Review & Strategy guide: the best game add-on this year (so far): Orions: Deckmasters

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The new add-on, Orions: Deckmasters, for probably the best (native) Windows Mobile game of all times, Orions, has just been released. It not only adds 45 (!) brand new cards, but also implements most of the custom features I’ve asked for in my previous Orions articles.

I’ve been playing it for more than three weeks and, now, I feel I’m able to write a very thorough guide and tips. Please consult my two, related articles HERE and HERE for more info on what the game is all about, how it should be played; in this article, I only elaborate on the new cards and new modes.

In addition to the new cards, there’re brand new duel modes:

 

  • A "Custom Decks" feature, which allows to build your own deck and use it for fighting in duels. You can put any cards (at most, 24 and, at most, 5 for each element) on these decks. There are some 10 individual decks you can use.

    By using these customized decks and utilizing my favorite cards (more on them later, in the Appendix), it was only in about 2% of cases that the CPU was able to defeat me in regular duel games played in Hard mode. Just a comparison: in the standard mode, the same figure is about an order of magnitude higher.
     

  • There’s also a new "Draft" mode, where players pick cards out of randomly generated "pool" before each game, and then use these cards as their fighting decks. This also makes the game less random (and you also know, before starting to playing, what cards the enemy has if you pay attention to watching him selecting the cards), while it still isn’t so restricted as with the before-explained custom deck mode.

Note that there’s an unofficial PDF manual downloadable HERE; the PMG folks don’t plan to publish a similar, updated one for the new game. Also note that the developers promise a touchscreen-less MS Smartphone (AT LAST!) and a BlackBerry(!) version of the game. Incidentally, BlackBerry means Java MIDlet. Java MIDlets mean out-of-the-box (or, at least, after some VERY simple conversion steps) compatibility with standard MIDlet environments; this may also mean other advanced MIDlet-capable platforms (for example, Symbian S60) may also be able to run the game some day.

The game is, of course, a must to buy. I've too purchased it in order to support the developer (I've previously had it so I didn't really need a new license, but I've found it so excellent that I though to myself the developer definitely deserves this).

Now, let’s take a thorough look at the best new cards.

The best new cards

Creatures

Air / Lord Lighting (Level (price): 9/ Health (HP): 22/ Attack (strength): 5): Whenever attacks Air / Zeus, kills it. That is, if you want to kill Zeus because you have a lot of units on the deck with less than level 7, want to defend them from Zeus’ pretty effective and cheap lighting spell, the opposing slot to Zeus is free and and also have some way of making sure you can stop Zeus attacking in the next turn (by, for example, Earth / Spider’s Web), using this card is excellent.

Its spell is a bit less powerful than that of Zeus if you have little Air (the damage delivered equals to the current air) or some other direct, comparable spells like Life / Knight’s pretty powerful spell attacking all the other cards; but can be cast on any other enemy, even over level 7, unlike Zeus’ spell.

Life / Monk (7/ 16 / 1): probably the best, new card; highly recommended. While its attack is pretty bad, its auto-healing effect and, even more importantly, its spell is probably the most handy of all spells. The spell decreases of the target creature’s hit by 2 until 1 until 1, it’s already at 1 and with, say, Fire / Salamander or Earth / Dryad increased or in the very few cases when the damage is pure magical and can’t be decreased – see the brand new Death / Evil Sorcerer. With it, you can quickly decrease the direct attack of even the most lethal opponents.

(Note that this was a lvl6 card during the closed betatest. I was one of the testers that pointed out it was far too powerful for being lvl6 only.)

Death / Shadow (5 / 10 / 3) is particularly useful in that it only takes half the damage from non-Life cards.

Death / Assassin is very important if your enemy has a Life / Etherial on the board and you quickly want to get rid of it – even if the opposing slot is taken. Of course, you still have the other, already-known ways of killing of Life / Etherial. It’s also excellent at instantly killing any other creature.

Life / Hermit’s (6 / 8 / 2) spell (Gift of Life) is really-really useful to make sure your high-level cards like Life / Chimera or Water / Kraken are reborn after being killed. This way, by only spending 10 Life, you can even restore cards of level 13…15.
Beware: as it’s a good spell, it can be stolen via Death / Darklord.

