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Card Spotlight: Heavy Stroke

by on September 1, 2016

heavy-stroke

It’s been rather hot and heavy with the new player card reviews here at TftC, but there’s still always room for turning the clock back a bit to look at some older cards. Dwarf decks have long gone out of style, not for reasons of power, but for reasons of fatigue/boredom. Fire up a finely tuned Dwarf deck of the swarm variety and you will still be astounded at its ability to roll over a scenario, although more recent scenarios do put up a better fight than those of yesteryear. Still, players have largely grown tired of Dwarf decks, a phenomenon likely amplified by the fact that this archetype ruled the roost when there were so few other options. The collateral damage of this general distaste for all things Dwarf is that many Dwarf-focused cards have fallen by the wayside in the current meta (state of the game).

This overview brings us to the victim/focus of today’s spotlight: Heavy Stroke. A rather unique Tactics event that amplifies damage, the truth is that Heavy Stroke never really found a place, even in the golden age of the Dwarf deck. Has its continuing relegation to the dusty corners of card binders everywhere been a result of the fact that it is just a terrible card? Or does it deserve another shot at glory, with player antipathy towards Dwarves keeping it down unjustly? You’ll just have to read on to find out the final verdict!

Heavy-Stroke

Heavy Stroke is a 1-cost Tactics event from the Foundations of Stone pack. It essentially doubles the damage dealt by a Dwarf character:

Response: After a Dwarf deals X damage to an enemy during combat, deal an additional X damage to that enemy. (Limit once per phase.)

The first thing to acknowledge is that this effect is confusing and not very intuitive. Upon the card’s release, players immediately asked exactly how this effect is supposed to be applied. In other words, if a Dwarf is teaming up with other characters to deal damage to an enemy, how do you parse which portion of that damage is dealt by the Dwarf and which is dealt by the others after the enemy’s defense is subtracted from the total? Fortunately, the situation was clarified so that a player gets to choose which character’s attack is applied to the enemy’s defense. So if I attack with Aragorn and Gimli, for example, against an enemy with 2 defense, I can choose Aragorn’s 3 attack to cover the enemy’s defense, meaning that all of Gimli’s attack will be damage that can be doubled with Heavy Stroke.

With that out of the way, there are some good reasons why Heavy Stroke never saw much play and still is largely ignored. The first is the existence of Khazad! Khazad!, which was released in the same cycle, costs 0 resources, and boosts a Dwarf’s attack by 3. Khazad! Khazad! is therefore a more cost-efficient way to achieve the same goal: dealing more damage to an enemy. Of course, there’s always the possibility that you could include both in a deck, but that tends to be overkill. The second reason is that there are other direct damage effects that also accomplish a similar end but are potentially cheaper or less restrictive. A good example is Goblin-cleaver, which also costs 0 and isn’t restricted to having a Dwarf attack, though it does require the exhaustion of a weapon. Paying nothing to deal 2 damage (3 to an Orc) is equivalent or better value than Heavy Stroke in the majority of cases. The fact is that you have to generate a good deal of damage to justify the cost and trait restriction.

It sounds a bit strange to lament the expense of a 1-cost card, which is relatively cheap. But consider that you can pay that same resource for a Dwarrowdelf Axe, which gives a Dwarf +1 attack and a point of direct damage with every single attack. Gaining a permanent boost to attack, as opposed to a one-time concentration of attack, is usually better (we’ll get to the exceptions soon). In addition, many other direct damage effects, such as the aforementioned Goblin-cleaver, or even cards like Hail of Stones, are better because they allow you to hit enemies outside of the combat phase or outside of an attack. Heavy Stroke, by contrast, is highly situational and can only be used to help enhance an attack that you are already doing. What this means is that it does nothing for you in terms of conserving actions. Well, almost nothing, it does help destroy an enemy, potentially freeing up a character to attack someone else.

So the case sounds a bit dire, but you didn’t come all this way just to hear all the reasons why you shouldn’t play a card that you already don’t play, right? There has to be some kind of silver lining to this axe, and fortunately I’ve found a few possibilities:

1. Taking down a big boss enemy

Heavy Stroke is pretty much the Gimli of direct damage events. By this I mean that Gimli is a hero that is effective mainly in taking down large enemies, but isn’t necessarily the best choice for dealing with more straightforward combat against multiple enemies. I view Heavy Stroke in much the same way. As outlined earlier, other direct damage effects have the advantage in terms of cost and flexibility. Heavy Stroke, however, potentially has a higher ceiling of damage, which might not mean much against a puny goblin, but can be crucial against boss-type enemies.

