As a tactical based game, Duelyst has many cards that can be overwhelming when played correctly. However, as stated by Dragall, one of the highest skilled players in Duelyst, from an interview conducted by Scarzig, every card in the game theoretically can be played around (I may have butchered that statement a bit). While optimal to prepare for every possible situation in duelyst, here are a few common cards and plays that players should be aware of when playing Duelyst. If there are any in particular that you feel I missed, please don’t hesitate to comment .
Also shout out to @lel7 for his contributions for Vetruvian through Vanar
As an added bonus you can check out this spreadsheat made by @boronian that includes general cards that the factions have access to (although not necessarily played).
Saberspine Tiger (3 mana 3/2 with Rush)
Tiger is arguably one of the strongest and most flexible cards in the game due to its rush ability. In the current meta, you should be prepared to face Saberspine Tiger on the ladder, especially against Lyonar, Vetruvian,
and Magmar. Of course, if you suspect that your opponent is running an aggro deck in any way (ex: a Lillithe running Ooz or Primus Fist), then it is almost a guarantee that they are running at least 2 (if not 3) Tigers in their deck.
Owlbeast Sage (4 mana 4/4 Arcanyst that gives friendly arcanysts +2 health whenever you play a spell)
With the abundance of arcanyst decks floating around, Owlbeast is a key card that provides arcanyst minions with shear mortality. If your up against Vanar currently, there is a big chance that they are playing arcanysts, whereas Abyssian (particularly Lillithe) has a decent chance of playing Arcanysts as well, with the occasional Arcanyst Songhai. Try and save up your hard removal for Owlbeast against arcanyst decks to minimize snowballing.
Trinity Wing (5 mana 4/4 Arcanyst with Flying that gives 3 flexible 1 cost spells if their is a friendly arcanyst on board)
This is another key card that can provide much needed tools for arcanyst minions and the general. However,
by controlling the board and keeping it clean of arcanysts, you can prevent it from generating cards.[/details]
Holy Immolation (4 mana spell that heals 4 to a minion and deals 4 to all enemies near that minion)
One of the cornerstones of the Lyonar faction, Holy Immo can account to massive swings and damage.
Most commonly used on 6 mana in conjunction with a 2 cost minion, but it is also very popular in conjunction with Argeon’s Bloodborne Spell and Saberspine Tiger, being able to deal 7 damage on 7 mana and 9 damage on 8 mana. The best way to play around this is to A.) spread out your minions and/or B.) Play your minions diagonally in a straight line.
Divine Bond (3 mana Make a minions attack equal to their health)
This is a powerful win condition that can potentially deal +10 burst with the right minions. If you see an enemy play Dioltas, they are running Divine Bond. Try to keep your distance from their high health minions,
and neutralize them if possible. Keep in mind that they may run Aegis Barrier (give a minion spell protection), which can make it difficult for some factions to remove high-health minions. Some key Divine Bond Targets include Dioltas’s Tombstone, Ironcliff Guardian, Lysian Brawler (although normally uncommon),
Owlbeast Sage, and any minion with +6 health really.[/details]
- Burst Spells (Spells that deal direct damage to enemies, such as Phoenix Fires)
Songhai is a faction built for burst. One of their most flexible tools is Phoenix Fire, a 2 mana spell that can deal 3 damage to anything. If they are running Phoenix Fires or Lantern Foxes, you should always be wary on how many they currently have (if they draw any from Lantern Fox, which can produce Phoenix Fires)
and how much damage they can do. If they play Cresent Spear or any other card that can increase the damage of their spells (Storm Sister Alkyone or Eight Gates), you should be prepared for other brst Spells,
such as Ghost Lightning (1 damage to all enemies for 1 mana), Twin Strike (2 damage to two random enemies and draw a card for 3 mana), Cobra Strike (3 damage to an enemy and the enemy general for 4 mana), Geomancer (5 mana 5/4 Your bloodborne spell is now Phoenix Fire), and Spiral Technique (8 damage for 8 mana).
