Level Up! – How Much Testing?

Welcome to another round of Level Up! For today’s article, we’re going to be giving our answers to a question:

How much testing does it take before you feel OK about a deck?

For today’s responses, we have Michael, Travis, Arin, and Felix.

It’s something we have written about before; testing is good! Testing allows you to see what in your deck is working, and what doesn’t – provided you do it enough. Here’s the premise we went in with to write our responses:

There are many schools of thought when it comes to testing. Some players opt for a high-test approach, where combinations of cards are discussed and then tested, kind of like an A/B test. Others simply theorycraft to bits and run with whatever feels best. Occasionally, there are moments of brilliance when decks just work when built. But, that shouldn’t stop people from feeling the need to test decks. So how much testing does it take before a draft is considered good to go, or junk?


Travis:

When it comes to testing, or even in this case brewing, I consider the following;

 

  • What utility does this set have
  • What finishers do I have access to
  • What ways are there to deal with -insert situation here-
  • What plus combos does the set have to offer
  • What tech options are there

Once I have those questions answered, I start the brewing process. Each build I have goes through roughly 20-30 games before I make any major changes such as combo swapping. At most quantities in the deck will be edited and in the case of a major flaw in one of the cards it will be removed.

TL;DR Play blue, true meta. Can’t have green without blue.


Arin:

I usually just go with the first draft of whatever deck I build. If there are obvious fixes, I’ll make them, but otherwise I’ll just run with it. If the deck sucks, I might try something different, but I rarely change decks.


Michael:

Testing is difficult. You need to have a good scrim partner or group to get the best testing possible. Barring that, you’ll hit the value ceiling much sooner with a less experienced group. This might sound elitist, but consider this: let’s say you’re in a chess club and you’re the only player with a rating higher than 2000. If the remaining players are all rated ~1400, you’re not going to be learning as much from your games as your competition. Similarly, if you try to play test with a newer player, you may find some time sunk into explaining the mechanics of the game or other intermediate concepts that you’ve known for some time.

So let’s say you have a good testing group, and a new deck idea. You’ve drafted it up and want to play it out. How many games do you play?

In a “perfect” world, we would have all the time we need to play hundreds or even thousands of games. But as we become more experienced, we may notice that we need fewer games to really know if a deck will work or not. We may also find ourselves with less time on our hands. Since WS does not have a pro player scene (and never will), the idea of dedicating entire weeks or months to testing as players in other games will probably remain foreign.

For me, because my time for testing is so limited, I try to record as much data as possible from a set of three games, or even a single game. I recall each decision made during the game that I made that could have been either improved or changed, usually with input from my opponent. In a pinch, I goldfish, and play a hypothetical game against an opponent who attacks for 2/2/2 almost every turn, and clears at least 1 character. It’s a very narrow range of games that this kind of goldfishing represents, but it’s mostly to prepare for using CX combos. I don’t recommend it as anyone’s sole method of testing, and can’t recommend it using it frequently.

In practice, I probably echo Arin’s sentiment; I’ll just go with a deck idea and try it out at a couple of tournaments as my ‘testing’. Between weeks, if something didn’t work well, I may make an adjustment. Otherwise, I’ll be patient and give it another try if I find that my misplays were more responsible for my losses than my luck. If I can’t make a deck do reasonably well within 3 events (somewhere between 15-20 games), I’ll make more major changes, or just scrap the deck.

Felix:

So there are many approaches to take regarding deck testing ranging from 0 to infinity games played. It is possible for testing to never be done as a deck can continually go through updates and refinement. This pertains largely to games with new sets constantly and eternal formats such as Magic: the Gathering, Hearthstone, Shadowverse, and to a lesser extent WS. The reason WS is put as a lesser extent is while the game has no rotation, not every set constantly gets updated and the amount of innovation in deckbuilding is severely limited by that fact. The other listed games allows for improvement of older decks to compete with newer archetypes that pop up, unless that archetype involves Spawn of the Abyss. In Magic, you can have a Modern/Legacy/EDH deck that you constantly add to and improve as new cards get released. When choosing to swap out cards, new testing needs to be done to verify that the changes are good. In essence, the amount of test games played drops to 0 because it is a different configuration. As other decks change and adapt to a newer metagame, you will need to test against those newer decks which effectively drops your test games played count to 0 again. In this sense, you will never be done with testing (unless you just jam 3x Spawn of the Abyss in your deck in which case you’re basically done testing) until the creators stop releasing cards.

 

In a more middle of the road case, with a relatively stale metagame, the number of testing games can be finite. For example, you have 31 other players who consistently goes to your local legacy FNM. You know what everyone else is playing so when you test anything, you can proxy up a gauntlet of decks that you know you will be facing. In this case, assuming your opponents do not make major deck updates, after about 1000 games against each unique deck every time you change something, you should have a good enough data set to draw some conclusions regarding your configuration. Good luck if all 31 people play unique decks!

 

Lastly, let us discuss the most practical way to test. Play 1 game with your deck. If any cards underperformed, take them out and put something else in. Play 1 game with your new deck. Repeat until you get a game where no card under performed. Deck done. Repeat entire process every time you change anything. Then the night before any large/important tournament right before you go to bed, completely change any and all decks you will be playing to something you’ve never played before and proceed to either smash or get smashed.

 

Tl;dr play aggro/mono red/+2 soul rush and avoid testing completely and have fast games for sanity of mind.


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Asuna vs Zekken, Last Shot vs Switch pt. 2!

Welcome to part 2 of the SAO discussion post! We are continuing off of the previous article over the new hand plus and finishers that have came to SAO, and to do so we have Clinton Chan and Bren Olit chiming in!

For reference, these are the new cards that will be discussed today;

When you play Attack in Waves, Kirito, you may sacrifice a “After the Battle, Kirito” you control. If you do, you may play this card at 0 cost. It heals on play. If you control 3 or more other [Avatar] and/or [Net] characters, this card gets +1500 power and “When this reverses a character in battle, you may choose another [Avatar] or [Net] character you control, rest it, and then move it to an open position on your back stage.

Attack in Waves, Asuna gives all [Avatar]/[Net] characters you control in front of her +2000 power and “When this reverses a character in battle, you may send the reversed character to memory”. When played, you may tutor for up to 1 [Avatar] or [Net] character. It has a CX combo with “Quest to Get <<Excalibur>>”: on attack, if you control 4 or more other [Avatar] or [Net] characters, you may pay 2 and discard a card. If you do, choose a “Attack in Waves, Kirito” you control, and this card, and exchange them. (Their status will not change)

Inherited Sword Skill, Asuna gets +1500 power until end of turn when played. She has a CX combo with “Demise of <<Zekken>>”: if she reverses a character in battle and you control 3 or more other [Avatar] or [Net] characters, you look at up to the top 3 cards of your deck, choose up to 1 card, put it in your hand, then send the rest to your waiting room. (You can choose 0 cards for either half of the ability.)

The other cards, <<Zekken>> Yuuki and Last Shot, Sinon, are the familiar gold bar and book CX combos.

 

Now onto the discussion!


Clinton:

So the first major point comparing Asuna vs Yuuki is does the deck want to play green as the primary or secondary color. If one doesn’t want to do more than splashing a few green versatility cards at 0 then the Asuna combo is the way to go. Asuna comes with a wind trigger that has uses throughout the game and the effect doesn’t require any extra cost in stock or cards from hand and provides milling and the choice of any card not limited to characters.

Yuuki is the number one reason to play green in SAO; she comes with a gold bar climax and the effect doesn’t require reversing an opposing character.  She also provides some of the best filtering and compression the game has to offer at a reasonable cost of 1 stock and a card from hand, which many times is more beneficial than a drawback. I think the Switch deck requires a lot more specific cards to fill up deck space than Last Shot, and having Asuna to be your main combo at 1 is viable because it is already on color with the focus of the deck.

The Last Shot build could benefit greatly from not having to pay extra stock with Asuna compared to Yuuki, but as a deck that mains Book triggers, Yuuki’s ability to potentially pay out a climax and pitch one to fix your hand and thin out a deck is just too good at getting you out of a pretty common scenario. So I don’t think either one is better than the other per se, but any SAO deck will want to play one or the other.

Last Shot vs Switch is the first crossroad in SAO builds in a long time. Last Shot is simple, a 2 card combo involving a healer and provides a potential big burst of damage from 2 sources that can easily deal a whole level worth of damage to your opponent in one attack. The effect of 4 damage on attack for a relatively cheap 2 stock and 1 card in hand is good because it is before the trigger step. It gets around half the damage mitigation from Compass and Project Darkness, and you can get around that by side attacking. Also, if the combo effect for 4 damage gets canceled, you get a big 4k attack buff until the end of your opponent’s turn, which gives you a good opportunity to combo again or at worst having a 2 soul beater. Blue is easily the best color in SAO at the moment and she fits in relatively easily without much space commitments. The drawback is that the Sinon goes to memory on reverse so you can’t encore her, but most times you’ll probably too low on stock to even want to encore her. Also, a continuous source of anti-character damage like the level 3 Shiroe from Log Horizon is a counter but playing against Log Horizon was already such an advantageous situation that you can afford to give those poor players something to be happy about.  

The Switch combo revolves around the Attack in Waves Asuna and Kirito. Both are level 3s and you need both on the field to make this combo work. The Kirito can be field for 0 stock if you sacrifice the newer brainstorm Kirito to waiting room. The effect is good enough to warrant playing that brainstormer, but isn’t absolutely required. The Kirito heals on play which is nice and on play, the Asuna searches for a character, so you can easily get Kirito. If you have 1/1 of each in play with the combo you get a 4th attack and with 2/2 in play you get 5 total attacks assuming you have a full board and a cost of 2 stock and 1 discard per Asuna activation. The strengths are that you aren’t affected by anti-character damage effects  and you have more opportunities for side attacks for precise damage. The extra attacks thins out your deck from the triggers and makes up for losing damage from Compass and Project Darkness. Also, the Asuna effect of giving characters in front of her a huge boost and memory kick is good in the mirror and removing threats from the board. Drawbacks are more deck space is more limited because of slots occupied by 2 different level 3s and potentially a specific level 0, requiring a full board to go off and are vulnerable to effects that gives character memory kick or bottom deck on reverse and effects that exhaust characters like Mismatched Pair.

At the end of the day the preference can come down to what climax triggers you prefer to play or not play. I think both finishing combo are very similar in damage opportunities and it comes down to how the deck plays to get to that point. I personally prefer Last Shot more because… (Editor’s note: The following was specifically requested to be published as-is.) 

Spoiler


Bren:

I’m going to assume that this is posited toward the English Format of Weiss Schwarz with an emphasis on competitiveness. (Editor’s Note: It is.)

When we compare two cards with a similar role in Weiss, we can’t just take a look at what they do, but also the context of the deck they come from, as well as what are the advantages and disadvantages of each choice.