The biggest advantage of Water / Water Troll (6 / 16/ 4) is delivering 4 damage to three opposing creatures at the same time – for 1 Water only. Really useful if you don’t want to spend 13 Water on the similarly-working Hydra (which, in addition, would leave your Water at 0 all the time, unless you have additional ways of quickly increasing it – via, for example, Nixie)

Air / Soul of Winds (6 / 200 (decreasing by 20 each turn) / 4 (default)) is THE card against strong card - and pretty much useless against weak cards like Earth / Dispercer or Life / Monk. The latter also means you’ll want to put very weak cards against it if your opponent brings this card to the deck.

The initial (but, in 10 turns, fully emptying) health means if it’s put against a very strong card, the damage caused by the opposing card will deliver little total damage. As the strength of the card equals to that of the opposing card, it’ll be pretty damaging to the opposing card. That is, if it’s put against, say, a Life / Chimera (13/30/10), it’ll only lose 10 + 20 HP every turn, while it, delivering 10 damage every turn, will kill Chimera in no more than three rounds (unless Chimera is protected / rehealed). And it’s really cheap!

Life / Valor is really useful if you can make sure (with, for example, Elven Archers or other spellcaster cards) there’re no opposing cards when it attacks the enemy owner; then, it’ll 14 damage (by default). Otherwise, its damage (to an enemy card) is 7 only.

Death / Evil Sorcerer is useful if you’re afraid of getting hit by Life / Hermit’s spells, decreasing your strength. Also useful against other spells and magical attacks.

Fire / Berserker (7 / 20 / 5) isn’t particularly good unless you need to quickly get rid of a very dangerous card causing huge damage (for example, an Air / Fairy or an Earth / Elven Archer) and it doesn’t have more HP than 12.

Earth / Kobold (6 / 10/ 5), because of its blocking any damage under 5, can be very useful when you, for example, play against the CPU and it uses Water / Scylla. Then, by reducing Scylla’s hit to, say, 3 by using the new Life / Monk, you will have a constant source of water. (The AI is still "dumb" not to see Scylla is useless and keeps rehealing it when it reaches too low levels, giving you a lot of free Water). Of course, there are several other cards you can use the same trick with – for example, Air / Gargoyle with the Petrification spell or Air / Astral Cloud.

Fire / Wall of fire (3/ 25/ 0) is one of the best cards. I consider it much better than the similar (3-level, dealing 3 damage) Fire Spikes if you want to quickly put a card on the deck, while quickly dealing 4 damage to all your enemies. Note that the card itself doesn’t attack; that is, if you need to take out the opposing card and don’t have other means like Earth / Elven Archer, forget it.

Earth / Dispercer (5 / 13 / 1) isn’t particularly strong (deals 1 damage only) but, when it dies, you receive one element each. For example, against a non-speller / non-positive-side effects unit, it’s a good choice.

Blade Master (9 / 30/ 8) should also be your preferred card because of its dealing 1 damage to all the enemy cards upon getting hit and its free (!) Shuriken spell dealing 2 damage to the other owner.

Water / Giant Turtle (8 / 20 / 3) is useful against low-HP cards (typically, cards under or around 10 HP) because, once the card’s HP decreases under 10, it’ll be instantly killed.

Water / Elementalist (7 / 18/ 3) is a very useful card to quickly kill very dangerous, powerful cards like Chimeron: the card you cast Magic Link on will receive the same damage Elementalist suffers from attacks hitting her. That is, if you want to get rid of a card really quickly, place it against a powerful, strong card and link immediately. Note that the Magic Link spell is very expensive; that is, use with caution.

Earth / Elven Archer (7 / 19 / 0) is also one of the cards I consider the most useful. It can not only attack any other card, even right after summoning, but also increases Earth by one each turn. I’ve found bringing 3 or, in cases, even 4 archer to the deck pretty much lethal, particularly if the opponent doesn’t have mass-killing spells like Fireball: any new enemy card brought to the deck by the opponent can be instantly killed (in most cases, right in the next round). As it has no direct attack, you’ll need another card to directly attack the enemy owner, though.

Spells

Air / Wings of Wisdom: particularly useful spell to quickly bump up all the elements by 2. Note that the official description states this doesn’t apply to Air; this isn’t true as yet because of a bug, which will only later be fixed. Until then, you’ll want to use it if you don’t have other spells to cast or cards to place on the deck. Particularly useful when you have Life / Chimera on board, with its halving the cast cost.

Life / Armor of God is also very useful for quickly healing, blessing your card and removing negative spells (like poison or strength reduction) from them.

