One of the reasons that it’s hard to make guides on Chill is that the different Chill units play very differently. If they all worked the same, just with the numbers tweaked, writing a guide would be easy. For example, if I tell you how to play with Frostbite, you can probably also handle playing with a unit called Big Frostbite that works the same but costs 4R and has 5 Chill. But, if you learn all about playing with Frostbite and then have to play a game with Shiver Yeti you will probably be stumped. Frostbite can only be used once, while Shiver Yeti can be used every turn. Because of this, Shiver Yeti will be better at some things, like freezing doomed units, while Frostbite will be better at other things, like applying pressure. If we want to figure out how to play Frostbite versus how to play Shiver Yeti, how should we begin? The best place to start is learning about “activation cost”.
Activation Cost (AC)
“Activation cost” is the cost of using a unit’s ability. Frostbite’s activation cost is sacrificing itself, while Shiver Yeti’s activation cost is simply clicking it, which is nearly free. The only downside of clicking Shiver Yeti is that it can’t block for that turn – and since it’s not a unit you want to block with very often, this isn’t much of a downside.
Once we’re thinking about Chill in terms of activation cost, it becomes a bit easier to categorize the different Chill units:
The low-AC Chill units currently in the game are Cryo Ray, Shiver Yeti, Tatsu Nullifier, Iceblade Golem, Nivo Charge and Vai Mauronax. Frost Bite is a high AC unit; the units that make Frostbites – Frost Brooder and Endotherm Kit – are also high-AC units, with a few caveats (Endotherm Kit also makes Cryo Rays, which are low AC units; Frostbrooder’s bites have lifespan 3, so when a frostbite’s lifespan is down to 1 it has no AC).
Low-AC units are better at getting value through the first three methods that I talked about in Part 1 – denying absorb, exploiting, and freezing doomed units. They are at their best when they can repeatedly freeze blockers in order to accumulate small gains – denying an absorb here, exploiting your opponent’s granularity for two damage there.
Meanwhile, the main way to get value from the fourth method, threat, is just to have more Chill, so that your opponent needs to make more defense to prevent a breach. High -AC units like Frostbite give the most Chill per Gold spent, and so they’re the best at getting value through threat.
Why does activation cost matter?
On offense, activation cost is important because it lets you know how freely you should use your Chill. Frostbites should only be used when they’re getting about two damage worth of value each, while using five Cryo Ray charges to deal one damage is an OK trade, as long as they’re all on three health.
It’s also good on offense because it helps you pick the right type of Chill for the situation you’re in. If you’re looking to freeze doomed units on their last turn of life, aim for low-AC units like Cryo Ray. If you’re looking to pressure a breach-vulnerable opponent, go for high-AC units like Frost Brooder.
On defense, AC helps you know what to look out for. You don’t have to worry too much about being exploited if your opponent is using Frostbites, but you have to worry about it a lot if your opponent has a bunch of Cryo Rays. If your opponent is using high-AC Chill units like Frostbites then you will be under a lot more pressure, but there are some tactics available to you that we’ll talk about in parts 4 & 5 that let you take advantage of the high AC of the bites. These tactics won’t work as well against low-AC Chill units, but they don’t need to, since those units aren’t that good at threatening a breach in the first place.
Activation cost isn’t the only difference between Chill units. For example, take Nivo Charge and Tatsu Nullifier:
Nivo Charge and Tatsu Nullifier both have no AC, but Tatsu has no AC because it can use its Chill every turn, while Nivo Charge has no AC because it will die at the start of next turn no matter what. On top of that, Nivo Charge is cheap, while Tatsu is both expensive and requires an extremely committal tech setup that leaves you lacking in defense. Because of this, they work very differently: Nivo Charge’s main strength is short-term pressure, while Tatsu’s is insane long-term value if you can survive. All of the different Chill units work differently and have a lot of nuance behind them, and activation cost doesn’t cover all of that, but it’s a very good start.