Duelyst's Keywords


First off, I wanted to give a thanks to the developers for making this game. Despite the imperfections and frustrations, you folks brought forth a great game for people to play. So, thanks (again)!

I wanted to specifically discuss about backstab, but as I kept thinking through it, I wanted to talk about infiltrator as well, then grow, so I just titled it “Duelyst’s Keywords”

The idea of backstab and infiltrator brings with itself certain drawbacks when compared to all the other words. This is (obviously) position. Well that’s the whole idea reaper. (Yea, I’m aware.)

Unlike any other keyword, infiltrator is not asymmetrical on the board, by that I’m not discussing by field but by turn order. Due to there always having to be a 1st player and 2nd player, (I hope that it can be rationally deduced or assumed) infiltrator stands to be played with more easy as player 1 than player 2. To reiterate, it is easier to break ground into opponent’s territory as player 1 than player 2.

Many might be saying “well yea, what’s your point?”. Few maybe (hopefully none) disagree.

The point that I am mentioning is for observation of it’s uniqueness of it’s keyword to any other but similar to backstab, but we’ll get there shortly, in that it’s value varies upon turn order. Note: Grow, or more specifically Gro, the only 2 mana grow minion, actually does play into this notion of value deterministic upon turn order.

Zeal, provoke, blast, flying, etc etc. Do not utilize the preemptive nature that turn 1 player 1 has in contrast to infiltrator and Gro require/demand.

Note for those who skim-read: This isn’t a complaint; this isn’t a rant. This is observation for the primary purpose of awareness.

How does this tie into backstab though? Backstab also has a uniqueness that separates it from the other keywords: Unlike any other keyword, backstab will almost always require an additional card or spell to utilize its keyword.

The use of combos in Songhai is not new, but I think it is important that it is looked at it specifically in this manner. Against anyone with even adequate game knowledge, even the highest skilled Songhai player will have to use at least one card to make use of their keyword. This isn’t demanded from Zeal, provoke, flying, blast, grow, etc etc. Your standard player and above understand this, and acknowledge this as to why you (the developers) instilled an additional card draw on Killing Edge under the condition of it being used on a backstab minion.

Again, this isn’t a complaint or rant. However, everything following IS opinion and suggestion oriented.

I am under the impression that this doesn’t cut it. I am completely unknowledgeable and uninformed on this topic, but again, I am under the impression that backstab falls short to other archetypes and doesn’t stabilize itself as well or easily as other archetypes. The following are legitimate follow-up supportive questions (because again, I genuinely just don’t know):

-Has a backstab deck ever placed itself as the highest, or among the highest, performing archetypes?
-Has backstab won major tournaments?
-Where does Kaleos place among his rivals (the general whose whole intention is backstab archetype)?
-Do you (the reader or developer) ever see backstab deck builds where they AREN’T putting in Spelljammers, Void Hunters or Blaze Hounds? (or anything else I missed of similar nature)

The backstab archetype is very card/combo demanding; hence why, at least I, always see these supporting (and deemed necessary?) support cards.

Opinion and suggested alternative

*At this point, I wanted to propose an alternative. If I’m all wrong, things are fine, and I’m bad, that’s fine. I can accept that. Ignore all this (don’t be an a$$ and criticize with nothing constructive) and continue on your day.

The alternative, at least for backstab, would be in either

(1) incorporating/reward card draw as success upon killing a minion, which has the feel/theme of collecting a bounty on a target.


(2) (more OP and one that I like less because of it) reward card draw upon successful backstab.

As I see things, Ranged is capable of working alone, not requiring outside faction cards to keep it afloat. Zeal, Provoke, Grow, Blast, etc. They all can function on their own merit. Unlike other keywords, backstab demands it being fed cards to be utilized, and killing edge just isn’t enough (the required spelljammers, blaze hounds, etc. support this notion). I think that incorporating a bounty with backstab for the killing blow of minions would support the archetype’s crutch of demanding card draws. I hope that point (1) wouldn’t seem OP to players as (A) sometimes backstabs need even more than 2 cards to pull off one kill and (B) it wouldn’t provide more cards for backstabbing the general.

