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Culdscience 1-4

Culdscience 1: Meet Executor and Gladiator

1.1

Here at the Culdscience Institute our goal is to push the boundaries of what's possible and what's understood about Culdcept. In this first installment, I'm going to take a look at some creature cards that are great at attack, but questionable on defense. Before diving in, I'm going to identify a few terms and abbreviations:

shot = killed by Magic Blast or Evil Blast
MB = Magic Blast
EB = Evil Blast
MDS = Mass Damage Spell (Tempest, Catastrophe, color-killers, Insect Swarm)
DR = discard requirement
LR = land requirement
LL = land limit
LB = Land Bonus
FA = First Attack

Let's take a look at Executor.

Executor Normal Fire
ST:70 HP:20 MHP:20 G:60+Card
Item Limit: Cannot use weapons

He's a pretty simple creature, no specials abilities or weaknesses. No LL, which is always good. No LR, which is even better. 60G isn't too high, although the DR means you might want to watch putting him in decks with too many other cards with DR. But let's get to the main event: his 70 ST. Only three other cards have a printed ST of 70, and they all cost at least twice as much G, and two have double LRs. On the surface, Executor appears to one of the best attackers in the game. 70 ST is good, but it's pretty easy to get to 80 HP between LBs and items. Unfortunately, he can't use weapons. On the plus side, he can use accessories. So, if you want to use Executor, be sure to pack a reasonable amount of offensive accessories in your deck, the best ones for him being Fire Amulet, Heart Fibula, Hourglass, and Power Bracelet.

However, with one exception, I wouldn't recommend Executor at all. Why? His HP makes him unsuitable for holding land. He's relatively easy to kill in combat, although he can use armor and accessories to help out. Even so, he's very vulnerable to penetration or item destruction. That's bad enough, but the worst is that he can be shot or killed by most MDSs. If you know your opponent has no direct-damage spells (like some story opponents), then Executor becomes a better card. But in a setting where you don't know what the opponent has, he's a severe liability. Also, he's generally weak to creatures with FA.

So what's the exception in which I recommend Executor? Support decks, which is another topic entirely.

In part 2 of this column I'll take a look at Gladiator, another red creature with great offense but questionable defense.

1.2

In part one I got down to brass tacks with Executor, now let's look at a guy in a similar boat, Gladiator.

Gladiator Rare Fire
ST:40 HP:40 MHP:40 G:70
Item Limit: Cannot use armor Cannot use tools Cannot use scrolls
Critical Hit:

No LL, LR, or DR, and a reasonable G cost. Good so far. Mid-range stats, good. Critical hit to all colored creatures is the highlight, he does 60 unassisted to anyone who's not neutral, and he can use weapons too. With a decent weapon he can kill almost anyone in the game. Pretty great so far. Uh oh, there's that pesky item limit again. No armor? Or accessories? Not even scroll (I guess Gladiators can't read). So Gladiator kills whoever he attacks, but once he's settled down, he's pretty vulnerable to getting the crap kicked out of him when someone comes a-knockin'. Fortunately he doesn't share Executor's weakness to being shot.

So, how to keep the illiterate, non-clothes-and-jewelry-wearing bad boy alive? Weapons that give either HP or FA are the best bet. Sword of the Falcon is the only weapon that gives first strike, and with it big G will do 90 to a colored creature, not too shabby. As far as weapons which add HP go, Catapult and Prismatic Wand are good. Keep in mind that they cost 90 and 80G respectively, and also that Prismatic Wand won't work against other red creatures (who the opponent will probably attack with if you're on a red land). Overall, Gladiator isn't a great defender but isn't as bad as Executor, but you have to use specific weapons in the deck for him to survive very long. The problem with guys who are great on attack but weak on defense is that they're kind of bad in the early game when there's not a lot of attacking, and if you draw them, you can either hold them for a long time, or put them on an unoccupied land, which makes them vulnerable. Also, in the case of these two specific cards, you shouldn't have both in a deck, since they can't use the same items at all (which they both desperately need).

Culdscience 2: Turbo Boost

2.1 - Boost creatures

Boost creatures can be a potent addition to several kinds of decks, typically those focusing on single-color or neutral creatures. First off, I'll list all creatures with the ability, followed by a thorough explanation of how they work.

Borgess Strange
ST:30 HP:30 MHP:30 G:50
Boost: HP+20 to creatures.
Tetramorph Extra
ST:30 HP:50 MHP:50 G:80+Card
Defensive / Boost: HP-20 to invading creatures. / Territory (50G): Deals 50 damage to target enemy creature whose element differs from its territory.
Ares Rare Fire
ST:50 HP:60 MHP:60 G:90+FireFire
Land Limit: Cannot be placed on Water
Boost: ST+20 to invading creatures.
Flame Lord Rare Fire
ST:70 HP:70 MHP:70 G:140+FireFire+Card
Land Limit: Cannot be placed on Water
Boost: HP+10 to Fire creatures. / Battle End: User loses 100G magic.
Dagon Rare Water
ST:60 HP:80 MHP:80 G:140+WaterWater+Card
Land Limit: Cannot be placed on Fire
Boost: HP+10 to creatures. / Battle End: User loses 100G magic.
Mad Clown Rare Water
ST:10 HP:20 MHP:20 G:10+Water+Card
Boost: HP+10 to user's creatures.
Dark Master Rare Earth
ST:60 HP:80 MHP:80 G:140+EarthEarth+Card
Land Limit: Cannot be placed on Air
Boost: HP+10 to Earth creatures. / Battle End: User loses 100G magic.
Hunbaba Rare Earth
ST:50 HP:40 MHP:40 G:80+Earth+Card
Land Limit: Cannot be placed on Air
Attack Bonus: Poison / Boost: ST-10 to Air creatures.
Beelzebub Rare Air
ST:70 HP:70 MHP:70 G:140+AirAir+Card
Land Limit: Cannot be placed on Earth
Boost: HP+10 to Air creatures. / Battle End: User loses 100G magic.
Nue Rare Air
ST:40 HP:50 MHP:50 G:80+Air
Land Limit: Cannot be placed on Earth
Boost: ST-10 to invading creatures.
Quetzalcoatl Strange Air
ST:30 HP:50 MHP:50 G:80+Air
Item Limit: Cannot use armor
Boost: ST+10 to Attacks First creatures, Attacks First ability is removed.
Sphinx Rare Air
ST:40 HP:50 MHP:50 G:80+Air+Card
Land Limit: Cannot be placed on Earth
Attack Bonus: Confusion / Boost: HP-10 to Earth creatures.
Virus Rare Air
ST:10 HP:10 MHP:10 G:0+Air
Land Limit: Cannot be placed on Earth
Item Limit: Cannot use weapons Cannot use armor Cannot use scrolls
Boost: HP-10 to all creatures.

