Mechanics Monday #2: Divine Offering
Consistently consistent: Divine Offering
Veteran card game players among you may have been in a situation like one of these before: You have all the cards you need in hand, the perfect curve just waiting to be played. But one crucial thing is missing: resource cards. Without the necessary resources to play any of your cards you're just sitting there waiting for your opponent to end your miserable existence. The next game you rejoice as your hand is filled with enough resource cards to last you most of the game! But the next few turns you just keep drawing more resource cards until there is nothing else in your hand and once again you're just sitting there waiting for your opponent to end it.
Even as someone new to card games it's easy to see why scenarios like these are so frustrating and why in this day and age having card based resources can be seen as a design flaw. However Spellweaver has a neat mechanic that just by itself almost completely eliminates these problems while keeping the upsides of class free deck building and the whole design space around resource development. The name of that mechanic is Divine Offering.
What is it? A way to get shrines and more
Divine Offering (most commonly just referred to as DO) is a core mechanic that is available to all players in every game right from turn one. You can use it once every turn at no cost with just the press of a button. When you use it, Divine Offering allows you to choose one of the cards in your hand and put it on the bottom of your deck. In exchange you get to look at the top 5 cards of your deck and, if there are any, pick one shrine card from among them and add it to your hand. The rest of the 5 cards are shuffled and also put on the bottom of your deck. Note that your deck is NOT shuffled in the process.
The button for Divine Offering is conveniently located directly above your resources.
Some common phrases involving Divine Offering:
DOing a card/Doing a card away: Using Divine Offering to put the card from your hand under your deck
DOing for a card: Using Divine Offering (multiple times) to try and get that specific shrine card into your hand
Missing DO: Not having a shrine among the top 5 cards of your deck when using Divine Offering
A Failsafe for Everyone: Valley of the Ancients
But what happens, if there are no shrines among the top 5 cards of your deck? In that case you get nothing. You are down one card, the card from your hand you put on the bottom of your deck. But there is a solution for this problem and it comes in the form of Valley of the Ancients. This aspectless shrine has the neat effect of putting itself into your hand from your deck whenever you miss DO. It then shuffles your deck.
Valley of the Ancients is a common card from the Ancients Rising set (the current set as of the release of this article). If you didn't get one from a quests, a Novelty Pack, or the June Release Package, you can craft a copy for 1 shrine of each aspect (6 shrines in total).
Valley allows you to choose between gaining an aspectless level, which can only be used to fulfill the part of a card's level requirement that can be fulfilled by any level, gaining a mana crystal, or drawing a card. Each of these options is strictly worse than those on a basic shrine, so you shouldn't rely on Valley too much. Even then Valley is extremely good at mitigating bad luck. In the case that you only get a Valley and have no other shrines in your hand, you still get to choose what you need most out of the shrine. In the early game you can get a mana crystal, or an aspectless level in extreme cases, to make sure you don't fall behind in resources. In the later stages you can still get the chance to draw into an important answer instead of simply losing a card.
There is really no good reason to not run at least one copy of Valley of the Ancients in every single of your decks.
How DO changes deckbuilding: Shrines and Numbers
Playing a (basic) shrine has only upsides and no downsides because you either gain a level that you need or you gain a mana crystal and draw a card, which cycles the shrine at no extra cost. However most shrines have no effect other than allowing you to gain resources, which means that a hand full of shrines is usually a dead hand. As a result the ideal number of shrines to put into your deck is the minimum amount that still let's you play one shrine each turn. In a perfect world you'd only ever get exactly one shrine every turn, not more, not less. Being able to look at 5 more cards from your deck every turn obviously makes getting a shrine every turn a lot more consistent and allows you to run a comparatively lower number of shrines, which in turn reduces the odds to get too many shrines. In a 60 card deck, which is the minimum and thus recommended deck size, that optimal number of shrines is 17-19 (one of which being a Valley of the Ancients) for pretty much every deck.
