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Cardiology: No Time

Decision: Should You Play No Time

TL;DR:

Hell, I don't know, man.  Maybe?  But if you're going to, you should probably be aware of some of its best uses, which you can find in the article below.

Factor: Player Skill

This section is going to get into some potentially awkward territory, so let us start out with a disclaimer.  Player skill has no connection to personal worth; being good at the game doesn't make you better than anyone else as a human.  Please do not take anything said in this article as a judgement on you - we think you're great.

That said, some players are better at Shadespire than others.  Those players - those with more player skill - are more likely to benefit from playing No Time.  To further dive down into this concept, it's necessary to describe a concept that we're all probably aware of, but may not use the same words to describe: skill ceiling.

Things with a high skill ceiling are significantly more effective in the hands of an experienced, skilled player.  Things with a low skill ceiling are just as good (or nearly as good) in the hands of a new player as in the hands of a world champion.  Justin of the Battlecast channel on Youtube has described Zarbag's Gitz as having a high skill ceiling and Mollog's Mob as having a low skill ceiling; we tend to agree. 

Here are some more examples, rated in our very subjective opinion:
  • Low SC: Magore's Fiends, Fired Up, Inspiration Strikes, Great Fortitude
  • High SC: Eyes of the Nine,  With Our Bare Hands, Forceful Denial, Bag of Tricks
Please note that having a high ceiling doesn't make a card or model good or bad, it just means that the variability in its usefulness is directly tied to how good the player using it is at Shadespire.  In general, the more decisions a card or model requires a player to make, the higher the skill ceiling (Aggressive Commander, for example, essentially has the lowest skill ceiling in the game).

So what's this all have to do with No Time?  Well, in our humble opinion, No Time has one of the highest (if not the highest) skill ceiling in the game.  New and inexperienced players will look at it and scoff - until they come up against a veteran tournament player and get locked out of multiple plays by this single card.  The rest of this article will detail some (but probably not all!) of the ways that No Time can be used effectively.

Factor: Tempo


Tempo can be a huge factor in Shadespire, as evidenced by the banning of Time Trap early on in the game's history.  Probably the simplest use (and perhaps the least effective) of No Time is to buy tempo from your opponent.  For the cost of a power card, you can guarantee that the battlefield will look the same at the beginning of the next activation as it did at the end of the current activation.

Think your opponent is going to push your models somewhere inconvenient?  No Time.  Opponent going to use Healing Potion and/or Sudden Growth to preserve an injured Gurzag? No Time.  Worried that Stormdaddy is going to obliterate your gerblins with a well-timed Cry of Thunder?  No Time.

It's important to note that No Time won't prevent your opponent from playing their power cards - it just prevents them from playing those power cards right now.   And sometimes - that's enough.

Factor: Reaction Locking

No Time can also be used to lock your opponent out of being able to use critical reactions.  In the recent (post-Mollog) meta, reactions have become increasingly common, as cards that were once retired have come back into vogue; think Rebound and My Turn.

If you think that your next activation could be critically important to the game, playing No Time beforehand can be devastating to your opponent.  For example, if Fjul-Grimnir is about to swing into Mollog, playing No Time before your activation means Mollog can't Rebound/Last Chance/Aggressive Defense. Similarly, if your opponent desperately needs to hit a single attack and you've got no defensive reactions, you could do worse than playing No Time to prevent tricks like Trap! or Twist the Knife.

It's worth noting that when you use No Time like this, the power card block expires at an ideal time for you to follow up with the upgrade/Ready for Action combo - and you'll have the first option to play power cards in that power step, effectively extending the lockout for your opponent.

Factor: Objective Disruption

Blocking your opponent's objectives can be a very effective strategy for playing Shadespire.  Most of us have silently cursed as our opponent unwittingly knocked a key model out of position for our big score.  Initially, it would seem that No Time isn't particularly good at disrupting objectives, as it doesn't change the board state, but it can be quite disruptive when used carefully.

Many objectives - particularly positioning objectives - are easy to disrupt with cards like Distraction if you see them coming.  Therefore, most players will attempt to wait till the last moment to tip their hand that they are going for Alone in the Darkness, Supremacy, or something similar.  That's where No Time comes into play.