 

Level 1

<Zekken> Yuuki and Inherited Sword Skill, Asuna are the generally accepted best advantage engines in their color (for those wondering, the initial question posed wasn’t specific, and it’s unclear whether they meant Inherited Sword Skill, Asuna or Asuna Invites to Party), and they share a small amount of similarities.  Both of them gain power on play, and they use a Climax to obtain Card Advantage, but that’s about it.  They’re vastly different otherwise.

Card Quality

<Zekken> Yuuki is great defensively in the short term, but also prepares for the future offensively.  While it’s costed and requires a discard, it searches out two Characters instead of just one, a small but significant difference, especially if done in multiples.  In addition, any Climaxes that are triggered, such as Treasure, Pants, or Book, can be either discarded or paid out to another Yuuki to prevent Climaxes from building up in either stock or hand.  It also reaches a higher base power with the combo, since base it’ll be 6500 if the last one played, then adding the 1k from the Climax brings it up to a respectable 7500, and that’s before the supports that can bring it to 10k easily.  The plus 1 level on both turns isn’t shabby either, as in English it blocks Level 1 Reversers from preying on them.

Inherited Sword Skill, Asuna isn’t without her strengths, however.  She’s on-color for the Switch combo, doesn’t require any stock, and as such, increases future defense due to that increased first refresh compression.  When she succeeds at her Combo, you get to go up to three cards deep, and choose any card, allowing you to set the pace and tempo while also keeping a small amount of information hidden.  The ability to pick Events and Climaxes for future turns also keeps this card interesting, and the added benefits like extra stock don’t hurt.  It also gets to a respectable amount on offense, going to 9500 with supports regularly.

Downsides

<Zekken> Yuuki is a weakling.  Even with supports, a 4000 base Character isn’t going to survive, with almost all Level 1s normally played in the center stage able to match or exceed that power level with their base power before supports.  Even some Level 0s can beat it.  The stock cost and discard may increase current compression, but it usually weakens the first refresh.  Yuuki’s presence gives on-reverse Level 1 combos a bright “Kick Me” sign, and the +1 Level only blocks Chika and Natsu.  Yuuki is also Green, a color that isn’t part of the Switch combo, and while it’s an easy squeeze for the Last Shot combo, it might be difficult to also squeeze any red cards in the Switch combo deck due to having to balance four colors. There’s also the potential anti-change counters here, as Level 1 ones like Taking Pride in Lyrics, Nico can function as a sort of anti-damage counter by sniping out a Yuuki once it’s received its level increase.

With that said, Inherited Sword Skill, Asuna isn’t much better on the power front.  4500 isn’t much better defensively than 4000, and still invites on-reverse combos to farm.  In addition, without the +1 Level Chika and Natsu aren’t even blocked, and with the right supports can even surpass the power without too much of an issue.  Asuna also doesn’t help solidify the future; she only adds cards in hand, not particular Characters, and most decks don’t run two of the most powerful events in SAO: Self Sacrifice and <Demonic Sword Gram>.  Running Events, after all, weakens the chance that Determination with Life on the Line, Kirito will get his power boost, and as we already covered, 4500 is not a strong power line.

Deck Ramifications

In very many cases, Yuuki is not the only Green thrown into the deck.  Adventuring with Everyone, Leafa, is quite a good card for the pressure, and for being able to dig for a Climax or Character, depending on what’s missing.  She slots in easier in the Last Shot build due to that build not requiring more than one color for its finisher, but she has a place in Switch as well since she’s not intrusive and enables the deck to run a card that can dig for the combo.  Due to the way Yuuki operates, it’s much less likely Choice to Fight, Kirito will be run alongside her since their power gain is pretty much the same, and can ruin the power of either card if there are too many copies.  In Switch, it’ll be harder to run Adventuring with Everyone, Lizbeth since that’ll put a fourth color out there.  It’s also much more likely that the Stock Soul is run given the support Yuuki demands, but the jury’s still out.

Asuna has a few different roads to take, regardless of deck.  You can go with Red with Lizbeth for a stronger Level 2 game, or a more solid Level 3 with Leafa able to grab necessary cards while providing an alternative finisher.  While on color for Switch, the base of Last Shot is only mono-color, and adding Asuna can also provide Attack in Waves, Asuna to give Last Shot, Sinon and Adventuring with Everyone, Leafa power boosts and the crucial optional memory kick, useful to shut down the Switch combo in a potential cross-archetype set mirror.  Yellow also enables the use of Agile Start, Asuna without making Level 1’s color situation awkward.  A further question compares using Self Sacrifice in the deck to reactively shut down an opponent’s attempts to take advantage of your weaker defensive field to the use of Determination with Life on the Line, Kirito to not only accept your power line on defense but increase the mill factor of the deck while helping to hand filter.  It’s possible to run both but it does weaken Kirito’s offensive capabilities.

Level 3

Last Shot, Sinon and Attack in Wave, Kirito/Attack in Waves, Asuna (known as Switch) are the premiere finishers of the Sword Art Online set, and it is definitively a debate as to which is better.  They provide interesting takes on how to finish an opponent, but they essentially provide multiple instances of damage that are difficult for an opponent to fully stop.  Oh, and they require a cost of 2 stock and a card in hand with the Climax in play in order to add on damage.

Card Quality

Last Shot, Sinon is quite straightforward.  It provides the most potential damage, the most instances of damage, is somewhat resistant to anti-damage, and on a Healer that can get prohibitively large if it doesn’t immediately finish the game.  Your backrow is not prohibited, allowing you to place supports that last.  Sinon can also self-compress by sending herself to memory if she’s somehow defeated.

Switch is likewise, straightforward, though with a bit more loopholes.  It avoids anti-burn, is quite resistant to anti-damage, is slightly cheaper than Sinon, even when not using the cost reduction for Kirito, and can be assembled with just one Asuna and the Climax, making it much easier to set up.  Since you don’t need particular Characters for the other slots, you can adjust your soul in your attacks.

Downsides

Sinon is expensive for its full combo, requiring 10 stock, 3 Sinons, 3 cards in hand, and her Climax.  This means that decks that are able to rush and have damage stick will be at an advantage due to the time needed to accrue those resources. Due to this, plenty of players end up using her combo only twice, making it only require 8 stock and 2 cards in hand instead, but it heavily weakens the damage range available, which allows Rest Counters to forcefully solve a good portion of the issue.  The ability to burn can be stopped by Anti-burn, and burning for 4, while great against an opponent who ended up a ratio of ¼ or worse, if it’s close to ⅓, it’s quite harmless.  In case Sinon is defeated, there is no option to try again, she sends herself to memory and you can’t try again, though usually the lack of handsize or stock will prevent another try.  You get one chance in most cases.  Also, due to her Climax being a Book, it’s very important to increase the number of Level 2s and 3s in English in order to pump up the Soul Triggers in the deck.  Prototypical Sinon decks that run the Mother’s Rosario and Last Shot climaxes tend to have around 10 Soul Triggers in the deck, providing a damage output similar to a standard deck running 2k1 Climaxes, like Shimakaze-focused Kantai.

Switch is very reliant on attacks.  A strong -1 or -2 Soul wall can heavily disrupt the damage output.  If the attacking Asuna or Kirito gets removed from the board, say, from a memory kick, the combo is dead.  Running After the Battle, Kirito takes up Brainstorm (and backrow slots), making running the Sleeping Knights Brainstorm at the same time awkward.  If he’s in the deck as well as the Sleeping Knights Brainstorm, it’s very likely that Kirito will only be used to make Attack in Waves, Kirito cost 0, and while he does some good work in milling other cards (like Comforting Moment, Asuna) do much better at getting two stock.  And without After the Battle, Kirito, a full combo requires 7 stock and 2 cards in hand, plus the Climax, though there is a reprieve in that starting with Attack in Waves, Asuna in hand lets you assemble the full combo as long as you have the rest of the pieces in the deck.  A Rest Counter on a non-Switch member hits Switch just as hard as Sinon, taking away two attacks while making the turn cost the same amount of stock, while a Rest Counter on an Asuna/Kirito that hasn’t attacked yet costs 1 more stock but you only lose 1 attack.

Deck Ramifications

Sinon is very freeform and can fit whatever shell you want to fit it in.  As examples, her combo can fit into a Lizgun shell, an Accelerate shell, or even a Silica Waifu shell.  By only having one color she opens up the floor for variety and greater accessibility by any kind of deck.  As long as you provide more soul and a way to increase stock and hand size without too much interruption, you’ll be able to achieve a triple Sinon combo.  This lends itself to having a more defensive Level 1 game, playing cards not for their offense but for their ability to reduce damage.  Burst Compression cards like <Zekken> Yuuki or mill cards like Determination with Life on the Line, Kirito aim less for specific cards but more to compress and prevent as much damage as possible.

Asuna is less flexible early game, so it can be flexible late game.  Running two colors late doesn’t necessarily close avenues, but it does make it a bit harder.  In order to fit both Green (for <Zekken> Yuuki and Adventuring with Everyone, Leafa) AND Red (Adventuring with Everyone, Lizbeth), you need to force Blue to be the base color, with Green the main splash at Level 1, Red the main splash at Level 2, and Yellow the main splash at Level 3.  It’s possible to not use Red due to it providing the least amount of help overall, but it still hurts to lose a card that avoids anti-heal and reduces stock usage, providing defense later on in the game due to stock compression.  Regardless, a third color does make it harder for newer players to play the deck to its fullest capacity, and the fourth color lends itself only to those used to four-color decks.  The emphasis for Switch is on its ability to be cheap and flexible late, so the early game is all designed to set up and go for specific cards over defense.

 

Final Thoughts

While both Inherited Sword Skill, Asuna and <Zekken> Yuuki have their individual strengths, the needs of both Switch and Sinon decks lends themselves to <Zekken> Yuuki.

Inherited Sword Skill, Asuna certainly adds more mill power to the Sinon deck like Determination with Life on the Line, Kirito does, but does so taking up a Climax slot AND a color slot.  It isn’t guaranteed to improve defense, and in some occasions may even worsen defense with a Climax in the first few cards.  Yuuki, while costing a stock, is guaranteed to compress with her ability, and while that does open up the deck to triggering more, due to the nature of Treasure and Book triggers the chance of cancelling is better with Yuuki on average, even if only slightly.  The stock can be regained by Comforting Moment, Asuna, anyways.  Finally, Green actually brings more use to the table than simply being the advantage engine.  Adventuring with Everyone, Leafa complements Adventuring with Everyone, Sinon by being another two-cost way to grab the Last Shot Climax, while also providing a 2-soul attacker and an additional finishing option.  Yellow’s main use outside of Asuna is her Level 3 variants, and while a Shot effect is alright, Asuna’s Commanding Strength’s role is mostly taken up by Machine of Ice, Sinon, the only exception being a Kantai Collection opponent holding multiple Compasses for your final turn.

Likewise, the Switch really cares about the <Zekken> Yuuki combo, but this time for her ability to grab specific cards rather than compression.  It’s unlikely a Climax is going to be the necessary card in hand, and the deck doesn’t run Events, so Inherited Sword Skill, Asuna’s niche is more or less useless, and while Asuna is in color, Yuuki is more guaranteed to find the card you want anyways.  Like with Sinon’s deck, Yuuki lets you run Leafa late, allowing you to help find the Climax while providing an alternative finisher.  The added stock isn’t too much of a downside to the Switch, and having a discard outlet early on is beneficial when the endgame combo can be a Pants trigger.