Wow, that's quite a few! The first thing to understand about Boost is that it only works in battle, it has NO effect if creatures are not fighting. It functions essentially the same as a status effect such as Disease or Vitality. It takes effect at the beginning of combat, after items are chosen, but before the first attack occurs. It is important to note that, like Disease, a Boost that drops a creature's HP to 0 or less will kill it outright and the battle will end at that point. Also, if a creature's ST is reduced to 0 or less (and it has no support or items), it will not attack at all, meaning that no Bonus Attacks will occur.

Who exactly does Boost affect? In most cases it is pretty clear, for example all the lords give their respective colors +10 HP, and that means ALL creatures of that color, no matter who controls them! The same is true of Hunbaba and Sphinx, who put the hurt on their opposing colors. If a Boost is listed as "all attacking", it means whichever creature is invading receives the Boost. Mad Clown gives all Ally creatures +10 HP, and this means EVERY creature owned by its user. It does NOT affect creatures owned by a Cepter's ally in alliance battles. Quetzalcoatl gives +10 ST to any creature with FA printed on the card, it does not apply to creatures using items, or the spell Wings, to gain FA. Also, when Virus says "all creatures", it means it.

Boost from multiples of the same creature do not stack or add up. If there are two copies of Dark Master out (whether they have the same owner or not), all Green creatures will receive +10 HP in battle, not +20. Boost from different creatures does stack, even if it affects the same categories or stats. For example, if you have Mad Clown and Dagon out, your blue creatures would get +20 HP in battle (all other blue creatures, and your non-blue creatures, would only get +10 HP).

The last important thing to understand about Boost is that a creature's Boost ability will not work in battles involving itself. Originally we thought it meant that a creature didn't Boost itself, which is true. But it doesn't affect the opponent either! Now here's where it gets tricky. As I just said, a creatures Boost does not take effect in battles involving itself. But, if there is a duplicate of the creature in play, the Boost WILL work. So, if there is one Dark Master out, and he gets attacked, he does not gain +10 HP (even though he is green), and neither will the opponent, even if they are green. But, if there are two Dark Masters out, and one of them gets attacked, the Boost will apply, both to the Dark Master being attacked and the attacker, if they are green.

I think that pretty much covers how and when Boost works. In part 2 of this column I'll give some strategies for using Boost creatures. I'll go ahead and note now that Tetramorph is an E card, rewarded to you by collecting 40 medals. Unfortunately, that means you can only have one in a deck, limiting its usefulness as part of a deck strategy.

2.2 - Boost strategy

With the exception of Mad Clown, including Boost creatures in a deck can be a risky idea, if you don't know what the opponent has in their deck. In the case of positive Boost, the enemy may pack cards that are helped as much (or even more) as you are, or in the case of negative Boost, their deck may be even more inclined to take advantage of it. However, if you construct the deck with that in mind, you can usually make Boost more benefit than liability. Below are listed some suggestions for using Boost creatures efficiently.

The most obvious way to use Boost is in single color decks, and include the lord of your color. Generally, two lords is a good number, since any less and you may not draw him ever, and any more and you'll probably draw him too much too early when you can't afford him or can't play him due to LR. If your deck packs a lot of money cards and/or seems to move quickly towards the acquisition of your chosen land type, three might work, but having four is just asking for trouble. Yellow and Blue are both notably better for single-color Boost. Yellow has the most Boost creatures overall (five), but specifically Quetzalcoatl, when combined with Yellow's high number of FA creatures, can make for a powerful combination. Blue has Mad Clown, which works well in a blue-only deck since he has a LR, and you combine him with Dagon to give all your creatures +20 HP, which is a serious advantage, especially if your opponent doesn't have any blue creatures.

Borgess is a bit different from the lords, in fact he's kind of like an inverted version of them. He is cheaper, and weaker in battle, but his Boost is twice as powerful! An all- or mostly-neutral deck benefits tremendously from his presence. Also, since he's easy to get down, there's nothing wrong with including three or even four in your deck (especially since if you have two on the board it makes them both so much tougher). Also, if you can manage it, including a couple of Mad Clowns (which could be a pain due to the LR), can give your creatures a huge advantage. It becomes a real headache for the opponent when you have Skeletons with 70 HP in battle and regeneration too. Just keep in mind that Borgess and Mad Clown, unlike lords, can be shot.

Ares is an interesting and powerful card. +20 ST to attackers is a major influence on battles, and it might seem like it's not worth the headache of using. Well, there are cards you can include in the deck to give you more benefit than the opponent. Counter Amulet is great with Ares out because many, possibly most creatures cannot survive being hit with their own ST+20. In general, items that completely neutralize damage like Gaseous Form or color-shields are good, since it doesn't matter how much ST the opponent has. On the offensive side, creatures or items that grant CH are devastating with Ares. For example, a Minotaur with Fire Amulet gets +20 ST and CH (since he's red). With Ares, he ends up doing 120 damage! Also it's important to remember that Ares is a strong creature in and of himself. Due to the LR, I would advise putting two, or at most three Ares in your deck.

