Advanced Alchemy: A Guide to The Scholar Engine

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Foote
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Advanced Alchemy: A Guide to The Scholar Engine

Before you do anything, please go check out ewakolypse's excellent Scholar guide here:

https://greaterthangames.com/forum/topic/the-total-amateurs-guide-to-the-scholar-3535

I want to talk about the way I view Scholar for a little bit. He is by far one of my favorite decks to play. This guy weilds serious power, and finding the best ways to unleash it are not always easy. The core of the deck surrounds his three forms so utilizing them effectivly is the key. The question we have to ask is "How can I sustain a lot of those?". Lets talk about the Liquid Energy Engine (LEE for short).

Starting the Engine:

Let me preface this all by saying that it is always best to play to the situation you are in. However, we are looking for a few specific things in the begining of the game. Lets talk opening hand. If there is one totally and absolutly nessesary component to the Engine, it is Bring What You Need(BWYN). Not only is it essential to keeping your hand size large, but it lets you cycle the elemental form cards back into the deck (more on that later). If you do not see it in the first 4 cards (and chances are you wont most likely), then we need to start thinking about how to get it. Truth Seeker is a high priority card to start netting cards (hand size is obviously important. The more the better). If you are able and have the choice, hold on to your Transmutive Recovery's as you will want as many as possible later (but dont be afraid to use them if you need to dig through your deck faster). Stay clear of Don't Dismiss Anything. Yes it can be useful sometimes, but not every hero is going to like playing random cards and the Engine hates a surprise Know When To Turn Losse. That needs to be avoided if at all possible. Flesh to Iron is an option to help stall while you look for BWYN, but you have breathing room with your HP and Iron will slow your hand growth.

Getting up to Speed:

Once you  find BWYN, use it often and always. No more need for TSeeker, we will be doing enough damage soon. BWYN helps keep his energy forms in his deck so that Keep Movings can play them for free and will net you 3 cards a turn considering your draw phase. Your play phases now must focus on getting your forms out. The target goal is to get two Energy Forms and one Liquid Form to start. That ratio gives you the most bang for your buck, although starting double liquid and one energy is usefull for passing DR. You should now have a decent hand size if you wernt feeding rouge forms early, and BWYN will sustain these 3...if you don't play cards. So what now?

Feeding the Engine

Trans. Recov is the main fuel and it works well. With the base engine going, you will gain 3 health and belt out  3 damage twice and draw 2 cards. This also allow you to support a 4 form Engine compfortably (3:1 energy to liquid is your best damage output but 2:2 provides punch against DR). Proverbs and Axioms is also prime fuel. Although it does not give as many cards, you can either heal/damage for the same amount. Scholar might regain too much HP at times, and if he cant heal, he cant damage, so the self damage option here can be very useful (its also why I almost never include iron form in the Engine) especially when it can lead to a free dusty Truth Seeker (you could settle for Better Living I suppose). And always remember you have the option to Know When To Hold Fast for some extra emergecy fuel.

When its able to be executed, its a beautiful thing. You can multiple rounds in 4-5 forms just relying on your own deck. Factor in any outside help drawing and Scholar could be going to the races.

Things to look for in teamates: Extra card draws. Healing abilities. 

Things to avoid: Mass Ongoing destruction

Envisioner
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Magnificent analysis of one of my favorite characters.  Thank you.

(Disclaimer: I totally disobeyed your first command.  Pretty familiar with Scholar's basics, no real need to read his guide at the moment.)


"Is there beauty in a forest, if no creature stops and calls it lovely, now and then? Isn't that what 'sapience' is for?"
--David Brin, "Brightness Reef"

PlatinumWarlock
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This is definitely an interesting set-up for The Scholar, which seems particularly useful against villains that specifically hit the highest HP hero heavily:  Apostate, unflipped Ambuscade, Omnitron, etc.  If you're constantly taking the "targets highest hp Hero" hits, then healing (and getting to do significant damage, to boot), that keeps your fellow heroes alive to do their awesome stuff.

However, I think I'd worry about set-up time.  While Keep Moving can trim down time significantly, obviously, at it nets you an Elemental Form from your deck and a card play, that also hinges on you having multiple copies of it.  Otherwise, you're looking at around 4 whole rounds to get set with just Elemental Forms.  In a game against someone like Iron Legacy or The Chairman, I can see this being a big liability.  However, against "long game" villains like Gloomweaver or Akash-Bhuta, I can see this working well.