 

Tl;dr: Inherited Sword Skill, Asuna is good.  It just doesn’t do enough of what it needs to do in the Sinon and Switch decks because <Zekken> Yuuki does it better.

 


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Asuna vs Zekken, Switch vs Last Shot

Welcome to a 9th CX discussion post! Travis and Michael are here to talk about the new finishers that have come to SAO, and determine which one they prefer. Part 2 of this article will feature some more voices and will be posted later. Onto the discussion!

For reference, here are the cards being discussed:

When you play Attack in Waves, Kirito, you may sacrifice a “After the Battle, Kirito” you control. If you do, you may play this card at 0 cost. It heals on play. If you control 3 or more other [Avatar] and/or [Net] characters, this card gets +1500 power and “When this reverses a character in battle, you may choose another [Avatar] or [Net] character you control, rest it, and then move it to an open position on your back stage.

Attack in Waves, Asuna gives all [Avatar]/[Net] characters you control in front of her +2000 power and “When this reverses a character in battle, you may send the reversed character to memory”. When played, you may tutor for up to 1 [Avatar] or [Net] character. It has a CX combo with “Quest to Get <<Excalibur>>”: on attack, if you control 4 or more other [Avatar] or [Net] characters, you may pay 2 and discard a card. If you do, choose a “Attack in Waves, Kirito” you control, and this card, and exchange them. (Their status will not change)

Inherited Sword Skill, Asuna gets +1500 power until end of turn when played. She has a CX combo with “Demise of <<Zekken>>”: if she reverses a character in battle and you control 3 or more other [Avatar] or [Net] characters, you look at up to the top 3 cards of your deck, choose up to 1 card, put it in your hand, then send the rest to your waiting room. (You can choose 0 cards for either half of the ability.)

The other cards, <<Zekken>> Yuuki and Last Shot, Sinon, are the familiar gold bar and book CX combos.

Travis:

With the release of Sword Art Online Re: Edit, SAO has been given access to a new hand plus combo and a new finish combo. The new hand plus combo being a newer type of on reverse effect we have seen this year where the player checks only up to the top 3 cards of their deck and can select any card blind from those 3. As for the finisher, it is a type of pseudo restand combo where on other character attack, you can pay a cost to swap the position of two characters on the stage, potentially reaching up to 5 attacks in that turn. Now with two decent combos in both the hand plus and finish department, it makes deck building in an already decent set even more tricky. If you ask me, all the combos can be interchangeable. As in you can run Switch and Zekken, Switch and Asuna, Last Shot and Zekken, or Last Shot and Asuna. It just depends which combos you value more.

All my decisions and statements below are made based off my locale. These may not apply to where you play.

Personally, I value the Zekken over the Asuna for hand plus. Asuna is indeed a costless hand plus combo, on the condition that you reverse her battle opponent. On play she does gain 1500 power and does combo with a 1k1, so getting her reverses isn’t that hard to do just based on her being a 7k before adding in the power given by backrow cards. However, unless you double field Asuna’s Married Life, the board is going to look like 7.5k/7.5k/7.0k (with a Married Life and new Kirito brainstorm in the backrow) before the Married Life on CX play effect is assigned. Some decks have the defense power to block out one reverse, maybe two if they have a counter or two. If SAO had a Riki effect that searched for level 1 cards or lower, I would consider this card over Zekken since I would be able to force myself to get to level 1 faster and start to benefit from the hand plus ahead of time.

I value Zekken mostly because A.) She offers me a filter to get unwanted triggers out of my hand, B.) If I were to trigger a CX, I could pay it out with her CX combo and C.) Instead of pulling cards off the top of my deck, risking more than 1 CX being taken from deck, Zekken pulls damage out of the deck instead leaving in CXs unless it gets triggered. She might not have much to offer for defense, but pulling what you want or need out of deck makes it a lot more worth to run instead of the Asuna.

As for a finisher, I like Last Shot still over the Switch combo. I may have to give up more instances of damage, but it leaves me room to run Machine of Ice, Sinon in the back row to deny anti damage counters and rest counters, plus I can combo Last Shot in with the new Leafa cross turn clock kicker. Switch ideally can have 5 attacks in a turn with only 1 stock going into the attack phase, but I would need to have 2 of the new Asuna, leaving no room to deny my opponent counters or back-ups.

Michael:

One of the biggest drawbacks that stood out to me with the new Asuna search combo was that it requires a substantial board commitment to go off. Now, SAO has historically not had too much of a problem running a full field at level 1. In fact, among most builds that I have seen, it really does enjoy scrapping and drawing/searching for cards once it hits level 1.

There are some clear advantages that the new Asuna has.

The new Asuna:

  1. Looks at an additional card
  2. Can get a CX into your hand
  3. Can mill an additional card

But what if we consider what Yuuki does?

The “old” Yuuki:

  1. Only filters out future potential damage
  2. Can discard CXs from hand
  3. Can help tune damage depending on if soul triggers are pulled from the deck

The downsides that the two share regarding their power level are similar and potentially a non-factor. They aren’t supposed to survive for a turn. If they do and another CX combo can go off, that’s a huge plus, but it’s not the end of the world if they are steamrolled.

The endgame is where we start to see more differences. I have never been a big fan of Sinon’s headshot (burn 4) ability, simply because 4 damage is rarely favored to land. Yes, it can catch you up and give you another shot at ending the game if your opponent is at 3/3, but I have yet to hear anyone (be they experienced or new) call it a reliable effect.

So then where does that put the new Wave attackers? Being able to put out a healer for the cost of a 0 stock brainstormer is quite nice. No matter the build (that is, if someone is still using the 3/2 Kirito that can be played at level 2), it’s still a discount on stock, which SAO could use. Most if not all level 3 finishers would benefit from being free, so that’s already a point in favor of attacking in waves.

One of the biggest potential points of discomfort with the wave attackers though, is that they rely on the most easily disrupted method of ending the game: attacking! Perhaps my view is that of a spoiled player. After all, ending games with 1 damage pings is pretty safe and reliable. In comparison, trying to swing ‘wildly’ to end a game just feels clunky and barbaric. If one was in an environment where disruption at level 3 was unlikely, (i.e. no Compass, no Project Darkness), I’d call both finisher plans equally viable. As for my preference, I would have to test it before judging it. My gut says that I don’t like it, but I attribute that feeling to not having used it yet.


If you have questions, please send us a message via Facebook or an email at theninthcx AT gmail DOT com. Be sure to sign up for our seasonal giveaway, and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

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Thanks for reading!

Level Up! – How to Use a Lead (Part 1)

Are Sonzai X and RNGsus conspiring against you in your games?

Are you convinced that you are just doomed to lose?

Is there a possibility that you have missed potential advantages and opportunities?

If there is, (and there might be!) we’re going to be looking at a much finer point in WS: just what do we do when we are winning a game?

In WS, having an advantage (or having it look like we’re winning) looks different from other games.

(These are general comparisons only)

For instance, in chess, a tempo is a turn gained. (e.g. Your opponent having to move out of check) In Magic, it could be getting a sweet 2-for-1. In Shadowverse, it could be slamming your animated Bahamut onto a full enemy board when your opponent has no cards in hand. Okay, that’s more like Winning™, but advantages come in many shapes and sizes.

In WS, there are many places for a player to gain an advantage, and each has a value that is dependent (ranging from barely to completely) on other factors. For example, an effect that draws 3 cards is powerful by itself, but is even more powerful the lower the level of the user and the higher their stock, and only slightly diminished by the number of remaining CXs in deck, and cards in hand.

But when it comes down to the little decisions in a game, we don’t have the luxury of notes to refer to; we can’t even take notes during a game. So with that in mind, how can we best prepare to recognize advantages that may arise during a game? And if we do spot one, how do we best use it? Our answers may change depending on what kind of deck we’re using, but we thought that there might be some general truths out there. For that, we’ve turned to our guests and team for their thoughts!

We’re featuring thoughts from Bren, Clinton, Sebastian, Travis, and Felix. We took everyone’s opinions blind, so no one has seen what the others have said. We did this to avoid accidentally biasing anyone, though the drawback is that some of the points may overlap. Michael will be adding some of his

When playing a game of WS, how do you recognize, take, and maintain a lead?


Contine reading

Level Up! – The Endgame, Level 3

EXPLOOOOOSION

Welcome back to Level Up!, 9th CX’s intermediate strategy column!

For this article, we will be diving into the level where the game of Weiss Schwarz is at its most tense; level 3! This article and its analysis have been brought to you by the whole 9th CX team, as it has been worked on for a while. Special thanks to Clinton for his contributions as well.


So it’s come to this…

The battle has been fierce.

Damage has been flying.

Waifus have been slain.

Your third card goes into your level zone…

A glance at stock, an internal nod.

The incantation begins:

I, the player, defender of my honor (or my waifu’s etc we’re having fun with this bear with us)…

Call upon the forces of –

OVERWATCHMEMES

And well, before you know it, someone has scooped up their cards in gracious defeat, blamed their level 0 characters for feeding and said “gg”.

Indeed, level 3 is where the most memorable fun of the game is had. Why? Defeat (or victory) is imminent, and the game could still, in theory, go to either player. You may be familiar with the sight too – the final table in the round of a tournament is surrounded by a murmuring crowd of spectators. One of the players at 3/6 is being attacked for exactly one damage, and flips over… a CX! The crowd goes wild gets hyped and so on.

For those of us who’d be watching, that is really fun, but for the one who’d be most invested in that moment, that is, the attacking player, what could they have done more to win the game?

The answer is in the many effects that are offered in level 3 cards!

For ease of reading, we’ll be using three categories to classify effects: OffenseDefense, and Utility.

Within each of these categories are a variety of abilities, but some are seen with some regularity, to the point that their ability is known to players by an unofficial keyword, such as Heal.

Offense:

  • On-attack burn X
  • Punish burn, 1 or 1+X (Musashi)
  • Restand (on attack / on reverse)
  • Kick (clock, top of deck, memory, stock- in descending order of strength)
  • Summon/Call (get characters from somewhere)
  • Putting card(s) from in play or in waiting on top or shuffled back into opponent’s deck
  • Hexproof/shroud

Defense:

  • Bodyguard
  • Soul manipulation of opposing characters
  • Frontal attack prevention
  • Clocked card(s) removal
  • Kiting (moving characters around)
  • Denial (CX combo denial, anti-damage, anti-event, etc)

Utility:

  • Draw up to X, discard X
  • Look at top X put X in hand and discard the rest.
  • Look at top 6, discard 3 and rearrange 3
  • Search (on attack)
  • Support (anti-burn, +XXXX power, etc)
  • Generate stock (from anywhere)

Here’s what Clinton has to say about these effects:

My personal favorites are clock kick, punish burn 1+X, burn X, and heal. Many top decks feature at least 2 of those effects. So it is safe to say that most successful decks utilizes these effects and build/plan around them accordingly.

