Welcome to another Pocket Paragons design blog! I’m Brian McKay designer of Pocket Paragons and today I want to discuss a fairly common situation that comes up in games of Pocket Paragons, especially with newer players. You’re down to your last ability, plus your Rest, and your opponent is holding their weapon, ready to pounce. I’ve heard playtesters refer to this as “the coinflip” or “the 50-50”.
A lot of them believe they died or survived in this moment based on luck, but in today’s Pocket Paragon design blog I’ll go into detail about why I think it’s one of the most strategically dense parts of the game.
In these examples, I’ll be referring to the player with their Weapon available as the Attacker, and the player with Rest and one ability as the Defender.
For both players, I’m simplifying their decisions down to the Attacker either playing Weapon or not, and the Defender either playing Rest or not. There are lots of character-specific effects that can alter this, like the Assassin’s Grim Finale for the attacker or Zowie’s Blink, for the defender.
As the above chart, scenarios 1 and 4 are the simplest. In Scenario 1, the defender gets executed immediately, and in scenario 4, the defender dies the next round guaranteed. Let’s talk about the other two.
In Scenario 2, the Attacker’s weapon is now on cooldown and the Defender can safely Rest next round. The Attacker is still at an advantage, though, as they can choose to get some free damage in while the Defender is Resting, or choose to safely Rest.
Scenario 3 is the worst-case scenario for the Attacker. If the Attacker played Rest, then he’s on a full hand with the Defender but has thrown away a chance at an Execute. Assuming the Attacker played some other attack, the Defender took some free damage on the Resting turn, but now the Defender has more abilities than the Attacker. Additionally, the Attacker has a Weapon that is inherently less valuable now, and the Attacker is now under the potential threat of getting Executed themselves.
Looking at how Scenarios 1, 2, and 4 are better for the Attacker, while 3 really being the only bad situation, it stands to reason that the Attacker should be more willing to play Weapon into the 50-50, and the Defender should play accordingly. Of course, you don’t want to follow this 100% of the time and end up predictable, but I feel the situation is definitely weighted towards having the Attacker play Weapon. There are a lot of other factors to consider, though.
Attacker’s Available Cards
How many cards does the Attacker have in hand? How desperately do they need to Rest themselves? If the attacker is at only Weapon and Rest last, it becomes more dire.
Scenarios 2 and 3 are equal, unless the Defender’s last ability is better than the Attacker’s Weapon (see below). In this situation, you could make an argument that Rest is the better choice for the Attacker.
Defender’s Last Ability
We’ve been ignoring the Defender’s other ability in all of these scenarios, but it matters. Usually, you play your stronger abilities earlier and your weaker abilities later, so the Defender is probably looking at one of their weaker abilities in this situation. But is their weakest ability stronger than the Attacker’s weapon? Are you trading your 2 ATK final ability for the Attacker’s 1 ATK weapon? That’s a decent trade going into the safe Rest next turn. If my last ability as Defender is pretty good against what my opponent is holding, I may be more likely to run the risk. But if the Defender’s last ability is a card that is trumped by what the Attacker is holding, it’s probably better to go for the Rest.
What are the relative life totals between the two players? If the Attacker’s HP is low, they may be more desperate to get that Execute as their only way to win the game. If the Defender is low, an Execute is the same as taking a lot of damage, and they need to look for any potential line of play to pull out a win. If both players are low, look at how the situation plays out when both characters have a fresh hand. Who comes out swinging harder? Who benefits more in that fresh reset?
Avoiding the 50-50
The best way to get out of the 50-50 is to just never end up in that scenario to begin with. Resting early has benefits of bringing your Ultimate online sooner and keeping you away from the dangerous situation. Having more cards in hand than your opponent puts the pressure on them and keeps it off of you. Likewise, forcing your opponent into that situation is very powerful. Effects that force your opponent to exhaust often get played early by new players, but I’ve found that saving them until your opponent is getting low on cards can force them into a tight spot.
I’ve even seen players Rest first turn! Depending on your Ultimate, it can be valuable to get it active sooner. Chris Solis (of Solis Game Studio) has the First Turn Rest as his signature move, so make sure you hit him with the first turn Weapon if you ever play against him in the wild. Thank you for reading today’s Pocket Paragon design blog!
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