Plants vs. Zombies - Survival Endless FAQ
Survival endless FAQ by clickfest
I've been playing Plants vs Zombies Survival Endless in Game of the year
edition for around 4 years now, mainly refining my play with the setup I call
Elegant Cob Sun Saver (ECSS). This has two cobs and will be described later. A
lot of FAQs have been written about this game mode. I'd like to emphasize some
of the less well-known points, and deal briefly with the more familiar ones.
First I should acknowledge Draco and evilbob for their systems which I combined
into ECSS. Details of ECSS and variants are given at the end, where I give a
lot of detail about playing this system.
Survival Endless is a challenging game at high levels for two main reasons.
It's an Arcade mode, and shows rare random events, the most damaging being jack
accidents (explosions of the jack-in-a-box zombie which destroy 1 or more
important plants like pool glooms). These two features are closely related. By
Arcade mode, I mean that, although the game saves your progress in each session
and allows you to continue next session from where you left off, it doesn't
allow you to load an earlier saved game, so you can't repeat the same level.
That means you are at the mercy of the random events like jack accidents and
dolphins eating pool glooms. You can practice your play but each moment of a
game is played once only.
Note that it is possible to cheat by backing up game files so you can repeat
levels. If you do this, all the challenge of this mode quickly disappears.
Since the dangerous "Black Swan" random events are rare, just by repeating a
level several times you can avoid them, thus being able to play without jack
accidents, for instance. There are then many setups which can be played
I don't advocate cheating this way, as for myself there is then no sense of
achievement. I only mention it to get across what makes the game mode such a
challenge, for those who don't cheat. I have tested over 50 setups up to 100
flags, and beyond if they are robust enough to survive that far more than half
the time. None of them can survive indefinitely without cheating. Only a
handful can regularly (not always, because of the randomness) survive beyond
100 flags. Of these, only two variants of my Elegant Cob Sun Saver setup can
regularly survive many hundreds of flags in my experience. Other people's
experience may differ, but I'd like to explain why I think this is so, without
getting into a tedious slanging match about the best setup and playing style.
If you don't agree, that's fine. Take my suggestions with a pinch of salt. But
you might save yourself some time investigating setups that aren't viable by
Many cob cannons or few?
Firstly, I divide setups into two main types, those with few or no cobs, and
those with many. My dividing line is a bit vague, for reasons I'll go into
later, but let us say four or less cobs for the "few-cob" setup. Cob cannons
are everyone's favourite attack plant, because of the huge and full 3 by 3 tile
area effect damage, perhaps 80, to kill football zombies outright (assuming
Draco's stats on zombie health are correct), and the 35 second shot-recharge.
The first point I'd make is that it isn't as simple as to say, the more cobs
the better because you can inflict more area damage per second on the zombies.
[Whilst on the subject, I've checked the health of most types of zombie from
Survival Day Hard videos and I agree with Draco's table in his FAQ. Highlights:
jack 17 football 80 garg 150 giga 225 (not checked) zomboni 60. From my
Survival Endless videos, I estimate bungee 23 (killed by two attacks from 3
glooms + freeze 1 point in 25 damage, see later for plant damage, but not
killed by freeze + 2 attacks of 2 glooms for 17 damage), giga 225 (rough
estimate: cob + squash + 17 gloom shots + 3 direct winter melon shots at 240+
damage killed an inner giga, but the same giga had not died after cob + squash
+ 7 gloom shots + 2 direct winter melon shots at 196+ damage. This assumes cob
and squash do 80 damage. It would be reasonable for giga to have 50% more
health than garg.]
Why not? Because with any setup there are Black Swan events, especially jack
accidents but not only those. Sure, the jack accidents are going to be quite
rare with an 8 or 10 cob setup, at least whilst you have all of those cobs. But
they will still happen. With a many-cob setup, you have to deal with multiple
threats almost entirely with the cobs. So if you mess up any single cob shot,
or get the timing wrong so you don't fire in time, you generally don't have any
other attack to fill the gap. That lets in a host of Black Swan events. There
are too many to list them all. But they include a greater frequency of jack
accident, and gigas or zomboni squashing column 7 plants. Of course, if a
column 7 plant is destroyed, it is then possible to lose a column 5 and 6 land
A key feature of many-cob setups is that a lot of space on the lawn is,
unavoidably, given over to the cobs which occupy 2 lawn spots each. There is
then less space for other plant defences. A particular consequence of this is
that every level with zomboni has to be defended with near-perfect cob shots
and timing, to stop the column 7 plants being squashed, even if there are no
jacks or gigas (I shorten giga-gargantuar to giga and gargantuar to garg for
brevity). So only a few rare levels with no zomboni, jack or giga (about 21%)
don't require constant use of the cobs.
That is why I make the distinction between many-cob and few-cob setups. With
few-cobs, any level without jack or giga (about 34%) requires many fewer
attack seeds and is an opportunity to save sun, provided at least the setup can
deal with zomboni without use of any seeds or even cobs. Those are the only
few-cob setups I consider. Thus, few-cob setups have more "easy" levels and
sun-saving opportunities. Also, I will argue later that, of all many-cob setups
I've tried, only some setups with exactly 8 cobs, four at the very back of the
pool and the others on land in columns 5 and 6 are viable to 100 flags. I
suspect this is true in general, but your experience may differ. I couldn't
find a viable to 100 flags setup of this kind which had more than 4 twin
sunflowers. Some people apparently try to survive with only two twins. Some
try to ladder their setup to save on sun by not having to replace so many
pumpkins. I will argue that neither option is viable beyond 100 flags. For now,
just be aware that the large size of cob cannons means you have to cut down on
twin sunflowers as well as defensive plants. So long as there are no Black Swan
events, that is no problem. But the long-term viability of setups is tied to
surviving Black Swans. Even if they are rare, you need to be able to afford the
sun to replace the losses. And I would argue that Black Swans where you lose a
cob are not rare enough in many-cob setups.
Where did I get those percentages from? I recorded every zombie roster and
level in a game that went beyond 1000 flags and in 5 games after that, overall
averaging above 700 flags per game, though my playing style changed a lot in
the process. That showed that about 44% of levels have jacks (4/9) so there are
about 22 jack levels per 100 flags (2 flags per level). With my basic ECSS
setup I had usually between 3 and 5 jack accident levels per 100 flags, which
worked out at 20% of the jack levels, or about 9% of all levels if you prefer.
With the variant I had slightly fewer, 18% of the jack levels or 8% of all
levels, but with less data so far. Giga, zomboni and bungee each occur on about
39% of levels independently. That seems enough information for basic strategy.
The crucial point is the difference between the frequency of easy levels with
few-cob (34% or (1-.44) x (1-.39) as probabilities) and many-cob (21% or
(1-.39) x (1-.44) x (1-.39) as probabilities), which is statistically
Whilst we're on the subject of saving sun, note that levels with giga, but no
jack, though difficult, still often allow for saving a little sun during the
lull near the end of the second part when the gigas usually stop coming. That
is another 22% of levels on which a little sun can be clawed back, provided the
setup can deal with zomboni (and all zombies except jack and giga) without
using so many seeds. Only gargs need the occasional use of freeze in addition
to a single pair of cobs with a viable few-cob setup like ECSS.
At higher levels, you tend to break even on some of these levels, lose a little
sun on some and gain quite a bit on others with a big lull without gigas. Even
though you lose sun with ECSS on many, but not all, jack levels, overall you
gain sun on the majority. Of course, you can regain huge amounts of sun,
between 1000 and 3000, on easy levels if you are sparing with pumpkins and
attack seeds with ECSS.
Area effect damage
To explain about many-cob setups, I need to talk more generally about
area-effect damage. In Survival Endless, a lot of the plants without any
area-effect damage are not effective in a viable setup. That is why you will
mainly see only winter melon, cob, fume and gloom as the basic attack plants in
viable setups. Obviously, the instants (squash, jalapeno, cherry), cobs, doom
and freeze (ice-shroom activated by coffee) are all pure area-effect attacks.
By pure, I mean all the damage done effects all the zombies in the area of
effect, not just one target.
You may be surprised that winter melon is not described as pure area-effect. I
believe that melon-pult deals 3 damage to the single target zombie, and only 1
damage to the 3 by 3 area centred on the target. Winter melon does the same,
but each shot slows affected zombies by 50% for a few seconds except those
zombies that are immune, which in practice is zomboni and dolphin and in-air
If you don't believe that melon and winter damage works this way, investigate
by making and watching videos. I'll mention evidence later on. You can test
this by playing one of the other Survival modes like Survival Day, and restrict
yourself to just melon and winter melon attacks (after digging up any peas you
started with). I only mention this because a number of guides give different
amounts of damage for plants, so they can't all be right and you may have to
test it for yourself. It's also just possible that the damage or zombie health
stats are different in the original game (with Michael Jackson dancer) and the
Game of the year edition version. I only have Game of the year.
On Survival Day, you get just zombie and conehead to start. Use pea and
repeater to work out that zombie takes 10 damage (a pea hit I'll call 1 damage)
and conehead about 27 or 28. Then have a melon in one row with peas above and
below to see both direct melon damage (likely 4 per shot as conehead dies in 7
shots) and indirect damage when you have zombies in a column in 2 adjacent
rows, one getting hit by repeater and indirect melon shots, the other by melon
direct. You can then see the conehead with repeater and indirect melon dies in
about 22 peas and 5 indirect melon shots. That's consistent with conehead
having 27 health and indirect melon splash damage of 1 point per shot. So at
least you can see that the splash damage area includes a square above or below
the target, and is a lot less than the direct damage.
Testing the same way with winter melon, you can see it takes the same number of
shots so does the same direct damage, the only difference being the slowing
effect. Testing with a clump of 2 zombies approaching a winter melon, you can
see that the lead one dies in 3 hits, but the 2nd one survives 2 more hits,
consistent with the winter melon only doing 4 damage to the single target and
1 point splash in the same square (or near it). So it's at least clear that
melon and winter melon are not pure area-effect attacks and the splash damage
includes the target square and squares above and below. You get the idea and
can do your own experiments. Freeze does 1 point of damage to all affected
zombies on the screen (as well as slowing affected zombies to half speed for 5
seconds), as can be seen with freeze and pea attacks.
Melon and winter both fire a shot about every 3 seconds to give 1 damage per
second (dps) to the single target plus only 1/3 dps to the 3 by 3 splash
(area-effect). In terms of single shots, the 4 damage of melon or winter is 3
points direct and 1 point splash.
