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Arena Drafting: Tips and Strategies

Many things do not apply when it comes to your team composition in Arena:

  • All team bonuses (color, kingdom, troop type) are inactive
  • Troop traits are inactive, consequently making Stun the worst (best?) negative effect
  • Bonus mana from any Banners are inactive

Some things do matter though:

  • Troop order – don’t color block your troops
  • Health/Life and Attack – pay attention to what troops are at the front lines taking skull damage and which are in the back (many troops target the back troop)

Not all troops are created equal. That should be very evident to anyone. It’s very important to take the strongest troops possible and less important to try and be fancy with setting up complicated interactions between troops. Arena is not a game mode about looping and stacking stats. It’s about quick wins – kill your enemy before they kill you.

Never assume you will get a certain type of troop later on in the draft. If you are offered a good damage dealer, take it over any other kind of troop, like a conversion or support troop. Your goal isn’t to survive Arena, it’s to win it. This isn’t a Delve. It doesn’t matter if you win with just 1 troop left, as long as you win. The next match you’ll have your 4 troops back again.

There are lots of different ways troops can deal damage. Here are some of them:

  • Damage to all enemies
  • Damage to a single target
  • Damage to random targets
  • Damage to two specific targets (1+2, 1+4, 3+4, etc.)
  • True damage
  • Armor removal (and possibly damage)
  • Scatter damage
  • Conditional damage: strongest/weakest enemy
  • Boosted damage

Let’s take a look at my current draft:

The first troop I took is Festival Cow, a common troop:

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It’s very important that I cast this before he dies – and it also allows me to soak 1 skull damage hit before I cast him, because the enemy only has 10 Attack. That means I can take 10 free damage, then use Festival Cow. Why would I want to give up a skull match? Maybe it’s unavoidable, or I value collecting mana for other troops more. Festival Cow will basically allow all my other troops to perform better.

Notice the order of my troops. Each troop has a unique color: Yellow, Red, Purple, Blue. These are the four colors I can collect without blocking each other. If I put Lamashtu in the back, for instance, she would never collect any mana, because all the yellow and red mana would go to other troops first. Now that I’ve used Festival Cow, I’m in a great position:

Always pay attention to the board for skull matches – it’s essentially free damage. The opportunity cost of a skull match is the mana you aren’t collecting, but by matching skulls you’re also denying the opponent that skull match, and you’re possibly killing them, or at least heavily weakening them:

This is a TON of overkill – it will do 19 damage and the enemy only has 5 damage. If I had a troop that could explode a gem, this would be a great opportunity to explode the Doomskull, killing the first troop. Most troops that explode single targeted gems do something else. Look for the ones that deal damage (and it’s typically boosted!) In this scenario, I could possibly kill two troops with a skull explosion. Unfortunately, I don’t have that option, so instead I’ll just match the skulls.

Critical Skull hits are an incredible opportunity in Arena. They give you an extra turn and an extra point of damage (for the additional skull in the match), so it will hit for 13 damage (incidentally, this is also why Hunter’s Mark and Enrage are so powerful – that 1 extra damage, and any other extra skull damage like 5 damage from a Doomskull, is multiplied. If my troop was Enraged with 12 Attack and made a Critical match with 4 skulls, it would deal 13*1.5 = 19.5, usually rounding up. If the enemy had hunter’s mark, it would double that to 40 damage).

Now I can cast Pandaska Guard. This is a great troop because of its ability:

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Let’s see what happens. The state of the board before the cast:

And now after the enemy’s turn:

I now have an amazing skull match, but I also can use Lamashtu and get an extra turn!

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After casting Lamashtu, the board is very chaotic – there are skulls everywhere.

My Scarabi will kill one of the enemies:

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But then the enemy would immediately kill my first troop with a skull match and possibly kill my second one too. In this case, it’s much better to take care of the board before I worry about using my abilities.

Notice the placement of the Doomskulls. The yellow highlighted skull is very important!

If I move that to the right, I will deal 17 damage to the enemy and kill it. However, the enemy will then still have a skull match above, with a doomskull in it. I don’t want to die to cascades.

Similarly if I make the skull match at the top, it won’t affect the skulls at the bottom, and then I would be in the same position. My goal should be to make a skull match AND make it so the enemy can’t, if possible. To do that, I need to move this highlighted skull down:

This will hopefully remove the possibility of a skull match for the enemy. Let’s find out! Well, this is where a video would be excellent, because in making that match, it exploded enough skulls that a skull cascade came down and killed the last enemy too. That could have happened to my troops!

Let’s retire this run and go through a drafting process…

Common Troop Selection

Thrall is a poor choice. It does destroy 8 gems, but Thrall should only be used when he can destroy significantly more gems than he costs AND he can get the extra turn. In this case, he costs 6 mana (2 purple matches), but only destroys 8 mana. That’s not a good trade, especially because you’ll almost never get the extra turn because you can’t guarantee 13+ red gems, especially without a Firestorm.