Divine Offering not only helps in getting a shrine, it also helps with getting the right shrine. Skill shrines and other special shrines are restricted to a maximum of 4 copies per deck like all other non-primary cards. But since you can dig for them with DO, you can get them much more consistenty than any other type of card in the game. Because of this you can get away with running only 1-3 copies of skill shrines, which are strictly worse than basic shrines after you have gained their skill (more on that in a later issue), even if you want to always play them relatively early in every game. Likewise it's not unfeasible to base your strategy on starting the game with a special shrine, i.e. a dual level from Trigon of the Pact. Using Divine Offering pushes the probablility of getting at least one copy of the desired shrine by turn 2 from about 72% to about 88%, assuming you run 4 copies in a 60 card deck and mulligan* for it.
*Mulligan in card games refers to a chance to redraw some or all cards in your starting hand. In Spellweaver you get one chance every game to shuffle your starting hand back into your deck and redraw 7 cards.
Playing a Trigon early makes your early game a lot more flexible and allows you to focus more on gaining mana crystals at the cost of immediately using 1 mana. Since some decks do not even run any 1 cost cards, playing a Trigon on turn one completely negates this drawback.
Since it affects only level 1 creatures, Militant Citadel has the largest impact early in the game.
DO also helps multiaspect decks run more smoothly because it allows you to dig for shrines of the right aspect when you need them. Because you only need to set up your levels once in order to play all your cards you plan on using at a particular stage in the game, how you split up your shrines between the aspects you run depends mostly on when you want to gain a level in a certain aspect, rather than on how many cards you run of that aspect or how many levels of that aspect you plan to gain. Both of those factor can of course still influnce your exact shrine counts, though.
Most two aspect decks want to gain a level in their second aspect around turn 2-4. As a result it is very common to split the shrine counts in those decks close to 50/50 (i.e. 9 wisdom shrines, 9 order shrines, 1 Valley) to maximize the chances of getting at least one shrine of each of the two aspects within the first few turns. Whether you play 8 or 20 wisdom cards in a deck that wants to start with a wisdom level doesn't change anything about the shrine count. Even in a deck that runs more than 2 aspects, you want around 50% of your shrines to be of the aspects you plan to get first, to ensure you have the correct early game resources. The rest of those shrines can be used to gain mana crystals.
If you run even more different aspects, the remaining shrines should be split according to when you want to gain a level in their aspect. The later you want to gain a certain level the fewer shrines of that aspect you need because you've had more time to draw into it or dig for it with DO. Multiaspect shrines like Pandemonium of Darkness or the new resource shrines can help a lot in making decks more consistent.
Resource shrines like Underground Maze are especially helpful because they also allow you to later convert a level from one aspect into the other. In scenarios where you can your first level with one of these and then only get shrines of the same aspects in the next few turns, you can simply convert a level to the aspect you are missing and still curve out perfectly. Pandemonium can do this to a lesser extent by sacrificing a level of one aspect and gaining two levels in another.
How to use it: The DOs and DOn'ts of DO
Divine Offering can not only be used to fetch shrines. Skilled players use it almost every turn to get the most out of their deck.
More control over your hand: DO and basic shrines have a simple interaction that vastly improves how much you can influence your hand. Since DO allows you to exchange any card in your hand for a shrine and basic shrines cycle themselves (they let you draw a card when you play them), you can effectively cycle one card from your hand for free every turn. This allows you to cycle late game cards in the early game and early game cards in the late game, constantly improving you hand according to your needs during that stage of the game.
You can also use DO to put cards that you can easily search out with other cards back into your deck. For example you can put your last Metabolic Overcharger from your hand back into your deck, so you still get the effective +1 card from Fiel Operative.
More control over your deck: Using DO does not shuffle your deck after you've put the top 5 cards of your deck on the bottom or into your hand (the one shrine). This can be used to your advantage in multiple ways. First and foremost it brings the shrines you do want closer to the top of your deck, making it more likely you draw them or get them with your next DO, should you only get those you don't want.
