Codex: Finesse spec

River Montoya is the Finesse hero in Codex. She sees sword fighting as an elaborate dance. She loves the performing arts such as dancing, singing, and acting, and considers her fencing yet another kind of dramatic performance.

Here is her hero card:


When she reaches level 3, she can clear out any single early game defender from the patrol zone. That’s especially handy against specs that want to have fewer, but more powerful untis on the board such as the Bashing spec.

At maximum level, River’s tech 0 units cost 1 less gold to play. Those are the units in the 10-card starting deck. Usually you want to stop playing those units as you reach the midgame, but River can actually still get some value out of them because of how cheap they become.

The Finesse spec offers two main different gameplans, as well as some extra cards that are just generally good in lots of gameplans. The first gameplan has to do with Virtuosos. Both Finesse tech I units are Virtuosos:

Nimble Fencer gives herself haste,  and that alone makes her an important card. She also gives Star-Crossed Starlet Haste.

That Starlet is a bit of a diva, but her acting and sword fighting are superb. Getting 3 ATK for just 2 gold is a great deal, but the drawback is that Star-Crossed Starlet is ultimately doomed. She’ll normally only get to attack one time before she dies to her own upkeep ability...unless she has haste from Nimble Fencer. That will let her attack twice before dying if she manages not to take any damage in the process.

Star-Crossed Starlet could really use a hand from Helpful Turtle too.


Helpful Turtle is a card in the neutral faction starter deck that heal 1 damage from ALL your units and heroes if he survives just one turn after you play him. He’ll keep healing them each turn he lives after that too. He's a fun guy to be around, especially at parties. He interacts very well with Star-Crossed Starlet because he can heal just before she takes her damage each turn (you choose the order of your simultaneous effects) which means she can keep on performing indefinitely.

Speaking of starting deck cards, let’s not forget Tenderfoot either:


Tenderfoot might look like a bad card, but understanding why that’s wrong will probably teach you a thing or two about Codex. First, even a 1/1 that costs 1 is pretty great to have in your starting deck. In the early game, you want to do a lot of things at once, such as summon a hero (those all cost 2 gold), play a worker each turn (that costs 1 gold each time), and more. So just having ANY unit at all that costs 1, no matter what it is, has some value. That’s true for attacking as well as defending. And when you defend, you can even patrol that unit in the scavenger or technician slots to get an extra gold or extra card when it dies.

But Tenderfoot isn’t a 1/1 for 1—she's a 1/2 for 1. So she's already good even if we stopped right there. But look more closely...even though she’s new at her craft, she’s a Virtuoso, destined for greatness. That means she also gets haste from Nimble Fencer! AND she is a tech 0 card which means with a max level Finesse hero and a Nimble Fencer in play, Tenderfoot becomes a 0 cost 1/2 with haste.

Once you reach tech II, you’re ready for a lesson in stat valuation that’s even more crazy than Tenderfoot’s story. Check out this guy, who looks like some sort of misprint:


Leaping Lizards! He has anti-air, ok whatever you’re thinking. He’s a 3/5 for 1 gold. 1 gold! As crazy as that sounds, you deserve quite a lot of power at the tech II level, and you would generally RATHER pay more and get a bigger guy, so that’s why Leaping Lizard is allowed to be as amazing as he is.

The even more surprising part is that when you first see Leaping Lizard, you think surely you will play this guy all day, how could you not when he’s such a fantastic deal. And then you learn there’s another guy who is even better most of the time:


This master thespian has an upbeat attitude, and he has a lesson to teach. Just like Leaping Lizard, he is a 3/5, but he costs 2 gold more. His ability makes Virtuosos cost 0 though. Your tech I Virtuosos both normally cost 2 gold, so if you cast even ONE of those, ONCE then you already broke even with playing Leaping Lizard. The difference is that instead of having anti-air, all your Virtuosos get to deal 2 damage to a building (including the opponent’s base—the thing you need to destroy to win the game) without having to deal with combat or enemy patrollers. The deal really sweetens when you cast a second, third, or fourth Virtuoso. That’s a lot of gold savings right there.


While Maestro is rambunctious and giddy, Grounded Guide is that dour downer of a professor we’re all afraid of. You have to admit though, he knows his material, and Virtuosos are especially good at learning from him. They get a whopping +2/+1 as long as he’s around. The synergies here are quite powerful.

Finesse has other non-Virtuoso units too, but I’d rather shift over to tell you about a very different gameplan that Finesse players can use. This has to do with River’s spells, especially Harmony.


Harmony has channeling, which means the effect will stay in play until you lose your Finesse hero, then you’ll lose Harmony as well. While it’s in play, it gives you a free Dancer every time you play ANY spell. You can only have 3 Dancers at a time.

