If you’ve been around skilled poker players then you know that there’s just as much skill at work as luck. You may not be able to control the cards you receive, but you can control the rest. Advanced poker players ascertain the tendencies of other players, calculate statistical odds, and work the timing of when – or if – they’ll place a bet. Yes, a skilled poker player knows the game system inside and out, and they’re a veritable force at the table.
Of course, most of that goes out the window when wizards are involved. Mages don’t operate within such simple confines, and wizard poker is a reflection of their more, let’s say, aloof tendencies. Plus, just as you can’t use a fireball at your monthly Hold Em’ meetup, Hocus behaves quite differently than its human-based counterpart. Therefore, to aid us in behaving more like wizards, we brought in designers Grant Rodiek and Joshua Buergel to offer up some strategy suggestions for playing Hocus’s different schools of magic.
Editor’s note: This strategy guide was compiled and reposted on behalf of Hyperbole Games. While it covers overall tips and strategies, they also maintain a list of useful links and and FAQ that you can check out here.
Hocus is a relatively simple game mechanically: on your turn, you do a single thing (excepting Owls for now). You try to manage your limited hand of cards and limited amount of time to make the most points possible. Before we dive into the various strategies of the Spells, it’s key to discuss some of the basic strategies for Hocus, strategies that will aid you regardless of which spells you’re using.
It’s All About Timing
In Hocus, timing is everything. The round ends when the Communities are full, which means everyone needs to keep track of it and do their part to slow things down by playing cards to the Pot or Pocket, or speed things up when someone is getting too rich. Figuring out how good your hand is, and playing accordingly, is just as important in Hocus as it is in Texas Hold ‘Em, even though there’s no betting.
If you actually want to earn some points, you’ll need the round to play out a little bit. While you can potentially guarantee a winning Set if you slam a Community with cards, you’ll sacrifice the ability to actually earn points for it – or the possibility of winning multiple communities. Take some risk and let other players get involved in the Community. If the other players see you contributing most of the cards into a Community, they’re not going to get anywhere near that Pot. If you use the cards in your hand wisely, you don’t always need to follow the path you originally envisioned.
However, if you see a player stuffing a Pot with points and you know you cannot win, end the round as quickly as possible! Sometimes, it’s worth it to “cut bait” and end the round, even if you yourself won’t benefit, to prevent a single player from winning one Pot and then the entire game.
Use the Community to control the pulse and pace of the game. It’s a way to threaten greedy players, and by not always playing to the Community, you put others at ease for your patient machinations.
Playing The Pot
Another key word of advice: feeding the Pot isn’t free! Remember, when you add a card to a Pot, you might be giving points to an opponent. Without fail, new players always play a card to the Pot when they are in doubt. Don’t! Many new players ask if the game should end after one round, and the answer is no. Not for experienced players. There are better ways to stall, and believe us, it’s okay to wait a round to see what’s going to happen.
If you want to see how a Community develops, play some cards to a Pocket. You can even play a single card just to wait patiently. Through skill and luck you’ll be able to vie for multiple Communities, but often, you’ll only have a good shot at one of them. Therefore, it’s okay to have a Community that is less of a sure bet, which is perfect for stalling.
You can also play really cheap cards to the Pot, and spread them about. 1-value cards take a long time to add to a decisive value, so instead of putting 3s, 4s, and 5s down, you can play a 1 here and there when you aren’t sure.
Finally, take control of the Community! Instead of stuffing the Pot with values you might not appreciate, play cards to the Community to alter the course of the round. This leads to our next point…
Fostering The Right Community
Build the Community that suits you. Many times, a Community will begin to take shape, and groupthink will begin to dominate. People will see two cards of the same suit and think Flush. However, unless you have the cards to build that Flush, and the high card to win the tie, you shouldn’t go along with that plan! In Hocus, everyone escalates together. If the Community becomes a Straight, Flush, etc, then everyone needs to compete at that level. However, the same is true in the opposite direction. If you have crummy cards, or are unable to compete, begin playing junk cards to break up powerful five card hands. You can steer a Community away from a high tier hand and towards a two pair, for example. Do not just go with the flow – interrupt someone’s great hand and bring them down to your level!
