When you see your deck and check your mage, plan a path to victory. You may need to adjust your plans depending on whether an opponent takes a card you need. A few example strategies
- With a dragon somewhere in your deck, consider Dragon's Lair. You can buy Dragon's Lair the first turn with most mages if you choose one of the right magic items. Use the turn-for-two-gold to buy monuments as you can, until you get to your dragon and can afford it, and then it's two points per turn. A particularly nice combo (if your opponents don't block you) is to buy Alchemist's Tower in the first turn with the one gold you start with and the two gold you get from turning Dragon's Lair.
- With multiple dragons and some way to make dragons less expensive (either Dragon's Bridle or Dragon teeth), consider Sorcery's Bestiary.
- With black essence cards (or Necromancer and some life income) consider Catacombs of the Dead.
- With Althanor or Philosopher's Stone, build up a lot of one type of resource, convert to gold, and then buy monuments. Transmuter or prism can help here.
- Don't put too many artifacts into play. Putting 4 or above is usually a bad idea. The game can end in four turns, so artifacts placed in turn three or four may not get enough use to justify their cost.
- Don't think the game is all about the essences. They are useless unless you can convert them into points.
- You should discard cards you don't need to get essences you want to play better cards.
- Get a place of power early--their powers can aid you to victory.
- Don't be afraid to pass early if it can give you a magic item that you want.
- Dragons are not good ideas, but if it can break your opponents' plans, that will be hell to them! To counter, just keep some life, and in 4 player games you should expect at least 1 dragon. Dragons can also score with Dragon's Lair or Sorcerer's Bestiary.
Which Magic Items are the best?
- Alchemy: Not an effective exchange. Only use it when you really need that 2 gold, e.g. buying a monument or place of power.
- Collectors (calm/elan, death/life): Good in first turn if you want to buy a place of power or a good artifact.
- Divination: Usually of no use, as you gain nothing. However, it can be useful to pull out a card in your deck that you want to play this turn (eg, you have a Horn of Plenty).
- Protection: Usually of no use as attacks and dragons are not common. But if you notice potential attacks that may break your plans, grab it.
- Reanimate: Very useful when you have a matching artifact or place of power. However everyone wants it, so get it before your opponents.
- Research: Basically, it is exchanging 1 essence for 2 essences or 1 gold. You can use it to dig for a card, but Divination is better for this. Or you can play it if necessary, therefore it is worth about 2 essences.
- Transmutation: Often of no use as the game provides lots of methods to exchange essences. However, if you have none of them, try this.
Which Mages are the best?
- Alchemist: First ability same as Alchemy, second worse than collecting. Hmm...
- Artificer: Not obvious, but the discount is useful. Especially when you need to play useful cards for combos.
- Druid: Quite powerless, but with Mermaid or Sacred Grove I may change this opinion. Worst of all mages I guess.
- Duelist: It is nearly 2 essences per turn if you have a death--known to be strong, as other mages mostly produce 1 essences per turn.
- Healer: Hard to win because no combos with other cards. But in 4-player games, it can save your game in some occasions.
- Necromancer: Not the best, but good with Catacombs. Why? You can discard a card for 2 life and change to 3 death.
- Scholar: Same as Research, but Research is what everyone wants. Imagine you have access to one yourself.
- Seer: Seems useless, but with Dragon's Lair it's choose 1 from 5 monuments each time. Or you can search for that card you really want.
- Transmuter: Better than normal transmutation, because you gain an extra essence. But there are actually many methods to change essences...
- Witch: This is deadly! I have seen lots of people winning with witch's reanimate ability. Best with Catacombs of the Dead or Dragon's Lair.
How about Artifacts?
For a more detailed analysis, please head to https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2211614/card-card-review-all-artifacts-res-arcana.
Which Artifacts are the Best?
- Chalice of Fire: The collecting ability pays off in turn 4 even if you don't use it, and its reanimate is useful with many places of power.
- Chalice of Life: This strong essence generator feeds itself and doesn't need to be turned. Best with Sunken Reef.