The same test for fume and gloom is more difficult to interpret precisely. The
exact values and timing could vary quite a bit, perhaps because of the random
wake-up time before a plant starts attacking or just the imprecision of my
timings. But in my test the results are consistent with a fume dps of 2/3 (one
shot of 1 damage per 1.5 seconds) and a pure area-effect range of 4 tiles, and
a gloom dps of 2 (one shot of 4 damage per 2 seconds) in a 3 by 3 tile pure
Since the gloom damage is so crucial I'll spell out my evidence. A gloom killed
an ordinary zombie in 3 shots (bursts), not 2, so it's damage per shot has to
be less than 5. It killed a buckethead in 17 shots and a football in 20 shots.
That is consistent with 4 damage per shot, given a bucket took 65 peas and a
football 80 to kill. Also, of course, each gloom burst (shot) consists of 4
clouds in rapid succession in each of the 8 directions, so it's natural to
assume each does 1 damage.
Maybe I'm simplifying too much to get round numbers (or thirds and halves) and
the fumes probably fire a little faster and do a bit more dps than this
suggests (perhaps 0.7 dps is closer). At high levels the wake-up is less of an
issue since the zombies come on continually and the plants almost always have
multiple targets, unlike in these tests with only a few easy zombies.
The main point is the relative differences, and whether the damage is pure
area-effect, and notice that glooms do large, pure area-effect damage, which
affects the inner row if they are placed in the pool. So that explains why
multiple pool glooms is such a consistent feature of viable setups.
If you really insist on using gatling pea, which has no area-effect, only
single target damage, and some pea shots can be blocked by dead bodies of
zombies, then you need to know that it does 4 dps to the single target, but I
don't recommend using gatling because they're going to be less effective at
high levels with huge clumps of zombies.
The different area-effects and modes of attack make it difficult to compare
fume and winter melon. But if you have both, so the winter does the slowing
and the fume does the pure area-effect, it seems to work quite well in
combination. You could say the fume is more powerful in a single row once the
targets are in range, since its area-effect damage is greater. This combination
is used in the outer rows of ECSS (and many few-cobs) with a winter melon and
two fumes (3 fumes in ECSS variant). It's particularly vital against zomboni
since they are immune to slowing, but take good damage from the fumes, and
clumps take the same fume damage. It's clearly better to have several fumes
than several winters because of clumping, at least in terms of area-effect dps.
For zomboni and dolphin, I believe the effect of winter melon is the same as
melon-pult. In particular, dolphins and zomboni are not slowed by winter melon
attacks, as it's easy to see in actual play. However, note that in-air balloon
zombies are always slowed by freeze, and dolphins are only immune when they are
not eating and in the pool. They can be frozen either whilst eating or before
entering the pool. Zomboni, of course, are completely unaffected by freeze and
winter melon slow effect.
Another good way to see that winter melon attack is not pure area-effect
without the hassle of video testing is to see how clumps of zombies die in a
few-cob setup. By a clump I mean several zombies in roughly the same column,
like a couple of gigas on land. You will notice that these land clumps don't
all die together, but one by one with a gap of seconds in between. If all
damage were pure area-effect, they would all die at virtually the same time.
Also, note whilst on this example, that the slowing effect of winter melon
makes successive clumps of gigas, and other zombies that survive, bunch up so
you can get four or more gigas in a clump at high levels, even if they only
appear in 2s. This effect is much less visible in many-cob setups, since almost
all the damage is dealt by cobs, but it is still present. There are still gaps
between cob shots during which winter melons may be attacking.
Other useful plants in Survival Endless
The only other plants you might see in a viable setup are those with unique
attacks. That is why you see winter melon, not for the partial area-effect
damage, since that is relatively little dps, but for the slowing effect. That
is crucial to slow down jacks, gigas and footballs, for instance. Other special
plants you may see are umbrella (protection from catapult and bungee), twin
sunflower for sun, cattails for the ability to shoot down balloons (so you
don't need to keep a slot for blover on a difficult level). Cattails also have
the ability to attack anywhere on the screen, which is nice, but less useful at
high levels since their damage has no area-effect, just hitting a single
target. But popping balloons and hitting imps and diggers behind the front
lines are such handy special attacks (only jalapeno can do this also, but not
so frequently) that a pair of cattails feature in many viable setups.
I don't recommend using "fire-pea", gatling plus torchwood, because not only is
it not area-effect, but the fire cancels the winter melon slowing effect. So
gigas will squash everything at high levels, because they are not slowed
consistently and they come in clumps, so you can kill one or two but the
remaining ones in the clump will start squashing. In this game it is never
simple, you have to consider how different attacks work in combination, not in
isolation. All attacks have different strengths and weaknesses.
Video timing will show that a cattail does about 1 damage per second. Melon or
winter melon fire about every 3 seconds. So the single-target dps of winter
melon is slightly more than cattail at about 4/3 but the splash dps is a measly
However, note that cattails fire at targets anywhere on the screen, whichever
target is furthest forward, so they contribute damage continually where it is
most needed. If you have no more room for land winter melons, an extra cattail
can contribute damage to land targets (especially outer rows in few-cob
setups). Is it worth sacrificing that spot for a pool winter melon? You see
what I mean about how you have to consider how attacks work in combination.
It all depends on the particular features of your setup. The pool winter melon
is a safer bet because of its splash damage and slowing effect which could also
affect an inner row. But you'd have to experiment to be sure.
Some setups, even viable ones, use spikerocks. I don't recommend them near the
front because they are only pure area-effect against land zombies other than
garg, giga and zomboni. That is not ideal since giga and zomboni are two of
the most dangerous four zombies with jack and football. And of course, a jack
accident could destroy two spikerock and they are expensive in sun to replace.
Just be aware that giga or zomboni destroy a spikerock in 9 hits. At high
levels, there are so many giga and zomboni that the spikerocks near the front
won't survive long in few-cobs, because you have to use a lot of freeze
attacks which don't affect zomboni.
They survive a bit longer with many-cob setups, whilst all the cobs survive,
but I will explain later that because of seed recharge times they still need
to be replaced quite frequently at high levels.
Some people put spikerocks at the back. I also don't recommend that because it
is an inefficient use of lawn space (compared to having a pair of column 2
glooms in pumpkin which deal with the digger and imp threats adequately),
which cuts down on your passive plant attack damage or number of twins. It is
nice to have immunity from diggers, but not at the cost of passive attacks
against other zombies or less sun generation. Some people also "ladder" their
setups, by which I mean cleverly allow ladder zombies to place ladders on their
land plants at relatively low levels. It's a nice idea, because you don't need
to replace pumpkins on laddered plants and imps can do no damage with laddering
and back spikerock. But it means you can't use jalapeno which destroys the
ladders in that row.
I'll explain later how you can't do without jalapeno in a superviable setup
(one that regularly survives many hundred flags), even if it is used in some
setups which are viable to 100 flags.
Some many-cob setups use pool tallnut to keep dolphins from jumping forward.
This cuts down your defenses against all other zombies. I would prefer to have
pool glooms, but with 10 cobs you may have no choice to protect the column 5
and 6 pool cobs from dolphins jumping on to them and eating them. Otherwise, I
would try to avoid it since pool glooms affect the inner land rows with their
area-effect, where some of the most dangerous attacks appear, like giga and
Back to many-cob setups. The crucial point here is the shot recharge time of 35
seconds. To cover both sides, you need to use pairs of cobs, firing them as
close together as you can manage. Since new columns of zombies come on with
a gap varying between about 6 and 10 seconds, it's the average that's
The average varies between just over 7 seconds for levels without giga and over
8.5 seconds for levels with giga, from my Survival Endless videos.
Let's say 7 seconds to be sure of hitting zomboni, then to hit them regularly
without a break you would need 10 cobs (5 x 7 = 35). So the first point is that
setups with less than 10 cobs have to use other attack seeds, like the
instants, freeze or doom, because the cobs will run out for at least one
7 second attack slot.
Check these timings with your own video evidence or a timer, if you wish. It's
crucial to know about timings to plan and optimise play.
You can put 4 cobs at the very back of the pool in columns 1 to 4 and they are
safe from all attacks, whilst most of your front of pool defences survive,
since land zombies can't reach them and pool ambush zombies pop up further
forward. You can also put land cobs in columns 5 and 6 since imps will be
thrown over them, though there are lots of Black Swan threats to these exposed
cobs and zomboni and giga are a constant threat if you don't maintain
near-perfect timing or miss a single shot.
But that only allows you to place 8 cobs more or less safely (in practice those
land cobs will need replacing in the long term, as I'll explain later). The
only other place I've seen cobs go is in columns 5 and 6 of the pool. There
they are in range of pool ambush zombies, who appear at the beginning of the
second and third parts. To keep them alive necessitates hitting the spot in
between them with one cob at least, with near-perfect timing just as the ambush
zombies are about to surface. Note that they do damage as they surface, so they
need to be hit underwater, and the window of attack is very small. If you can
hit that window consistently in Arcade mode without cheating and/or repeating
levels, congratulations. Otherwise this placement is not viable as these cobs
get destroyed by the ambush zombies.
Even if you can manage the 10 cob timing and hit the ambush zombies regularly,
you have used at least one cob not fired at the front, so you will still run
out of cob attacks and have to supplement with instants, doom or freeze.
There's a similar problem with bungees. With 8 or 10 cobs, your land plants
nearer the front won't all be covered by the 2 glooms that is the minimum to
protect them (freeze is also needed to be safe but the attack window is pretty
wide and can be managed regularly, provided freeze and coffee are recharged.
On few-cob setups I recommend freezing bungees every time. I count to 3 after
the targets land before activating the ice-shroom or imitator with coffee. That
is about 2 or 3 seconds delay. A common beginner mistake which I made myself
long ago is not to delay long enough. The window is more than a second wide and
presents no problem with a little practice).
If you don't want plants stolen (not the cobs, they're too large to be taken by
bungees) you'll have to use more cob shots, probably two more, or have four
umbrellas to cover everything. Having four umbrellas is important for
many-cobs, because you can deal with bungees automatically without needing
freeze, so you can just concentrate on the cob shots at the front. But it does
mean that you don't have guaranted gloom protection for column 4 land plants
against imps whose front section lands in this column, assuming you have the
obligatory winter melon in each land row.
Pumpkin replacement costs are pretty high with many-cob setups, because with
even 4 cobs at the back of the pool, the cattails (if you have them) have to be
in column 5 or higher. That's because otherwise pool ambush zombies could eat
cobs further forward than the back 4 columns.
That makes their shots at imps have to bend round and travel a long way, which
delays them so they don't help against imps much, unlike with 2-cob setups with
cattails in column 1 or 2. They help less with diggers, too, though even column
1 cattails have to bend their shots around to hit the back column.