This concept doesn't only work for shrines, however. Because you get to look at the 5 cards DO offers you before putting them on the bottom of your deck, you can get a feel for where the cards in your deck are. For example, if you want to finish off your opponent, but you see that your DO will put all 4 copies of your Fireball on the bottom of your deck, you can aggressively DO on every followong turn until they are close to the top of your deck again or you miss and Valley shuffles your deck.
In extreme cases, where your deck is not shuffled for a long time, you could even count cards to know exactly when you'll draw the cards you DOed away.
Top card manipulation: As an extension to the point above DO gives you another opportunity to change the top card of your deck. This is relevant for certain decks built around cards like Burning Rage or Nienna, Legendary Storyteller. These cards make it so the top card of your deck is always face up, and have a positive effect, if that card is of a certain type.
Not counting any draw or shuffle effects, the top card of your deck can change up to 3 times each turn: when you draw a card at the start, when you use a shrine to draw a card and when you use DO.
Preemptive DOing: You can maximize your chances of always having the right shrine by using DO in advance. If you know you'll want to gain a level in your second aspect in 2 turns, you can start looking for the correct shrine immediately. Do not DO away the only other shrine you have in your hand in this case, otherwise you'll have to play the desired shrine immediately to not fall behind on resources. Simply DO away another card you don't need right away and keep the desired shrine in your hand, if you get it earlier than you need it, while still DOing for shrines to gain mana or other levels as if you didn't have a shrine in hand.
Next turn I want to gain an order level to be able to play Felix the Lightsworn with the help of the Spark of Initiative. I know that I want to gain my second level, a wisdom level since this a two aspect deck that only goes up to 2 levels, the turn after that to be able to play either Cavalery Field Captain or Dwarven Mortar. Even though I already have a shrine for next turn in hand, I will use Divine Offering this turn, so I get 2 opportunities to get a wisdom shrine with DO, maximizing my chances to play the cards I want, when I want. I’ll DO away one copy of Timea, because she is legendary, which means I can only control one copy of her at once anyway.
Not playing Valley: Valley of the Ancients is a strange card in that you ideally never want to draw or play it. Playing it is strictly worse than playing another shrine most of the time and it means you won't have your Valley anymore in case you miss DO another time, which means you'll just lose a card.
Because of that the best way to use it is to always DO a Valley of the Ancients away, if possible. At worst you miss again and immediately get the Valley you just DOed away back into your hand and in almost all other cases you get a strictly better shrine you can play without any drawbacks. If you already have another shrine for this turn in your hand, you don't even lose a card in the worst case and can just DO the Valley away next turn. Most of the time one copy of Valley of the Ancients in your deck is enough to prevent you from ever losing a card to a missed DO for the entire game, if you use preemptive DOing to your advantage.
Use DO often: You don't get any of the benefits listed above, if you do not use DO. Use it often. Use it almost every turn. With Valley and the correct number of shrines in your deck, you'll almost never have a disadvantage from using DO. The only times you don't want to DO are when you are sure you'll need all the cards in your hand in the next 1 or 2 turns AND you already have the right shrines in hand, or it's late enough in the game that gaining resources isn't all that important anymore, meaning you have enough to play any card in your deck and more, and you really, really, really want to keep all the cards in your hand. You should always try to play a shrine each turn, no matter how good the cards in your hand are unless you absolutely know what you are doing, especially in the early game.
Preventing you from decking out: This is an extremely niche case that comes up very rarely. If you do not have any cards left in your deck (also called decking out), you immediately lose the game (more on this in a later issue). Using Divine Offering while you have no shrines left in your deck guarantees that your deck size increases by one, offsetting the card draw at the start of your turn. This allows you to never deck out as long as cards are not removed from your deck through other means.
As you can see Divine Offering has a much wider reaching impact on the game than you might initially think. Beyond just ensuring a constant flow of resources, it gives you as a player a lot more agency over the cards in your hand and deck and once you’ve gotting used to the mechanic, you’ll dearly miss it whenever you play a game without it. Knowing which card to DO is a skill in and of itself and seperates good players from great players.