Before we get to why you even want a Dancer, let’s think about how easy they are to get. Finesse has pretty good spells, so you’re generally happy to play them anyway, even when no Dancers are at stake. Finesse also has CHEAP spells, which makes playing several of them to get Dancers even easier than it would be for other heroes. No Finesse spell costs more than 2, and there’s even a neutral starting deck spell that costs 1:


Even River’s ultimate spell costs 1:


Appel Stomp is a tricky spell. If you have two copies of it in hand, you can play both of them over and over, each one drawing the other copy. That lets you sideline X number of patrollers by paying X gold. In other words, you can pretty much ignore all the opponent's defenders once you get this going.

Back to the Dancers though, what are they? Well, they’re 0/1s, but they have a line of text on them:


If you look back at the Harmony spell, it says you can sacrifice Harmony anytime you want to “Stop the music”. That together with the text on the Dancer token means you can sacrifice your Harmony to flip over all your Dancers. Dancers are double-faced cards and this is what you see when you flip them over:


Dancers flip out when the music stops, and they become unstoppable Angry Dancers. Unstoppable means they can ignore patrollers, so they can attack whatever they want. Would you try to get in the way of an Angry Dancer? Didn't think so.

In Angry mode, they become 2/1 instead of 0/1 so they’re quite dangerous. If you have 3 Angry Dancers, that means you have 6 ATK of unstoppable damage. You can destroy a tech I, II, or III building in one shot, or turn that damage towards the opponent's base to go for the kill.

The last Finesse card I’d like to show you now is the tech III unit,  a master of swordsmanship and performance:


The Blademaster himself (or herself?) deals 7 damage and that damage is swift strike damage. If it would kill an enemy, that enemy doesn’t even get to hit back unless it also has swift strike, which it probably doesn’t. That bonus applies to ALL of your units and heroes when a Blademaster is out, so you’ll likely wipe the opponent’s board and keep most of your forces intact.

And in case you didn’t notice the subtle detail...Blademaster is a Virtuoso, too. Yes, it’s really free if you have a Maestro! Now that’s Finesse.

Codex: Bashing spec

The Renegades are the neutral faction in Codex. They have no allegiance to anyone, and are generally mercenaries and workers-for-hire. From lovable dancing rogues to violent lizards, they are a motley crew.

There are two neutral heroes, Troq Bashar of the Bashing spec and River Montoya of the Finesse spec. The neutral cards are generally simpler than the cards of other factions because they are meant as an intro to the game. By playing Bashing vs Finesse, you can learn how the overall game system works while using relatively simpler cards, and fewer cards too. In the Starter Set, each player controls one hero, but when you go to the Core Set and beyond, you can play 3 heroes at a time and have a much larger card pool to build your deck from as you play.

That said, the neutral faction cards are not just throwaway, beginner cards. They are very much a part of the game, and are actually the EASIEST to combine with other factions when choosing your team. Usually, teams that have more than one color of hero on them pay an extra 1 gold the first time they build a tech building or add-on each game. But the neutral heroes sidestep that; they are renegades who don't care who they work with. So they don’t count as a color here, and if you have a team of Red / Red / Neutral heroes, you don’t pay extra for your first building (while Red / Red / Green would).

Furthermore, the minor spells in the neutral starting deck are easier for other color heroes to cast, too. Usually a “wrong color” hero must pay 1 extra gold to cast a minor spell, but any hero in the game can cast a neutral minor spell without paying extra. So after you learn the basics of the game with Bashing vs. Finesse, you can certainly keep using them in your teams later on.

Troq is the hero of the Bashing spec:


Troq isn’t that smart, and he’s not that loyal either (as he used to work as a henchman for the Blood Anarchs, and before that as a soldier for the Flagstone Dominion.) He is well-meaning though, and has a big heart. He also has a big body. He likes to smash, and he loves potions of giant growth.

Troq is a simpler hero in Codex, but formidable in combat because of his stats. While he starts out as a 2/3 just like River Montoya, the Finesse hero, he becomes 3/4, then 4/5 as he levels up. He costs more to reach max level than she does, but his stats are ultimately higher.

Troq likes to smash, and his spells enable you to do that. Need to smash a unit? Give it The Boot.


This spell lets you destroy any early game unit, no questions asked. (Remember, heroes aren’t units, but Troq can hopefully take care of another hero simply by fighting them in combat.) Many early game units cost only 1 or 2 gold, so paying 3 gold to destroy them might put you slightly behind, but the versatility of this spell makes it worthwhile anyway. It’s pretty much always going to help you, it’s just a matter of how much.

Want to smash a building?


Wrecking Ball is an interesting spell because even though the effect itself is very simple and straightforward, it’s not so straightforward to know when or how to use it. Dealing 2 damage for 0 gold is generally a great deal, but it can only hit a building, so it won’t actually help you deal with enemy units on the board. You should think about two main categories of buildings here: a), tech I, III, and III buildings (they have 5 hit points each), and b) the opponent’s base (which has 20 hit points). Which kind of buildings should you smash with a Wrecking Ball?