There are definitely other Boost strategies (Virus?), and perhaps I'll come back to them in a future column (Culdscience doesn't happen overnight!). My next column will be a heartfelt confessional: "Cheap creatures and the Cepters who love them."

Culdscience 3: Bargain Boys

3.1

"Here at Crazy Ben-Ra's we've got creature prices so low, you don't know what happened! Bargains from 0-30G every day! Try one today and be amazed!" (Fine print: no warranty. Creatures not guaranteed to do anything. Use at your own risk).

New Terms
IL = Item Limit

My doctorate may be in Culdscience, but I occasionally dabble in other fields. Psychology, for instance. I find it fascinating how certain cards in Culdcept can function very much like a Rorschach test (during which psychologists show you pictures of ink spills and ask you what it looks like, usually they're fishing for "a butterfly", I think). Take a card like Demonic Trade. Some people get halfway through the text, say "what the deuce?", and move on. Others spend hours trying to figure out how to use that card in the most devastating way possible. No, this column isn't about Demonic Trade. That was just a really great example using my overly long psychology metaphor. This column IS about some other cards that have a Rorschach effect. If you're the sort of player whose hair goes gray when the die goes against him, or who turns off the PS2 in resentment when he doesn't draw the right card, you may want to skip this column entirely, since it deals with the riskiest, most random creatures in the game, but also some of the cheapest. Without further ado (there's obviously been more than enough already), here are "Crazy Ben-Ra's Bargain Basement Creature Deals!"

Amber Mosquito Rare
ST:0 HP:40 MHP:40 G:10
Item Limit: Cannot use scrolls
In Battle: Transforms into Tyrannosaurus or Giant Rat.
Baldanders Strange
ST:0 HP:30 MHP:30 G:10
In Battle: Transforms into a random creature.
Doppelganger Rare
ST:0 HP:30 MHP:30 G:10+Card
In Battle: Transforms into same creature as opponent.
Mystic Egg Rare
ST:0 HP:30 MHP:30 G:0
In Battle: Transforms into a different creature based on the item used.
Spectre Normal Air
ST:0 HP:30 MHP:30 G:30
In Battle: ST & HP= (random value between 10 and 70).

What these creatures have in common is that they all become something other than what they are. More accurately, their printed stats are not used in combat (with the exception of Mystic Egg, if item is not used). Second, none of them costs over 30G (Doppelganger also has a DR). Third, they all have at least 30 HP. So what does this all mean and why should you care? Or, more to the point, when and why should you use these creatures?

All of these guys have the capability of being pretty big. The worst is Mystic Egg, who can be as big as 50/50 or 40/60. Amber Mosquito could be 50/60, and everyone else here can be even bigger, potentially. Certainly, they could be very small instead. But the possibility, and therefore threat, is very important. Those which change into different creatures entirely possess even greater threat since they could end up with a devastating ability. The potential and unpredictability of these creatures is what makes them useful, almost as much as the actual effect it has in battle.

Low cost makes them outstanding early cards, and good cards at almost any point in the game. Within the first couple of laps, dropping one of these guys on a square is almost never a bad decision. The minimum value of any territory is 50, and most are worth more than that. So in any case you're gaining value instantly by playing one on an unoccupied square. With more territories owned comes higher lap bonus, earlier in the game, and you spent less cash to get it. Plus, you can trade them out later for a more stable creature, and you will have wasted little or no G doing it. Finally, they are a cheap way of rotating a creature who's been afflicted with a negative status.

If an opponent lands on one, they'll probably think pretty hard about whether to fight, especially if the toll is low. The majority of the time they would have to spend more G to win the fight than you spent on your bargain guy, sometimes a lot more. And if they lose (since that's almost always a possibility), they really get killed on the expenses. So a lot of times opponents will simply pay a toll to one of these guys rather than risk blowing a wad of cash on nothing.

On the other hand, if you land on an opponent's territory (especially early), it's often a perfectly good idea to throw one of these guys at whatever's in your way. Worst case scenario, you lose a little more G than the toll itself, best case scenario, you took the enemy's land and killed something worth way more than what you played. Keep in mind, of course, that there are many later-game scenarios (usually with leveled-up lands), which these guys can't handle (even with the best luck) without an item.

Their low cost also ties in with the base HP in that they can't be killed by MB, and if someone uses EB (which will kill any of them except Amber Mosquito), they will have spent at least 90G more to kill your guy than it cost you to cast him (although you do lose the territory value also). Note that Doppelganger is a bit worse in that his DR means you really lost two cards to the opponent's one, but at least he only costs 10G.

Here are some general battle tips and facts regarding these manic-depressive cards. With the exception of Amber Mosquito's scroll limit, none of them have any IL. Those which transform to other creatures still use whatever item you chose, even if what they transform into could not normally use that item! Mystic Egg is different in that while any item can be selected, the only ones that have any effect on the battle (outside of being the basis for Egg's transform) are The Hand, Gremlin Amulet, Talisman, and Stink Bottle, which all possess item capture/destroy properties. Those effects do occur before the Egg transforms, and in the case of The Hand, if the opponent did use an item, the Egg will steal it and base his transform on that item instead of on the Hand. Their HP will reset to the printed HP after combat in almost all cases. If their MHP is below maximum (EX: they got hit with an MB or MDS), that won't have any effect in battle since the stats change completely. If they die in a transformed state, it is the transformation that exists in the 'discard pile' for purposes of the card Raise Dead (soon to be a column, hehe. Shameless plug). Part 2 of this column will feature more specific-card strategies.