Mammoth is an excellent choice, but is very risky, because you don’t know what future troops you’ll get. His ability removes all blue gems – removes, not destroys – so any Blue troops you have will suffer trying to collect mana. However, he does a lot of damage, because he targets both the Armor and the Life of an enemy, and the damage is boosted by the number of gems removed. If there are 9 blue gems on the board, he’ll do Magic(4)+1+(9/3) = 8 damage to both the armor and the life.

My last option is Centaur Scout. I’m going to take him, because he destroys an entire row (that’s 8 mana collected) and deals 7 damage to the first enemy. Destroying a row is incredibly powerful, because not only do you gain the full mana (unlike explosions), but you can potentially set up an extra turn.

Rare Troop Selection

Drake is a fine choice. He’s the beefiest of these three troops, with 21 total Health and Armor. Amaru only has 17 and Bat Swarm only 15. However, putting Drake in first spot would color block my Centaur Scout. His splash damage is pretty decent though, as it’s boosted by red gems. With 9 red gems on the board, he would deal 10 damage to an enemy and 5 damage to adjacent enemies.

Amaru deals Magic+4 damage to an enemy. That’s a decent amount of single target damage, but it’s nothing spectacular. The reason it’s so low is that he also Curses, Stuns, and Poisons the target. However… Curse is relatively useless in Arena and Stun is always useless. Poison can be very powerful (there are hardly any troops that will cleanse, and poison doesn’t fall off by itself), but you shouldn’t rely on it to win a match. For this reason, Amaru is a hard pass.

Bat Swarm has the lowest stats, but he also does the most damage – (Magic/2)+1 true damage to all enemies. That’s 16 total true damage. However, as the number of troops decreases, so does his damage. He also has a higher mana cost. On the flip side, he transform into Nosferatu, resetting his health. That can be pretty powerful. He also doesn’t color block my Centaur Scout. And remember, I don’t get any bonus stats for having 4 yellow troops, for instance, so there is no incentive to have troops sharing colors. For this reason, I’m going to take Bat Swarm.

Ultra-Rare Troop Selection

Remember when I said stun is worthless in Arena? Well, it is… to a degree. There are a few troops where stun is a condition, and Wandering Monk is one of them. She deals double spell damage against Stunned troops. However, her stun comes after she deals damage. This is one of those gimmicky set ups that you absolutely want to avoid. Casting her twice against the same troop would do a staggering 27 damage – 9 the first cast and 18 the second cast. However, the troop would need to remain Stunned until you can fill 12 mana again. There is no guarantee of that, and 18 damage from two of her casts is going to kill nearly any target anyway. Avoid.

Winter Wolf has a lot going on:

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Is Freeze important? Not really. Extra turns are rare enough that you don’t need to rely on freeze at all to win. The Hunter’s Mark is very powerful though – they’ll take double damage from Skull matches against them, and you’ll deal 9 damage to them too. There are probably not going to be 13 blue gems on the board consistently enough to trigger the 5 more blue gems, but potentially you could loop Winter Wolf. I need more though than just 9 damage and hunter’s mark. Let’s move on to the last troop… Wyvern!

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Now this is what I’m talking about. 20 damage to the first two troops and poison the last two AND it costs less than the first two troops. Yes, he has less armor and health, but that’s not important at all. This is a fantastic troop. I’m grabbing it. So far I have Yellow, Red, Green, and two troops sharing Brown. Nothing is blocked. Last troop!

Epic Troop Selection

Amira is an incredible troop. If the enemy uses Blue, they are 100% dead. Even if they don’t, she does true damage and steals magic. Very powerful.

Sir Ebonheart is an interesting choice. He steals 1/4th of an enemy’s armor and then does 10 damage. This means that in order to steal armor effectively, you need to always be choosing different troops, otherwise he won’t have any armor to steal. He does steal the armor before the damage, but if there is no armor, he’s just dealing 10 damage, and once he steals it and deals damage, they probably don’t have any armor anymore.

Sir Snothelm is a very powerful troop. Very low damage, but he webs and entangles and enemy. That’s nice. BUT he also gains an extra turn. That’s incredible. Is it worth taking him though? Well, Extra turns are extremely important in Arena because every gem match is much more important than in any other game mode, in terms of how much mana you can collect.

In other game modes, you have access to Empowered troops, you have banners and talents that give you extra mana, you have more magic that affects gems destroyed or exploded. In Arena, you have none of that, which is why it’s so much slower.

Imagine using Zuul’goth in Arena. Would you really want to? 32 mana is a lot to collect, and he would need to be in front or he would color block 3 colors. He also wouldn’t be gaining stats from skull matches.

That’s why troops with extra turns built in are so powerful. They essentially say “Use me, and THEN decide what you want to do with the board.”