Just notice that having to supplement cobs means having to spend more sun. With
10 cobs, or even just 8, you'll generally have at most 4 twin sunflowers,
unless you sacrifice needed defensive plants and make the setup unviable that
way. So there is a difficulty in avoiding running out of sun unless all
significant plant losses are sufficiently rare.
In my experience, jack accidents are very rare with many-cobs, but loss of cob
is not nearly rare enough and quite expensive to replace with at least 8 cobs.
Your experience may differ. However, it's fair to say that running out of sun
is much less of a threat than a catastrophic loss of more than two cobs at a
time making the setup unviable with a moderately difficult zombie roster (giga
It is clearly not possible to replace both cob and pool gloom losses on the
same level if you have to supplement the cob cycle with all 3 instants and
doom, because you only have 10 slots maximum.
Whichever you leave out you will be creating Black Swan events that could lead
to losses of both in the same level after one is lost and not replaced. This is
in contrast to few-cob setups such as ECSS where the setup is still
(super)viable after a jack accident and the 7 second attacks can still be
maintained, though with more difficulty and occasionally missing one attack or
using a single instant. With a lot of many-cobs, if you lose a cob you can't
maintain your attack cycle since you are already using the instants to maintain
it and doom for the bungees or the lost cob shots to deal with them.
But there is one more viable 8-cob system where you may be able to supplement
attacks even after losing one or two cobs (no more), which I'll describe
8-cob setup of David Pearlman
[t][G][M][W] CCCC S . . Symbol Legend
[u][G][W][u] CCCC . . . . land G gloom-shroom
b [W] CCCC [t][G][G][G][G] t twin sunflower F fume-shroom
b [i] CCCC [t][G][G][G][G] b cattail W winter melon
[u][G][W][u] CCCC . . . CC cob cannon [ ] pumpkin
[t][G][M][W] CCCC S . . u umbrella leaf i freeze spot
M gatling pea (ice-shroom)
Supplementing the cob cycle
There is a viable possibility with 8-cobs I should mention (credit goes to
David Pearlman for this setup). If the setup has four land umbrellas and 6
glooms at the front of the pool with two cattails in column 5 and twins in
column 6, then bungees can be dealt with automatically. In the back 5 columns
the umbrellas protect all plants. In column 6 of the pool the nearest 4 glooms
kill bungees because bungees are wider than 1 tile. There are more twin
sunflowers in column 1 of the inner row and land glooms in column 2.
Bungees can't steal cobs because they're too large. Any plants in column 7
(such as spikerock) will not be stolen because the first two cob attacks will
kill bungees. That means doom or freeze are not required to deal with bungees.
Then you have doom and instants to supplement cobs. In odd cycles, you can use
doom and cherry and that's as good as cobs. In the even cycles, if your cobs
haven't recharged, you can use inner squash and jalapeno. Often, against gigas,
the greater average gap between columns of zombie types means your cobs may
recharge in time without needing the supplementary attack.
The even cycle supplements, with inner attacks only, mean that gigas and
zomboni will squash the outer column 7 plant unless it is an empty tile or
spikerock. Either way, the next cob attacks (or doom and cherry) will kill the
gigas and zomboni in column 7 or 6. If we have around 5 cycles in the 1st two
parts with no giga, that would mean zomboni get in only 2 chances to hit outer
spikerock. There are between 1 and 4 zomboni in a column. So they inflict
between 2 and 8 hits on the outer spikerocks, which will mean that new
spikerocks will survive more than one such level. With giga, there are perhaps
7 cycles of columns in the 1st two parts and perhaps 3 chances for outer gigas
and zomboni to hit the spikerocks. With giga, but no zomboni, the spikerocks
might take 3 to 6 hits and still survive more than one level. With both giga
and zomboni, the spikerocks might be destroyed in one level.
Replacement of the outer spikerocks can often be done on levels without jacks,
but with jacks there is a choice between pool gloom replacements in case of
jack accidents, or cob replacements, or spikerock replacements. You'd
generally leave out the spikerock and bring pool gloom replacements, or leave
out the pool gloom replacements and bring cob replacements. Clearly, you may
have to play levels with no outer spikerocks, but you also may have to play
some jack levels without pool gloom replacements if you need to replace lost
Levels without gigas usually have around 9 or 10 columns in each of the 1st
two parts and the new columns continue for about a minute to a minute 30 s.
Despite the average gap being only a little over 7 s, there are only going to
be two full cob cycles in each part, and part of a third cycle, perhaps
occasionally a full 3rd cycle. So the cob cycles can be supplemented with the
use of a doom or two in each of the 1st two parts.
With gigas, there may be 12 to 14 columns in each of the 1st two parts and the
columns last between 1:30 and 2:00. The greater average gap of 8.5 seconds
means you'll not need to supplement in every cycle. In any case, you can
maintain attacks against all new columns and use only two doom in each of the
1st two parts unless a part has four complete cob cycles of columns (lasting
2:20). It's reasonable to expect that with the extra delay you will get all
cobs recharged in time for the 4th cycle. After hitting the last new column of
gigas, you'll have no more zomboni so can use a freeze attack.
Then, you can maintain powerful attacks provided you can place up to 4 doom and
still place all the instants needed to supplement the cobs. You have two inner
tiles in column 7 (if you leave them empty of permanent plants) and four land
tiles in column 8 which you can use to plant doom and instants, which should
allow you to keep 2 of the slots for instants and freeze and the other 4 for
doom. But it means you can't have inner spikerock and maintain the most
Even if you lose one cob, you can still supplement cobs with slightly weaker
attacks. In the odd cycles, use single cob and squash, along with cherry and
doom as before. In the even cycles, use single cob and freeze, along with
jalapeno and squash as before.
Losing two cobs seems a big problem, but you can supplement with some even
weaker attacks. In the odd cycles, a single squash in one inner row, along with
cherry and doom as before. In the even cycles, freeze, along with jalapeno and
squash as before. Obviously, there are going to be more rows without an
effective attack against zomboni, but at least you can avoid two columns in a
row without using a cob pair.
This arrangement, which I've only seen in one setup, which also has outer
gatling (I wonder about replacing the gatling with fume so you have pure
area-effect damage and only one seed slot to replace instead of 2) to deter
minor zombies from getting forward to eat the outer land cobs during the weak
supplementary attacks, has at least the possibility of being viable with 4
There will be greater pressure on pumpkins but it's possible to bring pumpkin
and imitator on each level. Whether this will let you gain sun on levels
without cob or pool gloom losses, I'm not sure.
But some estimates can be made. Twins produce 50 sun about every 23 s. 25 sun
falls from the sky about every 10 s. With an average 6 minute level and 4 twin
sunflowers, that's about 4000 sun gained. If we assume the use of 4 doom, 4
cherry, 3 jalapeno, 3 squash, that is 1925 sun spent at worst. With 30 s to
recharge pumpkin, that is 12 chances to use both pumpkin and imitator in the
level at most, for 1500 sun spent. So we should gain at least 500 sun in the
worst case without plant losses, quite a bit more with a more realistically
lower use of pumpkins or on levels without giga.
500 sun gained is about the minimum for viability. To avoid running out of
sun, it then depends on the frequency of lost pool glooms and cobs and
spikerocks. The outer spikerocks aren't a huge expense at 500 sun for both,
and they have to be replaced less than once a level on average. The first cob
cannon costs 700 for the two kernel pults and the 500 sun cob, then it's 50
more sun for each additional one. The 8th one costs 1050 to replace. So it
might take about 2 levels to regain the sun spent on replacing a single lost
cob. Similarly, it's 450 to replace the first pool gloom, 50 more for each
additional one. So with 10 glooms, it costs 1750 sun to replace two lost pool
glooms after a jack accident. That might take about 4 levels to make up. Jack
accidents are going to be very rare with 8 cobs, so the cost of gloom
replacement is probably manageable. But loss of cobs may be less rare,
depending on the skill of the player in maintaining the attack sequence and
coping with cob losses. But provided you can reach a point where you lose a
cob in less than every 3 levels you have a chance.
Superviability is a different matter. Not only do you have to be able to play
on with one lost cob and replace it, but you could lose two or more. You can
maintain some kind of weak supplementary attacks with 6 cobs, but with less
than that you'll get overrun on a moderately difficult level, with zomboni or
giga, losing all of the land cobs. If the next level has zomboni or giga
you'll likely not finish it with even 6 cobs, and take more losses of the land
cobs you do replace. I suppose it's possible you could limp through a couple
of such levels and restock on an easy level without jack, giga or zomboni, but
you can't rely on it, and you'll have spent a lot of sun on cobs and
supplementary attacks with few cobs.
There are other Black Swan events effecting the land cobs in 8 cob setups:
balloons dropping on them (unless you use blover and no cattails, which
loses you a seed slot to blover), pole-vaulters jumping onto them. And there
are many more once you've lost one or two. Also, even with no losses you will
likely lose two inner cobs if you miss two consecutive 7 s attacks, putting
you in danger of losing with any further losses.
Pumpkin damage on land in the columns where imps land is a big problem with
8-cobs, as mentioned earlier. If you have no cattails it's worse.
A big problem with imps and pumpkin damage is that the imps will be being
thrown with virtually every 7 s attack and that doesn't give you much time to
use imitator pumpkin, with its 4 s delay, in the imp territory, without the
imitator being chewed on before it has deployed, which makes it as weak as most
plants in that time and able to be destroyed by the big clumps of imps at high
levels. But at least you can use imitator pumpkin further back on land in
column 1 or in the pool.
After all this criticism of many-cobs, I should at least point out some of
their advantages over few-cobs. Land zombies are generally restricted to
columns 8 and 9 by the cob attacks and winter melon shots (sometimes referred
to as the "winter box"). That means each winter melon shot slows all the
affected zombies on land. There will rarely be winter melon distraction (except
when a shot at column 7 zombies doesn't slow zombies in column 9). All this
greatly reduces the frequency of jack accidents, but doesn't eliminate them.
Loss of cobs is probably a bigger danger.
Other slight advantages of 8-cobs are being able to bring pumpkin and imitator
pumpkin on each level (though the imitator may be tricky to deploy against
imps, as mentioned earlier) and being able to bring pool gloom replacements on
many (but not all, with cob losses) jack levels. However, replacing a pool
gloom whilst maintaining the cob cycle is a challenge, you'd need very fast
reactions, or have to delay the replacement between huge waves.
