- 1 Advanced strategy guide : Freeze
- 1.1 Chill is so overpowered
- 1.2 Defending against freeze threat
Advanced strategy guide : Freeze
Freeze is a vast subject, certainly more complex than it seems at first glance, yet it can easily feel quite overpowering when used correctly. I am still trying to figure out that part, so in this article I will focus on what knowledge I have of these units and how to defend against them.
Chill is so overpowered
Funny how many times I have used that emote when I started playing against master players. I still do from time to time. But why is it overpowered ? Or, more accurately, why does it feel overpowered ?
The answer is easy : it is much cheaper than damage, so in a sense, much more efficient at doing its job. Also, unlike damage where the defending player can freely divide the damage between defenders of his choice (if not breached), chilling units can target any defender, which give them a bigger versatility. You can decide to aim for the biggest absorber to deny some absorb, or for the granularity to create abuses. To prevent breaching it forces the defending player to commit massively on defense, defense that is also much more expensive thant the chilling threat. As a side effect, it lowers the efficiency of doomed units by threatening to freeze them on 1-lifespan. The tradeoff is that most of it is only threat : once defended, chilling hardly make any progress on its own.
Use chill or chill ?
There are quite a few chilling units in the game. They are all different and are good or bad depending on the case, but they all have one thing in common : they add pressure to your opponent's defenses like nothing else.
Low cost chill burst like Nivo Charge or Frostbyte will be good to threaten a breach and force a lot of defense to come out to avoid that. They can also be used to shutdown the biggest absorber. On the other hand, Shiver Yeti or Cryo Ray will be efficient at finding abuses by freezing the granularity.
It is also important to consider the activation cost of the chilling unit :
A Tatsu Nullifier or an Iceblade Golem have no activation cost at all : you can freely freeze whatever you want each turn without losing anything by doing it. So they will add pressure constantly on your opponent.
A Shiver Yeti or a Vai Mauronax have a low activation cost : you lose the defensive value of the Yeti if you click it, and you trade 1 damage for a big chill burst on the Vai. A Cryo Ray will have a low activation cost, unless it is on 1-lifespan, because clicking it on 1-lifespan will make you lose the threat.
A Frostbyte has a higher activation cost : you can use it only once, so you really want to make it count when you click it. Usually, you will want to use a Frostbyte only if it either deals around 2 damage per Frostbyte used (through absorb denial, of 1-lifespan unit freeze), or enable a consequent breach to kill high value targets. Likewise, units that produce Frostbytes (Endotherm Kit, Frost Brooder) can also be considered having a high activation cost. Well, except for the Frostbytes on 1-lifespan from Frost Brooder which have no activation cost at all as they are dying anyway.
Sad tale of Nivos
Nivo Charge is a special chilling unit, and to my understanding the hardest one to use properly : for a ridiculous cost, you can cause massive freezing threat. This will likely force your opponent to commit completely on defense the next turn. The downside is, if your opponent can defend it, then his defense will stick around for the following turns, so in order to keep the same level of threat, you have to rebuy the same amount on Nivos. And Nivo supply is quite scarce when you buy 2 or 3 per turn. So when you're done buying your Nivos, the opponent is left with a lot of defense tempo remaining.
I know two ways of efficiently using Nivos :
- Buy 1 (sometimes 2) at a time to cancel the use of 1-lifespan defense (Plexo Cell, Doomed Mech, Innervi Field ...)
- Buy a bunch of them at the same time (2 or 3) to put some big pressure on your opponent. The objective is to force a breach, of force a bad defense from your opponent (massing Forcefields, holding attackers ...). Even if you cannot breach, denying absorb by freezing the absorbers is good too. The right timing to go for such a big move is hard to find. You should try to play in your head the opponent's turn to see if he can defend efficiently or not before going for the Nivo burst.
A single Frostbyte can be very effective to breach a low economy, but will be easily defended by a higher one which can easily buid a Wall. Therefore, if you try to breach a bigger economy, you will have to invest more into freeze.
Defending against freeze threat
What is chill good for ? Making the defense ineffective, or breaching to kill high value targets. Well, the obvious solution here is : don't defend, go breachproof ! If your opponent has started to commit heavily to freezing (like a double Animus for Tatsu Nullifiers or Vai Mauronax), and you haven't bought high value targets yet, you can go breachproof or semi-breachproof. Then, your opponent's chilling units will sit around, doing nothing. Of course, not all sets will be adequate for breachproof, and at this point you may have already bought some Tarsiers which you will definitely not want breached like that, so that will not always work.