All of this largely came to mind when I was building a Kara deck and opted out of Crystal Cloakers for the above mentioned reason(s). I do hope that those who read the backstab examination and opinion will sit on the proposed alternative for awhile. I hope anyone who has read this and comes across a backstab unit will bear this in mind, “This card is going to have to use another card just to make use of its keyword.”

Note again, THIS IS NOT A COMPLAINT. I keep reiterating this because I am aware of how it sounds. If I’m all wrong, if nothing was to ever change, I’m okay with that. I just wanted to throw out my observations simply for the sake of awareness and my added opinion.


Well, TBH I think backstab is ok as it is, despite not being very popular. You have to consider the fact that it not only boosts the attack of the backstabber, but also prevents the target from counterattacking, which can be very powerful in Duelyst. The only problem I see with it is that there are too few backstab units at the current moment, but even that can be solved with Obscuring Blow.

As for infiltrate, yes it has a weakness, but really, most faction keywords except maybe deathwatch have their weaknesses, (backstab does minor damage on enemies turn, zeal being limited to spaces near your general, grow starting out weak and the boosts easily dealt with) besides, if your opponent runs away from infiltrate territory you can easily use it to your advantage with ranged minions and other forms of damage.


On a personal level, I’m okay with backstab as well. For as fun of a keyword and concept provides though, I feel that the lack of popularity does present a statement about its state within the game.

That said, Obscuring Blow is a very welcomed addition for me (though I have yet to get it :frowning:).


I want to point this out, because you present it again, at least in my eyes. What separates backstab from other keywords is the weakness of it. All the other weaknesses you presented involve board and positioning. While yes, backstab is also completely position related, it is the only keyword that will (very very likely) demand at least an additional card to utilize.

A question that can be drawn from this (pun intended) is: how much is a card worth in terms of damage provided? do cards provide this?

It’s tough, and there’s no definitive answer, especially when backstab values and killing edges cause psynergy and therefore fluctuating results off of combos.

Thank you for your input though. It is good to notice some of the other keywords’ weaknesses.


It seams to me at least that backstabs inpopularity is due to several factors including:

  1. Spellspam Reva outshines it completely,

  2. like most faction abilities dispel renders it useless even exspecialy do to poor base stats of backstab units,

As I said already, all faction abilities (especialy grow and blast) become useless when dispelled. And if you look carefully, most other faction abilities also need at least another card to work (most notably deathwatch) with the exception of zeal and grow (even grow requires Molokhi Huntress in order to do something)


To answer your questions, backstab has been extremely strong in the past due to out of hand burst damage, but since then the ability to do that has transferred more to Magmar. Backstab has won tournaments, it’s been top tier, but Kaleos simply isn’t as strong as others now, especially since Reva’s BBS is more useful in the later game.

Are some perks better than others? Sure. Some deck archetypes are simply better, but that’s what makes a meta. It’s impossible to balance everything to the same level. Backstab is fine as is, I don’t think anyone has a problem with it, and there’s no way the devs would alter every backstab card to change how an already functioning keyword works. Same goes for others. We simply wait and see if new cards are printed that create synergy and allow the meta to shift towards those abilities.


Thank you for the insight :slight_smile:

This is what I view to be the crux of backstab though, the room and window for deck variance is diminishing due to backstab demanding so many cards.

How many cards does a keyword/archetype demand to support it?
Zeal, Provoke, Flying, Rebirth, Rush, are pretty self reliant
Blast and Ranged could be argued to require a frontline of some sort
Backstab demands cards…

Cards have been printed to create synergy with backstab, obscuring blows and card draws. The issue, and irony, is that one of the most creative keywords in the game is restricted to the least amount of creativity in its deck building to due how many cards the keyword requires.


Deathwatch demands other cards to die to be useful (hence why nobody drops Shadowdancer on an empty board), Grow minions need other threats out already since they start with poor stats, one Blast minion by itself is near useless. As you see, most faction abilities, not only Backstab, need other cards to work well, with the only exception being zeal. On the other hand neutral keyword abilities such as Flying, Provoke and Rush are somewhat self sufficient since any faction can use most of them depending on the style of the deck.


