How good are Franklin’s Gull and Killdeer in Wingspan?
Franklin’s Gull and Killdeer are considered to be among the best cards in Wingspan. Those who have played Wingspan for a while don’t need to be introduced to them. They have been the center of online discussions since people first cracked open the game in early 2019.
Traits of Franklin’s Gull
- Food Cost: 1 Fish + 1 Wild. Moderate Cost with some flexibility.
- Nest Type: Star (wild). This helps you secure a wider range of Round Bonuses.
- Egg Capacity: 2. This is on the lower end of the spectrum and probably its only real “negative” given its Star nest type.
- Victory Points: 3
- Habitats: Grasslands/Wetlands. Moderate Flexibility. More effective in Grasslands.
Traits of Killdeer
- Food Cost: 1 Worm / 1 Wheat. Cheap with some flexibility.
- Nest Type: Ground. Nothing special here.
- Egg Capacity: 3. Average
- Victory Points: 1
- Habitats: Grasslands/Wetlands. Moderate Flexibility. More Effective in Grasslands.
Franklin’s Gull and Killdeer Brown Power
“When Activated: Discard 1 Egg to draw 2 cards.”
So what’s the big deal? Franklin’s Gull and Killdeer (referred to hereafter as “Gull/Deer”) like to eat eggs and give two units of a resource, just like the Ravens. What’s different is that they pay back in cards instead of food.
Veterans of card games have probably heard of or at least experienced the effects of “card advantage.” The philosophy of card advantage boils down to increasing your options and broadening your path to victory more significantly than your opponents. The person who controls the most options probably wins more often than not. Playing Wingspan isn’t any different in this regard. Cards = Options.
Wingspan Strategy Tip: The person who controls the most options probably wins more often than not. Cards = Options.
Many of the Wingspan strategy principles that apply to the Ravens also apply to Gull/Deer. They generally want to live in the Grasslands. This row provides the eggs that fuel their power. This also allows you to ignore the Draw Cards action in the same way that the Ravens can ignore the Gain Food action.
Gull/Deer also enjoys the luxury of not requiring any set up to start being effective. They are cheap and they don’t need to draw their eggs from other birds. In this sense, they are more much efficient at turning eggs into cards than the Ravens are at turning eggs into food.
They are online by activation #2 (7% of the total game) where most Ravens will generally have difficulty coming online before activation #4 or #5 (15-19% of the total game), depending on your starting position (Vulture support being the exception).
That means that Gull/Deer is generally able to leverage their power 50% sooner than the Ravens (33% sooner than a Raven with Vulture support). This allows them a larger window in which to leverage their power and facilitate a snowball effect.
Hypothetical Scenario Play-Throughs
Here’s a theoretical scenario that showcases what they can do:
Wingspan Game Play Scenario #1
Opening Hand: Keep Killdeer, Blue Gray Gnat Catcher, one wheat, one worm, and one cherry from your opening hand.
From this position, you’re going to be leaning on your forest row to generate the food you need to play the cards you’ll be drawing. Many forest birds want cherries so that’s a good one to keep. The Gnatcatcher gives you extra worms.
Activation #1: Play a Bird Action. Play the Killdeer into your Grasslands, spending one wheat.
Activation #2: Lay Eggs Action. Place two eggs on the Killdeer.
Activate Killdeer: Discard one egg and draw two cards off the top of the deck. Nothing in the tray caught your eye. You draw a Red-Eyed Vireo and a Bald Eagle.
Note: You already intended to play the Gnatcatcher. The Red-Eyed Vireo card now presents you with a new option that puts you in a better position in your forest than before, opening up slot #3. Good thing you kept that cherry!
Activation #3: Play a Bird Action. Play the Vireo into your forest, spending one cherry.
This triggers the Vireo’s When Played power: play the Gnatcatcher into your forest, using the remaining egg on the Killdeer and one worm.
We can see that the extra cards from the Killdeer opened up an unexpected option in the Vireo that sped up your Gain Food action. At this point, you can decide whether you want to get food to play the Eagle or keep drawing cards with the Killdeer. The Vireo has a star nest so it might be worth it to lay eggs on it to get on the board for the round one bonus.
Wingspan Game Play Scenario #2
Let’s repeat Scenario #1 but replace Killdeer with Franklin’s Gull.
Opening Hand: Keep Franklin’s Gull, Blue Gray Gnat Catcher, one fish, one worm, and one cherry from your opening hand. Again, from this position, you’re going to be leaning on your forest row in order to generate the food you need to play the cards you’ll be drawing. The Gnatcatcher gives you extra worms.
Activation #1: Play a Bird Action: Play your Gull into your Grasslands, spending one fish and one cherry.
Activation #2: Lay Eggs Action: Place two eggs on the Gull.
Activate Franklin’s Gull. Discard one egg and draw two cards off the top of the deck. Nothing in the tray caught your eye. You draw a Red-Eyed Vireo and Bald Eagle.
Note: At this point in the scenario, you just have one worm. The Red-Eyed Vireo card isn’t as tempting as it might be when you had that free cherry while working with Killdeer.
If you were going to play the Vireo and take advantage of its power to play the Gnatcatcher, you would have to use an activation to get one die from the birdfeeder first (hoping that a worm or cherry is available).
Neither of your drawn cards greatly improves your position at this point, but they do give you options for the future. They could also be useful fuel for any “Tuck/Draw” birds that you get in the future.
Activation #3: Play a Bird Action: Play the Gnatcatcher into your forest, spending your one worm.
At this point, the best Wingspan strategy is to draw more cards. You have increased egg capacity from the Gnatcatcher and you may draw into stronger options that will accelerate your play. Once you know what you want to play, you’ll be more informed for future Gain Food actions.
If your fourth activation is to draw cards off of the Gull, you’ll have likely drawn four-times more cards than your opponents at this point (unless they happen to be building into the Wetlands) and you’ll have laid four eggs while doing it (you’ll have spent two).
You’re up by four cards and two victory points over your opponents that don’t have cards of a similar efficiency and effect. It only gets better for you and worse for your opponents from there.
Wingspan Strategy to Keep in Mind
Franklin’s Gull and Killdeer can leverage egg engines into significant card advantage in the early and mid-game and tend to lose power as they enter into the later rounds. They help you see the best cards sooner and more frequently than your opponents unless they are building into the Wetlands (but you’ll be gaining eggs over them). These birds distort the action economy heavily in your favor.
When playing Wingspan, the reasons that they are so similar in nature to Ravens will become obvious. Killdeer is a little faster out of the gate and gives you a bit more food flexibility. The Gull’s two-food cost can slow you down a bit but its name and star nest make it much more versatile for round bonuses and bonus cards.
As a precursor to the next article, I’d like to end this one with a joke:
A Raven and a Killdeer walk into a bar…..