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PVDDR on Positioning

Paulo teaches you all about positioning in his debut article!

Hello everyone! My name is Paulo Vitor and I’m a 34 year-old gamer from Brazil. I’ve been a professional Magic: the Gathering player for many years, and I’ve been a fan of autobattlers since they became mainstream - I played a little Underlords, some HS Battlegrounds and a lot of Teamfight Tactics. I’m also a diehard fan of Disney and fairy tales in general, so when Storybook Brawl came out it was no surprise that I was attracted to it. Since then, it’s become my autobattler of choice.

Other than playing games, one of my passions is writing about them. I’ve written over 700 articles on Magic: the Gathering, and I’ve also written articles about other games like Hearthstone and Elder Scrolls: Legends. I like writing, and I feel like it forces me to truly understand certain concepts so I can explain them in simple terms.

Up to this point, I didn’t really feel like I understood the Storybook Brawl concepts enough to write about them, but right now I feel like I know enough that I can add some value to most players. I’m still not one of the best players, but I am reasonable; I have over 200 hours played, and I’m currently sitting at a 4500 rating, which puts me around 100th in the world. I still have a lot to learn and there are some players who are much better and more consistent than me, but hopefully the knowledge that I do have can kickstart you in your journey to become a better Storybook Brawl player.

With that said, let’s start on our first general article - an article on Positioning.


One of the most interesting aspects of Storybook Brawl is positioning. It’s one spot that can be quite complex, but the complexity isn’t paralyzing - in fact, you will probably not even notice the complexity a lot of the time if you are not looking for it. So, if you are an inexperienced gamer or if you just want to relax, it’s not going to get in the way of anything, but if you are trying to min/max as much as possible as a hardcore gamer, it will give you an opportunity to outplay your opponents and express your skill. Basically, you can go as deep on it as you want - learning just the basics will be a tremendous help, and once you feel like you’ve mastered that, you can go over the intricacies of it.

This article will start with the basics and then will talk about some more advanced concepts, but the focus of it will be blind positioning - that is, how you want to position your characters to have the best board you generically can. Once you’re late in the game and already have a good idea of what your opponent’s board will look like when you play them, you can make radical position changes to target that opponent, but that will be outside the scope of this article.

When people talk about positioning in Storyboook Brawl, they usually number the characters from left to right, top to bottom. I’ll be using these numbers in the article as well.

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Characters in this game attack in the numbered order, but they will attack a random target in the front line (and a random target in the backline if there’s nobody in the front line). So, for example, your 1 character will always be the first character to attack, but it’s going to attack your opponent’s 1, 2, 3 or 4 character at random.

Knowing this, we can establish some quick, general heuristics:

  1. The more on the left a character is, the more likely it is to attack. Consider, for simplicity sake, a board of only 2/2 characters for you and your opponent. Slot 1 will always attack if you go first, and it will attack 3/4ths of the time if your opponent goes first (1/4th of the time it will be killed before it attacks). So it will attack 7/8ths of the time, or 87.5% of the time. A character in Slot 2, however, will only attack 58% of the time. The math will get more complicated if your Slot 1 character can survive attacking or if another character can survive being attacked, but it’s enough to know that Slot 1 attacks a lot more than Slot 2.

Because of this, and because it’s the easiest slot to pump, slot 1 is the default slot for characters that need to slay once (such as Polywoggle, or Kitty Cutpurse), as well as for ranged characters in the beginning of the game.

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Consider, for example, this game from Amaz at the Seasonal Championship.

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In this spot, Amaz has a Sherwood Sureshot and a Cinderella. To know how to place these characters, you should ask yourself if they are characters that would rather attack, that would rather be attacked, or if they don’t particularly care - once you do that, you can establish sort of a hierarchy in your mind, where the ones that want to attack the most should be as much as possible on the left.

In this scenario, the Sherwood is clearly a character that wants to attack (since it doesn’t take any damage when it’s attacking), whereas the Cinderella is the same character whether it attacks or is attacked, so it doesn’t care. In this case, the Sherwood should go to the left, in slot 1

Because of this placement, Amaz won the fight (the Sherwood attacked the Fanny, which then attacked the Cinderella, and then the Sherwood finished off the opposing Cinderella), and it’s easy to see that, had the positioning being reversed, Amaz would have lost the fight instead (the Cinderella would have hit the Fanny who would then kill the Sherwood).

  1. A character in 1 is very likely to attack, but it’s unlikely to attack a second time, because it’s exposed to attacks and you’d have to cycle through your entire board before it dies for it to get a second chance. If you have a character that you want to attack several times, then slot 5 is the best for that character. Usually big ranged characters go here, but occasionally you might have a character that you’re hoping slays multiple times (such as Feasting Dragon) that you can put in slot 5.

For example, let’s look at this board from Gregbot from the February monthly:

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In this spot, putting the big ranged character on 5 is very likely to lead to multiple attacks, especially because the frontline is beefy enough to absorb a lot of the damage.

