I previously reviewed SolForge and presented some of the reasons why I have launched myself into the game. It is one thing to play the game casually but quite another to get ahead in the more competitive aspects of the game. To learn about strategy, I searched for people talking about SolForge online and stumbled into the efforts of Craig Plazony. He has been playing SolForge since the beginning, volunteers for Stone Blade Entertainment, and streams live games while dispensing strategies for the audience. I reach out to Craig to see if he would be willing to talk briefly about the game, and he kindly agreed.
How did you first learn about SolForge? What motivated you to dive headfirst into the game?
I had been playing a couple of different TCGs like Shadow Era but I really didn’t like their systems. I was wondering through the floor area in GenCon and I found the game on display. I ended up coming back and playing 7-8 times before I put it down so I could do other stuff. I had so much fun and the game got me very excited. I use to play MTG but the expense was the biggest turn off so game really appealed to me. I could see the depth and complexity that the game could offer right away so I backed it for 100$ and started to become involved in the community.
Once I started being active in the community and enjoying the interactions with the other backers I became hooked. I wanted to be good at the game, know everything about it, and spread the word to others so it could grow big. Even now, after playing many of the other TCGs out there, I think SolForge has the best system and I really like their card design choices. All of this convinced me that this is the right place for me.
When you say “being active in the community,” what were some of the things you did to gain a stronger voice over time. And what have those efforts resulted in presently?
I started playing the Forum games at first. We had a spreadsheet program that simulated the game and we posted the results in a thread. It was all honor based and we even ran a few tournaments. I approached ForgeGamers.com, another community website that has since jumped ship to HEX, where I started doing deck idea articles and my tournament reports. I did fairly well in our simulated Drafts and Constructed tournaments. I even got 2nd place in the 5th Community Forums game losing to Pion whom I playtested with before the tournament. After ForgeGamers.com went down I ended up joining ForgeWatch.com and have been with them since. I started out just writing the SolForge Report and now I do the Featured Streams, run the UnHeroic Tournaments, help with the Free-to-Play League, and whatever else when ever I can. I also have volunteered to work for StoneBlade at Origins, GenCon, and now the upcoming PAX East.
It is an exciting time to be playing SolForge as they just released a ton of new content including new cards, an updated draft, and a forging system to exchange old cards. How has the new content shaken up the landscape in drafting and competitive play?
Drafting seems to follow the same format as before but it allows you to have more options and choices. There are some nice faction and tribal synergies that you can sometimes build around to give your deck the edge. I have been doing pretty well and so far I like it a bunch.
Constructed play is in a large flux right now. I haven’t played against the same deck twice and some people are still playing decks that worked prior to the patch (and still work it seems). The next Forge Watch tournament is on April 5th so I would expect to have a better grasp on the meta game after that. Currently, I am planning helping out instead of playing that day.
UnHeroic is the same as constructed. Testing is much harder though and I haven’t had time to even make a deck. I am going to invite people to start playing matches with me on my stream to get a better idea. The next tournament will be in April but I haven’t set a date for it. I will announce it in the organized play area on the official forums when there is one.
SolForge has numerous interesting dynamics and wrinkles for players to manage. Starting with the basics, each creature card has attack and health statistics. Many cards have special abilities such as buffing other cards in play, removing cards that your oppenent has in play, or granting additional attack to your cards in play. There are also spell cards that offer a wide assortment of powers. Layered on top of this is the dynamic that each card you choose to play “levels” so it becomes more powerful as the match advances. The progression for each card is unique; the majority of cards gradually increase in power, but there are some that start out extremely strong at Level I, diminish at Level II, and then become a menace at Level III.
As someone with likely 100s (if not 1,000s) of matches under your belt, what have you learned about the game to give you an edge over your opponents? What are some of the common pitfalls you see from other players in the game?
Those questions are exactly why I love SolForge right now. The depth and complexity of lane management, blocking, leveling, and deck building is pretty deep. One of the things that improved my play drastically was knowing when and when not to block. There is a really good article about it by Noetherian and I would suggest everyone read it and practice it. It usually makes or breaks games in Draft when you are playing even powered decks. It’s all about think about what your opponent can play, in what ways they could change a creature match up, and what creatures that you have left to deal with what your opponent has. After you play a bunch of games with this mindset it becomes easier to do this and you will notice you winning more.
A common pitfall I see bleeds into the 3rd question. I often see people playing “Theme” decks in which they attempt to out together a deck utilizing as many cards as possible toward a specific strategy. The problem is you can’t level everything in your deck so you need cards that you can use on the turns you don’t get your leveled up cards. This means using cards that may not fit the theme but at good against popular decks or decks strong against your own. An example is maybe putting in Stormforged Avatar in a Mono Tempys Spells deck. You don’t plan on playing it early but it can still have an impact much greater than say a level 1 Flameshaper Savant during player rank 3. You have to plan for those level 1 draws and make sure that you have cards that don’t need to be leveled.
What are your thoughts on the fact that SolForge – unlike MTG and other popular deck building games – cannot be played with physical cards? The collecting of cards is purely digital, and any face-to-face tournaments that take place will require each person to have a monitor in front of them. For example, how might this affect the growth of the game?
