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Lesson 10 – Gaming Styles

Welcome back to Crit the Books! This week, we’ll be looking at a division between different gaming styles. Most players that I have known fall easily into one of the two categories I’m going to be bringing up in this article. In addition, we’ll be looking at how knowing what gaming style you fall into can help you get better at the games you are interested in improving at. Knowing your gaming style can be very valuable in figuring out what drives you to play a game as well, which can do a lot for making games more enjoyable overall!

When I talk about gaming styles, I mostly mean how a player approaches learning things within a game and how they are more naturally inclined to progress in different games. The two styles that I’ll be talking about are intuitive gamers and trained gamers. Neither of these styles is necessarily more skilled at gaming than the other inherently, but they have vastly different ways of approaching learning about the game and improving. They also have different flavors of learning that they tend to prefer in games.

The first category we’ll be talking about is the one that I would consider myself, since that is the one that I have a more personal view on. That is the intuitive gamer. Intuitive gamers tend to enjoy learning via discovery. An intuitive gamer craves new things they can discover – they will tend to gravitate towards strategies that widely vary in their path to victory and will adore seeing a new line of play that they have never seen anyone play before.

These gamers tend to have a steeper initial improvement curve in games – they’ll often be able to pick up new strategies easier and adapt their existing decision-making patterns – heuristics – to those new strategies faster. Intuitive gamers will tend to look at decision making in games from a very high-level or macroscopic perspective. Rather than getting themselves bogged down in minutiae, they will find themselves looking at their overall goal in a turn or in a period of time and trying to make that plan happen.

Because an intuitive gamer finds joy via discovery, they will often find themselves hopping between different strategies in a game. Maybe they’ll swap factions in a miniatures game, or swap decks often in a card game. Flexible strategies that can play different games based on context tend to be where these players shine, since they can adapt on the fly to different circumstances.

These intuitive games will often find themselves preparing for competitive settings like tournaments by trying to play both against or with varying strategies – this will help them develop rough heuristics based on varied matchups, and they will generally trust their skills to handle specific details in the matchups. These players tend to be very good when playing from a disadvantage, since they can focus on how to meet their high-level gameplan.

On the other side of the spectrum are trained gamers. The joy of learning that trained gamers tend to is that of mastery. Where an intuitive gamer craves discovery, a trained gamer looks to improve their skills with a given strategy. They will tend to enjoy more linear strategies that follow along a given, practicable path, and will enjoy seeing their plans come to fruition even when faced with difficulties along the way.

While intuitive gamers tend to improve quicker in the beginning of learning new strategies, trained gamers will find that their skill improves more consistently over time, and that their training and repetition will bring them higher rewards once the intuitive gamers tend to start to plateau in their skill improvement. Where intuitive gamers will focus on the high-level strategy, trained gamers will often find themselves looking more at ground-level strategy. Instead of looking at their big plan repeatedly, trained gamers will tend to sacrifice their flexibility at the high level in order to focus on the small details of a plan: measuring exact ranges, determining exact cards and amounts of mana that need to be spent, etc.

A trained gamer will find themselves sticking to a single strategy and trying to learn the ins and outs of that specific strategy. They will tend to prefer strategies that do not significantly change based on their interaction with their opponent, because it allows them to put themselves in situations that are practiceable. Strategies that tend to stick to the same basic gameplan regardless of matchup are where trained gamers will shine.

Trained gamers will look at tournament preparation as a chance to focus in on their strengths – while an intuitive gamer will look for breadth and try many different matchups, a trained gamer will typically look for depth. They’ll identify what is their worst matchup – or the matchup they expect to see most often – and play that matchup repeatedly, trying to explore and critique even the smallest parts of their gameplan against those specific decks. Trained gamers tend to be very successful when playing from a lead, since they can afford to direct less mental energy at worrying about stopping their opponent and more towards meeting their victory condition.

Both trained gamers and intuitive gamers can be successful at high level play – some players are familiar enough with a given strategy that they will pilot it regardless of the environment unless that strategy has a significant disadvantage. These trained gamers will often find success regardless of whatever the strongest strategy in the metagame is. On the other hand, intuitive gamers find themselves very comfortable in shifting metagames, since their flexibility makes it easier to pick up “the best strategy” and attain victory through the power of their strategy combined with their more generalized heuristics.

