The initial Tech units serve three purposes in the game:
- To give better value than Tech 0 units while jockeying for position on turns 3 and 4 (either to get your own Tech II up, or deny the opponent’s Tech II)
- As a support for a Hero or Tech III rush, where the plan is to not tech anything at Tech II, and your Tech I units need to compete with an opponent’s Tech II plan.
- As a cog in a Tech II plan involving cards like Maestro, Garrison, or Might of Leaf and Claw.
Of these, the first condition is the most important; every game will have some element of Tech I interacting with Tech 0, but utility in the other two spheres enhances units beyond their face-value impact.
For Tech I cards, because they are so easy to mix and match, there is no overall grade for a color or spec. If you want to use Tiny Basilisk, you aren’t stuck with the whole “Tech 1 Balance” package, like you are with Starter Decks, Tech II options, and even, to some extent, Spells.
A – Superior. This is a reason to choose this specific spec. Above curve in power level and impact, and scales into the late game. If you opponent has this spec available, expect to see this card. Examples: Tiny Basilisk, Stewardess of the Undone.
B – Above average. These cards are significantly better than an average Tech I option. Has some flaw compared to an “A” – perhaps it doesn’t scale well, or is a little expensive or conditional in impact. Examples: Overeager Cadet, Hooded Executioner
C – Average. Your standard 3/3 for 2, 3/4 for 3. Bread and butter units that will serve you well regardless of what is going on. Examples: Iron Man, Sparring Partner
D – Below average. Worse than average in some way. These cards might be too situational, but can still serve as filler for a specific deck. Examples: Star-Crossed Starlet, Tax Collector
F – Just Bad. These are so bad that you should never tech for this. Perhaps it looks like it could be a build-around, but the payoff isn’t there, or perhaps the rate is just too low to justify it. Examples: Rickety Mine, Knight of the Conclave
? – Build Around. These cards are D or F quality on their face, but in the right deck, with the right plan, they can be A or B level cards. Use only in specific cases, but don’t be afraid to use them. Examples: Mythmaking, Calypso Vystari
Nimble Fencer – B-. Haste is the most useful ability in Codex, and is well worth the loss of one attack from the standard. Nimble Fencer takes enhancements well, and provides a little bit of early threat, without inducing a multi-color penalty. However, the 2/3 size does not match up well against most Tech I units and heroes, and Nimble Fencer will often function like a Rampant Growth, rather than a full-fledged unit.
Star-Crossed Starlet – D. Viable as a “third” Nimble Fencer, but outside of that use, the Starlet is effectively a 4/1 that dies automatically next turn. Even if enhanced, getting huge amounts of attack at the cost of health isn’t a strong ability.
Revolver Ocelot – C-. With a scale balanced around getting a 3/3 for two, Ocelot barely reaches that bar. It’s a solid body, but generally not as good as whatever other Tech I options you have. Sparkshot is mostly irrelevant. For it to matter, your opponent needs to have 2 or more patrollers, and want to put them in adjacent slots. That happens less than half the time, barring specific swarm strategies. Even if two patrollers are adjacent, the extra damage has to be relevant based on what else you have, and the attacks you can actually make.
Iron Man – C. 3/4 for 3. No frills (so it gets a slight boost from being used with Midori). This could be a way to import a little bit of beef to a color that lacks it, again without incurring a multi-color penalty. 3/4 matches up well against most other Tech I options, usually trading for two cards, or at least using up a good spell and a good attack (eg Rampant Growth on a 3/3). The rest of the rating scale is balanced around Iron Man being a “C.”
Calypso Vystari - ?. If you aren’t taking advantage of her ability in a big way, being a 2/2 for 1 just isn’t worth a card, compared to what else you could do with your tech slots. The two ways to build around this are with Quince and Hallucination/Dreamscape (to turn her ability into exhaust: kill a unit) or in a highly aggressive deck where the sidelining is sufficient to end the game.
Gunpoint Taxman – C+. Most commonly played Tech II fliers have 3 (or fewer) hp, so a 3/3 Anti-air can trade with them. Having that as a Tech I option is very strong, and the fail case of a 3/3 for 2 is solid enough that you can pre-tech for him, and not feel bad if the opponent never plays a flier. The second ability is situational and cute, though you can sometimes engineer things to kill a Scavenger and steal the gold.
Crash Bomber – B-. When attacking, Crash Bomber functions like a 3/2 Overpower for 1, which is an incredible rate. On defense it still pressures your opponent’s base as part of an aggressive strategy.
Rickety Mine – F. The turn after you spend 2 gold to not affect the board, you can spend 3 gold. On future turns, you might get more gold. With a different ruleset where you could spend a ton of gold all at once to win the game, this could have a place. But since max level heroes and tech buildings are vulnerable for a round of attacks, this just doesn’t contribute enough to make up for not having that 3/3 in play.
Lobber – A-. Lobber trades with small things, and doesn’t match up well against other Tech I options. On the other hand, 2 hasty damage for only 1 gold is an incredible deal, and if you can put any sort of buff on him, he can do a lot of work. Even without any buffs, that unblockable ping effect is almost worth it on its own. Also excellent in conjunction with Tech II plans like Garrison and Might of Leaf and Claw.
Firebat – C. The ability looks cool, but it’s too expensive for regular use. It does kill off flying patrollers, but fliers shouldn’t be patrolling against an active Firebat. However, he’s still a 3/3 for 3 with real, if rare, upside.
Gemscout Owl – C. In most cases, this is an extra worker that costs a card. There are some niche uses for blocking opposing fliers (put the Owl in your Elite slot to trade with Nullcraft, or SQL to hold off Rook’s Birds), and this is one of the best things to sacrifice to Circle of Life. The main knock against the Owl is that it doesn’t affect the board most of the time, and it often isn’t worth the opportunity cost of the tech-in or the card.
Tiny Basilisk – A. Basilisk puts a huge amount of pressure on opposing heroes, by ignoring token blockers, and being unattackable by the units that were already in play when this comes down turn 3 or 4. It also trades up against any of the more expensive Tech I or Tech II things, and can even answer (non-flying) Tech III units, even if they are untargetable. The only weakness is that he won’t block the opponent’s tokens / Tech 0 from hitting your Hero.
Centaur – C+. Overpower is a nice boost on the standard 3/4 for 3, as it can run over swarms of skeletons or frogs, and force that 2-for-1 the 3/4 for 3 is built to achieve. This is also one of only two Tech I units with Overpower, so it serves as a good vehicle for unit buffs.
Huntress – C+. Basically the same as Gunpoint Taxman – 3/3 for 2 with anti-air and a marginal ability.
Galina Glimmer – B+. Galina will usually function like an extra worker, but she is significantly better than the Gemscout because she can attack. While a 2/2 for 1 isn’t a good rate, threatening to generate 1 (or more!) gold per turn warps the opponent’s play, and Galina can often be better than an Overeager Cadet in terms of overall resource usage.
Giant Panda – D+. Doesn’t defend well, being a 2/4 instead of a 3/4. Entering exhausted is mitigated by the extra chump blocker, but the Giant Panda just does not have high enough impact outside of a deck that specifically wants two bodies from one card, and even then it’s just a supporting character.
Gargoyle – B+. The only Tech I unit that can have Flying, the Gargoyle is expensive but dominating. Unlike the Tech 0 evasive units, Gargoyles can have buffs applied, and are a fairly safe repository for them. Unfortunately, despite being a very strong attacker, Gargoyles are useless at defense. Even if you are trying to block birds or Tech II fliers, paying 1 gold per turn just to use a patrol slot is one of the least efficient ways to do that.
Twilight Baron – C+. A more expensive version of the 3/4 for 3. The 4th point of attack means the Baron cleanly beats other Tech I options, and can cleanly kill a 3/3 squad leader, or spread damage across multiple smaller blockers. The drawback is negligible, as you can usually trade him off, and the size is enough to compete against Tech II plans. The bigger downside is that investing 4 gold into one unit opens you up to trade at a loss against many removal spells.