- Corrupt Altar: Expensive, but you can play expensive cards, use it once then sacrifice it. If you are tired, just sacrifice the Altar itself.
- Crypt: You can discard a card then resurrect it with a discount. Crazy with a sacrifice card. Don't need it? Then get 2 death instead.
- Dragon Teeth: Feeds itself and discounts you on dragons. Although bad with places of power, it is best with Philosopher's Stone to get gold.
- Horn of Plenty: Much above average. Pays itself off with 2 turns. Fits itself into any strategy. First pick in nearly all draft.
- Mermaid: You can use mermaid to score while using other abilities of places of power. Better than a novice would think.
- Philosopher's Stone: Although it's costly, it doesn't need to be played until later rounds. Therefore if all the places of power are weak, you must consider this.
- Vault: It's cheap, it's flexible, it can be aimed for small or big! Good with both gold and essence strategies.
Which Artifacts are the Worst?
- Bone/Fire/Water Dragon: Expensive, but easy to dodge. Better to discard for essences.
- Dancing Sword: Its collecting ability only pays at turn 4, and if your opponents see this, they won't play dragons and make this useless.
- Elemental Spring: The cost is steep, and after 3 turns it is just 0. Most attacks can be prevented by an essence, so this is redundant.
- Hand of Glory: Your only gain is just 1 death, making it even in 4 turns. Only slightly better if the cost is mitigated.
- Windup Man: Worst card in the game. The cost is high, and it is slow to pay off. While you are waiting, the engine is dead and you have spent a bunch of essences for nothing.
Which Monuments are the best?
- Golden Statue (1 pt): If you don't have extra gold, it is useless. Otherwise, it is 4vp with a discount.
- Hanging Gardens (1 pt): The stronger the earlier bought. Excellent on round 1, but expensive on later rounds.
- Library (1 pt): Better than Solomon's Mine in terms of flexibility. However, it takes more actions. Best to buy early.
- Obelisk (1 pt): Good at anytime in the game. If early it can help you to buy a Place of Power. If late it can give essences to dump on them.
- Solomon's Mine (1 pt): On turn 1 it is a free point. Later it can let to buy more monuments instead of wasting your 3 gold, so buy it early.
- Colossus (2 pts): Worse than Solomon's Mine, as it gives 3 gold for 3 essence instead of 4 free gold.
- Mausoleum (2 pts): Good with Places of Power that need death. Also, it is a staller to prevent your opponent from getting your magic item.
- Oracle (2 pts): Fits well into a monument strategy. Grab it early to provide more choices for the other 2-3 monuments you are going to buy.
- Temple (2 pts): Decent if someone has a dragon, otherwise it is average.
- Great Pyramid (3 pts): Don't buy it on round 1. However, it is game-changing in later rounds.
Which Places of Power are the best?
- Alchemist Tower: It can be bought on turn 1, and although there is no turning abilities, it can be used for a turn 4 victory with good cards.
- Catacombs of the Dead: Overpowered. With Chalice of Fire (and Witch/Reanimate) you can get 2-4 points per turn, plus death from discards.
- Coral Castle: Purely 3 points. Fine, but without other places of power you cannot win.
- Cursed Forge: Unlike other cards, this partially hinders you. However, it can be defensive with Mermaid.
- Dragon's Lair: Also overpowered, although you need to discard all of your cards to play this. With reanimates you can buy tons of monuments.
- Dwarven Mines: It is 3 essences for 1 point once per turn. Or you can use the 3 gold ability to buy a monument each turn. Plus it is cheap.
- Sacred Grove: Sounds useless but you can convert all calm to life then to gold with Philosopher's Stone. That would be a massive blow!
- Sacrificial Pit: It's ok, but if you have a lot of creatures and dragons you can use the second power to gain gold. Good with Dragon Teeth.
- Sorcerer's Bestiary: It's tricky, as you need to have a lot of energy to steal dragons. Better to have a dragon strategy.
- Sunken Reef: The most effective point-gaining place of power. Plus it has unlimited use. Some people use this to get 10 points in round 4.
This tips section is written by user ArielFriedrichGauss based on these websites: