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  1. #1
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    M:TG to Shadow Era: How to think in card advantage.

    How to think in card advantage.

    Hi guys. I'm Salivanth, a member of TJX, and also fairly new to Shadow Era. I've played Magic: The Gathering in tournaments for several years, which has given me quite an appreciation for card advantage. In my experiences so far, I've noticed several people who seem to get card advantage wrong, or confuse it with card draw: And these are not poor players, either. So I decided to post a guide on how to think in card advantage. Much of this material has likely already been covered in other guides, but it never hurts to go over it twice, and hopefully I provide some players with some new insight into the area.

    So, let's ask ourselves first. What's the difference between card advantage and card draw, and why does it matter?

    Card draw vs. Card advantage: Why Bad Santa isn't OP.

    If you think in card draw, Bazaar and Bad Santa look very good. For 2 mana, you can draw 3 cards now, or a card a turn for the rest of the game! So why do people play inferior draw engines such as Wizent's Staff, Ill-Gotten Gains, or Tome of Knowledge? The answer is fairly obvious intuitively, and that's the difference between card draw and card advantage. Bazaar/BS give your opponent cards too. Now let's look at how card advantage works.

    Every time you play a card, that's -1 card to you. If you play a Shriek of Vengeance that's -2 cards to you. (Assuming you have to replace the resource you're sacrificing.) Whenever you draw a card, that's +1 card to you. But your draw step isn't that important, because your opponent (usually) gets that too. What matters is card ADVANTAGE: drawing more cards than your opponent. So let's look at Bad Santa.

    Both players have two cards in hand, and Player A plays Bad Santa. (-1 card). Each player then draws 3 cards. Player A is up 2 cards (not 3. He had to use a card to play Bad Santa.) and Player B is up 3. Player A has -1 card advantage. So why do people even play Bad Santa? So far, I see four situations in which Bad Santa is worth playing:

    1) You're playing a mill deck, or some other deck that doesn't care how many cards the opponent has in hand.
    2) Your opponent has 5+ cards in hand. This is known as Santa-bombing. Your opponent draws 1-2 cards, and then misses his next draw step. This puts you ahead in cards, assuming you had few enough cards in your own hand.
    3) You're playing a very aggressive deck, and you need more cards to finish the job. It doesn't matter how many cards your opponent has if he's dead.
    4) You need an answer badly, and you're going to die if you don't get it.

    Bazaar has similar logic, without the Santa-bombing. Since there's no reason to put it in your deck at all unless reason 1 or reason 3 is true, only very aggressive or very stallish decks should consider play Bazaar. Any other deck should leave it alone. Bazaar has the double problem of putting you behind in card advantage (Since you have to play the card) AND your opponent gets to use his card first! At least with Bad Santa you get to use your cards immediately if you have the resources, but your opponent has to wait.

    Thinking in card advantage: Some examples.

    Let's start with a couple of very simple examples. On Turn 4, my opponent plays 2 Puwens. On my Turn 4, I play Lightning Strike, killing both of them. So I've lost one card to kill two cards. -1 + 2 = 1. I'm up one card. This is known as a 2-for-1: I took TWO cards, in exchange FOR the price of ONE card.

    Another example. On Turn 5 my opponent plays another Puwen. I use Majiya's ability to kill it and draw a card. So I've used zero cards to kill one card and draw a card. 0 + 1 + 1 = 2. Shadow Energy is difficult in terms of card advantage. I tend to think of it as a resource that can be converted into card advantage. Whoever does this more effectively has an edge.

    Next I'd like to use a more complex example, slightly modified from one that I saw the other day. (This actually inspired the guide). The situation provided was very similar to this:

    Play Tome of Knowledge. Draw from Tome of Knowledge. (+1 card) Play Melt Down, targeting Tome of Knowledge. (+2 cards) Now you're up 3 cards for 6 resources!

    So why doesn't this work?