So with that in mind, let’s go into each of these “trees” briefly and look at why each ability might be effective. After, we’ll look at why the effects Clinton likes might be his favorites.

The list of effects here is by no means exhaustive, but we want to show the most popular and common effects. The most powerful cards will often have some combination of abilities on them as well.

In Offense, we have a variety of ways to get cards pushed into the opponent’s clock.

The idea of using an offensive ability at level 3 is to win; to push the opponent to level 4. Some methods are more certain than others.

For instance, the various burn abilities have a range. The smaller the number, the more likely the damage is to hit, but the larger the number, the greater the range of a potential comeback.

Continuing in offense, we have the “kick” abilities, the most powerful of which is the ‘clock kick’ ability. Sending a reversed character to clock is more reliable than trying to deal 1 point of damage through burn, because while only some series have the opportunity to sacrifice characters before they would be sent elsewhere, anyone can cancel a burn for 1 with a CX on top.

Restanding is in an interesting place, because when someone attacks with a character more than one time in a turn, any soul that it may have gotten from a previous trigger(s), is retained. For example, if your character attacks for 2, reveals a soul trigger on attack, and then attacks again, its base soul value will be 3 plus the next trigger, not 2. Now, a character that can restand and get value out of it…

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Let’s just say that there’s a reason someone was changed before being printed in EN, and restricted in JP.

Pulling characters from deck, hand, or in some cases, clock, can be counted as an offensive ability because it enables more attacks. More attacks = more opportunities to deal damage, and so on.

On the flip side, putting cards back into the opponent’s deck, whether on top or shuffled back, provides more opportunities for your damage to go through uncontested. While this does not immediately translate to damage, it directly contributes to a scenario where the attacking player is more likely to deal damage.

Most puzzling of all may be the presence of the hexproof and shroud abilities. Whereas in games such as Magic and Hearthstone the ability is considered defensive, in Weiss Schwarz, it can be considered offensive for a couple of reasons. First, the window of interaction is very small and limited. In Magic, a player may have ten (or more) opportunities in a given turn to do something any number of times, in Weiss Schwarz, there is only one window to do something during an opponent’s turn, and only one card or effect that can ever be used or played in that window; i.e. Counter Step. Second, shutting that window on the opponent usually puts them at the mercy of whatever effect is being used. For example, being able to render the opponent unable to use a Backup ability or event while attacking with a character that has a clock kick effect is a very potent combination of abilities.

A card’s offensive efficiency can be measured by how many abilities it has. If a card has only one ability, such as burn, it can be considered less efficient than a card with the same cost that can burn and heal. When constructing a deck’s endgame, it’s important to consider the balance of “one-trick” cards versus those with more defensive abilities or utility.

In the Defense camp we have the many ways to try to deny an opponent’s victory.

At the top of the list, in terms of defensive power, is the the most recognized ability: heal. It creates distance that the opponent must close in order to win, and extends a game to create more opportunities for the user to win.

Further down, we have one of the few ways to directly deny damage in terms of soul manipulation. The most commonly seen effects without a CX combo is a -1 soul “shrink”, though CX combos can increase than number. On the flip side, some cards and effects can actually increase soul values, with the idea to ensure that a cancel is found.

Preventing frontal attacks is a way to render attacks potentially useless. Characters rarely get to attack for greater than 3 damage when facing a character, and using a Bounce trigger (or on-attack effect) won’t change the type of attack declared.

Now, kiting and Bodyguard are two defensive abilities of questionable value. Moving characters around can prevent them from being reversed (and perhaps sent somewhere), but it only gets better as the opponent’s effects improve. Similarly, Bodyguard does not actually prevent damage, but forces the opponent to make all frontal attacks (as long as it remains unreversed).

Lastly, we have Utility abilities. These abilities are meant to facilitate scenarios where more of what the player’s objective is, can be found. For instance, if a player wants all burn all the time, utility can help dig for finishing combo pieces. If a player wants more heal, utility again is there to dig for more.

Many of the effects are simple, and are sometimes seen at lower levels. Effects that draw X cards are seen more often on level 3 cards than they are on lower level characters, though.


What is it about clock kick, burn and heal that make them so appealing?

Of course, their common appearance on cards can make them seem like their use is inevitable. The “common sense” argument aside, these abilities represent the most efficient methods of closing the gap to victory, and in the case of heal, elongating it.

But what about power, +soul, and that kind of thing?

As we mentioned before in the article about level 2, a good handful of cards that are printed as “level 3” are playable at level 2, and have more power-oriented abilities. Some actually do have one or more ‘prime’ abilities such as heal. As for abilities that directly add soul, they are basic enough to where what they contribute to a game plan can be considered relatively minor in scope. There is a slight skill gap we have to acknowledge in the use of soul manipulation effects (e.g. on attack +soul), but in effect they are functionally similar enough to burn effects.

So +soul is like burn but with a brain check?

More or less.

Then what should we do when building a deck’s endgame?

Be sure to look for the most powerful effects the set or series has available to it. Often, these effects will not be cut and dry, and will be in unique variations and/or combinations. The more luck the ability takes to resolve, the higher the reward will usually be. Try to look for the cards that feature the lowest risk for the highest reward possible, and then consider the other options.

If a deck’s endgame looks like it might be “S tier” in terms of power but “C tier” in terms of reliability, it might be worth trying to get both of those to “A tier” rather than accepting the disparity.

Tip from Clinton: Prepare your wallets too, because the most expensive cards in the set, also tend to be the set’s best level 3s.

What if I’m wrong?

Then Clinton will be summoned and he will give you his highly-motivating table-flipping tantrum-speech combo-

BAKAT

Though, in all seriousness, it comes down to testing. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but at the same time, do your best to find the best ones possible!


If you have questions, please send us a message via Facebook or an email at theninthcx AT gmail DOT com. Be sure to sign up for our monthly giveaway, follow us on Twitch and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Please check out our partner store, Card Academy!

Thanks for reading!

Level Up! – The Contested Level, Level 1

Maki

Welcome back to Level Up!, 9th CX’s intermediate strategy column!

This time, we are going to be delving into perhaps the most contested level of Weiss Schwarz, level 1. This article and analysis are brought to you by Michael, Melanie, Johnny, Felix, and Clinton.

Same disclaimer as last time: If we missed something or if you see something that we might add, let us know! This topic is not easy.


In Weiss Schwarz, level 1 is a very turbulent point of the game. There are not very many quality generalizations to make about the level itself because, level 1 is where the game starts to take off for many decks.

Melanie has some points about the history of level 1 in decks.

Melanie: 

Originally, the concept of dual laning, or, matching, prevailed in the early game. Players in the JP game used to either match their opponent’s field one for one, or would play just one more character to bait out a response from the opponent, in the form of another character. This was done in an attempt to preserve the “Triangle effect”; which states that cards in hand translates to having characters. Characters deal damage and build stock to pay for higher level abilities and characters, which goes back to refilling, or “plussing” the hand.

Now, as the game progressed, the idea of pushing for more damage began to creep up.

Michael:

In other words, the game began to tilt in favor of more aggressive strategies.

Melanie:

Some have suggested that this happened due to the introduction of the EN game, but that isn’t exactly provable. But soon, level 1 became the time for players to begin committing to a full board to push for damage to end the game.

As decks began to commit more to filling up the board at level 1, something was needed to refill the hand. At first, this was done by running CX triggers (book + door, or even 8 door). Sets such as Rewrite would use 8 door triggers and salvage CX combos to sustain their damage. Cards would eventually move to provide a way to sustain the hand through cards outside of CX triggers.

Remember Asuna Invites to Party?

sao_s20_001

The CX combo, at the time of its release, was quite popular (and in EN, is still). Attack, pay 1 stock and tutor for any character? It’s the dream for many decks!

This was all quite good for a while until the Fire Nation attacked until KanColle was printed. Kantai introduced some unprecedented mechanics (easy-to-access heal tax, anti-salvage, etc), but among the biggest was Shimakaze.

kc_s25_003

The condition to search for a character was needing to reverse a character in battle, but she did it for free. Nisekoi would follow with a similar combo, but would without the benefit of thinning the deck.

WS_NK_W30_E056R

The game has evolved significantly over the past few years, to the point where some older decks struggle bitterly to maintain their “triangle” if they do not have a reliable way to keep up at level 1. The strongest variants are those that trigger from reversing opponents in battle, and they include searching, salvaging, and milling up to 4 cards to look for a character.


So, now we have some context on how level 1 has looked and where it has gone over the years.

But what can we learn from this history to see how to build a deck’s level 1 game?

There are a few things we can take away at the macro level.

First, a less stock-intensive level 1 means that a deck can afford a more expensive level 3, and possibly a more expensive level 2.

Second, it helps to include a card advantage engine, be it in the form of CX triggers, CX combos, or events. (Generally, cards at level 1 do not have a lot in the way of providing card advantage on their own outside of combos)

Let’s go to Johnny for his approach:

Johnny:

To me, level 1 is the most important level, next to level 3. You can usually tell how good a (new) set is by those 2 levels. Usually, when I build my level 1 game for any set, I look at the costless level 1 characters. 1/0s are important because they build stock from the turn they’re played. (1/1 characters take a full extra turn to become stock-positive)

Next, I add any advantage engine the set has, whether the cards involved cost 0 or 1 stock. Speaking of 1/1s though, I sometimes include 2-3 1/1 characters, but it comes down to how good they are. I like to add them because decks sometimes just need to pay out stock to dislodge CXs in stock, etc. In addition, they tend to have higher power, which 1/0 characters typically have difficulty going over in battle.

Lastly, I look for backup effects. If a set has a 0-stock +2000 power backup or a 1-stock +3500 backup/event, I consider them.

Felix with the tl;dr:

  • Shimakaze combo? ☑
  • Stronk beater? ☑
  • Good utility? ☑

Johnny:

Which brings me to the types of level 1 characters we tend to see:

  • Advantage combo level 1
    • Combo with a CX to search or salvage
  • Assassins
    • Get +X power on play, and can get over most other characters during the turn they’re played
  • Level reversers
    • Formerly used to match other level 1s, but now are used for utility beyond their reversing ability
  • Clock encore beaters
    • Typically 6000 power at 1/0, and 7500 power at 1/1
  • Anti-level backups
    • Included in some sets at level 1 (e.g. Marika, Nisekoi; Nico, Love Live!)
  • Backups
    • Typically 1500-2000 power at 1/0, 2000-2500+ at 1/1

We have a general lay of the land now for level 1, but as many players know, the JP game and the EN game are (or can be) very different animals. This is where we have the reigning World Champion chime in:

Clinton:

The success of one’s level 1 game goes a long way in determining how the rest of the game will pan out. As said before, level 1 is only rivaled by level 3 in terms of importance, and that’s only because the game is over after someone gets pushed out of level 3.

The EN metagame is currently dominated by 3 strategies at level 1.

