Tactics: Single Combat

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Tactics: Single Combat

Postby John Mc » Tue Dec 15, 2009 5:17 pm

Okay lets have a discussion about the finer points of Single Combat. Hopefully we'll all learn something in the process and I'll update this thread with any really hot tips that come up. If you aren't familiar with the basics, please go check out this thread for an introduction.


Striking Down Your Foe
Your goal in the Arena is to eliminate your opponent. This cannot be stressed enough. Each moment that your opponent is not eliminated is a moment in which he can destroy you. So you want to end the fight as quickly as possible. The simplest way to accomplish this is to throw a lot of Skulls and Orbs at your opponent. The problem of course is that your opponent may expect this. He may stack a lot of Shields in the first three Phases of Combat. Still, Skulls tend to be more common than Shields, so you may win out regardless. If you can pack 12 Skulls in the first three phases and an Infernal Burst in the fourth, then you might just kill him right off the bat. If you get a Combat Move like Impale, then your chances go way up. Frontload that damage and bring him down before he can get a hit in.

Of course I said that was the simplest way, but it won't work for everyone all the time. If your opponent has a fair amount of Shields and Hit Points (HP) then you may need to trade speed for maximum effect. First off, if you have a skull in every Phase that increases your expected damage significantly because it gets the most use of Luck. Secondly, your opponent is more likely to focus his Shields in the first three Phases, so if you focus your Skulls in the later phases then they've got a better chance of hitting. Every Shield he wastes makes it easier to kill him. If you're ballsy you can also put Infernal Bursts in the first Phases instead of the last ones. You won't be able to put any shields with them, but his Shields won't stop them either.

Basically you want to:
A) Deal damage early
B) Avoid putting Skulls where he has Shields
-Put more Skulls if you want to overwhelm his Shields
-Put less Skulls to waste his Shields
C) Spread out Skulls for maximum expected damage
D) Infernal Burst to Penetrate his Shields

A, B, and C are opposing forces. If your opponent knows you want to deal early damage, they'll put their Shields early, but you want to avoid his Shields so you spread out or move late. He wants to spread out his Shields so it's hard to avoid them, so you want to concentrate your Skulls, but then you won't get maximum return. It's a balancing act and a bit of rock/paper/scissors. Which is why intelligence is key, as you'll see later.



Surviving in the Pit
It's very unlikely that you'll kill your opponent in Phase 1 of combat. That means you'll need to survive multiple phases, until you can kill your opponent. In fact every bit of time you can buy yourself improves your chances of success. Your first line of defense is Hit Points. You can never have too many Hit Points. If you've got less than 15 HP you need to be concerned about getting blitzed. An otherwise weak opponent might throw everything they've got at you and hope to get lucky. At under 12 HP you can be taken down by anyone with 6 Orbs. Nothing short of special Combat Moves will help you then. So basically, make high HP a priority and keep your HP in mind when deciding how to pace your attacks and defenses.

After HP you've got Shields. These won't work in all circumstances but they'll help a lot of the time. There are two extremes with Shields: A) Focus them where you expect your opponent to strike, B) spread them out to maximize their use. Where you fall on the continuum depends on your Hit Points and offense. If your opponent will be hard pressed to kill you at all, then spread your shields out. If you're vulnerable and your opponent will go for a quick kill, then focus on defending early. Basically, the more confident you are the more you can afford to spread your Shields out. 2-3 in the first 4-5 Phases should be plenty. No matter how you do it though, I highly recommend using Shields as part of Guarded Attacks. I rarely use Melee Blocks.

The other defense is in special Combat Moves like Obsidian Skin and Veil of Smoke. These tend to work best early in the turn, but basically add directly to HP. Think of them as a trade of Orbs and a Phase for HP.


