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Piecetinkering: Understanding Card Advantage

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Card advantage is one of the more important fundamentals to understand as a TCG player. When I first started playing Hex, I didn’t have a good idea of what card advantage was. I figured that if I have more cards than my opponent, I should be in a fairly good position. Although this can be true in some circumstances, we need to look at the bigger picture. Card advantage does not only include the differences of hand sizes, but also the state of the game.

If I have four cards in my hand and my opponent has two, but also three troops on the field – I’m actually the one with less card advantage. Now if I am still alive and played Extinction on my next turn, I’d be in a way better position than my opponent. I would be using one card to take out three cards. Makes sense, right?

Removal as Card Advantage

Both Extinction and Heat Wave are some of the more obvious forms of card advantage. This is why Extinction is highly played in a control B/X deck. If you are playing many troops in your deck, you wouldn’t want to play Extinction or Heat Wave as it would hurt you more than benefit you. Mass removal makes card advantage easy to understand! But…what about single target removal?

Single target removal does not necessarily give card advantage, but they count as a solution to a huge problem. However, a single target removal can potentially give you card advantage. For example, if my opponent used an Action such as Wild Growth on a Quash Ridge Tusker, but I cast Burn to remove it while Wild Growth is on the chain; I just got a two for one advantage.

Other actions such as Arachnophobia are easy to see how you can obtain a two for one. However, playing Withering Touch or Inquisition is a one for one trade. You are not gaining card advantage here and please note that I’m not saying that removing a threat from the opponent’s hand is a bad thing. This is similar to how a single target removal such as Murder is a one for one.

In Hex, there are some cards that constantly come back to the hand after it dies. I’m talking about Xentoth’s Inquisitor and Necrophet. Xentoth’s Inquisitor (socketed with the Major Blood Orb of Brutality) not only reduces an opposing troop’s attack by three, but ends up being a blocker that the opponent is afraid to kill. Xentoth’s Inquisitor is one of the more dominant forms of card advantage. Although card advantage is usually paired with control decks, we can see its existence in aggro as well.

Card Advantage with Aggro

An aggro deck tries to gain card advantage on the board. Aggro decks tend to force other decks to chump block thus losing a card for nothing. Without early answers (such as Heat Wave), an aggro deck can get out of hand quickly. Cards like Crushing Blow force an opponent to block only to lose their blocker. In this case, you are trading one card for another.  However, you still will have a troop on the board, whereas your opponent will not. This is how card advantage works for the more aggressive decks.

Can Card Cycling be Considered Card Advantage?

One of the biggest confusions in Hex in regards to card advantage is cycling. Cycling is the process of gaining a card by removing a card (the card can be sent to the Graveyard or end up back in the deck). This is also known as a cantrip. Example of these cards are Secret Laboratory, Arborean Rootfather, and Dream Dance. These are not considered card advantage, so try not to get the two confused. You are never really gaining cards, but it does help you gain your answers faster in tight situations.

Card Advantage by Card Draw

So what are some other cards that give us card advantage? Card draw is one of the more popular forms of card advantage. This is why troops such as Eldritch Dreamer (socketed with the Major Sapphire of Mind), Archmage Wrenlocke, Balthasar and Cerulean Mirror Knight are feared. These cards can quickly get out of hand if not answered as quickly as possible. However card draw does not only come with troops, but also with Actions or Constants. Cards such as Necessary Sacrifice (losing two cards for three), Pact of Pain, Oracle Song, and Zodiac Divination are just a few cards that give you a larger hand. 

Card Advantage through Multiple Troops from One Card

Cards such as Royal Falconer, First Blood, and even Uruunaz give you card advantage by putting more troops on your side of the field by using one card. This was why Reese the Crustcrawler was so dominant in Shattered Destiny. Sitting on interrupts while letting one troop constantly make more troops (regardless of the troops being random) is quite powerful. Another underrated card that I feel is a powerful sleeper is Crash of Beasts. A 3/3 for 3 with Crush isn’t bad, but adding another Rhino for every time you successfully play the card is quite the advantage.

Champions and Card Advantage

Champions add a new dimension to card advantage in Hex. Some champions allow you to draw a card (Wyatt the Sapper, Kranok, Benvolio, and Dreaming Fox). Then there are some champions that put troops on the field (Poca, the Conflagrater, Tetzot, Son of Omoc, Bertram Cragraven, Polonius, Monika’Shin, and Mightsinger Alyndra). Not only that, we have some champions that can remove cards either from the hand or in play (Concubunny Yuka, Zared Venomscorn, and Fahrny). This makes card advantage more complex. Champions give the player card advantage through the activation of their charge power. Don’t just waste your charge powers, make the best out of them! Better yet, choose the right champion!

Summary

Hopefully you learned a little something about card advantage and how it is one of the more important fundamentals of Hex. If you have any questions about specific cards or champions that I missed, please ask in the comments below.

Piecetinker is new to the competitive scene of TCGs. Despite this, he placed Top 8 in both the HexTCGPro July and Invitational tournaments. Primarily focusing in Constructed play, Piecetinker will continue to learn and improve his skills. You can find his Twitter here.

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