Avoiding Overthinking During Tournament Play

An important part of playing in tournaments is keeping the proper and clear mindset. Among many things that can prevent such a mindset, overthinking (also known as rumination) during a tournament can cloud in-game judgement and prevent the player from optimal play. The keys to avoiding this mental pitfall during tournaments are to reduce mental strain during game play and to reduce unhealthy self-assessment during the course of game play. Here are some tips for working toward this:

  • Practice before tournaments. Playing the deck before the tournament allows the player to properly understand the cards and play style of the deck ahead of time. Although this seems minor, playing the deck until it becomes second nature will lessen the mental effort during the course of tournaments played with the deck.
  • Answer questions before the tournament. If the player has questions about the deck that he or she is playing, rulings surrounding play, or other in-game information, the player should try to find answers to such questions before the tournament begins in an effort to reduce mental strain during a tournament.
  • Focus on the game at hand. Worrying about past mistakes in the tournament or deck choice during the course of the tournament will not help once the tournament has started. When in a game, it is best for the player to focus on the game(s) that is happening in the moment.
  • Break down difficult decisions*. If there is a decision in front of the player that is hard for the player, he or she can break down the decision and its ramifications into smaller pieces in relation to facts that the player knows (e.g. cards in hand, units on the board, etc.). The process of breaking down the decision helps the player digest a flood of thoughts and prevent being overwhelmed during the course of game play.
  • When all else fails, choose and act*. When stuck between decisions and the player recognizes that he or she cannot make up one’s mind in the moment after considering the game board, it is better to make one of the decisions in front of him or her instead of making no decision at all. The reason for this suggestion is to act and keep moving forward during game play. After a situation like this, access whether the decision was good or bad after the tournament and learn from the situation in future games and tournaments.
  • Enjoy the game**. Sometimes the best medicine for overthinking is to distract oneself by enjoying the game that he or she is playing. Games are meant to be fun, so go and enjoy them!

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

* https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffboss/2015/03/20/how-to-overcome-the-analysis-paralysis-of-decision-making/#e6f8b421be5a

** https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/habits-not-hacks/201503/how-over-thinking-kills-your-performance

Goldfishing and Testing Decks By Yourself

Testing deck ideas and builds is an essential skill for trading card game players. Much like in a scientific experiment, testing decks in card games proves or disproves the validity of certain hypothetical builds. Although this process of testing is important, testing a deck build usually requires two players. Is there a way to test with one player? The answer: goldfishing.

Goldfishing is a term from players in the Magic: The Gathering community that describes the solo-testing process of one player playing a deck solitaire-style as if playing against a goldfish, as if one is playing against their pet. For the sake of this article, the fictional opponent that the player will face in a solo game will be referred to as a “goldfish”. This process is executed in the following steps:

  • Define player behavior for the goldfish. This behavior can vary from only giving a damage per turn to destroying creatures and other conditions. In addition to this, the behavior the player sets for the goldfish to do each turn may vary depending on what one wishes to test. if the player is testing for tournament validity, the behavior of the goldfish should replicate the kind of turn-to-turn play that one expects to see in a current tournament. If the player wants to see if the deck in question will function at all, the goldfish should replicate a player that is doing close to nothing during the solitaire game.
  • Play games with the goldfish. Play games as normal with the exception that the goldfish behavior is happening on the opponent’s turn. Also, play enough games that one can determine how consistent the deck can function as the player desires in the scenario set up in the solitaire game scenarios.

That sums up the process of goldfishing in a nutshell. If anyone has any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section.

