Choosing what card to worker is kind of paralyzing. You have a hand full of cards, each of which has varied and powerful effects. You can imagine uses for any one of them as the game goes on, and you’d like to hang on to all of them. It would be a shame to turn one into a worker and lose access to it for the entire rest of the game.
On the other hand, if you don’t you won’t have as much gold next turn and you won’t be able to build higher level Tech buildings that let you use even more powerful cards. How are you supposed to choose?
Welcome to Codex, where the decisions are always tough and the right answer is always “it depends”.
“It depends” is not especially helpful advice if you are a beginner though. This guide will lay out some general guidelines for when and what to worker. There are exceptions to all of these rules, and you will discover them as you improve at Codex. However, these should be a good starting point that will help ease some of the analysis paralysis when you are new to the game.
When to hire a worker?
The normal progression is to hire a worker every turn until you get to 10. There are 4 advantages to this (from most straightforward to most subtle):
- You have more gold on later turns
- You can build your Tech buildings as soon as possible (Tech I at 6 workers, Tech II at 8 workers, Tech III at 10 workers).
- You increase the average quality of the cards you draw. All cards in codex are useful, but the cards you get access to later in the game are better than the ones you can use earlier, and you can only draw so many of them each turn. If you worker the merely decent cards, you will draw your even better cards more often.
- As a simple example of how cards get more powerful as the game goes on, compare the red starter card Mad Man and the Fire Tech I card Lobber. Both cost 1g and have haste, but the Lobber is a 2/2 instead of a 1/1 and it gets a useful exhaust ability. Mad Man is nice to have, but not if you could have had the Lobber instead.
- You reduce the variability of your draws. Your deck will grow each turn as you tech additional cards. The bigger your deck is, the more room there is for random variation to not give you the card you need when you need it. Hiring workers helps you reduce the size of your deck to mitigate this. Hiring a worker both takes the workered cards out of your deck, and you helps you reach 10 workers as soon as possible so you stop being forced to tech.
Once you reach 10 workers, you have more freedom to decide whether to worker or not, since the game will probably be over soon anyway.
You’ll often be tempted to skip a worker and spend that gold on something else. Generally, you shouldn’t. When you do skip a worker, it should be because that extra gold allows you to make a big play you couldn’t make otherwise, like destroying a tech building or killing a max level hero. And you probably shouldn’t think about skipping a worker until you have at least 8. Before then the disadvantages of skipping the worker are almost always too high to be worth it, particularly not being able to build your Tech II.
#What to worker?
Conceptually, you want to worker the card that will be the least useful for the rest of the game. That will depend on a lot of factors, including the board state, your Codex and strategy, your opponent’s Codex, the cards they have teched or might tech, etc. However, there are some general rules you can follow.
Most of the time, you will want to worker one of your starting deck cards. Late in the game, however, you might worker one of the first cards you teched, often because you are now going for a different strategy than what the card supports.
When deciding which starter card to worker, you can think about them in 4 different categories:
- Plan/Matchup-dependent. These are cards whose effectiveness depends on what plan you are going for, or sometimes what plan your opponent is going for. You’ll want to hold on to them if you are using that plan/matchup, but worker them otherwise.
- In the black starter, Skeletal Archery is strong if you are going for a skeleton-heavy game, but quite weak otherwise.
- Also in the black starter, Poisonblade Rogue is an effective counter for specific cards (for example Ironbark Treant), but is weaker otherwise
- Early game cards. These cards tend to be relatively stronger in the early game, but become less useful as the game goes on, often because the cards you tech in will do the same thing more efficiently. You often want to play these cards on the early turns, but worker them later. Most starter cards, particularly units, fall in this category
- Hardened Mox, from the Purple starter, is a strong early game play as the only Indestructible starter unit. However, it is literally unplayable once you reach Tech II
- Plasmodium, also in the Purple starter, is nearly as extreme. If you play it on T1, it’s 4/4 stats stack up favorably with the Tech I units your opponent will be playing when it arrives on T4. But if you play the Plasmodium on T4, by the time it arrives on T7 your opponent will have much stronger Tech II or even Tech III units in play, and the Plasmodium won’t be nearly as effective.
- Balanced cards. These are about equally effective at all stages of the game.
- In the blue starter, Reputable Newsman is useful both early and late. Early on it can be used to block your opponent’s best starter spell. Later on, you can use it to shut down ultimate spells.