3.2

Before I move onto part 2 of this column, which will discuss usage and strategy of specific creatures in our bargain bin, I do want to make clear that from time to time (sometimes way too often), these guys will break your heart. I mean it. You land on that 1024 toll, and your only hope is Baldanders. And then, 30 seconds later, you feel like Tina Turner and old Baldanders is Ike. Or something like that. Anyway, I like these cards, I think they're useful (especially when used properly), and I think they're "fun", whatever that means. Being a post-doctoral fellow doesn't leave a lot of time for "fun', let me tell you. But even though I like them doesn't mean they don't treat me bad sometimes...

Amber Mosquito is the most straightforward of our gang. That's both good and bad. It's good because you can say with certainty that his stats will be one of two values, after items and so on. But of course the opponent can do the same, which limits the psychological factor. Even so, you can't beat 10G for a 50/60 creature. If your Mosquito is on defense, you can actually attempt to cover both bases by using an item which grants both ST and HP, so if it's Giant Rat, it can kill with its FA, or if it's Tyrannosaurus, it can survive the hit and counterattack. That situation may not occur often, but it's worth noting.

Baldanders is my personal favorite of the bunch, just because it's greatly amusing (to me, anyway) seeing him change into, well, anything. Perhaps the most shocking transform I've ever seen was when he changed into...Baldanders. And he didn't change again, either. Anyway, Baldanders is like a really big Swiss Army knife that can do anything, except the parts come out randomly so you don't know if you're gonna get a bottle opener or the wrong end of a steak knife. He epitomizes the elements I described in part 1, and he also has the best mind games and potential. There is literally no situation Baldanders can't handle in some way, if the conditions are right. For the record, there is a roughly .44% chance he will turn into any particular creature. I say roughly because it's not known whether or not he changes into E-rated creatures. We've never seen him do it, but that doesn't mean anything. In fact, if anyone HAS seen him change into one (Astral Queen, Leoknight, Sanctum Guard, Tetramorph) please let me know. Anyway, there isn't much in the way of advanced strategy or tactics with him, other than if the fight is important, give him the best item you can, which is kind of a no-brainer. I will very likely produce an appendix to this column (which will probably take about three years to write) which lists percentage chances for stats on offense and defense. But don't hold your breath.

Doppelganger is the most complicated and flexible guy in the group, but also the most dependable. You know exactly what he's going to turn into and what stats he'll have. Again, though, so will your opponent. This generally makes him better on offense than defense, since you can easily pick situations that will insure victory, whereas if he's on the map the opponent can do the same to you. He works well attacking FA creatures, obviously. He does have some shortcomings. He can't kill Defense creatures very well. Watch out for enemy creatures with drawbacks (like lords' 100G fighting fee, or Berserker's self-confusion).

3.3 - The End is Nigh

Spectre plays similarly to Baldanders in that he has a wide random stat range, however he has no other special abilities. Since his stats vary between 10-70 (and in case you haven't used him, they vary individually, ST could be 23 and HP could be 66, for example), then the average value should be about 40. One thing that sets him apart from his comrades here is that he actually has a color and therefore gets LB, so assuming your opponent isn't using EB (which hopefully you can make an educated guess about at some point), he's pretty good to level up, especially if you have some good defensive items. As usual, just use items according to the situation and importance of the outcome.

Mystic Egg requires more forethought and careful play than the rest of the discount dudes. And part of the work is memorization. Since you'll know what items cause which transformation (if not, don't play Mystic Egg), that will give you a definite advantage if your opponent doesn't know. I don't talk about the AI much (since it's pretty easy to beat even with mediocre decks and playing), but I'm fairly certain that the AI does know what every transformation every item causes, so don't think they'll be fooled. The strength of Mystic Egg, like the other cheap dates, is in versatility and affordability. Unlike the others, however, you have a great deal of control over the Egg, both in your selection of cards and in which you hold on to during the match. The only thing you can't control is which ones you draw when, obviously.

Mystic Egg has 10 different Transformations, some more useful than others. The list, taken from ExMortis's FAQ, appears below. I have added the cost in parentheses following each item.

Carbuncle: Aura Blade(40), Gem of Life(20), Gremlin Amulet(70), Iksear(50), Neutral Amulet(10), Prismatic Wand(80), Ring of the Vampire(30), Storm Causer(60), Tower Shield(40), Vorpal Sword(40)
Cockatrice: Chain Mail(10), Crossbow(70), Fire Amulet(30), Flame Tongue(10), Holy Grail(80), Nunchaku(0), Offering Doll(0), Rat Hunter(50), Stone Hail(40), Winged Boots(10)
Cyclops: Battering Ram(30), Boomerang(40), Chameleon Armor(30), Earth Amulet(30), Leather Armor(0), Living Shield(40) Magic Shield(10), Petrify Stone(50), Sapphire Ring(30), Sleep(50), Terrair(50), Water Amulet(30)
Dragonfly: Buckler(30), Claw of the Ghoul(10), Earth Shield(25), Living Spear(50), Mujina Mask(30), Necro Scarab(60), Phoenix Amulet(20), Rock Biter(10), Shadow Armor(30), Sling(40), Trident(70), Venom(20), Water Shield(25)
Fire Giant: Air Slasher(10), Battle Axe(30), Bell of Chaos(50), Dragon Helm(70), Dynamite(50), Icicle(10), Kris(50), Living Sword(30), Long Sword(10), Magus's Mirror(40), Nuclear Fusion(120), Silver Plow(100)
Giant Amoeba: Bell of Law(10), Black Orb(30), Diamond Armor(60), Emerald Ring(30), Glaive(40), Hourglass(10), Mace(0), Power Braclet(30), Scale Armor(30), Trapezon(20)
Goblin: Catapult(90), Coin of Piety(0), Death(80), Masamune(50), Rainbow Piece(50), Ring of the Succubus(30), Smoke Torch(30), Sword of the Falcon(30), Vestment(50),
Wind Shield(25)
Nightmare: Dagger of Mite(40), Fire Bolt(40), Gaseous Form(70), Heart Fibula(30), Protean Ring(0), Ruby Ring(30), Spear(20), Tearing Halo(80), The Hand(80), Wind Cutter(40)
Sprite: Changing Salve(0), Counter Amulet(100), Fire Shield(25), Golden Goose(0), Luna Stone(50), Marker Flag(30), Plate Mail(60), Spike Shield(60), Wind Amulet(30)
Storm Giant: Amber Ring(30), Bandit Glove(0), Claymore(60), Freeze(40), Hell Blaze(80), Knight Shield(40), Lance of Odin(80), Morning Star(40), Stink Bottle(20), Talisman(100)