For example, imagine a situation in which a pumped up 9 attack Gimli or Erebor Battle Master deals 6 damage to an enemy. Heavy Stroke would deal an additional 6 damage to that enemy for the cost of only 1 resource. This is simply unparalleled direct damage. Obviously, there are plenty of restrictions here, as you have to use a Dwarf character, but there is great potential here. The ideal context for Heavy Stroke is when you have to take down a boss with only one or two characters and need to maximize the damage dealt by those character(s).

2. Enhancing the use of Quick Strike

Quick Strike is a 1-cost Tactics event that lets you make an attack with one character outside of the usual player attack step (you can even do it in another phase). This event is fantastic for destroying an enemy before it can launch its own attack and can even be a substitute for Feint in some cases. The main limitation of Quick Strike is that it isn’t always possible to destroy an enemy outright if you have to rely solely on the attack of a single character. Heavy Stroke can potentially help with this situation by giving that extra punch needed to make the most of Quick Strike. Of course, relying on a two card, two event combo can sometimes be problematic. However, either card can at least do something on its own, which makes this approach palatable.

3. Helping out other players

One fascinating aspect of the way Heavy Stroke is worded is that it can actually be applied to damage dealt by another character’s Dwarf, since it doesn’t specify “…a Dwarf you control”. This does separate Heavy Stroke from some other direct damage effects, which can’t be applied to another player. For example, Goblin-cleaver affects an enemy engaged with you, while Hail of Stones affects the staging area. Of course, there are several other direct damage effects that do allow you to help out another player (i.e. Rain of Arrows, Skyward Volley, Pursuing the Enemy, etc.) so this point shouldn’t be overstated.However, if you can count on other players having a Dwarf around, perhaps because you are planning to run several Dwarf decks at once, then you could get some additional value from Heavy Stroke.

4. Wearing down enemies that cancel damage

There are a few boss enemies out there, such as the Nazgul from The Morgul Vale, Daechanar from The Dread Realm, and Shelob from The Land of Shadow that have various means of canceling or mitigating individual instances of damage. Since Heavy Stroke essentially counts as a separate instance of damage, it can help to wear down these special defenses more quickly. Pair it with Dwarrowdelf Axe and you can basically provide 3 instances of damage with a single attack. Not bad.

 

Overall, it’s clear that there are some circumstances where Heavy Stroke can be useful enough to edge out other similar effects. Primarily, Heavy Stroke is valuable in tandem with a big hitter like Gimli or Erebor Battle Master, particularly when facing down a large enemy. It also can be worthwhile if you really want to utilize Quick Strike to pick off enemies in one blow. However, these uses are niche enough that it’s hard for me to come to a glowing endorsement of this card. Unfortunately, there was one use of Heavy Stroke that was most intriguing and might have redeemed the card for me, but after looking at some text, I quickly realized that it didn’t work. The idea was to use Heavy Stroke to deal extra damage, then combine that extra damage with Firefoot to maximize the spillover. Firefoot, however, specifies that the extra damage comes from “this attack”, and Heavy Stroke deals direct damage separate from the attack. With all that in mind, I will have to give this card the verdict of coaster, not because it is useless, but because there are too many other cards that fill a similar slot that are just better. There are some special cases, mostly including bosses, that make Heavy Stroke a potential sideboard card for a Dwarf or Gimli deck, but that’s about it.

Verdict: Coaster

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2 Comments
  1. Just yesterday i play a deck with Dori-Bilbo-Pippin, in Battle-Laketown. Dori and Bilbo defended Smaug while the other player was questing. When i had 3 Khazads in hand and weapons on Dori i beat Smaug, and Dori killed in 1 shot (Bilbo too attacked with Half-Determinations). It was a great use of Heavy Stroke, but of course, is a very situational event.

    • zyxpsilon permalink

      Smaug has “immune to player card effects” – so a direct damage card like Heavy Stroke wouldn’t work. Cards that are boosing a character’s attack values (like using weapons and Khazad on Dori) are ok, though.

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