- Late game cards. These tend not to be that useful in the early game, often because they are expensive or have weak targets. However, their power scales well into the late game and they can make a good impact even as a starter card. You’ll be tempted to worker this early when you can’t get much use out of it, but it’s often worth keeping it around. This is the least common category.
- Snapback, in the white starter, is the archetypical late game starter card. Early on, 3 gold is a lot to spend and your opponent’s low level heroes aren’t worthwhile targets. But later on when your opponent has a maxband hero on the board and a big ultimate spell in his next hand, Snapback can literally save the game for you.
Early in the game, any of the starter cards could be useful. As the game progresses and you add more powerful cards to your deck, many of those cards will begin to be outclassed. They’ll still be useful in some way, but not as much as the other options you have. As the game goes on, you will want to worker those less useful cards. The cards you retain should fill a useful niche that your other cards can’t, for example a low-cost unit to use as an extra patroller, or a spell that can counter a particular strategy.
This priority order will help you worker the less useful cards first:
- Matchup-dependent cards when you aren’t in a favorable matchup. These will usually be the first to go
- Plan-dependent cards, as soon as you are committed to not going to that plan.
- Early game cards that you won’t be able to play before they get outclassed. Sometimes your choice will come down to playing the card this turn, or workering it, because by the time you draw it again you’ll have better options.
- After this point, it becomes so dependent on the state of the game that it’s hard to stick to any general rules. You can work by process of elimination:
a. First rule out the cards you want to play that turn
b. Then rule out any cards that are crucial to your gameplan (like a Tech III or an Ultimate spell)
c. Then rule out any cards that are critical counters to whatever your opponent’s plan is
d. Worker one of the cards that’s left. If none are left, you can worker one of the counters, or it might be late enough in the game that you can skip a worker
Here’s how the cards in each starter break down between these categories, along with some common early worker choices (usually cards that fall into #1-3 above). For more discussion on the power level of the starter cards see this thread
Matchup/Plan-dependent: Granfalloon Flagbearer, Helpful Turtle
Early game: Fruit Ninja, Spark, Timely Messenger, Tenderfoot, Older Brother
Balanced: Brick Thief, Bloom, Wither
Common early workers: Helpful Turtle, Fruit Ninja, Spark
Matchup/Plan-dependent: Careless Musketeer, Pillage, Scorch, Bloodburn
Early game: Nautical Dog, Mad Man, Bloodrage Ogre
Balanced: Makeshift Rambaster, Charge, Bombaster
Common early workers: Scorch, Careless Musketeer, Pillage
Matchup/Plan-dependent: Verdant Tree
Early game: Rich Earth, Merfolk Prospector, Tiger Cub, Playful Panda, Ironbark Treant
Balanced: Young Treant, Spore Shambler, Rampant Growth, Forest’s Favor
Common early workers: Verdant Tree, Rich Earth, Ironbark Treant
Matchup/Plan-dependent: Poisonblade Rogue, Jandra, Skeletal Archery, Summon Skeletons
Early game: Pestering Haunt, Skeleton Javelineer
Balanced: Thieving Imp, Graveyard, Deteriorate
Late game: Sacrifice the Weak
Common early workers: Poisonblade Rogue, Jandra, Skeletal Archery, Summon Skeletons
Matchup/Plan-dependent: Bluecoat Musketeer, Jail
Early game: Building Inspector, Traffic Director
Balanced: Spectral Aven, Reputable Newsman, Lawful Search, Manufactured Truth
Late game: Arrest, Porkhand Magistrate
Common early workers: Bluecoat Musketeer, Lawful Search, Porkhand Magistrate, Jail
Matchup/Plan-dependent: Fox Viper, Morningstar Flagbearer, Fox Primus
Early game: Savior Monk, Safe Attacking
Balanced: Aged Sensei, Smoker, Grappling Hook, Sensei’s Advice
Late game: Snapback
Common early workers: Fox Viper, Fox Primus, Morningstar Flagbearer
Matchup/Plan-dependent: Battle Suits, Temporal Research, Tinkerer, Time Spiral
Early game: Hardened Mox, Plasmodium, Forgotten Fighter, Neo Plexus
Balanced: Nullcraft, Fading Argonaut
Common early workers: Forgotten Fighter, Tinkerer/ Time Spiral (if not doing a time rune plan), Plasmodium/Hardened Mox (if not playing them first cycle)