Destroying a tech I, II, or III building puts your opponent behind one turn. It can make their hand full of dead cards that turn as they rebuild that building, and that can be enough of an advantage to pull ahead. Also, if you destroy one of those 5-hit point buildings, it will automatically deal 2 damage to their base, too. So you’ll get to slightly cripple them, and take of 10% of their base's maximum hit points in the process.

If you’re already closer to winning the game, then you can turn your Wrecking Balls directly to the base and deal 2 each time. That’s more efficient than dealing 5 to a tech I building and only having 2 of that hit their base. So usually early on, this spell is about crippling the opponent and right at the end, it’s about going for the kill.

Here's another way to damage buildings, from your starting deck:


Brick Thief lets you do that critical 1 point of damage you’ll need to destroy a tech building after you play two Wrecking Balls (or before, that works too). He also teaches you what the resist keyword does. And he teaches masonry on Sundays.

A lot of Troq’s power is actually in his ultimate spell though. So if you really want to smash the opponent, make sure to Final Smash them:


Final Smash has some drawbacks. It’s expensive to cast because you need to get Troq to level 8 first (so 2 told to summon him at level 1, then an additional 7 gold to get him to level 8) and the spell itself costs 6 gold. The general rule for ultimate spells is that you have to already have your hero at max level at the START of the turn to be able to cast it. So you’ll be telegraphing your ultimate a little. Another minor drawback is that the effects of Final Smash are not optional. So if the only tech I unit on the table is yours, you’ll return it to your hand, which you probably don’t want.

Now that we got that out of the way, consider the positives: it’s crazily, ridiculously good. If you actually smash someone with this for the full effect, the swing of getting rid of THREE of their units, and ALSO getting one of their tech II units for yourself is devastating. Troq has a lot of late game power here, so if you can survive until the late game, you can ride Final Smashes to victory.

Let’s shift over to looking at the Bashing units. The Bashing tech I units are very straightforward. I also hope you enjoy their theme and art.

Revolver Ocelot is a 3/3 for 2 gold with a combat ability. If he attacks a patroller, he can deal 1 extra damage to a patroller in the next slot over, if there is another patroller there. For example, an opponent who uses BOTH the Technician slot and the Scavenger slot in the patrol zone will be vulnerable to possibly taking an extra damage from Revolver Ocelot because those slots are adjacent. That means they will probably choose to patrol in less optimal slots just because of the threat of this.

Iron Man might not look like much, but he’s actually a benchmark of power. A 3/4 for 3 is near the top end of power that a tech I unit can even have. There are a few tech Is in the game stronger than him, but most of those have some sort of drawback. It turns out that those raw stats at that point in the game can be tough to deal with for specs that don’t have a 3/4. Basically, he’s really good at Bashing.

At tech II, you can get a Hired Stomper:


He can help you clear the board when he arrives, and he’ll stick around the clean up the mess afterwards. Be sure to compliment his jacket.

Bashing isn’t all bashing though. At least Sneaky Pig is slightly more subtle (or is he?)


At the tech II level, a 3/3 that costs 3 isn’t that great, BUT it’s a whole different story when you have Sneaky Pig’s abilities. He can bash right now, and he can bash exactly what you want. No matter what the opponent patrols with, Sneaky Pig can slip right past them and bash a hero for 3 damage, which is often enough to kill them. Or he can bash a tech building at a critical moment. He’s sort of like a damage spell that doubles as a unit if you need to defend with him instead. He's also unlikely to be identified due to his sneaky mask.

For more raw stats, try an awesome looking Harvest Reaper:


That 6 ATK is a heavy hit. It can even take out two patrollers at once sometimes! Having claws for hands really comes in handy here.

When it comes time to end the game, slam this down:


It’s hard to lose the game once this hits the table. It immediately deals 20% of the damage you need to win the moment it arrives. If it survives until your next turn, which it probably will because it’s an 8/9(!), it will a) attack for 8, b) ALSO deal another 20% of the damage you need to win directly to their base, and c) ALSO destroy two of the opponent’s units. That is one badass wooden duck. What’s inside him anyway? And will enemies really be tricked into letting him into their base? History says yes.

If you’re looking for some straightforward bashing, I hope you try Troq’s Bashing spec. If you want more finesse though, look into the other neutral spec: River Montoya’s Finesse spec.

Codex: Growth spec

Argagarg Garg is the Growth spec hero of the green faction. Outsiders stereotype Argagarg’s fish-like people as being savage and barbaric, but they have it completely backwards; the Merfolk are wise and patient. Just because they look different from humans, doesn’t make them bad!