I'll admit that if you have incredible reaction time, theoretically 8-cob
setups of the viable kind I described above could be more superviable than
ECSS or ECSS variant, because you can usually replace pool gloom losses on the
same level as they happen and the superior winter box makes for much reduced
chances of multiple jack accidents on one level. With ECSS and ECSS variant,
you can't usually replace the pool gloom losses on the level where they
happen, leaving you at the mercy of multiple jack accidents with very little
you can do about it. But this may be less significant than the threat caused
by lost cobs in 8-cobs, (since you never lose cobs in ECSS) which also can't
usually be replaced (without sacrificing the outer spikerocks) on the level
where they happen and put you at risk of multiple cob losses ending your
I'm not sure how superviable such an 8-cob would be if the spikerock are only
replaced on the very easy levels without jack, giga or zomboni so that cobs
can always be replaced on more difficult levels.
Note that with viable few-cobs like ECSS, one lost pool gloom is replaced at
the start of the next level, with cobs used as the first attack and the next
up to fume in pumpkin during a freeze attack, with the coffee added when you
have a non-freeze attack and the gloom when it recharges. so it's much easier
to manage. Of course, the biggest risk is of further losses on the jack
accident level since no pool gloom replacements are brought.
I won't discuss 6 cob setups in detail, because they are clearly less viable.
Whatever you add in the extra 4 tiles isn't going to be worth having 2 more
cobs. That is why my dividing line for few-cob is 4 cobs, placed at the back
of the pool where they are as safe as they can be.
I don't have much experience of playing 4-cobs, though I have tested several
and some are viable to 100 flags. I find that they play a lot like 2-cobs, but
with weaker passive plant damage because of the extra cobs, which means more
Black Swan events which can be more costly. Having the extra cob attacks every
35 seconds or so doesn't seem to me to make up for this, and the timing varies
continually making it difficult to practice. Your experience may vary, and I
don't rule out that such a system could be superviable with correct play. Just
that for me two-cob is easier to play and I already have superviable setups.
Back to two-cob setups. First, I'll restrict myself to ones in which zombonis
can be dealt with without significant plant damage whilst there are no lost
glooms, and more generally any level without jack or giga can be dealt with
using fewer seeds than normal, so saving sun. In practice, that means having
8 pumpkinned glooms in the front of the pool and two more inner row glooms in
columns 5 and 6, and two outer fumes in columns 4 and 5. The only fume in
danger from zomboni is the column 5 one if in pumpkin. This assumes also that
each land row has at least one winter melon.
In case you don't think you need all 8 pool glooms, I'd point out that the
setup has to remain viable after a jack accident destroys a couple of them. At
high levels, if you don't have this redundancy, zombonis will, on rare
occasions, unpredictably, squash the inner gloom or whatever inner plant you
have in column 6 even without a jack accident. That means more danger from
outer gigas and zomboni which are not being damaged by the lost gloom.
Similarly, I don't recommend leaving out the second inner gloom in column 5
because of this crucial redundancy. In fact, at very high levels this no
longer seems redundant, but necessary, to me. Your experience may differ.
Consider also that your system has fewer glooms covering each other after a
jack accident. If you had less than 8, dolphin and other pool zombie attacks
would no longer be killed quickly enough at high levels to stop them munching
right through pumpkins and pool glooms. I know this since, even with 8 pool
glooms, and even without a jack accident, it is sometimes quite challenging
to keep up with pumpkin replacement at high levels. You can very rarely get
2 crucial ragged pumpkins at the same time and have to choose only one you
can replace with basic ECSS. This is much rarer with ECSS variant.
Of course, if a jack accident does destroy two pool glooms and you have
zomboni, even with the original 8 pool glooms it's very likely that one inner
gloom will be destroyed on the weakened side. This rare situation is obviously
quite dangerous and a big test of the viability of a few-cob setup. That my
ECSS setup is superviable despite such events is the biggest testament to it.
Few-cob setups which aspire to be superviable must survive this test several
times in a long game.
Note that I don't consider fume losses significant with 6 twin sunflowers as
fumes can be replaced with cost only 150 sun for the fume and coffee. That,
plus two cobs and a freeze spot in the back of the pool, is the core of my
recommended superviable setup ECSS. The cobs and freeze spot are needed to
deal with gargs on easy levels (no jack or giga) without significant losses
and few seeds used beside freeze and cob shots. I use puff-shroom to delay
footballs and gargs where possible to try to protect those outer fumes. Note
that placing puff-shroom in column 8 works well since they won't be squashed
by catapults or otherwise wasted too early by huge clumps of minor zombies.
I consider a single winter melon in the pool to be useful but maybe not
essential. Even though dolphins aren't slowed, at least the other pool zombies
besides balloons are generally affected by the area-effect part of the damage
and slowing effect of the winter melon and one inner row will be slightly
strengthened by the area-effect damage and slowing. Balloon zombies over the
pool are shot down by 2 cattails at the back of the pool -- they then
disappear (can't swim?) so are no threat, provided blover is brought and used
sparingly on easy levels. Watch out for 2 balloon easy levels, where blover
is essential even with 2 cattails. I don't recommend having too many more
cattails than that because you're sacrificing area-effect attacks
unnecessarily. But one or two more may work out if your pool is still secure,
and you have to weigh up the merits of cattail versus winter melon.
I recommend the cattails in column 1 or 2 because they make a big difference
to imps, who will otherwise do too much pumpkin damage. Your experience may
Land balloons, footballs and gargs can all threaten the leading fumes, but
these can be replaced and aren't a significant loss on easy levels. I bring
imitator pumpkin and pumpkin on easy levels as I need only occasional freeze
(ice-shroom without imitator) to deal with bungee, garg and dolphin. On an
easy level it's possible to freeze dolphins as they start eating after their
forward jump. This isn't guaranted to stop all dolphins in a clump but stops
enough to be useful. It's obviously not cost-effective in sun because the
freeze attack with coffee costs 150 sun, more than a pumpkin, so it should
be used only rarely. But it can be helpful not to have too many crucial
damaged pumpkins all at the same time, with the risk of several going ragged
at the same time, so that's why I do it. I cut down the frequency when I'm
low on sun and replace less pumpkins.
Freeze is also needed sparingly to avoid gargs squashing anything.
Loss of leading outer fumes on a tough level may seem difficult. It is another
minor test of viability of a few-cob that has them. But several of the 7
second attacks don't involve coffee and with practice the fume can usually be
reactivated at the next one of these without compromising the timing of
attacks. An exception may be if seed recharging is not at its usual level,
perhaps because of multiple zomboni and jack levels. Then it may be necessary
to wait until the second 7 second attack which doesn't involve coffee. But
this situation is sufficiently rare to not affect superviability of ECSS.
My basic ECSS setup is then completed with back inner umbrella to protect
from catapults and some bungees, plus two column 2 glooms in pumpkin to defend
against diggers and most imps. My variant setup simply has 2 more outer fumes
in column 7 which are replaced at the end of each level when lost.
Quite a number of few-cob setups exist which can deal with easy levels with
sparing use of sun. Not many others have 6 twin sunflowers in safe positions.
Some setups, like Fuming Arrowhead, have 4 twin sunflowers and the outer rows
set back a column. This is perhaps easier to play, with the fumes safe, and
more time before the outer gigas squash things, but there is more danger from
both inner and outer jacks, and more danger of outer gigas getting a long way
forward, which is dangerous because the next lot of outer gigas may avoid
being slowed for too long. I found this setup barely viable but not
superviable, because of these problems.
Currently the basic ECSS has a jack accident rate of 20% of levels with jacks,
tested over more than 2000 levels past 100 flags over 6 games and the variant
setup with extra fumes, which is somewhat different to play, has jack accident
rate of 18% of levels with jacks but only tested over one game of over 1500
flags so far. My hope is that the most dangerous Black Swan events, where 3
pool glooms on one side are destroyed, are significantly reduced in frequency
with the variant, without significantly increasing new or old risks. Only time
The seed roster on difficult levels with ECSS is: Jalapeno, cherry, squash,
coffee, ice, imitator ice, doom, puff, fume, pumpkin. Each level finishes with
at least one doom planted and another almost always nearly recharged. The
first 4 of the 7 second attacks are outer doom and cherry, cobs, jalapeno and
squash, inner doom. That makes for a powerful start and very rarely any jack
accident during these attacks.
After that, freeze is planted in the outer row behind the outer doom crater
in the basic setup, or sometimes in the inner row in the variant. A 3rd doom
is used as soon as possible on any level with gigas, but not otherwise. That
is because the outer gigas in the first part may otherwise get too far forward
and squash too often. Without gigas, the first part is usually too short to
have doom recharged to use at the start of the second part if you use a 3rd
doom in the 1st part.
A single outer doom is generally used on tough levels at the start of the
second part, and no other dooms.
The gigas usually (but not always) run out before the end of the second part
so further doom is not needed, and is available to plant without being
activated at the end of the second part. On levels without giga, especially if
there are no buckets, the first part may end too soon for the outer doom to
be ready if a 3rd doom is used. With gigas, inner doom is planted and not used
at the end of the second part, and outer doom is ready in time for the next
Without gigas, jalapeno is generally used to clear the way for outer doom at
the end of the 2nd part and then freeze and 2 cobs on the same side as the
doom are used to spin out the 3rd part as long as possible. Doom may only be
about 2/3 recharged at the end of the level, but will be ready for the inner
doom 4th attack on the next level.
There is generally no difficulty with having jalapeno ready on easy levels,
and I bring squash usually as a backup, but on levels with jack, but no giga,
there is no guarantee that jalapeno will be available at the end of the 2nd
part. Improvisation may be needed, but most often the two doom attacks are
still available on time on the next level. There are too many different
situations for me to describe all improvisations, and on rare occasions I
start the next level without both doom attacks available. This is rare enough
to be superviable at present.
I use cobs when available and squash with one of the other instants when
available. I try to avoid using jalapeno and cherry together unless
improvisation is forced, it seems to be less flexible. I try to plant imitator
ice in the freeze spot after using the freeze spot freeze, since this gives
more time for the imitator without missing the next attack. But improvisation
or mistake can force planting and using imitator ice further forward and risk
delaying an attack. Zomboni on difficult levels can put more pressure on seed
recharging and often lead me to improvise a little. My favoured solution is
to use squash on its own as an attack on whichever side seems to have most
jacks. But the zombies sometimes don't play fair and maintain attacks every
7 seconds -- if jacks come on any faster improvisation may be needed.
Another problem with zomboni on tough levels that I should mention is the
potential loss of a spot to plant in the inner row in column 8 due to zomboni
ice. That is another reason why I strive to start each tough level with two
doom attacks and cobs and two instants. It makes this loss fairly rare with
good play. Obviously, loss of planting on one side will still occur sometimes,
and may force some single instant 7 second attacks on the other side. I always
try to supplement with freeze attacks from the freeze spot when possible. It
is up to your judgement whether it is worth using outer jalapeno as an attack.
