Victory Conditions in Godtear
The Concept of Control vs. Beatdown
If you have never read the classic Magic the Gathering article from 1999 “Who’s the Beatdown?” by Mike Flores, do so now. The MtG jargon may or may not mean anything to you, but the strategic thesis of the article is evergreen and applies to pretty much any asymmetric strategy game. Essentially, in every matchup, one player is the “beatdown” who needs to win by attacking fast and ending the game quickly while the other player is the “control” who needs to prolong the game by controlling the opponent’s progress.
The key thing here is that it is death to miscast yourself. That is, if you play like the beatdown when you are really the control, you are quite likely to lose. It is vital, then, to know what role your list plays in any given matchup and to lean into that role. If you think you are the control when you are actually the beatdown, then you’ll end up playing into your opponent’s win condition.
MtG is quite different from Godtear, so some of the ideas here do not quite apply. For one thing, MtG is a race to reduce your opponent’s health to zero, whereas Godtear is a race to five VP’s. This means that the fast/slow distinction doesn’t hold up as well. Moreover, Godtear has multiple ways to win which a player might use in any combination, so it might seem as though these control/beatdown distinctions don’t hold up as well.
At this point, my sense of things is that while the fast/slow distinction is not as applicable, there is a very real difference between playing control and playing beatdown in Godtear, and knowing which role your list plays in its matchup is vital.
How Does This Apply to Godtear?
My current theory is that in Godtear, the beatdown/control distinction is between lists that don’t want banners to stay on the table and lists that do. A beatdown list needs to have some combination of the ability to KO Champions, KO followers, and Deny Banners. A control list needs to Deny Champion KOs, Deny Follower KOs and Protect Banners. Support and Board Control are probably elements that enable any of the other goals. These are all obviously made-up, poorly defined terms that have messy overlap or whatever, but you get the idea. Here’s a list of how I think the champions stack up in these various categories.
Obviously, this is all contingent on board state, scenario, etc. You should certainly plop down a banner if you think it can score even when you are playing the beatdown. However, this principle might tip the scales in some more ambiguous situations. For example, if my beatdown character can place a banner which would be removed effortlessly by my opponent, I should perhaps consider using my plot phase to buff my attacks and maneuver for a KO when the clash phase starts.
Which list is the beatdown and which is the control, like in MtG, is a relative proposition. Let’s say your list is Peet, Halftusk, and Shayle. You probably have to play beatdown against Grimgut, Nia, and Finvarr. Your best chance here is probably to get in their grill because you are probably not going to be able to keep as many banners on the field as they are. That same list is probably the control against Lorsann, Titus, and Rangosh. If you try to go toe to toe with that lineup, you’ll end up in the dirt fast, so you would need to try to avoid engagements and keep them off your banners. As in MtG, it’s important to know which role you are playing in each matchup.
As I have played more, I have come to the opinion that dual-role lists are not optimal. I think our hypothetical above loses both matchups in a generic scenario if player skill and luck are equal. I think the list does not kill things well enough to beat the intense control of the Nia, Grimgut, Finvarr list and does not protect banners well enough to outscore the wipeout death machine that is the Rangosh, Titus, Lorsann list. In other words, if you have a balanced list and your opponent does not, they will be better suited to play their role and less apt to get confused about what that role is.
This somewhat contradicts something I wrote a while back. I do change my opinions as I learn, and so should you. I think this contradiction can mostly be reconciled with the understanding that the tournament format matters. If you are drafting a list for a single game, then leaning hard into a specialized role is a better call, but for a standard, fixed-list tournament, flexibility is arguably more desirable. I think I would still prefer to specialize in all formats, though.
The two opponent lists in my scenarios above are examples of control and beatdown lists which I like. The control list example above gets KO denial from Raith, Banner/Hex control from Raith and Nia, and board presence from Grimgut. The beatdown example above gets champ damage from all three, Follower damage from Titus and Lorsann, and banner denial from Lorsann.
Some Example Lists
Here are three more beatdown lists that I like:
Rangosh, Maxen, Jeen
Peet, Blackjaw, Keera
Lorsann, Raith, Rangosh
Here are three more control lists that I like:
Mourneblade, Grimgut, Shayle
Nia, Raith, Titus
Helena, Finvarr, Titus
These lists are probably not perfect, but I think each of them has an identity. I expect that you’re already thinking of ways that they are flawed or ways in which you could write a better list - good! I’m glad we’ve got you thinking. Still, in most cases, the lists I have here will clearly define themselves as control or beatdown and will probably play that role better than a more blended or balanced list will play the opposite role.
It’s worth noting that many champions have a role to play in both types of lists. The obvious example is Raith, who can both hunt down banners and move hexes around. Finvarr can hunt banners and do damage, but elf ninja can also soak attacks and move banners around. One more example? The much maligned Morrigan can obviously slay (queen), but she can also protect banners and, with the right boons, soak attacks. What’s important is to know why you are taking a champion and how they help your list play the style it’s trying to play. If you bring Raith in a control list, consider making off with an objective hex rather than aggressively hopping in to squish banners and melt face.
I’m sure there are many counterexamples one could point out in which balanced lists have done well. Fine. Even so, I would wager that in those moments where a balanced list was flourishing, the player running the balanced list understood how the list matched up with the opponent and what kind of game they needed to play.