Finding Initial Direction
At the start of the round, it may be tough to know what to do with your starting hand. Organizing your hand will help you see ideas. Try arranging your cards in ascending order by Strength, and be careful to group suits together within the order. Look for patterns:
- Do you have 4 or more cards of a single suit, and a 12, 13, or 14 in it? Try for a Flush.
- Do you have 3 or 4 cards that build a 5 card sequence? Try for a Straight, but not if you don’t have the high card in that Straight.
- Do you have multiple Pairs? A Full House might be possible. Choose the lower pair to play to the Community and hopefully tease out another so you can win that Full House.
- Do you lack any obvious synergy? Well, it’s time to stall to pounce on opportunities others provide, or simply rush the Community to end the round before someone can capitalize.
Remember that you need to plan for the interference of others. A good hand in Hocus is a flexible hand which can respond to what your opponents do with the Communities. You might have a Flush in your hand, but it’s very unlikely you’ll be left to your own devices to build it. Think about what you are willing to share in the Community, what you need to keep private in your Pocket, and what order you need to play in to hopefully tease out those complementary cards from your opponent. For example, in a Straight, you’ll want to keep that middle card and high card to yourself. This makes it less likely others can completely the straight, and more likely you’ll be on top when the cards are revealed.
The Strongest Doesn’t Always Win
In Hocus, the poker sets are the same as something like Texas Hold ‘Em, but if you aren’t careful, very powerful sets can be very common. Unlike Poker, it’s not always best to have the strongest possible hand. What you want is the hand that will win you the Community. This is a continuation of building a Community that suits you, but don’t just chase the Full House simply because you can. If you enter an arms race, it might end very badly for you. Try to be sneaky and carefully build a Community that’ll let you scrape by on the cheap. Why? The time spent building a 5-card hand is time not spent building the Pot or a second Pocket. The best Hocus players score points, they don’t just show up with a Straight Flush. In Hocus, a Three of a Kind that earns 10 Points is better than a Full House that earns 3 points!
One final word of advice: leave yourself an out at the end of the round. If you’ve played both Pockets, that means the Community for you is locked in, and the only place you can play is a Pot. This is fine if you like your odds of winning, but things might have gone awry during the round. If you’re able to swing it, try to leave yourself room in a Pocket so you can safely tuck cards away that won’t help your opponents.
The Books of Magic
Each of the eight books in Hocus are covered in detail below: Alchemy, Flame, Darkness, Chaos, Illusion, Storm, Enchantment, and Chronomancy. Each spell is described and its uses analyzed. Hopefully, a thorough read of these books of magic will make you an even better player of Hocus. Portions of these originally appeared as updates for the Kickstarter for Hocus. They’ve been compiled and revised as a strategy guide here.
Alchemy was in the second group of spell books we created, with Chaos, Storm, Flame and Illusion in the first group, and Enchantment and Chronomancy the final group. Alchemy came about when we decided that we wanted greater variety in play, and we tried to create some alternatives to the four basic spell books of Chaos, Storm, Flame, and Illusion. The notion of Alchemy had cropped up in a previous iteration of the design, where we’d thought about creating an entire special suit of cards themed around alchemical potions. While that version of the game was a bust, the inspiration was sitting there to be mined.
Thinking about alchemists, their affinity for gold, and where Alchemy fit with the other spell books, it became clear that manipulating the Pot was going to be a key mechanism. It fit thematically, with the player manipulating the “gold” of the Round (the Pots). It also filled a niche compared to the original four books, which didn’t really do much with the Pot at the time. Chaos did eventually pick up a Pot manipulation power, but Alchemy was where it was at for a while.
Place 2 cards in a Pot and 1 card in one of your Pockets.
The ability to fill a Pot faster than any other spell book in the game lets you put the hammer down hard when you think you have a dominant hand. If you know your Full House is the best, Prima Materia helps you cash in on it.
Draw 2 cards. Place 1 of them in a Community or one of your Pockets.
A fortunate early Transmute can then lead to a sprint on a pot.
Aqua Regia is the specialty spell for Alchemy, with a way of neutering a Pot that you don’t think you can win and possibly gumming up a Community in the process with cards that hinder your opponents’ hands. It reads:
Examine up to 2 random cards in a Pot. You may place 1 of them in a Community or in one of your Pockets.
As much control as Alchemy can have over Pots, it has very little control over Communities. This is consistent with many of the spell books and is good to keep in mind: they often have at least one area in which they are dominant, another in which they have some strength, and a final area in which they are quite weak.
