Elements

Where Duels of the Planeswalkers failed to scratch that itch, I am finding Elements surprisingly engaging. It has many options but a shallow learning curve, making gameplay simple but diverse.

Elements is an online collectible card game. It is free, although they accept donations. You get new cards by winning matches in-game or by using the in-game currency (“electrum”), which is also gained by winning matches. A daily “Oracle” also offers a bit of cash, chance of a rare card, and a buff for 1 PvE match.

If you have played Magic, you know the basic structure. Elements has 12 colors of mana (“quanta”) and is heavily creature-focused with limited deck or gameplay manipulation and no counter-spelling. You can play against other players or several tiers of computer opponents, the top two tiers gaining advantages that are substantial and ridiculous respectively. You build up your stock of cards, design the deck you want to play with, and fight at the difficulty you choose.

I previously complained about the grind of upgrading cards. You can upgrade a card for 1500 electrum or you can win upgraded cards from the two hardest computer tiers. The hardest tier (“False Gods”) uses all upgraded cards, and the second hardest uses a mix. You can see the bootstrapping issue: you start with none, and upgraded cards effectively play a turn or two more quickly, which makes a big difference in either setting up control or getting a fast kill. (They also get triple marks for bonus quanta, draw twice per turn, and start with double hit points.) This has the easy solution of not beating my head against a wall. I don’t need to play the hardest difficulty, and the game is fun on more even terms. I can play evenly against veteran players on the “no-upgrade” PvP setting. As I accumulate more upgraded cards, I can make more forays against the hardest opponents.

That is where the big money is, and there are positives and negatives to playing the False Gods. It costs a bit to challenge them, but you can sell the upgraded cards and still profit even while losing the majority of your matches. The main negative is losing the majority of your matches, which can be brutally fast or painfully drawn out. Strategies for profiting from them often involve immediately forfeiting against opponents you cannot beat, and there are False Gods designed to destroy whatever your deck is. Upgrading key cards makes a big difference, but you are ultimately at a large disadvantage until you have farmed 10,000 to 40,000 electrum. (An optimized deck that can already farm False Gods can make up to 6,000 electrum per hour; an un-upgraded deck caps closer to 600/hour.) But the only lasting effect of losing is a bit of electrum and a ding on your win/loss record.

The gameplay itself is fun, if you enjoy this kind of game. There are far worse takes on Magic that are far more expensive. You will hit patches of ridiculously good or bad luck, like that recent game when I had 33 shots at a 1/12 chance to win and still lost. Which happens 6% of the time. Aside from those patches, I enjoy myself except for when I start to focus on the card upgrade grind rather than the play itself. When that happens, or you start grumbling about your lack of Team Fortress 2 crafting drops (Engineer update this week!), log off and do something else, because the same activity is playing or grinding based solely on your perspective.

: Zubon

2 thoughts on “Elements

  1. Fortuente

    I’ve played this game in the past though it has been a few months now. I have to admit I forgot about it. But I really enjoyed it, so thanks for reminding me! I suppose I am off to see if I can remember my password.

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