Advanced Techniques
There are two basic categories of Praetors: Basic and Advanced. All Praetors start off Basic and become Advanced as they get promoted and gain new Combat Moves. A Praetor with one promotion is still a Basic Praetor, they can still lose to another starting Praetor. The right Combat Move or enough Promotions and all of a sudden, no starting Praetor stands a chance. That's when you've got an Advanced Praetor. Mostly this happens with Combat Moves. So as the game progresses, keep thinking "What are the odds my opponent has a Combat Move already" those chances go up over time. If you've still got a Basic Praetor and your opponent doesn't, try not to let him know. (See Forewarned is Forearmed)

Another way to categorize Praetors: Melee vs Magic. A Praetor can win on the strength of their Skulls & Shields (Melee) or Orbs (Magic). Obviously a Praetor is likely to have a mix, but often one of the two is favored. I group Skulls and Shields together because they can be used in the same combat move. A Magic (Infernal) focused Praetor can use Shields too, but less so. High HP helps both builds, but is particularly important for Melee builds. Magic is more explosive and provides more ways to mitigate damage. I bring this up because some Combat Moves are designed for one or the other. In those cases I'll specify. As a general guideline, a Praetor with 9+ Skulls and 7+ Shields is Melee, and 6+ Orbs is Magic.

So lets break the Combat Moves down and talk about how they're used. For reference please see this document (under Manuscripts). For simplicity I'll also rate each move on a 5 star scale, assuming you have a Praetor it would work reasonably with.


Bleeding Wound - *** - This is one of those combat moves that adds extra damage to an attack. On the down side, you have to drop your defenses to use it and it needs to be used early on when you want those defenses. Provides a significant boost to Melee Praetors.

Blood Boil - ** - This move is nice, but of limited use. Really it pays off for high level Praetors, but high level Praetors rarely need the help. It consumes almost enough Orbs for 2 Infernal Bursts, but provides about the same damage. At higher levels the damage will go up a ton, and you'll have so many Skulls/Orbs than you can't use them all, so this gets much better, but a Starting Praetor doesn't change much just by adding this (unless it happens to have exactly 5 or 8 Orbs, which is unusual).

Bone Breaker - **** - Now we're talking. This move effectively negates all shields in 2 slots. A Melee Praetor with can pile Skulls on and overwhelm most foes. Just put at least 4 Skulls in your first move, and put this in as the second move. The counter for Bone Breaker is a defensive Combat Move (like Veil of Smoke). Those moves prevent damage without using Shields, and are frequently put in the first slot. If you suspect your opponent has such a move, consider using Bone Breaker as the third Combat Move. It will still be mitigated some, but not as much.

Crippling Strike - *** - This one is a little weird, but important because The Butcher uses it. Obviously it depends a lot on Praetor level. If your Praetor is level 5 or higher, just pop this in as your first Combat Move. It will work every time and severely weaken your opponent's offense. Against Praetors with enough Skulls, they may be able to struggle past this, and against Praetors focused on Orbs it won't do much, but most Praetors fall somewhere in between. Be sure to have enough HP to survive the first round and any Infernal Bursts that follow.

Demonic Trance - * - This move is very random and very powerful. Obviously it works better with more levels. Use it early in the round and hope that it is effective. Unfortunately it takes 3 manuscripts to make, and doesn't really transform a weak Praetor. Strong Praetors on the other hand, don't need it. This move could be very very good, but most of the time it's ignorable.

Impale - *** - The first thing to realize is that you can assign up to 7 Skulls and 6 Shields to this move, and that none of those Shields will be wasted. This move works very well on Melee Praetors, because it exploits their natural advantages. Considering that it only requires 1 manuscript, the move is very good. Just pile it on early and overwhelm your opponent.

Impenetrable Stance - ***** - This Combat Move is very powerful. Just do it early on and with as many Shields as you can. I'm not sure if Infernal Burst is blocked by this, but it should cover anything else.

Lava Orb - *** - An upgraded Infernal Burst. It's a good Magic move.

Mind Burn - ** - The same as Lava Orb, unless your opponent has more Orbs than you. Takes one less manuscript though, so that's good. Obviously it's for Magic Praetors.

