Learning to Hold Your Cards

Welcome back!  For today's article, I'm going to discuss a similar topic to the one I wrote about two weeks ago on when to play your cards.  In that article, I went over how to make the most of your cards when playing creatures and spells - the difference is today's topic is all about when to NOT play your cards!

Well, more specifically, I 'll be going over when to hold your cards.  This doesn't just mean doing nothing on your turn; it can be as simple as keeping a certain card in your hand for turns on end until it reaches peak effectiveness.  In all trading card games, you hear players talking about the importance of "conservative play" and getting the most out of your cards.  The way to do this is to know when you might be playing a card prematurely, and instead save it for later use.  There are numerous indicators that saving a card might be more beneficial than playing it, and I hope to tackle some of those scenarios.

Power Cards

"Power Cards" to me are any cards that are incredibly versatile or affect the state of the game in a major way.  One such card is Terror Pit, which is still the most versatile removal spell in the game.  If you have a Bone Blades and a Terror Pit in your hand against an Aqua Seneschal and you have the mana to play either, there's no way you'd play the Terror Pit instead of the Bone Blades.  Bone Blades takes care of the threat at hand and Terror Pit could potentially do a lot more than Bone Blades in the future.  One good rule of thumb is to use your weaker cards to deal with their weaker cards, and save your more powerful cards to deal with their more powerful cards.  Think of how game-changing a card like Stormspark Blast can be, or the biggest threat your opponent could drop that your Terror Pit could deal with, and then ask yourself if it's really necessary to play those cards at the current moment.

The Mana Zone

Every Kaijudo player has looked down at their Mana Zone at one time or another and experienced a deep feeling of regret.  The Mana Zone makes the whole idea of holding your cards much more important.  As opposed to Magic: The Gathering's "lands", we have to put actual playable cards into our Mana Zone to afford to make other plays, and as of right now, no card has an effect that would allow a player to retrieve those cards.  It's hard to come up with a set rule of what to put down and what not to put down, but the important thing is to always remember your matchup, and think about future plays.  That Skull Shatter might be dead in the first turns of a game, but if you're up against a control deck and you think you can get to eight mana first, it might be beneficial to keep it in your hand for a while instead of giving it up to slap a Reef-Eye on the board.

There are also times when it's appropriate to not play mana for a turn, or multiple turns.  Of course, most of the time, especially early game, you'll want to play mana to have access to bigger plays later in the game.  We've all had times when we could have won or come back if we had one more mana.  Other times, you might be holding a hand of two cards, both of which are something like Terror Pit, and there are no prominent threats on your opponent's side of the table.  In situations like this, it might be ok to wait and pass your turn with no additional mana played, if the ability to play two Terror Pits later outweighs the ability to play one Terror Pit sooner.

This situation can easily translate to other cards as well, even when you only have one copy.  Also, related to deck-building, most control decks need to get up to a high level of mana eventually, but other decks might not need to reach that all the time.  For example, a Water/Darkness deck utilizing mid-game Evolutions such as Hydra Medusa and Emperor Neuron might be able to hover around five mana relatively safely, as long as it can maintain control of the field and put pressure on the opponent through cards like Rusalka, Aqua Chaser.

Free Isn't Always Better

Yes, it is possible to waste a card you cast for free.  Shield Blasts can be incredibly helpful and even save you games, but they don't always have to be used.  If you need the effect of the Shield Blast and you would just cast it on your turn anyway, it's a good idea to use it as a Shield Blast and save yourself the mana, but if you have ways on the board to already deal with your opponent's threats, saving the Shield Blast for later use would be the optimal play.  Let's say your opponent has two Aqua Seneschals in the battle zone and you have a Screeching Scaradorable in play and the mana to play a Tatsurion the Unchained next turn.  Your opponent breaks two shields with the Seneschals, the second one hitting a Bone Blades.  Now, you could cast the Blades right now, and I probably would have cast it if it was broken by the first attack to save you a  shield.  However, right now, you can draw for your turn, summon Unchained to banish one Seneschal, and then attack over the other one with your Screeching Scaradorable.  You have the means to get rid of your opponent's whole field without sacrificing any card advantage, and you get to save the Bone Blades to deal with your opponent's future plays, or even to use as mana if need be.

Of course, if you feel like breaking shields is the appropriate thing to do in that situation, you could cast the Bone Blades as a Shield Blast, then on your turn summon Unchained to banish the other Seneschal, and use Screeching to break a shield.  It really all depends on the matchup and situation, and there's no one correct answer.  These things are important to consider, and the basic moral of this particular situation is, if you have a way to deal with a situation without interrupting your strategy or losing momentum in the game, saving the Shield Blast might be the right option.

Not Using Your Mana

Just because you have the mana necessary to play a card doesn't mean it's the correct play, even if you have nothing else you could play in that situation.  One example happened in a recent match I played - I went up to four mana on my turn and cast Logos Scan, drawing into a Cyber Sprite to go along with an Emperor Neuron and other irrelevant cards already in my hand.  At this point, I could have played the Sprite, but knowing that I was going to go up to five mana next turn and had no level two cards in my hand, I simply held it and passed.  This ensured that my Sprite wouldn't be banished or otherwise taken care of by any removal, and I could count on my Sprite-Neuron play next turn for four mana.

Evolutions in general are a tricky subject when talking about holding cards.  Not only do you have to wait for the optimal time to play them, you have to have the proper set-up in the form of creatures of the right race to use as Evo-bait in the battle zone.  It can be difficult, especially early game, to look at an Evolution in your hand and assess its value later on down the road.  It's really a grey area (there are honestly a lot of those), and it just comes down to how much bait you run, how much has been used, what point in the game you're in against what matchup, and how important you could make the Evolution if you summoned it.

Like anything, there will be moments when you have to break the rules you set for yourself.  At times, Bone Blading a Fumes that already got its effect off will be the correct play, and you'll occasionally have to Root Trap away something that isn't usually a huge threat.  It's important to weigh the  full potential of the cards against the importance they hold in the current gamestate.  Sometimes, it doesn't matter as much if you're playing Terror Pit on a weaker creature as long as it can save you those extra shields, and if Barrage is the only removal spell in your hand, you may find yourself using it as a one for one if you feel like they could evolve next turn and put the pressure on.

That's about all I have to say on this subject for the moment.  Hope you all enjoyed, and I was able to help you think a little more about the importance of each card in your hand!  Leave a comment down below if you have any thoughts about the article or the subject, and I'll see you all next time!