Dorinthea Unsheathed: Punishing with Hidden Information

by Roger Bodee 25th November 2021 5 : 19

The warrior trope is firmly cemented into the hearts and minds of every fan of high-fantasy fiction. The idea of a skilled combatant clad in armor, wielding their sword for a genuine cause they believe in with all their heart, is a fantastic concept and a winning recipe to build interesting characters. 

Warriors are tactical fighters, a perfect blend of strength and strategy. -LSS

LSS showed us their first take on the warrior archetype in Welcome to Rathe. Dorinthea Ironsong’s hero ability can be triggered once per turn and reads, “When your weapon attack hits, you may attack an additional time with that weapon this turn.” The theme of a warrior deftly wielding her weapon that she can use better than anyone else is exceptionally flavorful and an excellent entry point for players entering the game.

At her core, Dorinthea is a hero that provides a unique gameplay experience. Most heroes in the game use their weapons as a backup game plan, but Dorinthea wants to be attacking with her weapon every turn so she can get the most out of her hero ability.

No Surprises, Please!

Hidden information is a classic and dynamic element of card games. You can do your best to narrow down likely cards or outcomes with statistics and logic, but rarely are you ever 100% sure of anything. On the same note, when your strategy relies on your opponent's choices, it's one of the worst positions you can place yourself in.

A "punisher mechanic" is one where the card requires your opponent to make decisions that directly affect how the card you want to play functions in a given situation and "punishes" your opponent when they choose wrong. Dorinthea's hero ability- and the Reprise keyword- are prime examples of a punisher mechanic in Flesh and Blood.

Rules Tip: Reprise is a keyword with no associated rules hidden in it. Instead, Reprise simply tips you off that the card is going to have a trigger based on the opponent's actions; then the card text goes on to completely define the effect. Reprise cards will typically start with, "If the defending hero has defended with a card from their hand this chain link, __________"

For many new players, Dorinthea is a crucible that reshapes their understanding of combat and hones their decision-making skills. If you've ever faced Dorinthea, you've experienced that overwhelming feeling of inevitability that happens whenever Dawnblade slides up to the combat chain. It feels like any defense at all is a bad play.

But on the other side of the table, anyone who's played Dorinthea has the counter-intuitive feeling of disappointment when their opponent declares "no blocks, no reactions". Singing Steelblade and Ironsong Response sit impotent in hand. Or when you work to give Dawnblade go again, only for your opponent to overblock the opening attack, preventing Dorinthea's ability. In both of these circumstances, your opponent is making direct decisions about how the cards and turns you are planning function.

The Inefficiency of Reprise

While a class built around attack reactions feels incredibly potent, close examination of the point system built into the game engine tells a different story. Frank Hung talked about this curve in his article on Briar last week. The typical math works out as follows:

  1. Attacks: Pitch Value + Attack + Defense (+/- effects) - Cost = 8
  2. Non-Attacks: Pitch Value + Defense (+/- effects) - Cost = 7
  3. Reactions: Pitch Value + Defense (+/- effects) - Cost = 6

What do these numbers mean? The total at the end shows the net impact a card can have on the game. Attacks have 8 points of impact to work with, while reactions are only allowed to impact by 6 points.

I've chosen a few examples above. Raging Onslaught shows the formula in its purest sense:
Red pitch (+1), attack 7 (+7), defense 3 (+3), cost 3 (-3) = 8
Sloggism requires us to assign a value to go again:
Blue pitch (+3), attack +4 (+4), defense 2 (+2), go again (+1), cost 3 (-3) = 7
Stroke of Foresight shows how costs on reactions start to become less efficient:
Red pitch (+1), attack +3 (+3), defense 3 (+3), draw a card (+1), return a card (-1), cost 1 (-1) = 6

But Stroke of Foresight is actually a rather untaxed reaction. That's because the Reprise ability is a wash: you draw a card, but you also put a card back. Let's look at a Reprise ability that has a little more impact:

Red pitch (+1), attack +3 (+3), defense 3 (+3), Reprise (-1) = 6

In this case, there's a Reprise discount on the effect that we didn't see with Stroke of Foresight (whose reprise was already a net zero). But that -1 is offset by the +3 that is only conditionally active.

When we look at the cost-to-effect ratios, we see that even when Reprise effects are active, Dorinthea is not using her cards as effectively as other prominent heroes in the metagame. When you feel like you "really did it" and crafted your turn perfectly, your cards are still converting for 3 damage apiece on average.

A Hero is Only as Good as Their Sword

Dorinthea's options for weapons are also critical elements that are holding her efficiency back. Most commonly, Dorinthea relies on her trusty Dawnblade when going into battle. Unfortunately, Dawnblade is also tied to a punisher mechanic. If your opponent blocks correctly and is determined to take the +1 counters off the sword, they will be successful more often than not. This drawback is especially frustrating for a Dorinthea player, given how difficult it can be to even get a single counter on Dawnblade in the first place.

There was a good amount of hype when Dorinthea started to wield Hatchet of Body and Hatchet of Mind combined with the powerful effects provided by Spill Blood. Tacking +2 and dominate on each of these axes can be very powerful- however, just like Dawnblade, there is the tricky question of "how will my weapons get 'go again'?" Additionally, each swing of an Axe requires a resource- and the axes have no Courage of Bladehold to reduce their costs.

Slow and Steady

If you want to find card efficiency in the Warrior class, look to it's non-attack actions (NAAs). Ironsong Determination, Spoils of War, and Steelblade Supremacy are all phenomenal cards that opponents will have to respect. Steelbade Supremacy, in particular, is the best card that Dorinthea has access to. Drawing extra cards is not something that any class is allowed to do particularly well; when this effect is active, there's an increased threat that the cards you draw will let you buff the follow-up swing.

NAAs are also where the strategic backbone of Dorinthea decks exist. Warrior's Valor and Hit and Run are the primary sources of the deck to give Dawnblade go again. Warrior's Valor does require the weapon attack to hit, but the weapon would need to hit anyway to trigger Dorinthea's hero ability.

Dawn of a New Day

As you can see, Dorinthea sits in a strange spot as a class that feels incredibly unstoppable to the opponent and, simultaneously, inefficient to the player. Increasing your card efficiency requires you to move away from the punisher mechanics that define the class. And yet, moving away from punisher mechanics leaves you questioning why you're using Dorinthea at all.

I would love for Dorinthea (and the Warrior class) to get the love from LLS they deserve. But LSS needs to proceed with caution to preserve the spirit of the class while keeping it in balance. Punisher mechanics are inherently dangerous to the player experience.

Do you think there are any cards or strategies I didn't mention in this article? What kind of cards do you hope LLS will put in Everfest to help out Warriors? Be sure to let me know in the comments!

Roger Bodee

Roger Bodee is a competitive-minded cardboard collector, a lover of fine puns and even finer freshly-cracked Fables. Roger is hoping to finally realize his TCG dreams playing the great game of Flesh and Blood.