Solforge is an exciting new digital collectible card game (DCCG) that is currently in open beta. It has a near dream team developing it – Richard Garfield, the creator of that little game named Magic: The Gathering, and Stoneblade, the creators of Ascension, one the best deck-building card games around. It’s attempting to push the boundaries for what is possible for a DCCG with mechanics difficult or impossible to replicate in physical form. However, these same mechanics make it difficult for new and veteran players alike to understand all of the nuances of Solforge’s strategy, so I have made this guide of Solforge new player strategy tips.
At a basic level, every turn you are going to play a combination of creatures in lanes and spells in order to reduce your opponent’s life total to 0. I’m going to assume that at this point you have already gone through the tutorial and have a few games under your belt. However, even as a more experienced player, you may find some use from this post explaining concepts in detail that you already implement.
As with most card games, at the simplest level, you are trying to manage your resources and cards in order to obtain victory. Currently, in Solforge, there is only one way to victory – reducing your opponent’s life to 0 or below. However, many of the resources and kinds of advantages are not immediately obvious or intuitive, so I will lay them out as plain as I can.
Surprisingly, this DCCG uses cards! Perhaps the most obvious of resources, your cards are what dictate all of your potential actions during a game, your strategy, and your weaknesses. The decision of what cards to include in your deck is made prior to the game starting, and therefore will be out of the scope of this guide in particular.
The second most obvious resource, your life determines whether or not you have lost the game. But, it is something more experienced players manage carefully, instead of simply trying to prevent as much damage to themselves as possible. We’ll get into this more later. Despite what anyone may tell you in person, you definitely have (a) life – 100 of them, to be exact.
This, I feel, is not as immediately obvious of a resource, yet one of the most crucial understandings to advantage in general. In most CCGs, each card has a cost in resources (gold, mana, and so on) that serves to limit the cards you can play in a turn. In Solforge, however, no such cost exists. You can simply play two cards a turn out of the five that you draw, and that’s it (there are a few exceptions). When you read/hear players talking about trading 1:1 or 2:1 for one, this is what they are referring to; trading one (or two) card play for one card play.
The Four Kinds of Advantage
In almost every competitive game, you are attempting to leverage your resources to generate advantages, and use these advantages to win the game. Solforge is no different, in this aspect. Arguably, there are other kinds of advantages, but I feel this list includes the most important and impactful ones.
Going along with the idea of life as a resource, you also have life advantage. Whomever is leading in this is generally obvious, however, players that have significant life gain or player-targeting damage can be unexpectedly ahead. Generally speaking, however, whichever player is higher in life is able to take more risks in board position, specifically being able to play weaker cards (in order to level them) or support cards.
Many new players simply try to prevent as much damage to themselves as possible, and this is not always the wisest choice. As players grow more experienced, they generally realize that this is a resource to be managed. More specifically, sometimes you may not have an efficient answer to a creature an opponent has that is about to attack you. Rather than throw away a card (or more!) trying to save yourself a few life, it can be prudent to play your creature in a different lane, allowing you to re-establish some board position, and hope to draw a better solution the next turn. It can often happen that on your next turn, you draw the proper solution to the opponent’s creature, and by not throwing away your creature the previous turn, you now have generated better card advantage for yourself.
Card Plays Advantage
This is a classic CCG advantage (card advantage) with a twist. Since your cards played in a turn are not limited by the cards that you draw, instead by the number of plays you are allowed to make in a turn (2), the advantage shifts to card played instead of cards drawn. Thus, an advantage can be gained by taking less plays to remove a greater number of plays by your opponent. Again, this is what players are referring to when they talk about trading 1:1, 2:1 and the like.
This can be confusing to new players, and not immediately obvious which player is leading here. Here’s a simple way to keep track: at the end of your turn, count the number of threatening creatures you have in play, and subtract the number of threatening creatures an opponent controls. Each turn, if the game is tied in card plays advantage, you should end with one more creature than your opponent (and they should end their turn with the same advantage over you). Of course, what counts as a threatening creature is debatable, but this at least gives you a guideline to quickly judge the game’s progress.