Goldfishing is defined on this wiki: https://mtg.gamepedia.com/Goldfishing

Strategic Deck Archetypes

In trading card games, players build decks with a win condition in mind. A win condition is a game state that a player reaches in a game where he or she is deemed a winner by the rules. In this article, win conditions will refer to the typical and modern forms of such conditions, mainly through dealing lethal combat damage of causing the opponent to deck out. Since inception of trading card games, the deck building strategies of players can be divided among three archetypes, which are defined either on the speed at which a win condition is met or how interactions between cards achieve a win condition. These archetypes are:

  • Aggro. This archetypal strategy focuses on winning fast win in early game by methods that are too quick for an opponent to respond or defend against. Examples of decks that fit into this archetype are weenie* decks or burn** decks.
  • Control. While aggro strategies focus on the early game, this archetype focuses on the slow buildup of resources for the sake of winning in the late game. Examples of this strategy are decks with high-cost creatures.
  • Combo. When other strategies focus on the speed at which a win condition is met, this strategy uses strong synergy between cards as a win condition. Decks under this archetype mainly rely on the effect interactions between certain cards in the deck to win the game on their own.

According to many players, aggro, combo, and control are the most common strategical archetypes for deck building in trading card games to date. Other decks may appear at your local card shop, but most of them will fall into one or more these three categories. Some examples of uncommon strategies that are not covered by the main three include:

  • Midrange. Defined by its flexibility, decks that fall into this strategic archetype have the ability to speed up or slow down against opponents when the need arises.
  • Mill. While many strategies focus on dealing the required combat damage to win the game, this strategic archetype solely focuses on forcing the opponent to discard cards off of the top of his or her deck until the player cannot draw any more cards out of deck.

Thanks for your continued support! If you have any questions or comments, please place them in the comments section.

*Weenie decks focus their efforts on generating many small creatures for a low cost and/or early in the game.

**Burn decks mainly focus on dealing a large amount of damage to the opponent through the use of card effects alone.</sup>

Measuring Card Advantage: Pluses and Minuses

Red Card Dealer

Red Card Dealer

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.

As a term, card advantage describes the state in which a player generally has more cards than his or her opponent. With this in mind, the theory around this concept describes how the player can achieve card advantage and how to measure it.* Although the theory is not perfect, the basis of the theory is that the player with card advantage has access to more cards than the opponent, meaning that the player is closer to drawing his/her deck’s win conditions than the opponent. This is especially important for slower control decks, which focus on gaining card advantage slowly before finishing off their opponents.**

In the game of Cardfight!! Vanguard, the total card advantage that a player has not only refers to cards in hand, but also the cards that are on the rearguard circles. Conserving card advantage in this game could make the difference between having enough cards at the player’s disposal to guarantee a winning game state, or the exact opposite. Although this is concept is being applied to Vanguard in this article, this concept can be applied to almost any trading card game in general terms.

NOTE: This article is mainly used as a guide to measure tangible card advantage in the game of Cardfight!! Vanguard. This method is not easily applied to virtual card advantage, which is described at this link.

Measuring Card Advantage

In Magic, players tend to measure gains or losses in card advantage in a way describes trades in resources. For example, if one card’s effect allows the player to force the opponent to discard two cards and the player to discard the card after the use of an effect, the player traded that card for two of the opponent’s cards. This, in Magic: The Gathering, is known as a “two-for-one”, describing the transaction that took place.

The approach this article will show the player is also taken generically without specific vocabulary, which allows the player to easily gauge the amount of card advantage being gained or lost in the course of the game. Specifically, this approach tracks the net card advantage between the two players in the game of Cardfight!! Vanguard.***

When describing net gains and losses of card advantage on the board or out of hand, there are three ways to describe such trades:

  • Negative cards. Also described as a “-(number of cards lost)”, a net loss happens when a player loses one or more cards of advantage compared to the opponent’s cards. An example of this is when a player loses a rearguard due to an attack. This rearguard is discarded without the opponent losing any cards from field or hand, meaning that the player has lost one card in advantage.
  • Positive cards. Also described as a “+(number of cards lost)”, a net gain happens when a player gains one or more cards of advantage compared to the opponent’s cards. An example of this is when a player draws a card due to a unit’s on-hit ability to draw a card when it hits an opposing vanguard. In this instance, a player that is able to draw a card without having to discard cards from hand or lose rearguards, which equates to +1 net gain (assuming the opponent does not gain cards due to the skill).
  • Zero cards. Also described as a “0”, netting zero happens when a player gains no more cards of advantage compared to the opponent’s cards, even in spite of a trade or transaction. An example of this is when the player activates the ability to drop one card and draw one card. The player loses one card (-1) due to the drop part of the ability, but gains one card (+1) when he or she draws one card. The net of this transaction is 0 (or 1-1 = 0).