I'd be interested in seeing your thoughts on how Better Living fits into this schema.  If you 'take a turn off' from Bring What You Need, you're obviously going to be down some fuel for your engine, but barring healing cards in-hand (Transmutive Recovery, Get Out of the Way) or consistant group healing (Motivational Charge, Cleansing Downpour, Innervation Ray), it seems like it's going to be hard to actually fire the 'engine'.

 

Either way, your guide is well-written and insightful.  I appreciate seeing how other people play some of the more complex Heroes, as it always gives me new ideas on what I can bring to the table.  While I think I'm still a bigger fan of using Flesh to Iron to tank and acting in a support role (via Don't Dismiss Anything, Proverbs and Axioms, and Truth Seeker for moderate damage dealing), I can definitely appreciate seeing The Scholar turning into a damage powerhouse!  Kudos!

phantaskippy
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I kind of follow this technique, but do it a bit hybridly, again depending on villain and team make-up.

 

If you have a team with at least one heal that will be getting used then you really should focus on as much heal damage as possible to maximize that.  Even if you can't heal yourself, just maintaining the forms makes it worth it.

 

I generally will sit in Flesh to Iron and support until I get Bring What you need or a hand full of cards.  I try to save a few healing cards and a Keep Moving (or two), then when it is time throw out Iron and break out the LEE format, burn your healing cards and make sure you can transition out of it if you have too, if it is working, if you can afford to discard and heal and it is worth the difference you are making keep it going.  I agree with Foote that you should avoid Don't Dismiss Anything while running the Liquid Energy Engine.

 

Foote
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PlatinumWarlock wrote:

However, I think I'd worry about set-up time.  While Keep Moving can trim down time significantly, obviously, at it nets you an Elemental Form from your deck and a card play, that also hinges on you having multiple copies of it.  Otherwise, you're looking at around 4 whole rounds to get set with just Elemental Forms.  In a game against someone like Iron Legacy or The Chairman, I can see this being a big liability.  However, against "long game" villains like Gloomweaver or Akash-Bhuta, I can see this working well.

From my experience, Scholars tempo changes drastically depending on when you find BWYN. Without it early on, the Engine will certainly loose cost/benifit value when up against a short brutal fight like Iron Legacy. Without BWYN, going into a single or double Iron setup does have its advantages. But the thing is, as soon as you find BWYN, you can chain drop 2 Keep Movings and play the 3rd form from your hand and you are instantly setup. The Engine, once you have one or two pieces, sets up instantly and is ready to go. Scholar's ability to card mill so quickly has him just about running through his entire deck each game anyway and has plenty of ways to stall the board if he needs to buy time. 

Longer fights pose their own set of issues for the Engine. You can not sustain a 3-4 form Engine indefinatly (without outside help). Eventually you will run out of fuel to keep your net hand gain per turn at around -1 to +1. Don't Dismiss Anything is obviously helpful here.

One thing I will add to this guide soon is a section on transitioning. I start every game thinking I am going to play the LEE style, so it is important to know how and when to transition out of it, and what you can transition to..

PlatinumWarlock wrote:

I'd be interested in seeing your thoughts on how Better Living fits into this schema.  If you 'take a turn off' from Bring What You Need, you're obviously going to be down some fuel for your engine, but barring healing cards in-hand (Transmutive Recovery, Get Out of the Way) or consistant group healing (Motivational Charge, Cleansing Downpour, Innervation Ray), it seems like it's going to be hard to actually fire the 'engine'. 

If you spend a turn forgoing using BWYN, you give up about a round or so of sustainability from your base-3 Engine. With that in mind, it depends on the cost/benifit of the situation. Better Living within the scope of the LEE playstyle is kinda like pushing the nitrus button on your pimp racer. Sacrifice fuel efficiency for more instant kick. Also keep in mind this guide is mostly focused on Scholar sustaining himself and not relying on outside card help. If you have an Argent Adept or Team Leader Tachyon ect, then Better Living starts to look like the better choice if you are already setup and not worried about drawing one of your precious Energy Forms (they are best kept in the deck to fish for on command). Scholars current HP should also be taken into consideration with Better Living. The Engine has a tendency to heal too much (it starts to outpace Iron form when talking about pure damage mitigation), so making sure that you are not handicapping yourself by keeping Scholar too close to max HP is important. It is the single biggest drawback to having more than one liquid form in play with this playstyle. 

