Deliberate Practice and Cardfight!! Vanguard

Capable Assistant, Guru Wolf

Capable Assistant, Guru Wolf

NOTE: Although the original intent of this article was meant to help Cardfight!! Vanguard players when it was written, the concepts described in this article can be applied to any card game.

Whether the readers of this article is a new player in Cardfight!! Vanguard or a player looking to become the best, many readers typically are looking for ways to improve performance in the game that they love to play. Although some players play nonstop, they tend to see no improvement. Why is this? Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson had a theory in the field of cognitive theory that describes the action of, for example, playing a card game does not necessarily lead to immediate improvement. In order to improve, it is important to go through a process that Ericsson calls deliberate practice. With this in mind, this article will attempt to describe the theory behind deliberate practice and how it may apply to Cardfight!! Vanguard.

NOTE: The following pieces of advice are based on skill mastery theory in psychology, which has not been 100% proven (even though it is backed up by extensive scientific research and study). Although this is the case, it is some of the most effective ways at describing skill mastery during the writing of this article despite competing theories at the time of the writing of this article.

Ericsson’s Theory

Deliberate practice is the collection of “activities that have been found most effective in improving performance”, according to Ericsson (367). In other words, deliberate practice is actions that are intentionally meant to teach and provide the best way for the player to gain mastery of a skill. If the theory holds, this can apply to any subject or activity in particular, including Cardfight!! Vanguard. According to Ericsson, there are three main characteristics of such practice:

  • Motivation. In order to for a person to acquire or improve performance in a skill set, the person must be motivated to do so. Deliberate practice offers no immediate rewards, so the person must be motivated enough to take the time and effort to practice and hone his or her skills. (Ericsson 367) This can also can translate to the satisfaction or passion that one has for skills enough to motivate someone to master them.
  • Knowledge. Knowledge of the skill that the player wants to master is important in learning the skill. Prior knowledge helps the player contextualize the progress the person has obtained in proficiency of the skill, and new knowledge from experts or instructors in the skill that is to be mastered. (Ericsson 367) In the instance of a game such as Vanguard, veteran players and guides are some examples of where this knowledge can be obtained.
  • Feedback. A person mastering a skill should receive information about whether the activity in said skill is correct or incorrect as the skill is repeatedly executed. (Ericsson 367) Although this feedback can come from players, games in general generate favorable or unfavorable feedback (e.g. loss of a rearguard, loss of a game, etc.), which can indicate to the player whether he or she is executing practical uses of the sought after skill correctly or not.

Implications of Theory

As an activity, deliberate practice is meant to improve specific skills during each practice session, meaning that not all aspects of an activity can be improved in one session of practice. It is different than play, according to Ericsson, which has no specific goal and are inherently enjoyable. It is also important to note that tournaments and competitions are not necessarily the best place to practice (Ericsson 368), although learning may happen through such events and casual games (Ericsson 367).

Criticisms of Deliberate Practice

Although the research community refers to Ericsson’s theory of deliberate practice in its research, there are some criticisms of the theory that need to be kept in mind. One such criticism is the amount of time of deliberate practice that it takes to master or acquire a skill. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell cites that 10,000 hours is enough to become an expert in anything (“Geek Pop Star”). Ericsson claimed that experts would tend to take 10 years to reach the top (Ericsson 366). Others argue that a skill can be acquired but not mastered in less time. An example of such a person is Josh Kaufman, who found in his writing that a person would likely gain a skill (not master a skill) with 20 hours of practice and time (Vermeer).

Another criticism of deliberate practice is that there are other factors that influence skill mastery beyond the use of mere practice methods. One such research article from the Association of Psychological Science concluded that Ericsson’s conclusions that the differences in skill performance were mostly caused by deliberate performance was not backed up by the study’s findings (Macnamara 6). Specifically, the study found that only 12% of general performance variance measured in the study was explained by deliberate practice (Macnamara 5). Although this is the case, the study also found that the effectiveness of deliberate practice varied based on the domain it was used in. For games, the study found that 26% of performance variance was correlated by the use of deliberate practice (Macnamara 8). With this in mind, such research shows that deliberate practice is not as important as once thought but not invalid in relation to skill performance.

On Practical Application

Although deliberate practice may not explain 100% of a player’s performance in the game, evidence from the study criticizing deliberate practice still shows that the increase in performance has some correlation to the deliberate practice that a player undergoes. With this in mind, here are a few ways to implement the concepts of deliberate practice in the game of Cardfight!! Vanguard.

  • Foster a desire for improvement. This ties into the motivation of deliberate practice. In order for a player to improve at Vanguard, that player must want to improve, plain and simple.
  • Use past experiences to identify weaknesses in play. According to Ericsson, knowledge can be used to contextualize progress in skill mastery or proficiency. On the flip side of this, a player who can identify where he or she has failed can identify what skills need improved in the future. These past experiences in Vanguard can include any games that the player has participated in or watched, allowing the player to learn from personal experience and the experiences of others. Weaknesses in a player are potentially skills that can be improved, varying from deck building to in-game decisions.
  • Research and practice sub-skills if necessary. In reviewing Kaufman’s book, Alex Vermeer learned that Kaufman suggests that the player break down skills that a person desires to learn into sub-skills (or smaller components of the skill in question). Some skills, such as keeping track of public game zones, can be broken down into smaller components that can be practice on individually (e.g. memorizing drive checks, memorizing cards in the drop zone, etc.).
  • Play practice games. If possible, a player is advised to work on skills during casual matches outside of a tournament setting that he or she can work on skills that the player has identified for the sake of improvement. If a player has trouble accessing people outside of tournaments, local tournaments can serve as a good alternative due to their tendency to be casual in nature.
  • Focus on one skill at a time. When playing practice games for the sake of improving skills, work on one skill at a time. Rome was not built in a day, and the same fact can be argued when talking about skilled players in Cardfight!! Vanguard. Acquire one skill, then move to the next one.
  • Learn from skilled players. Whether it is the strong local player or the Vanguard Youtuber that the general player respects, find a player more skilled than you and learn from him or her. Learning from such players can include watching games, taking advice, or playing games with that player as some examples. Ideally, stronger players in the community can serve as guides and teachers to beginners and aspiring competitive players that are seeking to improve their skills.

I hope this article helped. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section.

Images of cards came from!!_Vanguard_Wiki. These images may have been re-sized.


Ericsson, K Anders, and Ralf Th. Krampe and Clemens Tesch-Romer. “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance”. Psychological Review 1993, Vol. 100. No. 3, 363-406. Accessed 27 January 2017.

“Geek Pop Star”. New York. Accessed 27 January 2017.

Macnamara, Brooke N. and David Z. Hambrick and Frederick L. Oswald. “Deliberate Practice and Performance in Music, Games, Sports, Education, and Professions: A Meta-Analysis”. Psychological Online ScienceFirst 1 July 2014. Accessed 27 January 2017.

Vermeer, Alex. “The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman – Review & Summary”. June 2013. Accessed 27 January 2017.


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