Knowing what gaming style you play as can help you determine where your weaknesses and strengths are as a player, which is key in improving your skills. As well, being familiar with your preferences will make it easier to know what to focus on and – crucially – what will give you the most enjoyable preparation experience when it comes to more competitive settings. As your homework this week, I encourage you to figure out what type of gamer you are, and the gaming styles of your gaming group. Are you a trained gamer that prefers to “one trick” a strategy, or are you an intuitive gamer that can never seem to decide what they are focused on?

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!

 

Lesson 9 – Skill Expression

Here we are again, readers, for another article here at Crit The Books! This week, we’ll be looking at some of the terminology often thrown about when it comes to evaluating how much skill certain aspects of games ask from their players. This article will be similar to our first one, in that it is much less focused on concepts that will help your gameplay. Instead, this article will focus on terms that will help you understand and articulate your thoughts in discussions on how important skill is to different parts of games.

We’ll be primarily looking at the terms “skill floor”, “skill ceiling”, and “skill curve”. These terms get used quite frequently when discussing the difficulty of options within games, be it decks within a card game, characters within a video game, or strategies within a board game. While many people use these terms frequently, very rarely is it clarified what exactly they mean, which can make discussions very difficult to have. We’ll be looking at each of these phrases in turn, defining them, and looking at some examples.

It’s important to note that, for a number of our discussions, I’ll be using terminology that is as generic as possible, so that it can be applied to a number of different games and scenarios. Specifically, I’ll be using the word “strategy” very often. This word is used to describe a specific aspect of a game that requires some sort of skill to be able to use effectively. In a fighting game, different characters might require different skillsets and some might require less skilled or technical play. In a card game, different decks might have similar differentiation in their skill required. I’ll be using “strategy” as a catch all term to use in place of more game specific terminology instead of words like characters, decks, heroes, or factions.

First off, we’ll look at the term skill floor. Some people have defined this term as “the amount of skill it requires to get meaningful results with a strategy” or “how much skill is required to pick a strategy up”. However, I think that both of these definitions are excessively vague. How, for example, do we define meaningful results or picking a strategy up? Both of these aren’t very clear. Instead, I suggest the following definition: the skill floor for a strategy is “The skill required to achieve a player’s goals with a strategy.” This definition takes into account that different strategies will have different levels of skill required for different goals and will allow for meaningful discussion. While this requires more of our questions than simply asking what strategy we are discussing, I believe it allows for more nuanced discussion as well.

For examples of skill floors, we will look at one of the most well-known games on the market today: Overwatch! An example of a character with a low skill floor is Lucio in a support role. In a support role, a player is expected to provide healing or other buffs for their team to make them more effective. Lucio does this very easily, as his healing and speed buff occurs in an aura around him without the need to have any complicated inputs or positioning from the player. In contrast, a character with a high skill floor in the support role would be Ana. In order to provide healing for her team, Ana needs to hit her teammates with her sniper rifle. Doing so requires a higher amount of skill than simply staying near the team, and so we say that in Ana’s case, she has a higher skill floor in the support role.

It is worth noting that these same characters can have higher or lower skill floors in other avenues or roles as well, judged by how much skill it takes for them to fill those roles. Let’s look back at Lucio. While he has a very low skill floor for filling a support role and achieving the goals required of it, he will have a much more difficult time fulfilling an offensive, damage-based role like attacker. His main attack has a relatively low projectile speed and fires in short bursts, requiring the player to be able to predict their opponent’s movement in order to deal a lot of damage. Lucio in the attacking role has a very high skill floor.

Next, let’s look at the partner term to skill floor, skill ceiling. A strategy’s skill ceiling is “The amount of skill at which additional skill does not increase the player’s ability to achieve their goals.” Some would insist that the skill ceiling is the point at which a player achieves a “perfect game”, but I don’t agree with that definition. I think the phrase “perfect game” implies many things that are simply untrue for most games. Even if a player makes all the right choices, it is still possible for that player to lose the game based on variance and how the opponent responds to that variance. In addition, the idea of a perfect game means that an opponent can also play a perfect game, which leads us with a question of who wins. Instead, we focus on the point at which a player’s skill cannot further increase their odds of winning.

