When I started playing Storybook Brawl, I made a bunch of mistakes. Some of those came from inexperience with the game, and some came from having bad habits from other games that I automatically applied to Storybook Brawl. As I got better and started playing in better lobbies and watching stronger players, I realized that some of these things I took for granted and did automatically were maybe not correct. Nowadays I still make plenty of mistakes, but they’re more the strategic kind rather than the autopilot kind.
In this article, I’ve selected five mistakes that I was making early on that I believe were directly hurting my win rate and that might be hurting yours as well.
Mistake #1: Tripling all my units as soon as possible
Tripling units is very appealing, but it’s not always the correct thing to do. Some units, in particular summon units, are actually better as two individual pieces. This is the case, for example, with Black Cat. Imagine a board of:
In this board, assuming the standard sequence of both your cats dying before your Mim does, you’re getting four 4/1s out of the deal. Now, what happens when you triple your Black Cat? You’re getting two 5/2s. This is a much worse board than you had before. Is it worth it for a level two treasure? Maybe, possibly if you’re Celestial Tiger, but in all likelihood, it just isn’t, and you’re better off just not tripling your cat, at least in the immediate future.
As a general rule, if the value of the unit is in the ability and the ability doesn’t scale proportionally, you will not be gaining extra value by tripling it. Cupid and Medusa are good examples - it’s usually much better to have two of them than a golden one, because the ability is what matters, and you’d rather have two shots at that.
Sometimes, the unit does scale proportionally, but in a way that doesn’t matter. In the early game, two Tinys are usually better than a Golden Tiny, for example. If everybody has a bunch of 2/2s or 3/3s, you’d rather have two 6/1s than a 12/2. So, even though the value has literally doubled, in practice it’s worth less than that. Sometimes, when it’s very late in the game and you have had Hat/Ball going for a while, you can end up with two 200+ attack Spell Weavers. In this spot, if you triple them, you end up with a 400+ attack Spell Weaver, which is likely going to kill the exact same things the 200+ attack Spell Weaver did while also dying to the exact same things. So, in practice, you’ve downgraded your board once you make that switch, and you should very often not triple them.
There is also one specific situation where you might not want to triple your characters that involves the treasure Ambrosia. I run into this a lot with Bearstein comps, where it’s common to put Bearstein in the last slot (to upgrade it with Ambrosia) and then have another Bearstein somewhere else. If you find a third Bearstein, it’s likely to downgrade your board (since you will end up with a Golden Bearstein + Golden something else as opposed to Golden Bearstein + Normal Bearstein, and Bearstain scales very well with other copies of itself). If it’s early in the game it will probably still be worth it, but if it’s the very last fight of the game, for example, you might not want to triple it at all as it will very likely make you weaker in the immediate future.
Finally, you need to be careful about tripling your late-game units “just because”. I’ve seen some people who triple their 2-costs later in the game (2-costs that are on the bench and they aren’t even playing), knowing they are very unlikely to want the 2-cost treasure, because that “costs 2 gold and then you just skip the treasure for 2 gold, so might as well”. It’s important to note that, in this scenario, you’re actually losing 1 gold by doing this, as you had two units you could sell and now it becomes one unit you can sell. So, if you’re 0% to pick a Level 2 Treasure in this spot, it’s better to not triple and just sell the other two units instead.
Mistake #2: Not paying attention to who I’m fighting
In Storybook Brawl, you always know the person you’re going to be fighting next. This can be very helpful even if you know nothing about them, because their hero is going to give you a clue about what their board might look like.
For example, imagine you’re Headless Horseman and you need to decide whether to cast a Kidnap on Turn 1. Your first buy is B-a-a-d Billy Gruff. How can you know if you’re going to be able to kill their character? Well, you can’t know for sure, but you might have a clue depending on who you’re playing against. If you’re playing against Charon, then it’s very likely that the answer is yes, because Charon will want to pick up a character that dies - no one is picking Charon and choosing Humpty Dumpty as their first unit. If you’re playing against Pied Piper, however, then that’s a lot more dangerous, because there are several 3/3 and even 3/4 animals that they could have bought on Turn 1, so you probably don’t even want to cast your Kidnap there, because there’s a high chance you just kill nothing.
If you’re playing against Pup, you might value ways to take out the backline higher than normal. You could, for example, buy a Baby Dragon that you otherwise wouldn’t buy, or slot it in Slot 1 when you otherwise wouldn’t. If you’re playing against a weak early-game hero, you might be more incentivized to field Slay units or scaling units, assuming you’re going to win the fight anyway, whereas versus a strong early-game hero you might not be able to afford doing that.
