Phantaskippy's guide to Phantasms, part 2: Vital Strength of the Earth.

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phantaskippy
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Phantaskippy's guide to Phantasms, part 2: Vital Strength of the Earth.

Vital Strength of the Earth.

Theme.

Earth is powerful yet slow moving, this is represented mechanically with one of the slowest card play tracks in the game, and perhaps the most restrictive card gain among the spirits, but also the fastest energy track of any spirit.  Earth has a harder time multitasking and learning new things, but has incredible strength.

Unique Mechanics.

Earth defends 3 at all of its sacred sites, and its innate allows spirits to repeat power cards.

Role.

Earth's defense is powerful for keeping his lands under control and can be run as a defensive focused spirit, but Earth really shines as a hammer, using its fantastic power track to fuel major powers.  Earth's defense and ability to clear blight from the start of the game make it a strong blight protection spirit.

Why Earth wants major powers.

With a card play track faster only than Serpent, Earth is a terrible choice for a minor power, innate driven play style.  Add to that its only growth option to gain a power involves placing presence where you already have presence, and your best range of presence placement comes with reclaiming cards, and it is clear Earth isn't built to play lots of cards or have a big hand of powers.  On the other hand Earth's ease of gaining energy allows it to afford going for major powers without waiting as long as other spirits or at the cost of advancing presence tracks.

Growth paths.

Early on your power card's high costs mean you will need more energy or cheaper powers.  Normally you'd just go for minor powers and play the new cards, but unless you like stacking presence in nice tall piles that isn't a good option here.  With Earth, when you pick your growth options, where you can place presence is a major factor to consider.
I start generally with an eye on stopping ravages from causing Blight, getting a sacred site in one of the first two explored lands, preventing the other from building and clearing the initial Blight is a really strong start, but playing those cards isn't cheap.
My first turn I take presence from the energy track and gain 2 energy, starting you with 5 energy.  Next take a card and form a second sacred site from your card play track and then turn 3 gain your second card play and 2 bonus energy.  That gives you 13 energy, a second sacred site and a card, and you are ready to Reclaim or take another card.
I like this start because I almost always take a major power on turn 2.  If it costs 6 energy or less I forget the 3 cost card in my hand (your initial 4 cards cost 10 energy total, so you have three extra to spend), if it is more forget one from your discard so you have a second card to play turn 3.
If you get a really cheap major, like The Trees and Stones Speak of War or Flow like Water, Reach like Air, you can forget from your discard and grab another major turn 3, one you likely won't be able to play that turn.
The strength of taking that early Major power is you are just starting to build your hand, and since your innate isn't really worth focusing on, you can pick your major and then build your hand around its element thresholds.
Also, since your best growth options are your reclaim and gain a card, I keep my hand at 4 cards until I am ready to get 3 card plays, then I want to get up to 6 cards in hand.
My general progression of Earth presence tracks (focusing on major powers) involves alternating focusing one track, then the other.
I go: 3 energy, 2 card play, 6 energy, 3 card play.  That's 7 turns in, and an incredibly powerful spirit.

What powers to take.

If you go for major powers, a big thing I try to keep in mind is you are incredibly unlikely to hit 4 card plays, so I try to stick with majors whose elemental thresholds are not going to require 4 card plays.  You then want to take powers that line up with the same elements.  Lastly, be aware of your total energy needed to play your cards, and if it starts getting higher than 2 turns of energy gain get more energy or get some minors.
For example, one of my best games I got The Trees and Stones Speak of War as my first major, so I went for a second major and got Unrelenting Growth.  Those 2 with Rituals of destruction cost 9 energy, clear all thresholds and let me repeat either Rituals or Trees and Stones.  I ended up with Strangling Firevine and 2 minors for my other turn, giving me a ridiculous power level and leading the team to a dominant win.  But then playing Unrelenting Growth on turn 3 and turn 4, and then again on turn 6 will do that.
Another time I pulled Manifest Incarnation turn 2 and played it turn 3, generating 9 fear and clearing land 2 when it had just built a town.
You will have less good games, but pairing an early major power with your defend 3 passive makes it easy to keep your area under control even if you don't get an amazing power early.

