Last week I brought you an article talking about the value of cards when you’re building your deck. If you haven’t gotten I chance to read the article, you can check it out here! In it, I talked about making the most of your card choices. This week I’m back with the second part of that article. This time I’m going to be talking about the value of cards during in-game play.
I’m from the school of thought that believes that there is 1 and only 1 correct play at any given time. I’ve written an article before on the difference between the correct play and the best play where the correct play would be what you would do given what you know and the best play would be the play you’d make if you knew all the external factors such as your opponents sets, their hand, and even what they were drawing. As I said in that article, you should always be striving to make the correct play, even if it does not work out from time to time. This begs the question “How do I know what the correct play is?”
I think that most people share a common misconception about the answer to this question. What do you think of when you think about the correct play? Something I think a lot of people think about when they think about the correct play is having conservative play style. This is the notion that you would want to play your least powerful cards first so that your opponent can use their stronger cards on your weaker cards, thus leaving you with your stronger cards once theirs are all used up. Certainly this does have some merit to it, but it’s only partially right for answering “How do I know what the correct play is?” The reason this is only partially right, is because it leaves a large portion of the question unaccounted for. This is especially true in today’s game because often times you are forced to play your power cards and don’t really have a choice of holding them. An example of this would be you’re at 2500 and your opponent has Hyperion on the field. You have Dark Hole, a power card. In this case, you wouldn’t have an option of holding it. The same could be said for if you have a Warning set and your opponent reveals the Shark. Do you really have an option of not playing Warning? Also, how can a conservative play style be the right play style when play styles (in terms of what most people would consider) don’t exist? There are only two play styles. The right play style and the wrong play style with the right play style being the 1 correct play and the wrong play style being all the other plays.
This does not seem like it gets us any closer to answering the original question. But, as I said above, the traditional concept of a conservative play style does have some merit. This begs the question, “when?” In order to answer this question, we need to identify our options by seeing what kind of position we are in.
What happens when neither player is winning the game? You’re in an attrition war-like state where both players have a lot of cards and are trading resources until one player gets in a dominate position. This is usually caused when neither player can get out of stage 1 very quickly. In this type of situation, the correct play is generally the stereotypical conservative play. This is where you would want to trade your weaker resources for their stronger ones.
A good way to do this would be to assign values to your cards. If you have 5 cards in hand, label them 1-5 according to their strength in the current game with 1 being the weakest and 5 being the strongest. It is important to note, it is not their strength overall, but their strength in this particular game state. Heavy Storm is certainly a “better” card than Mind Control, but what happens when your opponent is playing Chaos Dragons and they don’t really set backrow? In this case, Heavy would rank on the lower end of your scale where Mind Control would be higher. In these types of situations, you want to play the cards that ranked low first before playing the cards that ranked high.
An example of getting value out of Heavy Storm against Chaos Dragons would be having Prison, Fiendish Chain, and Heavy in hand. In this situation you could just set Heavy and Fiendish Chain. Now if your opponent summons Lyla and hits the Heavy, you can easily let it go and still have your Fiendish and Prison. Whereas had you kept Heavy in hand and set both the real traps, you would either lose one to Lyla or be forced to Fiendish Chain it. This way, you have a 50 50 shot of not having to waste either.
The same strategy applies in hands where you have awkward cards that don’t really mix well together. Chris Bowling, a former National Champion and SJC winner, has an excellent video that explains this perfectly. You can watch the video here.
Another time where you would want to play conservatively would be when you sense you have a stronger hand than your opponent. In these situations you would much rather whittle their resources down a little at a time as opposed to gambling your advantage away by unnecessarily summoning Monsters into potential Torrential Tributes. At this point, you’re taking unnecessary risks.
Thus far, everything has advocated a conservative “play style.” But, as I said, this doesn’t cover everything. The converse to this conservative style is best applied in one of a couple situations. The first of these situations would be when you’re losing. What happens when you’re low on life and your opponent has a couple of sets and a couple of monsters on the field. At this point, you could go for the safe play like setting a monster and trying to fish one more turn for Heavy Storm before you summon Tour Guide, but they might kill you if they have another monster. In these situations, it would be better to go ahead and summon the Tour Guide and attempt to put yourself in a winning position. What are you saving the Tour Guide for? Game 3? Realistically, it may not be ideal, but if you’re losing you often just have to go for it and hope for the best. Sure you could lose to any number of backrow, but you will also probably lose if you do nothing. It’s better to try and win the game than to lose with unused resources.
Another time it is best to be aggressive is when you have a significantly worse hand than your opponent. If you play their game, they will slowly whittle away all your resources just as you would do if you were in a winning position. Let me give an example using the Wind-Up mirror. Anyone who has ever played it knows that an unopposed Factory pretty much means that the game is over. Let’s say that your opponent started with a Rabbit, that turned into two Rabbits, and now they’re searching for Magicians and Sharks. As long as the Factory remains face up, they essentially have unlimited resources. Your one Solemn Warning isn’t going to do much when they can just do it again the next turn. In your hand you’ve got some combination of cards that would allow you to combo off, but would enable them to trigger their Factories more. You also have the 1 Warning. The problem, you’re opponent also has a couple of sets of their own. What do you do? Playing conservatively in this type of situation will almost certainly lose to defeat. It’s very similar to the situation with Tour Guide above. You may not necessarily lose the next turn, but it is extremely unlikely that you’re going to win the game by playing conservatively. Instead, you should once again hope for the best and combo out into backrow. Not even necessarily trying to attack them for game or anything. A lot of the time, the best way to deal with an opposing Factory when you don’t have a Factory or MST of your own is to make Shock Master and call Monsters. If it is unsuccessful, so what? They’ve been resolving Factories the past couple turns. You’re not going to win anyway. If it is successful, they’re cut off from using Monster effects for 3 turns and you have a chance of winning. So what if they have an entire zoo of Wind-Ups in their hand if you can cut them all off? If they have a trap, you were going to lose anyway. Best to go for it and attempt to win.
This about wraps it up for this week’s article. I hope you all have a better concept of getting maximum value out of your cards after reading these two articles. With Miami and Germany only a few weeks away, we’re gearing up for an exciting rest of the format! Until next time, play hard or go home!