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 units 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.