Reactivity

I’m inclined to jump in the deep end and start straight out with an article while I work on getting the site to look pretty. So here goes:


Reactivity

This train of thought began with consideration of that most controversial of cards, Pathetic Attempt. It stone cold stops anything that targets a card your opponent controls. That’s a long list of effects in Vs, and because of that, there has been something of an outcry in the community who claim that its very existence is detrimental to the game.

I’m not in that camp.

In fact, I might even go so far as to argue that it’s not even “really good.” Certainly, I’d argue that you should give its inclusion a lot of thought.

The reason for this is simple.

Action is better than Reaction.

For every card that you include in your deck that isn’t directly forwarding your path to victory, you are weakening your deck. Focus is key to good deckbuilding. High Voltage is the perfect example of this – every card in the deck had to do a certain amount of damage.

Every.

Single.

One.

If it didn’t do that, it didn’t make the cut.

I’ve always leaned slightly towards aggressive decks in CCGs for competitive tournaments. I’ve played control decks at tournaments and done pretty well, but I’m just better at honing and playing an aggressive build. (Probably because L5R was the first CCG I played competitively, and I played Lion.) I think this is where my obsession with focus in deck building comes from. In an aggressive deck, like High Voltage, every single card should be contributing damage in some form. Your goal is to beat your opponent down faster than he can set up, or in a match against another aggressive deck, faster than he can beat you down.

Now, PA has largely been mentioned as being good in aggressive decks as a counter to control. And granted, a Gift Wrapped can really ruin your day when you’re playing Syndicate Rush. Spider-Man alone is reason enough to begin to think that PA is the holy grail for rush decks. But then consider what happens when you’re not playing against control, or even worse, against another aggressive deck that isn’t packing PA – something you will have to do over the course of a tournament. Your deck is 3-4 cards weaker than your opponents. Not having that vital attack pump can cost you a game when you’re playing an aggressive deck, especially an off curve deck when you need your pumps to get up the curve. But instead, you’ve packed PA, and now you’re down that pump when you need it.

A wild hypothetical you say?

I don’t think so – in an aggressive environment, like what you can expect to see at Worlds (MUN pending) that tiny disadvantage will become bigger as you play more games and face more focused decks (assuming you’re heading to the high tables).

Pathetic attempt is not a “costless” card. There’s no such thing. Because each card slot in your deck is a resource that should be maximised.

So, aside from rush decks, what kind of decks would you think PA might be useful in? Decks where key characters or resources need protecting, I would guess. In these instances, you can make an argument for inclusion of PA, based on the fact that the removal of X key component ends your game. Personally, I don’t think PA is the most efficient answer to this. The most efficient answer is building a deck that doesn’t have an easily exploited Achilles Heel. (I’ll get to the Ahmed case in a moment, he’s an exception because he’s bonkers good.) If your deck has a weakness easily exploited by other decks in the meta, then it’s probably not a good meta choice. If decks in the meta don’t have easy answers, then you don’t need PA.

There is one other weakness that PA has. Unlike many other “reactive” cards, it does not single handedly beat the decks it is supposed to. A control deck, while hurt by PA, should be able to get over it if it’s focused enough. However, if you drop, say Kang, Kang Cobra, against Good Guys, you’ve just turned their deck off. That’s going to really, really disrupt them. You Deadshot Ahmed on three, you’ve hamstrung the deck. You PA something… you’ve created a bad hiccup, which good decks should be able to overcome on account of the fact that they are focused.

Which leads me to the Ahmed exception, sort of. Sometimes, a card is so powerful that it’s worth the risk of building a deck around it. In these cases, you need to protect your investment. For Ahmed specifically, there are better options (Huntress is both searchable via Brother I and a 6 drop). In these cases, where PA is the only available protection against a common threat, and your big risk comes with a great big reward, I could see PA being a good call. However, the reward needs to be huge to justify running a risky strategy to which there are common threats, with PA as your only defence.

The grand crux of all this is the fact that when there’s a choice, a card which does something for you than a card which prevents an opponent doing something. (Because while sometimes you stop him doing that important thing, you’ve cost yourself from having a card which could have been doing an important thing). This doesn’t just apply to Pathetic Attempt, but to any kind of narrow reactionary tech card. I shy away from teching against anything if I can avoid it. The only reason I’d ever do it is if there is just no deck that beats it, so you’ve got to take the next best deck and tech against the best one. And even then, I’d want my tech to be proper silver bullets. One in the heart, and the beast is dead.

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~ by Anthony on April 28, 2008.

2 Responses to “Reactivity”

  1. Great read, man!

  2. Really, really great start.

    Please continue.

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