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Card Ratings: The Spells

Other Card Ratings posts:
The Starter Decks
The Heroes
Tech III

Note that this entry is not complete - Neutral and Red have been written, the rest will follow eventually.

Spells are tricky because their power is influenced by how easy it is to keep their related Hero either alive, or waiting in the Command Zone until they are needed to cast. This particularly affects the rating on Ultimate spells – Maximum Anarchy is significantly worse than Earthquake, before we even consider what their effect is.
Grading Scale:
A – Superior. Has a significant effect on the game. Playable early and late in a variety of board positions, and has a cost that is lower than comparable effects from units. This is a card that drives you to include its spec, and you will almost always tech in at least one copy. Examples: Dark Pact, Free Speech
B – Above Average. Powerful, but either slightly conditional, expensive, or has some set-up cost. The best Ultimate spells can’t get more than a B, due to the inherent set up cost of having a max-band hero survive. Often teched, but could be left out depending on the game state, or other priorities. Examples: Earthquake, Flame Arrow
C – Average. Gives you a reasonable effect for its cost, but nothing special. The decision to tech this would be purely based on game state. A good counter to some strategies that you don’t mind having even if they don’t come up. Examples: Doom Grasp, Unphase
D – Below Average. Too expensive, too rare for find a favorable gamestate, or just weak overall. Ability is niche or not impactful. Examples: Maximum Anarchy, General’s Hammer
F – Unplayable. Even in carefully constructed theoretical scenarios, these spells don’t perform much better than the alternatives, and almost all the time you would have been better off teching a 3/3 for 2 or some other spell instead. Examples: The Boot, Double Time
? – Build around. Requires specific other cards to be teched in and/or employed to make this worthwhile, but performs at an A or B level if your deck is right. Not overly conditional on what your opponent is doing. Examples: Harmony, Stampede
@ - Answer. An exceptional answer to specific opposing strategies and/or cards. This will sit unused in your codex most of the time, but will be the most important thing you can bring in when the situation calls for it. Examples: Nature Reclaims, Vortoss Emblem

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River Tram has average survivability (max at level 5 with 4 hp), and a “build around” grade, so her spells grades aren’t unduly influenced by needing her in play.
Harmony - ?. Generating multiple 0/1 dancers is quite strong on its own, and flipping them into 2/1 unstoppables will end many a Starter game. Just getting a single 2/1 isn’t worth the 2 gold and a card, but getting 2 of them would be, so you need to have some cheap spells, preferably ones that draw cards, and the ability to get out two heroes (or protect River, but if you can protect a hero while casting multiple spells, you’re doing fine regardless).
Discord – B+. Great early game for making your board wreck an opponent’s board of Tech I stuff. Especially nice as a counter to token strategies, or for killing Nullcraft, Prospector, or another non-patrolling 1 hp annoyance, while maintaining utility elsewhere. Loses a lot of steam in the mid to late game, and is often a 5th or 6th worker.
Two Step – B. +4/+4 for 2 gold is no joke, but needing two units in play, and being vulnerable to removal (or just a trade) on any of the 3 pillars makes this a high cost maneuver. This will usually be as good as Rampant Growth, and could be better if you have two units that can attack immediately, but the set-up cost is not trivial.
Appel Stomp – C. Even without chaining them, being able to sideline 1 patroller per turn, forever, at no loss of cards is a very nice ability. If you are in a position to maintain a max-band River, you are also in a position to want this effect. However, it’s by no means mandatory, and sidelining is just wasting gold if you aren’t getting good attacks or other effects out of the deal.

Troq has poor survivability (max at level 8, with 5 hp), and an “F” grade as a stand alone hero, so his spell grades are worse than they would be on an average hero.
Wrecking Ball – ?. Even in the most all-in base damage decks, spending a card to deal 2 base damage is a desperation late game play. This might come in eventually to sneak in the last few points, but it’s not worth it otherwise. Certainly not worth it if your plan is to trade cards in an attempt to break enemy tech buildings (if you have the card engine to not worry about the card cost, there are much better payloads for it).
The Boot – F. Very inefficient removal that trades at parity or worse against any Tech I in the game outside of Twilight Baron. While this could be useful as a tempo play, being tethered to Troq instead of, say, Grave makes this not worth the deck space.
Intimidate – C. An efficient way to keep your unit in play during an early or late game trade. The setup cost of needing enough attack to get through the opposing unit/hero, and the problem that it does nothing when you’re not the one attacking, limit the upside potential.
Final Smash – F. Dragged down mostly by how expensive and inefficient Troq is to level up, and then how little this spell actually does. At any point in the game, it is unlikely that your opponent will have a Tech 0, Tech I, and Tech II unit in play at the same time. If they don’t have a Tech II unit, you are paying 6 gold to get a 2-for-1, but they get to keep their Tech I unit, so you’re trading at card and gold parity at best. If they do have a Tech II, then this is similar to Mind Control, but more expensive, and with the potential to partially backfire if you’re the only one with a Tech 0 / Tech I unit. Mind Control only gets a C, and being (slightly) more expensive, on a much worse hero, just makes Final Smash not worth attempting.

