Exploring the power of movement to nullify defender's advantage.
I have been very busy trying to finish up a project for my degree but I just want to put a thought out there that is at the core of my exploration of Faeria right now (or rather, before I entered the batcave): Initiative. I believe it explains the power of movement and is why I asked about preferences on Jump vs Charge 3 a short while ago.
Most of you know from experience, movement is one of the most powerful abilities in the game. Be it charge, jump, flashwind, or teleport, these abilities are at the core of the top decks. But I'm not sure it is so obvious why. To some degree, it makes the board smaller, which makes it harder to leave a creature out of position. Also, being able to move even one additional space allows for double collection with a single creature without sacrificing board presence. But I will argue here that the advantage of movement is much greater than these, although not a “theory of everything”. While it is true it can be more difficult to leave a creature in a bad position, placing a creature in a good position can have an equally large effect on the outcome of the game:
-Bad position-> lose the game;
-Good enough position -> even game, other factors determine the outcome;
-Great position -> win the game;
To begin, I want to present a simple scenario:
Player 1(arbitrary) has a 4/6 and a 6/4 on board. Player 2(again, arbitrary) has a 4/4 and a 6/6 on the board. All creatures are within combat distance of each other. From a pure combat perspective, who has the better board?
Pre combat analysis is simple, Player 1 has 10 attack and 10 life on the board, Player 2 has 10 attack and 10 life on the board, both players have 2 creatures, the board is even. Post combat analysis is also simple, but only because there are only two outcomes: 1) the 6/6 trades with the 4/6 leaving a 6/2 and the 4/4 trades with the 6/4 leaving nothing. Player 2 has the advantage.
Or 2) The 6/6 trades with the 6/4 leaving nothing, and the 4/4 trades with the 4/6 leaving a 4/2. Player 1 has the advantage.
Final verdict: the advantage depends on how the trade happens, and the trade that happens is decided by the player whose turn it is, this is called initiative.
Many players already know this, so why did I go through it? I want to make sure 1) everyone knows this exists and 2) everyone knows exactly what I mean when I say initiative. Vague definitions result in people talking past each other creating needless disputes. In the case of 1v1 creatures, buffs can be played at just the right time for the player who has initiative, while the opponent is forced to pre-buff, at worst exposing that creature to additional value from hard removal and at best forcing the player with initiative to back up.
Many players believe, previously myself included, that Player 1 has initiative to start, and Player 2 evens it out using explore. But this is only partially correct. Functionally (with *vanilla creatures), the defender has initiative, commonly called “defender’s advantage” in other games. I hope I can make this clear through images 1 and 2.
Image 1: The player whose turn it is has initiative.
Image 2: The player who moves towards the other creature gives the other player initiative.
The Power of Movement
Now we have a problem which I’m sure many of you already know the answer to (given the name and context of this essay thus far): How do you take initiative, if it can only be given to you by the other player? Of course the opponent would never willingly put themselves into a position where you have both initiative and the power to use it. They may give you initiative if you have a Wood Elemental(3/4) and they have a Verduran Force(7/7), but this is because they are counting on the stat advantage they have to overcome any initiative advantage. The answer is movement. Any increase in movement nullifies the defender’s initiative and gives it to the player that can move farther. In case it isn’t obvious, I hope after viewing Image 3 it will be.
Image 3: The player with charge 2 has initiative, regardless of whose turn it is.
To play around it, the player with “charge 1” must step back. The player with charge 2 can now opt to step forward 1 space and maintain initiative due to the opponent’s lack of reach. This can continue until the creature with “charge 1” can’t back up any more.
Image 4: Forced response from charge 2
Jump behaves the same way although with slightly more flexibility in direction, making it objectively better than charge 2. Charge 3 however has an additional advantage: while the “charge 1” creature can only retreat 1 space at a time, the charge 3 creature can advance 2 spaces in safety, meaning on the next turn the charge 3 can trade no matter what the opponent does.
In fact, charge 3 is so powerful, it can force the opposing player to forgo collection altogether, just to prevent dying to initiative:
Image 6: Charge 3 has forced the opponent to abandon their own well.
For the sake of brevity (and because I am still in the midst of theoretical exploration) this guide has focused purely on combat based interaction. Movement is not the end all of initiative (I hope this is obvious in practice), but it is clearly powerful enough to be included in nearly every deck. I also want to point out that while value may be a core point of analysis, value can be deceptive. In the contextual example, both players had the same initial board value, but this did not make them equal; other forces are at play. As I explained in the Introduction, I do not believe this to be the central theme of Faeria or a grand "theory of everything", only a critical portion of it. There are still many facets to explore. I hope you enjoyed reading, and I hope this helps you understand better why you win or lose, the most important understanding in the quest for self improvement.
Initiative: see “Context” section
*Vanilla creatures: creatures with no card text.