Today’s set has four different legendary units. We’ll be playing from the perspective of player 2 – how would you approach this set?
Set reading gets much more difficult the more high-impact units you introduce. If the only high impact unit is a single, good absorber, than you can build your strategy around the absorber without too much trouble. But when you introduce units like Lucina Spinos, Endotherm Kit, or Thunderhead, it gets a lot more difficult to have a single clear plan in mind. Combine that with three different absorbers – Xaetron, Doomed Wall, and Feral Warden – and you have an extremely difficult set to read. A standard approach to this set would involve using Doomed Wall or Xaetron as your absorber, with a medium-high economy. But what if we do that, and our opponent goes for Thunderhead? Or what if they rush Lucina, or get an Endotherm Kit out quickly?
When you’re overwhelmed, you can either 1) see what strategies you can rule out or 2) pick a strategy that seems good to you, and see if anything can counter it. In this case we’ll start with 1) and see what strategies we can rule out.
Thunderhead is the first unit we can rule out. Xaetron seems like a good bet for our absorber, and Xaetron counters Thunderhead, because Xaetron allows you to choose between waiting the Thunderhead out (if you use Xaetron defensively) or killing the Thunderhead with its click ability. The player going for Thunderhead usually wants to hit a timing where you can’t effectively wait it out or kill it; so, Xaetron often makes it impossible for the Thunderhead player to find a good timing where you can’t do either. If they make Thunderhead too early, you can wait it out without doing any damage into the Thunderhead; a Thunderhead that just does damage and doesn’t get much defensive value is very poor. If they make the Thunderhead too late, you won’t have any problem getting to 11 damage and killing it. A Thunderhead that gets killed right away is bad, since you don’t get to absorb that turn. So, we can rule out Thunderhead for now, which should make reading this set a bit easier.
The legendaries left are Xaetron, Lucina, and Endotherm Kit. At this point, I’m thinking of a Red-Green build. Xaetron and Lucina work well together. Lucina is very difficult to get out, and getting Lucina and an absorber on the same turn is impossible unless you go for a very big economy or float a ton of resources the turn before Lucina; and we don’t want to do either of those. Luckily Xaetron can be bought before Lucina – and in fact can be bought before our opponent has damage up – without losing value. And, since Xaetron is in Green tech, we don’t have to waste tech resources on the turn we buy Lucina, like we’d have to do with a Blue absorber.
So, the main question is whether we want Endotherm Kit. We’re in the right tech for it, so it seems reasonable to try to work it into our build. On the other hand, fitting Endotherm Kit in will almost certainly either delay our Lucina or make us have to float resources to get it (which is inefficient), so it’s not like Endotherm Kit is an auto-buy here.
Endotherm Kit is countered by vigilant units and by breachproof. Breachproof isn’t happening in this game, and there aren’t any purely vigilant hard counters to Endotherm Kit, but there are two soft counters: Xaetron and Feral Warden. Xaetron can play around the threat from Endotherm Kit – you just defend the Endotherm Kit fully, and then if they don’t use their Endotherm Kit, you can absorb on something else while the Xaetron gains HP. (and if they do use it, they’ve lost their threat). Feral Warden also soft-counters Endotherm Kit. Holding 3-health Feral Wardens back is a lousy way to play around threat, but what you can do is buy Feral Wardens and use them as attackers. The Feral Warden’s turn of Prompt lets them play around 3 threat on the turn they’re bought. So if you buy Feral Wardens as your attackers every turn, and combine that with Xaetron on defense, you should be able to play around a lot of our opponent’s Endotherm Kit, making it a lot less effective. Because of this, I think we can rule out Endotherm Kit too.
So, we’re aiming for a Xaetron into Lucina build, and we’ll use Feral Wardens afterwards in order to spend our Green and help out on defense – we can alternate between absorbing on Feral Warden and Xaetron. In terms of the economy size we want, Lucina is an extremely powerful attacker, while Xaetron is not a particularly high-value absorber. Based off of that, we’d want a medium-low economy, but we also have to consider the amount of tech we’re going to have – two Conduits for Xaetron and two Animuses for Lucina. We definitely want to avoid overteching, so we want as low an economy as we can manage while still getting Xaetron and Lucina out reasonably efficiently – I would guess somewhere from 15 to 18 Drones.
A quick Xaetron build for player 2 is 1. … DD 2. DDC 3. DDC 4. DDA 5. Xaetron plus Tarsier, with 2 Gold and 1 Red left over on turn 5.
That does mean we’ll waste a Red, but given how clunky Xaetron is, there’s no way around that. After that, we can get an Animus on turn 6, and get our Lucina on turn 7.
Now that we’ve got a strategy and build in mind, we can consider what we’d do against possible lines from our opponent. If our opponent goes for player 1’s fastest possible Lucina rush, for example (1. DD 2. DD 3. DDA 4. A 5. Lucina), we can crush that with Thunderhead, since they won’t be able to get Xaetron up in time.
If our opponent goes for a third Engineer, we don’t need the Xaetron as quickly, since we aren’t expecting them to go on the attack. So, in that case, we can mirror Third Engineer. At that point, we can try a Lucina rush ourselves, since our opponent won’t have as easy a time getting Thunderhead out, or we can go for a similar build to what we were originally planning, just off of three Engineers, so a bit slower and higher economy.
I played a game with this set against Apooche, which you can see here: QyA9X-Hkj+H.
Commentary on the game (spoilers ahead):
Apooche went for a strategy I hadn’t considered, combining Gaussite Symbiote explosion with Endotherm Kit to overwhelm defenses. I deviated from my original plan and went for a Thunderhead, but he easily waited it out, using Doomed Wall to absorb the damage and building Endotherm Kit instead of damage that ran into the Thunderhead. We tried a second game, where I went for Xaetron as originally intended, here: N+7TN-a4JK0. Although it was less of a blowout than the first game, it was still a convincing win for the Gaussite plus Endotherm Kit strategy. I still think it’s possible that Xaetron could beat that with proper planning, but I’m not sure.