Zane has the worst survivability in the game, since he will often be trading the turn he enters play, and doesn’t level up very quickly or easily (as well as having fewer hit points than normal until he reaches level 6). However, he’s one of the best heroes to play & use immediately, so his non-ultimate spells get a little bit of a boost.
Chaos Mirror – A. The Mirror does everything except kill Illusions. While best with artificially low attack units like Spore Shambler or anything affected by Battle Suits, the Mirror is excellent as long as you have anything with 1 or 0 ATK on the board, and passable with a 2 ATK unit or hero (for example, Zane himself). The typical use is to take the opponent’s biggest attack – especially potent against Tier III Swift Striking walls, but just as demoralizing against a Centaur or max-band Vandy (and you don’t have to pay for resist or get stopped by untargetable), and put it on your lowest ATK unit. Then kill the shrunken enemy without dying, making it function as a 2-cost Dinosize quite often. If that isn’t an option, you can also just get one half of the combo or the other: swap a high ATK onto an opponent’s thing you aren’t killing to keep your attackers alive, or attack with your own big thing (eg, max-band Zane) and then swap the attack onto your Wisp token or Smoker. Did I mention that this is the best way to make Smoker, Nullcraft, or Traffic Director attack for more than they were designed for, which is very potent, even if you aren’t being absurd and summoning Terras Q.
Detonate – D+. Detonate is an inefficient answer to opposing buildings, and an inefficient way to get gold advantage (early gold is better than later gold), and an inconsistent way to delay an opponent’s Tech II (although you might be able to do it going second). As a package, though, it can be worth it if you expect 2 or more of the effects to be plausible, and you also expect to have Zane in play early (ie you aren’t summoning another hero or teching their spells too).
Surprise Attack – C. 5 gold for 6 hasty damage is an OK deal, but if you can’t press your advantage, you’re probably trading at a loss, gold-wise. The timing window for Surprise Attack to be good is very narrow, but it can be super potent when you hit that turn 4 / turn 5 timing window where you can blow up their Tech I patrol zone, and then break their Tech building and strand good cards, while you draw into your own Tech II stuff.
Maximum Anarchy – D-. This effect gets you out of any situation, maybe. You do need to follow-up by generating a good board, and somehow need to have Zane survive a turn at max-band (not too hard to do) while still losing on board (an unlikely scenario), and being able to generate enough board presence afterwards to beat whatever the opponent is doing that forced you to Anarchy in the first place.

Drakk has below average survivability, but is quite potent to keep in play, so you are already incentivized to protect him, and getting his spells is a nice bonus. This has the net effect of not influencing his spell ratings.
Desperation - ?. If your hand is empty, and your deck is full of Blood magic and units, this gives you a potent burst of cards, at the cost of forcing you to discard 0, draw 2 at the end of the turn. As such, you should plan to already be at discard 0, draw 2 when you draw into Desperation, since you don’t want to be in the position of spending all your gold first, then drawing 3 cards and only being able to play 1 or 2 of them.
Kidnapping – A-. Take their best guy, trade it with their second best guy. That’s the dream, and very often it’s the reality, especially if you have Drakk at mid-band for the +1 ATK. Kidnapping will usually trade even or better on gold, and even if you can’t kill both units, you at least remove two patrollers, and damage the stronger guy (and then maybe sacrifice it to Orpal or a Sacrifice the Weak?). Even if they only have 1 unit, you can still steal it and run it into their hero.
Bloodlust – A. Charge, but for two things, can target heroes (hey Drakk, get in there!), kill Illusions (and other back row 1 hp guys who aren’t Nullcraft). The 1 damage is annoying, but the sudden burst of damage from Nautical Dog, Drakk, Bloodlust Both (that’s 5 gold and 2 cards for 5 hasty ATK, and you can do better).
War Drums – B-. Given a few units who can attack, War Drums is a very cheap way to add a ton of attack power. Red, and especially Blood, is full of hasty units (not to mention Drakk’s max-band), so even if you lost everything except Drakk, you could still dump your hand and end up with 10+ atk worth of hasty units on the next turn. Does require setup of either a full hand or a full board, but this is one of the best ultimates in the game (recall that Ultimates can’t get better than a B due to automatic conditionality of keeping a max-band hero alive).

