Reading Old Deck Lists

Whether in Magic or Yu-Gi-Oh! or Cardfight!! Vanguard, many blogs have come before that have done card and deck profiles that, for the most part, outlast their immediate usefulness. Formats come and go, cards are added to trading card games, and strategies change. Although these things are bound to happen (cough even here cough), there are some uses for old deck lists and old card profiles. Before I list the reasons, this list is for card and deck profiles for games that are currently being played (and not necessarily for dead card games). With this being the case, old deck lists can tell the player:

  • How certain formats change deck-building strategies. For Vanguard, formats like limit break, legion, and other mechanics encouraged certain types of decks to be built (e.g. legion encouraged faster decks to be built compared to decks built in the break-ride format). Changes in strategies can vary the power, speed, and versatility of deck builds as formats come and go, showing the player how meta games have influenced builds from the past.
  • How some decks stand the test of time. Some deck builds have been able to last through several formats or meta games. If you come across decks that have been given several deck profiles in different periods of time, this is a sign of either continued support of the deck or the strength of the deck despite its age. If it proves to be a sign of continued support, the deck (or deck archetype) might be worth picking up since there might be a trend of continued support in the future. If it proves to be a strong deck despite its age, it could still potentially perform in present tournaments despite the passage of time.
  • How dependent cards can be to changing formats. While the quality of some cards or deck strategies may last the test of time, the quality of some cards are totally reliant on playing against certain, but not all, meta games in the past. This is typically seen when certain cards only show up in certain deck lists or sporadically popup in deck or card profiles. Although these cards may have been relevant only in past formats, this can provide valuable examples of how certain cards are only optimal in certain situations.

I hope this helps in your exploration of the past! If you have any questions or comments, please provide them in the comments section.

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

Stages of Attacking Power and Shielding

One of the basic mechanics in the game of Cardfight!! Vanguard is the concept of using cards in hand to shield the vanguard or rearguards from attacks that the opponent will through your way. Shield in the game of Vanguard, according to the comprehensive rules, is “[t]he numeric value that expresses the combat strength while a card is used as a guardian”. In other words, the shield value on the card is the amount of power that it adds to the base power of the unit being attacked. The use of shield in the game can either protect rearguard units from being removed from the field due to attacks or, more importantly, prevent the vanguard from taking damage. So… how should players use the basics of shielding mechanics in Vanguard to more efficiently play the game?

Basics of Power Stages and Shields

First of all, it is important to consider what happens in combat when the ties happen. Specifically, in the event of a tie between the the defender’s power and the attacker’s power in combat, the attacker will win the battle. This is also true when adding shield to the vanguard while guarding from hand. In other words, if the power of the sum defending unit’s power and shield from hand equals the attacker’s power that is attacking the unit, then the attacker will win that battle.

With this in mind, one will also notice that shield value in this game comes in the form of defensive trigger power and the shield that can be used from hand, which comes in the form of 5k power or shield or 10k power or shield. With this being the case, stages of defensive power come in increments of 5k power. For example, if the attacker is attacking an 11k vanguard for 15k power, the defender only needs to place 5k shield (since 5k shield + 11k defending vanguard power is more than the 15k attacking unit’s power). If the attacker wants to force the defender to drop 10k shield from hand instead of 5k, then the attacking unit must reach at least 16k power, which is equal to the defender’s 11k base power and the 5k shield that the defender would place.

Implications of Power Stages

So… why is this important? Answer: This is important in order to maximize the amount of shield that the defender will need to drop in order to defend against attacks. In order to aim to force the maximum shield out of the opponent’s hand, make attacking columns that equal numbers that equals exceeds the opposing vanguard’s power in increments of 5k power. For example, if the opponent’s grade 3 vanguard will most likely be 11k base power, the player would want to create columns on his or her board that would equal 11k power, 16k power, 21k power, 26k power etc. when attacking/boosting with each column. Keep in mind that the increments might change due to the base power of the vanguard.

