The Best Offense is a Good Defense–Wait, What?

[/shameless paraphrase of cliche]

A quick, efficient win is usually prized among gamers, especially when playing competitively. But let me bend your thoughts a minute. What if, instead of looking to win quickly, you wanted a SATISFYING game? A game that took a little while but afforded a win you could actually savor?

This second approach is my philosophy on gaming. I don’t want just a quick, easy win–it feels like cheating, or like eating cotton candy for dinner. I’d rather have a game which makes me think and allows me to socialize a little, too. I favor long games–which means that I play defensively.

Thinking Defensively Rather Than Aggressively

If you want to play defensively, you’ve got to think long-term, because aggressive players will burn themselves out quickly. “Aggro” Magic: the Gathering players, for instance, soon run out of cards in hand and have less options to defend themselves. Aggressive Clix players usually wear out their first-string attackers by mid-game, leaving themselves only their second-string attackers and their support crew (if that).

So, a defensive strategy that wins has to have 3 basic prongs:

  • High defenses/support to stay alive long-term
  • Strategies that punish the other player for attacking
  • Good resource management/game control

Defensive Strategy Examples

Magic: the Gathering

  • Life-gain to offset opponent’s direct damage
  • Graveyard recursion to foil any milling or discard
  • High-toughness creatures to both block combat damage and deal a little combat damage of my own
  • Mill, board wipes, discard, targeted destruction, and other minor control elements to stay alive


  • A couple of Medics to heal wounded figures
  • Several sources of Probability Control and Outwit, to reroll dice and get rid of particularly damaging powers and abilities
  • A Mystic or two and some Wildcards, to punish the opponent for attacking me
  • Figures with high defenses (18+), or figures with Energy Shield/Deflection or Combat Reflexes

The Reason I Include Control With High-Defense Strategies

As I have learned from experience, if you focus on nothing but defense, you will get controlled and manipulated into destruction. Black and Blue Magic decks with a lot of control elements will keep a high-defense White deck from doing anything, for instance, while 6 or 7 damage from Vet Icons Superman holding an object will KO any support piece before you can use it.

As a defense player, you have to have a modicum of control included in your strategy, but you don’t have to make it irritating–just a strategically-placed and protected Windborn Muse can be enough to stop aggro, and a Story Circle can prevent even the fastest of Burn decks from hurting you once it’s out. Likewise, using Outwitters and long-range pieces can help your defensive HeroClix team win the day.


Defense is often discounted in most collectible card and miniatures games, but it’s a key strategy in a long-term game. Sure, if you want a 5-minute win, aggression is still your best way, but if you like longer games with more chances to socialize and more chances to laugh, playing “de” might be your best way to do that.

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