Another week is upon us, and that means another article here at Crit the Books! This week, we’ll look at a game design concept that I have found is core to knowing how to approach different matchups to your strategy. We’ll be talking about venues of interaction! Knowing how to interact with your opponent effectively is one of the most important things when you are playing games competitively and interacting with your opponent in ways that are inefficient or not helpful is the cause of many a loss. With that, let’s dive in!
While many games have interaction as a core part of their mechanics, not all strategies care about these methods of interaction in the same way. For an example of this, let’s look at Magic: the Gathering. The strategy we’ll be looking at is one that is popular in modern and legacy, and has left a mark on Magic’s future regardless of the fact that the core mechanic hasn’t been printed in a number of years. That’s right, folks. We’re talking about Storm.
For those of you who are not familiar, a Storm deck is a deck that plays a number of spells in a single turn, eventually able to turn those spells into a game-winning combo by dealing their opponent upwards of 20 damage on turn 3 or 4. Storm is one of the most polarizing strategies in the game, since it can often take a new player by surprise. In addition, there are very few ways to interact with the deck. Many colors do not have strong answers to storm, and perhaps have one or two soft answers. Storm, therefore, does not have many significant venues of interaction.
A strategy’s methods of reducing venues of interaction can vary heavily. We’ll continue to look at decks from Magic: the Gathering to discuss these different methods. Storm is special in that it takes advantage of two of the main ways to reduce the venues. First, it plays with a set of cards that have a limited amount of answers within the game. This is called answer limitation – it limits your interaction by using game components that you simply cannot interact with in some cases. Storm also limits venues of interaction by attempting to win the game as early as possible, ideally before the opponent has time to amass the resources and cards to interact with it effectively. This is timing limitation – it limits your interaction by reducing the amount of time that your opponent has to interact.
When playing your game, try your best to reduce the venues of interaction that your opponent has. If you have a plan that relies on your opponent not interacting with a specific piece that you will be using, wait as long as you safely can to implement that plan. By giving your opponent as little time to react as possible, you can increase the odds that your plan will go off. Similarly, it can be to your advantage to figure out what pieces of your strategy are the most difficult for your opponent to interact with and focus on using those to their best ability.
Imagine, for a moment, that you are playing a game of Magic: the Gathering draft. You are playing a Blue/White deck that has a number of fliers, and one or two hexproof creatures. You also have a few spells that can make your creatures larger or counter your opponent’s spells. If you are playing against an aggressive red/black deck that you notice has a lot of targeted removal, it can often be beneficial to use your flying creatures to block your opponent’s early aggression. The field will then be clear for you to play your hexproof creature and use that to win the game, since your opponent will not be able to remove it easily. You’ve limited your opponent’s ability to react to your plays by emphasizing threats that your opponent can’t answer. You’ve used answer limitation.
On the other hand, perhaps you will play against a green deck that has a number of large creatures that can profitably block your hexproof creatures but have a high mana cost. Here, you probably want to drop your fliers as fast as possible and swing in, keeping your opponent on the back foot and ideally defeating them before they have the time to play their large creatures. In this case, you’ve used timing limitation – you’ve done your best to make sure your opponent didn’t have the time to respond to you.
These are only basic examples, but you start to see the idea. If you can limit your opponent’s ways to interact with you, you will naturally find yourself in advantageous positions. Similarly, identifying the ways that you can interact with your opponent, and taking advantage of them, is key to finding yourself in a strong position in games. Interactivity is key and learning how to manipulate it in your favor is one of the best ways to put yourself at an advantage.
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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!