As examples of high skill ceiling strategies, we’ll again look at Overwatch heroes. Tracer is often looked at as a high skill ceiling character – her ability to dash 3 times as well as rewind her position to a given location means that there are many avenues for players to use her abilities to find victory, which creates more branching choice paths and therefore more skill required to locate the correct options. In addition to her movement options, Tracer’s weapon fires a high number of low damage shots, requiring a player to hit a significant number of them in order to deal a large amount of damage. This also plays into the high skill cap of Tracer.

The synthesis of these two terms is skill curve, or a measurement of how much a player’s skill in a strategy translates into the ability for that player to achieve their goals. Often, a strategy’s skill curve will be stated as a combination of skill floor and skill ceiling. However, the skill curve will also often be described as “steep” or “shallow”. This is simply a measure of how much a player’s skill translates to their chances of victory. If a strategy scales significantly with a player’s skill, then that strategy is said to have a steep curve, while if a player’s skill does not significantly affect their chances of achieving their goals, it is said to have a shallow curve.

If you are new at a game and want results quickly, it is likely going to be a good use of your time to seek out strategies that have a low skill floor, so that you can gain a footing in the game quickly. If you are a type of player who appreciates the awards that learning a strategy can bring you, and you enjoy exploring that depth, then you would probably be interested in finding strategies with a high skill ceiling. You’ll be rewarded with enjoyment for seeking out the types of strategies that are rewarding for you. This week, try to look at some of the strategies that you play in games and try to determine their skill floor and skill ceiling. Are they low? Are they high?

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!

Lesson 8: Game Flow and Game State

Welcome back, folks, to this week’s lesson on Crit the Books! This week, we’ll be looking at the idea of game flow. Understanding the general flow of a game can lead you to better understanding of where to focus your resources, both mental and physical. In addition, learning the flow of a game can help you look at different parts of your gameplay and identify where you are skilled already and where you need improvement. Finally, it will help you understand critical moments in gameplay and understanding when you need to move into different strategies.

We’ll also be talking about the 3 game states that a player can find themselves in and bring up some general tips for how to play when you are in those different game states. Learning to play from different positions of strength is integral to becoming a better player. While many players learn and sharpen their skills at one game state, learning to play all three will make you a more well-rounded player who is able to adapt to different circumstances.

Like a well-written story, most games – and encounters within them – have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Of these parts, the biggest thing that characterizes them in my mind is the goal of each stage. In the beginning stage of a game, you are looking to establish your position going into the mid- and endgame. In the midgame, you are primarily interacting with your opponent, and trying to leverage advantage gained into more advantage. Finally, by the endgame, you are trying to solidify your position if you are ahead and trying to prevent your opponent from doing so if you are behind.

We’ll talk about the beginning of the game first. In the beginning of the game, you are trying to establish yourself. Typically, this stage of the game has a much smaller amount of interaction than the other parts of the game, since players are more focused on using the resources available to them to set themselves up and not deal with the threats the opponent has prevented. In the beginning of the game, you should be focused on using your resources as efficiently as possible and setting yourself into the best position you can with the resources available to you. This is probably also the best time to set up future engines or buffs to make your engines more efficient.

Once you have started to interact with your opponent, that is when you have started the midgame. The midgame is characterized by high interactivity and aiming to use your resources more efficiently than your opponent. At this point, you are looking to play according to your general game plan and strengths. Using your resources to their fullest is key in this step, and this is also the step where you will often be looking to trade your resources for the ability to weaken your opponent’s resources. The majority of your victory condition will be accomplished in the midgame; the midgame generally ends when one player is in a situation where they can win the game in a single move or series of moves.

While the midgame is characterized by interactivity that favors efficiency, the endgame is characterized by interactivity that favors results. At this stage of the game, one or more players have victory all but within their grasp, and are looking for the last step to complete their victory condition. Be it having their opponent at 1 life, being within a goal of victory, or having the opponent’s king isolated, the endgame’s gameplay pattern revolves around the proximity to victory. This is where players will often sacrifice the efficiency that is so important in the beginning and midgame in favor of entirely results-based play. It doesn’t matter if it takes you twice as many resources to stop your opponent from winning, it still stops them from winning. If you have any chance of victory, you need to focus entirely on stopping your opponent from getting their win condition filled first.

