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  1. #1
    Senior Member Master_Savage's Avatar
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    Core Theory II: Card Presence & Card Advantage.

    Savage Tarantino
    06/05/2012

    The first core theory article I wrote was about utility: how to judge the general usefulness of individual cards. It was a logical starting point, because having taught this Theory to a lot of new players, I know it's the first thing that people tend to get tripped up on. So today, we're going to look at the second topic in that line of challenges.

    Card presence theory is one of the fundamental building blocks of effective strategy and tactics in the Shadow Era! TCG. Each theory I'm presenting to you in this series of articles is not intended as a be-all end-all that defines the game on its own. Think of each theory as a lens through which to view the game, with each “lens” giving you a different, relevant, and useful perspective. However, understand that some theories will come in handy more often than others, and the amount of information that can be gleaned from understanding card presence theory makes it one of the most relevant to your average game. The Games in which card presence theory does not play a role are extremely rare, so in order to succeed, you have to know this theory inside out.

    The good news? Provided you can apply a little objective logic and handle basic math with single-digit numbers, you can start to put this theory to work almost instantly. As long as you know how it works the system is easy, and provides a gateway to more sophisticated techniques and perspectives.

    So What Is Card Presence?
    The term “card presence” refers to the total number of cards a player has in his hand, and on the field combined. At the beginning of a Game when you draw your sixth card, your total card presence is six. You have six cards that you can make plays with. If you then Play a Allie to the field, you still have a total card presence of six: the fact that you've moved one of those cards from your hand to the field does not diminish the usefulness of those cards, so the math doesn't change.

    When a card is sent to the graveyard, removed from the field, or returned to your deck, it no longer contributes to your total card presence. So if I go first, Play a Kris to the field, and lose it in battle next turn, my total card presence will now be five cards instead of six. We get that number by adding together the total number of cards on my side of the field, to the total number of cards in my hand.

    Playing a card like Fire Ball and sending it to your graveyard reduces your card presence. Drawing a card increases your card presence. If an effect lets you search your deck for a card to add to your hand, and does so without consuming a card from your hand or field, that action also increases your card presence.

    There are near-infinite ways that your card presence can be reduced or increased – I'm sure you can already think of many yourself. There are also lots of actions that will not affect your card presence despite initial appearances.

    For instance, if I were lose cards directly from my deck to the graveyard, the loss of those cards doesn't have an impact on my card presence, because those cards are going from my deck to my graveyard – card presence only takes into account the cards in my hand and on my field.

    So when a card is added to my hand or my field, I gain card presence. When a card moves between my hand and field, there's no change. When a card is removed from my hand or field and sent somewhere else, I lose card presence.

    Simple Stuff, Right? Let's Look At Some Examples
    The following are all examples of plays that will increase my total card presence by one card:

    -Dealing Successful Combat Damage to a Hero or Allie with Wulven Tracker.

    -Playing a Shadow Knight and Adding Molten Destroyer to your from your graveyard.

    -Activating the Ability of The Hero Majiya, Dealing 3 Damage to an Allie & Drawing a Card.

    These are all very basic examples of a simple one-card gain. In all three cases a Allie or Hero's effect results in a card being added to my hand or field, while the Card itself remains on the field and continues to count towards my total card presence. Here are some examples of plays with similar results that don't increase my total card presence across the long term.

    -Tributing a Brutalis for the cost of Sacrificial Lamb, Drawing 2 cards.

    -Adding Molten Destroyer to your hand from the graveyard After Shadow Knight is Played & Killed instantly by a Hunter Trap Card.

    -Playing Transference, Drawing a Card from your Opponents deck.

    All three of these scenarios result in a new card being added to my hand or field – a gain of card presence. However, each scenario also incurs a loss of card presence to accomplish this. That Sacrificial Lamb moves from your hand, to the field, to the graveyard before getting you 2 cards for the cost of your Brutalis. Shadow Knight gets you a card, but is itself destroyed. Transference nabs a card from your Opponents deck, but gets sent to the graveyard in the process. Because the loss of card presence and the gain of card presence occur almost simultaneously, we can consider these examples to have no impact on total card presence. Let's look at a few losing scenarios, too.

    -My Puwen, is attacked and killed by my opponents Jasmine Rosecult.

    -My Tome of Knowledge, is Destroyed by my opponents Ter Adun Ability.

    -I take damage to my Hero From my opponents Serena carrying a weapon, Discarding a card from my hand.

    In all three scenarios here, my opponent has eliminated one of my cards from my hand or field. They accomplished that without losing any cards themselves, too: the Cards responsible for my loss remain on the field in each example. Here are three more scenarios where my card presence is diminished by one card.

    -My Jasmine Rosecult, is Destroyed by my opponents Mind Control after dealing direct combat damage to my hero.

    -My Tome of Knowledge, is destroyed by my opponents Shriek of Vengeance.

    -My Puwen, is Attacked and destroyed by my opponents Amber Rain, Losing its weapon in the Process from lack of Durability.