Oath of Retribution - **** - This power is amazing. It can effectively defeat almost any Praetor. Of course it can also do nothing. Try to line it up where you expect a heavy attack to be. I prefer the second Combat Move. The first Move is too often used for defensive abilities. (Against The Butcher just use this first and instantly win.)

Obsidian Skin - *** - A standard defensive Combat Move. Use it early.

Piercing Lunge - *** - This is a standard extra damage attack. I prefer to put it later in the combat order. Somewhere you wouldn't expect a big move. Then just make sure to fill up the Skulls and enjoy the damage.

Rain of Brimstone - **** - This is a nice Infernal attack. It does very good damage and costs a reasonable amount of Orbs. A must have for any Magic Praetor.

Sinew Slice - ** - A nice, but unreliable, extra damage attack. Put it in the second or third phase, away from defensive moves but where your opponent will likely have some Skulls. This move can be a game changer if your opponent puts in 4 Skulls, but it can't be relied on.

Tentacle Rupture - ***** - This move is amazing. If your Praetor can survive long enough, it can be relied upon for more damage than any other move. Combine this with enough HP and defensive moves and you're set. Be sure to have enough Orbs to fuel this and the other moves. Also watch out for Oath of Retribution. If they know you have Tentacle Rupture, they also know what slot it will be in. You won't survive 45 damage from that.

Veil of Smoke - *** - The most standard defensive Combat Move. Always handy and only one manuscript.

Vile Oath of Consumption - **** - If you've got a Magic Praetor, this move is extremely good. 15 expected damage + 2.5 for each additional Infernal level past 6. It does take a few manuscripts though, and many of the better Praetors won't have the Orbs to afford it. Still, if you get the opportunity to use this, do it.



Remember at all times that a Manuscript is only as good as the Praetor you will train with it. Obviously your Praetor needs the right number of Orbs to use an Orb manuscript, but that isn't the only consideration. For example, Tentacle Rupture deals great damage if used in Phase 6, but if your Praetor has 8 HP you'll never survive to Phase 6. While I always prefer having a complete Manuscript over not having one, do weigh how it will interact with the Praetor you have. Often the solution is to get another/different Praetor.

Tip: If a Combat Move involves Skulls always assign the maximum number. This is usually true of Shields as well.

A small note on Manuscripts: Looting the Vaults can and will steal them. Players accustomed to the AI may accumulate a number of Manuscripts before Training a Praetor with all of them. Don't do this in PBEM! You can be in serious trouble if all of a sudden your opponent has your Manuscripts instead of you.


Forewarned is Forearmed
As you may have noticed, a great deal of the Art of Single Combat comes down to predicting what tactics your opponent will employ and countering them. Even if you don't know their tactics, knowing their strengths and liabilities is critical. So you need intelligence on your opponent's Praetors.

First, note down all the Praetors in the Bazaar. Whenever one get's purchased make a record of it. When the Praetor is revealed, note who has it. (Praetors are usually revealed when they are attached to a Legion or when they enter Single Combat. Other things may reveal them, but those are likeliest.) If a Praetor wins Single Combat, or receives a super-promotion event, note that their stats have increased. If you actually see their stats (like if they Challenge the Champion) write those down. Starting stats for all Praetors can be found here. Also if you see what combat moves your opponent likes for them, make note of that.

Following the above advice should keep you relatively up to date on what you'll face in Single Combat. Then you can make educated decisions about: A) Offense, B) Defense, and C) your odds of victory (before entering combat). Here are a couple practical examples:

Furfur is a decent Praetor. If you had him, and most of your opponents had no Praetor, you might try to initiate some Single Combat Vendettas. What if one opponent has Haagenti though? Then you're in a sticky situation. Try to watch the behavior of your opponents. Is one of them trying to start Single Combat Vendettas too? Avoid pairing Furfur against Haagenti, but do try to level Furfur up. If you can get a Combat Move or a couple level ups you might beat Haagenti, but if you wait around that won't happen.