First, if your opponent is counting on using a push ploy to set up a last-minute score, playing No Time in the last power step can seriously ruin their day.  If that's not the case, then combining a well placed drive-back from an attack with No Time (to prevent them pushing their model back) can be just as effective.  These kinds of tactics can also be used to prevent almost any last-minute play, from dropping multiple ploys to score Ploymaster to using Ready for Action in order to get in your fourth action type for Keep them Guessing.

Factor: End of Turn Lockout

Even though it's mentioned in the most recent FAQ, the next use of No Time is criminally overlooked.  When played in the last power step of a phase, players can't play upgrades during the end step of that phase.  This can have several far reaching effects on the game.

First and foremost, this can prevent your opponent from playing out a bunch of end-step upgrades in order to refill their hand for the next turn.  Playing No Time in the last power step will force your opponent to choose between discarding their upgrades or drawing fewer cards.  Just make sure you play your upgrades before No Time.

Similarly, if you play No Time in the last power step of the game, you may be able to prevent your opponent from playing late-game scoring upgrades like Keys, Tomes, or Destiny to Meet.  If these kinds of decks become more popular (as seems to be the current trend), No Time's value goes up significantly.

Finally, in best-2-of-3 matches, the knowledge that you're playing No Time may convince your opponent to drop their upgrades early, resulting in increased opportunity for you to score Escalation and/or eliminate models that are stacked with upgrades.  Which leads us to our next point...

Factor: Meta-warping

Most of us (by "us" we mean the nerds reading this website) have come up against a meta-warping experience in our nerd-life in the past.  Probably the most common is the two-untapped-islands gambit in Magic: The Gathering.  If your opponent is sitting on two untapped islands, you've got to play as if they might have a Counterspell in hand.  This warps your decision making process, whether or not they are actually holding a Counterspell, which may force you into less-than-ideal plays.

An even better, if less well known, example comes from Legend of the Five Rings (the old AEG version, not the new FFG one - often referred to wistfully as Old5R).   In Old5R, one way that a player could win the game by reaching 40 honor, which led to the creation of decks that tried to gain honor as quickly as possible.  The release of a card called Proper Deference - which retroactively negated any honor gains during a turn in which a player gained 8 or more honor - forced these "honor-rocket" decks to play very differently.  Suddenly, everyone playing honor was being very careful to gain exactly seven honor each turn.  Eventually, very few people were even playing Proper Deference, but it's very presence in the meta continued to force players to play differently.

No Time could be one of these kinds of meta-warping cards.  We could see people playing out upgrades earlier, depending less on last-minute ploys (thus revealing their plans earlier), and reducing the number of reactions in their decks.  But in order for these things to happen, a lot of people have to play No Time, at least for a little while.  So if those kinds of effects on the meta sound good to you, throw your copy of No Time into your deck and unexpectedly ruin someone's plans.

Alternate Path: Forceful Denial


Another card with a very high skill ceiling, Forceful Denial, can serve a lot of the same purposes that No Time can.  On the upside, Forceful Denial actually negates the effects of a ploy, where No Time can usually only delay those effects until the next power step.  On the downside, Forceful Denial only works half the time, and can't interrupt spells or upgrades.

If you're terribly afraid of one or two particular ploys - Frozen in Time/Cruel Taunt for the Mollog fanboys ("Mollusks") - then Forceful Denial is probably a better choice for you.  If, on the other hand, you're looking for blanket disruption that's less permanent but casts a wider net, you should go with No Time.

Summary:

So should you play No Time?  To quote John Leguizamo's Genie of the Lamp from the excellent 2000 Arabian Nights miniseries:  "NO...maybe...the tests were...inconclusive."  There's really no mathematical analysis to point us one way or another on this card.  If you find yourself cursing your opponent's reactions, facing down a lot of Key/Tome decks, or simply wanting some blanket disruption, you should give No Time a spin.  However, you should go in with your eyes open: No Time is a bad bad card if you just throw it down randomly.  For it to be effective, you've got to play it at the ideal time; and knowing when that time has come is completely up to you.

Comments

  1. One of the best articles I have read for WU in a while, maybe ever. You took a card that I never thought of playing and laid out a fantastic analysis of it, and convinced me it is worth trying out. I appreciate unique articles like this that open up the game even further. Well done!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great article, I think one of the best you have written.
    I have been thinking about a what Control deck would look like and whether such an archetype could exist in the game.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! it definitely used to exist, prior to the first SBAR. Not sure it would work anymore.

      Delete

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