Bone Collector – A. On defense, this is just a Ocelot, but if it survives generating even 1 skeleton means you have gotten 4/4 worth of stats for only 2 gold. That is completely ignoring any bonuses from Skeleton synergy, or the chance the Collector survives his first attack and continues to generate pressure. Generating free blockers / sacrifice fodder is very valuable, and having a reasonable floor with a sky-high upside makes the Collector great at any stage of the game.
Hooded Executioner – B. Early on, this is an Ocelot without sparkshot, which is passable on turn 3 or 4. However, once he trades with something and comes back around on turn 6 or 7, his boost can take out something strong while continuing to advance your board. One of the answers to untargetable Tech III, or other strong Tech II options, as long as you have the support to kill everything else (meaning evasion and/or removal spells). Also, the Executioner is great at being a Type 2 unit and competing with your opponent’s Tech II plan.
Crypt Crawler – C+. The anti-air effect on the Crawler is roughly equivalent to “real” anti-air – you pull down a flier, and then have your other units/heroes attack it to death. This is better against Illusions and in conjunction with your own fliers, but worse at protecting against a swarm of small birds.
Plague Spitter – B-. Plague Spitter is very good at trading with any hero or 3-4 cost Tech I or Tech II. Even if it doesn’t kill the opposing unit, leaving it with 3 -1/-1 runes will usually neuter it to marginal significance. Adding anti-air just ensures that the Spitter can always work to trade with things. Not to mention being an efficient and versatile source of -1/-1 runes for Orpal’s Maxband.
Tax Collector – D. A 2/3 doesn’t match up well against most other Tech I options. On Nimble Fencer, the Haste lets it (sometimes) interact with the opponent’s Tech 0 things, or put unexpected damage into play to open up soft targets, but the Tax Collector doesn’t enjoy that benefit. The benefit he does have is sometimes “costing zero” if your opponent floats gold or you can kill a scavenger. Unfortunately, that situation doesn’t happen often enough to compensate for the “fail case,” especially when the opponent is playing around the possibility (which they can usually do at little cost).
Scribe – D+. Young Treant with +1/+1. While the effect (spending 2 gold and no card for a mediocre blocker) is good, the opportunity cost of teching Scribes instead of something else is brutal. If you are playing this kind of blocker, it’s to stall into something that would take over the game, but if you are spending your tech slots on Scribes, then you have less space for actual powerful cards.
Overeager Cadet – B+. Costing zero and providing a small blocker lets you trade cards for board position, while developing your tech and/or heroes at the same time. Easily fills your Technician slot and absorbs attacks, while making the enemy units easier to kill. Also a key cog in Peach Tech II and other swarm strategies.
Brave Knight – B-. Overcosted or understated as a 3 cost 3/3, but forcing the opponent to play around his ability means you will usually get a 2-for-1, even though that will usually be from an attack + spell, or just a strong spell hitting him.
Spectral Flagbearer – B-. Mediocre stats, and not worth it against an opponent with targeting abilities, but the Flagbearer is pure gold at stopping Doom Grasp, Flame Arrow, and other big spells from hitting your vulnerable back-rank units (ie Macciatus) and heroes.
Spectral Hound – A-. Usually, Spectral Hound will trade with something, either an enemy 3/3 or an enemy spell. Sometimes you will net a gold, sometimes the opponent will. However, when the Hound doesn’t trade it dominates the board for only 1 gold, which frees up resources to level heroes / build Tech II. That low downside combined with huge upside makes the Hound a solid investment.
Seer - ?. The body is an F level 2/1 for 1, so you are playing this for the ability. As such, it’s much better than the starter deck Temporal Manipulation spell (same effect, and you get a free body), but only if you are going to abuse it with a Forecasted unit, Rememberer, or late game with Prynn.