  1. CX combo card advantage (e.g. SAO, Nisekoi, Kantai, [email protected])
  2. Power (e.g. Angel Beats, Attack on Titan, Project Diva [Miku])
  3. Efficiency (e.g. Love Live!, Kill La Kill, Madoka)

Level 1 CX combo decks use their combos to setup for future turns. Those that focus on power aim to exhaust opponents early on and deny CX combos from going off, because many combos rely on reversing opponents. The last group of decks simply try to get as much mileage out of as few cards as possible to sustain a longer endgame.

Card advantage decks are usually the most commonly played. For a while, those focused on efficiency were popular despite the presence of power or “wall” decks. That is of course, until AoT was released, and the wall more or less came down on the meta, and it became the premier deck to beat.

More specifically on AoT, I consider the Corps build with Sasha + Mikasa at level 1 to be the best build, as the pair completely stonewalls most card advantage decks.

Michael:

From this, we can draw some rock-paper-scissors-like comparisons in what happens at level 1.

Power beats CX combos and efficiency, but only early on. It falls off in the late game, but spikes highest in the early game.

CX combos can beat efficiency at any stage of the game, but have to rely on opportunities in the face of facing power/wall decks. It improves the late game, but spikes in terms of opportunity near level 0.

Efficiency is essentially a surrender to both CX combos and walls for the promise of a heavier and ideally superior endgame. It improves the late game, but its upsides are not seen until later in the game.

Here’s a very crude graph to illustrate where we see the level 1 games go for each type:

Crude Graph to Explain Level 1

But of course, this graph is sorely limited, because it doesn’t illustrate for us how these types might interact with one another. To get more accurate data for interactivity though, we would need to delve into an individual set, look at its potential layouts for level 1, and then compare that against many other level 1 setups to determine its viability.

Now, Clinton just gave us a good example of how a player in EN would want to check their level 1 game; taking a popular and powerful combination of cards and using it as a standard. His advice for EN players is to use AoT’s level 1 game as a litmus test to see if a deck is viable. Basically: Can’t beat AoT’s level 1 game? Consider other options.

In the JP side of the game though, where things are much more diverse, it can be difficult to pin down a reliable standard. Eventually, there will (probably) be so many sets in the EN game that it will also become just as difficult. So in the face of overwhelming options, what’s a deckbuilder to do?

Here’s a breakdown of recommended steps:

  • Identify
    • ID the potential level 1 game combinations from a set
    • Look for the CX combo engine, and/or walls, and/or efficient characters
  • Choose
    • Pair the level 1 combination with a particular endgame (to be discussed in a future article)
  • Test
    • Put the deck to work! Get in some games, ideally against proven lists
  • Evaluate
    • After testing is done, compile observations from your games, such as what worked well, and what did not work as well. Make the observations discrete, as there will be some that will be made in the context of the specific matchup tested, and others that can happen outside context
      • For example, “This character could never get over that potato” is a potential example of a context-biased observation, because it only points out a specific character that couldn’t be beaten
      • “This character could never go over 9000” is a better observation, because the actual number is being addressed, rather than a specific card; it’s more applicable because it covers more potential ground
  • Modify
    • If too many negatives or downsides are observed during testing, switch to another setup – remove the old, try the new

Good luck!


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Thanks for reading!

Level Up! – The Forgotten Level, Level 2

Where is the 2

Welcome to Level Up!, 9th CX’s intermediate strategy column!

This column will be a smaller column dedicated to more narrow and meta-specific topics that can’t be covered by the advanced topics or level 0 columns.

We will be discussing the “forgotten level”; level 2. This article and analysis are brought to you by Michael, Johnny, Melanie, and Felix. Thanks to our old contributor Billy for the article suggestion, and to Clinton for last-minute contributions.

Disclaimer: This column goes into details that significantly more experienced players may consider “common sense”. If you are one of those players and have noticed that we missed something, let us know! This stuff is hard to write about, but it’s much easier to edit and add to.


In WS, level 2 is often misunderstood. This happens usually due to some combination of bias and inexperience.

For instance, a newer player may see that level 2 is where 2-soul characters begin to come out. Because 2-soul characters hit for more damage, it could follow that level 2 is where to go “all-in” and ignore using level 3 characters altogether.

But let’s back up first and look at the most popular state of the level 2 game so that we know where we’re coming from.

For many decks, level 2 serves as a stepping stone into level 3. Stock is conserved, and a deck refresh is often sought to prevent as much damage as possible in the following turns. However, there are…

KC-S31-061

…some cards…

py-s38-065

…that break the rules…

tl-w37-001

…and can show up much earlier than their level indicates.

It’s a mechanic known by other names in other games, and by none in particular in WS. Some call them early plays, or early outs, etc. Chaos knows it as “trespass”. Yu-Gi-Oh! knows it as “advance summon”. Magic knows it (kind of) as “cheating into play”, but the premise is the same: level 2 has become inundated with level 3 characters.

But wait, it’s always been like this! Level 3 characters have always been accessible at level 2!

True, but let’s also consider this: level 3 characters were accessible by means of using change abilities, and often, those abilities would trigger at the start of one’s draw phase. Sometimes, they would trigger at the end of a battle phase, or at the start of a climax phase. These newer level 3 cards, as seen above, cannot be as easily disrupted. Whereas before, a change card could have been bounced or even attacked, these level 3s just happen. That is, a certain condition on the user’s turn, must be fulfilled in order for them to be played.

Because there is very little play-by-play interaction in the game, it’s even more difficult for someone to sculpt a scenario where a level 3 cannot be played early. For example, some ask for specific cards to be in clock, and others to be in hand. There are very few ways for an opponent to manipulate the kinds of cards in a player’s clock, and even fewer (if any at all) that can manipulate a player’s cards in hand.

So now what do people do at level 2?

Aside from trespass effects, there is an assortment of popular effects found on level 2 characters.

Effects? Why not power?

So let’s take a look at the most popular effects first, and we will likely find the answer to that question.

The most commonly seen effects at level 2 are:

  • Trespass (see above)
  • “Slayers” (buff when facing a level 3+ character)
  • Level assists (characters that give characters in front +500 x level power)
  • Utility backups (backup abilities that include removal of over-level characters, filtering cards, and refreshing the deck)
  • Freefresh

The struggle for power is kind of covered by this “not-quite rock paper scissors” cycle of trespass characters, slayers, and backups (more specifically, anti-change effects). On attack, slayers and trespass characters beat one another. On the defense, anti-change beats trespass.

Raw power at this level is actually not consistent enough to factor into this equation. Raw power can beat slayers and is not prone to being defeated by anti-change, but it gets beaten by anything with trespass, and even more resoundingly if a level assist is behind it.

To be more specific, vanilla 2/2 characters tend to have two types. One is 10000 power with 1 soul, and the other is 9000 power with 2 soul. Trespass cards tend to have some kind of scaling power (+500 power per on-trait character) with a lower base, somewhere near 9000. If both a vanilla and trespass character are alone, yes, the vanilla wins. With one more character on board, they are even, but if one puts a level support behind both characters, the level 3 wins! It isn’t unreasonable to expect that someone will have more than one character at level 2, and therefore, trespass characters are almost always more attractive options.

Let’s also consider another thing – freefresh. Many decks want to use level 2 to refresh and prevent future damage as much as possible. The popularity of this effect also makes it much more difficult to play CX combos at level 2. When a refresh is imminent, having the choice of whether to play a level 2 CX combo or ditch it is kind of a Morton’s fork.

At level 2, the game is hardly over. There’s still a full level to go, and games rarely end in one fell swoop. If one plays a CX combo at level 2, this can make for an awkward decision tree: “Do I keep this in my hand to use later/after refreshing, or do I ditch it and use it to potentially cancel damage?” Most players will opt out of ever having to encounter this painful choice and use CX combos at levels 1 and 3.

Why levels 1 and 3?

Level 1 CX combos are typically used to find card advantage. There are combos that rely on reversing, on attacking, and so on, but ultimately, they are used to get more cards. Because these combos are usable at any level from level 1 and on, they often bleed into level 2. At level 3, CX combos are often used as finishers because they offer some form of damage and/or high probability damage.

Let’s consider something else too, that level 2 characters in one’s opening draw are essentially as “good” as level 3 characters; good to clock, and little else. In contrast, level 1 characters can be held and preserved for the next level.

Vanilla level 2 characters that cost 1 stock have historically hovered between 8500 and 9000 power. Level 1 characters have gotten progressively larger over time, to the point where it is not unreasonable for a level 1 character to hit 8000+ power. Card effects and CX combos make it possible to push the numbers even higher, e.g. Soundless Voice from Miku, and this ease of access has made power-oriented level 2 characters very nearly obsolete.

So what should level 2 be used for?

The most popular and powerful sets have access to the “big 5” level 2 effects; trespass, slayers, etc. Because the very effects are capable of keeping the others in check, it’s safe to say that generally, the level 2 for a deck should focus on the utility that those cards offer.

Won’t that mean that the number of level 2 characters will be really small in a deck?

For a lot of newer sets, yes, this is the case. Characters with trespass are usually level 3, and that cuts down the number of cards that are truly level 2. (There are some characters that can trespass at level 1, but those characters are rare and not as powerful as those that can do so at level 2.)

What about events?

Events are a little different, because they have a wide variety of effects. Some decks will use them to gain an advantage through sheer power, some will use them to prevent damage. The list goes on, and they often are played in decks that lack one or more of the “big 5” effects to fill the gap in power.

tl;dr for level 2?

  • Play few level 2 characters
    • For those that are played, make sure they are a part of the “big 5” effects as much as possible
  • Play events sparingly
    • Save the slots for powerful events
  • Play CX combos as little as possible

Good luck!


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Thanks for reading!

Lists & Lightning – Why We Borrow & Use Deck Lists

Author’s Note: The math used in this article was independently verified by my friend Julian, who is currently chasing the solutions for the Millennium Problems for fun.  

“Man, all these players do is netdeck, it’s so troll.”

“No, you can’t see my list. It’s mine.”

“There’s only really one deck to play with this set. It’s A B C, GG.”

If you have played card games, including Weiss Schwarz, you may have at one point heard players saying things like this. You may have also noticed that there are is also a social stigma associated with “being unoriginal”, and “netdecking”, or using someone’s deck list.

Let’s begin with a bold statement:

There is nothing wrong with “netdecking”.

Let’s look at one aspect of deck building: the numbers themselves.

The largest single set of Weiss Schwarz to date (Kantai Collection) contains 164 cards.

17 of these 164 cards are CXs.

To give a quick example, if one was to try to make every possible deck with no repeating cards, there are:

(147 choose 42) * (17 choose 8)

(147! * 17!) / ((8! * 9!)(42! * 105!))

2.7636 x 10^41 or

276 duodecillion 360 undecillion 422 decillion 714 nonillion 229 octillion 393 septillion 909 sextillion 640 quintillion 293 quadrillion 583 billion 479 million 5 thousand 200 possible combinations of cards to make a deck, following 8 CX per deck rules, not counting allowing up to 4-of a card.

That’s about 92 nonillion times the number of stars that exist in the Milky Way, which contains 300 billion stars.