I would say, only if there are gigas.
I don't have enough data to reliably estimate the frequency of jack accidents
on tough levels with zomboni, but I assume it must be higher than average. The
trick is to try to avoid entirely missing out a 7 second attack, which invites
a jack accident, but not to use any more seeds more frequently than usual, so
you can still maintain the 7 second attacks when possible. Because of the good
start with 2 dooms, the loss of planting doesn't usually occur until late in
the first part and so it's usually possible to ride it out without jack
accidents. Then the problem is usually fixed by the second part because of
the delay between parts.
For some reason, the loss of planting occurs even more rarely in the second
part, and it is so rare to occur on both sides that I haven't had an example
in the last 6 games. That's not to say this isn't a dangerous situation, with
a few Black Swan events that could be very problemmatic. It's also why I now
restrict my use of doom so much, so that there are not too many inner craters.
Planting an instant in column 7 may be possible if there's no crater. However,
this situation doesn't affect superviability of ECSS tested over 7 games, and
is another good potential test for other few-cob setups.
In other words, I can't guarantee maintaining 7 second attacks without fail
all the way through every difficult level, so don't expect it. What I can do
is improvise when that fails well enough for the setup to be superviable. If
that seems unsatisfactory, all I can say is that I don't know of anything
better. Your experience may differ.
When I say "improvise", I really only mean depart from regular repetitive
play. I've played so much now that I know what decisions to make and don't
have to make up play on the spot. But for those with less experience of any
setup, I'd recommend trying to find a repetitive sequence of play to avoid
seat-of-the-pants improvisation as much as possible. That includes having as
few different seed rosters as you can.
Another good test of a superviable setup, able to survive many hundreds of
flags regularly, is that you don't run out of sun on those rare occasions when
you get many tough levels in a row, which can happen due to randomness. For
instance, the chance of one tough level (jack and giga) is about 66% and so
the probability of 10 tough levels in a row is about (.66)^10 or around 2%.
With ECSS you still lose relatively little sun during such a sequence. 15
tough levels in a row is already more than 500 to 1 against, so no problem for
surviving many hundred flags.
The fact that you can actually gain a little sun on some of the levels with
giga, but no jack helps you through such sequences. You'd expect about 4 or 5
jack levels in 10 tough ones, maybe 6. So you'd only have about 1 or 2 jack
accidents to deal with in such a sequence with ECSS played correctly. If an
average jack accident costs 2500 sun (lets say 2 1/2 glooms lost to factor in
zomboni squashes of inner glooms pessimistically) that means between 2500 and
5000 sun lost on average to jack accidents, and so if we lose less than 500
sun on average per tough level not counting jack accidents it should be
survivable, as is certainly the case with basic ECSS. With the variant I use
with 2 extra fumes, it can cost up to 300 more sun per level if they are,
pessimistically, assumed to be always lost and have to be replaced at the
end. So I would expect to have to revert to basic ECSS without extra fumes
once I drop below 5000 sun, which rarely happens in practice. So both setups
pass this test.
Note that many-cob setups tend to have long strings of "tough" levels in a row
frequently, since any level with zomboni is difficult, as well as those with
jack or giga. Bungees may be a problem, too. So these may have even more
difficulty passing this test.
I haven't touched on the really rare Black Swan events yet. One is when 3
pool glooms are lost on one side. That is a very dangerous situation. With
zomboni and giga as well as jack, it is likely to lead to a lost game in the
near future, with a catastrophic domino effect of further losses to jacks,
gigas and zomboni. If you have only gigas, no zomboni, it can still be
survivable in my experience, though maybe not with bungees, and a lot of
improvisation is needed. This bad, but very rare, situation is the main reason
for the variant ECSS setup with extra fumes, to try to reduce or eliminate
this Black Swan.
This loss of 3 pool glooms on one side can occur in a single jack accident if
the jack has survived to get further forward than usual, perhaps by not being
hit with a distracted winter melon. Or, it can be that the jack got just a
little further forward and blew up just the pumpkin on the 3rd pool gloom, but
just as dolphins were jumping forward, so they ate the unprotected pool gloom.
Another way it can happen is with multiple jack accidents, the first destroying
two pool glooms only, but the next destroying the 3rd pool gloom as that jack
gets further forward in the absence of two pool glooms to attack it. All these
situations are thankfully pretty rare, so don't affect superviability, but
they do prevent an "immortal" setup.
Other Black Swans include jack accidents losing two pool glooms on both sides
of the pool. This is slightly less rare and generally survivable if you have
enough sun to replace all or most losses. Even with zomboni and giga, though
that is very difficult and costs even more sun because of zomboni squashing
inner glooms. If you're unlucky enough to get zomboni, giga and jack again on
the next level that might not be survivable as you have up to 6 glooms to
replace, too many to have a viable setup for the first part, but it still
doesn't affect superviability because that is so rare, only affecting
"immortality" which no setup has in my experience.
Every setup has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, and its own Black
Swan events, of varying frequency and cost, to deal with. I'm here trying to
explain some of the most important that I know of which affect the viability
of setups with whatever number of cobs. I hope my explanations have value and
show that many interrelated factors have to be considered. It is not enough
to maximize damage without having the sun generation to replace losses and
catastrophic Black Swans sufficiently rare.
Frequency of adverse events needs to be carefully weighed to inform the most
effective playing style for any setup.
I've tested over 50 different setups to as near to 100 flags as I can. Most
don't usually make it that far, because their Black Swan events are too
costly and too frequent. A final requirement of a setup to be superviable is
that running out of sun is a Black Swan event whose odds are at least several
hundred to 1 against. So I would dismiss setups which lose significant sun
(more than 500) on most levels at high numbers of flags -- even if viable,
they will not be superviable. Again, the frequency of "easy" levels where
expensive seeds can be used more sparingly to save sun without substantial
risk is important here, as is the number of twin sunflowers in safe positions.
That's another reason why I favour few-cob setups that can deal with zomboni
with only passive damage over many-cob setups which may have fewer
opportunities to save sun to recoup losses over the long term. Basic ECSS has
taken me to over 2600 flags without cheating and I hope to get further with
the extra fume variant of ECSS.
Timechart of zombie columns and attacks
The zombie columns come on at varying times between 6 s and about 10 s. On the
first part of levels with jack but no giga they average a little over 7 s. But
with giga, they average over 8.5 s. There are also varying numbers of columns.
With jack, but no giga there may be 9 columns in the first part and 10 in the
second part, but with giga there are more total columns, maybe 23 to 25, but
big variations between the number of columns in each part. Perhaps this is
related to the random distribution of gigas, I don't know. The second part is
generally longer but there is a bigger average gap between columns, up to a
little over 8 s for jack, but no giga. It can stay at about 8.5 s or increase
to 9 s with giga -- it's tough to give a precise figure as the gigas block the
This variation seems designed to make it just about possible (if no zomboni)
to maintain attacks against each column of minor zombies through a tough
level, if you can save a little time by planting and delaying the use of
freeze and imitator freeze. You can't speed up the use of non-freeze attacks
but by overlapping the freezes with non-freezes and delaying you can use the
non-freeze attacks as often as possible but not waste too much time with
unused freeze. The point is to be more efficient when you have both a freeze
and non-freeze attack recharged. By planting the freeze, but using the
non-freeze, then using the freeze for the next attack, you gain about 7 s of
recharge on the freeze.
However, with bungees there's a little more pressure since you can't use
freeze at the very end of the 1st or 2nd part because you must keep it for the
bungee drop. And with zomboni, there is a lot more pressure on timing because
there are few chances to plant and delay use of outer freeze because the
zomboni can squash them. Footballs can also eat outer freeze though much less
frequently as you can often delay them with puff-shroom and freeze. It needs
practice to know when you can plant the delayed freeze and when you have to
use the freeze spot instead.
Note that the average gap between columns is usually well below 9 s, so you
can't quite get away with having 8 cobs and using no other attacks. On giga
and zomboni levels, there will be around 12 columns in each of the first two
parts. That takes around 95 s. That is over 2 full 35 s cycles of cobs but
less than 3. So you'll probably have to supplement the cobs with other attacks
twice in each part. You can use doom and cherry the first time to affect all
the rows but they won't be recharged in the second cycle (50 s recharge). If
you then use squash and jalapeno in the 2nd cycle, you don't hit the outer
land rows. Zomboni will definitely squash the column 7 plant unless it's
spikerock. If spikerock, the zombonis (up to 4 in a clump at high levels)
will hit the spikerock, doing an average of 2 hits damage. Gigas also come on
in clumps of 2 at high levels, and since the outer ones will take 3 cob shots
to kill, when you use inner jalapeno and squash (in case of jacks) they will
have an extra 6 to 9 seconds, which may be enough for them to attack the
spikerock. So the outer spikerock will take maybe 4 shots in the first part
and 4 in the second, and so both need replacing after a couple of such levels.
There's also an issue with bungees. If you don't freeze them those in the
middle could steal an important plant if you only have 2 umbrellas. If you
freeze them, it's tough to also hit the front ones and the first column of
zombies with cobs on time. But if you have 4 umbrellas, you don't need freeze
and they can't steal anything in the first 5 columns and you can cob the start
on time and get bungees who try to steal spikerocks. But they can still steal
any non-gloom in the pool column 6 (which could be twin sunflowers), which you
can only prevent with 8 pool glooms. You want the front of the pool filled
with glooms to help against jacks.
ECSS Setup details
[t][G][W][F] F . . . . Symbol Legend
[u][G][W][t][G][G] . . . . land G gloom-shroom
b [W] CCCC [t][G][G][G][G] t twin sunflower F fume-shroom
b [i] CCCC [t][G][G][G][G] b cattail W winter melon
[u][G][W][t][G][G] . . . CC cob cannon [ ] pumpkin
[t][G][W][F] F . . . . u umbrella leaf i freeze spot
[t][G][W][F] F . . . . Symbol Legend
[u][G][W][t][G][G] . . . . land G gloom-shroom
b [i] CCCC [t][G][G][G][G] t twin sunflower F fume-shroom
b [W] CCCC [t][G][G][G][G] b cattail W winter melon
[u][G][W][t][G][G] . . . CC cob cannon [ ] pumpkin
[t][G][W][F] F . . . . u umbrella leaf i freeze spot
I haven't mentioned pumpkin replacement. Of course, I assume that you have
Walnut First Aid so you can replaced damaged pumpkins without digging them up.
It is a bit of an art-form, replacing pumpkins whilst collecting sun from 6
twin sunflowers and maintaining 7 second attacks regularly. It takes a lot of
practice to get right. I focus on the land winter melon pumpkins as top
priority as they are under regular attack from imps, which is not funny at
high levels. You seriously don't want to lose any winter melons because you
didn't replace the pumpkin in time. Unslowed gigas are scary.