Final words and tips:
1.  Don't be attached to your starting cards, they are strong, but not as strong as they are expensive.  I try to replace all 3 of the 3 cost ones with major powers.
2.  Seriously, don't worry about your innate, repeating a low cost power isn't worth passing on major powers.  If you focus card play to repeat a 1 cost card instead of getting and playing a major power you are choosing 2 minor powers over a major, and that is rarely a win for the minor powers.  Now if you get Trees and Stones or Twisted Flowers turn 2, go for it, otherwise ignore it and build to reach thresholds on major powers.
3.  Reclaiming is good.  You best way to reach new areas is by reclaiming, so keep your hand small, you want to reclaim every other turn after your first Reclaim, if you get into a reclaim - gain power - reclaim cycle you are doing really well, creating sacred sites all over and playing your major powers a lot.
4.  Don't worry about Dahan.  That 3 defend makes Earth awesome in ravage battles, but you really just don't want blight destroying your presence.  You will be smashing their lands soon enough with powers, don't be afraid to sacrifice Dahan.  
5.  Be flexible.  Your whole game plan is going to develop once you get that first major.  Build around it, gaining majors and advancing your energy track to balance your energy, and minors to fill gaps in elements and card play.
6.  Don't be afraid to reclaim with cards in hand.  Once you get a strong set of cards, you want to play them as often as your energy supply will allow.  So if you get a 2 energy major, a 4 energy major and a 1 energy minor and they clear thresholds and you have 7 energy per turn, don't be afraid to cycle them into play every turn.  You are still advancing your presence tracks and you are likely dominating, so just keep doing it.  Similarly if you get an amazing 6 energy major and 2 minors that reach its element thresholds, build to play it every turn, because why not?  Your reclaim advances your presence tracks.

Edited by: phantaskippy on Aug 6 2017 - 7:54am
Eric R
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I'm loving reading these!

(Small nit: all the Spirits are gender-neutral - or more accurately, gender-NA. "His" should be "its", or optionally "their".)

(That Unrelenting Growth combo sounds phenomenal. Do you recall how big a game it was?)

jffdougan
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The one I'm looking forward to reading, of the spirits I've tried, is Shadows Flicker. I have not yet been able to really grok playing it effectively. Wildfire is working its way there, too - I've triggered Blight losses every time I've tried it.

phantaskippy
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It was 3 player, I think lvl 2 england.  I'm glad you enjoy them, I am hoping to get all the base game spirits done by Gen Con.  For me it has been really fun sutting down and analyzing each spirits efficiency.  It shows off the quality of the design that went into each one.

Edit:

I think I got all of the pronouns neutral now, I try to keep them all neutral, will go reread the others to see if I messed up on those.

Shadows flicker is next, I have it mostly done, just need time to focus a game or two.

 

Foote
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I'd like to see some adversary tips on these spirit guides. If you get a chance, adding that in later will really turn up the dial on these which I'm enjoying reading.

For Earth, I think it is stronger vs prussia and england, but weaker vs sweeden. Never played with it vs France so I'm unsure.

phantaskippy
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I agree with your adversary rankings, as Earth tends to leave a few areas to build up and knock down later, so Sweden can cause trouble.  Don't know if I will incorporate that into these, but I am looking to add sections about how to deal with rough starts (when your starting land has a town and explores there to start).  

Foote
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phantaskippy wrote:

I agree with your adversary rankings, as Earth tends to leave a few areas to build up and knock down later, so Sweden can cause trouble.  

It's more that Earths usually strong innate defense is in sacred areas is less valuable vs the extra damage from Sweedens buildings. Earth has innate blight removal which is really good vs the double blight production of Sweeden, but the general loss of value from his special rule can be rough