You’ll need to carefully watch the Communities as they develop and pounce on opportunities to try and steal a Pot. You’ll need to be reactive to the player of others, especially Storm and Illusion, who will have far more control over a Community.
With the ability to add cards to a Pot fast, and the ability to use Transmute to dig around and fill a Community quickly, you’ll often want to be decisive. A shorter round will tend to favor Alchemy, which can try for a mediocre hand with a decent sized Pot in a way other books have trouble with. Loiter too much, and you can lose to other books that are looking for a slower game. Remember: Alchemy is best at building Pots, not necessarily at making the best Sets!
Alchemy has always been a competitive Spell Book, even as it requires a very strong sense of timing and calibration on when it’s the right time to dive into a Pot with both feet.
A good counter to Alchemy is to pay attention to the Pots being filled by the Alchemy player. While they’re stuffing the Pot, you should fill the Community with cards that benefit you. If you’re quick enough, you can have the Alchemy player finance your victory.
The theme of flame is very similar to that of the phoenix or the raging fires that destroy forests. The intensity of the flame allows for regrowth, for something wonderful to begin anew. The idea behind Flame is that you can take early risks, then rebound and react when the situation changes. Put a little less thematically, no book can react as decisively as Flame.
Place 2 cards distributed between any number of your Pockets. Name another player who must place 1 card in a Pot, if able.
Forcing a player to play to a Pot when they aren’t ready can disrupt their plans and get them out of sync. Inferno acts as an incentive for Flame players to build pockets sooner than later. Its power is subtle, yes, but not every spell is a game winner.
Return 1 or 2 cards, then Draw an equal number of cards.
Phoenix is useful for digging for a specific card to complete a set, or even for turning 1 Point cards aside to hopefully draw more potent cards to fill a Pot.
Phoenix has other uses. Instead of contributing to the Community or playing to the Pot, which might give away your intentions, Phoenix allows you to stall and improve your position. This also has the subtle benefit of giving you knowledge about what is, and isn’t, in the deck. This is specifically useful against Darkness, a book notorious for digging for cards, by taking something out of the deck they want and returning junk of your choosing instead.
Move one of your Pockets to a Pot. You may then use a Basic Spell.
With Flash Fire, you can dump a Pocket into any Pot, which can quickly build the Pot’s value with two cards, then conduct a Basic Spell. On your final turn of the round, this lets you decisively stuff a Pot, then build a new Pocket to replace the one discarded to win the points you just paid. Flash Fire lets you Build Pocket on your first turn (or Inferno) without fear of being locked into a bad Pocket. If things go your way? Cool, keep it. If they don’t? No worry. Use Flash Fire and adjust to bring things back in your favor.
Flame is a highly synergous Spell Book. An early Inferno lets you pause and singe an opponent. Bide your time with Phoenix while searching for the air that will further fuel your flames. Then explode with Flash Fire to seal the fate of the showdown.
Flame is subtle compared to some of the other books. Illusion lets you play cards face down and Chaos lets you play Owls from your hand. Storm lets you race to the Community and Darkness lets you dig and dig and dig. But players who can read their opponents and know what they’re looking for can put Flame to excellent use.
A word of caution, however: do not fall in love with Phoenix. The same goes for Prowl in the Darkness spell book. It is very enticing to dig and chase cards, but while you’re doing this, you’re not contributing to the Community or building Pockets. It doesn’t matter if you have the Straight Flush in your hand if there’s no room to build it!
A good counter to Flame is to watch their plays to the Community and disrupt them. Force them to use Flash Fire defensively, not on their own terms. Be very careful about putting pairs into the Community, as Phoenix allows the Flame player to find the third or even fourth cards to turn that pair into a devastating Four of a Kind. You don’t want to fuel the fires of your own defeat!
Chaos was in the first group of four Spell books that we created. The idea behind Chaos is unpredictability. We wanted to have a Spell Book in the game that was hard to read, that players wouldn’t be able to be totally certain about. When you’re facing the other Spell Books, you know what they can do, and the game is about parrying their known strengths and attacking their weaknesses. With Chaos, you just never know, and the book can really pull some surprise moves on you.
Use an Owl ability in your Hand, then Return the card. Draw 1 card.