Air / Moonlight is a very-very good spell if there are very few enemy cards on the board (it heals them too) and you quickly need to fully heal all your cards.

Fire / Blood Ritual: particularly useful for quickly bumping up your fire elemental; particularly if you have a Chimera on the deck, making this spell even cheaper.

Death / Enslave is also very useful to quickly steal the strongest enemy card. You can even have a gain of 8 by stealing a level 15 card (for example, Water / Kraken) with this level 7 spell. In this regard, it’s much more useful than the more expensive (lvl 8), comparable Air / Black Wind because the latter doesn’t steal the enemy card.

Life / Pure Heart: another very useful (and comparatively cheap – lvl5 only) card. Especially useful against the CPU when it starts using Death / Black Mage’s Extract Soul to change all its cards into Death / Ghosts because of the extra 10 damage delivered to Death cards. (Incidentally, this seems to be a bug with the AI – sometimes, it changes far more expensive and powerful cards into Ghosts when it would be absolutely unnecessary. Using ghosts, BTW, should be avoided whenever possible because of the owner’s also taking damage from direct attacks. That is, I don’t see why the AI likes it so much, particularly when spending 2 Death elements on Extract Soul spells.)

Appendix: my favorite (no-spell) cards

With these cards, I was able to beat the AI in the vast majority of cases – in Hard level. Note that this is just MY favorite deck when playing the AI; yours may be completely different. Also note that I don’t present a deck optimized for games with spells enabled; then, the restricted number of the in-game available cards would mean I would have needed to leave out some very cool cards. As a rule of thumb, I would have selected Fire / Fireball, Life / Pure Heart and/or Armor of God, Air / Chain Lightning and/or Moonlight and/or Wings of Wisdom and Death / Enslave - along with, of course, Life / Chimera (to halve the price of the spells) and Life / Unicorn (to protect my cards from destructive spells).

Water:
Nixie (to bump up water and to deal a lot of damage to Fire creatures)
Leviathan (to heal the owner; to deal 1 damage to all opponent cards)
Ice Wizard (to fight other Water creatures (1 damage from them); to bump up water; in need, to quickly heal owner (albeit, for this, Leviathan is preferred)
Tython (to quickly heal the cards)

Fire: Red Drake (because of the +3 damage upon summoning and not taking any damage from opposing fire creatures; that is, the most ideal card to fight Fire cards)
Diablo (mostly because of its spell, particularly when used in pair, mutually strengthening each other)
Efreet (because of the excessive damage sent back to the attacker; high HP and comparatively high strength)
Wall of fire (very cheap but, still, immensely useful). (You might want to go for Blade Master instead of this or, say, Efreet; it is also very useful and causes direct damage to the enemy owner without using any mana)

Air: Manticore (for the spell to quickly get rid of really dangerous spells like that of Monk, Elven Archer, Fairy etc.)
Zeus (to quickly get rid of cards below lvl7. If your opponent rarely uses low-level cards, you might want to go for Air / Lord Lighting instead)
Fairy (to cause immense damage to the other owner if he uses powerful, strong cards)
Nymph (to bump up air) (you might want to go for Soul of Winds instead, which is also very useful against strong opposing cards)

Earth: Satyr (the best Earth "bump-up" card - not counting in Elven Archers - particularly when deployed at the beginning of the game and particularly as the first card to deploy)
Elemental (very strong; bumps up Earth really fast; has a nice, free, protective spell)
Pyhon (suffocating is very useful, particularly if the opponent goes the Forest Spirit route)
Forest Spirit (to deploy against strong cards – if you don’t use Air / Soul of Winds against strong opponents; to heal owner)

Life: Monk (one of the best cards – both its spell and auto-healing are really worth using)
Chimera (strong; especially useful at healing owner; albeit in a no-spell game not as useful as in a game with spells)
Ethereal (to deploy against very though opponents or Scylla)
Paladin (in case you need to quickly take out a strong Death opponent like Dark Druid or Grim Reaper)

Death: Dark Druid (comparatively strong; great at healing owner)
Darklord (owner- and self-healing; stealing "good" spells, particularly that of Life / Hermit).

UPDATE (06/26/2008): Make sure you read JAMM's review HERE.

I just downloaded this game

I just downloaded this game and I can already see that it has a lot to offer. Thanks for keeping us in the loop!

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