy! Because of their dual threat (both arcane and regular damage), they’ll often require you to defend with at least two cards if you wish to stop damage from leaking on through. Crucible of War has brought them a few on-hit effects as well, though outside of Arknight Ascendancy, few of these are truly debilitating, and instead just increase their own offensive potential. Be on the lookout for Pummel, as many of Runeblade’s attacks have an inherently high cost (despite their low actual cost in reality), which means you can be blown away by Pummel on an attack that otherwise cost them nothing!
Some builds of Runeblade will try and build up a larger kill turn, much like Brute does. As such, it’s important to stem the bleeding of attacks whenever possible, just to keep your life-total nice and healthy. Be sure to bring Arcane Barrier 1 to the fight, as that’s all you’ll ever need (each of the Runechants is an individual 1 arcane damage). In addition, remember that cards used to defend against arcane damage are pitched, not discarded; as such, it’s better to defend against arcane damage if you would defend for the same amount either way.
Because Kano subverts your usual way of defending, he can really throw off your turns. No longer can you rely on powerful Defense Reactions to save the day; instead, your high pitch cards, which you were likely saving for your attacks that turn, are your best defense. Try and save those to defend against more intimidating effects like Aether Flare and Sonic Boom. Also, remember that you can take your time against Wizard; you’ll never run out of resources to defend against them with, meaning you never have to worry about fatigue. In addition, because of their lower life total, you can generally apply more effective pressure even you’re using fewer attacks.
One thing to be cautious of is the sudden kill potential of Wizard, however. Because they can play their game at “instant” speed, they can suddenly force through the last few points of damage against you during your turn. As such, you may have to ensure that you hold a few cards back on your turn, even if you feel the urge to go punch Kano in the face. The final thing to be aware of is Blazing Aether; try not to let Kano force through too much damage in a single turn, lest they simply double that damage with an almighty Blazing Aether at the very end.
And with that, our look at how to defend comes to an end. Hopefully, over the course of these three articles, you’re now much more prepared to try and keep yourself alive and fighting as you aim to establish yourself as the best there is. I hope you’ve all found this series of articles helpful and look forward to next week as I finally get to talking about my favorite class in the game!