Note that items which normally have a recycle ability (hand or deck) are not recycled when Egg eats them.

So how to make use of this mass of info? If you're looking to work Egg into an existing deck, see if some of the items you currently use would result in some good transforms or good 'deals'. Just memorize what does what (or keep this FAQ handy) and you're good to go. That's the simplest way to use him, but not the most efficient necessarily.

So how do I streamline my deck and make Egg really work for me? Take a look at what your deck does, and what its existing weaknesses in terms of creatures are. Then see if any of Egg's forms can fill that gap. Next, try and find item(s) which cause that transform that will work well within the deck. I'll give an example.

Example: I have a red/green deck. I'd like a way to get down something on red or green spaces early that's affordable and doesn't have LR, plus I want it to be able to prevent my opponents from placing their red or green creatures on it. That's my land!

Giant Amoeba neutralizes both red and green, so it would serve both purposes, and be cheap to get down. So what items would I include? Hourglass is always nice since it insures your creature will strike first, whether attacking or defending, and if the deck has some heavy hitters, Power Bracelet is an efficient way to give them a lot of ST, but isn't very useful in the early game when there aren't as many big creatures or fights. Hourglass only costs 10G, which is great, and Power Bracelet is still very affordable at 30G.

Later in the game I may need a bigger creature, and I have Battle Axe and Claymore, which gives me the option of either Fire Giant or Storm Giant, at a cost of 30 or 60G. Not bad!

Another thing Egg can do is provide a few options for dealing with unexpected circumstances or annoying situations. Opponent beating you to death with an Old Willow? Transform Egg into a Cockatrice and Old Will turns into a significantly less irritating Stonewall. Small enemy with a big LB? Transform into Nightmare to hit 'em where it hurts.

Finally, for the hardcore Egg-enthusiast, you can go out of your way to make him a cheap, potent creature whenever you need him. Pair him with Bandit Glove, Long Sword, or Leather Armor for big muscle at 0-10G. Don't forget that Egg's HP resets after every battle in which he transforms, so Cyclops's last attack isn't as bad. And that's enough about Mystic Egg.

Aside from the Egg, I'm going to discuss what kinds of decks benefit most from our Blue Light Specials, and why. Decks that are chronically low on G, either from expensive creatures or spells, can get more bang for the buck. Decks with a lot of LRs also benefit from having something cheap that can go on any land but still be defensible. Decks who don't use a lot of creatures, but need a few to fill the deck out or to harass the opponent, benefit from their low cost and versatility.

Culdscience 4: Buying Symbols for Fun and Profit

4.1 - Symbols

Several disclaimers/comments. First off, I know it's been a long time since my last column, and I'm sorry. In fact, this column is not complete, and some of the information may be in accurate. I'll note these with this: !D! If you spot anything that looks fuzzy, incomplete or inaccurate and I haven't marked it as such, please reply and quote the section in question so I can explain/edit/whatever. I've been working on this for a while off and on, but some of the info is proving hard to come by, so I figured instead of wait a couple of months to get everything 100% I'll go ahead and post it now so the majority of the info can get out, especially since symbols seem to be a confusing area of the game for so many people. As usual, any comments or questions are welcome, and if I don't like them I'll just delete them (kidding!).

New terms
TM = total magic (the amount under your current G onscreen)

This column is intended to be a comprehensive discussion of symbols. How they work, how to use them, how to stop them and deck design. Essentially, symbols are like stocks or shares. There are symbols for each of the four colors, and the value of each color is tied to the total value of the lands of that color. If a map has multiple areas, each area has its own symbol value. The initial value of symbols is based on the initial value of the lands in that area. The value increases when Cepters level up land and create/increase chains. The value can also decrease if lands are reduced in level or chains are diminished. There are also cards which increase or decrease symbol value. Also, the Cepter with the most symbols of a given color/area gets a lap bonus equal to 10% of your total value in symbols.

So how do you get symbols? There are four ways. The easiest and most common way is to purchase them at a temple. Obviously, this requires there to be a temple on a map for this to be possible. You can purchase a maximum of 50 symbols at one time at a temple. If you are lucky, you can get symbols at a shrine, but of course shrine effects are random so it's nothing you can count on. The creature Sanctum Guard gives you 5 symbols, which are the same color as the land the battle took place on, if it destroys the opposing creature. The item Coin of Piety gives you 10 symbols, which are the same color as the land the battle took place on, if your creature destroys the enemy. Overall, buying symbols at a temple is the only reliable method of acquiring them.