A word of caution to new players learning to track this for the first time: do not only pay attention to this advantage at the expense of all others. While it is important, if your opponent has strong advantages in other areas, you will often lose the game and instead be tempted to blame the loss on luck, without realizing you were giving it away. For example, you may have a card play advantage of 1-2, but if your opponent is playing cards like Synapsis Oracle and Technosmith while leveling cards like Scrapforge Giant and Chrogias, you are in for a very rude surprise when player rank 3 comes around.
Tempo / Board Position / Board Control
Board Control is something almost all analog (and many digital) gamers are well-familiar with already, so I won’t go as in-depth here. This is the concept that examines which player is in the strongest position with the cards currently in play (generally ignoring cards in hand / life totals).
Why this is different than card plays advantage is simple – one player could have 2-3 very small creatures, while their opponent could have one very large creature. Despite perhaps the technical card plays advantage, the player with the very large creature likely has board control. This is because that player has a threat that is more difficult to deal with, and will likely start shifting life advantage in their favor. Of course, with Solforge’s two card plays per turn and rank system, board control often swings wildly back and forth.
This is often the most subtle of advantages to a new player, but is often the most important in winning a game that passes the early turns (6-8 or so). The importance of this in winning Solforge games is incredibly significant, and it has enough facets that an entire article on just this alone could be written. Whenever you play a card, you get to place a leveled copy of the card in your discard pile to draw on future turns(assuming it is not already level three, of course), but leveling advantage goes much further than that. There are many cards that grant you additional plays (allowing you to level additional cards) or simply allow you to level cards directly. Frequently, the game does not end until ranks 3-4, so many players that can survive ranks 1-2 with a strong leveling advantage can turn around and get the win.
However, leveling advantage is not sufficient to win a game by itself, so be careful to avoid the allure of trying to maximize leveling advantage at the expense of all other advantages (by playing lots of Technosmiths, Synapsis Oracles, Metasights, etc). The reason for this is simple – many decks can take on a very aggressive stance in player ranks 1 & 2, and often have the potential to simply overwhelm you and win the game before you get to play all your juicy leveled-up cards.
As a new player, this can be frustrating to understand and difficult to track. When playing cards, you need to be able to answer the question of, “Which card is best for me to play this turn?” but also “What leveled up card will I want in the future, given the cards my opponent is leveling?” Being able to pick the right answer to the latter question is very critical to victory in Solforge.
Try to pay attention to ALL of the advantages. If you’re falling behind in one (or more) advantage, try to make sure that you are gaining in other areas. Often an opponent may neglect another advantage when they see they are ahead in one advantage. It may be wiser to instead boost the advantages you do have, instead of struggling to stem the bleeding in other weaker areas. For example, if you are falling behind in leveling advantage, you could focus on dealing heavy damage to your opponent – forcing them to make weaker plays or lose before they see their leveled cards.
Make sure your deck contains cards that can generate you positive advantages reliably. This may sound obvious, but oftentimes I come across decks that have little ability to do so reliably, or after I build a deck myself and test it, I realize that I lack this capability. Here, you are looking for cards like Epidemic and Matrix Warden for card advantage, Technosmith and Master of the Elements for leveling advantage or really threatening cards like Swampmoss Lurker and Grimgaunt Devourer for board position.
Be careful about focusing on leveling advantage. A few Alloyin players fall into this trap, but more often I see this mistake in draft. Granted, draft is a slower format, making leveling advantage more important. However, unless you are sure that you can hold off your opponent, it is very risky playing leveling advantage cards when you are already behind in most or all of other advantages. I have won many games where my opponent leveled significantly more/better cards than me – but none of that matters if your life total is negative, no matter how cool that discard pile of Scrapforge Titans and Scorchmane Dragons may seem. This is especially true against decks that either have lots of Mobility (so are hard to block) or direct damage, as it is easy for this deck to finish off players low in life.
Don’t neglect maximizing your benefit from life advantage. I see this mistake very, very frequently. I will be lower in life, while my opponent is much higher in life, but I have put down 1-2 serious threats. Instead of placing their weaker creatures in different lanes, my opponents will sometimes just throw small creature after small creature in front of my threats, allowing me to generate more and more card play advantage and eventually win the game. If you can afford the loss in life, seriously consider not throwing away your creatures in such a fashion.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you learned something from my Solforge new player strategy tips. Let me know if there’s anything you feel I left out or can improve!