【HEX 101】 Who’s the attacker?

Another article that I have written for the HEXRealms.  This is a classic article on Magic “Who’s the beatdown” translated into the HEX.  This concept actually should apply to many other dTCGs.

Original Post: http://www.hexrealms.com/content.php?221-First-Aid-Who-s-the-beatdown

Today, I am going to talk about a Magic’s classic article “Who’s the beatdown?” applying to the HEX. If you have heard/read this classic article before, don’t waste your time. I will not add anything new to the legendary article but if you have never heard of it, this article should be a must read for everyone. Obviously, to avoid any confusion, in my article I will not use any of Magic card reference but instead use HEX cards (duh).

2 players, 2 roles

Whether you are understanding the actual terminologies accurately or not being a side, most players must have heard terms beatdown/aggro and control/attrition. Technical details of these terms are something I have interest to explain, but that will be some other time. Rather today let’s definite these two terms as followings:

Beatdown player = Attacker = A player who tries to take opponent’s life down as quickly as possible.

Control player = Defender = A player who tries to prolong the game because longer the game goes, the better the chance he/she can win.

Archetype/Deck type =/= Player’s Role

This is the biggest part of confusion (at least it was for me). Those of you who have heard the terms Aggro or Control in the past are most likely in the context of archetype or deck type.

Pretty much all decks can be classified under specific deck types based on its content. Without actual understanding (or perhaps even with understanding) occasionally the classification may become a bit tricky, but in general there are either 3 or 4 (depending on the source) archetype, which are aggro (some uses beatdown for the synonym), control, combo, +/- midrange. However, it is important to recognize that beatdown and control in the Flores’s article were not referring to decks, but they were the best understood if you considered them as the player’s role, which is a separate entity. To avoid the confusion, I am going to use “attacker and defender” to imply these are player roles rather than the archetype of the decks.

The ideal situation is that your role as a player for a given game matches with your deck archetype i.e. Aggro deck playing as an attacker.

However, this is not always the case.

Who’s the attacker?

A smart reader may have already figured out at this point, or perhaps may be asking a question on themselves what if “I have aggro archetype deck, and so is my opponent?” This is where the Mike Flores’s classic magic article “Who’s The Beatdown?” comes in.

If two players have a deck with similar archetype or mirror match, the end result is one becomes an attacker but the other becomes a defender. Below is the direct quote from the article.

The most common (yet subtle, yet disastrous) mistake I see in tournament Magic is the misassignment of who is the beatdown deck and who is the control deck in a similar deck vs. similar deck matchup. The player who misassigns himself is inevitably the loser.

Let’s try to understand this by looking at specific examples. Here are two preconstructed decks

Herczeg’s Deck


Throat Cutter
Fang of the Mountain God
Savage Raider
Furious Taskmaster

Ruby Aura
Incite Fury

13 Ruby Shard
12 Blood Shard

Poca’s Deck

Poca, The Conflagrater

Arena Brawler
Emberspire Witch
Ruby Pyromancer
Savage Raider
Unmerciful Tormentor
Veteran Gladiator


25 Ruby Shard

Both are aggro archetype decks that aims to take opponent’s champion life down to 0 as quickly as possible using troops as primary method of attack. So if either of these decks goes against other GenCon Preconstructed decks, the players are correct to assume their role as an attacker using either of these decks.

However, what happens when two decks are played against? Now both are aggro archetype decks. So perhaps both will try to be an attacker. If this happens, the end game result is almost already predetermined.

Because in this particular scenario, Poca, The Conflagrater deck has much lower overall cost i.e. quicker than the Herczeg deck. So in this example, basically Herczeg player should realize such, and take a defender role. The exact same thing can be said for control vs. control archetype decks.

According to the Flores’s article, following 3 points are the keys to decide who should play beatdown role and control role.

Who has more damage? Usually he has to be the beatdown player.Who has more removal? Usually he has to be the control player.Who has more permission and card drawing? Almost always he has to be the control player.

Let’s take look at above example one more time, and see how these 3 questions guide us.

Who has more damage? Usually he has to be the beatdown player.

Well, damage for damage it’s actually Herczeg’s deck.

Who has more removal? Usually he has to be the control player.

The method of removal in both decks are direct troop targeting spells/abilities. Clearly, Poca wins here.

Who has more permission and card drawing? Almost always he has to be the control player.

Neither really have permission nor drawing engines. So this become irrelevant.

So if you strictly follow the Mike Flores’s guideline, both the first and second questions point to Poca being control. Now if anyone who had played decent amount of dTCGs will quickly disagree with this conclusion.

If you look at each decks, you can see Poca has cheaper cost troops. Herczeg has more higher cost troops, but once they are out, they are stronger. So for Poca, it needs to win quickly before Herczeg player have a chance to set his troops. Similarly, Herczeg player wants to hold the game longer. So again, following this the above example should be Poca player to take attacker role.

So I would add forth question to the Flores’s guideline.

Who has higher mana curve? He is more likely to be a defender.

Therefore, the 3 sets of questions now becomes 4.

Who has higher mana curve? He is more likely to be the defender.
Who has more damage? Usually he has to be the attacker.
Who has more removal? Usually he has to be the defender.
Who has more permission and card drawing? Almost always he has to be the defender.


This is rather a conceptual article, but it is important one especially one of the legendary Magic players cares about, anyone who wants to be a good dTCG player should as well. Remember “Misassignment of Role = Game Loss.” More experience you get for a given dTCG, more likely you can identify what type of deck your opponent is playing. This will allow you to determine what player role you should be playing for the given game.




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