featured graphic

Reading Rainbow: A Guide to BookMages

Twitch denizen KeithOTR does a deep dive into BookMages

Mage comps
Can scale sky high 
HatBall
Magebook
A reading rainbow
I can't play anything else
Familiars to know
And weavers to grow 
A reading rainbow
You don't need anything 
Except a book
So take a look 
A reading rainbow

image

Foreword

My name is KeithOTR and I have a problem - I can't stop playing BookMages, and after reading this guide neither will you! Also big shout out to Happiness Ltd for editing this guide and reminding me that Crystal Weaver is not an SBB card. Check them out at twitch.tv/happinessltd.

BookMage and HatBall comps are not mutually exclusive - I think of them as existing on a continuum. With the HatBallFork edition you can probably just cast every targeted spell you see and have a pretty good chance of taking the crown. Sometimes, however, all you will have access to is a Monster Book and a dream, and that's the style of composition I am looking to describe today. I also want to differentiate between Copybook comps and BookMage comps (ctrl f + Tier 4). Although many BookMage comps can use a Copycat I do not consider it to be an essential card.

The earlier you get a Wizard's Familiar (ideally upgraded) the greater your chances of success. Many of the heroes that lead to me "forcing" this strategy have strong synergy with a turn 1 Familiar (this fact is also true with HatBall style Mage comps). Due to time, resources, or bad RNG, however, assembling HatBall(Fork) is not always possible. The benefit of BookMages is that you will find opportunities to speculate on pairs that give you the opportunity to highroll a Hat, Ball, Fork etc with lots of pieces already in place. If not, you can continue to accumulate pieces for your BookMage comp by utilizing early game Mage units you would otherwise have to discard

Here's a quick look at an ideal BookMage game:

image
image

Overview

The guide is set up to introduce a general gameplan for each tier, and includes a listing of units that are generally more or less valuable when playing BookMages at that stage of the game. Following this listing is a discussion of the units or situations on that tier that would lead me to pivoting into BookMages. After describing the units highlighted there is often an illustration of what a pivot away from BookMages might look like at that point.


Hero Selection

The best BookMage heroes generally have the ability to generate a Turn 1 upgraded Wizard's Familiar. I have listed them based on the expected increase in average placement that hero gets from being offered a T1 Familiar. More specific thoughts are listed in the bonus section of the guide later on.

Following the "upgraded Familiar" heroes are the "spell frequency" heroes. That's just a fancy way of saying heroes that enable the casting of extra spells. They are loosely ordered by how many spells you can expect to cast before tier 3. I find this relevant as you can better justify picking up Familiars and growing them which is a big part of our gameplan.

Despite having some affinity for being Mages, my general experience with these heroes is they don't enable enough spellcasts early on to be viable heroes generally. Although it's true that Merlin is a stupendous hero if you are healthy on 4 with a Monster Book, the fail case is too high for me to be interested. I don't have a lot of experience on Sphinx since its second rework so proceed at your own risk.

image

Characters

Tier 2

Tier two is the real spine of this comp. With any composition in SBB the balance between long term potential and short term "tempo" should be tended to. The crux of BookMages is the Wizard's Familiar. The more you can accumulate on tier 2 the more impactful each spell cast will be from a long term scaling perspective. What makes BookMages so enticing is that at some point, the amount of additional stats gained from each spell converts the long term potential into real-time tempo. Furthermore, on tier 4 your ability to flip your comp into BookMages relies on the density of your spell payoffs. Other units like Cinderella that benefit from spell casts have additional utility as well.

Another unit worth discussing is Blind Mouse. Some of the BookMage heroes have a natural ability to triple this unit early, but in general an early Forking Rod on any hero is really gonna juice your spell frequency. Without at least Crystal Ball and possibly Merlin's Hat, however, that frequency may still not be high enough to justify the resources invested. This not only includes the gold spent to buy and triple the tier 4 units but also the money invested into each individual spell. Furthermore these two goals, rolling for units and paying for spells, find themselves at cross purposes.