Here’s Argagarg’s hero card:


He comes with a 0/1 wisp, which gives you an extra defender. His max level ability summons a 3/3 water elemental with anti-air, which is quite a perk. Argagarg himself tends to stay out of combat; he sits back and buffs units while they do most of the work.

Speaking of defense, the green starter deck in general offers good defense. Look at these Treants:

Young Treant basically doesn’t cost a card and Ironbark Treant turns into a 1/4 while patrolling. That’s equivalent to a 1/5 if you make him your Squad Leader. The point is, basic green cards are already good defenders, and Argagarg gets a wisp and a water elemental thrown in without spending any cards at all.

Argagarg himself only gets 1 ATK even at max level, but his spells are very strong. He can grow a unit huge, or shrink it down to nothing:

Dinosize makes one of your units big enough to kill basically anything, and Polymorph Squirrel turns even the most terrifying enemy unit into something you can easily kill. The perk of Dinosize is that even though you can often use it to kill an enemy unit or hero, later in the game it helps you set up for a huge turn where you attack their base for 20+ damage. One perk of Polymorph Squirrel is that it can kill units that are normally unkillable, such as indestructible units—they aren't indestructible when they lose all their abilities! It also lets you get around triggering any "Dies: Do X" abilities the victim unit might have, because those are erased too while it's a squirrel.

Are you looking for awesome art that is too great for this Earth?


There you go. And while you’re at it, have a crazily powerful spell too. Somehow it GAINS gold every turn, and it buffs your guy, and it heals all your guys. That’s a lot of upside. If +2/+2 on one unit isn’t enough for you and you want to straight up win the game by overrunning your opponent, use this:


Even if you weren’t really winning by much on the board, Stampede can give you an explosive 20+ damage turn to win in one shot. You'll have set up for it by having a max level Argagarg already in play when you cast your ultimate spell.

The green faction is also really good at generating gold. Argagarg’s friend Galina Glimmer is able to boost your economy a lot:


I mentioned in the article about the Feral spec that you can use Young Panda and Giant Panda to get more green units to make your Gigadons cheaper, and the same advice applies here to power Galina Glimmer. The Feral spell Murkwood Allies would also be an incredible compliment to her. (Green specs have a lot of synergy with each other!)

At the tech II level, check out Artisan Mantis:


He’s a very proper, fancy Mantis. Rarely seen without his top hat or monocle, he’s a master architect and able to repair structures better than anyone else in the game. If your opponent is blowing up your tech buildings in one hit, or threatening to take down your entire base in one hit, he won’t help. But often there’s a race for damage, especially against the red faction, and he works wonders there. He’s the key to some matchups, so use him wisely.


Blooming Ancient is the kind of guy who grows completely out of control if opponents don’t put a stop to him, fast. Blooming Ancient grows every time you play a unit from your hand, and ALSO grows every time you summon a token unit such as a wisp from one of the pandas or Argagarg, or all those frogs from Murkwood Allies. If you play your cards right, Blooming Ancient will be covered with +1/+1 runes, then you can distribute them as you see fit across your other units.

For those of you who like to lie awake at night, fantasizing about card powers that work out just right, this is for you:


All you have to do is deal combat damage 5 times after you play this, and all your units AND heroes grow ridiculously large. It’s pretty hard to lose if this goes off, but the trouble is getting those 5 growth runes. Might of Leaf and Claw is a tech II upgrade, which means it comes somewhat late in the game, and the upgrade itself can’t attack or patrol. So you’re putting yourself a little behind by playing it, and you’re facing an opponent who probably has access to tech II stuff. Ideally, you have a whole bunch of units laying around who can attack at once and trigger it in a single turn. Then you can live the dream of +5/+5 for everything.

At tech III, you get Guargum, Eternal Sentinel:


Guargum is the heart of the forest, the most powerful watcher over nature’s children. He’s legendary, which means you can’t have two of him, but you shouldn’t need two anyway. As a 10 cost tech III, he’s very, very expensive, but his last ability lets you play Growth spells for free, and without even having a Growth hero. Have a Dinosize and Stampede in your hand? That usually costs a total of 10 to cast, but go ahead and do that for free. And by the way you get a 12/12 with resist 2 and obliterate 4 while we’re at it. Obliterate 4 is totally crazy. Every time you attack, your opponent will lose 4 units, and there’s no way they can keep up with that while a 12/12 is grinding them down and casting free spells at the same time.

The Growth spec starts with a small Merfolk named Argagarg, but it ends with Guargum: Growth’s ultimate incarnation, taller than trees.

Sirlin on Game Design, Ep 14: Codex

We discuss the Codex card game, on Kickstarter at the time of this recording. Codex is a customizable (but not collectible) card game that has way different design goals than other CCGs. It's been in development ridiculously long, over 10 years, and we discuss the various properties it has that makes it so special.