The ability to play an Owl directly from your hand can be tremendously powerful in the right circumstances. Sometimes, you won’t have the right Owl, and the ability doesn’t do anything for you, but when it works, it’s magnificent. Foresight is an unpredictable Swiss-Army knife, really.
Keep in mind, Owls used with Foresight cannot be played otherwise, so it’s a trade-off! And, it’s the kind of thing the other players cannot see coming. While Illusion is all about hidden information, the surprises of Chaos can be much more game changing.
Draw 2 cards. Place 1 of them in a Pot.
We knew that Chaos would need some card drawing to give a player a chance to look for some Owls in the case of a bad initial hand. Entropic Energy pairs this with the ability to put a card in a pot, which is tremendous sometimes and terrible if your stuff doesn’t pan out, because you’re just giving away points. As always, Chaos spells are a double edged sword. You yourself don’t exactly know what you’ll be doing. This is both a gift and a curse, as neither do your opponents.
Examine up to 2 random cards in a Pot. You may swap any of them with cards from your Hand.
With Portal, the unpredictability is what you’ll find in a Pot, because they might be garbage cards. But just the presence of Portal makes people think twice about trying to sneak Owls into Pots, because you might decide to fish around there and could get the perfect Owl to ruin their plans. It’s a gamble to go fishing in a Pot, but you’re also pushing some of the gambling on the other players.
As for the other side of the table, if you’re playing against Chaos, you want to take advantage of the fact that Chaos doesn’t really have hand builders without the right Owls. You’ve got some time, as they go fishing around for the right parts and have to spend actions building Pockets. Be thoughtful about what cards you put into Pots, and try to consider what Owls might come up. But stay centered on your book’s strengths and take time to set up your play. Don’t be alarmed by what Chaos might do.
The Illusion Spell Book is one of the most obvious and devious books in Hocus. Cards exist to break the core rules. If cards are typically played face up to the Community, it seems we have a fantastic rule to break by playing them face down? Illusion was born with a flourish.
Place 1 card in a Community face down.
The benefit here is obvious – you can play a card to the Community that only you know about fully. The obvious play is to put in a useful card for a hand like a Full House, but you can also simply put junk in here to scare others away and win with a high Pair. People are afraid of what they don’t know. Using Mirage liberally to sow doubt, when you really just have junk, is a great way to turn a weak initial hand of cards into a strength.
Place 1 card in one of your Pockets face up. Draw up to 2 cards.
With it you play 1 card to a Pocket face up. In exchange for this penalty, you’re drawing 2 cards as a reward. Not only are you drawing cards into your hand, which is always good, but you’re either misleading, or scaring your opponents. There’s a 12 in the first Community, then you reveal one in your Pocket. Oh no! Does he have three 12s? Wait and find out…It also pairs nicely with Mirage. You might reveal a 3…which doesn’t scare anyone. But there might also be a face down 3 in the Community. Et cetera.
Examine up to 2 random cards in a Pot. You may place 1 in your Hand or one of your Pockets. If you do, place 1 card from your Hand in that Pot. Place any other examined cards back.
This spell lets you continue your sleight-of-hand trick and manipulation by examining up to 2 random cards in a Pot, adding 1 to your hand, and replacing it with another from your hand. If you want to know what’s going into the Pot, or want to keep an Owl out of the Chaos player’s hand, or merely want to lower the Pot’s point value, go digging and see what you find.
Illusion can be a real pain to play against at first blush, as its benefits are so obvious, but there are some nice things to keep in mind. For one, when Illusion adds a card to a Community, it’s just one card. If you give them the entire Community, well, expect the results to be horrid, but if you remain involved, you can really water down their trick. If they do get the upper hand in the Community, end the round quickly by quickly playing cards to all the Communities.
Remember: Time spent in the Community is not time spent building a Pocket or Pot. If Illusion spends 3 turns using Mirage, they weren’t adding points!
Prestidigitation is really powerful, but it is late to fire. If you hold off on feeding the Pot, you’ll deny Illusion the ammunition they need to really make Prestidigitation worthwhile. And again, if you don’t feed the Pot, well, their Mirage-filled Community isn’t too valuable.
If someone is toying with you using Materialize, look them in the eyes and force them to reveal a tell. See if they’re bluffing or just playing chicken. Materialize is nice, but if Illusion really wants to take advantage of it, they need to Build Pocket quickly, then do this, which means they aren’t using Mirage. Plus, if they use Materialize too early, you have all round to know what’s in their Pocket!