PlatinumWarlock
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Good critique--thanks for the follow up.

I've run into the "Heal too much" problem with Scholar before, though usually only when I'm using Flesh to Iron or I have multiple healers in one group.  

What would you consider to be a quality 4 person group to fuel the LEE engine?  I would imagine that while Legacy would be a great choice, upping your damage output while offering a potential heal-partner, his numerous tank cards would be much less useful.

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Tempest is godly with Scholar.  Just an insane duo.  Adept is really good as well, and all three can abuse the cards from trash into play fun.  Omnitron-X adds to that ridiculousness as well while also giving 2 heals his turn.  Fanatic comes in for Embolden, free damage for you to heal back with that extra power.  Yes please.

In order of awesome synergy (in my opinion)

Tempest

Omnitron-X

Adept

Fanatic

Legacy

 

Really just doing a group of Scholar Omnitron-X, Adept and Tempest is insane, the crap you can pull with Sonata, DDA, Reclaim and Timeshift is crazy, and so hard to keep straight.  Just make sure the villain really pumps out damage.

 

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Played with The Scholar for the first time tonight.  Saw some of this engine going before Citizen Autumn wiped it.  But The Scholar was also getting great help from both Tempest and Omnicron-X tossing heals his way.  (Team was rounded out by The Wraith.)  The game stretched more rounds than most have recently, but Citizen Dawn never had the group that far down, and three of the four heroes got and kept fully developed deployments.  Which made life rough on the rest of RISE.

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So, given the new guide and the additional responses to my questions given above, I decided to try out the LEE-engine Scholar build this evening.  In all cases, my plan was specifically to a) beat the villain and b) work towards sustaining the LEE-build as long and as effectively as possible.  My observations follow:

Game 1:  Tempest/Argent Adept/Scholar/Fanatic vs. Apostate in The Block

I had significant difficulties getting set up in this game.  I came across no Keep Moving cards during the entire game, which really slowed down my ability to move beyond plinking for 1-2 damage at a time.  I had reasonable draws from most of the characters:  Tempest had a first-turn Cleansing Downpour, while Fanatic drew 2 Holy Novas within the first 3 turns.  Damage reduction was a significant problem, particularly once Runes of Malediction came out.  However, I had to deal with it almost all game, as I had several Fiendish Pugilists in play defending Apostate.  Further, card draw was a struggle at times, as Argent Adept simply didn't have the necessary songs in play to fuel additional card draw and no other Hero actively assisted with this aspect.

I ended the game with only 2 Energy forms and 1 Liquid Form (gained on the second to last turn) in play.  Overall, I'd say that Fanatic was probably the MVP of this round, easily outstripping Scholar's damage output (primarily due to the nemesis bonus, which I suppose isn't a fair comparison), and contributing an Embolden to Scholar's Bring What You Need/Better Living combination.  

I really felt like my focus on empowering Scholar significantly hampered Tempest specifically.  I specifically avoided playing his fantastic damaging Ongoings, in favor of supporting Scholar, which felt...ineffective, to say the least.  Numerous times, I felt like a Grievous Hailstorm or a Localized Hurricane could have been much more effective than simply more healing and a few zaps from Energy Form.

Game 2:  Legacy/Omnitron-X/Scholar/Team Leader Tachyon vs Akash-Bhuta in Silver Gulch

This time around, I had the LEE-engine rolling on all cylinders, playing nearly the whole game with 3 Energy and 1 Liquid Forms in play.  Thanks to TLT (particularly due to some early Fleet of Foot plays), Scholar was drawing 5-6 cards per round, easily fueling the LEE-engine with cards to spare.  Omnitron-X was also a huge help, but I found him in the same position as Tempest, in that his entire build was devoted to fueling Scholar, rather than exploring his own options, which he was only able to do towards the end of the game.  My first components were both Innervation Rays, which provided great impetus for Scholar's healing.

Legacy was particularly useful, in terms of damage buffs--between a round #1 Inspiration and Galvanize, he was able to turn those 2 damage blips of Energy damage into regular 4 point shots.  I never managed to pull a Legacy Ring, even with TLT providing additional card draw, so the Galvanize/Motivational Charge combo never got off the ground, and the extra damage from Galvanize was situationally worth more than the additional low-damage shots that would be given through Motivational Charge.  