    If you answered "You need to count the cost of the cards we used" then well done! Here's how this example REALLY goes. I'll be adding the TOTAL cards gained or lost thus far in brackets here.

    Play Tome of Knowledge. (-1 card) (-1 total) Draw from Tome. (+1 card) (0 total) Cast Melt Down. (-1 card) (-1 total) Draw two cards off Melt Down's effect. (+2 cards) (+1 total)

    So we've just spent six resources to gain a total of one card. If we'd just drawn from our Tome next turn, rather than cast Melt Down, we'd still have +1 card for six resources, but the Tome would still be on the field. (Because of the initial cost of one card and 2 resources, Tome of Knowledge gets more and more efficient the longer it stays on the field.) This is why Melt Down isn't that great a card. Melt Down CAN be used to gain card advantage, if you use it to sacrifice a weapon that's about to die. Then you've gotten several uses out of the weapon, and you've gotten your card back. You've lost zero cards, but done some damage or killed some allies, which normally would cost you cards.

    So how do we gain card advantage?

    In a real game, there are many ways to gain card advantage, both direct and indirect. I don't claim to know all of them, or have a perfect understanding of the concept. But here's some information I can provide.

    First, there's using your own cards to kill more of the opponent's cards. An example of this was already given: Lightning Strike killing 2 Puwens.

    Another one is FORCING your opponent to take a card disadvantage. Powerful allies like Aeon Stormcaller are very good at this. Unless you're an elemental or have a strong board, it's very hard to kill or neutralise those with just one card. Other examples of good ways to force card disadvantage are most strong finishers: Plasma Behemoth, Raven, Ogloth the Glutton: All of them will take over a game FAST if you don't kill them, and have plenty of health.

    A third way is through cantrips. In Magic, a cantrip is known as a spell that replaces itself. Examples of this in Shadow Era include Belladonna (draws a card), Here Be Monsters (draws a card) and Shadow Knight. (Gets an ally from your graveyard to your hand.)

    A fourth way is simply drawing more cards. Most classes have a way to do this consistently, known as a draw engine. These are generally the linchpins of their class, and killing them is very powerful. If you have a draw engine against a deck you know can kill yours, hold on to a spare. They're that important. Examples of this are Wizent's Staff, Ill-Gotten Gains, Tome of Knowledge, Wrath of the Forest, and Blood Frenzy. In fact, they're so important that it's worth paying TWO cards to kill them with Shriek of Vengeance. Draw engines are the main reason people even play Shriek in the first place: Few other cards are important enough to make that sacrifice. To be willing to sacrifice that much means the card being destroyed has to gain the holder a lot of card advantage, or be crucial to their strategy. (Such as Jeweller's Dream against Amber.)

    Another way is through board control. This is one of the more difficult concepts in this guide, but board control can help you gain card advantage. Here's an example.

    I have board control playing as Majiya, in the form of two Infernal Gargoyles to my opponent's nothing. It's Turn 6, and I've used up my Shadow Energy. My opponent plays Jasmine and Aldon. In my turn, I use Lightning Strike (-1 card) to deal 3 damage to each enemy ally. I then use my two Gargoyles to kill the allies. (+1 card). In this way, the Gargs pay for themselves, card-wise. Allies don't always give you card advantage, but they're very important to not die. An ally paying for itself card-wise while preventing damage to you or dealing damage to the opponent is a win. Board control is important both for card advantage and not dying. It's also very good for preventing your opponent forcing a 2-for-1 with allies. (This is most applicable if you play a mage, but it works for other classes too.)

    There are other ways, such as through using Shadow Energy more efficiently than your opponent (If Eladwen and Majiya both use their abilities to kill an ally, Majiya's up a card over Eladwen) but you'll discover those as you play. What's important is to start thinking in terms of those numbers. You can't effectively figure out ways to gain card advantage if you can't think in card advantage.