Darkness was built around the idea of breaking a fundamental rule of Hocus by allowing the player to have more than the usual number of Pockets. Most of the other Spell Books are about getting enhanced powers. Darkness feels different, like you’re doing something surreptitious, like you’re getting away with something. It’s a feeling that suits the name of the spell book well.
Place 1 or 2 cards in one of your Pockets, then Draw 1 card. Pockets created with Void Walk do not count against your limit of two Pockets, but you can still only use one Pocket for each Showdown.
Void Walk is the basic Build Pocket Spell with two important additions:
- It allows you to build extra Pockets
- It gives you a draw ability
The extra Pockets can be extremely useful for adjusting to how a Community develops, and can be a nice hedge against surprises and your long-term plans being upset. It means you can be aggressive about playing Pockets early, either to stall or for other reasons, and still be able to adjust. In this sense, Darkness is a cousin of Flame. Also, it provides a nice antidote to Illusion’s surprises that come about from Mirage. You won’t always make use of the extra Pockets, but occasionally it’s a very useful tool.
Draw up to 4 Cards. Return all but 1 along with 1 more from your Hand.
Prowl is the strongest spell in the game to search for a specific card. It’s also a powerful stall tactic, allowing you to wait and see how things are going to develop without having to commit in one direction or another. But beware of overuse! It doesn’t make any forward progress, and it’s a very, very easy trap to just sit and keep Prowling, hoping for a miracle card, while your opponents are actually doing things.
Draw 1 card. Choose 2 Pots: Place 1 card from your Hand in each.
We love the idea of Darkness trying to steal more than one Pot, which pairs nicely with their abundance of Pockets and deep card drawing ability. We really wanted to encourage that style of play, which is somewhat distinct from the other books. So, we gave it a spell that allows you to split your Pot cards. With multiple early Pockets and hedging your bets, you can try and spread things around and maybe create enough confusion to try and compete for more than one Pot. And, the spell costs you the same net card loss as a regular Build Pot, so as long as you’re okay with raising the stakes across the board, it’s a fine choice.
If you’re playing against Darkness, be decisive about Communities. Darkness isn’t likely to contribute tons of cards to Communities, so you want to try to really gain solid control over them. Darkness is about finding the right card and building a Pocket that cannot be beaten.
Communities with lots of possibilities play into the strengths of Darkness, so you want to decisively try to push things in one direction or another.
With Prowl and Void Walk, Darkness will be trying to fish around to fill gaps and speculating, and you by and large don’t want that to happen. Darkness is the best book in the game for stalling, so don’t let them get away with too much of it!
Storm is about smashing the plans of your enemies and leaving them quietly sobbing as you laugh all the way to the bank. It is about decisively steering a course that everyone must endure.
Return 2 cards, then place 2 cards in any Pots or Communities. Neither placed card may be the fourth card in a Community.
The flexibility and potency of this Spell is unmatched, though it comes with a very strict gating factor. Players can use Lightning Strike to flood a Pot, multiple Pots, or effectively take two spells at once by adding to the Community and a Pot. But, those are the side show: Lightning Strike is the only spell that can add two cards to the Community in a single turn. They just cannot be the final card.
Lightning Strike is incredible for completing a high Straight, or preventing a set which you cannot compete. Your opponent looks to be crafting a Flush? Ruin it, quickly! Lightning Strike is a hard counter to Darkness. Your haste can ruin their long-laid plans. Whereas Darkness is about waiting for the perfect setup, Storm is about quickly making a setup that only benefits you.
Once the bolts of lightning subside, it’s time for the rain. Oh, the rains pour! With Flood, you can quickly fill the board with options, some to your liking, others purely to dismay and annoy your opponents. It reads:
Draw 3 Cards. Place 1 of them in a Community, 1 in a Pot, and Return 1.
Flood is wonderful for a few reasons. Firstly, you get a really nice look at what’s available – and not available – in the deck of cards. You know what won’t appear for your opponents. This is good information to have against Darkness! Adding a card to the Community can be good for you, or a way to jam opponents. The Pot is a great place to bury a card, or simply add points, though you need to be wary of Alchemy and Chaos. As in, you don’t want to put a super valuable card they can steal, or an Owl for Chaos specifically.