I did run into the "too much healing" problem once during this game, as I accidentally maxed out Scholar's hit points.  It was only a temporary setback, though, as a well-time play of Alchemical Redirection pulled his hit points down near single digits for a turn before all that healing raised him back up.  However, without that card in hand, I can see the LEE-engine stalling out quickly...after all, you've got to actually take damage in order to heal it back up!

Overall Observations:

Maybe it was just my perception, but I felt that in order for the LEE-engine to run properly, you really had to have all of your team members supporting you, rather than doing their own thing or playing to their own strengths.  Legacy's tanking cards were all but useless in Game 2, as were Tempest's numerous great Ongoings in Game 1.  And, while the results can be really impressive--"Oh, you healed me for 2?  I can deal 3 targets 4 damage each now..."--is it better than the alternative in terms of opportunity cost?  If Tempest instead spent that Power phase dealing 4 damage to all targets, wouldn't that, generally speaking, be better?

I'm not saying the LEE-engine is a "bad" build, but much like some of the more esoteric Argent Adept builds, it's so contingent on having specific cards and situations, with everyone else at the table on board to assist you, I just can't see much use for it overall.  While the results can be impressive, the proverbial stars have to align to get you there and keep you there.  In Game 2, I hit one of Akash-Bhuta's ongoing destruction cards, which resulted me in taking out pretty much everything but the LEE-engine, which put the other heroes essentially back to square one.  If that was a Sedative Flechettes or a Devastating Aurora?  Not only would I be automatically out the LEE-engine, but I'd have next to no chance to restart it, as those Forms would be in the trash and only sparingly accessible.

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I might add that striking yourselfr with your own energy blast resolves the whole I can't heal issue as was written in Foote's post. Also against villains that strike very hard or very often I go with a I-E-E. For example I play the matriarch and want to be the rock that take everything she dishes out when birds die. I'd still get 2 damage for every healing point so get out of the way can become nasty.

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PlatinumWarlock wrote:

Overall Observations:Maybe it was just my perception, but I felt that in order for the LEE-engine to run properly, you really had to have all of your team members supporting you, rather than doing their own thing or playing to their own strengths.  

I think that, as with all play styles, you have to play to the situation. Without a Keep Moving in your game 1, your play phase is way too valuable to waste it playing Forms out of hand. You get horrible action economy playing that way and I can understand that slow and bogged down feeling you got. If you have the pieces in place, constant team support is not nessesary at all (but certainly always welcome). If you try and force your teammates into helping you, then it is best for everyone to transition into a different style.

Plop down an Iron, keep an Energy if able, and give priority to Axioms, Don't Miss Anything and Truth Seeker with a dash of Offensive Trans to taste. The Don't Miss Anything loop can be very high risk/ high reward in higher [H] games. Double Iron and Alchem Redirection based builds that like to use Know When to Cut Loose as a "crushing blow" type card might be boring but is certainly effective vs high damage fights such as Iron Legacy or ones that favor damaging the highest target such as Apostate. Any time you encounter irreducable damage, especialy against villains like the Rat, Liquid might actually provide better damage mitigation that Iron will (but without ongoing destruction, you rarely have to choose).

PlatinumWarlock wrote:

While the results can be impressive, the proverbial stars have to align to get you there and keep you there.  In Game 2, I hit one of Akash-Bhuta's ongoing destruction cards, which resulted me in taking out pretty much everything but the LEE-engine, which put the other heroes essentially back to square one.  If that was a Sedative Flechettes or a Devastating Aurora?  Not only would I be automatically out the LEE-engine, but I'd have next to no chance to restart it, as those Forms would be in the trash and only sparingly accessible.

I would not advise ignoring all the things a villain can throw at you. If you are going up against Dawn, you should already be thinking that the LEE is not going to be a safe bet without some pinch deck manipulation from Wraith or Dark Visionary. 

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I tried this LEE thing the other day. We were against La Capitan, and I drew a Bring What You Need in my starting hand. However, it went into, and left, play a couple of times before I was able to keep it out (stupid Mable :P). However, I then managed to get out two Energy Forms and one Liquid and was whittling down La Capitan nicely. One of the other heroes was TLT which kind of helped me keep a decent hand size, but I hung onto a few "draw more cards" cards in case of an emergency. The third hero in the group was Freedom Six Tempest who was able to nerf La Capitan a bit by destroying any of his cards that she stole, so she only managed to flip once and then we flipped her back again :). The LEE thing worked pretty well even with my base power, but Tempest got out Cleansing Downpour later in the game which was also helpful :).


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