Hosts: David Sirlin, Richard "Leontes" Lopez, and Matt "Aphotix" DeMasi

Also, here a Codex article index. New articles posted there almost every day of Codex's kickstarter.

Here's a link to the Codex kickstarter itself. 

Codex: Feral spec

Introducing the Feral spec hero, Calamandra Moss of the Moss Sentinels. She has a deep connection with the forest. Animals sense this, respect her, and fight for her. She can unleash the full feral force of animals, as well as employ their cunning and stealth abilities. Here's her hero card:


Her first ability is a constant threat to the opponent. Even when a level 1 Calamandra is on the board, the opponent has to factor in that at any moment they could take 4 damage to anything. That’s because the Calamandra player might dump 4 gold into leveling her to max so she can be a 4/5, and discard two cards to give her stealth. That lets her ignore patrollers, so she can attack anything she wants. The cost of discarding two cards is very high, so you won’t want to actually use the ability very much, but the threat of it is a game changer that opponents must do their best to play around. Opponents might consider building a Tower add-on against her to nullify the threat of her stealth.

Her max level ability is also notable in that it can get tech II tigers from your codex and put them into play even if you don’t have a tech II building. That means you can focus a lot on spells yet still access some pretty ferocious 4/4 tigers without sinking 4 gold into making a tech II building.

Let's take a look at her spells.


Ferocity gives its buffs to ALL your units (even untargetable ones, by the way). Armor piercing is most likely to be relevant against an opposing Squad Leader. Usually the Squad Leader slot in the patrol zone gets 1 armor, but that's useless against Ferocious units. Even more terrifying, all your units get swift strike. If you have all units that are the same size as your opponent, it means you get to kill all of theirs without taking any damage to any of yours. Your 3/3 with swift strike remains unharmed when it kills their 3/3, your swift strike 2/2 is unharmed when it kill a 2/2, etc.). You can't always make this line up, but you generally have beefy units with green so it's definitely possible to blow out opponents with this.

Murkwood Allies wins games:


Calling upon her friends from Argagarg’s swampy Murkwood Marsh, she can get four 1/1 frogs or a 4/4 beast...or both! (Is Midori around? His middle ability will give those all +2/+2 because they are units that don’t have abilities).

You can see Calamandra’s cunning in her Behind the Ferns spell:


Small units, such as all the frogs you just got from Murkwood Allies, can sneak past patrollers. That can be dominating because it allows you to take out an opponent’s hero to lock them out of certain spells, or take out a tech building to lock them out of certain units, or just win the game by attacking their base, no matter what they had patrolling. Remember that you’re threatening to attack for an additional 4 damage with stealth from Calamandra herself anytime you’re willing to discard two cards to activate that.

Prefer to win by the tooth and nail of powerful units? Try this:


If you boost it for a total of 8 gold, you can put two units from codex directly into play, without even bothering to wait a couple turns to draw them. If you have a tech II building, those can be tech II units. If you have a tech III building, they can be tech III units, which is just totally crazy overkill at that point.

Back to reality though, the Feral tech I units are notable in what “workhorses” they are, so to speak:

These are some of the most solid tech Is in the game. What I mean by that is they aren’t trickshots, they aren’t reliant on certain combos or anything, they are great, simple units you can count on no matter what happens. For 2 gold, you get a 3/3 with some combat abilities, and for 3 you get a 3/4 with overpower. Centaur is actually one of the focal points of the game. A 3/4 at tech I is so powerful that opponents often have to spend a lot of resources to deal with it. If you patrol it as your Squad Leader, it will get 1 armor, making it effectively a 3/5. That’s pretty hard for early game units to deal with.

Barkcoat Bear is a similarly solid guy at tech II:


A 5/5 for 4 gold is pretty good, especially with a combat ability like overpower. Resist 2 really puts it over the top, because it means spells that might kill it now cost 2 more—quite significant. That encourages opponents to fight in combat instead, but it’s a damn 5/5! Also, look at that art, it’s so great. He is truly a “Barkcoat Bear.”

If you want something more splashy, try Rampaging Elephant:


The 6/7 body is pretty nuts to begin with, but it can attack TWICE?! That’s one deadly elephant—he’s dishing out 12 damage when he attacks, and that's before you even buff him!

Check out Gigadon:


An 8/8 with overpower is so enormous that it’s really difficult to kill. But if they don’t kill him, he’s threatening to wipe out two patrollers at a time because of overpower (if that deals enough damage to kill one patroller, it can send the excess damage to a second patroller, though that doesn't cascade to kill a third). Pretty high cost though, right? In reality, you can play him for a lot less than 9. Maybe even 0 if you’re lucky. Get some frogs in there from Murkwood Allies and make sure to use one of these pandas, too:

They each come with a wisp, and those count as green units that reduce Gigadon’s cost. The Giant Panda is a Growth card rather than a Feral one, but as long as you have the Growth hero on your team, your tech I building can still produce it.