- Grandmaster Zendo (6 mana 4/6 The enemy general acts as a battle pet/becomes AI controlled)
Utterly powerful card that can disrupt both your movement and deal immense damage if left unanswered through cards like Killing Edge (3 mana give a minion +4/+2). You should always prepare to face a Zendo against Songhai, yet answering it depends on the matchup. In most Songhai matches, you should wait to spend your hard removal on it (unless it can be answered with your board/minions). If however you come across a Hamon Bladeseeker (usually against a Kaleos, but not so much in this current meta), remove/deal with the Hamon immediately, especially if played on-curve. There is a good chance that they have Zendo in hand, and it can cause you to take +16 damage if the Hamon Bladeseeker is not dealt with.[/details]
Blast (Vetruvian in faction special ability- being able to deal damage to all enemies in a cardinal line)
With the Wildfire Ankh artifact, Sajj can equip the artifact and BBS to deal damage to an entire line at 4 Mana. Position units in different rows to play around blast from Sajj. If Sajj is not in the middle row, placing units out of her movement range will spare them from blast.
Zephyr (3 mana 3/3 minion that gives general frenzy on that turn when BBS is used)
Generally a staple in Sajj decks, as all Sajj decks either run Wildfire Ankh, Zephyr, or a combination of both (if they own said cards). Place around frenzy against Sajj, at 4 mana. Sajj can deal 4 dmg to all minions in an AOE out of hand, with Zephyr and BBS.
Stars’ fury (5 mana spell that spawns 2/2 rush dervishes in front of all enemies)
Typically seen from Zirix - especially obelysk Zirix, place units in a horizontal line formation to allow only 1 dervish to spawn in front. If units are at the other end of the board, no dervish will spawn. Dervishes benefit from structure buffs.
Blood of Air ( 5 mana ranged removal spell that transforms any enemy minion into a 2/2 rush dervish )
You should expect this card in all Vetruvian decks due to how powerful its removal ability is. This spell negates dying wish as it transforms and does not destroy a minion. Play around it, by positioning minions away from each other so that if one minion is transformed, the dervish will not be able to reach the weaker minion to kill it. Blood of Air is seen in both Sajj and Zirix.
Falcius ( 3 mana 3/3 minion that gives general +2 attack and negates all damage to general this turn )
Another strong staple in the faction due to its immense utility for both control, aggro, and tempo playstyles. Place valuable 4> hp minions out of Zirix’s reach, place 8> hp valuable minions out of Sajj’s reach, for them to survive the next turn.
Aymara Healer ( 6 mana 5/5 provoke minion that has a dying wish that deals 5 damage to enemy general and heals 5hp to friendly general )
One of the faction’s only form of in-faction healing, Aymara Healer threatens to produce a 10+ health swing. Expect this in most Vetruvian decks (except for those that appear to be heavily aggro-usually a Zirix deck that runs Ghoulie). Save removal options against Vetruvian for the eventuality of this card.[/details]
Sphere of Darkness / Abyssal Scar ( 1 mana spell that deals ping damage)
This card and Bloodborne spell is notorious for their ability to deal 1 damage, which can be especially helpful for dealing with 1 or 3 health minions in particular. You can bait Sphere of Darkness out by playing weaker minions, although this card is usually used as a means of denial and drawing a card at the expense of having 1 less mana that turn.
Punish / Ritual Banishing ( Punish is a 3 mana play with Abyssal Scar (Cassyva usually) / Banishing is a 4 mana play with Shadowspawn (Lillithe usually))
Abyssian removal spells that are particularly damaging to big minions like ironcliff, nimbus, etc. Lyonar can play around this (and most removal in general) by using Aegis Barrier, however playing multiple threats may be more beneficial to you in comparison to playing one huge threat, as Abyssian has less-punishing AoE spells in most cases. Alternatively, you can try to bait out these removals by playing lesser threats first.
Grasp of Agony ( 1 mana spell that deals 3 damage to all enemies around the recently deceased minion )
More common in aggro Abyssian, Grasp of Agony can be a powerful swing tool when used correctly, especially in conjunction with Daemonic Lure (2 mana deal 1 damage to an enemy and move it to a tile on the board). Play minions 1 tile away from each other to prevent a grasp from going off. Play weak hp minions away from a general hit to trigger a grasp. Demonic lure negates positioning, but forces the opponent to spend 2 mana to get minions in position.
Necrotic sphere ( 6 mana spell that destroys all minions around the Abyssian general and summons friendly 1/1 wraithlings in their place )
Not too common, but perhaps avoid placing value generating minions around an Abyssian general if you do not have lethal that turn. This card most likely would be seen in versions of Aggro Abyssian decks.