This is also important for the defender, since the defender aims to maximize the impact of his or her shields. With all of this in mind, the defender wants to save shield in hand that can defend at larger stages of power by avoiding over-guarding. If an attack can be guarded by a 5k shield, it is recommended to guard with a 5k shield instead of a 10k if it can be helped, since guarding with a 10k shield would waste 5k shield that could have been used later to guard attacks from the opponent.

That is the basics around stages of attacking and shielding power in Vanguard. If you have any questions or concerns, please put them in the comments section.

On Quitting the Game

In the life cycle of a card player, there may come a time when a player decides that it is time to quit a card game and spend time and money on other pursuits. When considering whether to quit a card game, one should take time to think about it first, since selling out of a collection is easier than getting that same collection back.

Before quitting, one should consider the following:

  • If burned out, take a break instead. If one is burned out, it is better to take a break from tournaments and game play for a set amount of time instead of quitting a game prematurely. Taking a break from the game will also give a player more time to decide how one should invest or divest in a game.
  • Consider goals for the game. This note is mainly for the consideration of playing the game casually or competitively. If the player figures out that that the goals of a game do not align with the player’s buying behavior, then the player can treat his or her collection according to how the player wishes to play the game.
  • Consider the budget for the game. If money is an obstacle in updating the player’s current decks, then the player may simply need to choose decks that do not receive support often or receive cheaper support.

After considering these things and determining that (1) he or she dislikes a game or (2) considers investment in the game not worthwhile, then it may be wise to quit the game. If the player wishes to quit the game at this point, one can take one of the listed approaches to exiting any game:

  • Selling or trading the player’s collection. Selling a collection is typically the best option, since money gained from selling a collection can be used in a variety of ways outside of any other game. If one wishes to try another game, one can try to trade the collection for cards in another game. For a guide on where to sell and trade cards, one can find details at our article on places to sell and trade.
  • Keeping the collection. If selling or trading the collection is too difficult or the player has large amounts of nostalgia from cards in a collection, it may be better to keep the collection. Many memories can be preserved by keeping a collection, which may be worth more than any trade or sale that one may attempt to make.

What suggestions do you have for someone transitioning out of a card game? Please comment with your suggestions or questions in the comments section below.

Places to Buy, Sell, and Trade Collectible Cards

As mentioned in a previous article, it is inefficient to try to build decks from packs that one may buy, since the cards in the pack may not be desirable for the person seeking to build a deck. With this knowledge in mind, it is important to know some places where one can find other people for the sake of buying, selling and trading cards. Some generally reliable places to trade cards include:

  • Tournaments. Whether a player is at a local tournament or at the continental championships for a particular game, players can buy and trade with other participants in a tournament. In fact, some players are incentivized at times to travel to non-local tournaments with the incentive of trading with people that they may not see on a weekly basis.
  • Gaming conventions. Like tournaments, conventions are a great place to meet new players and barter trading cards. Although this is the case, conventions seem to only be a reliable place to obtain certain cards on the condition that the convention is holding a tournament or general event related to the game that such cards come from.
  • Social media trade groups. Mainly found on Facebook, there are many trading groups available to communicate with in social media. With this avenue of communication and connection with traders, it is important to find and abide by the rules that such groups have in place, both for the protection and effectiveness of the player’s trading interactions.
  • Auction websites. When the player is only interested in buying or selling cards, a great thing to consider is the plethora of auction sites that are available (such as eBay). These sites give the player the ability to either auction cards or sell them at a certain price.

What are your thoughts on this? Any other locations that anyone finds useful for buying, trading, and selling cards? Please leave and questions you have in the comments section.

Shuffling

Label Pangolin

Label Pangolin

One of the more common elements of card games in general is the method and concept behind shuffling. Shuffling is the process of randomizing the deck or decks of cards that either the player or players by mixing the order of the cards in said deck or decks of cards. Many card games share this mechanic, as it relies on the shuffling of cards in order to bring an element of chance to the player’s experience when using or drawing cards from shuffled decks.

