Monster Train Progress Update: Even More Monsters

Last week when I wrote about my latest experiences in Monster Train, I was experimenting with different playstyles using the three clans available to me at the time: the Hellhorned, the Awoken, and the Stygian Guard. At the time I had settled into a pretty similar pattern regardless of what clans I was combining: focus on a few strong monsters that I buffed or supported with magic spells. Since that time I’ve been experimenting a lot with the Umbra – who I had just unlocked when I last wrote – as well as the Melting Remnant. Both clans have challenged me to play around with the strategies I use, and really put the monster back in Monster Train.

Let’s start with the Umbra. The Umbra are built around cards that generate units called Morsels. Morsels look like the little soot devils in Spirited Away: spherical, small blobs of black soot. Each morsel is carrying something it has pulled from the mines of hell, and as their name implies, their primary purpose is to be eaten. Morsels have very low stats, but when the front unit on the same floor of the train as the morsels eats them, that unit gets bonuses based on the types of morsels consumed. So Umbra units often have Gorge abilities that fire off after they’ve eaten a morsel, giving them even more bonuses on top of the ones they’re already getting from the morsel itself.

Then there’s the Melting Remnant. Many of these candle-like units enter battle with a status called Burnout: when the burnout counter hits zero, the unit dies and is consumed. The Melting Remnant cards interact with this in a variety of ways: some units get stronger when their allies die (including from burn out), others extend burnout to keep it from taking place, and you have spells for bringing back burned-out cards with higher stats and a longer timer. So depending on the cards you’ve drawn during the run and the type of champion you’ve built, you may benefit more from prolonging burnout on your units or from taking advantage of it to burn through monsters in the name of buffing their allies.

One of my favorite Melting spells is Memento Mori, which deals huge damage based on the number of allied units that have died. Sacrifice your characters, bring them back, then make the enemy pay for killing them in the first place!

See any trends? Both the Umbra and the Melting Remnant rely on expendable monsters more than any of the decks I had worked with so far. So my style of “one big strong monster supported by spells” wouldn’t always be a great fit with them. Many of the stronger units for these two clans still don’t have raw stats as high as those for the other clans. Instead of thinking of my units as RPG characters to preserve, buff, and heal, I would instead need to learn to think of them as chess pieces to sacrifice at the right time in the name of victory. It has certainly been an adjustment to my playstyle!

The Umbra, in particular, have given me a hefty amount of trouble. Most decks I’ve tried have some kind of synergy they are able to build with cards of a different type. Playing rage spells from the Hellhorned on an Awoken with multitattack or using Awoken healing spells to activate incant on a Stygian tank – ideally the fun of Monster Train is discovering how two clans synergize in exciting ways. My most successful runs with the Umbra have – for the most part – been the ones where I removed the majority of the Umbra cards from my deck. While I’ve sometimes kept certain spells, anything to do with generating morsels has generally been the first thing to leave when I have the Umbra as my secondary clan.

This is partly due to the fact that the Umbra are heavily dependent on positioning in a way that isn’t necessarily true for other decks. Morsels are only eaten by the first card on the floor that doesn’t have the Eaten tag. So if you want to place a protective unit in front of your primary attacker but still feed the morsels to your attacker, for example, you’re out of luck. Everything is going to the unit in front, which is also the unit who is going to be taking on the brunt of the enemy’s attacks. Since morsels aren’t eaten until the end of the round and Umbra units are on the weaker side, a strong offensive from the angels will clear out your main unit before they can even start eating and getting all of their buffs.

The gorgers are middling units when they first start out, but after some morsel buildup they can become decently powerful.

Despite these challenges, I’ve had some promising runs with the Umbra. During one of my Monster Train Twitch streams, I had a run which probably would have ended in a victory if not for a silly mistake playing too aggressively with the reward mechanisms right before the final battle. That build used the Penumbra champion along with an artifact that allowed Gorge abilities to activate twice to give my champion an obscene number of attack boosts every time a morsel got eaten. I had an upgraded Morselmaker I would place behind the Penumbra so it always had a reliable supply of morsels to feed upon, but when facing enemies with 8-10 attack power who all had multitattack, it took my deck too long to build up and I got wiped out quickly. My one victorious run so far used the second champion, which gets eaten rather than doing the eaten. It would give huge attack boosts to a different Umbra unit that gained damage shields as it ate, offsetting its low health with damage immunity. I’d upgraded that unit with multistrike and quick to make it wipe out enemies before they became a problem for me, and with support from the Melting Remnant that strategy earned me my first successful Umbra run.

In addition to the run I just described, I’ve had two other playthroughs with the Melting Remnant, both of which were successful. One utilized the first Melting champion, who I built to give significant attack bonuses to burnout cards when they returned to the field. With the help of another unit that when sacrificed would bring an ally back with +40 attack power, my strategy was built around sacrificing or burning out weak units who would then come back stronger and stronger to clear out enemies. Among the units I would revive were a Stygian siren that built additional attack power whenever I cast spells, which I upgraded with multitattack to take maximum advantage of the escalating attack power during the match. My other successful run took the spells from the Melting Remnant that allowed me to easily bring back fallen units and applied them to the imps of the Hellhorned, allowing me to regularly summon imps to the battlefield and proc their summon abilities and then let them die so my stronger units didn’t take damage. My champion the Shardtail Queen also got stronger every time a unit was summoned on her floor, so I’d let imps burn out or get killed so I could summon more things to get and get her attack power into the hundreds by the end of a match.

The queen’s rally ability makes her stronger when a unit is summoned – it gels perfectly with cheap, expendable units who can be revived on a regular basis!

The Melting Remnant immediately gelled with me in a way that the Umbra didn’t, and I think there are a couple of factors that influence that. The morsels are functionally units but their true purpose is to serve as buffs – they are meant to be consumed and have essentially no functionality outside of that. The disposable Melting Remnant soldiers still function well enough as units – they have decent attack power if they don’t get killed and their deck features a few different ways to bring them back. The access to the ability to revive units is such a key feature of what makes the Melting interesting for me – while adding burnout to certain units that you’d want to stay out indefinitely isn’t ideal, bringing a powerful unit back for a single turn has been the difference between victory and defeat in a couple of my battles. The Harvest ability that some Melting units have is also a lot easier to proc than Gorge; a gorge unit has to be on the same floor with morsels and those morsels have to survive to the end of the turn, whereas harvest units benefit from other units dying regardless of the cause of death.

It won’t be too much longer until my time with Monster Train comes to an end. With all the non-DLC clans unlocked, all that’s left for me is to have victorious runs with the remaining clan combinations. My hope is for my send off for the game to be an article ranking the five clans based on my personal preference, and while I have a rough idea of what my tiers are, I still need a few more runs to help solidify those tiers into a definitive order. I’m excited for my last few runs, not only to see more of the Melting Remnant but also to revisit the earlier clans and try out some of the new strategies I have learned along the way.

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