At tech III, you can unleash massive Feral power with...squirrels:


The squirrels he summons have haste (can attack right away) and are invisible. The invisible part means they can ignore patrollers and attack whatever they want, and it also means opponents can’t attack them or even target them on their turn unless they have a detector or a Tower add-on, which they probably don’t.

Let’s do the math with Moss Ancient. Let’s say you want to do all the damage you can to your opponent’s base. The turn he arrives, he can have 3 squirrels attack for a total of 3 damage. On the second turn, he can surely attack *something* and live, which means he’ll summon 3 more squirrels. So the squirrels alone will do 6 damage this turn. Same story on the following turn, except there will be 9 squirrels by then.

The summary is that on turn 1, 2, 3 of having him your squirrels did a total of 3, then 9, then 18 damage. That’s 18 damage that probably can’t be stopped by patrollers, PLUS 16 more damage from Moss Ancient himself attacking on turns 2 and 3 of this sequence. Also factor in that tech III units are generally hard to get rid of with spells, and Moss Ancient is untargetable, making him practically impossible to deal with outside of combat.

From the biggest of creatures to the smallest, the Feral spec commands them all!

Codex: Balance spec

The Moss Sentinels (green faction) are also included in the Codex core set. Lead by Calamandra Moss, they protect the forests and natural resources. They harness the mighty power of nature itself, making them ferocious and threatening in combat. Their attunement with nature also helps them find the richest veins of gold, making them a powerhouse resource-wise as well.

Here are the three green heroes:

Master Midori is the Balance spec hero in the green faction. He’s honorable and fair and strives to keep nature’s balance intact. That said, Midori’s methods of keeping things fair seem to favor him an awful lot!

Here’s his hero card:


At max level, Midori can fly—he can turn into a green dragon! I guess it’s fair because he only does that on your turn? Not really though, he’s special in all the game in that he’s the best hero at being a win condition without any other support. You can use Forest’s Favor from the green starting deck to make him a 5/6 flier:


With 5 ATK, he can destroy any tech building in one shot except for a base. If he goes for their base, that’s a 4 turn clock even without any other support. Midori’s threat of doing this is so powerful that opponents need to think about this possibility if they even see Midori in your command zone.

And all that is before we even get to his middle ability. It makes units with no abilities cost 1 gold less and get +2/+2. Would you like a 1 cost 4/4 in your starting deck? You got it:


Combine Midori with other specs that can generate token cards (usually those don’t have abilities) or otherwise blank cards such as this card in the Growth spec:


Midori also keeps it fair and balanced with Moment’s Peace:


That’s a “fog effect” meaning it basically shuts down combat damage from units for a turn, though it still allows heroes to fight because heroes aren’t classified as units. It’s a pretty fishy effect though. You get to stall, but you’re also the color with the best ability to get gold. You can delay an opponent’s beatdown while you set up really powerful turns later. You can get free gold with these cards in the meantime:


Rich Earth is in your starting deck, and it’s one of the defining cards of green. It usually costs 1 gold to play a worker, but for the low price of 2 gold you no longer have to pay for workers for the rest of the game! Meanwhile cards like Merfolk Prospector and Gemscout Owl rake in the gold.

Is your opponent playing cards that stay in play, but that aren't units? That's not really fair and Balanced. They should stick to units. Midori can make sure of that with this:


Nature Reclaims doesn't just discard the thing it destroys—it TRASHES it. Whatever unnatural card they were using goes away for the rest of the game and won't cycle back into their hand. Nature Reclaims itself is also trashed, and that helps you get to your good cards faster after it's done its job.

Midori’s ultimate spell is also very fair. It even says so right on the card:


Midori gets to be a 7/8 flier who draws a card whenever he attacks, who costs 1 gold for opponents to even target him, and who doesn’t exhaust when he attacks. He’s probably 8/9 actually, because he probably has a +1/+1 rune on him from Forest’s Favor. But hey, the opponent gets two 3/3s so it all works out. The 3/3 Hunters have anti-air, so that means they will damage Midori if they are patrolling while he flies over them, but they can’t actually stop his attack. Midori can probably win the game before the Hunters kill him.

Here’s a couple other fair guys for you.


You somehow get a 6/5 with overpower for only 3. Overpower means excess combat damage you’d deal to a patroller hits something else you could attack. The Horselord only follows the strong though, so that keeps it fair. The thing is, when he checks the total ATK on each side of the table, he counts his own 6 ATK in your favor.