Knowing when to move your efforts between expansion, interaction, and victory is one of the most important parts of being a skilled player. Your focus needs to be able to shift as you move between different parts of the game quickly. Many players are more skilled in one or more aspects of the game – perhaps you are more skilled at making the most efficient use of your resources, while I am good at identifying the weaknesses of your strategy and interacting with them. You might get ahead further in the early game because you can make more use of the limited resources we have. However, even if you are in a winning position, I’ll be able to make use of my interactivity once we hit the midgame to shut your engines down. It is important for me to remember that you being ahead doesn’t mean I’ve already lost.

Speaking of being ahead, let’s look at the game states that I mentioned earlier. A number of different gaming communities have different names for these, but I’ll be using the terms advantaged, disadvantaged, and neutral. The neutral game is when both players are on even footing, or close enough to it that the game could swing towards either player easily. A player that is advantaged has a greater chance of winning, while a player that is disadvantaged has a lower chance of doing so. It is important to note that a player’s proximity to fulfilling their win condition does not always translate directly to the game state – Even if you have 20 life and I have 10, if I’m presenting the ability to deal you lethal damage and you’re not, I’m definitely advantaged.

In a neutral game, you should be playing to your personal strengths as a player and making use of the plays available to you. A neutral game is a time where both players can afford to flex their strengths, since both players want to earn an advantage as soon as possible. You’ll also want to look at your opponent’s weaknesses and see if you can capitalize on them while you can afford to, since it can be more difficult to have that leisurely freedom of playstyle once one player is ahead of the other.

When you are in an advantaged position, it is to your benefit to play conservatively. After all, if the game state does not change from where it is now, you are more likely to win. There is no reason to take moves that carry a high reward if they also have a high risk, since a neutral result is more favorable to you. When you are advantaged, you have the privilege of being able to dictate the direction the game goes, since your opponent must wrest the advantage from you first before focusing on fulfilling their win condition. While the advantaged player can relax more than their opponent can, it is important to not give your opponent openings which they can exploit to put themselves in your position.

On the other hand, if you are disadvantaged, the onus to change the relative power positions of the game is on you. You’ll want to take high risk, high reward plays – if they fail, you’re in no worse a position than you were before you tried them. If they succeed, however, you stand the chance of gaining a significant boost to your chances of victory. In fact, a single well-placed play can often move you into the advantaged spot! You want to disrupt your opponent if at all possible, since putting them off course is an easy way to shift the movement of the game in a direction you prefer. When you’re facing a loss, there is no reason not to put everything on the line – if the choice is between a high chance at a loss and a riskier, but slightly lower chance of a loss? Take it. It might not work out, but so what? You’ll be in no worse a position.

Identifying when you are in the advantaged or disadvantaged position can be difficult. Indeed, a key part of gaming skill is recognizing when you can afford to make those high-risk plays. However, being familiar with playing from ahead and playing from behind will make your gaming better overall, since you’ll be able to flexibly adapt to whatever situation you find yourself in.

This has been quite a long article, so I am going to cut it off here! As you can see, understanding the flow of the game and the state of the game can help you figure out what your primary goals for your movements are, and help accentuate your strengths. Identifying these will help shape your gameplay moving forward and will reduce the mental burden on you as well as help you recognize strong and weak points in your gameplay. This week, try to keep track of these things as you play. Ask yourself, “What is the current game state? Who is ahead? What part of the game flow are we at?” See if your moves are helping you towards the goals we talked about.

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!

 

Lesson 7: Power Measurement

Welcome back, friends, to Crit the Books! This week, we’ll be discussing how power level in games can be measured. It isn’t always just whomever has the bigger numbers – there are a number of different ways to measure how “good” a specific model, strategy, team, or deck is. While many of these are often ignored or looked over, learning them can give you the edge in a number of matchups, and can help your overall play. Some of the metrics of power we’ll be looking at are raw numbers, interactivity, and number of options.

Raw numbers are pretty easy to figure out – this is the simplest way to measure how good something is, because it is very easy to measure these quantitative amounts. As a general rule, a model or card that has bigger effects is stronger. We’ll look at Magic: the Gathering for our example on this point. Let’s look at 2 different cards that share a number of qualities: Shock and Lightning Bolt. Almost every piece of rules text on these cards is the same – they are both instants, they both cost one red mana, and they both deal damage to a target. However, it is pretty obvious that Lightning Bolt is the more powerful card, since it deals 3 damage to Shock’s 2!

