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Phantaskippy's guide to Phantasms, part 3: Lightning's Swift Strike.

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phantaskippy's picture
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Phantaskippy's guide to Phantasms, part 3: Lightning's Swift Strike.

This guide was made to help players new to, or struggling with Lightning's Swift Strike, to understand the spirit better and have a good foundation to build on.  It is not comprehensive or intended to tell you how to play, just a place to start.


Lightning's Swift Strike doesn't take much time to act, and it acts with sudden destructive power.  It excels at destroying towns and cities, anything stretching high enough for Lightning to lay low.  It struggles to maintain this pace, tending to burn out and needing to recharge.


Lightning is a dedicated destroyer, crushing any towns that get too close to its sacred sites.  It is important to get a few sacred sites at key points so you can clear towns all over the island and keep invaders from entrenching in your reach.


Lightning is fast and powerful, your task is to find the best path to unleashing that power, with Lightning's limited resource gain.  You want card play to unlock your innate, and energy to pay for those cards, but Lightning has a slower path to getting a large hand and reliable energy gain than other spirits.  Yet it gains card play quickly and easily.
I mapped out 5 different growth strategies, but I'm only going to cover 3 here, just know there are a lot of ways to go, even for Lightning.

Path 1, Lightning, destroyer of towns.
The goal of this path is to destroy 2 towns almost every turn.  Its strength is you can keep your area free from towns for a long time, the downside is you aren't growing very fast, and need some card luck.
The basics of this path are reclaim a lot, and don't play Raging Storm.
You start by taking the third growth option, gaining a third card play and 3 energy.  Play 3 (not storm), using Shatter Homesteads and Thundering Destruction to destroy 2 towns.
After that reclaim and repeat, and hope you get a 0 cost card with a fire element in your first 2 reclaims.  Once you get 6 cards, take the +3 energy when you don't need to reclaim, and increase your card play when you get enough cards that fuel your innate.  If you have leftover energy, save it, you will use it later, don't just play Raging Storm because you can afford it now.
This growth plan works really well when you can get some extra energy, for example river giving you 3 energy at the start can let you slip in a 2 presence growth that will up your static power gain to 2 and get you a second sacred site.
Your end game may be disappointing, but the early power keeps you from needing to clear late game strongholds.

Path 2, stable card play.
This path you focus on emptying your hand before reclaiming, and gaining energy to fuel those plays.  It gets good presence out and good card play, but you won't be activating your innate until turn 5.
Start taking 2 from the energy track and playing 2 cards, then take 1 from the energy track and gain 3 energy to pay for your 2 cards.  Reclaim and play 2, then take 2 presence, getting 3 energy and 3 card plays.  Continue this way, taking 4 card plays after your reclaim leaves you with 7, switching to gain major powers at 6 or 8 cards, depending on how far you want to take card play.
This path is good for players without much experience playing Lightning.  The overall power output is lower, but it is a more familiar playstyle.

Path 3, riding the storm.
Somewhat a hybrid of the other two paths, this path takes down turns to fuel massive outbursts of destruction.  I find it to be the most destructive, and you will gain a lot of sacred sites so it has fantastic reach, but many players aren't interested in weak turns ever, let alone almost every other turn.
Start by placing 2 presence from your energy track, then only play 1 card.  Second turn place presence to get your third card play and 3 energy and play 3.  Next reclaim and play two, then place 2 more from energy and play 3.  You can jump to 4 or even 5 plays, because you aren't worried about having turns where you play 1 or 2 cards, trading consistency for huge destruction from your innate.
If you are willing to play 0 cards your first (or second) turn you can turn the 1 presence, +3 energy growth into a place 2 presence growth and get ahead even more.  You have a lot of flexibility in this plan, you can reclaim and go for a big turn right away or save it for the next turn.  A big thing to remember with this path is Lightning can use his slow powers as slow or as fast, and their are times for each.  You can even throw down a big innate slow, then reclaim, and do it again fast, getting both in between invader phases.

Picking powers.

Lightning's innate is so good and its energy level so constricting that your priorities end up ignoring the effect of the card almost entirely.  Here's my priority list:
1.  Lure of the Unknown, Land of Haunts and Embers, Swarming Wasps.  All have fire and air and 0 energy cost.  Dream cards.
2a.  Cards with 0 cost and fire.  You don't want more than 1 or 2 though.  There are 6 in the full minor power deck.
2b.  Cards with fire and air and 1 energy cost.  There are 6 of these as well, 2 with water.
3.  Cards with fire and 1 energy cost.  See a trend here?

One great thing about the ride the storm style is you can take some off-element cards with good effects and use them when you aren't going for Thundering Destruction.  You can even take major powers that don't line up and play them on off-turns.  Don't choose them over cards that support your innate, you need more than you start with, but it is nice to not stress card luck.

Final Tips.
1.  Gather and push gets amazing late game.  Moving a town in with a city then crushing both is lovely.
2.  Let them build late game.  If you can hit 2 cities with your innate let that city sit, let them explore and build then level the whole thing with your innate before they ravage, why not get the extra fear?
3.  Use slow and fast to maximize effectiveness.  Fast powers are cool, but many times letting powers be slow is better.  This is key to really dominating with Lightning.
4.  Use Dahan to kill leftover explorers.  You can push Dahan around, and will be playing that card a lot.  When you crush a town, why not have a Dahan there to clean up the scraps when the ravage hits?
5.  Always be cognizant of range to your sacred sites, on the 3 player island you can get range 2 to the whole map with 3 sacred sites no matter which board you start from.