Jaina is very hard to keep alive, but has a moderately powerful effect if you can keep her in play, which is duplicated by her spells, for the most part. This redundancy means that there are significant diminishing returns to teching additional copies of her spells. The first one will almost always find a good target, and can be rated “B,” while the second is a B-, the third a C-, and subsequent fire spells would be a ?, because at that point you are going all-in for a direct damage plan (which isn’t a bad plan).
Fire Dart – The cheapest option, best for supporting a primarily Unit based attack force that just needs some help clearing the patrol zone
Ember Sparks – The best at direct damage to buildings, also good for clearing small patrollers, or as a counter to swarm / Illusion strategies
Flame Arrow – A good answer to Heroes on its own, or redundancy with Ember Sparks for building damage.
Burning Volley – If you can protect a max-band hero, Burning Volley plus Jaina tapping to deal 3 will dominate most non-haste based Tier I play, and with some card draw can lock out Tier II completely.


To be written


Space reserved for Blue and Black - I’m still breaking these up, so that it isn’t a giant wall of text when I go in to edit it.

Space reserved for White and Purple

I really think it would make more sense to combine the spells and heroes into one…


I think Detonate is better than this, just at targetting workers.

Remember: You are thickening the enemy deck (two extra cards in the enemy deck for each worker you kill), and thinning yours (the detonates are trashed). Adding 4 cards (a full turn) to the enemy cycle time, and removing two cards from your own cycle time is nothing to consider junk.

And that’s before you consider the effect of easy removal of a legendary building or two (Fox den school, Morning star pass) or just plain nasty stuff (Shrine of forbidden knowledge, plague lab; censorship council, flagstone garrison; slow-time generator; blooming elm).

Maybe making it a situational. As a way to deal with the “nasty” things – garrison / elm / pass / generator / shrine – it’s a good answer to each color’s “nasty building” if you didn’t use them to just go for the “slow down” effect.

(Things I didn’t realize/forget: It’s not “remove upgrades”. That’s the green version. And it doesn’t work on that white T3 building. Grrr.)

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In my experience, most games are effectivey decided before the deck bloat has any impact.

Detonate is an answer to tech 2 buildings, but it’s not a very good answer due to how Zane functions (a disposable and fragile hero). I could have rated it “@” but i’ve found your usually better off using the tech slot for something proactive. Except againt Law: censorship council is a beast, and is both expensive and central to the opposing gameplan. Fox den school is similarly rough, but I’ve yet to see it used.

@EricF jaina’s spells have no rating

They have a universal rating in the chunk of text preceeding the specific spells.

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sorry, my bad :stuck_out_tongue:

Yeah, the biggest problem is timing. In order for detonate to be worth it you kind of need to tech it on turn 2, but it’s really difficult to play it so early. Additionally, if your opponent is playing T1 minions and you’re playing detonate, things aren’t going to go very well…

All these rating threads try really hard (and ultimately fail) to give an objective rating to every card (which is already weird) when the true value of each card varies significantly from matchup to matchup. Like Assimilate is amazing if your are up against Fire or Growth tech2, but not so much versus Bashing tech2. These threads could be improved significantly if each card got a rating versus each opposing faction or better still each opposing spec.


I have to agree. I don’t find these rating threads terribly useful. I would get much more use out of more specific strategy guides, how to play a specific spec in various situations or against various opponents, or how to play against a specific spec to make life difficult for them. Stuff that actually has practical in-game applications, instead of thought experiments about how each card would perform in isolation.

I’d consider these the building blocks of that deeper analysis, which I encourage you to pursue and post about.

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So, I missed the 60 day edit window on my previous posts. Here’s my thoughts on Black:


Vandy has of the best hero bodies in the game (so you already want to have her in play), levels quickly, and comes with Resist, so she is more likely to stay in play than average, which makes all her spells just a little bit more reliable than baseline.

