The last article covered the quality of information for our decision-making process to optimize our play lines. Today we go a step further and think about what information is generally available to us, what possibilities we have for adapting, what initial considerations help us to make wise decisions at Force of Will, or where our judgment could be negatively influenced.
Adaptation takes place on two different levels. First, in game preparation when you start building decks, and second during the game itself. In addition, good knowledge of the rules, as well as an understanding of the game mechanics, is necessary in order to be able to adapt meaningfully to these basics.
Figure 1 – The two levels of Adaption
Let’s start with the deck construction. Here, the first step in the competitive deck construction is META (Most Efficient Tactics Available) identification.
So which Rulers, colours or combos are among the most effective strategies in the game? Are certain Rulers in competition because a certain combination of colours is dominant, which is accessible to several Rulers? Can an already effective Ruler exploit the weaknesses of another? Do I already need ‘Hate’ (cards that counter a strategy), against certain strategies? Is there a certain engine (e.g. Sigurd, the Covenant King (AO3-082) with Sacrificial Altar (AOA-100)), a certain shell (a basic structure such as the Red-Green core, which both Pricia, True Beastmaster (RDE-076) // Reincarnated Maiden of Flame, Pricia (RDE-076J) and Faerur Letoliel (ACN-093) // Faerur Letoliel, King of Wind (ACN-093J) could utilize), or a certain mechanic (e.g. an enabler like Mikage Reiya (AO3-046)) worth utilizing.
You must ask yourself all these questions.
Closely connected with this is the consideration of the Metagame. This time it is not about the elegant acronym, but about a holistic view of the decks that could be played. Which deck types or rulers are popular? Which matchups do I have to master particularly well? Which focus do I put on my sideboard slots?
All these considerations help to assess cards based on their efficiency and synergies, to find combos and ultimately to build a solid deck. The deck built might not be perfect, but that’s where testing and optimizing comes in. Very quickly you are going realize how good or bad your original idea was, and which cards do/don’t work in the deck. What other cards did you have in mind during the assessment phase? Which cards that your deck would have access to caused you problems during testing?
The most effective way is to discuss it with your community and to include constructive suggestions or hints in the assessment process. And I can’t really stress this enough: don’t be too dogmatic, at least try to understand the reasoning behind the proposals, and test the proposals even in case of doubt, instead of stubbornly sticking to only one version of your deck. Take your time, testing won’t hurt, even if you try a little less competitively focused combo. Especially since without testing you don’t have the needed security to play your deck well enough to estimate your matchups against other decks.
And now we are already on the second level, where your preparation should pay off.
During the game, adapting is key to several Game-State related problems. It is as simple as taking the right Mulligan at the beginning of the game. The game starts with a simple piece of information: The Ruler.
What colour identity does the Ruler dictate? Is this an Aggro or a Control Ruler? Can I assign a specific strategy or an approximate deck list to the Ruler? Is the win condition directly linked to the Ruler? Which cards are particularly important to me in the early game? Do I have to try to get a card in the deck and, if necessary, put all 5 cards into the Mulligan? What about my own deck? Do I need a card for my early game in general?
Another important opportunity for adaptation is the role assessment, i.e. the question of “which role do I entitle myself in the current game state?”. Am I an aggressor, or maybe rather a defender? By the way, this may be seen particularly well in the example of the last article about the Quality of Information: the Kirik Rerik (TSW-045) // Kirik Rerik, the Draconic Warrior (TSW-045J) deck designated to be the aggressor in the majority of the game, switches to defensive behaviour, because Ayu, Lunar Swordswoman (ADK-060) // Ayu, Shaman Swordswoman (ADK-060J) threatens with the OTK.
I generally feel that role-assessment is the most important discipline for an aggro player besides sequencing, and mastering the discipline is key to mastering Aggro. It is tough, but sometimes even an Aggro player must be patient.
The game is not always as simple as it is depicted in the previous discussion. In your store and also at Grand Prix tournaments you will be confronted again and again with cards that you did not anticipate, or just don’t know. Even cards that are average or only suboptimal may cause you real problems if you don’t see them coming. This is annoying, but should not throw you off guard, and at least you have the card on your mind for the next decision-making process. It is important to keep your cool and not to quarrel with supposed mistakes for too long. Even if you could have seen the card coming – or if you miss-sequenced – errors are part of the game. Even in important finals, the game is not played flawlessly! Head up, rarely the game is really lost. A negative influenced mindset might cause more harm to your overall performance than a minor mistake.
The last point I want to discuss is in my opinion extremely important, but kind of disputable: risk assessment and risk taking. And quite honestly: often games are lost because the players play far too greedy, or with way too high risk. If you play frequently and get a real sense of the games trajectory, it’s worth reconsidering exactly which risk is worth taking.
I recommend conservative plays for the majority of all games. Withhold information and always play with strictly calculated risk only. But – and now comes the big but – there are game states that traditionally won’t go well for you and then such a 60/40 chance to finish the game, or to take a critical blow is no longer the worst, especially if the only consequence is that you have to go into the second match. E.g. on a GP when you play against a slow control while the game state develops in favour of the control and you are likely to be under time pressure.