This is meant to directly precede the character section. If you have any more general tips for any of these styles, let me know! Introducing... the Triangle! There are currently 20 characters in PS. That is a ton! It can be downright intimidating to figure out what each character even wants to do, let alone the nuances of every single matchup. As a result, Puzzle Strike players organize characters based on three categories. They are: Rushdown, Defense, and Economy (often shortened to Econ). However, characters often do not fall neatly into one category, and fall more along a spectrum than anything else. Here’s a fancy triangle: Rushdown wants to end the game as quickly as possible. Its aim is to crash uncounterable 4’s, minimize countercrashes, and use aggressive chips to speed up the pace of the game. Defense wants to prolong the game as long as possible. Its aim is to crash and countercrash as much as possible, and use defensive chips to slow the pace of the game. Economy wants to invest in the future. Its aim is to assume that the game will not end any time soon, and to make sure it has the most powerful bag of chips possible when things finally get to the endgame. As a general rule, Rushdown beats Economy, because it ends the game before Economy’s long term plans come to fruition. Defense beats Rushdown, because Rushdown’s single-minded plans to end the game will result in a poor bag of chips if Defense is able to drag the game out. Finally, Economy beats Defense, because Defense’s focus on surviving as long as possible will result in a poorer endgame deck. What this means is: - If your opponent is strong in economy, you should be trying to rushdown! - If your opponent is strong in rushdown, you should be trying to defend! - If your opponent is strong in defense, you should be trying to “econ!” Note that characters all inherently have different abilities when it comes to the three categories. These are each graphed on the character’s page. What is important to remember, however, is that these reflect the character’s starting strengths only. Positions on the triangle are NOT static, and change with each buy. In fact, blindly pursuing a particular style just because your character is inherently good at it is often a huge mistake. The style you choose to pursue should not depend just on your character's initial position, but his position relative to your opponent's character. Here are some examples: - Troq is fighting against Jaina. Troq is primarily an econ character, while Jaina is a rushdown character (that means to start out, Jaina has the advantage). Troq buys a Safe Keeping, which increases his defense at the expense of economy. This better positions Troq against Jaina’s savage rushdown playstyle! - Onimaru is fighting against Troq. Onimaru is a very strong defensive character, which means that Troq will win if the game goes late. As a result, Onimaru buys Sneak Attack, a rushdown chip that has little defensive value. This better positions Onimaru against Troq’s crazy economy! - Jaina is fighting Jaina. This is an aggressive showdown that will probably not go to late game, and short term aggressive and defensive chips are probably the way to go! However, the first player has a 5-buy and decides to buy a 3-gem. Uh oh! He has invested in the long game, and will now be under a lot of pressure if his opponent correctly tries to rush him down. Tips for proper rushdown: 1. Increase the gems in all gem piles Most people intuit that adding gems into your opponent’s gempile is a good rushdown tactic. For instance, Sneak Attack, a simple move that ante’s a  into your opponent’s gem pile, is good because it speeds up the game. What is not so obvious, however, is that adding gems into your own gempile (for instance, with Risk to Riskonade) can be even more effective. Both have the effect of rapidly speeding up the pace of the game, and shorten your opponent's time to reach his endgame deck. 2. Don’t Let them countercrash This is almost a universal rule of proper rushdown: keep their countercrashes to a minimum. Just as anteing 1-gems into your pile or your opponent’s speeds up the game, removing 1-gems from the game slows it down. The more this happens, the more the defensive character is favored. If you are a strong rushdown character, the only real reason to ever crash at an opponent in the early game is because you need the money. If you don’t need the money, it’s better to just not crash than risk a countercrash. 3. Buy lots of combines. A corollary to “don’t let them countercrash” is “crash 4’s to kill them.” How do you crash 4’s? You buy combines (or combine effects, like One True Style/Mixmaster), of course. A lot of people think that playing aggro means crashing as much as possible. Actually, the defensive character should be crashing (and countercrashing) as much as possible. Aggressive players only need to crash once or twice: with massive uncounterable 4-gems. You don’t get to crash 4 at them if you don’t combine, however. As such, you should be buying a ton of combines. Yes, it will hurt your economy, but you don’t need to care about that if they fall over dead after a single massive crash. 