We’ll be evaluating this set from the perspective of player 2. Take a moment to consider how you’d play the set before reading on:
The two absorbers in the random set are Doomed Mech and Xeno Guardian – Xeno Guardian is a stronger absorber than Doomed Mech, so we’ll plan on getting that. On top of that, there’s Nivo Charge in the set, and Nivo Charge counters Doomed Mech pretty hard, so not only do we not want to use Doomed Mech as an absorber, but we most likely won’t want to use it as an attacker either, since our opponent can use Nivo Charges to freeze it on its last turns of life.
Normally a strong absorber like Xeno Guardian means that you want a big economy, but while scanning the set, I noticed that besides the absorbers, everything else in the set is aggressive, so it’s possible this game will stay on two Engineers despite the strong absorber.
The next thing to look for is other high-impact units – units that can have a really big effect on what your strategy is. In this set, that means Amporilla. It’s good to look at big red units like Amporilla early, because by doing so you can usually either rule them out (meaning you can safely ignore them for the rest of the game) or realize that they’re playable, which means that you have to take them heavily into consideration. In this case, the only support for an Amporilla strategy is the fact that there’s a good absorber – having a good absorber does tend to make Amporilla better, since it makes it easier to get out a bunch of Tarsiers and get your Amporilla up, but Xeno Guardian isn’t enough by itself, especially with all of the other aggressive units in the set. So, we can safely rule out Amporilla.
Now that we’ve done that, we’re thinking of a mid or high econ strategy that will use two Blastforges and a Conduit to get out Xeno Guardian. Now we can start building up a more detailed plan.
The next question is, how will we build up our attack. Just given all of the blue-green units in the set, it’s natural to think that we’ll be going for a pure blue-green strategy, in which case we’ll have to work with the attackers in the blue-green tech (which wouldn’t be that hard – there’s plenty of them). But we should also consider the alternative, which is including Red in our strategy so that we can get Scorchillas.
Due to its long build time, combined with its ability to deny absorb by holding, Scorchilla is an excellent ‘first attacker’ (the first attackers you make, to get you over the absorb barrier), so if we do add red to our strategy, it would be to use Scorchillas as our first attackers. On the other hand, if we went with pure blue-green, our plan for early attack would be to get up to two damage – most likely by using Fission Turret and Xeno Guardian – and then using that two damage to force out a Wall or other absorber from our opponent, and then using that attack to make Lancetooths, to prevent the damage from being absorbed.
Overall, I think Lancetooth really helps out a pure blue-green strategy in terms of early attack, and so I think that splashing Red to get Scorchillas would be a mistake – you’ll run into problems late-game as attack numbers rise, since Red is not useful for defense, and the sheer lack of Red units in the random set besides Scorchilla means that you’ll have a very hard time spending your Red later on. So, I think we can rule out Scorchilla here, and focus entirely on how we’ll execute the Blue-Green strategy.
Venge Cannon isn’t a good unit to use as your main attacker. It works best as a Green sink, or as a breachproof attacker. We definitely won’t be going breachproof here, so if we get a Venge Cannon in this set, it’ll be as a Green sink. The main impact of Venge Cannon on this set is that we’re not too worried about getting too much Green, meaning that we’re happy getting Fission Turrets and setting up to click them on their last lifespan, since we can use any excess Green first on buying a Venge Cannon, and after that on clicking the Venge Cannon to do damage.
We’re also avoiding Doomed Mech due to Nivo Charge, so the basis for our attack will be Fission Turret and Lancetooth. Like I said above, the most reasonable thing to aim for is to get up to two damage with one Fission Turret as well as the one damage from the Xeno Guardian we’ll be using for absorb, and use that to make Lancetooths. The other thing to note is that we’ll want a second Xeno Guardian at some point as a backup absorber to prevent our opponent from getting high-value Nivo Charges. Nivo Charges will mostly be used quite late in the game, when the extra pressure they provide is more valuable since attack numbers are higher (meaning the opponent will have a harder time defending). If our opponent fails to get a backup Xeno we could buy them in the mid-game instead, since they’re guaranteed to at least deny one absorb by freezing their lone Xeno Guardian.
Now after all that, we can start thinking about what economy size we want. The default, because Xeno Guardian is the absorber, is to aim for a high economy. But Lancetooth makes getting attack going sooner more valuable (since we can use that attack to make Lancetooths instead of letting it get absorbed). That, combined with the other support for an aggressive strategy (mainly Fission Turret and Nivo Charge, but Venge Cannon also helps a bit) makes me think this will actually be a set where I’d rather stay on two Engineers as player 2. As player 1 I would still go Third Engineer, since player 1 has a harder time with Conduit lines on two Engineers. Assuming our opponent goes for Third Engineer, my plan would be to go for Natural Conduit into Fission Turret, and see how things play out from there.
If our opponent tried fast attack – maybe with a Fast Conduit line – I would prioritize getting a Wall up, and I wouldn’t get a Xeno Guardian until a bit later. Xeno Guardian is a bit too clunky versus fast attackers, especially when it won’t be getting any more absorb than a Wall due to Lancetooth. The play here would look like: 1. DD DD 2. DC DDC 3. DD3 DDB 4. 3B W33.
In this position I think player 2 is favoured, because player 1 wants both a Wall and a Lancetooth, but can only get one – if they get Wall, their two damage will be absorbed. If they get Lancetooth, then their opponent will kill their two Engineers instead of buying a Lancetooth, which hurts a lot in this type of situation.
Assuming both players have a correct read on the set, the winner will be determined by who can come out on top in the dance in the earlygame where both players are trying to set up Xeno Guardian while still getting Lancetooths going, and also by who in the mid to late game can set up a backup Xeno Guardian, arrange to click their Fission Turrets on their last span of life, and find the best timing with Nivo Charges.