    Conclusion

    Card advantage is not the be all and end all. There are many other concepts in Shadow Era that are important, and can trump card advantage, such as board control, inevitability, (If this game goes on long enough, who's going to win?) card quality (If I'm dropping Sandworms and you're dropping Blakes, I'm going to win even if you're ahead in card advantage), the Philosophy of Fire (It doesn't matter how many cards you have if you're dead!) tempo (Also known as time or resource advantage, gained by cards like Retreat! and Here Be Monsters. Very complex topic.) and so on. Shadow Era, like most TCG's is a very complex game, but card advantage is a very important part of that game. If you don't understand card advantage, and you learn to use it, especially with a controllish or long-term oriented deck, you ought to achieve a decent boost to your rating quite quickly.

    If you have any questions, comments, or improvements, please mention them below. While I currently have no firm plans, if this deck helps enough people I may translate other Magic theories into Shadow Era, but no promises.

    Finally, thanks very much for reading! I hope that this guide helps you in Shadow Era and other TCG's for years to come.

    -Salivanth.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Jazz's Avatar
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    Very nice write-up! I really enjoyed reading it and the Melt Down thing was quite enlightening!

    Thanks a lot, Salivanth!
    Feel free to transfer SC to account TJ Jazz or PM a Redeem code to me!
    http://www.shadowera.com/?r=2386460

  3. #3
    Asia Regional (Winter 2012) 3rd Place
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz View Post
    Very nice write-up! I really enjoyed reading it and the Melt Down thing was quite enlightening!

    Thanks a lot, Salivanth!
    Glad to hear it

  4. #4
    Senior Member Minato's Avatar
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    This was very good mate
    I loved it.
    I think it's a must for EVERYONE!
    TJ Minato

    TJ's Yellow Flash

  5. #5
    DP Visionary Mongoosey's Avatar
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    Very good article. Thanks for posting
    "I'll have you know I have the reflexes of a cat, and the speed of a mongoose"

    LEGEND of TEAM JUGGERNAUTS


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  6. #6
    Asia Regional (Winter 2012) 3rd Place
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    Minato: Wow, thanks! Glad you liked it! I wouldn't say it's for everyone though: I'd say that most top players (Say, 300+) already know most/all of this, and anyone at 320+ or a member of a notable team like TJ and A1 not only knows every last thing in this post, but could pull another three methods of gaining card advantage off the top of their heads. It's not that they don't KNOW this, they just either haven't written it or can't articulate it as well as I can. Probably the former.

    Mongoosey: Thanks. I already do have an idea for another article, but I may wait to be more experienced in how SE works before I decide to create it

  7. #7
    Senior Member Tyr Anasazi's Avatar
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    Good article, mate.

    Just a comment. There is always the trade-off between card advantage for something else more important at that moment.

    That's the whole reason behind playing cards such Retreat!, Sacrificial Lamb, Melt Down and to some extent Rain Delay and Bloodlust.
    IGN: TJ TyrX
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    Attack as fierce as Fire. Defend as steady as a Mountain.

  8. #8
    DP Visionary Vincenzo749's Avatar
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    Great write up! Very useful for any player beginner or advanced

  9. #9
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    Tyr: Definitely right I allude to this in my conclusion, but obviously when that's the case is far beyond the scope of this guide

    Vincenzo: Thanks, glad you liked it!

  10. #10
    DP Visionary Mongoosey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Salivanth View Post

    Mongoosey: Thanks. I already do have an idea for another article, but I may wait to be more experienced in how SE works before I decide to create it
    You seem to have good grasp of game and mechanics already...so post away, and im sure this friendly forum will provide a constructive critique
    "I'll have you know I have the reflexes of a cat, and the speed of a mongoose"

    LEGEND of TEAM JUGGERNAUTS


    Recent accolades: season 5, finalist (top 8). UK streetfigher, Conquerors Bane runner-up.
    Immortalised as Flavour Winner for "Smoke Screen". Conceal, Confuse, and Obscure.

    Link to irc: http://shadowera.gondorian.com/gamechat/

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