Welcome, readers, to this week’s lesson on Crit the Books. This week, we’ll delve into strategies to improve specific matchups. Often, if you are new to a game, certain strategies can seem overpowering or stronger than any options you can think to bring. However, this is typically not due to the power of the strategy itself, but rather how you as a player are not well-adapted to playing against it. There are a number of methods you can use when you seem to be facing an insurmountable wall in your progress as a player, and we’ll look at some of them this week.
There are three central strategies I use when my own personal experience does not match up with the perceived strength of a strategy, or when I cannot seem to defeat a certain strategy. You can simply talk to players who use that strategy, using their expertise to try to figure out the weak points in their strategy. You might also consider looking for other players who play the game, trying to solicit wisdom or advice from players who have had success against that strategy, and what tricks they might have. Finally, you might try playing these strategies for yourself! In my experience, very little will show you the weak points of a strategy better than having those same weak points shown to you.
Let’s look a bit deeper at those strategies, each in turn. First, let’s look at the players who have previously had success with a given strategy. I find that, oftentimes, a player who has success with a strategy will be open to discussing what has led to their success with that strategy. Players want to have interesting, close to even matchups most of the time, and discussion will often get players closer to that balanced state. A player who plays a given strategy will be very good at telling you the strengths of that strategy, since they take advantage of those same strengths to win games.
Like every technique, there will occasionally be situations where this method of handling tough matchups fails. Before large competitive events, many players will be less interested in discussing their techniques, since their ability to place well in an event can often be directly influenced by how well people play against their strategies. In addition, many players will bring techniques or unique flavors of a given strategy to those tournaments in order to get a leg up on opponents or cover weak spots, aiming to disrupt their opponents’ play patterns by bringing something unexpected to the table. If the person you have spoken to is unwilling to give out their secrets, I’d encourage you to simply ask them to give you the most basic of basics or wait for them to be more accessible.
If talking to your typical opponents hasn’t been helpful, then I would suggest you start tapping into the deeper wealth of knowledge that is available to us these days! The internet is full of gaming advice and assistance for given strategies and looking for help here can be very fruitful. When I have had trouble in the past with given strategies, I have looked online for people who play the game and simply said, “I’m having trouble dealing with this. Do you have any advice?” Many of the more strategically-minded gamers out there love discussing the strategy and theory of their game, and will be more than happy to help you out. In addition, you might look for content on sites like YouTube, where millions of content creators are out there creating videos and tutorials that can help you as a player. Even if you’re not looking for specific advice, I would certainly suggest you look at general strategy guides for a given game. They can often be very helpful or give you a new perspective.
Like any other strategy, this method of improvement is not flawless. One of the most important things to keep in mind when asking for advice from the larger community is that not all of the larger community is highly skilled. It is a blunt way to put it, I know. However, it is important to remember that simply because someone is a content creator does not mean that they are skilled at the game. You need to be able to analyze the advice you are given and determine if it is truly helpful. I know that I have watched many live recorded Guild Ball games on YouTube and been shocked at how sloppy their play is. Simply because someone loves a game enough to create content of it does not mean that they are a good player! I’d suggest seeking out people who have accolades or results behind them that show they are consistently good players – a world champion will generally give more helpful advice than a novice! Keep that in mind as you seek strategic advice online.
Perhaps you are an autodidact – someone who finds that they can more consistently learn well by themselves. Perhaps you cannot find advice on the specific matchup you are having trouble with, or you are having trouble finding other people who are struggling with the same problems. In this case, I would suggest you turn things around and try playing with – instead of against – the strategy that you are having trouble with. Nothing will make the weaknesses of that strategy obvious to you like having them leveraged against you in a game. In addition, this method can give you a healthy dose of perspective. Maybe that strategy you are having trouble with isn’t oppressive or overpowered. Perhaps you are simply blind to the weaknesses of it!
The main weakness of this technique is that methods that might work against your method of playing that strategy might not work against your opponent. Every player has slightly different ways of playing, and different history and prior knowledge they bring to the game. In addition, perhaps the strategy rewards skill in that strategy heavily, and is not easy to pilot. Regardless, playing with a strategy that you are having trouble with will open the door to noticing cracks in the armor that you can exploit later on.
When you are having trouble against a given strategy, it can often seem overwhelming or like you are facing off against something that has many more tools at their disposal than you do. However, if a strategy is truly unbeatable, a game will quickly wither and die. More possibly, there is simply a weakness that you are not taking advantage of or a flaw in the other strategy that you are not seeing. By asking the player, looking to the community, or trying the strategy for yourself, you can find weaknesses that you will be able to take advantage of, or play to strengths you never even knew you had.
A big thank you to my Patrons for this month: Alex, TicTac, and anonymous patrons. If there are specific subjects or concepts you’d like an article written on, I suggest you look at my patreon! For just $7 a month, you’ll be able to suggest article topics for me to write on.
As always, remember that it’s not enough to just hit the books if you want to win. You’ve got to Crit the Books!