1. #1

    Overview and review of the spell schools

    One of the hardest things I found when I was learning the game was what the different spells schools did, so I thought I'd post a rough overview and also share some thoughts on the relative power level of the schools. In order from, imo, approximately strongest to weakest (although it's very difficult to rank some of the schools):

    Dark

    Primary faction: Necro (4 heroes)
    Secondary faction: Inferno (2)
    Notable spells: Death Seal, Soul Reaver, Shadow Image, Puppet Master.
    Junk spells: Purge, vampiric embrace
    Comment: Many would agree that this is the strongest "pure" spell school in the game, in that it best supports a spell-heavy hero style. This is reflected somewhat in that it's the only spell school to have any hard counters (shi-no-shi and ward against darkness). While lacking in the cheap spell department (agony and weakness are mediocre at best), once it hits 4 magic/resources it really starts powering up. Soul Rreaver is the most reliable single target kill spell in the game and puppet master can take over games against anything but a swarm strategy. The other weakness of the school is that it's lacking in the AOE department - curse of the netherworld is ok (certainly better than curse of the penitent or the highly unreliable despair), but by the time it hits, it's unlikely to kill very much of importance without some extra help. To beat a dark-magic hero, attack early, attack often and most importantly - attack with cheap creatures.

    Primal

    Primary faction: Inferno (4)
    Secondary factions: Necro (3), Haven (2), Sanctuary (1)
    Notable spells: Dispel/Mass Dispel/Spell Steal, Town Portal, Spell Twister, Time Jump.
    Junk spells: Soul Syphon.
    Comment: It's no accident that two of the top tier heroes in the game at the moment, Kieran and Ariana, have access to this spell school. It's one of the most versatile and useful schools in the game, with some unique and powerful effects. It has access to the only targeted unsummon (town portal) in the game and while it's a bit expensive, the possibility of it leading to a trade (as well as giving tempo) by removing a melee blocker does make the effect more powerful than in some other TCGs. This spell school is also the only one with access to targeted dispel effects, with three good options. It also has the only unconditional wrath in the game (for whom the bell tolls), although it's fairly tough to use effectively. Finally spell twister is super powerful and almost guaranteed to be a 2 for 1 or better when cast (thanks to the, um, "feature" that lets it only be cast if it can hit something) and time jump is one of the strongest win-cons in the game. This spell doesn't do a good job of killing enemy creatures, but it does everything else superbly well and is an exceptionally well designed school imo.

    Light

    Primary faction: Haven (4)
    Secondary faction: Sanctuary (2)
    Notable spells: Sunburst, Word of Light, Bless, Celestial Armour.
    Junk spells: Divine Intervention, Guardian Angel
    Comment: My impression of this school is probably affected at the moment by how incredibly well it synergises with Kieran. It's impossible to overlook the power of this spell school in the current meta, it has great offensive and defensive options. Sunburst is the best way to punish someone for lane stacking, bless is the best creature buff in the game (even if creature buffs are inherently risky, it's cheap enough that it's usually going to reasonable value if all it does is take out a blocking creature on the same turn) and word of light is a very powerful, and well costed, one-sided AOE damage effect which can frequently set up 2 or 3 for 1s. Some of the school's top end options are very nice too, resurrection can give you huge value if you're playing a big creature deck and celestial armour can be backbracking if you time it just before an armageddon was going to wipe out your team. Also, this spell school has some almost-usable silver bullets in ward against darkness and purity, which are good meta options, or sideboard cards if there's ever a sideboard game option, in the right deck. This spell school doesn't have the raw power of some of the other schools, but it gives excellent support to a creature-based strategy.


    Fire

    Primary faction: Inferno (4)
    Secondary faction: Stronghold (2)
    Notable spells: Fire Bolt, Inner Fire, Fireball, Armageddon
    Junk spells: Fire Shield, Combustion.
    Comment: Naturally, the school of burn though, unfortunately, not of the variety that goes to the opponent's face (yet, at least). This is still a spell school that has a lot of good ways to deal with opposing creatures and do additional damage to the enemy hero. Fire Bolt, because it's so cheap, is the best targeted removal spell in the game, even if it will usually require a creature attack on top of it to kill anything (other than juicy DAs of course). Armageddon is the closest the game has to a functional wrath effect and is the backbone for the shaar OTK deck archetype. Fireball is the single best way to punish adjacent enemy creatures and can be huge game against haven and stronghold creature formations, even if only as a deterrent effect (whenever your hero has fire magic, I recommend trying to get to 3 magic even if you don't have fireballs in your deck, just to make the opponent think twice about their deployments). The biggest thing this spell school is lacking is a cheap pyroclasm effect - it seriously needs a 3-cost "deal 2 damage to all creatures" in a future expansion. Also, I feel like Firestorm is overcosted for its effect - it's rarely going to be any better than fireball, it'd be much better if it did 5 damage imo. Still, minor quibbles for a very strong spell school and the backbone of the inferno faction's viability.