Dark Pact – A. One of the best ways to get ahead in Codex is to go down on cards to play multiple units at once. Dark Pact, at trivial cost, lets you play down on cards, and then recover the card advantage, while cycling to your new tech cards faster. Excellent in combination with Tech I unit spam, or other Spell based strategies, and even provides a tiny bit of end-game reach.

Shadow Blade – C. Expensive removal that will often trade down on gold, but up on cards (and tempo). This is exactly what you expect from a spell, and Shadow Blade doesn’t fail to deliver.

Soul Stone – C+. Even putting this on a 2-cost unit gives you more than that 2-cost worth of stats, since the extra life also comes with +1/+1. Moderate impact for moderate risk.

Metamorphosis – B+. No Ultimate spell can get an A, but Metamorphosis is as close as they come. The lynchpin of a top-tier strategy, the mere existence of Metamorphosis will warp your opponent’s play (typically by forcing them to build a Tower as soon as you Max-band Vandy) even if you never tech it. Not worth the 6 gold to buff Vandy alone, but as long as you can hire second hero, it pays for itself with the free levels, and then the buffs are just gravy. Don’t forget to attack with all your units before casting.


Orpal has average survivability – his topband discourages attacks, and he gains HP at a reasonable rate.

Sickness – B. Picking off two small, damaged, and/or about-to-trade units and/or heroes, even on the back line, is an incredible effect for 2 gold. This can even soften up larger heroes, combo with Orpal’s max-band, and in general wreak havoc, given a board at parity.

Spreading Plague – C. Combos with Orpal and Sickness to wipe out larger units. One option is to build your own Doom Grasp by sacrificing a unit to Orpal’s mid-band, and then immediately killing the target. Often only gets one unit or hero, due to the rarity of applying -1/-1 runes without killing the target (or being able to kill it with a unit anyway), or killing Orpal in the exchange.

Carrion Curse – @. If you try to use this proactively to reduce your opponent’s hand size, you risk missing entirely, or falling too far behind on board (you spend 3 gold and a card, they spend 3 gold leveling up a hero, to recover from card loss). As an answer to dangerous spells, upgrades, and buildings, however, this can do good work. Only bring this in if it will actually stop their main gameplan (eg Might of Leaf and Claw, Earthquake), and not to prevent support spells that often won’t be important (eg Reversal, Flame Arrow). Against highly impactful support spells (eg Kidnapping, Jurisdiction), you might bring one copy in, to be used only if your board will be particularly vulnerable to that effect next turn.

Death and Decay – F. Incredibly expensive, this can break open a board stall like no other spell can (especially if you get to live the dream and cast two in one turn). However, if you are behind (say, your board is Max level Orpal and nothing else) this will not reverse things, and if you are ahead this won’t do anything more to secure your win than a solid unit would, with the increased risk inherent in any Ultimate. Given that you will have a max-band Orpal in play, you could get most of this effect from a simple Spreading Plague, with much less risk and cost.


Garth is an excellent spellcaster, since he can make his own defenders, and comes with his own card advantage to offset repeated spell use.

Nether Drain – B. As long as there is another Hero in play, this is at worst 2 levels for 1 gold and 1 card. At best, it reduces an opposing hero with 1 hp remaining down a level, killing it. This can also serve as a cheap way to prevent enemy Ultimate spells, or as a trickshot to slowly re-use your own Max Level: triggers (Garth has a good one for this).

Doom Grasp – C. You won’t usually be able to get a gold advantage off using this, since most things you kill cost less than 5 gold (typically you make a skeleton with Garth as the sacrificial fodder). The versatility and ability to nuke hiding heroes makes this a reasonable choice for some matches.

Lich’s Bargain - ?. As long as your opponent doesn’t have anti-token tech (eg Discord, Stewardess of the Undone, DeGrey) this is the cheapest way to build board presence. The horror alone is worth the 2 gold spell, the skeleton is worth the 1 gold you spent on a worker, and the Zombie is worth the card you spent on a worker. However, you need to be working to end the game, because the cumulative loss of gold from the destroyed worker will cost you in the end, as will the 4 base damage, if you play Lich’s Bargain more than once, or combine it with Dark Pact(s).

Death Rites – B-. Even with no board at all, Garth can make and sacrifice a skeleton to get at least one kill, and if you have any more units, even a Pestering Haunt, this will often result in a board wipe that leaves your best unit alive.