On the other hand if you have Furfur, and you know your opponent has Decarabia (he attached him to a Legion, so you know this) then you've got a decent chance of beating him. Your advantage is HP. You can either: A) front load and burn him down quick, or B) survive the first few phases and dump damage on him later. It would really help to know your opponent in this case, but both are pretty likely to work. Let's assume your opponent is frontloading and you want to backload to counter. Here's an approach that would likely win: 1) 2 Shields, 2) 2 Shields, 3) 2 Shields, 4) Infernal Burst, 5) 5 Skulls, 6) 4 Skulls. Why does this work? In round 1, he's got an expected damage of 12.5 (3.5 + 9 Skulls) and you've got 11 HP. If 2 Shields line up with 2 Skulls, you've got a 50% chance of surviving the round. Additional Shields up your chances. Odds are great your opponent will put his Skulls somewhere in the first 3 Phases, but he'll have to use at least 2 Phases, probably 3. Luck could still win it for him, but your odds of surviving are good. If you survive, he won't have many Shields in Phases 5 & 6, so you'll punch right through and kill him. Of course, if he gets Lucky he'll kill you, or you won't do enough damage to him, and then it'll go into Round 2 and you'll lose. So this isn't a for-sure fight by any means. Still, you're only risking Furfur, so it's probably worth it. :twisted:


Remember, if having all this information is valuable to you, then it's valuable to your opponent as well. So you want to try to deny information to your opponent as much as possible. When you buy a Praetor, don't immediately attach it to a Legion, hold off on that until it's necessary. Alternatively, if you buy 2 Praetors, attach the one that's no good for Single Combat and leave your opponent to think that is the only Praetor you have. You get the idea, "When able to attack, we must seem unable."


Foundation of Strength
This goes beyond the scope of this article a bit, but has to be mentioned. Your Praetor and his Combat Moves are fundamentally grounded in your economy and Charisma in particular. If you want to really dominate, you'll need to score some Manuscripts through Charisma. It's hard to really rock in the Arena without them, and even if you manage to get a lead without high Charisma, you'll have to worry about someone with more Charisma coming up from behind on this arms race. BTW, +Tribute and +Manuscript Relics make a great supplement to this strategy. If you've got the Beliit and the Talisman of Greed then Charisma 3 is enough, but more doesn't hurt obviously. Still, issues like economy and how PCB fits in are handled elsewhere. Feel free to start here.
Last edited by John Mc on Mon Jan 04, 2010 9:22 pm, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Tactics: Single Combat

Postby John Mc » Tue Dec 15, 2009 7:10 pm

Reserved.
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Re: Tactics: Single Combat

Postby SpaceCowboy » Tue Dec 15, 2009 9:12 pm

I would be very grateful if someone with more experience than me could go through some of the manuscripts/combat moves, and explain what they do, how rare and effective they are.
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Re: Tactics: Single Combat

Postby John Mc » Tue Dec 15, 2009 9:17 pm

SpaceCowboy wrote:I would be very grateful if someone with more experience than me could go through some of the manuscripts/combat moves, and explain what they do, how rare and effective they are.


I'm planning to go over the Combat Moves in the "Advanced Techniques" section, but probably won't get to it today. As far as I know they're all equally rare/common except that some require multiple pieces. Anecdotally I've seen Veil of Smoke a lot, but that could just be me.
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Re: Tactics: Single Combat

Postby Spartacus » Tue Dec 15, 2009 10:59 pm

I believe that it comes down to what you manage to roll on what you get - which is complicated by the fact that you can pull multiple of the same pieces at one time, think two Piercing Lunge. There's roughly 80 manuscripts (pieces, counting rites and machines) in the game file, so it seems like each card you can pull would roll it's own check on whether or not it:
-pulls a manuscript
-which manuscript it pulls.
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Re: Tactics: Single Combat

Postby twentyeighth » Thu Dec 17, 2009 3:33 am

John Mc wrote:First off, if you have a skull in every Phase that increases your expected damage significantly because it gets the most use of Luck.