You’re on your way to becoming one of my favorite posters. Keep up the good work.


Yes to all. Deathwatch would be the other one for roughly equal comparison.

All the others, as mentioned, are either pretty self reliant or can be argued to need some card.

I should have been more clear that even by comparison backstab needs more cards. That is, where Blast may require, say 1-3 (or maybe up to 6) cards, backstab by default will require 9 at minimum.

Requiring more cards is part of what makes combos, but requiring so many without a proper card drawing engine requires card draw to the deck, which increases the amount of cards needed to a deck that already demands more cards, reducing the amount of deck space, and therefore variance and creativity, that backstab may offer. While it is ok, and changes don’t need to be made, these facts may inform players and developers alike as to why they may feel a sense of disappointment when deck building a backstab archetype.

The amount of cards required to support backstab simply inhibits deck building creativity, and its just a shame to see on a personal level.


I think back stab is fine as it is, and most of my players would probably agree. Mainly because it’s in Songhai and burst combos are what they do, if you look at the majority of cards in songhai, they need some other cards or set up. Everything that procs of spells, everything that effects positioning, they all need other cards to be useful.

Ironically, most of the cards that are self sufficient in Songhai aren’t played because Songhai as a whole has much better options because of their synergy and combo potential.


If you are suggesting changes then it is a complaint thread.

If there was a songhai rush minion with backstab on it it would be a auto include in most songhai decks. I think you don’t understand what backstabbing is and does. Back stab doesn’t require cards it just works better and has immediate effect with them. The reason you don’t see a lot of back stab decks is its hard to play. Reva decks are near mindless compared to back stab and don’t require minion board as much.

Take into account songhai doesn’t have a lot of how do I say consistent card draw. WHICH REALLY IS songhai main problem. Giving card draw for backstabbing is not the right idea. With things like inner focus, juxtaposition all free cards not to mention mist Dragon which lets you tp a minion. We might as well just revert mana Vortex. Card draw for songhai has to be on a minion or spell where it can’t be abused.


My point here. Backstab needs other cards, and oftentimes more by comparison to set it up. Add in that oftentimes I see how a board is left after a Songhai combo (mine or others) and see that other keywords/factions usually can accomplish the same end result with a better board and/or more cards in hand.

I could just be bad, no doubt on that :smile:, but I wanted to express what I examined upon thinking on the backstab keyword.


Correct me if I misunderstood you, but I think you want to say that since Backstabbing uses all its cards in one combo to do massive damage it requires card draw and thus limiting the deck diversity unlike most other faction cards? If that is the case you can still choose your draw engine(Ancestral Divination, Spelljammer, Sojourner, even Mogwai comes to mind) as well as other support cards such as Provokers.

On the side note most decks require card draw in one form or another so that shouldn’t be to much of a problem.

I am sorry if I missed your point so don’t be shy to correct me.


This is opinion, as I am okay with backstab as it is. To me, suggesting an alternative due to examination of how it functions doesn’t equate to being upset and complaining about it.

They aren’t free, they cost deck space. This is important to my whole premise: Other keywords/cards can result an a roughly equivalent board for less cards and/or better board at the end of the turn.

Kaido Assassin or Katara requires at minimum 1 card to leave the board equivalent to what Windblade Adept can.


Not sure if this was directed toward me, but appreciated if so.

Unappreciated if not. Hahahaha :smile: dem jokes :slight_smile:


Hi. Sorry if I soubd harsh. English is not my mother language.

If we compare all the factions keywords, not many warrant their own archetypes.

Grow and rebirth are weak and lacking synergy. Blast is so broken it’s restricted to a few cards only.

I do not think the idea is to put a bunch of cards with the same keywords, call it an archetype and expect it to work. An archetype should call the cards ot needs.

To illustrate: a combohai deck can use katara as a wincon (using backstab damage mitigation to allow multiple attacks), while a more control oriented deck could use scarlet viper to control the board (using backstab damage and mitigation). Individual card strenght aside, each card should be evaluated against the decks goals and not because it has a keyword.


Songhai is a burst/combo faction, so it will require by default an insane amount of cards to make a game winning combo.