Place 1 card in one of your Pockets. Draw 1 card.
Tempest is a weaker Build Pocket, but it gives you a free card draw, which may be essential to pay for Lightning Strike. It’s also a fantastic way to stall if you’re not quite sure what to do yet with Lightning Strike. Spells like Darkness will be stalling by drawing. Flame will stall by building Pockets they can chuck later. Chaos might be digging for Owls. Therefore, you may have time to fire off a Tempest or two while waiting for your final plans to crystallize.
Storm is an incredibly powerful book, but all of their bells and whistles are hyper focused on the Community. You want to Storm to commit Lightning Strike early, which exposes their hand. Try to force them down paths that benefit you, so don’t reveal your hand too quickly. In turn, they just might build the Flush you’re hoping they’d build.
Owls are a great way to gain extra momentum and boosts with Storm, so be careful to play them to Pots you’re confident in winning. If you’re one of the more patient books, like Alchemy, Flame, or Darkness, you’ll need to be aggressive, or sprint off the starting line in order to make Storm flinch. If they slam you for the easy victory, it’s only your fault!
The Spell Books prior to Enchantment, were absolutely stateless. That is, every turn, there was no lingering effect from the previous turn that indicated the spell that was cast. But in the fantasy world, an Enchantment is a persistent effect. Why not explore what that would look like in Hocus?
Happily, there are three spells in each book and three major places to place cards in the game: Communities, Pots, and Pockets. The obvious idea was to let each spell affect one of those places. From there, there weren’t too many tweaks to Enchantment. It’s a book that came together quickly!
Enchantment is an interesting book in that you’re relying on the Basic Spells to do most of your work, but your spells can shape the way other people approach the game. At the heart of this is Power Siphon, which reads:
Place Power Siphon next to a Community. You may then use a Basic Spell.
Enchantment: When any player places a card in Power Siphon’s Community, you immediately Draw 1 card. Recover Power Siphon at the start of the round.
There is pretty powerful psychology at work here, where people don’t want to give you free stuff, so throwing this spell out there can really make people avoid a Community. This may be a nice counter to Lightning Strike, as you may get two cards out of them using their spell!
That can even leave room for you to play to the Community yourself, providing bonus draws, and a greater stake in the Community. You’ll usually get four cards off of Power Siphon, assuming you play it early, making it one of the stronger drawing spells. But some of those will be late cards and therefore of lower utility. Still, a very powerful Spell.
Place Channel next to a Pot. You may then use a Basic Spell.
Enchantment: Whenever any player places a card in Channel’s Pot, you may immediately place 1 card from your Hand in that Pot. Recover Channel at the start of the Round.
Again, psychology. Did you enchant that Pot so you can fill it, because you’ll win it? Or, to make people think that and scare them off. Nobody will know for sure. It can especially make Alchemy leery of diving in. Make sure to use it both ways to keep your opponents guessing!
Place Magnify next to one of your Pockets. You may then use a Basic Spell.
Enchantment: At the start of your turn, you may place any cards in Magnify’s Pocket in your Hand. If you win a Showdown with Magnify’s Pocket, score an extra 3 Points. Recover Magnify at the start of the Round.
You won’t often use its ability to pick up your cards, but occasionally it can be a life-saver. This is a poor-wizard’s Phoenix or Void Walk, in that it gives you Pocket flexibility.
The three extra points, though, can be quite a nice addition, and certainly makes it worth casting the Spell. It has been the difference between a win and a loss in some games. Unlike the other spells, it’s the only one that doesn’t really change the behavior of the other players, so it can be saved for later in the round to double down on a sure Pocket.
In you have an opponent playing Enchantment, don’t be freaked out by their spells. They’re going to get their free stuff, and while you can delay when they get it, don’t go too far out of your way to do so. Remember that Enchantment operates at Basic speed on their turns, so they’re going to be somewhat slow moving, so you can take advantage of that and press hard when you can.
Manipulating time seemed like a heckuva lot of fun. Everything in Chronomancy is designed thematically around altering the state of things, almost as if you went back in time and bumped into a key figure at the wrong time.
Chronomancy is about manipulating the time stream. Going in to change the past or predict the future. It just made so much sense in a game about trying to figure out what everyone is going to do. Where Enchantment’s mechanism grants passive bonuses when triggered, Shift in Chronomancy is a free spell given at the start of each turn.