Applications of Measuring Card Advantage in Vanguard

This style of measuring card advantage can be tedious during game play, especially for those who do not wish to keep track of facts and figures while keeping trade of card skills. With this in mind, here are a few ways to apply the theory discussed here.

  • Analyzing card abilities. This method of analyzing card advantage can be used in the process of deck building to decrease the amount of inefficient cards due to the cost of abilities. In addition, this method can also be used to compare similar cards by comparing their effects on general card advantage.
  • Making better trades in battle. In the midst of game play, choices like attacking the vanguard versus attacking the rearguards can be crucial in taking advantage away from the opponent or obtaining advantage for the player. For example, if attacking the vanguard will force the opponent to guard with two cards compared to guarding the same attack directed at his/her rearguard with one card, then attacking the vanguard is a better choice in terms of card advantage (aka forcing the opponent to -2 instead of -1).

I hope this article helps. If anyone has questions or comments in relation to this article, please put them in the comments section.

Images of cards came from http://cardfight.wikia.com/wiki/Cardfight!!_Vanguard_Wiki. These images may have been re-sized.



***This approach takes its inspiration from Upstart Goblin University’s way to track card advantage, which can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peo3JrGedPc

Characteristics of a Competitive Deck

Dumbbell Kangaroo

Dumbbell Kangaroo

Whether you are piloting* the best deck of the new set or piloting the old rogue** deck that has been around since the beginning of the game, it is important to know what makes a deck “good” or competitive in tournaments. Whether favorable or not, it is important to know what makes a deck competitive either for piloting a deck, building a deck, or counteracting a deck you face in tournaments. Good decks or tier*** one decks will always have some or all of the following qualities:

  1. Consistency. A good deck in any card game has to have consistency. Consistency comes up in the ability to get to your win condition on a more regular basis. This might come from just blind drawing a large amount of cards (e.g. Great Nature) or searching your deck for specific cards (e.g. Royals, Gears). All this being said, a consistent deck usually tries to achieve a winning board state+ and/or ensure it has enough cards to adequately defend itself.
  2. Pressure. Every good deck has a form of pressure, which is the instance a player is being threatened with the loss of advantage or the chance of victory. Pressuring the opponent can come in different forms. Be it in the form of controlling the opponents moves (e.g. Link Joker, Kagero) or just ripping into them usually in the form of either a large combo attack(e.g. Great Nature, Royals) or consistently jabbing (or poking) at the opponent (e.g. Gear Chronicle, Aqua Force). If your deck is consistent but lacks pressure, you need to do a revision.
  3. Recovery. Sometimes things fall flat. It happens. Recovery is the ability for a deck to come back from being put in a bind or drawing poorly (yes, even good decks have dead draws). An example would be getting Mikesaburo to grab your grade 3 unit after going 2 turns without seeing one. Another example is the grade 1 seven seas deck, which can constantly create a full attacking board from an empty field despite the opponent attacking or retiring rearguards.
  4. Match ups. A good deck will generally only have one or two horrible match ups if that. It’s very common for high tier 1 decks to only have a bad match up against a random tier 2 or tier 3 deck that nobody typically plays. Some decks do not specialize or excel in any particular strategy or play style, but they can fight every deck in the game adequately with a bit of practice.

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

Images of cards came from http://cardfight.wikia.com/wiki/Cardfight!!_Vanguard_Wiki. These images may have been re-sized.

* “Piloting a deck” is another way of saying playing a deck on a consistent basis.

** A rogue deck is a deck that is not seen often in tournaments but is deemed as a dark horse (or a deck that can win events without anyone expecting it).

