I'm closing in on that 20,000 personal battles milestone pretty quickly! While I don't feel like it makes me an expert (the more I play the less I know), I figure I have some pretty useful strategy advice to give, especially to new players. I've still been plugging away at the Ruleset Strategy Series whenever I get a chance from my personal blog, but today I've decided to take a break from that and do a quick stand-alone on one of my strongest types of Splinterlands battles: The 99 Mana Battle.
These battles are a chance to go completely bonkers, trying combinations you would never attempt under normal circumstances. Most of the time in a 99 mana battle, I go above 50 on my team's total mana count. It's absolutely possible to win them with less mana than that, but honestly, your favorite low mana cards will probably do you no good in these situations.
Maximize your Space
While the mana cap can change drastically from one battle to the next, the number of cards that fit on your team never deviates from 6. I know, this is an obvious statement, but I still often see monsters on my enemies' teams with mana costs of 3 and 4. Think about it this way: High mana Monsters are designed to take a large mana commitment, but every card takes up the same amount of space on your team.
You can forget the Chicken this time. I can easily make a 19 mana team that works together beautifully, even in a 99 mana cap battle... But if I do that, I'm going to lose 100% of the time. I recommend *never going below a 5 mana Monster in one of these battles, and if you do use one, make sure you only use one. You absolutely can't afford to waste 2 of your 6 spaces on only 10 mana in this situation.
Every one of us has some Monsters that come with a high mana cost, and not all of them are valuable Legendaries. Look closely at the abilities and stats of these cards and you'll quickly understand why their mana costs are so much higher. They carry greater weight in battle. At a glance, it may seem like the max Sabre Shark will do just fine for a 99 mana battle with a Sneak attack of 4 and 5 Health. But as you look closer you'll see the reasons for its low mana cost. There is no Armor, there is no Piercing, and there is not much to protect the shark from Sneakers and Opportunists who may be quicker. In a 99 mana battle, I would probably reach for the Sandworm instead of the Sabre Shark. With its mana cost of 9, it's a much stronger Sneak attacker. Plus the Sandworm has the Range debuff, Headwinds and even Piercing at the max level. Basically, when mana is not a concern, you cannot go wrong with the Sandworm as a Sneaker, even at lower levels.
Do Everything Normal, Only More
Basically, play the game you already know. If you can figure out how to effectively use a greater total mana count than your opponent, you'll almost always win in 99 mana battles. If you usually would put a heavily armored healer in the back, use an even more heavily armored healer with Thorns in the back. Instead of simply making sure that your tank is protected with Armor, fill your entire lineup with armored Monsters.
Use as many whole team boosts and debuffs as you can. Remember that your opponent will be calling on their heaviest hitters, just like you are, so if you can reduce their attack power, your team will have plenty of time to massacre them. I like to make sure that in every 99 mana battle I use at least one example of each whole team debuff: Demoralize, Silence and Headwinds. This combination reduces all attack power by one. It also comes in extra handy against Blast attacks, which you'll see quite commonly in 99 mana battles.
If you have Legendary Summoners, 99 mana battles are their time to shine. Oftentimes the 7 mana needed to use a powerful Legendary Summoner is simply not worth it, but there's no need to ever question the decision in a 99 mana battle. I like to use Summoners that start me off with some great buffs and debuffs, especially Mimosa Nightshade and Lir Deepswimmer, my two favorites of the Untamed Legendary Summoners. You can still win with regular 1 buff Summoners, but you absolutely must make sure that their buff is being used as much as possible. This means that if you're using Alric Stormbringer, you better be using 3-4 Magic attackers, and if you're using Contessa L'ament, you better be sure that your enemy is going heavy on the Range.
How Big Can You Go?
A little side game that I play with myself in these battles is go for the biggest mana. Of course, I could just blindly choose the cards with the highest mana cost and end up above 60 every time. But I'm always bound by strategy because I am here to win. The big mana game has never really steered me wrong, and I have come to completely expect to crush my opponent in almost every 99 mana battle I encounter.
How common are 99 mana battles? That's a good question. In my experience, they are slightly more common than a specific ruleset. There are more than 30 different rulesets. Currently out of my 20 most recent battles, 1 of them was a 99 mana battle, or 5%. But several others had mana caps in the mid 40s, which allow me to use most of the same high mana cards. As far as I know, there are no mana caps above 50. I've seen 48 (I think) but anything above that is simply taken to the extreme of 99.
Build your Collection Accordingly
My point is that high mana battles are common enough to have certain cards in your collection that are only used in those situations. You should absolutely pick up the cards with the highest mana costs, because as I said before, their mana costs are always high for a reason. Below is a list of my favorite high-mana Monsters and the situations in which they really excel.
The Kraken - Melee Mayhem, Up Close and Personal
Robo Dragon Knight - Daria Dragonscale
Goblin Mech - Melee Mayhem, Super Sneak, Equal Opportunity
Dark Ha'on - Equal Opportunity (Taunt), Earthquake
High Priest Darius - Delwyn Dragonscale, Reverse Speed, Equal Opportunity, Target Practice
Magnor - Stampede, Melee Mayhem
Phantom of the Abyss - Alric Stormbringer, Explosive Weaponry
Molten Ogre - Melee Mayhem, Super Sneak, Up Close and Personal
The Vigilator - Explosive Weaponry, Daria Dragonscale, Melee Mayhem (4 attacks)
Torhilo the Frozen - Melee Mayhem, Lir Deepswimmer
Sandworm - Standard, Odd Ones Out, Up Close and Personal
Silvershield Sheriff - Armored Up, Explosive Weaponry, Chanseus the Great
Phantom Soldier - Earthquake, Explosive Weaponry, Even Stevens
Naga Fire Wizard - Super Sneak (rear), Yodin Zaku (Magic Blast)
Sea Monster - Melee Mayhem (rear Thorns and Healing), Equal Opportunity
Prismatic Energy - Explosive Weaponry, Even Stevens, Broken Arrows
Ettin Spearman - Pair with Chain Golem, Target Practice, Aim True, Reverse Speed
Octopider - Melee Mayhem (Demoralize and Blind)
Bila the Radiant - Equalizer (Life Leech), Explosive Weaponry, Equal Opportunity
Lightning Dragon - Heavy Hitters, Target Practice
Sacred Unicorn - Stampede, Daria Dragonscale, Chanseus the Great
Remember, there is no card that will only be good in a 99 mana battle. Every one of the above cards gets used plenty of times in regular mana caps. I even use them fairly often in twenty-something mana caps or lower. That's part of the beauty of Splinterlands. Crafting a team is an art form to which there is hardly ever a correct answer. Your process can grow over time and new strategies can be tried out endlessly.
If you have any great pieces of advice to add about 99 mana cap battles, please share in the comments below. My goal with these strategy guides is not so much to tell you how to win, but to show you how to think. And with this game, the more you think, plan and strategize, the better off you'll be. And more importantly, that's what makes Splinterlands so friggin' fun to play!
Thanks for reading this strategy guide, and until next time... see you on the battlefield!