There are some instances where you might want to put a character that needs to Slay once (such as a Polywoggle) in slot 5 instead of slot 1. If your pump effect pumps the backline (such as The White Stag or Sword of Fire and Ice), then this is where you’d put them, but also if your Slay character is small enough that it has no chance to Slay anything unless it’s been damaged. For example, if it’s late in the game, a 1/1 Polywoggle will never slay anything if it attacks first, but it could, theoretically, slay something that survived a previous fight with your other characters, so slot 5 is likely the best slot for it.

  1. The slot that is least likely to attack and most likely to be attacked is slot 4, since several of your opponent’s characters have a chance to attack it before it attacks. This is the most common slot for Rotten Appletree, for example, or for a small Royal when you have Court Wizard, but it can also apply to any character that can absorb a lot of damage while not having a lot of power. In fact, I went through several vods and could not find a person who placed their Appletree in any slot other than 4, though it can be right sometimes.
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  1. A character that should die before other characters should be placed in the top row as far to the left as possible - for example Good Boy, Monster Book or Juliet. You could also go through several vods without finding a person with a Good Boy in any slot other than 1. With Monster Book this is especially relevant if you have Wizard’s Familiar (since you want to pump the Familiar before it dies by casting a spell), but even if you don’t have them, you’d rather have a full board if you hit a pump spell from the Monster Book, and it has the chance to snipe opposing backline characters with a spell, so you’d rather it die first.
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  1. A character that is not Ranged and should survive for a long time (or for the entire combat) should be in the back row, as far to the right as possible, in slot 7. This is the prime spot for Queen of Hearts, Prized Pig, Bearded Vulture and Great Pumpkin King. This is because you’d rather every other character in your board die before that one has the chance to get in combat.
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  1. In the early game, I’ve found that it usually pays off to put your strongest characters first. This is because other people are also doing that (either because it’s usual or because supports are the best ways to have a strong character to begin with), and you want to avoid a scenario where you end up wasting your attacks.

Consider, for example, a scenario in which you have a 4/4 and a 2/2, and your opponent has two 3/3s. If you put your 2/2 first, it will attack a 3/3 (turning it into a 3/1) and that will then attack your 4/4, which means the 2 damage that you dealt ended up being completely irrelevant. If the positions were reversed, the 4/4 would have killed both 3/3s and the 2/2 would have remained untouched, winning you the fight.

Obviously there are scenarios in which this hurts you (if your opponent has a 4/2, for example), but I’ve found that, as long as your character can survive one attack from an unbuffed large character (say a Labyrinth Minotaur or a Tiny), it’s better to put it in front.

  1. Characters that can kill your opponent’s supports should try to attack first. Killing a support can be incredibly disruptive, and you’d like to do that as soon as possible. Sometimes, you will also snipe their scaling character (such as Queen of Hearts) before it can grow out of range of your attacks. This includes characters like Baby Dragon and Doombreath, but also characters that have the chance to kill backline cards, like Monster Book and Wretched Mummy.
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Now, let’s move onto how some individual characters and strategies can affect your positioning.

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Some characters require two characters behind them to gain full effectiveness - The White Stag is the most common, but Copycat is another example. In these cases, you’re usually left with a choice - you can either put them in slot 1, where they will be the most likely to attack but will be less effective, or slot 2, where they are less likely to attack but will be the most powerful if they do attack. This is going to depend on a lot of things (for example whether you think two buffs are needed to win the fight or whether you think just one is going to be enough), but there are some tricks you can do to make sure you get the best of both worlds.

The most common thing to do is that, if you have less than seven characters, you can leave your first slot blank. This won’t give you the same exact percentage as being in slot 1 (since there’s now one less character that can be attacked if they go first), but it’ll still be better than placing it in slot 2 with something else in slot 1. Alternatively, you can have a zero attack character in slot 1, which would actually give you the same odds of placing it in slot 1 then.

Let’s take, for example, this board from the Ssilver at the T8 of the seasonal championship:

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Here, he leaves Slot 1 empty and places the Stag in slot 2, guaranteeing that it’s more likely to attack than if position 1 was filled.

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One turn later, he actually holds a Chicken in hand to make sure his slot 1 can be empty, to maximize the chance the Stag buff goes off on two characters.

There is a counterpoint to this though, and it’s that, if you have a character that summons something else on death (such as Black Cat), you should not put it in slot 1 if you want your slot 2 to attack, because the replacement Cat will have priority over it and you’ll have to wait yet another round to attack with your Stag.

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If you are Royals, there are two things to pay attention to. The first is that Juliet must die before Romeo. This usually means putting Juliet in the front line and Romeo in the back line, but you can do a little bit better than that and put Juliet as far to the left as you can. This way, she can die early in the fight, which means if Romeo somehow dies in the middle of the fight (such as a Doombreath attack) she will have been dead already.

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The second thing to pay attention to is Court Wizard, which really wants your Royals to be attacked rather than dying by attacking themselves into big characters. This means you want your attacking royals to survive as much as possible, which means putting your healthiest characters on the left and your most frail characters on the right, where they are most likely to die before attacking, rather than when attacking.