As always, I hope this helps players get a better grasp on Lightning, so they can explore it even further.

jffdougan's picture
Last seen: 11 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: Oct 09, 2013

By "full minor power deck" are you including the cards from Branch & Claw?

phantaskippy's picture
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TakeWalker's picture
Last seen: 11 months 15 hours ago
Joined: Feb 26, 2016

In the one playthrough I saw, Lightning kind of stood out to me as "this is what I want to play". I think I'll try it first if I ever get a chance to play this game.

grysqrl's picture
Last seen: 11 months 21 hours ago
Joined: Sep 05, 2013

Under certain circumstances, it can be useful to take down a city on turn 2, though you sacrifice a bit by doing it.

Turn 1: Use the third growth option, placing a presence from your Card Plays track. Don't play any power cards!

Turn 2: Use the third growth option again, placing another presence from your Card Plays track. Now you should have the energy to play all of your power cards (barring a rough event on turn 1). Do so and use Thundering Destruction to crush a city.

Turn 3: ???

Turn 4: Profit

Chaosmancer's picture
Last seen: 7 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Dec 29, 2012

Lightning is one that I thought was far simpler for new players to pick up and has turned into something of a problem at times. I think there are two big things we;ve run into.



People hate not playing as many cards as they possibly can, which with Lightning's low energy gain can be a serious problem. I've started recomending something like your 3rd path reminding players that sometimes it is ok to not play anything on one turn so that you can be far more effective on the second rather than being ineffective on two seperate turns.


It is hard to appreciate slow powers. We're getting better about this, but the first time I had someone play Lightning, we were requested they use their power to make our stuff fast way too often, and it really drained Lightning and prevented them from being as effective as they could possibly be. I've actually caught myslef avoiding lightning because of this, and I think I'll need to correct that here soon.

phantaskippy's picture
Last seen: 11 months 4 weeks ago
Joined: Jan 26, 2013

I try to avoid Lightning in early games, because it isn't easy to learn the game with Lightning taking away slow powers.  The slow power mechanic is hard to learn, and making them fast feels like how it "should" work.  Also the energy crunch of Lightning makes the game feel even more complex and difficult that it really is.

Arcanist Lupus
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The other problem with boosting Lightning's plays early is that it doesn't have the power gain to sustain it.  Even if you can maintain the energy, Lightning only gains power cards when reclaiming, so playing many cards each turn means that you'll be reclaiming constantly and your presence growth will stagnate to almost nothing.  The urge is strong to jump Lightning up to three plays almost immediately in order to unlock its innate, but I definately think that players should hold off untill they are part of the way up the energy track before they do.

"Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?"

- Terry Pratchett, Going Postal

dpt's picture
Last seen: 11 months 1 day ago
Joined: Aug 06, 2013

Arcanist Lupus wrote:
 The urge is strong to jump Lightning up to three plays almost immediately in order to unlock its innate, but I definately think that players should hold off untill they are part of the way up the energy track before they do.
I don't know about that. One thing to accept about Lightning is that it will typically never be that powerful; it can't get the energy gain to really support Major powers basically at all. As such, you might be better off jumping out strong out of the gate and giving the other Spirits room to develop.

It's also worth considering taking a turn later on where you just don't do anything at all, only add 2 Presence.

phantaskippy's picture
Last seen: 11 months 4 weeks ago
Joined: Jan 26, 2013

I thought going 3 plays early couldn't work either, until I was working on this and decided to go all out card play and see if it was viable, and it is.

You don't get stronger, but with one 0 cost fire element card drawn in 2 tries you can sustain 2 towns a turn, which completely shuts down invader build up in your area.  If you push Dahan well you can clear explorers that ravage alone and make your area locked down to explorers.  Blocking explores is so good, and once you clear the City (usually from a ravage) you are really just coasting.  You don't get to help others as much early and mid game, but if you do get your board locked down you can take a 2 presence turn, get your energy a bit better and extend your reach, which is bigger than the energy side.

The key really is a 0 cost fire minor power, because then your 3 plays cost 2 energy (shatter homesteads) and that is how much energy you have when you reclaim.  With additional good element cards you can take turns off reclaiming, but for lightning, with no other card gain, reclaiming 3-4 times early isn't a bad thing, it builds your hand.  It's the only way to build your hand to play cards to activate your innate.  The odds of getting a 0 cost fire element in two power gains is better than 60%, so it certainly is viable.

The big thing to learn is that between the three paths I lay out there is room between to explore, you can start taking 2 from energy and then start a 2 town a turn rampage, or start destroying towns and transition into a storm and calm style if your board is in reallg good shape, the fun is in finding the right time and way to change up your path, to best fit the game you are in.  There are other paths too, I did a major power push path, taking sacred sites off energy the first 2 turns, and even with that slow energy track it worked well, because powers based from sacred sites had so many places to cast from

And if you have a river willing to give you 3 energy first turn, you can do the 2 towns a turn and still expand sacred sites instead of the +3 energy option.