• I Heart the Swarm

    D&D Dice Masters has been out for a while now, and by now I'm sure everyone has heard that I'm a fan of the set. There's a lot of reasons for it - some cards that are potentially useful in the main meta, strong faction play for set drafts, high-quality components, Minsc & Boo - but one of my big ones is the new mechanics that came out in the set. Granted, we may never see many of them (aside from Overcrush) outside of D&D, but that doesn't make them any less interesting. And the most interesting of the new keywords, in my opinion, is Swarm...so join me for a bit while I gush about it for a little while.

    Swarm: A Recap

    In case you skipped D&D, Swarm is a draw mechanic; if you have a Swarm-having character (I'll call them Swarmers) on the field, and you draw a die for that character during Clear & Draw, you immediately get to draw another die - one for every matching character you drew. If you have a Greater Orc on the field and draw an Orc die during Clear & Draw, you draw one extra die. If you had that same one Greater Orc out and drew two Orc dice, you'd draw two extra dice. If you had one Orc out, drew one Orc die, and then for your Swarm pull drew another Orc die, you'd get to draw again, for a total of two extra dice.

    However, if you had two Greater Orcs out and drew one Orc die, you'd still only draw one extra die - you don't get one die per fielded swarmer. Similarly, your drawn dice have to match the swarmer dice, not just have Swarm - if you have a Greater Orc out and draw a Greater Kobold die and an Orc die, you just get one extra die; the Kobold gets you nothing. If you drew a Kobold and an Orc, you'd get two, though - one for each. Also, it only works during Clear & Draw - if you draw a die in the attack step thanks to Mutate #666 or something, and get one of your swarmers, you don't get the extra die.

    So What Does Swarm Get You?

    More dice!

    No, seriously, that's what it gets you, assuming you use it properly. Essentially, what Swarm winds up doing for you - assuming you're only letting one of them sit out - is making most of the swarmer dice behave like they're not actually in your bag; they wind up not counting for your draw limit of four, so they don't jam up your important other purchases from coming out. At the same time, you still get to roll that die, so it's enhancing the total pool of dice you'll get to roll on your turn, potentially giving you five, six, or even seven (and maybe more, if you have multiple swarmers going) dice just from delving into your dice bag. I wound up thinking as the swarm dice as the bonus dice, not so much the ones you draw from drawing swarm dice, because if you didn't have the swarm dice to draw, you'd just be picking the extra pulls anyway.

    I'm going to posit that Swarm winds up being not too dissimilar from the PXG. PXG has two benefits when you come down to it - it keeps dice, specifically sidekick dice, out of our dice bag, and gets us extra dice to roll for the next turn. Swarm certainly does the second thing - you wind up drawing extra dice and rolling them, so that's covered. As for the first bit, while the effect might not be as strong as keeping the relatively weak sidekick dice out of your bag, you are keeping the swarmers, which, let's face it, tend to be less powerful creatures you might be more interested in using for energy rather than fielding, from gumming up your works. It's more specific, true, but given that they're character dice you're getting as a bonus, in addition to a good - and specific, type-wise - energy profile per-die, you're getting the potential to send out a whole bunch of extra characters, possibly assisting in getting some damage through or staving off an incoming assault, all at no cost past having one of the swarmers out (and purchasing the dice, of course). I won't say Swarm is better than PXG, but it works in a similar vein and, best of all, can compliment it.

    So Why Do You Like Swarm?

    Initially, I liked Swarm because it seemed versatile. You can use those bonus swarmer dice as energy, and since they're characters, that's potentially a lot of extra energy if you manage to Swarm twice in a round. Or, if you need characters, you can take a swing at fielding them, and get an instant army, just like the name suggests. As I thought about it more, though, I realized a few things about the nuances of Swarm, and in the end, they're what endeared it to me.

