Cave Goblins (Instinct / Cunning) are an "aggro deck", playing very aggressively. Their goal is to swarm the opponent with lots of units to create multiple contact points. They benefit from this thanks to events and units that grant extra attacks and boost their attacks for surrounding the opponent.
Cave Goblins' deck is composed of:
A) Lots of cheap, high mobility units that help to create multiple contact points.
B) Units and events that reward Sneeks for creating such scenarios.
C) Cards that give the army some permanence on the battlefield.
Cave Goblins may be Instinct and one may feel like they need to just summon stuff and send it forward, however they require a lot of finesse for proper play, the Cunning part requiring careful management.
Cave Goblins need to balance putting and keeping a lot of pressure on with not overexposing their units so much that the opponent can kill them faster than they can replace them. Otherwise it is game over for the Cave Goblins.
It’s okay to slow down in some scenarios to not allow the Cave Goblin units to easily be killed. The goal of the horde is really to reach a critical mass of units, but every turn they are not putting pressure on is a turn where the game is slipping away from them.
Balancing both goals; pressure and survival, is indeed no easy task.
To summarize, Cave Goblins need to really swarm the board, as they need lots of units to work, and wise opponents will try to kill them as fast as possible.
To achieve these goals, Cave Goblins need to draw lots of cards very fast, which means using the cards in hand. For most of the game they need to play their cards, you have at most 1 spot in your hand to save cards. Only save 2 in very special occasions and the late game. But try to push for that four to five card draw every turn.
If necessary play their commons wherever. Even if they are not doing anything the turn played, it is better most of the time to just play them rather than saving them or discarding them, as Cave Goblins don’t have much use for magic.
Once you have a lot of units, Pile On, but especially Enrage The Horde will get a lot of value and Relentless units will become so much more relevant and Sneak can overwhelm the opponent with its added mobility.
Cave Goblins don't support Sneeks, rather Sneeks supports the Cave Goblins. He does so in 4 main ways. (There are other uses of course).
1) Take the shots for the team: Reaching critical mass of the horde is very important and often, early game, it is preferable to expose Sneeks instead of a Slinger or even a Clinger. Sly in to take the shot. It’s okay if it means taking a hit on Sneeks, and it may even be fine to take multiple ones.
Sneeks should lead the charge most of the time in the early game, until he is too wounded, when he can then easily hide and wait in the shadows for the final strike.
2) Provide a gate in the front lines: A common early game play with Sneeks, when the opponent doesn’t have enough firepower, is to get a cheap common unit into enemy territory and then Sly. Next turn, move Sneeks and place a gate in the middle of enemy territory, this tactic is very powerful for Cave Goblins, however it requires saving a hand slot for a gate or hoping to draw the gate in the next turn.
3) Create a virtual, extra contact point: Sneeks' opponents will try to reduce the contact points with the Cave Goblins to minimize the effect of their events. Sneeks, in dire situations can virtually create one extra contact point by Slying in and out, thus creating 2 attack opportunities from the same space.
4) Assassin: A Climber or Clinger that gets in the proper spot can be switched for Sneeks who can put a lot of pressure on the opponent, if not outright kill them.
Sneeks' Epic Event and the main reason Cave Goblins want to have a lot of units on the board. Unlike its Summoner Wars 1st Edition counterpart, it doesn’t give 0 cost units a double attack, but is in fact much better! It allows every one of them to attack again, whether they attacked or not! NEVER discard this event! It’s just too powerful. Worst case scenario, if you need hand space, just getting two extra attacks out of it is worth it, but often you can get a lot more, the sky's the limit.
Sneeks' success often hinges on a great Enrage the Horde play.
Talking about Enrage The Horde without Pile On, is like something is missing. If Sneeks can pull a great Enrage The Horde + Pile On combo turn, it’s often game over. However, that is not an easy task. Don’t be that greedy trying to set up that dream turn, as often Pile On on its own is just what you need to deliver a reasonable punch. It’s a cheap event, so generally just getting 2 or 3 extra strength out of it is enough value. Don’t slow down Cave Goblins' card drawing, holding this card overly long in the hope of that dream turn that meanwhile a smart opponent will do everything they can to stop from happening anyway.