Milky_Way_IR_Spitzer

Okay, so we have an enormous number. What does it mean?

It means that if you take away qualities from cards, and labeled them only A, B, C, D, etc, we would be playing a game that could be played effectively forever without being solved. Fortunately, we have the help of color, effects, levels, and so on to guide us in the deck building process.

But, this does not mean that the actual process is any easier. Though we might be able to pare down the number in our minds because of truly impossible-to-use builds of decks (e.g. 42 level 3 characters + 8 CXs), eliminating the “absurd” decks from the pool is like trying to drain the Pacific Ocean with an eyedropper. Deck building is not about finding and eliminating the impossible; it’s about discovering the viable.

But then what’s the difference between a deck list that gets posted on Bushiroad’s website and one that I make myself?

It comes down to results. Decks that are freshly crafted versus those that have placed and been posted are separated by their results.

A deck list is only a list in testing until it has been shown to work. And, we know that testing is very important.

In WS, the game as a whole does not move as quickly and visibly as other card games such as Magic: the Gathering. Because there is only one real tournament format (Neo-Standard), the tournament scene moves much more slowly. On top of that, there is only one truly “large” tournament that Bushiroad hosts in its WGP or World Grand Prix; a very small qualified event.

Sometimes a really random or troll deck will just win. What does that say about the legitimacy of deck lists?

Of course, the possibility always exists.  And that can be for a number of reasons; a player may have been extraordinarily lucky that day, for example. However, that does not necessarily mean that luck is the be-all-end-all dictator of how a tournament would go. In fact, saying that the game is entirely luck-based is not very mindful of the aspects of the game which do test a player’s skill and game knowledge.

Something that does tend to call into question the majority of all deck lists in WS however, is the size of tournaments that they are involved in. WS tournaments in the Bay Area for example, can have 20+ players, but other areas may struggle to find even 6 players. Compare this with Magic: the Gathering, where large tournaments regularly have hundreds or even thousands of players. WS events with more than 5 Swiss rounds are scarce, but a list that wins a 5-round (with top X) tournament is going to pull more weight than one that wins a 3-round single elimination event. A list that wins multiple 5+ round with top X events is even better. To that end, it’s in a player’s interest to accept every deck list he or she comes across with a grain of salt.

So if luck does play some role in an event, does that mean that a deck list isn’t necessarily the best as it is?

Usually. As stated before, sometimes outliers can win events and put up good results. If the completely “troll” strategy turns out to be viable, it gains the label of “rogue” strategy, which acknowledges its relevance and potential, while still giving it the label of not necessarily being a popular or recommended strategy. However, once a set has been tested extensively, such as Madoka, a “best list” or “best lists” will eventually surface as the best that the set has to offer.

Lab_monitor_screen_text

Sometimes, the recipe is meant as a novelty, more than a serious reference.

WS, like any other game with imperfect information, involves at its core a game of risk management, because players have to deal with many unknowns. WS contains the twist of additional unknown information because there are always the top cards of respective decks and those cards’ probabilities of being certain cards. Knowing how to identify and when to bank on certain percentages is one of the “skill gaps” that determines if a player is new, versus if a player is highly experienced.

There are two aspects to using a deck that should be considered when building it, and when testing it: strategy and mechanics.

Strategy

Being familiar with a set is crucial to building a good deck. In WS, a deck’s overall goal will for the most part, be exactly the same as the next one; get the opponent to level 4. Because other strategies involving forcing a loss condition are much more difficult (and thus much less viable), we don’t see strategies that might involve trying to fulfill one of these alternate loss conditions (e.g. trying to put every card in the opponent’s deck into the resolution zone). With that in mind, the strategic aspect of deck building is allowed more creativity in the effects that it uses to get the opponent to level 4. Contrast this with Magic: the Gathering, where “mill” (or TurboFog), that attempts to make the opponent draw from an empty library instead of reducing the opponent’s life total to 0, has at numerous times been considered a viable strategy even in competitive play. Now, knowing every single card’s effect can be good for constructing a deck, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to using it well.

Mechanics

This is the execution portion of making a deck. When we play a game of WS, even if it is a complete 28 consecutive damage blowout, we gain practice and/or bits of knowledge from simply playing. 

It almost seems like a non-point, but our mechanics are indeed tested and improved with every game that we play. You might even notice that there are certain things that are involved with playing the game that get incidentally improved, such as card shuffling.

There are so many decision trees that can be made during a game, but fortunately, the way the game has been designed lets us make some decisions intuitively, such as attacking a character with 3000 power with something that has more than 3000 power. The strategic aspect of this helps us exercise when to attack like this, but the mechanical aspect gives us the why.

Isn’t it the other way around?

Not necessarily. When you attack something, you make the decision based off the advantage that you know would be gained, based on the way the game works. That is, you attack, you make the opponent lose a character and ideally take damage. The strategic portion would be to explore all the possibilities of that attack, including looking at your character’s power against the opponent’s character, if there could be a Backup effect that would make you lose the battle, if there is the chance of a CX being on the top of your or your opponent’s deck, the likelihood that your opponent is using a popular effect from the set he or she is using, and so on.

To go back to the earlier point, playing with a deck that has already been made allows us to focus on practicing playing a deck well, rather than wondering why certain card choices have been made. Often, newer players may find themselves asking “Well, why this card, and why this card?” much to a more experienced player’s chagrin. But, by using a deck, any deck, to just play the game, a player becomes more refined and can then take on the higher strategies that are in the game without being burdened by lack of practice.

So we know how testing is important, and about how many decks there might be with one set, but what about the whole game? How about the number of possibilities of games?

Every game is a statistical impossibility. That is, if you play a game of WS, it is highly unlikely that you will ever see the same game again.

How unlikely is it?

 

Math time!

Author’s Note: Credits again to my friend Julian for helping with the math, and providing some very interesting commentary to put things into perspective.

Let’s say we want to try playing WS in Standard format. Counting SPs, RRRs, etc, there are 8659 non-CX cards and 1182 CX cards that are available for a given player to use. Of the 8659 non-CX cards, you can choose 42 (repeating for SPs etc is okay in this case, since it will generally not go over the legality threshold, and even if it does, the number of possibilities will still be so high it will not make a significant difference), and of the 1182 CXs, you can choose 8.

This means that there are:

(8659 choose 42)*(1182 choose 8) =

(1182! * 8659!)/((8! * 1174!)(42! * 8617!))

1.41 × 10^134

(That’s 1.41 x 10^34 googol)

Possible decks allowed with no repeat cards, and each deck containing exactly 8 CX cards. (With repeat cards, the math becomes a lot more difficult, and for the sake of this exercise, we’re going to use the number that is more readily accessible.)

Therefore, there are 1.98 x 10^268 possible games.

After 10^40 years, all galaxies will have either decayed into diffuse matter, or gravitationally attracted into black holes. After googol years, all the black holes will have decayed due to Hawking Radiation. After this time, the universe will be in The Dark Era, where all the matter that remains is lone particles wandering aimlessly as entropy decreases.

Imagine if all 7.2 billion people on Earth suddenly stopped what they were doing and started playing WS, 3.1 billion games at a time. Let’s have them play one quintillion games a second, for good measure.

3.15569 * 10^107 seconds until universe is plunged to blackness * 3100000000 games * 1000000000000000000 games per second

9.782639 * 10^134 games before the universe becomes a void.

You would have to play 9.9 × 10^267 games on average to get a duplicate game.

9.782639 * 10^134 / 9.9 × 10^267 = 9.881454e-134 probability that will happen.

The probability that you will get struck by lightning in any given year is 1/700000.

The probability that you will get struck by lightning in any given second is 2.208983 * 10^-14

So if every person in the world started playing Weiss Schwarz right now with decks where duplicates aren’t allowed, played one quintillion games a second, and played until every black hole in the universe decayed and the universe was plunged into blackness…

The probability that any one of those games would be the same as any other one is less than the probability that all 9 members of the United States Supreme Court are struck by 9 individual bolts of lightning … in the exact same second.

lightning4

So remember…

There’s nothing wrong with using someone else’s deck list. Play, and play some more, and have fun with the game!

As always, thank you for reading. If you have any questions or suggestions, please send us a message via Facebook or an email at theninthcx AT gmail DOT com!

The Ban List – What Makes a Card Unfair?

For the list of banned and ‘choose one’ cards, check out the list on Heart of the Cards.

Update: As of December 29, 2014, the ban list has been updated! This article has been and will continue to be updated to reflect the new bans. For the specifics, see this article.

In Weiss Schwarz, the best cards let us break the rules.

To illustrate this point, let’s outline some rules we abide by when we play the game:

  • You cannot arbitrarily search your deck for cards and put them into your hand.
  • You cannot play a card that has a level higher than your current level.
  • You cannot send cards from your waiting room to memory “just because”.

The best cards in the game allow us to “break” these rules and do things the game normally does not allow us to do. The quest for an “unfair” card(s) and/or effect is present with every new set that is made.

Unfair effects are not necessarily limited to those that break the rules. Efficiency can determine the power level of a card.

For example, a card that lets you search for a card from your deck usually costs 1 stock and a card from the hand. These cards are most often found at level 0 and level 1. If a card was to allow for a search for no cost at either of these levels, it would very likely be an unfair card.

A card that has a Heal effect typically costs 2 stock, and will only Heal one damage. If a card was to Heal 2 damage for the same amount of stock, it would be considered unfair. Note that most of these types of effects are agnostic of the newer, more accessible Heal tax effects. (i.e. Kantai Collection, Vividred, Gargantia, Kill La Kill)

So what does “unfair” really look like in WS? Let’s take a look at the game’s worst offenders.

Note: The cards below have been banned from tournament use. 9th CX is not responsible for the number of friends lost while using these cards during fun games. For maximum fun/trolling potential, play against Wooser. 9th CX is not responsible for your opponent/friend/former friend/new enemy/tsundere-turned-yandere-turned-your-house-is-burning-mwahahaha for destroying your cards while you are on your journey. Cards will be used to match the translations given by Heart of the Cards.

lb-w06-096

Rest! (LB/W06-096)

Rest! lets you choose up to 2 cards in your clock and put them in the waiting room, then send it to memory.

This card is a prime example of a card that is way too efficient to see play. Not only does card only cost 1 stock to play, but it has a double Heal effect. On top of that, after it’s been used once, it sends itself to memory. While normally in a card game we would think of effects that send cards to memory as a detriment, because in WS decks are cycled through relatively quickly; the effect improves the percentages for canceling, and should be seen, generally as an upside.

Remember how efficient a first Heal effect might be? Now just make it so that the second Heal effect is attached to the very same card.

dg-s02-061

Supreme Overlord Laharl (DG/S02-061)

Supreme Overlord Laharl has a Heal ability. You can also send it to memory to salvage a combination of up to 2 [Angel] and/or [Demon] characters.