    1. Swarm favors rolling characters for energy.

    While you can roll swarmers as characters, and there's certainly reasons to do so, fielding your swarmers means that, unless you can get them to swing through or otherwise get them to end up in the used pile, they'll be taking a longer vacation from your bag than they would if you just went and used them for energy and got them on the subway to used that turn. Swarmers that aren't in your bag don't wind up proccing the Swarm ability, and thus aren't doing their job. If you're trying to use Swarm to speed up your game, you're probably wanting to use all but that first one as energy most of the time.

    ...and that's perfectly fine! I like the idea of things that encourage you to go ahead and bring, and use, bigger, more expensive characters, or make huge buys; much as I comment on how I feel PXG has distorted the meta, I like that it helps to keep big guys from being relegated to the sidelines and overall speeds up the game by providing more energy when used right. Swarm can do that exact same thing, and that's cool.

    2. Swarm is fair.

    "Fair" is maybe the wrong word for this, actually - 'stoppable' might be better. One thing I've noticed is that a lot of the draw abilities are pretty hard to do anything about in an interesting manner. Sure, there's a few ways to gum up globals like what we have on Silver Surfer, Resurrection, and others, and you can refuse to attack into Mutate #666, but generally you either avoid triggering the ability, put land mines all over it, or can't do anything about it at all. Direct routes are a little sparse.

    Not so with Swarm! All you've got to do is knock out the leader and the whole die sausage-snipping scheme stumbles. All the swarmers we've seen have been fairly small, especially its poster child, Kobold, so this isn't necessarily very hard; a quick application of the Magic Missile global and your work is done in many cases. That - and the Greater Kobold's propensity for running off after adventurers - makes using it correctly need a bit more finesse, and while that doesn't really end up as a point in Swarm's favor for usability, it does paint a pretty picture - Human Paladins shielding some kobolds gathering supplies, Cap's Shield intercepting blasts of magic targeted at your little dragon wannabes, and the like. It makes using it a little more of a puzzle, which is a nice change from near-bored statements of 'I do the thing.' But hey, at least it's safe from Hellblazer!

    Swarming Into The Future

    While the second point doesn't particularly lend to recommending Swarm - if anything, once I realized it, I was pretty certain that it's a weaker mechanic than just bringing along PXG, though there is something to be said for the amount of control and energy profit available by using both - that it was nice and fiddly, with exposed bits out there for both players to push and pull, still makes me think fondly of it. Giving it a test run or two in a Limited Wish deck showed me that when it gets rolling, it will almost literally drown you in dice - using it correctly, at least with the present crop of monsters, just requires some planning ahead for you to reap the benefits. So while I recognize that it's not the most effective mechanic, it - like the underdog in any of a dozen sappy movies - has a lot of heart, and you can't help but cheer for that.

    Right now we have a grand total of four swarmers - the uncommon and rare Kobold, the uncommon Orc, and the super-rare Stirge. All of these guys are what I'd conservatively call 'weenies' - heck, Kobold is barely stronger than a Sidekick! I think it'd be interesting to see some stronger swarmers - Ultron clones, maybe, or Doombots, or something - possibly with a downside like Greater Kobold to keep their costs down while still justifying their better stats. It'd be a little easier to keep your swarmers in to help keep the extra dice flowing, but this might also make fielding some of your swarmers more attractive - a 1/1 Kobold might not really help you much over two energy, but maybe a 5/5 Doom copy would. It'd be an interesting tradeoff, and with all the assorted goons and mooks we see in superhero comics, I think there's plenty of room to bring the mechanic into other sets. Will they? Only time will tell!
    Comments 11 Comments
    1. Meatman's Avatar
      Meatman -
      One of my favourite all time Marvel characters has yet to make an appearance in Dice Masters...

      Jamie Madrox - aka Multiple Man

      Swarm would be a fantasticly thematic ability for him to have. Hopefully we'll see that someday.
    1. RJRETRO's Avatar
      RJRETRO -
      Oh my Goodness. Madrox in Dice Masters would be a blast.

      Great article, great comment.