Since symbols are so closely related to land values, it's important to have a thorough understanding of that first. Each territory possesses a base value. The base varies from as low as 50 to as high as 150( !D! I haven't seen last 5 maps so don't know if they have values below 50 or above 150). Base values can vary within a map or an area. So what makes territory value increase? Two things: lands increasing in levels and chains increasing or being created. Lands being leveled up is straightforward enough. When a Cepter spends G to increase a land's level, that increases its value by an amount equal to the total spent on the leveling up (which is itself equal to the land's current value), plus a multiplier based on the size of the chain it is part of (assuming it is). This value is of course added to the Cepter's TM. Increasing/creating a chain adds a multiplier to the value of all land in the chain. The chart below shows all possible land values.

Let's take a closer look at the relationship between land value and TM. Whenever you place a creature on a land (either an unoccupied one, or in the case of successful invasion), you spend G equal to the creature's cost, plus the cost of any item used in the case of a battle. In turn, the value of the land is added to the Cepter's TM, as long as he maintains possession of that land. Also, every territory a Cepter controls, regardless of its value, adds +20G to his lap bonus. What this means is that it is possible to spend more occupying a territory than it is worth at the time. It's also important to note that leveling up land does not increase your TM unless you have a chain, since leveling up in an unchained state costs as much as the land's value increases. Of course, if an opponent pays toll, you make G, and you do get more lap bonus as well.

Okay, so symbol value is tied to the value of all lands of that color in an area. That means that increased chain and level is needed to increase symbol value. But there's one more thing! If a land changes color , then its value is added to the total land value for that color thus (potentially) increasing it. Of course, the color it changed from just lost land value, so its symbol value may go down as a result.

The base value of the symbol is related to the total base value of all territories of the color within the specified area. Symbol value increases as territory value increases. In turn, for every 100G the value of the land goes up, the symbol value for that color will increase by 1. ( !D! I've read this figure +100/+1 on several Japanese sites, and my studies have shown it to be true...most of the time. Sometimes the, though, the symbol value doesn't go up as much as it should. It's very frustrating, but thus far I haven't been able to pin down the source of the discrepancy. It was one of the main reasons I hadn't released this yet).

Example: red symbols are originally worth 10G. Goligan has a single red land worth 100G and increases it from level 1 to 3, thus making its value 400. Since the value of that land increased by 300, the symbol value increases by 3 to 13.

The value of a territory also goes up if a chain is created or increased, up to a point. Increases to a chain past five do not increase value for every territory, although the value of the land becoming part of the chain is increased (if it became part of a chain larger than the chain it previously belonged to, unless that chain was five or above). Chains can have a big effect on symbol value because all the lands in the chain go up in value by virtue of the chain increasing. Keep in mind that a chain does not begin until a Cepter owns at least two lands of a given color in an area. Also, allies share chains in alliance battles (if Ryvern and Goligan are on a team, and Ryvern has two red lands and Goligan has one, between them they have a 3 chain).

Example: red symbols are worth 15G. Goligan has two red lands currently, each valued at 200 (from an original value of 100). He acquires a third red land in the area, which will be worth 300 since it is part of a 3-chain, and the two lands previously worth 200 each go up to 300 as well. The total increase in the value of red lands is 400 (100x2 for the increase in the lands he already had, and an increase of 200 against the base value of the land he just got). Therefore, the red symbol value goes up by 4, to 19g. ( !D! these values are simply for illustration purposes, the numbers aren't accurate).

See the chart below for exact toll/land values based on initial value, level, and chain.

Base Value: 50
lvl | no chain | 2 chain | 3 chain | 4 chain | 5 chain |
1 | 10/50 | 15/75 | 18/90 | 20/100 | 22/110 |
2 | 30/100 | 45/150 | 54/180 | 60/200 | 66/220 |
3 | 80/200 | 120/300 | 144/360 | 160/400 | 176/440 |
4 | 240/400 | 360/600 | 452/720 | 480/800 | 528/880 |
5 | 640/800 | 960/1200|1152/1440|1280/1600|1408/1760|

Base Value: 80
lvl | no chain | 2 chain | 3 chain | 4 chain | 5 chain |
1 | 16/80 | 24/120 | 28/144 | 32/160 | 35/176 |
2 | 48/160 | 72/240 | 86/288 | 96/320 | 105/352 |
3 | 128/320 | 192/480 | 230/576 | 256/640 | 281/706 |
4 | 384/640 | 576/960 | 691/1152| 768/1280 | 844/1408|
5 |1024/1280|1536/1920|1843/2304|2048/2560|2252/2816|

Base Value: 100
lvl | no chain | 2 chain | 3 chain | 4 chain | 5 chain |
1 | 20/100 | 30/150 | 36/180 | 40/200 | 48/240 |
2 | 60/200 | 90/300 | 108/360 | 120/400 | 132/440 |
3 | 160/400 | 240/600 | 288/720 | 320/800 | 352/880 |
4 | 480/800 | 720/1200 | 904/1440| 960/1600 |1056/1760|
5 |1280/1600|1920/2400|2304/2880|2560/3200|2816/3520|

Base Value: 120
lvl | no chain | 2 chain | 3 chain | 4 chain | 5 chain |
1 | 24/120 | 36/180 | 43/216 |

Symbols decrease in value for the exact same reasons. If a land's level drops, or a Cepter's chain decreases, the value of the land goes down and so does that of the symbols, using the same formula. Remember, if a Cepter releases a land (usually due to not having enough G to pay a toll), the land returns to its original value, and if that land was part of a chain, the value of the other lands may go down as well. Also, if a creature occupies a land that is leveled up, and it moves to a different territory or dies (without a new creature occupying it), the land maintains the value it gains from being leveled up, but loses any value it had as a result of being part of a chain (if it was part of one).

4.2

So now we know what makes symbol values go up and down naturally. There are also cards which affect symbol value, or interact with them in some way. These are listed below, followed by commentary. Information from ExMortis's FAQ as usual.