*** Tiers are expected levels of performance that players sort decks into based on their hypothetical performance at tournaments.

+ A winning board state is a game or board state that the player tries to achieve that will have the best chance of achieving victory in a game.

How to Read the Meta


The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

As a player of any card game the most beneficial thing you can gain is knowledge. Learning the meta and how to predict and read it is something that will greatly help any player. When talking about meta in a card game, it typically means what decks have the most success in winning and see the most play.  For example, let’s say there are five upcoming tournaments. After each tournament the results show that out of the top eight decks six of them are all Royal Paladin. Not only are they Royal Paladin, but they are all the same type of deck. This is what card game players define as meta game (or meta for short). A deck or archetype that has constant winnings over a span of time is considered a meta deck. What keeps card games fresh is that the meta is constantly changing majority of the time. Whatever deck may be doing well now may not have the same success a month down the line. What can you do to figure out the characteristics of the meta? In order to determine the meta, the player must consider the type of tournament that he or she will participant in and how to read the meta for each type of tournament. 

Basically, there are really two types of tournaments. These two tournaments are local level tournaments and higher level tournaments (e.g. regional tournaments).  Locals are a type of tournament that are held generally once a week at your local card shop. Reading the meta here is arguably the hardest at first. Due to the nature of the tournament a lot of players will play whatever they want whether said deck is meta or not. To really read the meta here, you will have to learn what your local players like to play. For example, if you have a player there that likes to play great nature odds are when Great Nature gets support again that player will play Great Nature during that time.

Higher level tournaments are a different ball game. These tournaments almost always attract a greater numbers of players than your local tournament. People all over the region or the country travel to compete in these tournaments. To figure out what is meta in these tournaments, there are a number of options you can take. The first and probably best option is to look at recent tournament toppings. Here is a helpful link to do that (http://cf-vanguard.com/en/cardlist/deckrecipe/). In this link, you can see a number of different event records and see the most used clans in each tournament. Looking at web sites and records of larger tournaments that is within your region or country will give you a general idea of what to expect. Another option is to look at the Japanese and Singapore topping records. Now two things to note before doing this. Firstly, some players will advise you not to do this because they firmly believe the English card game has much different toppings than the Japanese or Singapore toppings. The fact is that the English game tends to follow closely to the same meta as the Japanese/Singapore meta. The English players tend to not play the best decks as much as the Japanese/Singapore players would, however English players still do play these decks very much. The second thing to note is that Japanese/Singapore players receive card sets a little bit earlier than English players. This allows players to see how cards in the next set are doing before the English players get them. By considering this, players can prepare early for decks to come later. I good place to look for stuff like this is (http://cf-vanguard.com/deckrecipe/ * +).

If you do these things mentioned above, you can always be ahead of the meta game. As you grow and learn as a player you will be able to see more and more vividly what will become meta just by playing a deck. This can take some time to figure out, so do not worry if you do not understand this right away. For now, look at these helpful links and stay active within your community if you want to stay ahead of the crowd. Consider these things, and you will be on your way to becoming a better player in no time.

* For this website you will more than likely have to open it up twice as it will try to redirect you to the English page.

+ For help with finding deck lists from around the world, one can visit our post on finding such deck lists here: https://cardfightlabtech.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/america-meta-game-vs-japan-meta-game/

Psychology of the Fight: How To Use and Avoid Mental Manipulation (Part 1)

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.

Over my years of cardfighting, I have noticed that players seem to alter their playstyle by the smallest things their opponent does, and some opponents do these things on purpose. I’m here to point out how to use and counter these ways of manipulating your opponent’s playstyle in your favor in a match of Cardfight!! Vanguard.

Play Speed


Let’s say you’re playing a slow, conservative generation break deck, and your opponent is playing a deck like beast deities. As soon as they ride grade 2, they rapidly place their cards down and immediately start attacking your vanguard, ignoring your rearguards. The turn is over in 15 seconds, and it’s your turn. You ride quickly, call out your hand quickly just like they did in the heat of the moment, and attack their vanguard with all of your units. You have just altered your conservative/control playstyle by copying your opponent’s moves. This happens a lot more often than you may think, and some players will do this on purpose to rile you up and make you misplay.