      I know absolutely zero about the D&D set, but "swarm" is one of those things that I am looking to explore once my set arrives. Seems like it could be a lot of fun.
    1. Meatman's Avatar
      Meatman -
      Glad to know there is another Multiple Man fan out there...he would for sure be a fun character! There are all kinds of unique game affects that you could come up with that would be thematic to his mutant ability. He'd likely have to have very minimal stats on his die to make these work, but that would also be thematic to him, just being a normal dude that can multiply himself an infinite number of times whenever he encounters kinetic energy. He can also absorb back his duplicates into "Madrox Prime" at will. My suggestions would include the following:

      - No Max Limit of Dice on his cards
      - Every time Madrox takes damage, purchase and immediately field another Mardox die. This Purchasing and Fielding is free.
      - Pay 1 Bolt or 1 Fist. Move a Madrox die from your used pile to prep area
      - When a Madrox die is KO'd, give another single Madrox die in the field +1A/+1D
      - When fielded, you may move another already fielded Madrox Die to the used pile, and give the newly fielded Madrox die +1A/+1D

      Just a few ideas...come on WK...let's get Multiple Man in the game!
    1. vonVile's Avatar
      vonVile -
      Finally, Swarm is getting some love around here! I knew Swarm was a great mechanic the instant I saw it, but other players don't see why because they're addicted to PXG. It great to see an article like this that finally understands its true power.

      I say its better than PXG for the simple fact opponents can't leech off it. This one factor is why I rate PXG a 4 where others state its a 5. For it to be a 5 the card needs to be unstoppable under all conditions when PXG clearly isn't. The card that beats PXG is Professor X - Powerful Telepath. That's the PXG killer and I'm surprised it wasn't used at all during Nationals.

      All players have to do is leech off their opponent's PXG and pay for PXPT on their second turn, get it out by third or fourth turn and the opponent's team pretty much falls apart. Go ahead and use PXG, but it'll cost 2 life per turn. I'll bleed him of life and I can still use his PXG. BWAH-HA-HA!
    1. RJRETRO's Avatar
      RJRETRO -
      I like this new evil forum member. I think we'll get along juuuuuust great.

      Once I get those cards, I will heavily consider that team. I was also thinking about the other Professor X, and now I reaaaaaaally want to try swarm.
    1. Gabe's Avatar
      Gabe -
      Thanks for the article, Evan. I've been messing around with swarm this week and I've become addicted. When combined with PXG you can ROLL SO MANY DICE! Now I just need to figure out what to do with all that to do with all that energy...
    1. Dave's Avatar
      Dave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gabe View Post
      Thanks for the article, Evan. I've been messing around with swarm this week and I've become addicted. When combined with PXG you can ROLL SO MANY DICE! Now I just need to figure out what to do with all that to do with all that energy...
      I have an idea, but you have to wait for it tomorrow morning.
    1. Arshen's Avatar
      Arshen -
      My favorite Swarmer is Uncommon Kobold. It's a 1 cost fist that gets you more dice! Also, it is a 1 cost fist character! Dave played against a build of mine where I utilized this and was able to buy a Phoenix Force on turn 4! That's 10 energy! It's nuts!
    1. Stormyknight's Avatar
      Stormyknight -
      Vonville, Jinzo is the more favorable counter to PXG, and people did bring that card. The one thing the original Professor x didn't have over Jinzo, is to use a global for the turn you just need to pay 2 life for the whole turn. With Jinzo it is 2 life per global or action.
    1. Enkidumsh's Avatar
      Enkidumsh -
      I love swarm as well and thought I would mention that in my team I also use Rare Summoned Skull. Most opponents I play blocks swarmers, but when they don't I can use Summoned Skulls global to simply put that copy straight into my bag and have a chance to swarm again the next turn. I simply use it to allow use of bolts, but when used correctly it can allow more and more swarming turn after turn.
    1. jigsawhc's Avatar
      jigsawhc -
      Played in a D&D Rainbow Draft last night and I now have joined the "I Love Swarm" fan club. It was really nice to be pulling extra dice to roll