A very common scenario, partially due to the existence of Blind Mouse, is picking up an early Forking Rod on 2.2 or 3.0. Reviewing the treasures on tier 4, I can't really imagine a scenario where I'd pick another treasure over an early Forking Rod. The only "better" options such as Ring of Rage would only be advisable if you find yourself bleeding out later on tier 3. Regardless, this early Forking Rod can sputter out if the remainder of tier 3 and 4 fails to present the requisite suite of treasures, namely HatBall(Fork), to round out your composition. A decent BookMage comp can get by on an upgraded Monster Book and a single Fork.

image

Tier 3

Each tier has approximately one core unit. On tier 3, that core unit is Spell Weaver. The number of spell enablers on tier 3 including cantrips (Mixawizzle etc), tier 2 and tier 3 treasures makes it fairly easy to find

Wizard's Familiar is still a buyable card on Tier 3. I wouldn't prioritize it, but quite often you will find yourself in a situation where you pick up an early Familiar on tier 2 but fail to secure a second. Interestingly, from a scaling perspective two regular Familiars is equivalent to a single upgraded one (2 x +1/+1 = 1 x +2/+2). For this reason, once I have my first Familiar I feel fairly incentivised to pick up a second. Conversely, the "fourth" Familiar after tripling is generally not worth it. Your fourth Familiar usually comes too late to pick up relevant spell scaling on tier 3. Therefore, when trying to balance spell frequency, spell payoffs and maintaining tempo, keeping it on your board on tier 4 becomes difficult.

I would say in general that BookMages play worse with supports than other comps. Units listed with plus or minus doesn't indicate that it should never be purchased. It's just something to keep in the back of your mind when making the decision of what units to commit to. In the case of supports, especially the tier 3 ones, they occupy valuable real estate in the backline. BookMages relies on Spell Weaver, often two, taking up these positions. Furthermore when using Monster Books for scaling it becomes important to have as many as your spell payoffs protected in the back as possible. This ensures that they live long enough to see the Monster Book go off. For this reason as well, the White Stag goes slightly lower in my pick order as you want your Monster Books going off as soon as possible.

Princess Peep is a bit of a weird one. On the one hand, you are less likely to be playing supports for the above reasons. On the other hand, if you are digging for Fork you are more likely to fall back on Ring of Rage. One of my favorite comps uses Court Wizard, Princess Peep and power boosting like Ring of Rage or Eye of Ares to eke extra value out of the extra ranged attacks and summons respectively. I'm not certain it should be valued a lot higher here, but wanted to bring it up regardless. I also like Darkwood Creeper occasionally, based on the high chance of an early book casting Falling Stars. This also has to be traded off against the tempo loss of having two dead units (Darkwood Creeper and Monster Book).

image

Tier 4

This is the portion of the guide where I'll offer some specific thoughts on the star of the show. Monster Book is only able to cast from a pool of 10 spells and this pool is limited to your current tier. Reviewing the list of six available spells on tier 4 only Lightning Bolt is consistently effective. Out of the other five, only Fireball has a chance to steal a fight.

The decision to buy Monster Book is generally based on:

Court Wizard also has some synergy with this comp, especially with the aforementioned Peep package. Something else worth mentioning is its Mage status allows Court Wizard to be effective for far longer with the inclusion of Aon. For obvious reasons, this fits well into our Magebook plan. More on Aon shortly.

Units I value less on tier 4 are most of the ranged units including Sporko, Lady of the Lake and Amy. To elaborate on my earlier comments on supports, generally Magebook comps struggle with backline space to fit support units. In the case of Sporko and Lady of the Lake this downside can be traded off against their Mage tag and potential future synergy with Aon. Also, since your frontline units tend to be Familiars or Books, your units benefit less from supports than usual. Overall I still don't mind picking up a Lady of the Lake, especially to allow a Familiar to tank a bit more. I am unlikely, however, to buy a matching Sporko or try to pair my Lady of the Lake for the above reasons.

Tying into a lot of the issues mentioned above is Copycat. Copycat can be a very valuable unit, however there are enhanced RNG issues involved with deciding to include or scratch it from your comp. With a typical position one Copycat, it has to be able to attack without being sniped as well as having the Monster Book "supporting" the Copycat survive. Assuming that this all happens, all you have done is replicate a single Monster Book proc.

