Did you just take a tower to go up 1-0? Go for 3! Keep placing troops, and you’ll get the king’s tower too!
If you’ve ever thought this, listened to yourself, and proceeded to lose the game, this guide is for you. And I know you’ve done this–pretty much everyone has in their beginning days of the game.
Definition time: Snowballing is continuing to deploy troops to target your opponents towers without taking the time to recover elixir and play defense. Essentially, you are attempting to win the game the way most noobs would–dump as much elixir as possible on your opponent’s defenses, and you should break through.
Except you won’t. Your opponent can (and will) use defensive troops, buildings, and spells to stop you, and then he/she can counter-push with those defensive cards and an elixir advantage, meaning you won’t be able to defend. But you’ll be surprised how often snowballing is useful, especially against intermediate players. In this guide, I hope to introduce to this concept and actually incorporate some strategy into a common tactic used by the newest (and second-least skilled, after
insert whatever the meta is here) players in the game.
Reaction Times, Load Times, Deploy Times, Travel Times, and Troop Attack Behavior:
Have you ever dropped a minion horde on top of a wizard, only to have it all vaporize before doing any damage? Did you let go of the barbarians blocking that hog rider just as you saw a fireball start traveling from the king’s tower? If so, you have some familiarity with these concepts. Snowballing is possible because of them. The third and fourth concepts play a larger role, but the first two make it even easier:
- Reaction time (about 0.5 seconds): The time between something registering on the screen that you must react to immediately and the time you react to it with another card. Reaction time can be affected by a variety of factors, but average human reaction time is 0.25 seconds. I then added on another 0.25 seconds for the time it takes to select a card and deploy it—better players will have faster reaction times, but it does not vary significantly from 0.5 seconds.
In other words, half a second of lag time–
- Load time (1 second): The time between placing a card and the time it shows up in the arena. This is a universal “lag time” introduced into the game so that our wifi does not affect every single deployment we make—everything has a 1-second hesitation in order to prevent people with faster wifi from getting a significant advantage in every battle. You’ve heard of the lag monster, but it only affects you if the reaction time of your device is greater than 1 second. If you’ve ever played like this, you know how frustrating it can be.
Plus another second of lag time–
- Deploy time (usually 1 second): The time between a troop/building appearing in the arena and the time it starts to act. Deploy time is a very familiar concept for a lot of people, and it’s the reason why your minion horde didn’t damage that wizard—they did not get an opportunity to act because of their load time. If you freeze a card, its load time will still be one second, so a card like ice spirit will only freeze a newly deployed card for 0.5 seconds longer than it would anyway. This is also why a valkyrie will take a lot of damage before killing a skeleton army she was dropped on top of. In order to compensate for deploy time, we are sometimes taught to drop troops like a valkyrie next to (and out of range of) barbarians—she’ll kill all four barbarians with more health left, even though she won’t hit all four at once when deployed that way.
Plus another second of lag time when the troop/building can take damage!
- Travel Time (varied, but mostly irrelevant): Travel time : Spells :: Deploy time : Buildings and Troops. Or, for those of you who don’t do crosswords and logic puzzles, Travel time is basically the deploy time of spells. It can take a long time to get a spell where you need it to go, but as spells get closer to the king’s tower, their deploy time decreases significantly. For that reason, it’s mostly irrelevant, but still noted so I cover all of the concepts.
- Troop Attack Behavior: When presented with an enemy stimulus, all troops in the game will instantly attack those other troops. I recently began playing Clash of Clans again, and I did a double take when a PEKKA first arrived at a building, then waited (probably longer than) a full second, and then attacked the building. PEKKA would never be used if that were her behavior in Clash Royale. Since it’s not for any cards, troops that are deployed on top of other troops are hit almost instantly (and always before they can act). And when you have to tank a PEKKA shot before your troop is useful, it’s generally a lot less useful. And if there is enough damage per shot on the board at any given time, anything that you deploy will die almost instantly.
Because of the massive lag time between recognizing that you need to play a troop and having it act, and because of the attack behavior of troops, snowballing is a very effective strategy under the right circumstances.
When should you snowball?
The concept of when to snowball is simple enough—the difficulty is in its application. Basically, you should be snowballing when:
You have a significant elixir advantage (counting the troops already on the map)
You have a lot of high damage-per-shot troops on the map, including sufficient damage dealers that attack troops
Your opponent cannot kill everything with a spell like rocket, poison, lightning, or fireball, either because it’s not in rotation, it won’t kill enough, it’s not fast enough (poison), or your opponent does not have enough elixir
Your opponent does not have a troop or building hard counter that will kill everything on the map at the time of its deployment
Example: If you have a PPP deck (Pekka, Prince, Dark Prince) that just took a tower, and you want to snowball, you need to make sure that your opponent does not have a skeleton army or minion horde. If they do, you either need a hard counter that will kill everything fast enough (zap, arrows), you need a splasher to counteract the swarm troops, or you need to have a large enough HP pool on the three troops to take out the tower anyway. Given that by deciding to snowball, you’ve probably just deployed another troop, you should have a decent HP pool. If you have a wizard to kill the minion horde, and you need the wizard in order to save your push, you need to remember that it will take more than 2.5 seconds for that wizard to kill the minion horde if you deploy him reactively—and that’s assuming you already have 5 elixir. But if he’s on the board already, the minion horde will die right away.
Dumping Troops and its Similarities to Snowballing
There’s another type of snowballing that people know as dumping troops. Seen most often in 0-0 situations, this is usually done to take out a lone arena tower in overtime, since you can afford to keep pressuring your opponent. Usually this is an awful strategy, because you will run out of elixir and/or lose to a massive counter-push, even if you manage to take out a tower. But in overtime, counter-pushes no longer matter. Therefore, if you are going to take out the tower with your massive elixir investment, attempt it by all means. But instead of supporting a push that already took out a tower to go for two or three crowns, your goal is to continue dropping aggressive troops or combinations of troops until your opponent no longer has a good counter to them. The theory is that eventually, your opponent will run out of good counters, and your overpowering push will take out the tower despite you losing a lot of elixir to build up that push. Those kinds of elixir advantages lose games in the long run, and you’ll rarely ever have enough elixir to get 3 crowns once you get one, but overtime stops play as soon as a tower goes down. Therefore, you goal is not to build a deathball push to eventually overwhelm your opponent’s collective defense–your goal is to build numerous, threatening pushes, one after the other. When you run an elixir collector in a deck that doesn’t hinge on an expensive win condition, the elixir advantage you get near the end of the collector’s lifetime is extremely useful for this.
This is especially useful in draft challenges. Because people do not have perfect decks, they are not likely to have counters that give positive elixir trades, so continuing to pressure your opponent and preventing them from resetting their game can be the difference between winning and losing, especially if you’re stuck in a seemingly unwinnable matchup. In normal play, this is usually not going to save your game, since organized, balanced decks will have enough good answers, but sometimes you can get away with this when you have an elixir advantage and your opponent has to first burn a spell, then drop an expensive counter.
Snowballing and Dumping seem like strategies that only noobs attempt, but they’re legitimate and they work in the right scenarios. If you can recognize when to use this tactic, you’re one step closer to becoming a truly advanced player.