Supreme Overlord Laharl has a lot going for it. It has a Heal ability, but also a free double salvage ability that (in case it is ever relevant) can help improve compression by sending itself to memory. At one point in the game, it became incorrect to use any other deck, and any number of this card lower than 4, because it was so good. Being able to get additional copies of any character desired from the waiting room for no cost is too efficient to be considered fair. It should be noted that because this card is banned, its TD (trial deck) is not legal for use in tournaments.

 As of 12/29/14, this card has been unbanned, but is restricted to one copy per deck. Because of its abilities, it still remains a powerful card, but it has been determined to be not too powerful that it shouldn’t be played altogether.

se-s04-080

Cyrille, Changing Clothes (SE/S04-080)

Cyrille, Changing Clothes has two triggered abilities. The first triggers up to one time per turn, and states whenever one of your characters is attacked (this can mean both frontal and side), you choose one of your characters and give it +1000 power for the turn. Its second ability allows you to pay 2 stock whenever damage dealt by one of your characters is canceled to Heal.

Cyrille, Changing Clothes has only upsides. It costs zero stock, and can come down as early as level 1. It makes attacking into your characters difficult in multiples, and can Heal repeatedly, so long as damage is canceled and you have stock to pay. The way it changes the rules of the game are hideously in the user’s favor; either an attack will land, allowing the attacker to get that much closer to winning the game, or the attack will cancel, and prevent the opponent from making progress. Because this character typically stays in the back row, there are not very many answers to it. Even a Bounce trigger wouldn’t answer it because it costs nothing to play again.

p3-s01-014

Akinari Kamiki (P3/S01-014)

Akinari Kamiki sends itself to the waiting room when you level up. When this card is put into the waiting room from the stage, your opponent discards a card.

This card is significantly different from the rest. It doesn’t steamroll other characters with an unfair power level. It even costs 1 stock! So what is really wrong with this card?

Author’s Note: Apparently, a very unfair combo with this card existed in Standard, and therefore was banned some time ago. With the context of current cards, this one probably isn’t so bad when compared to others on the list. With that in mind however, it is still worth noting that discard effects in Weiss Schwarz do not have very much counterplay, because cards that read “Draw two cards” and the like are rare, and difficult to find at early levels. The rest of the analysis here puts some speculation on what the card is like when discard truly has no answer.

It punishes the opponent for doing things that he or she would do anyway. A given character in a game is probably going to be at some point pushed over by a character of larger size. A level 0 3000 power character will fall to a level 1 5500 power character. This exchange will result in a slight edge for the person who attacked, as they will be even on cards (both players committed one card from hand), but will have gained one stock. In the case of this card however, the player is left between a rock and a hard place.

If the player attacks the Akinari Kamiki, he or she will lose a card. He or she will have committed a card from hand, gained one stock, but also be forced to discard a card. If the player makes a side attack but ends up forcing the opponent to level, he or she will still lose a card. Worst, if the player does not get rid of the card, the opponent will be gaining stock with a character that under most circumstances is unable to reverse a character.

In WS, effects that require one’s opponent to discard a card are particularly difficult to balance. In fact, there are only five cards in the game that include the text “Your opponent [chooses and] discards a card.”

Wait! This card exists!

dc-w01-008

Izumiko, Easy Suits (DC/W01-008)

This card says it can’t be selected from your opponent’s effects (e.g. cannot be targeted by a Bounce ability) and when it gets front attacked, the opponent has to discard a card!

This is a case where context matters. Because Da Capo is an enormous set, (It’s the flagship of WS with more than seven boosters total!) it has access to effects that are far more abusive than this card.  However, in a vacuum, this card’s “downside” can be mitigated by constant side attacking, and it itself cannot do anything but side attack. Because of this, neither player actually loses anything by side attacking with or against this card.

What about “Choose 1”?

When a card is not good enough to be banned, but good enough in the context of other cards within its own set to be banned, it is placed on a “Choose 1” list. The “Choose 1” list is a rather witty workaround to banning a card or cards outright, because it does several things: it allows players to experience using slightly more powerful cards, it keeps cards relevant (i.e. the price doesn’t drop like a rock), and it also keeps a different power level cap on the set.

What does that mean?

Let’s say we have cards A, B, and C.

Card A is a wonderful card that reads, “You win the game. If you can’t win the game, send your opponent to the waiting room, and then you win the game.”

Card B is a card that reads, “Return two character cards from your waiting room to your hand.”

Card C is a card that reads, “Put the top two cards of your clock into your waiting room.”

Let’s think about these cards in context. These cards are quite powerful, and have existed in some form in the game (with the possible exception of Card A) at some time. To continue the example, we’ll say that cards A B and C are in the same series.

Very soon after this hypothetical set’s release, the tournament scene explodes with complaints about how the set is way too good and about how it is killing the game.

Those who are in charge of maintaining the game are left with a number of options, each with its own set of repercussions.

Mario Hammer

1) KILL ALL THE CARDS

Ban Cards A, B, and C. Players will stop complaining about the power level of the set, the set no longer will have much value, but, the game will be “fixed”. This is also known as the nuclear option.

JTMS SFM

R.I.P. 6/20/2011 

Author’s note: To give some context- Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic were two of the most abused cards in Magic: the Gathering in 2011.  At one point, the only “good” decks (i.e. the decks that were winning $10,000+ prize pool tournaments) contained 4 copies each of these 2 cards, and it did not make sense for a deck to not have 4 copies of each card. 

2) Ban Card A, leave Cards B & C alone

This is a bit of a ‘kingmaker’ play. By banning Card A but leaving Cards B & C alone, you are left with a still very unfair pair of cards that will probably both end up banned should this option be taken.

Fortunately, a third option exists.

3) Ban Card A, and restrict Cards B & C to a ‘Choose 1’ list

The ‘Choose 1’ option allows players to play only one of either card in their deck, or none at all. While mixing and matching isn’t allowed, because any access to having both even in smaller numbers would then create another mess, it allows players to customize their decks to their liking. Cards, ideally, retain their value because a player could decide that one week she likes Card B, but then decides that she wants to try out Card C the following week.

What does a ‘Choose 1’ card look like?

For that, we can turn to Haruhi. Haruhi has a full four cards on its ‘Choose 1’ list, and with good reason.

sy-w08-069

Trouble Girl, Haruhi (SY/W08-069)

Trouble Girl, Haruhi has a Heal effect and with its CX combo, will deal 1 damage to your opponent upon attack.

sy-w08-077

Nagato, Dressed Up (SY/W08-077)

Nagato, Dressed Up, has a trigger upon it being played from your hand that lets you pay 1 stock. If you do, it gains the ability that when it reverses a character in battle, you Heal. When you play it from your hand, you may send all characters your opponent controls to memory, then place those characters onto the slots on the stage of your choice. (You can’t ‘steal’ your opponent’s characters with this effect)

sy-we09-24

Nagato, Summer Festival (SY/WE09-24) 

Nagato, Summer Festival, gets -1 level in your hand if you have 4 or more [Alien] characters. With the CX combo, you Heal and it gains +3000 power for the turn.

sy-w08-071

World with Faded Colors (SY/W08-071)

World with Faded Colors lets you put a level 1 or higher character you control into the waiting room. If you do, you choose a level 0 or lower [Brigade Chief] character in your waiting room, put it onto any slot on the stage, then Salvage twice.

Each of these cards has a powerful effect. On the red side, we have a combo that deals extra damage, and a double Salvage. On the blue side, we have multiple Heal type effects. If allowed to exist in the same deck, the set would come dangerously close to solving itself; that is, it would become very clear relatively quickly what the “correct” number of cards to use of each type are, and not using them would be the mark of an inferior deck.

Instead, with the “Choose 1”, we are allowed the best of a world of our choice, and a lot of fun decisions within the framework of, “Which one should I use and why?”, which is much better than, “Why can’t I fit all these in my deck and why are all the decks using all of them?”

So what good will knowing about some banned or restricted cards be?

From the banned and “Choose 1” cards, we can project that there are a few kinds of effects that are truly unfair in the game if they are imbalanced. This knowledge can be kept in mind when building new decks. Among the list of effects that are banned or otherwise restricted, we have:

Heal (highly efficient, potentially with damage or other effects)

Drawing cards (highly efficient, usually not based on a self-incurred penalty or cost)

Encore (highly efficient, either gives to all characters, or even gives a free encore effect)

Discard (nearly unconditional and unpreventable, early level and minimal stock commitment)

Salvage (highly efficient, potentially with any of the above effects)

Search (free, or in multiples)

New! Soul (+1 soul to all other characters you control)

When we build decks, one of the things we should look for is a build that give us access to as many unfair effects and cards as possible.

How about the newer effects, like Heal tax? Are those worth banning?

This is a point of contention among players, especially those who have been playing the game for a long time. For a long time, Salvage and Heal effects, for all their advantages, have mostly been kept in check by other effects that do similar things, but with little variation. Occasionally, an effect will be too good and warrant relegation to “Choose 1” or even the banned section.

Arguably, the newer effects such as Heal tax and Kantai Collection’s -3 soul anti-salvage are attempts to curb the dominance of decks that use 8 Door triggers and as many Heal effects as possible.

Banning these effects would be most likely because the cards themselves that give the effect are too efficient at what they do, but it would not necessarily mean that the effects themselves (Heal tax et al.) are imbalanced.

Is that going to kill the game?

Highly unlikely. If nothing else, the presence of these cards may not deter people from playing the “meta 8 Door / MAX Heal” deck. It could also allow for some innovation with strategies that completely ignore the effects. Soul rush could even become a more viable strategy (yes, Kantai can do that too).The effects are far-reaching and not all of them will be immediately obvious.

Questions? Comments? Got something to say about the effects? Chip in on a discussion on our Facebook page, or send us an email! Thanks for reading!

Tournament Organizing – Q&A with Audri & Michael

HonokaIllya

Welcome to the 9th CX’s series on tournament organizing! There are a lot of questions about how to start a local scene, how to maintain it, grow it, and so on. This series aims to take a closer look at the one aspect of the game for which isn’t explicitly about the game at all, and for which no definitive guide exists.

Disclaimer: The views for this first interview will express the opinions and methods used by two organizers in the United States.  Your mileage may vary elsewhere!

Editorial disclosure: To organize our thoughts, Audri and I brainstormed some questions and provided our own answers. The ideas presented here are a compilation of our experiences and thoughts. The thoughts and views expressed herein are those of the respective contributors. Names of distributors, businesses, and individuals have been withheld to respect each entity’s privacy.

For our first article, we’ll be presenting the organizing experiences from two American organizers, Audri, and Michael (me!).

Audri comes to us from the US Midwest- the “Illiana” or Illinois + Indiana group.

Michael comes from the San Francisco Bay Area in California.

What brought you guys to WS?

Audri: I love CCGs. Seeing a CCG with so many great anime titles that I liked just sucked me in.

Michael: I am a long-time card game player, and when I heard there was a set for Madoka, I couldn’t resist playing.

What’s your favorite set?

A: Love Live!

M: Madoka! (Sorry Illya)

How have you done as players?

A: Won Danville Regional in 2012, 2nd place NC Regional 2013, Top 8 US Nationals 2013 – Undefeated after 4 rounds of Swiss & no lottery spot needed for me.