For your Copycat to actually accomplish anything from a scaling perspective there have to be surviving units to buff when the Monster Book itself dies. Additionally, combat spells are typically going to be most effective at the start of the fight, meaning that the second Monster Book proc is less useful from that perspective. All that being said, there are situations where it can be worth playing a Copycat. The same type of risk analysis used for buying Monster Book can be applied to Copycat.

image

Tier 5

After passing the initial Merlin's test on tier 4 and committing to BookMages, by tier 5 another gut check is required. Sometimes it will be wise to shelve your Monster Book and focus on scam pieces like Medusa and short term tempo to squeak out a top 4 finish. You still have moderately large Weaver(s) and Familiar(s) which will help to supplement the rest of your scam comp. If we were able to make use of our passive scaling on 4 to buy time and acquire more pieces, there's a good chance we're BookMages or even HatBall.

Therefore, as our premier payoff on tier 5, Aon is a unit that should be approached with some level of caution. Speaking from the perspective of a BookMages setup there are two scenarios where I am particularly interested in Aon. The first scenario involves having a density of ranged Mages that can justify playing Aon on board to soak up Book procs and spread them to my ranged Mages. Typically, I will place Aon in spot 7 as I want it backline to ensure maximum Book scaling. Primarily, BookMages wants to use Aon for its scaling as opposed to its cost reduction effect.

On the other hand, sometimes you will be in a failed Ball comp falling back on Monster Book for additional scaling. In this case you are looking to use Aon as a substitute Hat, placing it in spot 5 as a hedge between scaling and slay.

Tier 6

To illustrate some of my thoughts about tier 6 I'll first provide a short walkthrough of a game I played recently. It is meant to serve as a summary of the previous sections and also to give  context to my decisions on tier six.

I get a solid start on Horseman with double Familiar and pick up a single weaver on 3.1.

image

On 4.0 I am offered a textbook opener. Despite having a lack of Mage treasures I am comfortable going into BookMages on the back of (3) Familiars and 2 Weavers.

image

This is a rare spot where I decide to pick up a Copycat. I spent the last turn digging for some more Mage scaling but by the end of my turn determined I have enough payoffs to make the tempo loss of the Copycat worth it. As mentioned before, Copycat doesn't truly "double" your spell frequency from a scaling perspective. If your units don't survive, they fail to see the Book go off. In this case, my Familiar has gotten big enough to often see both procs. Also worth mentioning is a Mad Mim pair I speculated on earlier paid off in the form of a Great Library Card.

image

On an off turn against the ghost I pick two Blind Mice to speculate on Forking Rod (it is truly that strong of a treasure). Ring of Rage can also be a nice fallback if you miss on Forking Rod. In general, it allows for a transition into Court Wizard in the short term and The Great Pumpkin long term. As my editor reminded me, Deck of Many things is also great because apparently getting an additional Monster Book for free is good. Not only does Deck of Many Things not require any board space, but it also procs at the beginning of combat, ensuring maximum scaling on all our spell payoffs.

Also worth bringing up is my decision to triple my Spell Weavers. Often doing so is a necessity as you try to dig for Hat and/or Ball. In this specific case, with no marquee Mage treasures already, and approaching tier 6, the value of Hat Ball starts to decline.

The decision to triple is relevant for three main reasons. In the abstract, two 14-attack ranged minions are significantly stronger than a single 28 attack minion. This is due to the fact that they don't take damage each time they attack. The amount of extra attacks afforded by the separated unit will out-damage a single equivalently-started unit. Finally, the existence of Aon means that each unupgraded version will be better off separate from that perspective.

image

I pick up a second Monster Book here, and there's nothing especially noteworthy besides my positioning. There is a convoluted line with the books in 5 and 6 and the Copycat attacking first from spot 2. To me the potential benefit of doing so, one additional spell from Copycat, does not outweigh the risk of it dying before getting to attack.

image

I find a Scion of the Storm early this turn.

image

I considered benching the Copycat this turn but ended up tripling the Monster Book. Once again we are continuing to trade off the potential benefits of playing a Copycat and the costs of doing so. By this stage of the game we are well into tier 6, and my decision making has started to shift from using Book as a scaling unit to using it for its combat potential. The addition of the tier 5 and 6 units shifts the balance from 18% valuable combat spells to 50%. Furthermore, the scaling granted by a spellcast or two falls off at this point, and it is incumbent on your scaling to this point to carry you for the rest of the game. This includes any Mage treasures you may have picked up along the way but you cannot rely on your books past a couple turns on tier six to carry the load scaling wise.

image

I took 27 damage from a Pumpking the next turn. C'est la vie.