    Earth

    Primary faction: Stronghold (4)
    Secondary faction: Necro (2)
    Notable spells: Earthquake, Insect Swarm, Stone Shield.
    Junk spells: The rest.
    Comment: It pains me to rank a school with access to such powerful staple spells so low, but it suffers badly from a lack of depth, which I guess is what you get for being the primary spell school of the anti-magic faction. The good news is that earthquake and insect swarm are the best AOE spells in the game, and are integral parts of multiple deck types (Ariana, Nergal AOE, Kat/Shaar OTK). Stone shield is also an excellent fog effect that also works against direct damage like tower of oblivion. But beyond that, it's a terribly weak school. Its various auras and walls are way too weak to be worth playing, and contagion might be a good way to let heroes like Ariana and Nergal punish lane stacking (a strategy they are generally weak to), but it's way too slow to be a viable card. Similarly, mass regeneration and poison cloud are too slow to be worth playing. The king of the slow spells, Earth's Grasp, is the only other arguably playable spell in the school given the ubiquity of pao deathseeker and the fact that it's not vulnerable to a spell steal (the dispel of choice for kieran decks atm), unlike stone shield.

    Water

    Primary faction: Sanctuary (4)
    Secondary factions: Necro (2), Haven (1)
    Notable spells: Geyser, Tsunami.
    Junk spells: Water Wall.
    Comment: On the other hand, it doesn't pain me at all to rate this school so poorly. It's pretty much the poor man's fire, with weaker versions of fire's powerful direct damage spells and worse versions of fire's buffing spells. Inner Fire is a good spell because it's cheap so you can play it to get immediate value. Icy weapon on the other hand is a bad spell because it's a huge investment in a similar effect, but you get blown out if your opponent kills or otherwise removes the creature on their turn. Although it's cheaper, Geyser is a much poorer spell than Fireball because you'll almost always be able to at least trade 1 for 1 with a creature you care about when you cast fireball, and sometimes you get huge blowout value. Geyser trades on its own with far fewer relevant creatures so it's much harder to get good value out of it. And as for Tsunami, while it can work in a necro flyer deck, it's universally awful in sanctuary decks and if you're spending 6 mana for a wrath effect, you really just want to be killing everything most of the time (ie. armageddon). This spell school can synergise well in a sanctuary outmaneuver deck, but is overall one of the weakest spell schools.

    Air

    Primary faction: None
    Secondary factions: Haven (3), Sanctuary (3), Stronghold (3)
    Notable spells: Fog Veil/Sand Storm, Lightning Bolt.
    Junk spells: Storm Arrows, Father Sky Wrath, Lifting Wind.
    Comment: And so we come to the worst spell school in the game, the one that's so poor that no faction actually wanted to claim it as their own. The one redeeming feature of the school is its defensive spells, particularly Fog Veil and Sand Storm, which can be quite powerful even if they're only used as redundant copies of Stone Shield. And Lightning Bolt is ok as a poor man's Soul Reaver (although much worse because it doesn't take out magic immune/resistant creatures or those protected by martyr or celestial armour). Beyond that, hardly any of the spells will reliably net you even a single card. Chain lightning is nice in theory to punish the standard cross formation, but it doesn't do enough damage to reliably trade with anything on its own and is easily played around. Father's Sky Wrath is particularly disappointing as the signature rare spell of the school. While it can be an incredibly huge blowout to an ariana deck with a puppet-creature and lots of flyers on the table (the value!), it's just a horribly overpriced town portal a lot of the time. And, seriously, lifting wind has got to be in the running for worst spell in the game, the times when that can give you any value whatsoever are ridiculously narrow.

