2019 is shaping up to be the year of the Auto Chess genre. What started as a simple mod for Dota 2 has spun into a genre that is quickly surpassing Battle Royales as the most popular in gaming.
As a genre that only really started in 2019, there’s no shortage of people who really have no idea what an Auto Chess game is, how to play one or, quite frankly, why that should care. To make matters more complicated, there’s a wide variety of Auto Chess games to choose from. Do you pick the League of Legends-based Teamfight Tactics? Do you opt for the Valve-made Dota Underlords? Should you wait for Auto Chess (the game made by the genre’s creators) to hit the Epic Game Store?
We’re not here to answer that question today, but the good news is that there are some qualities shared by all of these games. So, no matter which you choose, there’s a basic series of tips that can help you get started. Before we dive into those, though, here’s a question that we’re betting many who only recently heard of this genre (or never heard of this genre) are wondering:
What is Auto Chess?
It’s been said before, but the name “Auto Chess” isn’t entirely accurate. Actually, games like Dota Underlords, Auto Chess, and Teamfight Tactics have little to do with Chess. Some people are already calling them Auto Brawlers.
While every game is a little different, they all follow the same basic structure:
– Use gold and other resources to draft characters onto your bench (roster).- Position your characters on the battlefield- Wait for battles against opponents to be automatically resolved each round.- The losing player’s hero takes damage based on how many opposing characters survived.- Use any earned resources to draft new heroes.- Continue playing matches until you either win or lose a mini-tournament format.
At this point, you’re probably wondering: “Is it really that simple?” and “What’s the appeal?” Well, the appeal is based on how simple the basics are and how complex the intricacies are.
We’ll dive into specifics a bit, but there are a lot of factors that determine the winner of each match. However, none of those factors come down to raw mechanical skills. Unlike DOTA and League of Legends, other players and speed don’t really count for much in these games. Unlike Counter-Strike and Apex Legends, you don’t need to have the fastest reflexes to dominate. Unlike games like Hearthstone, the size of your card collection and your luck don’t play a significant factor in determining the outcome.
These games are (almost) all about who has the best strategy. While this is by no means a comprehensive strategy guide, it should give you an overview of the tips that will help you get started in the hottest new genre in gaming.
Study Every Class
Auto Chess games work on a timer, which means that it pays to spend as little time studying the screen as possible. When you’re starting out, the most important things to know are the benefits of every class and other designations.
We’ll cover this more in our next section, but knowing how characters of similar classifications will work together goes a long way towards building a winning team. Once you know how your pieces are going to work together, you’ll take the first steps towards mastering this genre.
Synergy, Synergy, Synergy
In most cases, the most important aspect of any team is how many synergies you can utilize.
Basically, stacking characters of certain classes/subsets together creates synergy. For instance, having a team with at least two knights might grant you armor bonuses while trolls gain quicker attack speed when they fight in large groups.
When drafting new pieces, synergy is the thing you should pay the most attention to more often than not. While there are exceptions to this rule, the more synergy advantages you can take advantage of when building your team, the better that team will generally be.
More importantly, look for synergies between classes that naturally support each other. If you’re lucky, you might soon have a team that works as one cohesive, unstoppable unit.
Start With a Frontline
This rule won’t necessarily hold as you continue to play, but it’s a good idea to make sure to build your teams frontline before anything else.
By frontline, we mean focusing on “tank” pieces that will be able to absorb (and deal) a lot of damage. These pieces usually give your range and specialty characters the time needed to do their things.
If you’re looking to just survive your first few games, you could certainly do a lot worse than having some strong tank characters on your frontline. Of course, going deeper into any tournament requires more dynamic strategies.
Learn the Value of Positioning
While a strong frontline is important, tanks are far from the only characters who perform better when placed in the right position.
Basically, tanks go to the front, range characters go in the back, characters with position synergy must be placed according to their abilities, and certain pieces perform better in the middle of a pack.
However, positioning isn’t just about your team. If an enemy team is positioned to attack your flank, they could get a tremendous starting advantage. That brings us to our next point.
Look at Enemy Comps/Positions
You can typically look at other teams comps/positions in Auto Chess games, and you absolutely should do so.
After all, there’s nothing to really look at during a match besides whether you’ll win. By viewing other players matches, you can better position your own pieces to guard against disadvantageous starting points.
More importantly, you can see what the top players are running to guard against the best builds. Even if that’s not entirely possible, it can at least help you maximize the value of your choices by knowing exactly what you’re up against.
Don’t Overlook Individual Abilities
Auto Chess is a genre that emphasizes the value of a team comp, but it’s based on games where the best teams are often those made up of the right individual players/characters.
True to form, individual character abilities can make all the difference in these games. For instance, someone who is trying to swarm the board won’t be too happy to run into your piece with an AOE ability. Those dangerous range characters won’t be so dangerous when you’ve got a character that can teleport right to them.
Good team synergy will trump individual abilities most of the time, but those abilities can be the deciding factor between picks.
Raw Star Power Isn’t Always the Most Important Quality
Characters of the same type can be combined in Auto Chess matches. For every three pieces of the same character you have, they will be combined into a single unit with increased stats. These levels are represented by stars.
As nice as a three-star character is, be realistic about this feature. Most of the time, you’ll be lucky to have two characters rated three stars on the same team. Late in the game, it’s just not reasonable to expect to have a team full of three-star characters.
As such, don’t value having multi-star characters in the late game to the point where you overlook other, quality picks.
Don’t Overlook Leveling Up
When you first start playing an Auto Chess game, your instinct is going to be to spend money on re-rolling character picks and choosing new pieces. However, don’t overlook the value of leveling up.
By leveling up your hero, you get to build bigger teams. This not only opens the door to utilizing more synergies, but it allows you to take advantage of more character abilities and ensure your not twiddling your thumbs in the late game waiting for the “right” pick.
Plan For the Future
Speaking of the right pick, just know that the right pick might not be the pick that is right at this moment.
If a character your particularly interested in pops up during the draft, feel free to pick them. They may not be the right pick at this very moment, but sometimes it’s better to have them and not need them at the moment then need them and wish you’d picked them.
Learn to Be Flexible
If there’s one broad piece of advice to carry with you, let it be this: learn to be flexible.
You may have been dreaming of a lineup of knights and nobles or trolls and shamans, but the draft doesn’t always work out that way. It’s possible that you’ve developed tunnel vision and can only see the picks you want to see.
By doing so, you may pass up some great potential selections that could lead to a strong future comp. Don’t abandon your strategy for a possibility, but be able to build around what you’re given and not what you want.
Don’t Be Afraid to Focus on One Character
Many Auto Chess games are too young to have definitive “Meta Reports,” but some characters are just naturally stronger than others (especially based on team comp). Don’t be afraid to invest in these characters.
What does that mean? It means giving your best tanks multiple items to make them near invincible. It means focusing on building your best spell character into a three-star destroyer. There are strategies that revolve around swarming the board with multiple, small characters, but if a particular piece is really working with you, feel free to stick with them.
Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014.