Forcing Comps

Writing or following a guide on a specific strategy requires a bit of nuance. There are certain scenarios that will lead to the optimal conditions to "force" a specific comp. Considered on a spectrum, I often find myself on the far end - rolling as much as possible, buying only key units, and accepting a lower average finish.

At the other end of the spectrum are the naysayers who want to stay "open" and think forcing comps is bad equity. They may be right, but it depends how you define equity. The rush I get from assembling an exodia comp is what keeps me coming back to Storybook Brawl time and time again. In the middle of these two extremes is where I hope you, the reader, is situated. This guide is aimed towards those interested in giving BookMages a try but not planning to force it with the level of religious zealotry I do.


Advanced

Heroes

As I noted the best Magebook heroes generally have the ability to generate a Turn 1 upgraded Wizard's Familiar. I have listed them in an order that represents the expected increase in average placement being offered a T1 Familiar generates.

It's listed this way because everyone knows Wonder Waddle is a good hero, but may not recognize how much better King Midas becomes if you get into BookMages. The astute reader will realize that this is a reverse tier list of sorts.

If you are offered King Midas the fact that you CAN end up BookMages doesn't mean this fact should influence your decision to pick him. This is for the obvious fact you can't guarantee having a Wizard's Familiar in your shop on turn 1. The odds at most are 20% and likely closer to 15%.

Following the "upgraded Familiar" heroes are the "spell frequency" heroes. That's just a fancy way of saying heroes that cast extra spells. They are loosely ordered on how many spells you can expect to cast before tier 3. This has the obvious upside of buffing your 15% Familiar. It will be tougher to "cheat out" an upgraded Familiar on these heroes however heroes like Loki, Horseman, Cursed King, and Sharebear get access to extra units via their hero power. This has two benefits, the first of which is increasing the likelihood you will be able to directly acquire a Wizard's Familiar. For example Kidnapping one with Horseman, or picking up an otherwise weak 1/1 Familiar with Cursed King/ Sharebear using your extra gold.

Monster Book

This is the portion of the guide where I'll go on a tangent and give my thoughts on Monster Book. Reviewing the list of available spells only Lightning Bolt is consistently effective on tier 4. This means that out of the remaining five available spells only Fireball has a chance to steal a fight.

(3)Falling Stars (3)Earthquake (4)Ride of the Valkyries (4)Blessing of Athena (4)Lightning Bolt (4)Fireball (5)Shrivel (5)Poison Apple (6) Smite (6) Pigomorph

The decision to buy Monster Book is generally based on

Examples

image
1 x Weaver (4/3), 4.1, 28 Health, No relevant Treasures

Although I'm fairly healthy for a variety of reasons, this Monster Book is a pass for me. With other future directions including scaling and XP trying to pump a single Weaver is not worth our time. I picked up this Weaver originally to scale with the Ring of Meteors + Darkwood Creeper combo, however I don't want to chase it further, especially without the board space to backline the Weaver.

image
3 Familiars (14/14), 1 Weaver (7/4), 42 health, No relevant treasures (Midas kekw)

This decision is made tougher by the fact that we are on 4.2. I'll give the reader a minute before offering my decision.

.

..

...

....

Ultimately I would take this book based on the fact that we don't have a lot else going for us. Since we are King Midas we are unlikely to acquire any relevant treasures for the rest of the game, and our existing Romeo and Juliet package will start to fall off soon. The benefit of being Midas in this spot is that we are much more likely to triple our Book quickly, as well as our Weaver. We also have the hp to enable this pivot. A final point worth mentioning is that it's very efficient goldwise to buy the book and play the 1 gold

image
3 Familiars, 13/13, 4.2, 25 health, no relevant treasures

.

..

...

....

Fairly easy pass. Also worth noting is my Familiar is not currently my "carry" - that spot is occupied primarily by the Bearded Vultures and secondarily by the Hungry Hungry Hippocampus. When I have less avenues for scaling I feel more incentivized to pursue a line such as BookMages. For the reasons stated above. this is not one of them.

Bonus: Buy the Copycat?

image
2 Familiars (7/7, 6/6), 1 Weaver (5/4), 4.1, 34 health, No relevant treasures

The decision here is whether or not to purchase Copycat. I opt not to, based on a backline already choked up by multiple ranged units as well as wanting to optimize for Water Wraith scaling. Also I'm not feeling overly committed to my spell payoffs.