Mechanics Monday #1: Resources
Get on my Level! Resources in Spellweaver
Welcome to the first installment of Mechanics Monday. In this series I'll regularly pick out and explain one specific mechanic of Spellweaver, explain how it works, highlight its implications for gameplay and hopefully show you some fun games. This is meant for complete beginners to card games as well as intermediate Spellweavers.
So without further ado let's get started on the first topic: resources.
What are they? Mana and Levels
Resource systems in card games are nothing new. They determine when you can play your cards and how many of them you can play in a turn, usually only allowing you to play the really powerful stuff later in the game. Unlike many other games Spellweaver has two seperate resources you need to manage. In order to play a card you need to both pay its mana cost and fulfill its level requirement.
Mana should be familiar to anyone who has played similar games before, like Hearthstone or Magic the Gathering. Over the course of the game you gain more and more mana crystals. When you play a card, you need to empty a number of mana crystals equal to the card's mana cost. At the start of your turn, all your mana crystals are refilled and you can use them again.
Levels act like a threshold and aren't spent once you gain them. You usually keep them for the rest of the game. They come in 6 different varieties called aspects (think colors in MtG or classes in Hearthstone). When you play a card you need to have at least as many levels as the card's level requirement, both in terms of numbers as well as aspects. While most cards only require you to have levels in one specific aspect, some can be played with levels of any aspect, and others can only be played, if you have levels in multiple different aspects.
The Good Aspects
Order: Knights, Angels, Healing
Wisdom: Mages, Technology, Card Draw
Nature: Elves, Forces of Nature, Tempo
The Evil Aspects
Corruption: Zombies, Demons, Decay
Dominion: Vampires, Mutants, Mind Control
Rage: Goblins, Orcs, Direct Damage
Aezerhis has a mana cost of 4 (top left). This means you need to empty 4 mana crystals in order to play her. She also has a level of three (icons on the left below the mana cost), which means you need to have a total of at least 3 levels to play her. At least one of those needs to be a rage level (red), at least one other needs to be a corruption level (black), and the third can be a level in any aspect (white), for example another corruption or rage level.
How do you gain them? Shrines and Choices
You start every game with 1 mana and 0 levels. After that you gain both mana and levels by playing cards you put in your deck called Shrines. Before you freak out and think “But what if I don't draw any? Won't I fall behind and lose for no reason?!“ I can assure you that getting too many or too few shrines basically never happens in Spellweaver because of the way shrines work and a wonderful mechanic called Divine Offering, that we'll talk about next week.
Importantly you can only play one shrine per turn. The twist that makes this system intersting is that every time you play a shrine you are given a choice. You can either gain a level, OR a mana crystal, not both! How exactly you develop your resources differs from deck to deck an even from game to game.
There are multiple types of shrines in the game. While the most basic primary shrines allow you to draw a card when playing them to gain a mana crystal, skill shrines allow you to gain an additional hero skill, spell shrines usually offer a special way of gaining resources and also have a spell card attached to them, and resource shrines stay on the board after you play them and can later be activated for a variety of effects.
We'll talk more about the different types of shrines in the future.
More than just a Requirement: Threshold Abilities, Level Scaling and More
Dictating how many and which aspects of them you need to play a card is not the only function of levels. Cards can interact with levels in many different ways.
Some cards have a low level, allowing you to play them early, but gain powerful new abilities once you reach a certain level threshold. These new abilies do not just apply to new copies of the card you play later, but also affect copies that are already on the board.
Other cards have effects that scale with the number of levels you have, some with your total level, some only with levels in a specific aspect, allowing them to stay relevant throughout the game.
While Shifting Aurite and Erulak gain additional abilities when you have certain levels, Word of Pain and Cold-Hearted Paladin have abilities that become stronger the more levels of a certain type you have.
Power in Flexibility: Dual Levels
The concept of Dual Levels is relatively new to the world of Spellweaver. A Dual Level, like the name suggests, belongs to two different aspects. It can count as either of the two aspects, but not both at the same time, and it still counts as only one level in total.
While gaining a dual level gives you access to two aspects at once, cards that have dual levels in their requirements can more easily be fitted into a variety of decks with different level configurations.
Trigon is currently the only card that allows you to gain a dual level. It allows you to gain access to two different aspects in just one turn with just one card.
You can play Orc Commando with two levels in a few different configurations. You can play it when you have 2 order levels, or 2 rage levels, or 1 order and 1 rage level. Because of its threshold abilites it gains its full potential in decks that use both order and rage.
How it Plays out: The Impact of Levels on Gameplay and Deck Building
The key to understanding the dynamic between mana and levels lies in primary shrines and the choice that comes with them. Gaining a level gives you access to playing a greater variety as well as strictly more powerful cards. However it also always means not drawing a card and having less mana, which means you can play fewer cards in one turn. Almost all decks aim for at least 2 levels, because the flexibility of mixing two aspects and the increased power of level 2 cards is almost always worth the card and mana “loss“ of gaining a second level.
While you can freely mix and match different aspects in one deck, adding too many high level cards of too many different aspects will leave you without the mana to actually play them or only allow you to play them a lot later than would be ideal.
These cards show how higher levels increase the power of a card even if they have the same mana cost.
Another consequence of having two seperate resources lies in its effect on your curve*. While it's possible to stay on one level and play a 1 mana card followed by a 2 mana card followed by a 3 mana card and so on, you could also play a 1 mana 1 level card on turn one, followed by a 1 mana 2 level card on turn two, followed by two 1 mana 2 level cards (two 2-drops*²!) on turn three. However keep in mind during deck building that you cannot curve from a 1 mana 2 level card (2-drop) into a 3 mana 1 level card (3-drop) and that going from a 2 mana 2 level card into a 3 mana 1 level card is often inefficient, because you already meet the requirements of a 3 mana 2 level card, which is most likely stronger.
Two different ealry game curves
Turn 1: Gain a rage level and play Goblin Warrior.
Turn 2: Gain a mana crystal and play Goblin Fireworker.
Turn 3: Gain a mana crystal and play Boar Rider.
Turn 1: Gain a dominion level and play Spoiled Aristocrat.
Turn 2: Gain a wisdom level and play Golem.
Turn 3: Gain a mana crystal and play 2 copies of Faessayan Mercenary.
The ability to play two 2-drops on turn three is an example of the greater mana efficiency of higher level cards (you cannot play two 2 mana 1 level cards on turn three). As a result decks that aim for higher levels by design become more mana and card efficient the longer the game goes on. Cards that scale with your level take this effect to the extreme, sometimes making players gain more levels than they need for even the highest level cards in their deck in order to get the strongest effects possible out of them.
On the flip side decks that go for more levels often can’t play more than one card per turn in the early game and need to somehow compensate for the fact that they used fewers shrines to draw cards.
Overall the need to manage both mana and levels means that carefully planning what your deck wants to do at every stage of the game is rewarded even more than in other card games. While a well planned out strategy can work like clockwork, mismanaging your early game resources can be felt for many turns to come.
*“Curve“ is commonly used to describe the concept of playing more powerful cards every turn, thus using your resources optimally. Playing something “on curve“ usually means playing a card as early as possible, considering its resource cost.
*² An X-drop refers to a card that can at the earliest be played on turn X, considering the usual resource progression of 1 mana or 1 level per turn. Since you start the game with 1 mana and 0 levels, both a 2 mana 1 level card and a 1 mana 2 level card can be played on turn two at the earliest and are therefore called 2-drops.