Slingers are essential to the deck. They are so essential that you should never discard them for magic, just summon them SOMEWHERE, you want all four Slingers played from deck, each and every game.
Their extra attacks allow Cave Goblins to generate more damage per turn than their opponents on a consistent basis.
However, using them is not easy. They are very easy to kill at 1 life and many decks have tricks to kill them without ever attacking (like direct damage).
How to use Slingers properly and keep them alive is one of the main skills to master when playing as Cave Goblins.
Keep them at range most of the time, Sly them away and even have them attack non-optimal targets rather than expose them early to a quick death. A Slinger slowly chipping away at an enemy gate can be of great value.
Beast Riders really lead the charge. They are actually not the best at any role in the Cave Goblins and not being 0 cost units make them not the most synergistic with the deck.
However they are all-rounders, high reach, high damage, decent life, and are the main way of Cave Goblins to make use of magic, and because of that you should try to summon at least 3 of them every game.
They make your gates scary, even those that are far from the action, and they provide quick support to the army with a big come-into-play effect.
They also like to bring Clingers with them.
Clinger stats are good for 0 cost, but they don’t hit particularly hard nor are they particularly tough to kill. Where they shine is to help with a Cave Goblin weakness: Cave Goblins require a lot of mobilility and the game only gives you 3 movements per turn. Clingers don’t need a movement action to reach places and they can reach places where it would be often not possible to in a standard move action.
Horde Clingers cheat the system in many ways, however, often it is hard to put the Clinger in a place that is really useful and generally in those situations it is a great time to Sly in Sneeks for a Clinger, so that next turn Sneeks can hit and then Sly away.
Clingers are the reason Cave Goblins should be very mindful of gate placement, as proper gate placement is necessary so that newly summoned Cave Goblin units can have a Clinger clung to them.
However, if those tricks are not enough, Cave Goblins have another way to help Clingers ...
Sneak can move Clingers, or any of your many 0-cost units to that useful place.
Cave Goblins can have trouble moving the horde, with so many units on-board and only 3 movement actions and Sneak helps with that.
This event is what also makes it okay to just drop a lot of Cave Goblins in random places. Sneak can suddenly place those units where you need.
It's very important to note Sneak is a Move Phase event, which means it can be used at any point during that phase, before or after any unit moves, so the possibilities are endless. It’s not the most powerful effect, but it really helps Cave Goblins to position their many units.
Providing cheap health and mobility, Climbers are the last piece of the common puzzle for Cave Goblins. Don’t be afraid to swarm your opponent with Climbers and send them through the enemy forces, where they will cause chaos. They may seem inoffensive with their 1 attack strength, but their threat can be very high.
They are gate blockers, they can bring along Clingers or let Sneeks himself Sly in, and with the help of Pile On and/or Enrage the Horde, the damage output can quickly get out of control.
For your opponent, having to deal with 3 health to get rid of a 0 cost unit instead of other targets is going to be a painful decision.
The Eater is not essential every game like most other Cave Goblins cards, The Eater is not another cog in the machine.
The Eater is the insurance, when every other plan fails, a 5/9 body can be a winning plan on its own. The Eater's high life and damage for its decent cost can be extremely hard to deal with and it doesn’t really need much support, except for a snack or two. It can be used to kill commons, safely ignoring its ability for the most part, or used to attack champions, and just feed a Clinger or Climber if it fails to kill its target. Its real weakness is that it can be toyed around with, exploiting its need to have destroyed a unit on its turn, though this can be hard to do while having to simultaneously deal with the rest of the Cave Goblins.
So that is the Cave Goblins, a very aggressive and "swarm-y" faction that actually requires a lot of finesse, position and "tricky play" to be successful. They may be very fun for a beginner, but they really require a lot of smart play to shine and show their best.
At their worst they feel like you can’t get anything going, and just a disconnected bunch of weak units dying before accomplishing anything. But when played optimally, they really can feel unstoppable, quickly overwhelming the opponent by doing 3 times what your enemy is doing.
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