4. Wait to Crash This is related to, but not completely the same as “minimize their countercrashes.” It’s often tempting to crash a 3-gem at someone to “keep up the pressure.” Unless you are sure this will kill them, don’t do this! It’s usually better to wait for one more combine to have an uncounterable crash. Again, if you are sure it’s lethal, or if you are going to die if you don’t crash it, go ahead. But for the most part, treat 2-gems and 3-gems as precious crops that aren’t ready to be harvested. This actually goes a step further: it's possible to even crash a 4-gem too early! For instance, someone might use their regular Crash Gem to crash a 4, even though they are drawing Jaina’s Unstable Power and combines later in the cycle. Most of the time you are far better off using the Unstable Power for a monster double-crash. Remember, the longer you wait to crash, the more your opponent has to ante before you finally rock him out. If you’re not going to die, just wait patiently and combine some more. Often your uncounterable crash will be lethal when a regular crash wouldn’t have worked. 5. Recognize When You Can Win NOW As an aggro player, often a single turn is the difference between winning and losing. As a result, it is crucial to recognize situations when you can win immediately. Give your opponent an extra turn, and he may use it to stabilize and crush you with his superior endgame deck. A common example is when you can crash for lethal, and all of their crashes are in their discard (you ARE keeping track of their discard, aren't you?). While you should instinctively prefer waiting to crash until you can combine a 4-gem, it's OK to crash a 2-gem if it kills them! Here is another slightly more complicated example: your opponent is at 9 pile (all 1-gems), and you have a 2-gem in your pile and a Crash Gem in your hand. You know he has exactly 1 Crash Gem (the only one in his deck), and also some Combines (you don't know how many). Do you crash here? Of course you do! If you crash your 2-gem, he can countercrash. However, that will leave him at 9 pile, and the ante will kill him next turn! On the other hand, if you don't crash, he will be able to combine an untold number of times before he crashes. Give yourself a chance to win here! No matter what, he is not countercrashing, and maybe he didn't draw enough combines to live. There are some caveats: Safe Keeping, Ebb or Flow, X-Copy, and Double Crash Gems can seriously mess up your math when you are trying to crash for lethal. Pay extra attention to these pile control chips before you commit to going for the win. Tips for Proper Economy! 1. Buy gems only in the early game! This should go without saying, but the best way to kick-start an early economy is usually to buy money! What is not obvious, however, is how quickly gems become poor purchases, even for someone playing entirely for the late game. Remember: your goal is to make the most powerful endgame deck possible. A deck with all money and nothing else is a terrible endgame deck; in fact, even a starting deck could probably beat it! That said, figuring out exactly how much money you should buy can be difficult. One thing that you should be thinking about is what you want your max money to be. If the most expensive chip in the pool costs 4, you might already have all of the money you will ever need! On the other hand, if you are playing to buy the almighty Master Puzzler, you will need to buy a lot of money to ever have a hope of getting to 12. 2. Buy cyclers in the mid game! After buying money, your money density often gets to the point where it is almost as profitable to buy a cycler like Roundhouse as it is to put more money in your deck. At this stage, you should switch completely to cyclers, because they will be much more useful in the late game. For now they are a way to get more money, but later on they will dig for your suddenly important Double Crash Gems and combines. 3. Buy Double Crash Gems, not combines Your combine count should be the bare minimum you need to stay alive; remember, you are not trying to kill them early; you are trying to play for an inevitable late game, and Combines slow down big purchases by a lot. A good general rule of thumb is that if your opponent buys 2 combines, you should try buying 1. As long as you are buying enough to stay alive, you should eventually have the advantage as your economy begins to dominate his. On the other hand, Double Crash Gems are almost always excellent buys for an aspiring econ player. Not only do they give 2$, but the incredible crashing and countercrashing power lets them “catch up” to a player that was focusing more on the early game. It’s hard to have too many of these, particularly if there are forks in the bank. 4. Know when to switch to defense! At some point in time, you need