Stewardess of the Undone – A. The 2/3 body isn’t good, although this can be boosted to the more acceptable 3/3 by in-color Battle Suits. However, if this bounces an opposing 2-drop, getting a 2/3 for effectively 1 gold is a much more palatable deal (notwithstanding any board position gain from attacking after removing a blocker). Where the Stewardess really shines is in killing off tokens entirely, which remains relevant through the mid-game. Then, unlike most units, Stewardess has the trickshot utility of bouncing your own obsolete unit. Often scares off enemy 3-gold tech I plays just by existing.
Argonaut – C+. Better than Iron Man, as it is much easier to set up the 2-for-1 by attacking while still being available to block.
Sentry – D. Serves most of the functions as a Huntress, but being 3/2 instead of 3/3 means the Sentry will trade with Tech 0 units, or can’t hold off a 3/4 as Squad Leader. This makes it more of a niche card that is an OK answer to fliers, but pretty bad otherwise. The special ability is mostly flavor text; abilities that deal damage to patrollers are few and far between, and usually the one damage saved is more than made up for by Sentry missing one HP.
Knight of the Conclave – F. If you play Plasmodium on turn 1, it arrives on turn 4 as a 4/4 haste, which brawls well with the low level heroes and Tech I things that are in play at that time. If you play Knight on turn 3, it arrives turn 6, right in the middle of the Tech II slugfest, where it’s 4/4 non-haste body is only slightly better than an Overeager Cadet. If drawn any later, the entire game could be over (or effectively over) before it arrives. And you have to go down a card at the crucial juncture when you want to be cycling as much as possible to get to your better cards as soon as you tech them in. That said, there are specific decks and gameplans that want the Knight, but only if you want a 0 cost source of “summon a unit and get 3 time runes,” at which it excels.
Gilded Glaxx – C. See Iron Man. The ability is marginal, as your opponent will rarely want to use a Doom Grasp (or similar) on your 3/4. If they have a smaller effect like Deteriorate or Spark, they can just use it first, and then attack. Plus saving 1 gold isn’t free in the game states where a Glaxx is valuable. You could abuse him on your own with things like Rewind, but that is mostly a win-more effect.
Rambassa Twins – B-. 6/4 worth of stats, split across two bodies, but ties with Death Baron for most expensive Tech I. 4 gold is hard to come up with, and having only 3 attack on each body means that 3/4 (or 2/4 hero) attackers survive their encounter. The Twins still provide significant value, virtually always trading for either two cards or 5 gold worth of value, but rarely both.
Sparring Partner – C. A 2/2 for 1 helps get you to Tech II, but doesn’t match up well against the standard 3/3 size of units. The added utility of being able to buff each hero and unit (especially fliers) makes this a fine choice for a supporting tech. This will never dominate the board, but the incremental advantage is real and significant, as +1 HP can often save another hero or unit and let it attack an extra time.
Inverse Power Ninja – A-. The biggest Tech I in the game, even if you have a hero or another unit in play. You do have to modify your game play, but the IPN will usually be a 4/4 for 3, and can be bigger if all it’s protecting is a hero. The only thing it asks is that you not play Birds Nest or other small units like Smoker and Aged Sensei, which is a significant constraint, but worth it for the sheer size of the Ninja (as long as your opponent isn’t on the “chump block forever” plan).
Fuzz Cuddles – D. See comments on Tax Collector. The possible upside doesn’t outweigh the marginal utility of teching in a 2/3 for 2.
Arda’s Boulder – C-. Against a very aggressive opponent who doesn’t have easy access to Deathtouch or Sidelining, the Boulder can buy both players the time to reach Tech II. Generally best in the Elite slot, where it can at least leave behind some damage on the things that kill it, the Boulder doesn’t pressure well, but it does buy you a turn.
Mythmaking - ?. In a dedicated Legendary deck (meaning more than just Arda’s Boulder), this gives a huge boost to Jandra (5/5 overpower), Galina (4/4 for 1), and even DeGrey (Rhino stats for only 3 gold, and you still get to clear all the tokens). You don’t need to be running all the Legends, but having Boulder + one more is a solid way to gain some incremental economic value on the way to a dominating Tech II or Tech III strategy (you won’t have the power to force through a win, even with the enhanced units, before Tech II happens).