This is a good point, and I often seek out Praetors with high Luck because of its undetermined advantage. Also--and this goes without saying--match your Praetor to the manuscripts you possess, or vice versa. The Praetor with better stats may not serve you as well as the Praetor who's paired correctly.

I'd like to add that hiding your dueling Praetor in the vaults can often coax an enemy into Single Combat, unless they're high in Prophecy.
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Re: Tactics: Single Combat

Postby John Mc » Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:04 pm

twentyeighth wrote:
John Mc wrote:First off, if you have a skull in every Phase that increases your expected damage significantly because it gets the most use of Luck.


This is a good point, and I often seek out Praetors with high Luck because of its undetermined advantage. Also--and this goes without saying--match your Praetor to the manuscripts you possess, or vice versa. The Praetor with better stats may not serve you as well as the Praetor who's paired correctly.

I'd like to add that hiding your dueling Praetor in the vaults can often coax an enemy into Single Combat, unless they're high in Prophecy.




Good points twentyeighth. I'll include them immediately.
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Re: Tactics: Single Combat

Postby Thrull » Sat Dec 19, 2009 7:59 pm

In the interest of fleshing these tactics out and setting them to actual use, I'm going to provide an example for critique. This duel comes from a single-player game. Here is the image:

Image

My Praetor was Phenex. The AI's was Naphula. As you can see, I was obliterated. Here are the few things I take from this fight:

  • Naphula is better than Phenex. Having 6 orbs makes a huge difference -- they bypass shields and luck and are almost guaranteed damage.
  • Phenex is just bad for single combat. He has 2 luck, but he has too few skulls to finish fights.
  • My combat move selection was not great. I placed infernal burst last, and died before it even went off. If I had front-loaded as this thread suggests, I would have possibly had the chance of getting extremely lucky (literally) and pulling something out. However, the only way to win here would have been to place 3 skulls in the first slot, and Infernal Burst in the second slot. Even then, only good rolls could have saved me.
  • I was vigorously screwed over on luck rolls. Our totals are equal (4 luck applied on each side), yet Phenex has 2 luck to Naphula's 1. Unfortunate.

Any constructive criticism or comments would be appreciated. I really do need to learn this aspect of the game better, and there are so few opportunities to practice.
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Re: Tactics: Single Combat

Postby ts061282 » Sat Dec 19, 2009 9:13 pm

Phenex is definitely a legion's Praetor. +3 Ranged and +3 Melee aren't helping him here. To get him in shape for competitive single combat you'd need to have trained him 2-3 times to buff his stats and give him a special ability. To be successful in single combat you really need to be able to reliably damage your opponent significantly in 2-3 phase slots and have enough shields or HP to take the same. This is usually accomplished with a maxed out special move (infernal burst is mediocre compared to others). If you don't have that you need enough skulls to max out some melee attacks ( at least 10). Filling every slot with something to get your luck going is really an afterthought vs having minimum stats.

A better example for critique would be anybody vs the arena champion. As far as I know the arena champion has a standard move order and provides a good ideal model.

BTW, anyone know what the "melee training" legion manuscripts do for praetors? I recall boosting stats with these in the past but can't remember the exact bonus and they're not documented in the manual.
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Re: Tactics: Single Combat

Postby Spartacus » Sat Dec 19, 2009 11:09 pm

Legion manuscripts do nothing for praetors, manuscripts like Manual of Infernal Power boost the chosen stat by a dice roll, maybe other stats as well?

I'd make the observation that praetors are currently priced according to their legion effects - those with X First, X Twice are more expensive than all other praetors, then 3 buffs, then others including Haagenti and Telemachus(I believe his name is). With decent resources saved up you can buy a good fighting praetor and take the other praetors for lunch - currently a bit imbalanced.
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