M: I’ve won 14 tournaments in my area since I started playing. I think my most unique accomplishment so far is winning SAO day with a borrowed green/blue deck that had 1 level 3 Kirito.

How about other card games?

A: I’m the last world champion of the Sailor Moon CCG and had a 2000 Constructed rating in Magic: the Gathering.

M: In Magic: the Gathering, my Total rating peaked around 1984. 0 lifetime pro points!

If you had to win a tournament, what deck from what set would you use?

A: Love Live!

M: Fate/kaleid (Sorry Madoka)

So how did you become a tournament organizer?

A: In 1998, our local Ambassador for Decipher, the equivalent of a Level 2 judge in Magic: the Gathering, was getting burned out from running events at six (!!) stores across Maryland and Virginia. He asked me and another to step up, take the courses and become tournament organizers. I’ve been a tournament organizer ever since, and been a judge and TO for about 20 card games total. I’ve even helped develop tournament rules for two (now dead) card games: CardCaptors and the Sailor Moon CCG.

M: My path to being a TO came from being a Magic judge. In my time as a judge, I have traveled across the country and around the world to run events. In 2011, my local game store had a relatively small but loyal player base. I approached the store owner and worked with him to create more events and grow the player base. I was eventually brought on as the events manager (and social media manager, and staff trainer, and internal IT), where I worked for a year and a half.

What does a TO do, and how do I become one?

A: The title of TO sounds really simple – come in and run events, right? Unless you are coming to a store that already has a thriving scene, you can’t really get away with that. In my experience, you are the person that ensures the game is a success for the store and not a waste of time or money for the players. You’re the teacher, cheerleader, rules guru, and ambassador for your store. You also represent Bushiroad with your efforts, even if you’re not directly involved with them. If you play Magic, you have a big advantage. Wizards of the Coast has amazing training that teaches you the role and tasks of being a TO.

M: A tournament organizer is the person inside a store or area who controls the flow of events within that store or area. Because the scene in North America has recently been localized to shops, a TO for WS tends to be the one person within a shop who is the specialist on the game, and who has a player base around him or her. A TO creates, promotes, and executes events, and ensures that they can happen again. A TO also must have the maturity, time, and bandwidth to handle all aspects of running events, from start to finish.  On a practical note, one needs a venue. Because stores are the most stable (and free!) venues, becoming a TO can be tricky business. The game is still growing in the US, so a prospective TO’s first pitch of the game will likely be to the store owner him/herself. Once you have the owner’s go-ahead (and the venue secured), you’re a TO!

How did you get the game started in your area?

A: I already had an established reputation for being a stellar TO. I walked into the store with the contact information for a distributor and a plan for how to make the game happen, despite no English cards being available at the time.

M: My presence as a TO for WS is relatively small and recent compared to a relatively large group of players spread out among a few hot spots in Northern California. Before me, a few players as far north as Sacramento and San Francisco formed the core of the player base and organized the majority of the events. As far as trying to get people interested in the game, I didn’t have to do any extra work. Because I was already employed by the store, I had a direct line to the owner, and he and I discussed the merits of stocking the game (no pun intended). We established a connection to a new distributor, had our store listed by Bushiroad, and established a regular tournament structure.

How did you grow your player base?

A: I had Haruhi wish it. Kidding, but here’s the best way I can frame it. We’re the Illiana Weiss Schwarz gang, which means we’re a “union” of small groups all over Indiana and Illinois that pulled together to make a group. We did a lot of internet advertising and posting to make that happen. On the store level, the player base grew by hyping our game and selling our events as ‘can’t miss’. It’s been all about having fun and pulling people into it – I’ve never said “no” to a demo, because you never know who your next big player will be!

M: The way that the Bay Area established its WS community is not too unlike how the Illiana gang got together, by my observations. From what I’ve seen, it’s a lot of social media, a lot of “hey, let’s get together here and play some WS”, and good old-fashioned networking. As someone who’s been on the store-end of things though, we were able to grow our player base and bring players in just by posting about it through our Facebook page, and putting it on our website.  One of the biggest things that we made sure to bring to the local tournament scene though, was consistency. That is, no matter who was working on what day, a tournament would happen. Consistency brings stability, and it is one of the biggest aspects to growing and keeping a loyal player base. Even if the events start out small, making sure they happen regularly counts for a lot more than a tried and true gimmick of pumping up the prizes for a single event.

How much time does this take? What kind of money is there in being a TO?

A: Wait, there’s money? This is news to me! LOL

For me, the work is nonstop. There are always things that can be done, whether it’s hyping events or playgroups, or doing demos and posting updates on the internet, or planning purchases with the store owner. It’s a second job.

M: Well for me, it was literally a job, haha. Prepping for tournaments is not an overnight endeavor, but there are still important things to do as Audri said, like advertising events and posting things and making sure new players know how to play the game. I’d say for someone who is a dedicated TO, he or she should expect anywhere from 5 to 20 hours per week of work. The money in being a TO really depends on one’s relationship with the store and the owner. Some may get paid in store credit, some may be paid by being put on payroll. The key is to always ask. (Note that this piece of advice in particular may not apply elsewhere I believe that my approach is indicative of a cultural norm in America, and because I do not intimately know business practices abroad especially pertaining to this, I must reiterate the disclaimer that was given at the beginning of the article.)

Do you do everything yourself, or do you have help?

A: Personally I try to surround myself with assistants that can help. I have one guy who is younger and can relate to the target demographic of players, so he’s my demo guy. Another organizes event travel. I mainly handle store relations and things like that. Getting people who are more capable or who shore up your weak points is a way to ensure things get done quickly.

M: One of the projects I gave myself before I passed my job onto others, was to create and write guides for the staff so as many people as possible would be empowered with the knowledge of the tasks involved. Being a TO requires a different perspective from the norm. Normally, if someone is very important to a cause, company, community, etc, he or she enjoys being the ONE person that people must go to for help. As a TO, it is important to delegate, train, and teach others to the point that you as the TO, though you are still the main go-to, could be replaced. So to this question, I have to say that help is not just recommended, but necessary. 

How do you respond to criticism from the community? How have you done so in the past? Where should a TO reach out for support?

A: Sadly, I do make my share of mistakes. The best thing to do is to listen to what the players are trying to tell you. In most cases, players want their community to succeed and they are telling you these things to help you. As far as reaching out to others, I just ask. My group as a Facebook page and if there is something I am wondering about or a situation I’m not 100% sure on, I’ll make a question post and gather their thoughts.

M: My attitude and approach is that I’m always improving. Responding to issues is a matter of conflict resolution. You have to listen to statements, recognize them, validate the feelings, and then move on. While I believe that players want their community to succeed, in my view, not everyone knows how to. I believe that all feedback (even positive) has to be taken with a grain of salt, and being mindful of each player’s perspective is critical to keeping a clear head.

As a TO or community leader, what has been your best experience so far?

A: For me as a community leader, it was the WGP Nationals. With the event being double elimination, over half of the room was gone by round 3. Out of nine players from our group, six played in round 4, and two played in the top cut. For me, it was a huge reward knowing our group had made it.

M: For me as a TO (and de facto management), it was transitioning my job at the store as the events manager to other folks. I no longer work every day as a TO, and have become a resource for other growing tournament scenes. Being in a position where I can teach other people about how to be a TO is something I’m very grateful for and happy about.

What do you think it will take for WS to go to the next level? Larger competitions, etc.

A: First I think that we need Bushiroad to account for the division among players that play Japanese and English cards respectively. I think they could afford to advertise more as well. Lastly, I believe that education is key. I go to a lot of stores where even the owners believe that WS is a 100% luck game with cute girls, and not much is being done to clear up that misconception.

M: Regarding players, I believe Audri is on-point. Educating players is key, and Bushiroad has not really done much as a brand to shape player perceptions (right or wrong) about the game.

I’ve asked Bushiroad (as of February 2014) what their policy is for creating judges, and the response I got was not great: there is currently no policy and no program for judges. The implications of this are immense. This means that for the moment, WS has no go-to tournament rules, or penalty guidelines. Everything is enforced at a local level at TO discretion. On top of that, Bushiroad does not believe in using tournament software. Now, I could say that I’ve been spoiled having taken part in many Magic tournaments. But organized play for Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! both use programs to manage their tournaments.

Last question – I’m a player / store owner / store employee, and I don’t want to become a TO. I still want to help out though. What can I do?

A: As a player, remember that a TO can’t do it all, as much as we think he or she can. Teaching new players and helping struggling players are two things that can have amazing ripple effects in your community. Also, I have to push this point the most: SUPPORT YOUR STORE!! Remember that online sources of cards don’t provide you a place to play. If you’re a store owner, don’t look at your customers like they’re nuts when they say they want to play a card game that’s in Japanese.

(Editor’s note: The U.S. Midwest has a significantly smaller Asian presence compared to other regions, such as the Bay Area. Cultural awareness may not be at the same level as other areas. With this in mind, this reaction may be commonplace in some areas, and completely unheard of in others.)

Risk the market and stock up on cards and supplies. My local store is a sports collectible store. The owner knows nothing about anime, but he listens to us, and he’s expanded his inventory to include stuff we’ve asked for. If you’re a store employee, don’t talk down about the game or its player base. I’ve been visiting stores where the Weiss scene was struggling, and at one store I overheard a store employee laughing at the players about their “girl cards” and that they weren’t playing Magic. Funny thing was that in that particular event there were several high ranked players that would have wiped the floor with him in Magic, but back to my point. Customers trust store employees for their purchases, and it isn’t in anyone’s interest to say bad things about a game.

M: If you’re a player, keep playing. Keep it fun, and keep it fair. If your local scene is hosting a tournament, make an effort to go and spread the word about the event. Hype is fine (that can include funny trash talk), but don’t attack people, and don’t be a jerk. If you want something to change, talk to your local TO.

If you’re a store owner, your situation will vary. If you have a completely empty area (no known players, no known interest), it will take a storefront effort to spark interest in the game. This could mean taking a chance on buying some trial decks and stocking only those for a while. If you have seen it in your store before but are unsure of interest, Bushiroad’s distributors will happily send you collateral for the game that you can put up to gauge interest. Most likely I’ll end up writing another article about this, if there is enough interest.

If you’re a store employee, follow Audri’s advice, and keep your opinions of the game and its players to yourself. By bashing a game and/or its players, you create bad stories. Take Audri’s story for example. The store that she mentioned could have a wonderful location and could have excellent prices. Do I want to go there? No, because I now have received the impression that I will not be given good customer service. Most will claim that a company stands to lose money because of bad service, but I will also add that there is an intangible and hard-to-measure metric of goodwill that is lost there too. I won’t go into a lot of detail because textbooks are written with that idea in mind, but a brand marred by bad PR can only suffer poor outcomes.

Thanks for reading, everyone! This was certainly a much longer read than usual, and we’ve only really touched on a few of the things that go into being a TO. If you would like to ask questions that will be featured on future articles about TOing, or if you have questions or comments, please send us an email at theninthcx AT gmail DOT com.