Our second installment to the Introduction to Paragon series is about the card system. The card system in Paragon may seem incredibly daunting at first, especially since there is no strong overlap between MOBA’s and card games. It can feel like you’re learning to play a whole other game with unique deck construction. On the other side, Paragon’s card system might draw you into it, like myself, if you are fond of card games like myself.
Today I hope to dispel misconceptions about the card system and lend some insight into deck construction.
Before we start about the card system, let’s get some resources out of the way. Agora.gg is a great site with a deck builder that will help you plan out builds for your favorite heroes. The Paragon Wiki page on cards is a good resource to find information about the individual cards as well.
The Paragon Card System Replaces the Item Shop
As opposed to the traditional item shop, Paragon allows you to spend your in game resources in an item shop you design yourself. As you complete objectives, clear minions, and kill players you will be rewarded Card Points that can be used to purchase Cards in your Deck. This Deck, or item shop, is designed by the player utilizing Cards they have collected as match rewards. Decks consist of 40 cards, but we’ll talk about that more in Deck Construction.
The obvious implication of this is that it lends players creativity and another level of customization into their game. The less obvious design choice is that it removes the burden of knowledge that is so troublesome to other MOBA’s. You do not have an entire item shop to memorize before you enter a match. You create the item shop beforehand, so you know it well and can make better decisions on the fly.
There are Currently Three Types of Cards
There are two distinct types of cards to begin with, Equipment and Upgrades.
Just like items in other MOBA’s, Equipment Cards are enhancements you can purchase with Card Points and equip to your hero. There are two types of Equipment cards, Active and Passive. The passive equipment cards just provide stats to yourself or your teammates nearby. Active Equipment usually have less stats but a powerful active ability to go alongside it.
Upgrade Cards are buffs that you can link into your Equipment Cards to make them more powerful and more suitable for the situation you are in. You can only link an Upgrade to an Equipment that has the same base stats. For example, you can link an Attack Damage Upgrade to an Attack Damage based Equipment, but not an only Attack Speed based Equipment.
As we see above Blood Catalyst is an Active Equipment, Madstone Gem is a Passive Equipment, and Major Strike is an Upgrade that can be linked to Equipment.
All Upgrades have Linear Scaling!
When you are deciding to upgrade equipment, you do not get any additional value for spending more for an upgrade. In other words, a 3 point upgrade is worth the same amount of stats as 3 one point upgrades. You might be asking under what circumstances would you choose to buy a lesser upgrade over a bigger upgrade. Well, as you can see from the equipment above, there are Fully Upgraded Bonuses on the cards. Depending on the card, it might be worth using lesser upgrades to get the Fully Upgraded bonus early. This would give you an advantage in the early game.
When we discuss cards, we’re going to be using a “point” system to denote stats on a card. This system is what the Dev’s use on patch notes, so it is worth knowing what they mean by “1 point of Attack Speed”.
There is No True Sell Penalty
Unlike other MOBA’s, when you don’t like an item you’ve picked up and need to sell it back to the shop, you get a FULL REFUND on the cost of the card including upgrades. If I bought a 3 cost Equipment and decide it does not counter the enemy team like I’d hoped, I can sell it back and get my 3 Card Points back. Paragon rewards experimenting with Equipment. The only penalty is that Equipment and all linked Upgrades are discarded. You cannot buy them again for the rest of the game.
This opens some very interesting possibilities in deck building. We just talked about how, depending on the card, it might be worth using lesser upgrades to get the Fully Upgraded bonus early. It may be a smart choice to buy an Equipment, get 1-2 point Upgrades to excel early-midgame, and sell it back late game to buy the same Equipment with the best Upgrades.
Not All Affinities are Created Equal
Affinites are to Paragon what colors are to Magic: the Gathering. There are five Affinities in the game: Order, Intelligence, Corruption, Fury, and Growth. Each hero in-game is aligned to a certain affinity and can only use cards of those Affinities in their decks. Currently, all heroes are aligned to either one or two Affinities. Let’s look at each Affinity a little closer and what makes them unique. I’m going to be referring to some key concepts I outlined in “Hates Cards are Healthy for Paragon“.
Order is unique in having 3 cost Equipment with 3 points of stats of three different types and a Fully Upgraded bonus worth 1 point of stats. Order gets the biggest bang for their buck immediately buying an item, but trades it off for a lesser upgrade later. This may lead to a small advantage in lane.
Intelligence has plenty of high cost (5-8 cost) Equipment that have varied unique active abilities. While Intelligence does not get an early advantages like other Affinities, they have the most diverse set of tools in the late game.
Corruption is the Affinity of Lifesteal effects and Debuffs. Most of corruptions cards have lower base stats, but make up for them with powerful actives if you fulfill their criteria. Equipment in this Affinity play around with Debuffs, empowering you when you’re poisoned and poisoning your enemies.
Our is the fury growing strong. Fury is unique in having 2 cost equipment that provide 3 points of stats when fully upgraded. That falls right below the curve of 3 cost equipment that provide 4 points of stats, allowing Fury to have a strong early game advantage. With the addition of the 1 cost “potion” Equipment, Fury gets two and it shows how much they love short-term gains.
Where Fury wants the early game advantage, Growth is happy to wait for the late game. Growth is the only Affinity to have access to 4 cost Equipment that provide 5 points of stats when fully upgraded. This means at max Card Points and full build, Growth characters will have more raw stats than other heroes. The question is if you can get to that part of the game.
Tips for Deck Construction
You earn Card Points in intervals of 3. Plan accordingly as you will always have 3, 6, 9, 12, etc. Card Points. There are great 1 cost Equipment like the “token” series to help fill out your curve when buying items. Add them if you plan to min/max like I will.
The maximum number of Card Points earned in a game is 60. A full build in Paragon will consist of Equipment and Upgrades adding up to 60, no more. I would plan out what your ideal build is with a hero while constructing your deck. These are your “must have” cards and then you know how much wiggle room you have.
Figure out what your “core” Equipment are. For example, Wellspring Staff (provides Mana and Ability Power) is an Equipment I consider core to a mage’s build. I recommend placing two of these equipment in your deck. While games can last to 60 Card Points, most do not. Sometimes it is not worth fully upgrading your Equipment with 3 point Upgrades and you will use 2 point Upgrades to help you win the game faster. During the late game, you can sell this equipment and fully upgrade it with the best Upgrades.
Niche cards are great once you figure out how much wiggle room you have in your deck. Adding cards that will give you a beneficial effect while Burning is great against Iggy & Scorch but useless against Killari. Having different decks with different “hate” cards is a great idea. You never know what you’re going to face.
At 7 cost, Portal Stone seems like a steep investment for such a long cooldown ability. If you have 1 card slot available in a deck I would recommend adding this one in. You’ll thank yourself for adding it in later. There are times when a teleport into the enemy base will result in a team win.