Spectral Revenant ( 7 mana 6/6 rush minion that deals 4 damage to the opposing general whenever it deals damage )
One of the strongest late game minions in the game, Spectral Revannent is the pinnacle of rush minions in Duelyst. Avoid playing battle pets when Abyssian’s 7 mana turn approaches, the revenant can hit a minion and be positioned next to battle pets, to deal even more damage to your general. Playing Nightwatcher is very useful to exhaust Spectral. Saving an answer for revenant is heavily adviced. Avoid being at 8 hp and standing next to the Abyssian general past mana 7, this allows for a general hit and revenant to kill you. Be wary against Arcanyst Abyssian however, as not all versions of that deck runs Spectral Revannent.
Swarm tactics ( Potential Abyssian win condition, especially with Lilithe )
When Lilithe starts to swarm with Wraithling Swarm, Zyx, Gloomchaser, etc. expect them to have Void Steal, Soulshatter Pact, Deathfire Crescendo, Soul Grimwar etc. in hand. Play around this by trying to clear the board immediately with aoe like Frostbur, Plasma storm, Tempest, Blistering Skorn, etc. If unable to clear the board, retreat and have dispel ready for a Deathfire buffed minion.
Creep tactics ( Potential Cassyva win condition )
With Ooz, Abyssal Crawler, Shadow Nova, Klaxon and Abyssal Scar, etc. Cassyva can pump out big Abyssal Juggernauts and potential burst win Obliterate. Clear Shadow Creep tiles by having Sunbloom or Lightbender. Prioritize to kill Abyssal Crawler as soon as possible. Save Ephemeral Shroud or Repulsor Beast for Abyssal Juggernaut or Klaxon.
Natural Selection ( 2 mana spell that kills a minion with the lowest attack )
A staple in practically every Magmar deck, if any minion survives the turn after it was played - especially in the early game, use it’s attack value as a bench mark. If it has a low attack value, move it back from the action and sit it in a corner. That way the opponent is forced to spend 2 natural selections to destroy the minion in the corner and the threatening minion that’s in their face. If the opponent only has 1 natural selection in hand, they cannot remove the more threatening minion with it.
Plasma Storm ( 5 mana spell that destroys all minions with 3 or less attack )
Quite common in most Magmar lists, although with the arrival of Lavaslasher I personally have seen less of this card. Nevertheless, avoid trying to swarm Magmar with low attack value minions approaching mana 5 and afterwards. Buff the attack value of minions to more than 3 before mana 5.
Lavaslasher (5 mana 4/9 Golem that can immediately attack a nearby enemy minion)
A powerful staple in Magmar decks, giving them a tankier, mini Makantor to deal with a given minion. Be prepared for this minion at 5+ mana, and earlier if they run Golem Metallurgist (2 mana 2/3 golem that reduces the cost of the first golem played each turn by 1). It is a lot harder for this minion to gain value when used on higher health and attack minions however, such as when used on Hamon Bladeseeker.
Makantor Warbeast ( 6 mana 4/4 with rush and frenzy )
Always expect a Warbeast on Mana 6, it is a card that every sensible Magmar player keeps leading up to Mana 6. Play around Warbeast by not giving it more than 2 targets to hit, position in the classical staircase formation with the general or a high hp minion in the middle.
Flash Warbeast is a 4 mana play, Flash Warbeast Greater Fortitude is a 5 mana play, generally try to keep units positioned apart so Warbeast does not get the opportunity to clear your board. If you have a provoke minion with more than 4 hp, play the square formation with your general next to the Magmar general, a provoke minion diagonally from the Magmar general and plug the additional tile next to all 3 units with another minion. This prevents Warbeast from being able to hit 3 targets and it traps the Magmar general needing to hit the provoke minion to destroy it.