Dancing Doll Strange
ST:20 HP:20 MHP:20 G:30
Territory (70G): Lowers the value of all symbols by 20%.
Sanctum Guard
ST:40 HP:40 MHP:40 G:70
Attacks First / Upon Victory: User gains 5 symbols of same element as battle territory.
Heat Imp Strange Fire
ST:20 HP:20 MHP:20 G:10+Card
Territory (50G): Reduces target Cepter's most numerous symbol by 40%, then is destroyed.
Lung Rare Water
ST:0 HP:30 MHP:30 G:50+WaterWater
Land Limit: Cannot be placed on Fire
Item Limit: Cannot use weapons Cannot use armor
In Battle: ST & HP= (number of symbols owned by user).
Raksas Rare Earth
ST:50 HP:30 MHP:30 G:70+Earth
Upon Victory: Opponent Cepter loses 30% of their most numerous symbol.
Coin of Piety Strange Tool
G:0
Upon Victory: User gains 10 symbols of same element as battle territory.
Offering Doll Normal Tool
G:0
Upon Victory: Symbol value of same element as equipped creature is increased 30%.
Aurora Strange Multi-Flash
G:50
Raises the value of all symbols by 20%.
Corruption Rare Single-Flash
G:90
Target enemy Cepter loses (number of symbols owned x10G) magic.
Darkcraft Extra Multiple-Target Flash
G:70
The Cepter possessing the most symbols loses 30% of their most numerous symbol.
Disbelief Rare Multi-Flash
G:90
All Cepters lose (number of symbols owned x5G) magic.
Eclipse Strange Single-Flash
G:60
Target Cepter loses 20 of most numerous symbol. / Target Cepter gains 200G magic.
Grace Normal Single-Target Flash
G:30
Caster gains 15% of the total value of target Cepter's symbols in magical powers.
Pressure Normal Multi-Flash
G:70
Lowers the value of all symbols by 30%.
Shine Rare Single-Enchant
G:150
Raises the value of all symbols by 50% for 2 rounds.
Soltis Extra Single-Target Flash
G:80
User chooses 1 effect among 7 possible choices.

You can divide these into three basic categories. Those that increase or decrease symbol value, those that make a Cepter gain or lose symbols, and those that make someone gain or lose G based on symbols. Additionally, one might consider spells that increase or decrease a land's level/value (Leshy, Meteor), or even those which change a land's type (since that may increase or decrease a chain) to affect symbol value as well. Generally speaking, spells are the most useful, since they don't require any particular condition (such as victory in battle) to activate.

Those that increase symbol value are relatively straightforward. You usually want to use them after you've purchased a significant amount of symbols. Of course, it's best to use them at a time when you probably won't be buying any more symbols (either you're selling them or you're about to win). They are generally only useful to someone who is using symbols.

Those that decrease value are a little trickier. They can be used early in the game to make symbols cheaper (and thus more can be bought earlier), or they can be used later to hurt people who have a lot of G invested in symbols. Soltis is multi-functional so it's a good to have in almost any deck anyway, and probably one of the best anti-symbol cards.

Those that make a Cepter gain symbols are very limited since they add a specific number (as opposed to a % increase in value), and they both require an enemy to be destroyed. Granted, Sanctum Guard can be reused, but the fact that she only gives 5 each time means it's pretty inefficient. On the other hand, if the symbol value is even 10 (which is pretty low), you gained 50G for winning a fight, which isn't too bad. And of course you can only have one in a deck. Coin of Piety gives twice as many symbols but since it's an item it means the creature you're using it on has to be able to destroy the opponent without any real assistance. Not impossible, but likely to be difficult. Works well with creatures who can have big stats such as Soul Collector, Leoknight, or Gouda.

Those that make a Cepter lose symbols obviously have a single purpose: to hurt someone using symbols. They should only be included in a deck if you suspect/know an opponent will be trying to win using symbols, although Raksas is a decent (not great) creature by itself, so it at least has a function outside of being anti-symbol. Eclipse is also sort of dual purpose in that a Cepter both loses symbols and gains G. If the relevant symbol value is lower than 10 at the time the spell is used, the target Cepter actually makes a profit. Overall it's still more of an anti-symbol card, though.

Those that make a Cepter gain or lose G based on symbols vary a bit. Grace is usually used by someone with a lot of symbols so that they can gain a lot of G, obviously, but it could also be used by an opponent to profit (though since it's reliant on someone else's actions, instead of your own, it's riskier). Corruption and Disbelief are pure anti-symbol cards.

Lung doesn't really fit into any of the other categories. His use is relatively specific. He either needs to be in a blue deck or probably one with Gold Idol, because of the double LR. And of course you have to buy blue symbols, and a lot of them, for him to be worth anything in a fight (especially since he can't use weapons or armor). If your deck isn't focused on blue symbols, don't use him.

4.3

Whew... that's a lot of info on symbols! But now we're going to discuss what really matters: how to use them and how to stop someone from using them.

Symbols can be used either as your main/only strategy for winning, as a secondary/dual strategy, or just to keep yourself from walking around with too much G (because in some neighborhoods, all the locals are packing Drain Magic). Symbols are just like the stock market, you want to buy low and sell high. Of course, there isn't a direct need to sell them at all (since they add to your TM), but there may be circumstances, good or bad, which prompt you to. The most important thing to keep in mind about symbol decks (playing them and playing against them) is that once you've got two-thirds of the magic goal in symbols, and you have Shine in hand, you win (as soon as you can reach the castle, of course). If the primary function of your deck is the acquisition (and subsequent value increase) of symbols, which to buy is going to depend a lot, probably entirely, on your opponents. In general, symbol decks work best in 4-player games, since there are more players trying to increase land value at the same time. If your deck uses symbols in combination with a different strategy (probably creatures and land acquisition), you can buy symbols in the color(s) you play, with a greater likelihood that those symbols will increase in value. if your deck is "symbol-only" (no real creatures to speak of), you either need to know in advance what colors your opponents play (easy against the computer or people you know well), or try to figure it out as quickly as possible. The more colors your opponents play, the harder it is, and in some cases it may be necessary to diversify your purchases quite a bit. If you are playing against a single opponent or someone who knows well how symbol decks work, they will probably do everything they can not to increase land value in a single color, or for all colors. Maps which have multiple areas make the question of which symbols to buy even harder, and they give canny opponents another way to stifle your growth, since they can spend money leveling up things in areas you don't own symbols in.