The backstab effect is good as it is now, it gets better the more card you use on it. And this is like the base of every combo deck i can think of, alone a backstab minion isn’t really good, then you reactivate it, teleport it and buff it to make 8 damage with 3 cards, as i already said, this is the basic idea of combo decks.

That said, yes combo decks require a certain combo and board state to be prepared and “used” against the opponent to win. This limits drastically the amount of cards that can be used in the archtype (and this is not only a duelyst reality) as you need a lot more consistency in your deck.
This include a lot of draw engines to “limit” the card diversity in your deck and a good turn planning that makes it pretty hard to play, usually.

Songhai in this case is good as it is, if cpg put some really good draw (like the old mana vortex was more or less) they could make songhai the strongest faction in the game by mistake.


There is another reason one might give for why backstab tends to require additional support cards to use effectively. That is, that the use of backstab tends to put you up on card advantage inherently, by virtue of giving you “free” (non-trading) kills.

You manage to use a Kaido assassin to backstab a Windblade Adept. You’re up one card - The body of the Kaido is still on the board, undamaged, while the enemy minion is gone. If you use a card (Jux, MDS, Inner Focus) to get it into position, then you’re still card-neutral: you’ve traded the position-manipulation card for the minion, rather than the body of the backstab minion. Your opponent still has to deal with it.

The same Windblade, under the effect of zeal, can value-trade with the Kaido, true. However, it’s left at 1 hp, dying to a ping, a general attack, or any AOE.


Love your analysis and example. Really made me think more on how to go about playing Songhai.

I would argue that the point you displayed wasn’t in being up one card (it IS being up one minion on the board), but rather that you are trading one card (spell like inner focus) for an opposing minion/card.

This assists to reveal the notion of why backstab demands amount of assisting cards as it does, as the higher the target, the higher the card card count to provide an effective enough combo. In essence, you are trading the enemy’s mana cost/investment for a combination of mana and cards.

Reiteration: As you mention, the backstab keyword breaks the standard, as typically any card will often times trade 1 for 1 in value. Backstab incorporates no longer trading 1 for 1 that minions of equal mana would usually do, but trade an opposing minion’s mana cost through card and/or mana cost.

I feel that this leads to a question of: Just how much mana is a card worth? We place mana costs on cards, but that’s not exactly what I’m meaning if that makes sense? How much is that card space worth? How much is that additional card availability to have in your hand worth? Does this make sense? I’m sorry, it’s hard for me to express this notion.

Maybe to elaborate by example:

It COULD be boiled to, I will trade my inner focus card instead of my kaido to kill this windblade. This in essence is equating 1 card for 1, so while inner focus technically costs 0 mana, we have by choice actually allowed that card to be traded for a 2 mana minion, so this particular inner focus ended up being worth 2 mana based upon our choice.

We should note that this equation of equivalence gets complicated much more quickly with the addition of more cards into a combo. Unlike standard minion or spell cards, backstab causes a range of value for each card. (By previous example, had Mist also been used, we’d equate to Inner Focus + MDS = 2M Windplace Adept.) The addition of cards (to combo with) will result to looping back to my original of how much mana is a card (or card space) worth? The answer at this time may only ever be however much the user decides. This suffices as a player, but not as a developer, as to achieve balance, a number is desired to be placed, whether as variable or a constant.

It seems that a good way to looking at backstab keyword worth isn’t through value internally or by direct comparison, but maybe by comparison of what is achievable with the card, both on its lower and upper limits. At least by developer standards. By player standards, the value of a card is better looked at not by the mana cost, but by the mana cost of the opposing player (to our card cost). Yes, this is basic in terms of the notion of trading up, but due to combo’ing nature and card cost/expdeniture of backstab, and the function of backstab itself, there is significantly more difficulty in equating value that standard abilities and minions possess.

This is fascinating personally. Absolutely love this realization you’ve provided me. Thank you very much Xenoce! :heart:

I hope that others gained some interesting points and perspectives on the topic off of what Xenoce provided me as well.

Thank you again!

@Ryvirath Wanted to shoutout to a developer on this, and you’re the only one I generally see.