I’m going to take Sir Snothelm because it will allow me to shut down enemies with web for free. I don’t care about its damage. I just need Blue mana for it. The other two troops I would need purple mana for, so no matter what Epic troop I take, one of their colors is blocked. If there was a Purple+Blue troop offered to me, I would take that though.

My final draft and troop order:
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I’m putting Sir Snothelm in front because he has the most health/armor, and he does the least amount of damage. I have to put Wyvern in second place otherwise he’ll be color blocked by Sir SNothelm and Bat Swarm. However, I want my Wyvern to survive the longest, so I might actually move Centaur Scout to second spot. Let’s try this out!

When I’m in an Arena game, I don’t actually care about my opponent’s troops. I’m really not playing against the enemy troops – I’m playing against the board. I don’t care what the enemy troops are or their abilities. I just care about executing my own abilities.

I want to be using Wyvern as much as possible because he does the most damage (20 damage each cast). Bat Swarm does do 16 true damage, but it’s 4 to each enemy, and he transform, so it’s not repeatable.

When I can’t make brown matches, I’m looking for yellow matches. Centaur Scout only costs 7 mana, but destroys 8 mana worth of gems. It’s much better to fill up Sir Snothelm over time using Centaur Scout then directly matching green/blue gems for him.

The first enemy has killed my Bat Swarm. That’s okay.

I matched the yellow gems in the center. The enemy took their move, and now I can use Centaur Scout to get an extra turn. I don’t need the red mana, but it’s worth using him anyway.

Destroying that row filled up Sir Snothelm and gave me an extra turn. Now I can use him to get an extra turn as well. I’ll target the first troop, because of the Entangle. I’m in a great position now:

I used Wyvern and the enemy took their turn. The AI is really, really bad. See the blue gems at the bottom? It doesn’t even HAVE a troop with blue mana on its team, but it matched the blue gems, moving the skull over to the left, and dropping the other skull down. It collected no mana and gave me a skull match. Whatever. Bad AI is bad. Use that to your advantage.

As I talked about earlier in this guide, never put yourself in a position where you give the AI a skull match if you can help it. In this case, there are two skull matches available to me – I can move the bottom middle skull to the right, but that would left the left skull match open. Or I can match the skulls on the left, but that would left the right skulls open. Instead, I should match the bottom left, removing both options. That’s important, because it kills the entangled enemy, and the next troop isn’t entangled.

The AI took its move and left me with a Doomskull match in top left. Very nice of them:

They again took their move, filling up the mana for Dwarven Zombie. But they again left a skull match for me. I don’t need red mana, but matching it will drop the skull down for me:

The AI has absolutely no concept of when it should and shouldn’t convert gems, so you can basically ignore any threat of it, because it usually works in your favor. After matching the skulls, the enemy used Dwarven Zombie. It eliminates armor – so it can’t actually kill your troops, ever. It also converts green gems to brown. But like I said, it isn’t very smart in how it leaves the board…

Matching the bottom middle brown gems gave me a blue 4 match at the top, which filled Sir Snothelm. With him I can kill the first enemy troop and continue matching…

The AI for some reason generally prioritizes using abilities over matching gems. The AI chose to use Sacred Guardian’s ability (deal 8 damage and gain 8 armor) over matching skulls. That’s a terrible idea, because it gives me a skull match instead.

You’ll notice Sir Snothelm is still alive… so the AI dealing 8 damage (it says 8 damage but it actually only did 7 – must be rounding) didn’t do anything. And the AI had 9 armor and 9 life before its cast, but now I can deal 13 damage to it with a skull match. Furthermore, the enemy is poisoned and can only gain Armor. I can also Web and Entangle the enemy, which means the AI should prioritize skull matches while it can. Unfortunately, now it’s Entangled and going to die.

Again, it doesn’t matter how many troops I lost, and at no point were any of the enemy troops’ abilities of importance. They didn’t impact how I played. Instead, paying attention to the board and exploiting the bad AI helped me win – and drafting high damage troops :wink:

Good luck!

Edit: And just for the record…

9 Likes

This extremely lengthy post is pointless and would not have been written if the author hadn’t been as lucky with his drafts etc compared with others who have been less fortunate. Indeed the author has suggested 600 trophies an hours to be achievable. :joy::joy:
You cannot strategise arena in real terms and any tips are purely speculative and circumstantial. If you come up against looping heronath I guarantee you won’t be getting many trophies an hour if you plan to preserve your 100% record.

3 Likes

If you’re in a fight that you can’t win – simply retreat. They are few and far between. If you get a terrible draft, restart it. 1000 gold is nothing.

Alright – I’ll go stream several runs on Twitch and post a link to the video afterward. You can watch it live as well: https://www.twitch.tv/igniteice

Here you go:

One hour of Arena runs. No failed runs. No draft do-overs.