Cloaks - The Advanced Guide

(Article written by rdebruys)

It's been almost a decade since the legendary Esper88 won the GenCon tourney with Vlox, and turned the old Plaid Hat Games forum on its head, with his masterpiece on First Edition Cloaks strategy, “Jack of All Trades, Master of None”.
And then, like all legends, he faded away among the ghosts of history.

The Cloaks have always had a special place in my heart, and it is an honor to be a part of that noble tradition. It was likewise an honor to test them. Although, they are a very different faction this time around.

In this piece, I'll be looking at some more in-depth strategies.


I am sharing with you an overarching strategy I have found early success with. Please don't consider it the definitive Cloaks strategy. It is not the only strategy that works. Strategies always tend to evolve over time.
Here it goes.

Rolling Thunderer!

Burn every Guild Sniper and The Admiral. Put everything else on the board.

You may notice that Vlox's champion suite is very cheap. They have one champion that costs zero magic, and another that costs just four. Their common set also isn't very costly.

I believe Rustside Bandits are the best 0-costers we've yet seen. You'll never use one that isn't leveraging Gang Up – meaning they tend to play more like a 3 life, 2 strength unit. Those are the same stats that a Tundra Fighter has, yet the Tundra Fighter costs twice as much (since 1 magic = 1 card ... sort of).

This means that Vlox is ... a swarming faction! Kind of.

As with any swarming faction, it's usually best to try and summon as many units as possible each turn. This also tends to be true with Vlox. By doing this, you are freeing up your hand to build combos around Smoke Bomb and Out Of Shadows. The Cloaks' extra movement and attack also helps make additional deployment more effective.

But there's one key difference from other swarmers like the Fallen Kingdom and Cave Goblins: Vlox isn't trying to crowd walls or pressure the enemy summoner. He is not such an aggressive swarmer.

Vlox wants to roll his units out methodically, gaining economy on the enemy, until the late stages of the game. Then once the enemy is gassed out, he can leverage the significant numerical advantage he has acquired.

Unless of course the enemy takes the fight to Vlox, and leaves themselves open for a big assassination turn. And of course, Vlox has an answer for that too.

But that's the idea – summon everything except Guild Snipers and The Admiral, gas them out from afar, and assassinate them if they try to close in.

Final Form Vlox

Take a Guild Machinist and hide it on your side of the board. If it’s your starting machinist, all the better. Then put a Hand Cannon and Moto Boots on it. Now Vlox has reached his Final Form.

You now have a Summoner with 8 strength. But there's a lot of other things Final Form Vlox can do:

Initially, this didn't seem to be an intuitively good use of 4-6 cards to me (1-3 magic and 3 cards) – but I've tried it, and I can assure you it works. Full credit to Kowloon for discovering this strategy and enlightening us all.

Although, it's probably why you need to burn The Admiral. A loaded Guild Machinist costs at least as much as a champion. So keep that Machinist's exposure extremely limited. Let Vlox get busy instead.

But Final Form Vlox is a big reason why Rolling Thunderer works. Anytime the enemy is focused on your summoner, you will gain an economic advantage.

Dagger and Friends

Dagger and Friends is the other main arm of Cloaks strategy. Dagger has five other targets she can swap places with, both to attack and to escape. Which is why you don't want to burn any of them for magic.

And you won't be using Final Form Vlox every turn. Often, it makes more sense to use Dagger's ability. Like for example, repositioning Vlox to use Smoke Bomb on a forward unit.

Backstab is non-essential. It usually comes out on Out Of Shadows turns. But Dagger can get plenty busy without it. With Sin-Sin, you can think of Dagger kind of like a 12 health champion.

Dagger is also a good target for Smoke Bomb. That is probably the best use of Smoke Bomb, ahead of saving Guild Gunners or your Final Form Machinist.

The Dagger / Bandit / Vlox combo sees frequent use. That's where you attack with Dagger, then swap her for a 0-coster, then attack with Vlox. Or, the other way around.

Try to avoid losing Sin-Sin, but don't be overly worried about it. The enemy can't really count on actually getting the magic from her, so they rarely plan for it. More often than not, you can just keep her safe after taking damage.