Avoid the high value targets
Having only breachproof units is good, but that option is not always available. However, high value targets like Lucina Spinos or Shadowfangs will be exceptionally fragile against chill. As you can hardly afford having them breached at all, you will have to defend fully all the freeze threat. If you stick to a low economy, the mere presence of Frostbyte in the set should be a deterrent to buying these units.
Increase your defensive options
This is heavily depending on what kind of freeze you're facing, and what your opponent will do with it.
If your opponent goes for freezing your absorber, make sure to have another one to fall back on. If he freezes your granularity to create abuses, buy more Engineers or Rhinos/Forcefields/other granular defenders to compensate.
There is no special keyword Vigilance in the game. PLayers use it in reference to Magic the Gathering to point at defender units that have an effect while defending. Vigilance is a hard counter to freeze threat, and it is generally a bad idea to go for chilling units if your opponent has access to vigilant units.
A Steelsplitter is not vigilant because it requires clicking to get the damage, so you can't use it both on defense and on offense. On the other hand, Xeno Guardian attacks without being clicked, and Ossified Drone makes your Drones vigilant as they produce gold without being clicked. Engineers could be considered vigilant as well, but they are actually vigilant only if there is a way to spend the energy they produce : Cauterizer, Electrovore will make the engineers vigilant.
1-lifespan defender units are primary targets for chilling units : by freezing them, each chilling point is converted into a damage point, which is pretty much the highest ratio you can imagine, and definitely something you do not want to offer your opponent. Once again, your behaviour towards these units will differ according to the kind of freeze you're facing. If it has a high activating cost and is threatening to freeze your 1-lifespan unit, hold it on 2-lifespan instead. You will lose a bit of value from it compared to holding it on 1, but you will get the full value soak : if your opponent freezes it nonetheless, then he'll have to spend the same amount of freeze the following turn. Against Tatsu or Shiver Yeti, however, refrain from buying these units at all : it is easy to freeze them multiple turns in a row, denying you the soak value for good.
Gambit will only work against Frostbytes, as they have the highest activation cost. Gambiting against Frostbytes is pretty much the same as gambiting against normal units : it depends on how much you can afford to be breached (your high value targets, and the efficiency of your absorber than gets denied). Add to this the effort your opponent will have to make in order to breach you. In other words : how many Frostbytes he will have to click. Based on this, you can afford to enable a breach for exact if your opponent has to click some Frostbytes to make it happen. Usually, against an Endotherm Kit which is suddenly a big amount of chill, you can afford a breach for 2 or 3 damage, even if it kills Tarsiers, if it requires to click all the Frostbytes to make it happen. If your opponent takes the breach then you will lose some damage, but your opponent will lose a lot of threat and you will still have a lot of defensive tempo to enable you rebuying that damage.
When you're defending on a strong absorber like Centurion, you usually do not want to enable even a breach for exact, so you have to fully defend each turn. In this case, freezing may become a very efficient tool. Obviously, the same happens if you have high value targets : you will not want to enable anything more than a breach for exact.
Awkward health defenders
The basic principle is : make your opponent's chill go to waste. One of the downsides of chilling is that it spends the whole chilling value on a single unit, even if it not necessary. I have already mentioned fake freeze threat in the article dealing with threat, here's a way to take advantage of it : get defenders that cannot be frozen efficiently by your opponent's chill units ! For instance, if you opponent has access to Frostbytes, try to buy 2 or 4 health defenders to reduce the actual threat. On the other hand, get Walls aginst Shiver Yetis. Or get low value defense against big chilling units like Tatsu Nullifier or Vai Mauronax. That is not an iron rule, because you may still want as much absorb as you can by going for the best absorbers, but it is a good way to reduce your opponent's chilling value. However, this is completely negated if your opponent has access to different chilling values, or can adjust with Cryo Rays.
CREDITS : I give credits for most of the content in this article to 307th who has an extensive guide about chilling that I recommend here. I have learned a lot about chilling in his article, especially the concept of Activation Cost. As for myself, I have expanded a few things here and there, but on the whole he does a much better work than me explaining the concepts and going more in depth. Also, while you're at it, you should pay attention to his series of Set Reading Saturdays on the same site, where he explains in details how he would consider playing different sets. Which is a good transition, because we are back to reading sets on the next article :)