Types of Shuffling

Since the method of shuffling is very important to achieve randomness in card games before and during games, it is also important to know some of the common methods of shuffling that card game players use. Some methods of shuffling are better at randomizing the order of a deck of cards than others, and some have more utility outside of randomizing the cards in a deck. With these things in mind, here are some of the common methods of shuffling that can be seen in the trading card game community:

  • Riffle Shuffle. This method of shuffling involves taking halves of a card deck and letting the card cascade into each other in such a way that the cards in the two halves interweave each other at the end of the shuffle.
  • Overhand. Shuffling in this way involves continuously taking a portion of the deck and moving it to the top of the deck, which rearranges groups of cards to achieve the shuffle.
  • Mash. Like the riffle shuffle, this method involves taking halves of the card deck and pushing the two halves together in such a way that the two halves interweave and combine into a singular pile of cards.
  • Pile. This shuffle consists of separating cards in equal piles one card face down at a time until the deck is all separated into equal or semi-equal piles, which are then combined into one pile after sorting. Although this seems like shuffling, card players in other games do not see this as a effective way to randomize one’s deck.

Best Way to Shuffle Cards?

With all of these options for shuffling that the player could choose, which one is best for tournament and casual play? When looking for the best shuffle that the player should choose, it seems logical to choose the shuffling method that is the most effective at randomizing the order of the cards in a deck. With a little bit of research, the riffle shuffle seems to be the best of the methods mentioned above, which takes takes 7-8 times to randomize a 52 playing card deck 2,3,4,5. The overhand shuffle may be good at randomizing groups of cards, but some statistical research showed that it takes 10,000 times to mathematically randomize a 52 playing card deck 1. Mash shuffling can replicate the randomizing power of the riffle shuffling, but only if done correctly. Although not as effective as a riffle shuffle, the mash shuffle can be seen, as Escapist writer Joshua Vanderwall said, as a “general approximation of a riffle shuffle”6. Pile shuffling is good at counting the cards in the deck in the beginning of the game, but is not seen as an effective way to randomize a deck of cards, whether by outside sources 9 or rulings in other games such as Magic: The Gathering. Although this is the case, pile shuffling is recommended in order to make sure all the cards are present in your deck at the beginning of the game 8.

I hope this helped clear up a few things about shuffling in card games for those who wanted a general overview. To view the sources referenced, please reference the list below. Please leave questions and comments in the comments section.


List of Sources

  1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01048267
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/1990/01/09/science/in-shuffling-cards-7-is-winning-number.html
  3. http://www.mtgsalvation.com/forums/magic-fundamentals/magic-general/334934-shuffling-the-truth-and-maths-primer
  4. http://projecteuclid.org/DPubS/Repository/1.0/Disseminate?view=body&id=pdf_1&handle=euclid.aoap/1177005705
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxJubaijQbI
  6. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/tabletop/columns/hexproof/9430-Shuffling-is-Not-a-Formality
  7. http://www.starcitygames.com/article/8565_The-Beginner-s-Guide-to-Shuffling-and-Deck-Randomization.html
  8. http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/news/magic-tournament-rules-release-notes-2017-01-16
  9. http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/misc/4832_What_Was_Mike_Long_Doing_In_The_Last_Round_or_Why_Pile_Shuffling_Isnt_Random.html

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

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 http://cardfight.wikia.com/wiki/Cardfight!!_Vanguard_Wiki. These images may have been re-sized.


Bibliography

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. http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/blogs/freakonomics/pdf/DeliberatePractice%28PsychologicalReview%29.pdf Accessed 27 January 2017.

“Geek Pop Star”. New York. http://nymag.com/arts/books/features/52014/index2.html 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. http://scottbarrykaufman.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Macnamara-et-al.-2014.pdf Accessed 27 January 2017.

Vermeer, Alex. “The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman – Review & Summary”. June 2013. https://alexvermeer.com/the-first-20-hours/ Accessed 27 January 2017.