a25-141-lightning-boltm19-156-shock

However, big numbers aren’t the only thing that shows the strength of a game’s elements. If you only look at how big something’s numbers are, it can become easy to forget another measure of power in games: efficiency. Let’s take a look back at our earlier example and compare Lightning Bolt to another spell: Flame Lash. Some players might look at these cards, and conclude that Flame Lash is better, because it deals 4 damage rather than 3. However, those players would often be mistaken! While there are situations where Flame Lash is more useful – such as, for example, against a creature with 4 toughness – you pay for those options in efficiency. While Lightning Bolt is an engine that lets you turn 1 card (the Lightning Bolt) and 1 mana into 3 damage, Flame Lash turns 1 card (again, the card itself) and 4 mana into 4 damage. While both spells take a single card to cast, Lightning Bolt beats Flame Lash on mana efficiency by a lot! Don’t let yourself get caught up in just those big numbers – you have to take efficiency into account as well.

While efficiency and raw output are pretty easy to give solid metrics to, there are other measures of power that are not as easy to quantify. This does not make them any less important or useful in judging the power of a game element. One of these measures is versatility, or how many options the element gives the player. While options themselves do not equate to power, many game elements trade off pure efficiency or numbers for different options, and that can make those elements powerful in more situations, increasing their overall power.

For our example on versatility and options, we’ll look back at Magic: the Gathering. This time, we’ll look at Turn // Burn. At first glance, Burn has the same base amount of damage as Shock, and has less efficiency. Rather than paying 1 mana for 2 damage, Burn asks you to instead pay 2 mana! This seems like just worse Shock, right? Wrong! Turn // Burn is considered a stronger card by a number of magic players, and that is largely because it gives you more options than Shock does. If you’re facing down a 3 toughness creature, Shock isn’t going to help you very much. Turn // Burn, on the other hand, can allow you to answer that creature by playing both sides of it together. While neither Turn nor Burn has very strong base output or great efficiency, together they can be very strong and give you answers to a number of different situations.

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Before we finish up, let’s look at another one of the often forgotten measures of power: Interactivity. Put simply, this is how difficult it is for your opponent to try and stop your game elements from being effective. If a piece cannot be interacted with easily or stopped by your opponent, it is generally more powerful than another piece with similar power or efficiency. The less time you give your opponent to respond to your actions, and the fewer ways your opponent has to do so, the more powerful your game will be.

Let’s do this by comparing Shock to Falkenrath Reaver. Both of these cards have similar damage output if you look at them on a per turn basis, since the Reaver will deal 2 damage on each attack. While at first glance it might look like the Reaver has a lower efficiency, since it costs 2 mana, you’d be mistaken! In the absence of any interaction from your opponent, the Reaver can continue to attack each turn, giving it theoretically infinite efficiency! Reaver certainly has more options that it provides to its controller than Shock does – Reaver can block opposing creatures, and will even destroy ones with 2 toughness, just like Shock!

w17-21-falkenrath-reaver

While Falkenrath Reaver rates more highly than Shock on a number of our measuring methods we’ve discussed, Shock is still considered the better card. Why? Easy. Shock is much more difficult for our opponent to interact with or stop. While Falkenrath Reaver can be blocked or destroyed with an opposing spell, Shock can only be stopped with a counterspell or a similar response that the opponent must have available immediately. The ease of which the opponent can make Falkenrath Reaver useless lowers its power level significantly.

Whenever you have a selection of options in games, it can be tempting to simply judge them on something simple, like their base output or efficiency. However, it is important to remember that those elements can be powerful in many different ways. When you are given one of those selections, be sure to take the chance to really think about all the different ways that something can be useful or powerful. You might just surprise yourself! As an optional homework assignment, sit down and choose something you think is strong in a game, and try to figure out exactly why it is strong. Does it have strong base output? Is it extremely efficient? Does it give you more options, or is it hard for your opponent to interact with? I’m sure you’ll learn quite a bit!

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!

 

Lesson 6: Resource Strategy

Welcome back, readers, to Crit the Books! This week, we’ll be looking back at some of our discussions on resources and using the terminology we developed there to discuss some generalized game strategy. If you haven’t yet, I suggest you read last week’s article, where we define resources and engines. We’ll be using those terms a lot in today’s article, so please make sure you’re familiar with the terms!

The first bit of strategy advice I’ll be discussing today is Attack your opponent on their most limited resource. The easiest way to assure your victory in most games is to, if possible, eliminate options from your opponent. The easiest way to eliminate options entirely is to remove one of your opponent’s resources from them. If your opponent has nothing to power their engines, then they will often struggle to find their path to victory.