When I played MTGO for the first time i really liked the “play when you want” aspect of the game. I like physical card games if I can play often but if my work schedule prevents me from going to regular meet ups that just doesn’t work. I now prefer digital card games over physical ones because of this.
That being said I think that you will have the ones that believe they would rather have something tangible if they are paying for something. I am not sure why those people are playing computer games since everything they have isn’t “tangible”, but they do exist and some are currently playing SolForge. Painted card board is almost worthless but the rarity and scarcity make it worth something. SolForge is no different with its digital version and I believe people will come around on this eventually. At least in Solforge you don’t have to worry about card value declining as it gets played.
I’m torn on the current Forging system. On the one hand, it’s great to exhange extra cards I do not need for cards I’ve been yearning for – but on the other hand, it seems like every deck I face is filled with nothing but Legendary cards. What are your thoughts about this? And perhaps this is also a good place to discuss how th UnHeroic playstyle fills an important area in the competitive aspect of SolForge.
I one of the inherent problems people face with a smaller community and match making is either long wait times or matched against opponents of different skill levels and/or deck content. I have been watching my roommate and he goes from playing people with starter decks to playing someone with a maxed out Growbots deck. The latest patch stated they improved the match making algorithm so I hope that helps. This is something StoneBlade seems to be keeping an eye on.
The reason why I am talking about match making is because that is the main experience of the free-to-play player right now. Further down the road we will have campaign mode and other features that have not been promised yet but players have been vocal about (phantom drafts and UnHeroic tournaments). Once StoneBlade has enough to develop and implement these kind of features you are going to see a much better environment for our F2P players which will attract more people and make it even better.
As for the UnHeroic format itself, StoneBlade has been supporting the community run tournaments so it seems like it will be the real deal in the future. It’s a great way for new player to break into the competitive scene and even veteran players enjoy it. For those that don’t know what it is, UnHeroic is where you construct your deck using only Common and Rare cards (green and blue symbols). I think this is the most ideal format for Limited Rarity at the moment and I plan on supporting it into the future. As far as it fiting into the competitive scene, I would say it would function similar to the way pauper is in MTG. As long as it stays popular I wouldn’t be surprised to see it supported in the client in the future.
How can the F2P community flourish? For example, how can more competitive – or “serious” – players maintain a welcoming community to those you are playing the game on a casual basis?
I think the F2P community will flourish the more they can play each other more and are given the ability to do multiple things for free. Like I said before, there are a ton of features for that coming in the future so I feel this will be ok. I think the more veteran players can help out by playing UnHeroic because it shows them new techniques for deckbuilding and play. This would help the more competitive F2P players. So far we have had quote a few of them play UnHeroic consistently and the feedback from the newer players is positive since they are often shown good decks and how to play them.
What are your top two or three deck styles at the moment?
Right now I like my life gain Arboris/Oros deck. The addition of life gain creatures and spells from the newest set has officially made it a thing.
The other deck I enjoy is the deck known as Speed kin. You use Leafkin Progenitor along side Flameshaper savant, Kadras, and Lightning Brand to get his activations going right away and bypass his early fragile state. It’s super fun and I have been enjoying it.
And shifting away from specific gameplay, what are your thoughts on how StoneBlade has handled the game thus far? What is your involvement with the company?
I think StoneBlade’s vision for the game is going in a great direction. When it is all said and done, StoneBlade wants a game that can be played casually and competitively. StoneBlade seems to be responsive to player made content (UnHeroic format, Free-to-Play league, etc.) which I believe is a very good idea. They are supporting streamers and content writers which helps grow the community.
That being said, I think there are some areas that need some work. Their pricing and ticket model is constantly under fire from the community. This is a very tricky subject because we don’t know how much everything is costing them. We also don’t have a finished game so the prices may make sense once we have it all. I hope StoneBlade is using it’s experience to come up with a good plan going forward.
Afar as my involvement with StoneBlade, I have been a volunteer for them at Origins, GenCon, and PAX East (Soon). I am not a payed employee or anything. While I do have social contact with many of the employees they don’t tell me a whole bunch. I didn’t even know the patch was coming out the night that it did. I was out camping at the time and couldn’t play until that Sunday.
What type of duties have you been doing as a volunteer for StoneBlade?
So far, every time I have volunteered for StoneBlade I have been working the event hall with Rob Daugherty. So I run a bunch of Ascension tournaments and don’t see any SolForge. I am kind of hoping to do something different this time but I think they know I am reliable to run them so I expect them to put me in the same place again.
Any final words for those interested in SolForge?
Some last information I would like to put out there is the upcoming Free-to-Play League and UnHeroic Tournaments. The F2P League sign ups are close and will be starting soon. I plan on trying to get some plays on stream so people can watch their games. If you are interested please email me at SeomanReborn@gmail.com. The next UnHeroic tournament should be later this month. My stream is usually on Wednesday nights though I will stream randomly throughout the week; you can find it on Twitch.