For example, check out this Royals placement from the latest Monthly tournament (unfortunately I don’t know who this player is since their name didn’t show for some reason):

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This is perfect placement, and illustrates both points that I mentioned. The Juliet is as far on the left as possible, so she can die as soon as possible, and the royals in the front line are placed in order of health, as to maximize the number of Court Wizard bonus attacks. Then, the Ranged characters in the back are placed on the left, to make sure they attack as much as possible with their regular attacks, and Romeo is on the right where it’s most likely to be attacked before attacking.

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Labyrinth Minotaur is a character that usually wants to be after the characters it’s pumping (and the same is true for things like Rainbow Unicorn). By the time the Minotaur dies, ideally every other Evil character in your comp (with some exceptions, like Queen of Hearts) has already died as well, so it should usually be put in the backline and as to the right as possible.

This is something that might have trade-offs, but that you should consider doing anyway. The most common scenario that appears early game is alongside Mad Mim, and if you find yourself in this crossroads, then it’s important to know which stats matter and which don’t. If you have a Mim and a Labyrinth Minotaur, you gain the most total stats by putting the Mim in the back and the Minotaur in the front - even if the minotaur dies, you’re getting an 8/1 and a 0/3. In the early game, however, there’s almost no difference between an 8/1 and a 5/1 (unless you suspect your opponent to have bought Egg), but there’s a real difference between a 0/3 and a 1/3, so it’s often better to put the Mim before the Minotaur, even though it results in less total stats. For example, check out this placement from NuclearGoo at the last monthly:

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Friendly Spirit wants to be as big as possible, since buffs on it are effectively doubled, so your supports and Treasures are going to dictate its positioning a lot of the time, but assuming all else is equal or relatively flexible, you should try to position the Spirit so that it dies after the characters it doesn’t want to pump and before the characters it does want to pump. For example, see this placement by Ssilver in the t8 of the Spring Championship:

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Here, the Books are ahead of the Friendly Spirit, because Ssilver wants the books to die first (and they might cast spells that pump the Spirit). If combat goes “in the right order”, then the Friendly Spirit will be able to pump a very valuable character. Had the Spirit been in front, it would have had a higher likelihood of pumping Monster Book, which would be much worse than pumping Wretched Mummy or Lady of the Lake.

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One thing that people often don’t think about is damage to the opponent. When you win a fight, the opponent takes damage equal to your level plus one for each remaining character plus three for each upgraded character. This means that, if all other things are equal, you want the upgraded characters to survive the fight, so your opponents take more damage. You’re almost never going to risk losing the fight for this, since the benefit is relatively small, but if it’s free, you should pay attention to it.

For example, imagine a scenario where you have an upgraded Blind Mouse (so a 4/4) and also a 4/4 Wizard’s Familiar, with no way to cast a spell in combat. In this spot, you should place the Wizard’s Familiar ahead of the Blind Mouse (either one row up or to the left of it), because if only one of them is going to survive, you’d rather it be the upgraded one.


Positioning to protect against your opponent

This article so far has been focused on positioning that’s actively good for you, but there’s also some positioning you can and should do to defend yourself from the most common threats. I would say the most common threats that are relatively easy to play against are:

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If the opponents have Baby Dragons, you don’t want to give them free reign. Obviously you’re never going to know if they have them or not early on, but it often doesn’t cost to play around it and put a 2/2 in the back, for example, instead of a 3/3 or a 1/1. This way, if they do have a Baby Dragon, it’ll at least be a trade. If you have supports, you might also consider placing 2/2s in the back rather than in front just to give your opponent’s Dragon an extra target.

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Positioning against Doombreath is also an important thing, and it’s important to do it before you’ve seen the Doombreath - otherwise it’s too late. Let’s take, for example, this Ssilver board from the t8 of the Spring Championship:

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Here Ssilver would like to have his Raged characters in 5 and 6, but the danger of having them both die to either a Doombreath attack or a combination of spells (Fireball + Falling Stars, for example) is greater than the desire to have the Ranged character attack first. These Court Wizards are imperative to his game-plan, and protecting them takes priority over everything.

Fireball is similar - you want to separate your important characters with four or less health if possible - except it comes up even earlier in the game most of the time.

Once he finds a Soltak Ancient, we see him move the Wizards back to their “rightful” slots.

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Finally, there’s Earthquake, which is a spell that catches a lot of people off-guard. The best way to play around it is usually to make sure your two-health characters aren’t in the front line. So, similarly to Baby Dragon, if you have a 2/2 and a 3/3 you usually want the 3/3 in the front and the 2/2 in the back.

That’s what I have for you today! Keep in mind that basically every scenario described here is a general heuristic, but there can be reasons to deviate from them depending on what the board looks like, which treasures you have, what your opponent is playing, and so on. Hopefully this article helped you get to a spot where the more trivial positioning decisions can become second nature to you, while offering enough guidelines on the thought process behind the decision that, once you’re faced with a hard positioning decision, you will at least have a better idea of what has to be considered.

If you have any questions, comments or feedback, feel free to reach out either on twitter @PVDDR or on the StorybookBrawl discord (where I’m also PVDDR).

Cheers,

-PV