To illustrate this, we’ll look at 2 different examples of games. The first we’ll look at is the most popular paper TCG in the world, Magic: the Gathering. Let’s look at one of the most linear decks in most formats, Burn, or Red Deck Wins. These decks have some of the most efficient engines in Magic in terms of cards and mana to damage. However, these decks are often very limited on card draw. Therefore, decks that aim to beat those decks often attempt to win by eventually gaining more card advantage than their opponent. Of course, simply having more cards than your opponent will not win you the matchup by itself, but it will put you ahead and put you in a position to win the later game.

Another example of this style of play in Magic: the Gathering is land destruction. Lands are one of the most limited resources in Magic – you’re limited to playing one at a time, once per turn. Because of this, spells that destroy lands are often very powerful, and any deck that can do so consistently and efficiently is one to be feared. Blood Moon is a very powerful card in many decks, largely because it is functionally land destruction against much of the metagame. While it is not attacking your opponent’s mana directly, it is attacking them on another limited resource: colored mana.

The other example we’ll be looking at is from the tabletop miniatures world, and one of my personal favorite games of the genre: Guild Ball. In Guild Ball, one of your most limited resources is movement. Each model can only make a movement once per activation unless they have other abilities that do so, and those abilities that allow movement outside of that single activation are few and far between. Because of that, abilities that can stop or limit your movement are very powerful, and some models are taken into some matchups simply because they have those abilities.

Attacking an opponent’s most limited resources is the best way to turn off their engines, and by doing so, you can cost your opponent a lot of efficiency. Whether it be through turning off their ability to cast spells, stopping them from turning their action into attacks, or even limiting their actions to those which are reactions to your plays, you can gain a lot of control over the flow of the game by attacking their most limited resources.

Another piece of gaming advice that will help you moving forward is accentuate the strengths of the resources that you have more of than your opponent. That is a lot to take in, so let’s break it down further. Of the resources available to each player, there are likely resources that you will have more of than your opponent, either those that you have an excess of in the beginning of the game, or those that you gain an advantage over the course of the game. When you have resources that you have more of than your opponent, you should do your best to leverage your resources to their most effectiveness, because often your opponent will not have strong ways to contest their use.

Let’s go back to Magic: the Gathering; specifically, the burn or RDW matchup that we discussed earlier. Often, when you’re partway through the game, you’ll have more cards than your opponent. It is up to you to leverage the excess of cards that you have to the best use and gain the most efficiency out of those cards. If you can use those cards to deny your opponent cards or gain yourself more cards, then you will often find yourself in a winning position. That sort of effect that causes you to be farther ahead when you are already ahead is called a snowball effect and will often gain you the victory if you take advantage of an early lead.

As another example from M:tG, we’ll look at decks that do their best to gain an advantage over their opponent in the resource of lands, or mana. These decks will often do their best to make use of their extra mana, because it often costs resources to get yourself in a position where you have more than your opponent, and if those resources are not used, you have spent tempo, cards, and earlier mana to not gain a significant advantage – they have been wasted! When you are ahead with your mana, you don’t want to be playing cards that are the same cost and power level as your opponent. You want to be playing more powerful cards that cost more. You want to leverage the advantage you have into a win!

In Guild Ball, this same concept is in play. If your team has more movement options than the other team, do you want to engage with your opponent and put yourself in a position where you can’t use those movement options? No! You want to spread out and place yourself in locations where your opponent simply can’t reach you. You want to use the movement that you have available and put yourself out of range of your opponent’s attacks and abilities, because how are they going to be able to get over to you to stop you? When you have an advantaged position, take it!

When you have achieved an advantage over an opponent in one or more resources, that will often be a key path to winning. That excess you have will make it so your opponent cannot interact with you on that axis, and must find a way to win in other ways – perhaps with resources that they have more of than you, or engines that they have which are more efficient than yours.

Looking at the resources available to you and your opponent is key to optimized gameplay. By paying attention to where your opponent’s weak spots are, and by playing to your strengths, you’ll be able to give yourself an advantage. The important part of this lesson is learning how to accurately identify your opponent’s resources and find weak points that you can exploit. If you can do that consistently, you’ll find your win rate going up and up!

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!