I started writing a couple of posts only to lose momentum with my thoughts. Rather than hunt around for something else to get inspired by, I’ll try to get through this piece.
There’s card advantage and then there’s card advantage. When I think of card advantage, I think of drawing more cards than an opponent, using one card to defeat multiple cards of my opponent and so forth. In a CCG like V:TES, card advantage doesn’t seem to really apply until you get to the point where you run out of cards.
Though, I’ve thought about how permacept, like a Raven Spy, seems to produce card advantage by requiring so many more cards used for stealth than normal. Card advantage isn’t really the right term. It’s more like card paralysis or, better, card quiescence.
I was thinking about tempo recently and how often indirect card advantage is gained in Magic by putting an opponent in a position where there isn’t time to play cards in hand. It’s similar to how card advantage can be gained by making someone’s draws dead by having them have no effect on the game, e.g. creature removal vs. creatureless deck.
In V:TES, handjam is a major concern. Trying to jam a stealth bleed deck on stealth might be the only way to survive long enough for the game state to change or to draw different cards. Jamming an intercept combat deck on intercept might make combat survivable. Too many masters is a common problem. Rush deck with nothing but red cards is impotent.
So, there’s nothing new about making someone’s hand less productive. The question is whether other methods than the ones typically considered can do it.
One of the more common situations I encounter of making cards in hand dead draws is when under a tremendous amount of pool pressure. Don’t need stealth cards when you can’t afford to take actions. Similarly, having minions nuked makes all actions, action modifiers, reactions, etc. useless to have in hand. These situations are just variations on themes. The question becomes how to reliably create scenarios to where someone else is stuck on cards that don’t do anything.
Some like to try to make use of the cards that restrict hand size. This is typically awful as hand size has very little impact on card play. V:TES is a game of card chains. Sometimes, only one card in a chain is necessary, say Night Moves to get a bleed of one through. Frequently, two card chains of action plus stealth, stealth plus action modifier, wake plus other reaction, etc. are the power plays due to their efficiency and reliability. Ultimately, as long as you can play cards, you can … em … play cards. The effects that prevent replacement are far stronger at disrupting play. As bad as The Meddling of Semsith is at helping its player win, it can certainly cause someone else to lose.
To get off on a tangent, I’m increasingly thinking about card plays that are only intended for the endgame. I tend toward plays that get you to the endgame, like bounce, but for variety’s sake, trying to engineer a particular endgame state is interesting. The Meddling of Semsith is another of these plays.
Anyway, back to creating handjams. The idea of a tempo deck in a game like Magic is that you come out fast enough that speed itself disrupts your opponent and plays that aren’t strictly card advantage but, instead, time advantage ensure your opponent’s defeat. Besides putting somebody under so much pressure from speed or such obnoxious things as stacks of Anarch Revolts (more relevant to when there was little way to dodge them), other sorts of time-plays may be interesting.
I’ve been trying to build more aggressive decks as it helps to see different facets of games when people actually get ousted. But, it seems like that it’s difficult, even more so in tournament play where I’m less likely to do something against my own interests, for me to force the action. Instead, I probably do disrupt people’s games to some extent by how little I do. Decisions to use resources to disrupt someone not doing anything you really care about are not the easiest decisions to make. Well, unless all you want to do is have stuff happen, which I can sort of see when you have an environment where people rarely get ousted.
If putting pressure on jams people’s hands as they look for answers or greater threats, doing nothing jams hands on answers. With too much time on one’s hands, it’s easy to become impatient.
There’s also the question of where in the spectrum of toolboxiness vs. focus decks lie. A focused deck does its thing. It can overwhelm a less focused deck, but more relevant to this post, even a partial overwhelm makes for quiescent cards in hand. Of course, the drawback of such decks, in this regard, is that their hands can be made entirely irrelevant to the situation. For instance, rush combat vs. single vampire with Secure Haven.
Let’s assume that a deck will have useful cards eventually. What are the best ways to get to those cards when you suffer from card quiescence? Dreams of the Sphinx, The Barrens, Fragment of the Book of Nod, et al. It’s funny how I used to promote the importance of taking up master slots on card cycling, even more so than pool gain, yet have wandered away from ensuring that my decks move cards. Dreams is the most common and avoids location hate, so really, the only answer is master counters or playing one’s own cyclers. The latter seems especially productive. Not that I’ve made a lot of effort to jam people in the past, but I will tend to sit on a Dreams with two counters.
Inserting another thought – gaining pool increases flexibility. After all, gaining pool is creating time which counteracts plays that steal time away. A reason to play Blood Dolls, Villeins, etc.? How profound. I’m sure the community can’t wait to hear about the usefulness of playing cards such as what has been the most played card in the game. It is interesting, though, how some will lowball master pool gain. Just as I’ve gotten away from card cycling plays, I’m increasingly reducing the amount of pool gain masters I play. … hmmm … can’t possibly be any correlation to winning less often, nope.
I don’t know if I came to any great conclusions about generating card quiescence. There are a lot of angles to approach from. I do find it amusing that my train of thought brought me to playing more card cyclers myself as a subtle way to deprive them to others. Amusing because, as I said, I have drifted away from the idea that The Barrens goes in every deck. I suppose another conclusion is that focused decks are more likely to produce these advantageous situations, if at the cost of being on the other end. It bothers me whenever it seems that it’s a better idea to play focused decks, something I’m increasingly concerned with, but that’s a post for another time.