Wandering Mimic is another great Balance card. He’s just a 4/4 for 4, which isn’t even that great at tech II. He can get a whole bunch of abilities, but only if other things have those abilities (see how fair that is?). Pair him with Gemscout Owl to give him flying. Would you like to have stealth or be untargetable? No problem, pair him with one of these balance cards:

Wandering Mimic is terrifically versatile and there's so much you can do with him that I think you'll have a lot of fun with him.

And at tech III, you get a ridiculously powerful Tyrannosaurus Rex:


The T-Rex is notable in that it’s one of the few ways in the game you can straight up destroy an opponent’s tech III unit. Doing that while having your own 10/10 with overpower is backbreaking. But hey, that’s the cycle of nature: some things die while others take their place.

If you like to keep things fair for everyone, sort of, then play with Balance!

Codex: Fire spec

Introducing Jaina Stormborne, the Fire hero in Codex. Jaina fights with a magic bow that shoots flame arrows, and she’s reckless and aggressive despite Master Midori trying to teach her some patience. She may have fallen in with the wrong crowd by joining the Blood Anarchs, but she fits in quite well.

A lot of the power in the Fire spec comes from how inherently good direct damage is. While some specs have to play fair and deal their damage through combat, Fire can often point that damage wherever you want. That starts with Jaina Stormborne herself:


When she reaches maximum level, Jaina is extremely dangerous. From that point on, she’s dealing 3 damage every turn, without spending any cards or any gold to do it. She can use that as part of a control-based plan where she tries to kill whichever units you play and destroy whichever tech buildings you have. Or, she can close out the game with this ability because your base is a building too, meaning she can deal 3 damage to it (15% of its max HP) every turn. That adds up fast when you factor in all the other firepower.

The red starting deck comes with a burn spell, Scorch.


That’s a bit expensive, but in the early game it can kill a pesky unit or hero and late game it can deal the last 2 damage you need for a win. Jaina’s own spells in the Fire spec are better versions of that:

Ember Sparks lets you deal 1 extra damage relative to Scorch from your starting deck AND it lets you divide that damage across multiple targets if you want. Meanwhile Flame Arrow deals a whopping 4 damage to any unit or hero. That’s enough to kill most heroes and lots of units. Even though it’s a powerful control spell, it’s also a great finisher to win the game with because it does 3 damage to buildings too.

At tech I, both Lobber and Firebat are solid threats:

Lobber gets to deal 1 damage immediately, while Firebat gets to deal 2 damage each turn if you’re willing to wait for it (he doesn’t have haste) and pay for it. Also, I hope you appreciate that there’s a firebat in this RTS-themed game.

Fire’s tech II cards are all dangerous in different ways. Bamstamper Lizzo is a very solid control card:


He gives you a respectable 5/3 body AND he usually destroys a unit when he arrives. That can help you dominate the board. Meanwhile, Doubleshot Archer gives you some control, but while also damaging your opponent’s base:


She won’t kill anything the turn she arrives like Bamstamper Lizzo can, but when she does attack, she’ll likely kill one thing and not take any damage (because of her long-range ability) and she’ll ALSO deal 3 to your opponent’s base. Those double shots are so efficient that your opponent just can’t let you have her more than 1 turn.

Want to rain down fire on EVERYTHING? You can:


As you think about how devastating it can be to deal 1 damage to everything an opponent has (on a flying unit that’s hard to attack), factor THIS in:


Now each Molting Firebird is dealing *2* damage to everything. Doubleshot Archer deals 4 to their base, Bamstamper Lizzo deals 4 damage when he arrives, even your lowly Scorch now deals 3 damage. And that’s with just one copy of Hotter Fire—remember, upgrades stay in play indefinitely. You can have two of these upgrades in play if you dare to dream!

That brings us to possibly the most dreamy Fire spec card of all: Firehouse.


Got a problem with Fire? Call the Firehouse, except they will just start more fires instead of putting any of them out. Firehouse is one of those cards that seems like it must be a typo or something. It can potentially wipe your opponent’s entire board if you set it up correctly. Everything with 2 HP or less is dead as soon you reach your next ready phase, and you can combine other damage with Firehouse to possibly kill the rest too. In actual practice, it’s not quite so easy to pull off a devastating Firehouse massacre, but hey, we can dream.

In case you want a more reliable win condition, get to tech III and bust out this ridiculous dragon:


Between the damage the dragon himself deals and all the free fire spells he lets you cast every turn, you’ll roast their base in no time.

May your passions burn red with Anarchy, Blood, and Fire!

Codex: Blood spec


Codex's Blood hero, Drakk Ramhorn is new to the Fantasy Strike universe. Here’s his hero card:


Drakk is a little guy who rides a huge beast. He bangs on his war drums to hype up his allies for battle. The Blood spec is very much about running into battle bloodlusted, no matter what happens. Blood has more trouble than just about any other spec keeping units alive on the battlefield, but the tradeoff is that Blood is generally able to do a lot of damage in the process—damage that’s very hard to avoid.