    In all three of these scenarios I am again losing a single card's worth of card presence. However, what makes these scenarios different from the previous three, is that my opponent is also losing a card himself. We're both losing card presence.

    Which Brings Us To Our Key Points
    Keeping a tab on the total card presence each player commands in a Game is important for two fundamental reasons. First, the more cards you have, the more options you usually have. Having more cards means more possible moves, more potential combos, and more choices in how you deal with your opponent. More cards means more flexibility, and often means more potential damage in a single turn. In this basic sense, higher card presence is better for you as an individual.

    However, the second significance of card presence is comparative, and involves not just you, but your opponent as well. Every extra card you have above and beyond your opponent's total card presence increases your chances to outplay your opponent and answer his or her moves. When you have a higher card presence than your opponent, we consider you to be in a situation of “card advantage”. Calculating card advantage is the second important use for card presence theory.

    Now there are of course caveats – if you control Molten Destroyer and I have a hand of three Brutalis, the fact that I have two more cards than you doesn't mean I'm winning. Not every card counting towards your total card presence is always going to be immediately useful. I may not have a Allie to Tribute for my "Sacrificial Lamb". You might not have an Allie with 3cc or less for me to use my "Now Your Mine". I might have Belladonna in my hand, But not even SE to play it.
    IGN: Master Savage
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Master_Savage's Avatar
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    This is one of the reasons why we consider card presence to be a basic fundamental theory. The ability to blindly add and subtract cards from a running count doesn't guarantee perfect moves, and even the ability to recognize (and make) moves that will increase your card presence while diminishing your opponent's won't win your games all on their own. Being able to hit nails with a hammer doesn't mean you can move into the construction business – you still have to know how to build stuff. But the purpose of card presence theory is to provide a general perspective that can help you recognize opportunities to take some control over the Game, while helping you see decisions that may hand control to your opponent. It's a tool you can use to derive information about risk, not an auto-pilot function.

    Calculating the numbers this system takes into account is easy. But using those numbers to your advantage, and interpreting them in ways that contribute to a win, is a deeper process than most would have you believe. You'll hear people say that “card advantage is easy”, or you'll see narrow systems designed to bridge the gap between raw numbers and victory. At the risk of minor controversy, I'd suggest you not believe them. Interpreting card presence information is a long-term skill, and is often reliant on your knowledge of the decks you're up against. Try to develop that skill, and recognize that it can't truly be simplified or systematized.

    Recognizing Advantageous Plays
    Okay, so you can now calculate card presence for both you and your opponent. You also know that more card presence generally means more options, and having more cards than your opponent often means more control over the game. So what are we talking about on a nuts-and-bolts level here?

    Well, let's look at a common scenario with a deck you're guaranteed to see this format: Zaladar While there are several strong "early moves" a Zaladar player can make. one of the most common looks something like the following.

    -Draw for turn, Resource a card. Activate Hero Ability, Inflicting 3 Damage to your 4 health Allie, and 3 damage to your hero. Summon Death Mage Thaddeus using his ability to inflict the remaining 1 damage to your Allie and destroying it.

    In this first action we lose the card we Resource. (a brief -1 to card presence but gained a card from our turn draw.(a +1 to card presence). We traded our resource for our turn draw, and didn't lose or gain card presence in the long run. Next Move:

    -Activate Hero Ability Inflicting 3 damage to your 4 health ally and 3 damage to your hero.

    In this move we have not used any cards from our hand but we managed to deal damage with our hero. (no change to card presence). Once again, we didn't lose or gain card presence.

    -Play Death Mage Thaddeus dealing 1 damage to your ally and destroying it.

    Here we've moved Thaddeus from the hand to the field (no change to card presence),dans Dealt 1 Damage to your ally, destroying it in the process. (-1 for your opponent). You card presence still hasn't changed but your opponent now has 1 less card, giving you a +1 in Card Advantage. Now your opponent will always have 1 less card than you unless he can gain a card on his turn or make you lose a card without losing any himself.

    Consider another basic scenario...

    -Opp Turn: Plays Inferno Gargoyle.
    -Your Turn: Play Tainted Oracle.

    No changes to card presence here yet…

    -Your opponent uses Inferno Gargoyle to Attack your Tainted Oracle, Destroying it.

    Your opponent has Destroyed one of your ally's without losing a card himself. (+1 in Card Advantage for him & -1 in Card Presence for you.) Tainted Oracles Effect activates giving you 2 Cards. (+1 For you). Once you draw the first card off of your Oracle you have Broke even, as the card you draw has now replaced the card you lost, once you draw the 2nd card, you now have +1 in Card Advantage over your opponent.

    While this might not seem impressive at first glance, Think about it like this, Although you have lost field presence temporarily, Your opponent is at a mathematical disadvantage, having only five cards to deal with your six.

    Lingo and Lexicon
    Those are really all the basics of card presence and card advantage theory. If you understand what's been outlined above, and can superimpose it over the situations you find yourself in, you should be able to intelligently discuss card presence. However, the language that gets applied to these discussions can be a tad tricky to dive right into. Let's define a few terms so you can speak with other players about this useful theory.