And keep her alive, if you can. You'd be surprised how often Sin-Sin comes in handy in the late stages of the game, when the weakened summoner (who has likely eaten an Out Of Shadows or Dagger attack) has turtled. Remember, with Dagger, either Vlox or Dagger can touch the endzone, then swap with Sin-Sin, who then warps to safety.

Note about The Admiral and Guild Snipers

Guild Sniper has a poor statline and a mediocre ability. The Admiral is a solid unit, but he’s expensive, and the extra attack is somewhat redundant with Guild Machinists. Even though I usually burn these cards, they are not completely useless and can occasionally find use. So be ready to burn them, just don't assume you must.

The Admiral tends to be effective against swarming factions, and Guild Snipers can be good when Vlox has been damaged. A Sniper with Hand Cannon isn't the worst thing I've seen, although Hand Cannon is always better with Final Form Vlox. Of course, you get two of them …

Plan your turns out ahead of time!

One of the most annoying things about the Ram-Shift Polar Dwarves combo is the tinkering you need to do to optimize your damage. Unfortunately, this is also true with Vlox. You will find yourself planning carefully and stringing together very complex turns.

But beware, if your Guild Machinist attacks in the movement phase, you can't take it back in the online game! Same goes with Dagger and Sly. This has tripped me up many times.

More so than with any other faction, you just need to plan your turns out carefully in your mind in advance. Just like the good old First Edition days.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

Using both Final Form Vlox and Dagger and Friends, while avoiding counter-attacks is the great game with Vlox.

Remember that:

In fact, other than The Admiral, every unit can help protect Vlox in some way.

So use them. You should always be aiming for zero or near-zero exposure with Vlox, until the final turn.

Doing this poorly will lead to demise. Doing it well will lead to victory.

If you're anything like I am, you're going to love playing Vlox, and you're going to win many games with him, even if you screw up the odd turn. He isn't the easiest summoner to use, but he is one of the strongest.

Encore - Deckbuilding

Vlox's base deck in SW1 was so weak, anything seemed better. Which was part of his charm, because more than any other summoner, Vlox could use Master of the Art to really change a deck's personality.

In SW2, you will be hard pressed to build a deck that is much better than the Cloaks’ base. For the most part, Vlox will remain optimal as long as he has Dagger and Friends and Final Form Vlox.

That said, Vlox currently draws from two factions, Cave Goblins and Polar Dwarves, which represent two main directions that deckbuilding Vlox can take: Assassination and Counter-Assassination. There is also a hybrid deck based around the boost mechanic.

Counter-Assassination (Polar Dwarves)

The most optimal deckbuild I have yet found swaps out The Admiral and Guild Snipers for Jarmund and Ice Golems, and Ice Repair comes in for Smoke Bomb. Jarmund is just such a beast of a champion, and Ice Golems compliment him well. Ice Golems are forward summoning points that combo with Guild Machinists to execute Out Of Shadows turns. In a lot of situations, Ice Golems are actually better than Machinists.

But the biggest value is Ice Repair, because Vlox can use it. An extra 4 health throughout the game makes Final Form Vlox even stronger.

Assassination (Cave Goblins)

Sub Guild Snipers for Clingers. A Guild Machinist can pick a Clinger up, drop him somewhere, and attack with him. Alternatively, you could use Climbers, which give some extra movement and support to Dagger and Friends.

Sub Sin-Sin and The Admiral for Blarf and Smeg. They help Dagger and Friends even more. On the one hand, Blarf has Sin-Sin's health, but has higher damage potential and is more expendable. And Smeg has one of The Admiral's abilities (which Vlox likes to copy from time to time).

All that said, the Assassination deck seems less optimal to me than the Counter-Assassination deck.

Hybrid (both factions)


This deck looks most like the optimal Counter-Assassination deck, but it adds more emphasis on the boost mechanic. Vlox can gain boost, either by copying Ice Smiths or Blarf (although expensive). That enables turns where Jarmund's power is used twice.

Vlox can also copy Blarf and get extra damage (as much as 8 strength if fully boosted). But because Final Form Vlox can already do this, and because Rustside Bandits are such great 0-costers, I still don't find this deck performing better than Counter-Assassination.

It is kind of cool though.

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