Thumping Wave ( 4 mana spell that gives any minion +5 attack and transforms it into a 3/3 battlepet if it survives the turn )
Thumping Wave is usually used as a damage output to finish an opponent. Be ware of the damage it can do when applied on a rush minion. Tiger Thump is 8 dmg at 7 mana, Elucidator Thump is 10 dmg at 8 mana or Flash Elucidator Thump is at 6 mana. Flash Makantor Thump is 8 mana for a 9 dmg AOE. The rush minion damage alongside with a potential general hit is the amount of damage that you want to avoid. You could box yourself in with minions - preferably with more than 3 attack otherwise they die to Plasma Storm, or play Nightwatcher to prevent the rush minions from reaching your general. In most cases, you will want to force your opponent to waste thumping wave as a removal on one of your minions (ex: an Aymara Healer) as it a.) generally reduces the damage you take, b.) If used on an a minion provoking the enemy, it can stall their movement and ability to act on their turn, and c.) in many cases the resulting battle pet with help deal damage to an enemy, which can be beneficial depending on the situation.
Decimus ( 4 mana 4/4 minion that deals 2 damage to the enemy general whenever they draw a card )
Starhorn’s strongest and most popular win condition, being able to deal 9 damage in burst when used in conjunction with Tectonic Spikes (3 mana both players draw 3 cards and take 3 damage). Starhorn needs to lower the opponent down to a certain hp for a burst turn. Try to preserve hp against Starhorn, if you constantly heal out of lethal range and remove his threats, Starhorn is unable to OTK with out of hand burst. Decimus + Tectonic Spikes is a 7 mana play that deals 9 damage. Decimus + Spikes +BBS is 11 dmg at 8 mana. Etc. Flash Reincarnation reduces the cost of the play by 2 mana. The most out of hand damage i can think of is Flash out 2 Decimus and Tectonic Spikes + Entropic Gaze, which is 21 damage for 9 mana (although a very highly specific situation). It is also important to note that if Starhorn is at 3 or less health, he will not be able to pull the Decimus + Tectonic Spikes combo without killing himself in the process.
Drogon ( 4 mana 5/4 minion that doubles a general’s attack when BBS is applied )
Vaath’s typical win condition (like Decimus is Starhorn’s). When Cryptographers are played, it is typically a sign that the deck runs Drogon. With Drogon + BBS + Cryptographers + BBS it is an 8 mana play and can usually result in an OTK. With every flash used, it reduces the cost of the play by 2 mana. You want to dispel Vaath once his attack goes past 3, and generally stay away from Vaath.
LOTS of single-target removal options
Vanar is the faction with most cost efficient removal and has endless amount of stall.
With Chromatic Cold, Aspect of the Fox, Hailstone Prison, Flash Freeze, Frigid Corona etc.
It is hard to play around their removal spells, unless there are cards in your deck that prevent targeting spells - Chromatic Cold targets the tile, not the minion so it cannot be played around.
The best way to “play around these removal spells” is to put pressure early and keep establishing threats to put pressure on board. Vanar has to remove your threats and try to put their own minions on the board, you effectively reduced their mana pool if they have to spend 2 mana to Chrome Cold your minions, etc.
Frostburn ( 5 mana spell that does 3 damage to all enemy minions )
Avoid playing a bunch of low hp minions leading up to mana 5 and beyond, without those minions being able to effectively impact the game in any manner the turn they were played. Any low hp minion you put on the board past mana 4 needs to be able to provide some value. Avoid from burning your hand by placing down lots of minions with 3 or less hp past mana 4, that way even if Vanar opponent Frostburns, you would still have options in hand.
Enfeeble ( 5 mana spell that make all minions 1/1 )
It’s more common these days for Vanar to run 1 or at most 2 copies of Enfeeble, after patch 1.83. Avoid placing valuable minions in reach of any enemy, to prevent the 1/1’s trading or a general hit.
Polarity ( 0 mana spell that swaps a minion’s hp and attack )
Save removal for Owlbeasts as soon as they come up in a match against Vanar. This is only a concern when playing against arcanyst Vanar.
Mana Deathgrip ( 1 mana spell that deals 1 damage to an enemy minion and permanently gives +1 mana when the minion dies that turn )
Avoid playing 1 hp minions on turn 1. Avoid positioning minions in reach of an enemy in the early turns. It is crucial to deny Vanar the chance to ramp, especially so in the early game.
Warbird (Faie’s Bloodborne spell- deal 2 damage to the enemy general and all enemies in that column)
This ability is notorious for chipping away at enemies, and can be especially problematic in the late-game. Play around Warbird when the BBS is available for the opponent the during their turn. If playing against an aggro Faie, they will usually have Cryptographers to refresh Warbird. In that case, always play around Warbird. To play around Warbird, simply position your general in a column without any friendly minions in the same column.