Guide to Trials - by Type100
So this is something that I've meant to write for a very long time, and with the mobile release drawing near I finally managed to get off my lazy butt and get it done.
This post will include my opinion on why you should play Trials, a general strategy overview, plus a tier list where I rank all cards in Spellweaver according to their rough power level in this format. It's my hope that this guide will encourage new and old players alike to try out and improve at this very enjoyable game mode. Comments are welcome!
Why Play Trials
I could talk about learning the mechanics and earning rewards and stuff, but here I choose to be blunt: You should play Trials because it's fun.
In my opinion, Spellweaver Trials represents card game at its very best. This format is what kept me playing Spellweaver long after I got tired of the constructed meta. Numerous memorable matches have been played in this game mode - incredible comebacks with Jakri slave-lock, milling out my opponent who played Grand Reunion, drawn out Order mirrors where there were dozens of creatures on each side of the board, and more.
Trials has much strategic depth, and it's also the fastest way to get a full collection if you're very, very good. But most importantly, it's fun. You get to use cards that will never make their way into constructed decks, witness bizarre combos and brilliant plays, and play amazingly back-and-forth matches. Is that not enough?
Spellweaver's limited format, more than any other card game, is defined by big creatures.
The reason for that is Spellweaver's rather unique combat system. Like in Magic, all creature damage is healed at the end of turn. Unlike in Magic, however, creatures in Spellweaver can directly attack enemy creatures. What this means is that having bigger creatures on the board is a MASSIVE advantage - a 3/3 can potentially kill an indefinite number of 2/2s, assuming they are played one per turn. Even if big creatures isn't the best way to win in Trials, it's certainly the most common. The player with bigger and better creatures usually wins the game. Therefore, think how you're going to deal with your opponent's big creatures when drafting your deck. Generally speaking, the best cards in limited are big "bomb" creatures (who will win the game for you if your opponent doesn't have the right answers) and removals (which can be used to deal with opponent's big creatures).
That's not to say smaller creatures are useless, of course. You still need them for gaining board control early on, and for supporting your "big guns" later.
Here's an almost complete list of ways to deal with a big creature:
* Use a big creature of your own, hopefully a bigger one. Buffing up a small creature may also work.
* Use removal on it. This is probably the most common way to get rid of bombs, but it should be noted that straight-up hard removals are somewhat rare in Spellweaver.
* Kill it with the help of an instant (or several). But careful opponents will try to play around your instants.
* Attack with chaff creatures to soften it up before killing it with spells. Again, cautious opponents will try to play around this.
* Attack or block it with multiple creatures at once to kill it. This can be very effective, but watch out for instants - a failed multi-attack will almost certainly put you at a significant card disadvantage. Also, Spellweaver's combat system generally favors the attacker, so it's important that your small creatures get onto the board before the opponent's bomb is played - if your opponent played a 3/3 when you have two 2/2s on the board you could just kill it, but if the two 2/2s were in your hand then you're in deep shit.
Frankly, I am still not sure how to take speed into account when assessing cards after two years of playing Spellweaver. Having higher speed than enemy creatures is obviously great, but OTOH having smaller creatures sucks a lot. Big creatures with high speed are terrifying, but small and fast creatures are generally pretty meh (case in point: Elf Scout). Ideally you want a healthy mix of 2SP and 3SP creatures in your deck. 1SP creatures aren't terribly useful, unless you're being very aggresive (or have cards that manipulate speed). Also, 4SP creatures are more useful if you're playing Elrike, though big creature on the board is still required to create truly powerful illusions.
Ok, I'm pretty sure this part is going to be controversial. I'm going to give my opinion on the six aspects in Spellweaver and their performance in Trials. Obviously, like everything else in this guide, this should be taken with a grain of salt. Also note that while the aspects are definitely not balanced, it is possible to get 10-win runs with any of them.
Order is pretty good. It's got some excellent removals, good combat tricks, and decent heroes. But what really defines Order is its bomb creatures. Order has more game-ending creatures than pretty much any other aspect, and can start dropping them on the board as soon as turn 5. Guardian of the Faithful, Gomur, Antriel, Descendant of Divinty - all game-winning cards if the opponent dosen't have the right answer. Griffin Rider, Guardian of the Innocent, Cavalry Field Captain and Elite Vanguard are also excellent creatures. Order's main weakness is the weak early game - its low-mana cards are fairly unimpressive. Also, Order's reliance on big creatures makes it somewhat weak against opponents who drafted lots of removals, especially Dominion who can even turn Order's big creatures against it.