to decide to pull the trigger and stop the econ. This not only means no more money, but also no more cyclers! In the late game, a chip like One of Each is almost a zero-value buy; your purple density is much more important, and most of the time, the best way to increase that is to simply buy more purples! This means that even Combines, which you were desperately trying to avoid in the early and mid game, become fantastic buys. Remember that nearly every deck is going to want combines eventually; an econ deck simply wants them later than everyone else. 5. Explore alternate paths to "econ" The main econ strategy is to buy money, then cyclers, then Double Crash Gems, then Combines. However, this is not the only way to have a superior endgame deck. One powerful alternative is the slim deck. The goal of this deck is to get an extremely thin, consistent deck that can combine three times per turn. The main ways to do this are Degenerate Trasher, Gem Essence, and DeGrey's No More Lies. Slim decks (particularly when they have a Double Crash Gem) are one of the most powerful decks in the game, and should not be underestimated. Other powerful econ endgame strategies are Improvisation chains (with all of your 1-gems trashed or upgraded), and getting a ton of money to rush to the nearly unstoppable Master Puzzler. Even a deck with some Double Crash Gems and X-Copy's can be hard to beat. Tips for proper defense! 1. Watch their pile! A common mistake across all strategic games is to pay too much attention to what is happening to you, and too little attention to what is happening across the table. Beginners often foolishly feel safe with low pile, but if your opponent is Jaina and is sitting with two 4’s in her pile, you might actually be in huge trouble! In defense mode, you should treat every opposing Combine as if it were a Sneak Attack that added to your pile. If you are at 6 and your opponent has a 4-gem, you are actually dangerously close to death. On the other hand, if you are at 9 and your opponent has no combined gems and few Combines in his deck, you might actually be safe enough to keep boosting your economy! 2. Buy more crash gems than usual. Remember that in rushdown mode, you are supposed to minimize the amount of countercrashes that your opponent gets to make. Of course, the opposite is true when you are in defense mode; the more countercrashes you make, the better chance you have to win. The way to do this is to buy lots of crashes. You don’t care much if your opponent countercrashes (unless they can countercrash a 4 for lethal), so oftentimes, a crash is like a combine that gives you money instead of taking it away. Of course, you shouldn't go overboard. There is almost always a limit to the amount of crashes you can play in one turn, and so as always you should manage the amount of enders in your deck. Nonetheless, whereas crash gems are often useless for a rushdown or econ player, there is nothing bad about crashes in a defensive player's deck. This is why the chip “Iron Defense” is so aptly named! 3. Buy combines, too As a defensive player, if you can weather the storm of uncounterable crashes from the rushdown player, you will be victorious. As a result, even though it is painful to sacrifice economy for Combines, you should be buying just as many as your rushdown opponent. As it turns out, Combine is an excellent offensive AND defensive tool, as, ignoring money, it acts as a linker crash. Again, there is a limit to how many crashes you can play in a turn. Once you hit that limit, combines should be there to step in. 4. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense A counterintuitive part of puzzle strike is that often a red chip can be even more defensive than a blue chip! Disruption works in every way; it prevents your opponent from defending, attacking and building econ. A chip like Color Panic can be used to knock out your opponents Crash Gem while they are at 10, but it can also be used to prevent your opponent from crashing a 4 at you. The chip can even knock out other Color Panics! All wound givers and discard chips are not just “red”; they are secretly blue and even green as well. 5. Learn from your mistakes You go for an economy strategy vs. Midori, and seem to be doing very well. However, the surprising power of his Dragon Form overwhelms you, and you die just before you can stabilize with the purples you bought this cycle. Bummer, right? No! This is actually excellent data that you should use next time you fight Midori. You should make a mental note that in order to survive, you should be buying purples and switching to defense one cycle earlier than you did this time. This is one of the reasons that playing Econ can quickly yield great results as a new player. If you lose playing aggro, it can be tough to say what you did wrong. But if you die to a rush playing Economy, the answer is usually that you should have switched to defense sooner! With that out of the way... Let’s get to the characters!