Later in the game, you will actually have a clue what other people’s boards are about, so you can adapt even more. Your opponent is playing a Slay comp that relies on their Baba-Yaga surviving? Maybe you should buy that Lightning Dragon just to play against them, or try to dig for that Lightning Bolt spell. They have a Doombreath that can kill your Bearstein? Maybe buy Soltak Ancient. They are a Trees comp where everything is huge? Buy Medusas and Rotten-Apple Tree and maybe you can cheese them.
One pairing you should pay special attention to is the Ghost. When you play against the Ghost, you should expect a much easier fight, which means you can put some of your scaling units in there, even if they’d normally be too weak for that point in the game. Prized Pig, for example, will almost always be on my board against a Ghost early on. Fighting the Ghost is also a prime opportunity to complete quests or trigger Polywoggle.
You have to be careful, though, because later in the game the Ghost can actually beat you. Early on you’re almost always going to beat the Ghost no matter what you do, but later on you could easily lose to the Ghost and even be eliminated by it. I’m guilty of thinking “oh it’s the Ghost, let me put Prized Pig, Riverwish Mermaid and Greedy in there”, only to fight a person with an actual board that hits me for 15 damage, eliminating me from the game. So, know that you can be greedier when fighting against the Ghost, but don’t assume that it’s always going to be a weak board, especially later on.
Mistake #3: I didn’t lock the shop enough
When I started watching better players play, one of the things I noticed was that the good players locked their shop way more than the less experienced ones. When I started, I rarely locked the shop at all, and gradually, as I got better, I did it more and more. I think this is for two reasons:
In some other games, locking the shop is really bad. In TFT, for example, which was the autobattler I played the most before Storybook Brawl, you do it much less frequently. This is mostly because gold stays between rounds, so there’s no point in rolling if you’re not going to buy the character immediately. In Storybook Brawl, you often roll with leftover gold, so this situation is much more common.
The allure of seeing a new shop is very powerful. You ever heard the expression “A Boat’s a boat, but a Mystery Box could be anything. It could even be a Boat!”? That’s how it feels to see a new shop. It could be anything! That’s definitely more exciting than seeing the same shop you did before.
The reality is that, a lot of the time, we’d just rather have the other shop, even if it’s less exciting. We don’t need to lock only for triples and very important characters, we can just lock for a character that would be a reasonable buy. Maybe it’s not the best buy ever, but you don’t need to buy the perfect character every turn to succeed at the game. In fact, I find it much more important to minimize the number of bad turns than to maximize the number of great turns. As the saying goes, “the perfect is the enemy of the good”. Locking for a good character will often be better than looking for the perfect one. Sometimes the good character is the perfect character, and we don’t lock looking for something that doesn’t even exist.
Ultimately, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been like “should I lock for this unit? Nah, let’s roll” and then had a feeling of intense relief when the same unit showed up in my shop next turn. At some point, I started to just lock the character to guarantee the above-average result rather than gambling it for the best result.
Obviously there are exceptions to this (you often don’t want to lock if you’re going to level up, for example, and you might be in a bad spot and need to hit the jackpot to not die), but in the future consider locking a good character more often rather than always trying to find the perfect one.
Mistake #4: I didn’t buy Golden Chicken enough
Golden Chicken is easy to ignore, but it can actually be a very important unit, and it’s one of the units I find myself mis-using the most. You’re never (or almost never) going to want to buy a Golden Chicken to improve your board, but there are still several upsides to it. Here are some:
If you’re going to lock the shop, you can buy and sell Golden Chicken to open up a spot. This is the scenario I mess up the most because I often just buy everything I want to buy and then lock the shop, and I inevitably forget the Chicken in there. Imagine, for example, that your shop is Bossy + Golden Chicken + Crafty.
In this spot, it’s reasonable to buy the Crafty (or the Bossy) and lock the other unit. If you’re going to do that, you might as well buy and sell the Chicken before you do any of that, otherwise you’re going to see it again next turn in the shop. By selling it, you’ll be seeing a different unit, which might be another Bossy or Crafty!
Buying chicken lets you hold value for more important turns. Imagine, for example, that it’s the last round of Level 3 - you’re moving up to level 4 next turn, and you have two gold left over. You could roll, but you’re unlikely to want to lock your shop because you’re going to level up next turn, so you want to be able to see Level 4 characters. If you buy the Chicken, you get to spend 2 Gold in a turn where Gold is less useful in return for 2 Gold in a turn where it might matter more. This can also apply, for example, if you’re Peter Pants, and then if you buy Chicken on Turn 1 you can buy two three-cost units on Turn 4 of the game, once you have 4 gold.
If you’re going to roll, you might as well buy the Chicken first. For example, imagine a scenario where on Turn 1 you see two units you don’t want, a Chicken, and a Free Roll. You’re not interested in any of these units, so you’re going to Roll to try to find something better, but you might as well buy the Chicken before you do that, because maybe your next shop will also have three bad units, so at least you keep the Chicken.
If you have Hungry Hungry Hippocampus, buying and selling the Chicken gives it +2 Health for no cost.
If you’re Wonder Waddle, buying and holding Chicken lets you eventually triple it, which is a net +2 gold (you spend 4 to buy the two Chickens and gain 4 to sell it, but also gain 2 more for skipping the Treasure if you don’t want it).
Basically, the recommended approach is to just always buy Chicken, and then decide what you want to do with it, even if you’re just going to be reselling it in the same turn. You should be careful, however, when you have the treasure Fancy Pants, because then you do not want to buy Chicken as your first unit. I’ve bought my share of 5/5 Golden Chickens and I would not recommend it.
Mistake #5: I was holding onto scaling units for far too long
In Storybook Brawl, the group of units that can permanently improve with time is usually referred to as “scaling units”. This includes units that scale themselves up - such as Wizard’s Familiar, Happy Little-Tree, Water Wraith and Vain-Pire - as well as units that scale other units, like Heartwood Elder, Darkwood Creeper, King Arthur, Feasting Dragon and Riverwish Mermaid.
Early in the game, these characters are all strong, because their scaling bonuses matter. An 8/8 is noticeably different from a 6/6, and a 10/10 might as well be worth twice as much. If you scale your units early, you will outsize everyone in the mid-game because of that.
The problem arrives when people try to keep them in their board for way too long. The longer the game goes, the worst these scaling units become, for two reasons. First, because units and boards in this game do not scale linearly, whereas these units do. A card like Arthur or Wizard’s Familiar goes +2 each turn, and it doesn’t care whether you’re level 4 or level 6, it’s going to be +2 every time.
Characters and Treasures, on the other hand, scale exponentially - a level 5 character can be worth several times more than a level 4 character, and a level 6 character can be worth several times more than a level 5 character. This means that huge leaps in power occur when you start getting to the 5-6 level, at which point getting +2/+2 or +4/+4 on some of your units is simply not going to make a difference. As you get later in the game, both the rewards for scaling are diminished comparatively to what everyone else is doing, and also the opportunity cost of running a scaling unit is much bigger, because you could just have a random 5 or 6 cost unit there instead and it would likely be much better.
Early in the game, you might be playing a 4/8 Riverwish Mermaid over an 8/8 Awakened Princess, but that’s not a huge sacrifice for the potential scalability, because the +1/+1 will matter at that point. Later on, however, you might be running a 4/8 Riverwish Mermaid over, say, Three Big Pigs, which is 18/18 in stats, and if that’s what you’re giving up then it’s just very likely not worth it.
The second problem is that losing a fight becomes way more costly. Buying Happy Little Tree in the first round of the game is fine, because if you lose the fight, you will only lose three HP. The same logic can be applied for the other units - it’s fine to compromise your board a little to play the Riverwish Mermaid over the Awakened Princess in our earlier example because, if this difference does cause you to lose the fight, you’ll take a small amount of damage. Later on, however, playing the Mermaid over the Three Big Pigs could result in losing, for example, twelve HP. Even if you would still lose the fight, it might be the difference between killing one or two extra Golden units that will give you the time to fight another round.
When I started playing, I was a very greedy player, and I wanted to scale as much as possible. Several times I found myself saying “ok, this Heartwood Elder is going to stay in for just one more fight”, and then I lose the fight badly and sometimes even lose the game because of it. Nowadays, as the end-game approaches, I will often just remove the Heartwood Elder and throw in a Medusa, a Cupid or even an upgraded Nian, Sea Terror, just because I think scaling two units a little bit is not going to make a difference compared to the immediate impact the stronger units can have in this fight.
As always, this is not an absolute - just a generic suggestion. Sometimes it’s going to be more valuable to have that Heartwood Elder because it’s pumping two Ashwood Elm and that’s just more stats than you could get otherwise. Sometimes the Wizard’s Familiar is just the biggest unit around because you have Crystal Ball. That said, as a general rule, I believe people would win more if they tried to scale a little bit less.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this and, even if you end up not following my advice to the letter, that I at least made you think a little bit more when you find yourself in the same spots.
See you soon,