Happy Friday everyone!
The Benders are quite possibly the most interesting and challenging to play army from the master set. Honestly, when the card previews came out, I was least impressed by them, not because I didn't like the design, but because they aren't the kind of army I traditionally play. However, I've started to develop a real appreciation for the intricacy of their design and their uniqueness. They are unlike any other faction in the game in a very key element: their goal is control of the meta-game. What I mean is that while other faction may rely on board control, wall rushing, powerful champions, commons hordes, or tough units, or a combination of those elements, the Benders aren't really that great at any of those. They can do them, and with decent rolls and some good planning, you might be able to make them shine in one of those areas. If you do, you won't be playing them optimally. The Benders want to manipulate their opponent by shutting down or taking control of his commons, taking away his events, and keeping him from drawing his champions. Their motto is the easiest way to defeat an opponent is to make sure he can't fight, in other words, preventing them by being good at what they are normally good at doing.
Who Should (and shouldn't) Play the Benders?
If you like sturdy units, rush down armies, or like to play straightforward armies, don't play the Benders. It's that simple. Benders are for the manipulators among us, the devious, tricky players who like to say, no, I don't think I'll let you do that. The players who will lure their enemy to charge forward with a big common, only to mind control it. If you like figuring out how to best use strange abilities and surprising your opponent, this faction is definitely up your alley.
Basic Play: Commons
The first thing to note about the Benders is that every single unit is ranged. You'll want to play fairly defensively, setting up crossfires whenever possible. Make sure you don't underestimate any of their commons, used properly, they can make your opponent's attempts to invade your side of the board a nightmare. While all of their commons are great, I want to especially focus on two of them, Deceivers and Breakers.
Deceivers are absolutely critical to surviving attacks from rushdown decks. They paralyze a common as long as they are next to it. If you need to, you can paralyze their common and shoot another one, so whenever possible, make the most of their ability. Whenever possible, try to split what they do, it's better to just keep a unit paralyzed waiting for death and kill or wound another unit.
Breakers are critical for the Benders because they give you some measure of control over your opponent's deck. You should get one out as soon as possible and make sure it attacks every single turn if at all humanly possible. Why? You want to burn out your opponent's champions if you can before he can even play them! Plus, every card he doesn't discard costs him 1 magic, and it still goes the bottom of his deck. This unit is possibly the most diabolical unit the Benders have. Remember, even if your opponent keeps his champions, they're at the bottom of his deck, so he'll either have to play commons or build magic. Benders like commons, so that's no big deal, and if he builds magic, drain him!
Advanced Play: Events
Magic drain is your friend. Use it whenever possible. This is good advice for all factions that have magic drain. It helps you, keeps your opponent from playing his units, what's not to like?
Mimic may seem unimpressive at first, but if nothing else, functions as event denial, which is always good. However, against certain factions like the Dwarves, where you have a chance at pulling a Reinforcements (at which point you must laugh evilly) or a Heroic feat, it can be unbelievably obnoxious.
Mind control is like an awesome version of unsummon, but it can only take control of commons. Use it to take out fast units like Lioneers or big pricey commons like Savagers, then send them back to cause pain and annoyance to your opponent.
A Hero is Born is a much maligned event, but early game it can let you get a Sorgwen or Gulldune out on the board early, which could be handy. Otherwise, you should probably burn it for magic.
Advanced Play: Champions
Bender champions are weak. I don't mean they're not good, I mean they die. If you go toe to toe with another champion, you will lose your champion. But that's okay, because you're playing Benders! We don't go toe to toe, that's for the inferior races. I suspect it's really best to only play one or two champions in any given game with the Benders. Why? You need to save magic to unsummon your opponent's champions. Expensive? On the other hand, if you've gotten lucky, you may have been able to already eliminate a champion or two with your breakers. If you absolutely have to, you can always try to gang up on a champion with a controller, Gulldune, and anyone else nearby, remember to try to have Gulldune deal the killing blow. I will warn you, any game Gulldune has actually made it to the board, my opponent has focus fired him, so be prepared for him to die almost instantly if you don't place him well. Kallal is awesome, but really expensive, and at that point, I'd really suggest saving the magic to unsummon one of their champions instead. Sorgwen is great to get out if you have the spare magic, she's absolutely death to commons, pair her with a controller and go lay waste to your enemy. This combo could conceivably take out a weaker champion, but it's preferable not to take that chance, breakers are expensive and die easily, as does Sorgwen.
I really don't think I've mastered the Benders yet, I haven't played nearly enough games with them to grasp all of their nuances, but I think I've finally started to get a feel for them. If you have any suggestions, or think I'm completely crazy with my tactics, say the word! Teach me to play them better, because the more I play them, the more I like them. Now, get out there and annoy someone with the Benders.