    “Minus”: Any play in which you lose card presence is technically a “minus” as you saw from the numeric notation in the previous examples, but conversations usually use this term only when the loss of card presence is not mirrored in the other player's card presence. For instance, if I play "Now Your Mine" to destroy your ally, that won't usually be called a “minus”, because even though card presence is changing, no one's gaining ground in strict terms of card count. Instead a player might call this a…

    “Trade”: or “Exchange”, as cards are being traded off on an equal basis. While card presence is being lost, neither player is getting an edge in the strictest mathematical terms.

    “1-for-1” or “2-for-1”: These are just short numerical notations to qualify a situation where both players are losing card presence. The term “1-for-1” can be applied to the previous example of "Now Your Mine" destroying a ally, in which one card is destroying another and each player is losing one card of presence. The term “2-for-1” would be applied to a situation where one player loses only one piece of card presence, while the other player loses two cards. An example for this would be in which "Lightning Strike" destroys 2 of your opponents allies. this is an example of a “2-for-1”.

    “Advantage”: When you're talking about card presence, be careful how you use the term “advantage”. While a 2-for-1 play is always going to cost your opponent more card presence than you, it won't necessarily place you in a situation of card advantage – you could be that far behind. Try to use the terms “losing card presence” or “gaining card presence” unless you're specifically discussing a situation in which card advantage was won or lost. In addition, don't be lazy and drop the word “card” from “card presence” or “card advantage”. There are other forms of presence and advantage in Shadow Era! (which I'll discuss in future articles), and the person you're speaking with may not understand what you're referring to.

    This article speaks of card presence theory in the most rudimentary terms, but there's an important followup theory that really ties together these ideas. It's called “simplification”, and it's going to be the topic of my next core theory article here on the Shadow Era! Forums. For now, start counting card presence totals in the games you play, and stay aware of what running counts mean to your decisions (and to those made by your opponents). Observe how both your opponents, and you yourself, approach situations differently when you have high card presence or low card presence, or how card advantage (or lack thereof) affects those situations.

    Remember – this is basic stuff. You aren't a pro because you can count to eight and back again, and you shouldn't let the numbers overshadow a balanced toolbox of theories and perspectives. With that said, if you want to be successful you need to know how card presence works. If you don't understand it you won't understand your opponent's moves. You won't be able to evaluate your own choices, and you won't have the knowledge needed to tackle more complicated pieces of theory.

    Check back Soon for more Articles.

    -SavageTarantino
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  3. #3
    Regionals Runner Up kentuequi's Avatar
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    Infernal Gargoyle, not inferno gargoyle.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Master_Savage's Avatar
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    Super Long Articles usually = Couple Typos, Misspelling & such. I try to Keep em to a minimum tho.
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  5. #5
    DP Visionary Atomzed's Avatar
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    On that note, the singular form of 'allies' is 'ally'.

    Allie is a name I believe
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  6. #6
    Senior Member Master_Savage's Avatar
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    What is this English Class? lol
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Master_Savage's Avatar
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    Naw but if the Typos / Grammar makes it Un-Readable, Let me know I'll re-do the Article.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Bayfighter's Avatar
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    Great read again, thanks for posting!

    I get what you're saying about card advantage, very good stuff. Generally, in removing allies, you use a card to remove your opponent's card: a 1-for-1, so no card advantage. But what would you call using fewer resources to deal with your opponent's threat?

    example1: casting fireball (3cc) to destroy your opponent's wulven tracker (4cc)
    example2: putting captured prey (3cc) on your opponent's plasma behemoth (5cc)
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Master_Savage's Avatar
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    The Card Presence is still even, a 1 for 1 Trade. The Fact that your using less CCs to destroy a card of higher CCs wouldn't make a difference since both players get all of their resources back each turn.

    But, If you go back to the First Core Theory Article, The examples that you have would be good examples of Cards with High Utility, a low cc card able to destroy a high cc card.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Tyr Anasazi's Avatar
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    Wouldn't it be more complete to generalize the term Resource to include everything that is at your and your opponent's disposal in the game?

    It will include all the following.
    cards in your hand
    cards in your deck
    cards in your graveyard
    cards in play that can attack/use ability
    cards in play (just summoned, or disabled in some way)
    cards sacrificed as resources
    resources available to use
    Hero HP
    Hero Shadow Energy
    HP of allies in play
    Durability of items

    Then every move you and your opponent makes are just resource management, maximize your own and/or minimize your opponent's.

    Several things on the above Resource list are more important than the others.
    1. The board - total attack power/free damage of all your cards in play (ready), if Death on Arrival is achieved, opponent may be forced to make wipe-board moves.
    2. The cards - total cards in hand, in play (ready) and in play (not ready), you only get at most 1 free card per turn.
    3. The tempo - total resources available for that turn, you can only sacrifice once per turn.
    4. SE - you only get 1 free SE per turn.
    5. Hero HP - which triggers victory condition.
    Last edited by Tyr Anasazi; 06-06-2012 at 06:03 PM.

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