I'm of the belief that symbols are best as an exclusive strategy, because if you're spending G on stuff like creatures and items, that's less money you'll have to buy symbols, especially in the early game. Symbol decks generally revolve around a few types of cards. Money gain, symbol value increase, and toll avoidance. Movement spells can also help since they help you to lap faster and get to the next temple faster (important in the early game especially). It is possible to include some symbol value decrease cards for two purposes, to make value low in the beginning (so you can purchase as many as possible before the value starts to rise), or so you can use the spell Suppression and make sure your opponents don't use them on you. Symbol decks are relatively straightforward to play, though it helps to be able to do math on the fly and know how much you'll gain from Grace, and so on. You just spend the early game buying symbols and the later game increasing their value, casting spells to gain money to buy symbols and spells to avoid tolls when necessary. There are some advanced tactics you can use, such as lowering values before you buy, mentioned above. Additionally, you may get a reasonably good amount of symbols, raise their value with an Aurora or two, then cast Shine when you're near a temple, and sell what you have at the super-high price. However, this carries the disadvantage that unless you're about to win (in which case you wouldn't need to sell the symbols, just Shine when you get near the castle), you'll need to buy symbols back, which takes time, especially since you can only buy 50 at a time. Still, if the circumstances are right you can net a large profit this way. This works best on maps with more than one temple (so you can buy back quicker). If your opponents are using anti-symbol spells, you can use Suppression, or for anti-symbol creatures you can pack some direct damage. Be wary of direct damage, though, because if you kill a creature which is part of a chain of 2-5, you will probably lower the value of that color of symbols. Usually it will be worthwhile (Dancing Doll can destroy symbol decks), but it's something to keep in mind.

Buying symbols with a non-symbol deck is easy enough, you usually buy symbols of the color(s) that you are playing and intend to level up (which will increase your value). Works best in the late game, especially if you have a lot of cash since an opponent landed on a big toll. When buying symbols, you should save enough G so that you can afford to play creatures and items for a few turns, or enough to get to the castle/fort. No sense making yourself vulnerable to a big toll or invasion by an enemy. Generally single-color decks get the most benefit from buying symbols. There are times when a combination of symbols, leveling up and the symbol lap bonus can give you a win, so being observant and aware of how symbols will affect your value can really pay off.

Example: magic goal is 9000G. You have 2500 G in cash (opponent just landed on Old Willow), 7715G in TM, and no symbols. You have 10 creatures on the board. You hit the temple and buy 50 red symbols currently valued at 25G apiece (value 1250G). On your way to the castle you pass by one of your red lands (base value 80) and level it from 1 to 5, which costs 1200 and increases the land value by 1200, so the symbols go from 25G to 37g(value 1850G). TM=8315G. You hit the castle, your lap bonus is 300(base)+200(10 creatures)+185(10% symbol value)=685. Your TM is 8315+685=9000G. You win!

The features, layout, and land values of a map can all have an effect on how a symbol deck works. Some cards and tactics are more or less effective on each map. Below are listed the relevant features of each map that has a temple (the only ones you should be playing a symbol deck on, obviously), notes on how they affect the deck, and what opponents can do on those maps to hinder you.

So you know how to win with symbols. How do you defeat them? Outside of metaing (using anti-symbol cards), the best thing to do is to avoid increasing symbol values too much for a specific area or color, especially if your opponent already owns symbols for them. Of course, that can make it difficult to get lands with big tolls to hurt your opponents. One way around this is to level up lands that are multi-element or neutral (if available), which doesn't increase any symbol values. Another is to shoot for quantity over value, which is more effective in 1-on-1 games. In a 3- or 4-player game it may be in the best interests of the non-symbol players to agree not to raise symbol values too much in hopes of defeating the symbol player. Dirty, but it works. Also, if you have cards which steal money from an opponent like Drain Magic or Pain, try to use them as early as possible to reduce the amount of symbols they can buy early while prices are cheap. If you are using discard spells/effects, in the early game focus on their cards which gain G, and in the mid to late game focus on spells which increase symbol value. Another card which you can use to your advantage is Land Transfer, which sells off land for a profit, if that land was part of a chain (otherwise you're just getting back what you put into it, and the spell costs 20G as well). You can take land, build up a chain, level one of them up as high as possible, then sell it off. You gain profit, and the symbols will go down when you sell off. If you have extra G (probably in the mid- to late-game), you can also buy symbols yourself, which means that when they raise symbol value you'll profit as well. Which symbols to buy can be a tough choice. The symbol user has probably bought the same color(s) as the one(s) you're playing, so if you buy those, you won't get a lap bonus (since he'll have more than you most likely), but if you buy your own, at least you can make their value go up by leveling stuff up. On the other hand, if you're using some of the strategies of avoiding chains and value increase from above, you could even try to bait the symbol user into investing in something you invest in. There are a lot of potential mind games at this point, and while the differences may seem minute, they can have a big effect on how it all plays out.

Originally posted January 22, 2004 to February 12, 2004 by Ben-Ra on Culdcept Forum

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 May 2013 12:48

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G:60
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