Next priority is the column 7 pool gloom pumpkins. These come under regular
attack from dolphins. Part of the skill is switching these priorities
correctly when you have both dolphins and gigas. Of course, the giga imps are
50% tougher than garg imps. The other pumpkins I don't replace on tough levels
until they are ragged.
On the subject of imps, garg imps have 3 health so giga imps most likely have
4.5 or 5 health. That means you'd best hit giga imps with two glooms since one
burst from one gloom is only 4 damage. This is managed by ECSS bearing in mind
that imps are wider than 1 tile.
On easy levels, with imitator pumpkin, it all depends on how much sun I have.
If I have nearly peak sun (9990 sun), then I replace the priority pumpkins
with even slight damage, then the others with slight damage, but I still
replace ragged pumpkins first unless they are not under immediate pressure on
With lower sun, I am very sparing with pumpkin replacement just as I am on
tough levels. I only replace a slightly damaged land winter melon pumpkin if
there are 3 of them damaged in that column, favouring the outer ones. With the
column 7 pumpkins, only if two are slightly damaged, favouring the one not
protected by a pool winter melon in the same row.
I use freeze quite a bit on easy levels to freeze dolphins if I have lots of
sun, but only rarely otherwise. The timing for coffee is when they're in the
pool and dipping before their big jump forward, or just before. That protects
the column 7 pumpkins fairly well, but isn't worthwhile if you're low on sun.
I aim to finish an easy level with all damaged pumpkins replaced if I have
near peak sun. I'm careful not to use freeze too near the end of a part when
there are bungees.
A reminder about bungee width: they are wider than 1 tile so those which try
to steal the column 3 land winter melons are in range of 3 glooms, not just
two. You should still always freeze them because if you're particularly
unlucky without freeze and the 2 seconds between gloom shots and wake-up time
the bungee might only take one blast from 3 glooms for only 12 damage and
survive to steal the winter melon.
It's also theoretically possible for bungees to steal the column 5 fume even
with freeze if it only gets 2 blasts from the 2 glooms (total 17 damage with
freeze) but this doesn't seem to occur with good freeze timing. But with poor
freeze timing bungees can even steal inner glooms, despite having 3-5 glooms in
Note that tactics vary depending on the zombie roster towards the end of each
part, so I usually pause the game at that point to check the zombie roster
I've recorded at the start. In particular, you need to check if there are
bungees so you don't accidentally use freeze and not have it available for the
bungees. But you also need to know if there are gigas or not, so you know if
you have to use jalapeno and plant outer doom, or just plant inner doom
against gigas. And without gigas, you need to know if there are zomboni or
buckets and to check if jalapeno is ready before deciding how to play it,
improvising if necessary.
I don't record the whole zombie roster, mainly just jack, giga, garg,
football, zomboni, bungee. But you may find it useful to also record balloon,
dolphin, digger, dancer, buckets as I do, which can show the extra pressure on
pumpkins besides imps. Buckets can make the 3rd part last longer, useful if
there are no gigas.
Also, I record catapults if it's an easy level to remind myself not to forget
and replace umbrellas with sunflowers and have my back twin sunflowers
destroyed by catapults. It's easier to avoid mistakes with a checklist you
refer to at the right time. Then you can focus on your timing without
distractions, as long as you remember to pause the game when needed.
The seed roster on easy levels without balloon is: Jalapeno, cherry, squash,
coffee, ice, doom, puff, fume, pumpkin, imitator pumpkin. On an easy level
with balloon (or 2 balloon) replace squash with blover. Note that the instants
are usually not used, except for jalapeno at the end of the second part to
clear space for outer doom. Squash may be needed to defend the outer doom if
cobs aren't ready. The idea is to make sure they are all (except maybe squash)
fully recharged at the end. Failing that, cherry should be if not used. Blover
is used to stop balloonists dropping on pumpkins and damaging them.
Freeze and cobs on the same side as the outer doom is a way to delay the 3rd
part when there are no gigas so that inner doom is 2/3 recharged by the end of
the level, which should be enough for it to be ready for the 4th attack on the
next level (and for the 3rd doom next level against gigas and outer doom at
the start of the 2nd part to be available in time). The freeze is necessary
against jacks and also helps the level last longer. The cobs on the same side
protect the outer doom from even garg and bucket and let the zombies on the
other side survive longer. You can use squash if the cobs aren't ready, but
they usually will be with practice. Sometimes there is a danger of the 3rd
part ending too soon with only weak zombies, so then you can miss out the
cobs. With jacks, jalapeno may not be ready and you may not be able to plant
outer doom because of zomboni ice. Pause the game, check the zombie roster,
and decide whether to wait for the ice to clear or plant inner doom. Sometimes
buckets can make the 3rd part last long enough. It's important to start most
levels with outer doom and later inner doom, but if you can do it most of the
time that's good enough. Don't expect to do it every time, I know I can't.
If you're low on sun and there is no bungee or catapult, you can bring
sunflower and umbrella, and replace the back umbrellas with sunflowers for the
level, but it's important to replace the umbrellas at the end of the level. If
there's no zomboni, you can just bring sunflower and plant them in inner rows
and defend with puff-shroom if you have it, or maybe pumpkin them. Bear in
mind that with football or garg these sunflowers may not last the whole level,
even in pumpkin, so you may not gain much sun from them. But it's usually
worth doing. Of course, you can be very sparing with pumpkin replacement and
attack seeds to save sun, but be aware that gargs require the odd freeze as
well as cobs to stop them squashing plants at higher levels.
It's up to your judgement how tricky the level is based on the zombie roster
and whether you want to bring sunflower or not and what to leave behind. Just
don't forget blover against balloons. It can be very bad if there is bungee
and balloon, or even 2 balloon, and you don't have blover. To stop the
balloons you might over-use freeze and not have it available for the bungees,
which might steal an important plant. So always bring blover if needed and
only bring sunflower if you're confident the level won't put you under
pressure. I recommend always bringing imitator pumpkin, also. I tend to take
less risks with sunflower at higher levels, when many "easy" levels are
actually quite demanding.
After a jack accident, the lost pool glooms have to be replaced on the next
level. Make sure to finish the level with the jack accident with coffee,
fume, pumpkin all recharged. If it's a tough level (jack or giga, 66% chance)
the seed roster is: Cherry, squash, coffee, ice, imitator ice, doom, lily,
fume, gloom, pumpkin. Start by using lily, fume, gloom, coffee, pumpkin in
that order to replace one pool gloom and use cobs for the first attack (since
coffee is recharging). Then replace the second pool gloom up to sleeping fume
when you use a freeze attack and the pumpkin is recharged. Wait for an attack
not requiring coffee to activate the fume, and take care to promote it to
gloom as soon as gloom recharges, to avoid losing an inner gloom to zomboni
or giga if you can avoid it.
There's more pressure on seed recharging and plants because of the missing
instant, jalapeno, and missing free delay, puff-shroom. It seems better to
have cherry, with its 3 by 3 area-effect affecting both land rows as well as
a pool row, rather than jalapeno, which only affects the inner row. Of course,
if you have gigas cherry is valuable against the outer ones. If you don't,
it's up to you whether you'd bring jalapeno in place of cherry to use it to
place outer doom if there are zomboni, but no giga, but there is not that
good a chance it will be recharged, and so it may be necessary to plant just
inner doom, and not be able to start the next level with outer doom. My
current practice is to bring cherry in all cases. These situations don't occur
often enough to get reliable frequency estimates of adverse events.
If the level after the jack accident is easy (no jack or giga, 34% chance),
bring imitator pumpkin and blover if there are balloons, and jalapeno, lily,
fume, gloom. It's up to your judgement what else to bring depending on the
remaining number of seed slots and the zombie roster.
An exception to the tough level roster: If you have 2 balloon and either giga
or jack, bring: Cherry, squash, coffee, ice, imitator ice, doom, blover,
puff-shroom, fume, pumpkin. I found in one level with giga and 2 balloon and
bungee, without blover the balloons used up one of my lawnmowers. It's an
incredibly rare Black Swan that's only happened once to me, but better safe
ECSS damage and zombie movement speed
I'll deal with the key zombie types separately, to calculate passive plant
area-effect damage (mainly glooms and fumes, but some from winter melon
splash) in different situations in addition to the damage you should inflict
with your seeds in 7 second attacks. This is important so that you know how
well your setup can survive in normal play and which plants are going to
survive anything but a jack accident. If you know where the passive damage
plus 7 second attacks is always enough to hold the line without losses,
barring jack accidents, even after a jack accident, and where it isn't always,
then you know where to concentrate your attention.
Giga and garg
Slowed gigas or gargs take about 10 seconds to cross 1 tile, half as long if
not slowed. In the inner row, provided there have been no gloom losses, gigas
will be confined to columns 7, 8 and 9 unless one survives to squash the inner
column 6 gloom. That means every inner winter melon shot in that row (assuming
the winter melon is not distracted by imps or dropped balloons) will splash
the gigas if they are in column 7 or 8.
The gap between winter melon shots is 3 seconds. So inner gigas should be
slowed within 3 seconds of entering column 8 if not before. So we can expect
the inner gigas to spend at least 5 seconds (unslowed) in column 9, at least
7 seconds (part slowed after 3 seconds) in column 8 and at least 10 seconds
(slowed) in column 7. The average gloom damage over that time they take will
then be 5 x 4 + 7 x 6 + 10 x 10 = 162. Note that gigas are wider than 1 tile
so whilst their front is in column 7, part is in column 8, so they're in range
of all 5 glooms.
Gargs will be killed (150 health). Gigas will be killed by any non-freeze 7
second attack they're in range of (cob, doom, squash, jalapeno, cherry). If
not killed, gigas will be made to throw their imps and take at least 2 more
seconds. If they took two non-freeze attacks whilst in column 9 (if slowed
earlier) they could throw it then and take only 2 x 4 = 8 average gloom
damage. But they'd take over 100 more damage and be killed in column 7, if
they get that far. Otherwise, they'll take at least 2 x 6 = 12 average gloom
damage if they throw the imp in column 8, for 174 total. If they throw the imp
in column 7, that's 2 x 10 = 20 average gloom damage, for 182 total.
In the at least 24 seconds gigas spend in columns 7 to 9 there will be at
least 2 of the 7 second attacks (which can vary between 6 s and 10 s) if you
manage them on schedule. If both these were non-freeze, only one could fail to
hit the gigas (squash can't cover all 3 tiles) and the gigas will take 80
damage from the other and be killed. If they're still alive, it means the
squash missed them and the other attack was freeze.