Humans tend to emulate what other humans do and feel, based on actions and appearances. Most generation break decks focus on controlling the  in the early game, and counter aggro* decks by attacking rearguards. But because you’ve been flustered by your opponent’s speed, you copy their movements as to feel like you’re not falling behind.

How to Counter:

Countering this is very easy. Once you know this happens, all you have to do is ignore it and play like you would normally in that situation. On the other side of the spectrum, if you are playing a G break deck and your opponent is playing an aggro* deck, playing slowly may affect their mental momentum, and cause them to misplay as well out of frustration from your slow play.

How to Take Advantage:

If your opponent does not know about this way of influencing people, you can bait them into committing more cards to the field than they would normally by altering your play speed.

How You Hold Your Cards

Situation 1:

You have all your combo pieces ready to go. The opponent is at five damage. You stride your best G Unit you’ve been waiting for all game to use. Your opponent’s hand is collapsed (like a closed fan) and in their hand against the table. You’ve been wanting to do this combo all game, and they seem to not have enough cards to guard all of your attacks. You decide to go all in, but your opponent somehow manages to block it all and kill you with his or her powerful stride. After the match, the opponent says that he or she had 13 cards in hand during that turn.

By holding the hand of cards collapsed, it caused you to misjudge the size at a glance, and your excitement to pull of your combo distracted you from asking how many cards they had in their hand. Also, be careful of double sleeves, as they can make it seem as though they have more cards in their hand than they really have when they are stacked on top of one another.

Situation 2:

You have all your combo pieces ready to go. The opponent is at five damage. However, your opponent is flaunting their easy-to-count thirteen card hand up high in a fan-style way of holding them. Because of this, you decide to hold off on your best G Unit and instead go for a more safe play to tear down their hand size for the next turn. At the end of the turn they have 8 cards left, and they pull an insane combo with most of those cards and you lose. You notice all of them have 5000 shield, and after the match the show you their four grade 3’s they had in hand during your last turn.

By flaunting their hand, it caused you to rethink your strategy, and it made you change your playstyle entirely. What you didn’t realize is that they only had one perfect guard, 4 grade three units, and a bunch of 5000 shields/combo pieces**. If you had gone all in, the opponent would have had to guard with all of those combo pieces, ruining their potential combination plays, and potentially allowing you to win the game.

How to Counter:

Situation 1: Always keep your cool, and ask your opponent how many cards they have in their hand before making big plays.

Situation 2: Try to remember what your opponent has in their hand throughout the game based on drive checks (see article titled Open Hand, Closed Hand for more information), and be suspicious when your opponent all of a sudden flaunts their hand size at the start of your turn.

How to Take Advantage:

Situation 1: If you have a large hand size and you know you can guard whatever attacks your opponent will throw at you, it is good to collapse it so that you can mislead your opponent into thinking how many cards you have in hand. Sometimes players forget to even check their opponent’s hand size because it is not in their face this way.

Situation 2: If you have a large hand size but a low amount of guard, it is good to flaunt the hand as much as possible to the opponent, so that they are deterred from making any power plays that might kill you. This doesn’t work all the time, as some people may take you up on that challenge and go all in anyways.

So that’s all for this week, although there are many more ways you can be affected by these subtle mind games. Stay tuned for more in the future!

*This refers to decks that mainly on focus on aggressive attacking strategies. This is similar to aggro decks in Magic: The Gathering, as defined here: http://mtgsalvation.gamepedia.com/Aggro_deck.
**This refers to units that are used to accomplish attack combinations.
Featured image is that of the card Mindgames from Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. All rights belong to Blizzard Entertainment. Image is provided at http://hearthstone.gamepedia.com/Mindgames. Image may have been resized.