Wisdom is all about drawing more cards, and it does that pretty well. Unfortuantely most of Wisdom's creature aren't very good (even the mighty Forcemage Protector doesn't really do much by itself), so actually turning your card advantage into a win often proves difficult. Wisdom usually ends up acting as a support aspect, just like in constructed. Decks with Wisdom does have a very strong late game - most opponents won't be able to keep up with Wisdom's drawing power.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I remember when Ka'ainu was the brokenest shit in the universe, when the threat of Tornado Outbreak was everpresent, when Moonlight Patrol was the best 3-drop in the entire game and Landslide competed with Cataclysm for the dubious honor of being the most hated card in Spellweaver. All these cards have been nerfed since, and Nature is now the worst aspect in Trials by a significant margin. It does still have excellent heroes, powerful combat tricks and some decent creatures, but the lack of true removals and the poor quality of Nature cards overall makes winning with this aspect difficult. Still, playing a Nature deck can be worthwhile if it comes with a good hero or another good aspect.
In a way, this aspect is kind of the opposite of Nature. It used to be pretty awful, but got better over time. Rage still struggles against big creatures, but killing that dreaded Descendant of Divinty has become a lot easier with the changes to Cannonade, Dragonfire and Fireball. Rage's own creatures are generally solid (although a bit overpriced), and it's also pretty good at dealing with swarms of small creatures. Just remember to stay the hell away from totems.
Despite repeated nerfs, Dominion is still pretty much indisputably the best aspect in Trials. It's an all-round aspect with no real weaknesses, but what it truly excels at is removals. No aspect kills creatures like Dominion does. You have several pretty decent Deadly creatures, you have Assassinate which messes up multi-attacks really bad, you have Soul Flames which is a common and costs only 2 mana, you have Prin'ha which also doubles as a premium bomb, you have Helm and Enslave which are basically removals except you get the "removed" creature for yourself, and don't even get me started on Cataclysm. And then you have cards like Cloning Vats, Bloodseeking Mutant and Murdering Instinct which are almost guaranteed to give you a card advantage. Oh, and Coronis is the best hero in format. Is it any wonder that you see so many Dominion decks in Trials?
Corruption is powerful all-round aspect, but it's also somewhat tricky to play as many of its cards have some kind of quirk. Its strengths include cheap removals, potent (but expensive and/or inconsistant) creatures, and an absolutely insane common lineup. ssslock once said Corruption was the most interesting aspect to play, and I'm inclined to agree - getting the powerful Corruption bombs to work can be very satisfying. One thing to note is that Corruption relies heavily on forced sacrifices to deal with big creatures, so don't be too afraid of trading small creatures with the opponent.
Q: How many shrines should I put in my deck?
A: My personal preference is 8/8 shrines in a normal deck (one with no skill shrines), though 8/7 also works and is probably more common. With one skill shrine in the deck you will probably want to go 7/7 basic shrines, and with two I guess 6/6 is about right.
Q: How many wins do I have to get in a Trial run to break even?
A: A lot of people will say that you break even at 3 wins, since that's where you get back the value you spent on the ticket. What they fail to take into account is the opportunity cost - unlike constructed matches, Trial matches give no gold and very little experience. So I'd say you break even at 5/3, roughly. However, it should be noted that Trials rewards get much better after 7 wins, so playing Trials might make sense economically even if you can't get 5 wins on average.
Q: How do I use Tempting Lure in Trials?
A: Pay 6 mana if playing against Order, pay 5 otherwise.
Q: How would you rank the aspects?
A: Dominion > Order > Corruption > Wisdom > Rage > Nature.
Q: How different is Draft from Trials in terms of strategy?
A: Not much - any card that is great in Trials is probably still good in Draft. The most notable difference in meta is that Order gets a lot worse because most of its best cards are rare and above, and Corruption becomes a lot better thanks to its amazing commons.
Q: I'm new to this game. When should I start playing Trials?
A: You should at least be familiar with the combat mechanics (a lot harder than it sounds) before thinking about Trials. Consider yourself ready when you know how Unstoppable interacts with Frozen creatures and how multi-creature attacks work with Ranged.
The Tier List
Here we go. I will be rating all cards in Spellweaver by their performance in Trials. Do note that even among top players there isn't a consensus regarding this, so try not to treat this list as some unfallible guideline to deckbuilding. Nevertheless, it should be helpful enough if you're new to this game mode.
Tier 1: One of the best cards in this format. Mostly includes bomb, premium removals and extremely cost efficient creatures. Many of them can singlehandedly turn the tide of battle.
Tier 2: Good cards. Not as broken as Tier 1 cards, but still pretty decent and usually gives you an advantage.
Tier 3: Mediocre cards. Nothing special, but prevents you from getting too much behind.
Tier 4: Narrowly useful. These cards are bad because they're overpriced, too inconsistant, or simply doesn't do a whole lot.
Tier 5: In the highly unlikely scenario where one of these cards somehow finds its way into your deck, it usually ends up getting DO'ed away at the first opportunity.
An asterisk (*) means this card is inconsistant and may occasionally perform much better or worse than its rating would indicate.
A hash (#) means this card's rating may change quite a bit depending on your deck composition and choice of hero.
Text color indicates the card's rarity (black = common, green = uncommon, gold = rare, etc.) In the Heroes table, text color instead serves as an indictor of the hero's aspect.