In the 5 seconds frozen, they receive at least an average 5 x 4 = 20 extra
gloom damage, bringing the total passive damage to 194. If frozen in column 7,
the gloom damage is 5 x 10 = 50 for 224 total. Since their health is 225, they
will be hit with at least one winter melon splash damage and die. Otherwise,
with a total of at least 29 seconds in those columns, in that time there will
have been at least 3 of the 7 second attacks in almost all cases (except if 3
in a row are 10 s apart).
So, either they are hit with a non-freeze, non-squash and killed, or another
freeze. If another freeze, this adds at least another 5 x 4 = 20 average gloom
damage. The total is now up to 214 damage. This time, if the second freeze
hits in column 8 or 9 the giga dies, with a winter splash. A surviving giga
which stops to squash the inner column 6 gloom will take another 3 seconds of
column 7 gloom damage (3 x 10 = 30), before they are able to squash it (which
takes 5 seconds), and be killed.
Another threat to the gigas about to squash the inner column 6 gloom is that
they have been in columns 7 to 9 for 33 seconds. Since the shot recharge time
of the cobs is 35 seconds they should be killed by a cob shot most of the
time, though in practice the cobs are often not used until about 5-10 seconds
after they recharge.
It should be more damage, also, because of winter melon direct and indirect
shots and because zombie types take some damage even when off the lawn
(especially the inner rows because of the column 9 pool glooms). Given all the
assumptions, despite this calculation inner gigas can't be assumed to be
always killed without squashing the inner column 6 gloom, but the damage
numbers do suggest that this will happen most of the time with good play. In
practice, they never squash the inner gloom with good play, and even with
mistakes made it's extremely rare.
Also, any gigas that do spend 5 seconds squashing the column 6 inner gloom
will take enough gloom damage, with winter splash, to be killed. The lost
gloom can be replaced with fume when there is a non-freeze attack to wake it
with coffee, and the extra range on the fume makes it almost as good in that
row as the gloom was (but the damage to the outer row is lost).
This calculation rests on many assumptions. I assumed that zomboni ice didn't
block planting in inner column 8. The gigas and gargs may receive less than
average damage depending on the timing of the gloom and fume shots. Some gargs
on easy levels may not be slowed early enough so that freeze is necessary to
kill them, because they may be out of range of winter melon shots that hit a
column 7 garg or giga (or football, etc.) when they are in column 9. And there
is the problem of winter melons being distracted by imps or dropped balloon
zombies or shooting zombies in column 7 and the splash missing those in column
9 and their random wake-up time and long gap of 3 seconds between shots
creating Black Swan events where gargs and gigas don't take as much damage.
Also, your timing might not be ideal or the zombies might come on a little
faster than every 7 seconds at times.
Inner gigas need to be in range of 2 non-freeze 7 second attacks to be sure of
killing them. On very rare occasions if they are in range of only one
non-freeze attack they might survive to squash an inner gloom. This is so rare
that I don't have a reliable frequency estimate.
The calculation for outer gargs and gigas is much more complex. But if we make
the same assumption that they are slowed 3 seconds into column 8, they spend
at least 32 seconds in outer columns 5 to 9. During that time there are at
least 3 of the 7 second attacks. At least one must be a freeze (except at the
start where there are 4 non-freeze attacks which will kill the first few
columns of gigas) so adding another 5 seconds and often a further 7 second
attack. Once again it is very likely that a cob attack will hit the gigas. It
is also quite likely that they will be hit by two freeze attacks, and forced
after the last doom in the first part and the first and only doom in the 2nd
Outer gigas and gargs can cross columns 8 and 9 without gloom damage. But they
take about 7 damage from 1 fume crossing column 9 if slowed and about 13
damage from 2 fumes crossing column 8 if slowed. In column 7 they take an
average 20 damage from 1 gloom plus 13 damage from 2 fumes, if slowed, which
they generally will be by column 7 if no walking zombie has got further than
outer column 6, which is usually the case if the column 5 fume is still alive.
This is your clue to replace a lost column 5 fume as soon as you have an
attack which doesn't use coffee against gigas.
Crossing column 6 they will take an average 40 damage from 2 glooms plus 13
damage from 2 fumes, if slowed. Let's suppose our gigas and gargs are slowed
from 3 seconds into column 8 on. They take about 75 damage from glooms and
fumes and about 12 damage from winter splash from the point they are slowed.
Provided they are hit by one non-freeze attack, gargs will die, and in any
case delay to throw their imp. Gigas will die if hit by 2 non-freeze attacks.
But it can be seen that extra delays from puff-shroom are needed to contain
the gigas otherwise.
Also, gigas or gargs surviving to column 5 could help new gigas and gargs
coming on to avoid being slowed for longer. That's why in ECSS variant I add
outer column 6 fumes to keep the gigas pegged back for longer. Obviously,
zomboni will squash these extra fumes shortly after the first 4 attacks in the
level, but they will still have helped a little before that. The longer you
can keep that winter box going the better.
The analysis is too complex (for me) to show that outer gigas always are
killed by column 5 without any losses other than the column 5 fume, but helps
show that this will happen most of the time, barring jack accidents and
missing 7 second attacks.
Cattails often fire at the outer rows as the zombies there get further forward
but this is single-target, not area-effect, damage.
The most challenging situation with gigas is after a jack accident. The
analysis is quite complex, but I'll do my best. First, consider the most
frequent situation of a jack accident destroying two pool glooms in columns 8
and 9 on one side. Whilst the column 6 inner gloom on the weakened side
survives, there is no effect on outer gigas.
Then consider inner gigas. Again, whilst the inner gloom survives, the inner
gigas take 14 damage from 1 gloom crossing column 8, and 80 damage from 4
glooms crossing column 7. So, provided an inner giga is hit by two non-freeze
attacks, it will die, taking 254+ damage. If hit by only one non-freeze
attack, it will take only 174+ damage, with extra gloom damage whilst frozen.
This shows that gargs are usually killed at this point.
We are reduced to the case of a giga with a missed squash and hit freeze to
still be alive, as before. But such a giga has only been in columns 6 to 9 for
27 seconds. Although very likely, it's not always the case that there will be
another attack. And the giga may still not have taken enough damage to throw
its imp. So there is a greater risk of the inner column 6 gloom being squashed
by gigas. And of course, if there are zomboni it will almost certainly be
Let's assume that the inner column 6 gloom is squashed. The remaining things
to check are whether the gigas will be killed before squashing the column 5
backup inner gloom or the outer column 3 winter melon.
This time the total gloom damage is only 74 crossing to inner column 7, and
another 60 crossing column 6, taking at least 37 seconds including the freeze.
There will certainly be another attack, though, and more gloom damage whilst
frozen. And a cob is highly likely, though not certain to hit. Gargs will
throw their imp and certainly be killed with gloom damage.
In practice, the column 5 inner gloom is not squashed by giga without more
jack accident losses or bad play, but this is not well supported by the
damage analysis I've given.
There is, of course, a little more single-target damage from direct winter
melon shots. But the main factor, I think, is that many of the inner gigas
will be hit by 2 (even 3, at the start) non-freeze attacks and so die much
more quickly, probably in column 8. That means, with minor zombies in the
inner row cleared out by these attacks, the next column of gigas (outer and
inner) will be hit by inner winter melon splash much earlier, probably in
column 9. Also, at the start of each level, the winter melon attacks slow the
first columns of zombies much earlier, in column 9 or even off the lawn. The
3rd doom attack in the first part on a giga level also damages many columns of
gigas at once. Thus, a lot of the time the gigas are slowed more, and the
difficulty of the level in terms of gigas is more about the times when you
only have freeze attacks.
To allow for this factor, contrast the damage calculations above with the
assumption that the gigas are slowed by 3 seconds into column 9. This adds 5
seconds to their progress time and increases the fume and gloom damage
received in columns 8 and 9.
In the case of inner gigas with no lost glooms, this extra damage shows why in
practice the gigas don't generally start their squashing animation on the
inner column 6 gloom before being killed, though this occasionally happens
towards the end of the 1st or 2nd part.
In the case of outer gigas with no lost glooms, the extra 5 seconds (total at
least 37 with one freeze) means there are at least 4 of the 7 second attacks
(I've never seen 4 columns in a row all 10 s apart, one will be only 5 to 7 s
gap). After the starting 4 non-freeze attacks, and after the 3rd doom in the
first part or doom in the second part, this means they're hit by at least two
freeze attacks, making 42 seconds and virtually ensuring a cob shot. This
explains why gargs don't usually threaten the column 5 fumes; since they threw
their imp and have less health they will be hit by the cob shot and killed.
Outer gigas that cross column 5 (after the fume there is lost) will take
another 40 gloom damage. With the extra fume damage they will take over 210
damage if hit by the cob shot or another non-freeze attack in range. There
should be an opportunity to delay them with puff-shroom or fume in
emergencies, in columns 5 or 6, which will add enough gloom damage to kill
them. Without zomboni, a puff-shroom delay in column 7, 8 or 9 will often mean
they are in range of the non-freeze attacks that affect the outer row (doom on
that side, cherry, cob and if no jack sometimes outer jalapeno). This helps
explain why giga levels without zomboni are generally easier to manage.
In the case of inner giga after a jack accident destroys two pool glooms on
that side, without further losses, the extra 5 seconds, total 32 with freeze,
guarantees another (3rd) attack. So even with a missed squash and freeze,
there is either another freeze or a non-freeze hit. In the case of the
non-freeze hit, the giga has taken 180+ damage and will delay to throw an imp
in column 7, taking at least another 16 gloom damage. It will then take enough
gloom damage during its squashing animation to be killed before it can squash
the inner column 6 gloom. In the case of a second freeze, total 37 seconds,
there is another attack, which can't be squash, so again the giga will die
unless subject to 3 freeze and missed squash. This gives further support to
survival of the inner column 6 gloom against giga without zomboni in most
Another factor is the pool winter melon splash slowing affecting the nearest
inner row. For that inner row, excluding distraction by dolphins, column 9
will be slowed by each shot, giving even more slowing time to that inner row.
This indirectly affects the nearest outer row because the inner gigas die
earlier and so the inner winter melon splash affects the outer row a little
further back. It's just a shame that ECSS doesn't have 2 pool winter melons to
extend the effect to both sides. That can't be done without sacrificing a pool
plant, the best choice being a twin sunflower, but that makes the setup less
superviable because of the danger of running out of sun with a long sequence
of tough levels.
By the same token, the pressure of the gigas, mainly in the outer rows, tends
to increase through the first part once you start using freeze attacks. But
the gap before the second part, and the giga lull, helps you get back on track
in the second part. The difficulty of dealing with gigas after jack accidents
is also dependent on how soon in the level the accident occurs -- the later,
the easier it is.