Return 3 cards. Then, Return 1 card from a Community with fewer than 4 cards. Replace with 1 card from your Hand.
Shift: Draw 1 card.
This Spell is incredibly powerful, but it obviously comes at a great cost. Before you can ruin someone else’s day, you must choose 3 of your precious cards to Return to the deck. Ouch! Thankfully, Rupture’s Shift ability gives you a free card draw, but only if you’re using it and not one of your other Shifts.
Early testers for Rupture were worried it would be too powerful, but the cost really reigns it in, and the fact that you cannot Rupture a card on a full community means you must take a risk and make your move before things are really locked down. Rupture is a nice counter to Lightning Strike. It is amusing how time sensitive both of them are. Once the Community is locked, that’s history, folks.
So, you’ve shattered the time stream. You’re a real jerk. While waiting for the perfect moment to do that, you’re going to want options. You want to dance along the time stream to find the perfect moment to insert yourself. For that, you’ll want Rift. It reads:
Choose up to 2 of: a Community, a Pot, or a Pocket. Place a card from the Rift in each chosen location.
Shift: Place 4 cards from your hand face down in the Rift.
Rift gives you quite a bit of flexibility, but you need to set aside 4 cards from your hand to fuel it. This means you need to be confident in which cards you’ll set aside. It’s also tricky as you cannot play multiple cards to a single location. With great flexibility comes great limitations, which is perhaps the soul of Chronomancy.
Rift is a good way to influence many things at once. You can dabble in the Pot, slowly build your Pockets, affect the Community, and generally cause a ruckus. Be careful when playing against Enchantment as you may trigger multiple of their Enchantments at once!
A wizard who can skate the rifts of time must be truly powerful, but what was sacrificed in order to attain it?
Place 2 cards in a Community on top of each other such that both can be seen (a Tear). At the start of Resolve Showdowns, if Tears exist, randomly remove 1 card from each.
Shift: Place 1 of the cards in a Tear into your hand.
Tear lets you create a head scratching moment for your opponents in the Community. You play the 9 of Cups and the 6 of Swords. Which one will you remove? Or, maybe you don’t remove either and then it’s a random one. Ugh! Because of the Shift, you’re able to freely pull 1 card back, assuming you don’t need to create a Rift or get a free card to pay for a Rupture.
Oh, it’s tough! But, your opponents will be really annoyed trying to figure out how the Tear will resolve itself. Let them sweat! This works similarly to Mirage, but everything is in plain sight. You can use the Tear deliberately to weaken the Community and make it tougher for big, 5 card hands to form. This is a great way to make your lousy hand more powerful. It’s also a good way to scare people away from the Community. Tears are a good way to scare risk averse players. They want certainty, and Tears are anything but.
As you can hopefully see, Chronomancy is incredibly powerful. You’re a wizard with a toolbox just brimming with fun treats. But Chronomancy is what I would call a “glass cannon.” Its power is balanced by its frailty. All of the spells are deeply contextual. Rupture is useless if you don’t have a better card to replace. There’s not much sense in blasting someone if things don’t really change for the better.
Tear can be hilarious, but if you don’t have an end game, well, you’re just fooling around. Tear, like Illusion’s Mirage, is a way to mislead folks, but you need to know how you’re going to capitalize on your misdirection.
I think Chronomancy is the toughest spell to play. Chronomancy requires a really firm knowledge of how and when to use Basic Spells. Like Enchantment, it relies very heavily on using the basics to bolster your big surprises like Rupture.
Speed is a great way to counter Chronmancy. Do not give them time to draw bonus cards and fuel a Rupture. Furthermore, playing cards subtly to the Community so that you do not reveal your hand until it’s too late. If an obvious Flush is forming, that’s easy to disrupt. But, if it can be a variety of things? That’s more difficult to Rupture.
Remember that with Tear, the Chronomancy player also doesn’t know what will emerge if it’s random. In some ways, it’s a gift, as you know that you cannot rely on four cards in that Community — neither can anyone else!
Don’t sweat Chronomancy’s broad strokes. The time they spent developing Rupture and Rift came at a cost — act quickly and unpredictably and their long term planning will crumble before you like a crushed time stream.
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