Blood is one of my personal favorite specs in the entire game. It might appear mindlessly aggressive, but it’s actually more difficult to play than it first appears. The hardest part is deciding when to shift all your attention to damaging your opponent's base (that’s how you win the game), versus when to fight for control on the battlefield. You have to be very careful about when you can go “all in”. If you do it right, you barely win right before you run out of gas and have nothing left.

Let’s look at some of Blood’s “unavoidable damage.” First, Drakk himself sneaks in 1 damage to the enemy’s base whenever he dies. That’s 5% of their life total right there. If you aren’t relying on Drakk to cast spells, it’s sometimes ok for him to die two or three times in a single game, which is 2 or 3 damage out of 20.

If you have any red hero on your team (including Drakk Ramhorn), you can use the red starting deck. That’s the small deck of 10 cards you start the game with. The red starting deck is fantastic at supporting Blood’s plan.


As simple as Mad Man is, he lets you be aggressive right from the start, which is exactly what you want. And look at his art: he is truly a mad man.

Then Bombaster is a way to clear out the opponent’s patrollers so you can do more attacking. When Bombaster actually attacks, he’ll have to attack an opposing Squad Leader if there is one—that’s how the patrol zone works. The opponent puts things there to “block” you and their Squad Leader is like the primary blocker, basically. But when Bombaster sacrifices himself to use his ability, he can hit any patroller, not just the Squad Leader. Also, he can do this immediately when he comes into play, whereas he can’t actually attack right away unless something gives him haste.

“Isn’t it bad to sacrifice your own guys?” you ask. Enter, Bloodburn:


That’s another red starting deck card. It’s tricky to afford a 3 cost card in the early game, but the effect is significant: every time ANY unit dies—even an opponent’s—you basically get to do 0.5 damage. This is an upgrade card, so it stays in play until something destroys it (and not many things can). Also, the art for upgrades and spells are icons, as if these are what you'd click in an RTS video game.

This next guy is an all-star in the Bloodburn plan:


He’s a tech I unit, so you need to build your tech I building before you can play him. You can usually start building your tech I building on turn 2, and have it finish on turn 3, so it's reasonable to play him on turn 3.

Anyway, Crash Bomber is a fantastic deal because you get a regular 2/2 AND you get to do 1 extra damage when he dies. Keep in mind that this is stacking with Bloodburn (by giving it a blood rune) so Crash Bomber really does 1.5 damage when he dies in that case.

At the tech II level, you can turn up the damage even more. You then have access to something that triggers even more damage whenever anything dies: well as things that deal a lot of damage and then die:

That’s some serious hurt right there. If you can keep even one Captured Bugblatter on the field along with Bloodburn, that’s now 1.5 damage anytime any unit dies. Your opponent basically MUST kill the Bugblatter. Meanwhile, your Shoddy Gliders have crazy gold efficiency by costing only 1 gold dealing 3 damage...or make that 4.5 damage if you have Bloodburn + a Captured Bugblatter. Crashbarrow doing a ridiculous 6 damage (+ another 1.5?) is just ridiculous.

But you can see the weakness of the plan right there. Bloodburn itself is an upgrade, not a unit that can protect you. Crash Bomber, Shoddy Glider, and Crashbarrow are all things that will die. Captured Bugblatter is amazing, but he needs other things to protect him to survive. You’ll have to string together some kind of minimal defense here or you’ll lose your heroes and your tech buildings to enemy attacks.

As a quick note about the theme of the red faction, look at those last three cards again. So they've captured a bugblatter, apparently? And they have some guys who use gliders, but only poorly constructed ones that crash immediately. They've also built some kind of battering ram with a lot of spikes, but it it only has 2 HP. Maybe not the best workmanship there. Much of the Blood Anarch's technology is hastily cobbled together and they've recruited (kidnapped?) various hooligans and monsters to fight for them too.

Back to gameplay now. When you find yourself desperate for more cards because all your guys died, try casting Desperation:


Or you could use Kidnapping to steal a guy from your opponent:


Ideally you kidnap a unit, then attack some other unit with that unit, and do it in such a way that both units die. Then you're basically using Kidnapping as a way to kill two things. Sometimes offense is the best defense.

Desperation and Kidnapping are both spells. Specifically, they are Blood spells, so you’ll need your Blood hero (Drakk Ramhorn) in play to cast them. If you level your Blood hero to maximum level, you can really rally your troops with War Drums:


Or if you focus on building up your tech, having a tech III building will let you throw down the pain with Pirate-Gang Commander:


He’s basically a fountain of units, damage, and gold all in one. Plus he’s a 6/6. It’s also very unusual that he allows you to continue playing tech I or tech II units even if you lose your tech buildings, which you probably will because you have so little defense.

If all offense all the time is your thing, then Blood is for you!