As for the winter melon, there are all kinds of Black Swan events which make
play difficult. Having the extra fumes in column 6 in ECSS variant, even
though they're destroyed by this time, has impeded the gigas earlier on and
makes things less difficult. The gigas also are delayed by squashing the
column 5 and 4 fumes in turn (about 5 seconds for each squash). But there is
no guarantee that you will have a jalapeno to save the day and the best you
can do is use both puff-shroom and fume (not activated) as delays and keep up
your 7 second attacks as normal.
Only if the winter melon is about to be squashed should you risk an extra
attack outside the usual 7 second attacks, because you could pay for this with
a missed 7 second attack later; however, losing the winter melon threatens a
quick loss so it would be worth trying if you have any kind of attack left.
In practice, though the column 4 fumes are sometimes destroyed, there is very
rarely a further threat with ECSS. And with ECSS variant, the loss of winter
melon hasn't happened at all yet.
Jacks cross a tile in about 5 seconds if not slowed. Crossing inner column 9,
they'll take on average 20 damage from 2 pool glooms, enough to kill them, so
they won't normally reach column 8 even if they don't get slowed by winter
melon. That's why jack accidents usually cost two pool glooms, and occur in
column 9. The jack explosion area of effect is 3 by 3 tiles.
But, because glooms take 2 seconds between attacks, it might be that in those
5 seconds they only get off 2 attacks and do 16 damage, not enough to kill the
jack with 17 health. It's very unlikely that no other damage is done to the
jack in that time, but it could happen, which accounts for the most dangerous
Black Swan event where the jack survives to column 8 and explodes destroying
3 pool glooms. Freeze doesn't stop the explosion once the animation of the
jack stopping to explode begins. So those first two pool glooms won't always
save you. After a jack accident which destroys the usual two pool glooms, more
jacks on that side could get forward because they don't take gloom damage
until column 7. This leads to a similarly devastating but very rare Black Swan
when a second jack explosion destroys the 3rd pool gloom.
In ECSS variant, whilst the extra fumes survive and land winter melon shots
affect inner column 8, the security provided by winter melon slowing is
increased. But zomboni will eventually destroy these extra fumes and survive
to outer column 6, thus making the outer winter melon shot less likely to
affect inner column 8 or 9. Gigas will also, less frequently, squash them
after a while. So the inner winter melon is the main safeguard. Its attack
every 3 seconds should still slow jacks caught in the area-effect, so the
problems arise only if the winter melon is distracted by imps or balloon drops
or, more likely, by a zomboni, football, giga or garg in inner column 7.
I can't give precise estimates of frequency of these most dangerous Black
Swans, because of their very rarity meaning I don't have enough data. And the
consistency of play obviously is important and the frequency could slowly
increase at higher levels (there's no consistent evidence of this which can be
seen above the noise of random variation, but you'd expect with more zombies
and not all attacks pure area-effect this should happen). But both basic ECSS
and ECSS variant are superviable in my play, with ECSS averaging over 700
flags a game over 6 games, likely more with improved play, and the variant
surviving its first game to 1500 flags and counting. So these Black Swans may
be assumed to be several 100s to 1 against from the existing scanty data.
Zomboni also take about 5 seconds to cross 1 tile. So they average around 50
gloom damage crossing inner columns 8 and 9. They have 60 health so will
comfortably be destroyed before crossing column 7 with another 50 gloom
damage. In particular, they take on average 70 damage up to column 7 even if
the column 9 gloom is destroyed in an off-lawn rare jack explosion and so
still don't usually threaten the column 6 inner gloom.
In particular, the level after a jack accident destroying two pool glooms in
columns 8 and 9 on one side, you can replace one pool gloom immediately if you
were careful to leave coffee, fume and pumpkin recharged at the end of the
level with the jack accident. Zomboni will then not usually threaten the inner
gloom in the time before gloom recharges and you can replace the second pool
gloom. But there is the usual caveat about getting less than average damage,
so on rare occasions they could squash the column 6 inner gloom. Again, with
the extra fume variant this has never happened yet.
Outer zomboni take 3 fume damage crossing column 9, 7 fume damage crossing
column 8, 7 fume + 10 inner gloom damage crossing column 7 and 7 fume + 20
inner gloom damage crossing column 6 for 54 damage. So if they are hit just
twice by direct winter melon they will die. In practice, if the column 5 fume
has no pumpkin they seem to be destroyed without squashing it even in clumps
of 4 zomboni at a time. Note that the indirect (splash) inner winter melon
damage over 20 seconds, if all shots hit the zomboni clump, is more than 6
damage on average. Then there is splash damage from the outer winter melon and
the occasional cattail shots. So perhaps that explains the survival of the
column 5 fume if not in pumpkin, combined with the bit of damage the zombonis
take before they enter the lawn.
If this fume is in pumpkin, it can occasionally get squashed because the
pumpkin is wider than 1 tile and when the pumpkin is squashed, so is the plant
Slowed footballs are the same speed as zomboni, but have 80 health so they
often chew the column 5 fume pumpkin until killed by the next pair of gloom
attacks. They also may not be slowed until column 7 or 8, so can survive long
enough to be a problem. Puff-shroom can be helpful to delay them if there
aren't gigas to delay, and can even help column 6 fumes, in pumpkin or not, to
survive for quite a while in ECSS variant.
Inner footballs, on the assumption they are slowed 1.5 s into column 8 with no
glooms lost, will take 71 gloom damage in 11 s crossing columns 9, 8, and 7
before they start chewing. Those frozen or hit by a non-freeze attack will
die. But this is with average damage and slowing. Sometimes they will get 3 s
into column 8 (which is 1/2 s into column 7) before being slowed, and cross in
9 1/2 s taking 61 gloom damage. They will still take another at least 20 gloom
damage if frozen and die before chewing. But any winter melon distraction
could mean they survive to chew the inner column 6 gloom's pumpkin. Similarly
if they take below-average gloom damage. Most often, the direct and splash
winter melon damage will still kill them before they chew, but not always.
Other zombie types
All other land zombies (excluding balloons) are comfortably destroyed before
they can do damage because of the fume and gloom damage mentioned, if no
plants are lost. Even with the standard loss of two pool glooms to a jack
accident, this remains true for all but garg, football and bucket. The
analysis for gargs was given above in the section on gigas. Footballs and
buckets may do a little more pumpkin damage but that's not particularly
Note that pool zombie types other than dolphin are hit by 4 pool glooms once
they enter the pool and are generally slowed continually by the pool winter
melon. In particular, they take 40 gloom damage if frozen, which only buckets
can survive, but the gloom damage as they approach and enter the pool will
usually still kill them combined with the freeze damage if they're already in
the pool. With lost fumes or glooms, buckets can occasionally do significant
chewing damage to pumpkins. With lost pool glooms, more pumpkin damage there
will happen from dolphins and buckets, and careful pumpkin management will be
required to avoid pumpkins lost to chewing.
A viable, but not very superviable, variant is obtained by replacing the inner
twin sunflowers with winter melons, and the pool winter melon with twin
sunflowers. This variant has only 5 twin sunflowers, so will lose too much sun
per level at high levels. But if you're not too unlucky it may make 100 flags
a little more easily than ECSS. Having 2 winters in inner rows is helpful
against jacks and gigas especially. I call this EWCSS (W for winter).
Earlier I noted the probability of getting 10 tough levels (jack or giga) in a
row. You might well avoid this up to 100 flags, but it becomes relatively
frequent by 500. Such a sequence will likely mean a loss by running out of sun
as you have only 5 twins.
If you play enough times, you may make 500 flags if you're really lucky and
skillful. But I wouldn't bet on making 1000 flags.
I haven't tried modifying this variant further so you have one winter melon
and one gatling pea in the inner rows. Gatling pea is 4 dps but only to a
single target, and dead bodies block pea shots for a time. But with only one
fume, at high levels zomboni will squash the gatling.
You might wonder about playing without the two cattails. I don't advise this,
though I haven't tried every variant. Firstly, you have to play every tough
level with balloons by bringing blover and missing out an instant. That puts
you under too much pressure with seed recharging, especially if you get 2
tough balloon levels in a row, unless you have more than 1 pool freeze spot.
If you have more freeze spots and use more freeze attacks, outer gigas may not
be contained as they take relatively little damage whilst frozen, being in
range of between 0 and 2 inner glooms.
I much prefer only using blover on easy levels. It is more pressure to do it
on tough levels and maintain your timing of 7 second attacks.
An even more frequent problem is that imps will now survive longer and chew
the land winter melon pumpkins, to the extent that you may not be able to keep
up with pumpkin replacement on levels with giga, or jack and garg. Back
cattails do help with imps a lot. Perhaps the most dangerous situation is on
levels after a jack accident. If you have balloons and choose to replace the
lost pool glooms, you will have to miss out 2 instants. It doesn't seem like
you can maintain 7 second attacks without, maybe, 3 or 4 freeze spots. Even
then, outer gigas will probably go on a rampage, especially if you've lost an
inner gloom to zomboni on the jack accident level.
If you want to try this, I suggest 2 outer winters and two freeze spots (no
pool winter). But I don't think 2 winters will hold the gigas. A further
problem is that you may not be able to start every level with inner and outer
doom because of the lack of instants, which means more frequent early jack
accidents, more frequent loss of inner planting due to zomboni ice, and a
problem with finding a repeatable sequence of play, so you have to improvise
I've tested this to 100 flags, finding it (barely) viable. As expected, more
seed recharging pressure, missed 7 second attacks, pumpkin damage, giga
squashing, pressure on sun, and more frequent jack accidents than ECSS basic.
On the positive side, you can replace one freeze spot with sunflower on any
easy level and still freeze bungees easily from the other spot, even with
zomboni, and without bungee you can have sunflowers in both freeze spots on
easy levels. That won't make up for long sequences of tough levels in a row,
One cattail just isn't enough at high levels to deal with all the balloons, in
case you were wondering. In fact, on very rare occasions (one time ever in my
play) two cattails isn't enough on tough levels with 2 balloons if you don't
At the time of writing, I'm at 1500 flags with my first game of ECSS variant,
hoping to break 3000 flags for the first time. So I haven't tested a variant
with the pool winter melon replaced by a 3rd cattail. I'm hopeful that this
will have increased outer damage per second, and that the greater pressure on
the column 9 pumpkins won't matter if it's as rare as off-lawn jack accidents
in losing column 9 pool glooms. Maybe you can be the first to test this
system. The 3rd cattail might also go in column 5 to be closer to the outer
gigas and balloons.