    Anyway, hope that was informative to some people and happy to hear any comments/arguments!
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  2. #2
    Good post, however i strongly disagree with you here:

    Originally Posted by psychobabble. Go to original post
    The biggest thing this spell school is lacking is a cheap pyroclasm effect - it seriously needs a 3-cost "deal 2 damage to all creatures" in a future expansion. Also, I feel like Firestorm is overcosted for its effect - it's rarely going to be any better than fireball, it'd be much better if it did 5 damage imo. Still, minor quibbles for a very strong spell school and the backbone of the inferno faction's viability.
    Since Word of Light is OP as hell imo, i don't see a reason to create a cheaper version of the spell for a school that's already incredibly powerful in the AoE aspect... and Firestorm is perfectly fine as it is, imo, of course.
    Btw, you didn't mention Cyclone or Storm Wind in the Air section, probably the two best spells of the school.
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  3. #3
    The difference between my suggested pyroclasm and word of light is that it's two-sided. Word of light is so amazing because it sets up huge card advantage by letting you take full advantage of the (usually) partially damaged with your still-undamaged creatures (plus, of course, kieran is broken and word of light exacerbates that). The proper comparison to a 3-cost pyroclasm would be earthquake and insect swarm. It would be strictly worse than insect swarm (in a vacuum), and only better than earthquake in that it would hit flyers. Probably the biggest problem with trying to play a fire-based control deck like kal-azaar atm is the lack of a cheap AOE, it's too easy to swarm it before you get up to armageddon which is the only reliable fire AOE.

    You're right re storm wind, although I intentionally overlooked cyclone because most of the time fog veil/sandstorm are just better due to their cheapness and being able to deal with cross-formation flyers.
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  4. #4
    Just to note, Akane (Sanctuary) has also Primal in her schools.
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  5. #5
    Thanks for pointing that out re Akane, I've updated the OP.
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  6. #6
    Le.Rancord's Avatar Senior Member
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    I think you rank air a bit to low. I kinda agree with water, Wich is for me the weakest school, but air is very versatile. The stall spells unlike the water stallers are really good and very usefull in stronghold OTK. The lightning bolt is worse than soulreaver, but its enough to deal with alot of bad situations. Chain light main strenght is that you forget about this spell easily and the anti flyer cards are really powfull. The thing it lacks though is clearly early spells that alow me to take the board (stromwind is worse than coral priest).

    Generally spell decks have the weakness of not having a win condition other than some cheap creatures. Thats why primal works so good, because timejump is a win condition, and darkness can use puppetmaster/shadow image not only as creature counter, but also as win condition. (i stay away from shadow image in the current enviroment though)
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  7. #7
    are people moving away from inferno already :P ?
    before patch everyne was either inferno or prison OTKs :P

    and shadow immage made for a really good counter to that :P
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  8. #8
    Originally Posted by psychobabble. Go to original post
    The difference between my suggested pyroclasm and word of light is that it's two-sided. Word of light is so amazing because it sets up huge card advantage by letting you take full advantage of the (usually) partially damaged with your still-undamaged creatures (plus, of course, kieran is broken and word of light exacerbates that). The proper comparison to a 3-cost pyroclasm would be earthquake and insect swarm. It would be strictly worse than insect swarm (in a vacuum), and only better than earthquake in that it would hit flyers. Probably the biggest problem with trying to play a fire-based control deck like kal-azaar atm is the lack of a cheap AOE, it's too easy to swarm it before you get up to armageddon which is the only reliable fire AOE.

    You're right re storm wind, although I intentionally overlooked cyclone because most of the time fog veil/sandstorm are just better due to their cheapness and being able to deal with cross-formation flyers.
    I see, didn't realiza Pyroclasm would work on both sides of the board, but i still think it's totally unnecessary as i find other schools lacking much more in some aspects and you didn't ask for spells to be implemented covering those aspects :P
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  9. #9
    Originally Posted by Thanisse Go to original post
    are people moving away from inferno already :P ?
    before patch everyne was either inferno or prison OTKs :P

    and shadow immage made for a really good counter to that :P
    Inferno has virtually disappeared from the high level meta. it's basically kieran vs ariana (week of wild spirits) with a bit kelthor, seigfried elrath's blessing and other random stuff, like the occasional prison/throne deck (much weakened) thrown in.
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  10. #10
    Originally Posted by Thanisse Go to original post
    are people moving away from inferno already :P ?
    before patch everyne was either inferno or prison OTKs :P

    and shadow immage made for a really good counter to that :P
    Guardian angel era is coming
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