Git Gud #1: I suck at card games feat. Shadowverse

Hi there! I don’t usually update this blog, but hopefully that’ll change starting today. I’ll be trying to write some fun and interesting content on a regular basis for everyone to read.

To kick off my blog, I’m starting a series called Git Gud. It’ll be a collection of adventures and stories during my struggle to, well, Git Gud at video games and perhaps other things too. With so many games out nowadays I always try to set some kind of goal to reach before moving on to the next. With single player games it’s pretty straightforward—you just beat the game, but for multiplayer games and in particular MMOs it’s harder to gauge when to move on. For me, I’m satisfied when I feel I’ve reached a certain level of competency within the game. It might be an achievement that I’m shooting for, or perhaps just an inner feeling of mastery. Either way, I hope my stories of Gitting Gud will be an entertaining read, thanks for stopping by!

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Card Games? I only collect Pokemon cards

Do you remember Pokemon cards? Almost everyone in my school had a pile of cards they carried around with them at all times. Be it starter decks they bought from the local toy store with pocket money, or a collection of shiny cards they kept in faux-leather card holders, they were popular collectables that became the source of many student conflicts and parent arguments. The kids with the most rare cards were the popular ones. They’d sling their cartoon character backpacks onto the classroom tables before class started, whip out an A4 binder of neatly arranged Pokemon cards, and cackle as the less fortunate students, such as myself, fawned over the glistening foils.

As silly as it sounds, I was one of the few kids in school that realised they weren’t just collectables. After all, what else would those numbers and words on the card be used for? It wasn’t like the football stickers that we used to trade and collect—they were actually meant to be played with. My family wasn’t very well-off, so the small amount of pocket money I got was pooled together for a starter deck instead of individual packs. A lot of kids would throw away the box, manual, and sometimes even all the energy cards—they were only interested in the pictures and shiny rares. Being the little nerd I was, I decided to actually read the manual to try and understand the game.

I couldn’t persuade anyone to play with me. Almost everyone was convinced that the cards were solely for collecting (or they didn’t want to soil their rares by bringing them out of their sleeves) and the few kids that were interested didn’t have enough cards to make a complete deck. It wasn’t until I got my hands on the Pokemon TCG for Game Boy that I actually got to play a match, and it quickly became one of my favourite games for the handheld, surpassing even the core Pokemon games.

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Too poor for Hearthstone

I’ve played various video game incarnations of TCGs since then. Yu-Gi-Oh was extremely popular in my secondary school and I participated in some matches with friends during lunch breaks, but the majority of my duelling was done on PC versions of the game. The beta release of Hearthstone also prompted me to give card games another go, but I spent very little time on it in favour of the MMOs I was playing at the time.

Hearthstone was different to the other video game TCGs I played because there was no way to grind for cards. The only options were to gamble gold on arena runs, slowly completing daily quests, or paying money. At the beginning, everyone played basic decks and it was an innocent and fun experience. I spent a little bit of money to buy packs, but I never got interesting cards (5-card packs suck) and as the meta evolved, I fell behind due to a lack of decent cards.

It was disheartening and a far cry from the feature-rich video game TCGs I played in the past. Even now when I go back to Hearthstone, watching my opponents at rank 20 churn out legendaries and cards loaded with several lines of text makes it difficult to enjoy. Thanks to the sophisticated drafting assistants available now, arena is still enjoyable and a great way to grind for cards to play in constructed. However, I longed for something new to sink my teeth into and rekindle my interest in card games.

My prayer was answered with the release of Shadowverse, a mobile CCG that plays similarly to Hearthstone (and has awesome art to boot!). I tinkered around for some time on the android version, but with the impending Steam release I contained my excitement and patiently waited for the PC version. Glorious high-res art, 1080p, 60 FPS—take that, mobile peasants!

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Using my brain for the first time

Despite not actively playing Hearthstone, I love watching content from entertaining personalities such as AmazHS and Kripparrian. I find it extremely helpful to immerse myself in a game or genre that I want to learn, much like how it’s recommended to absorb a country’s culture if you want to study the language. I picked up concepts like tempo and aggro from watching their streams, and their informative videos helped to form a solid foundation for my CCG journey.

Unfortunately, no amount of research and planning could have prepared me for the embarrassment that was my first few games. After every bad play I made, I kicked myself for not slowing down and actually taking time to think before I made a move. I consider myself a “fast” gamer: I enjoy speed-running things in MMORPGs, I’m an avid rhythm game enthusiast, and I love fast-paced shooters. I seldom play games that require more thought than “hit a button at the right time”, and the various strategy games I did play either weren’t competitive or had a pause button.

Slamming on the brakes was key to overcoming many of the silly mistakes I made. I was accustomed to Kripparrian’s “Curvestone” rants, and it made sense to play a 1 PP card, followed by 2 PP, then 3 PP, and so on. However, there were occasions where I had multiple low-PP cards to play, or it was beneficial to not play anything at all. Sometimes there’s only a single option within your hand, but getting into the habit of thinking before every action was one of the biggest boons to my (limited) success in Shadowverse.

The most obvious example I can think of is preparing for combos. Runecraft’s Spellboost mechanic promotes holding onto cards to boost their effectiveness, and it can be beneficial to wait for big Spellboost cards such as Dimension Shift until you start playing all your low-PP spells. Another example is Forestcraft: on turn 3, I sometimes play a 1 PP Nature’s Guidance to return a 2 PP Fairy Whisperer that I played on my previous turn, and then play it again to gain another 2 Fairy cards to prepare for upcoming combos, as opposed to playing a 3 PP card like Archer and risk losing it before making use of the effect. These are obvious plays to most CCG players, but it was a revelation that really helped boost my win rate.

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Going for the face… a bit too much

Shadowverse has a unique mechanic known as Evolution. Each follower in the game has an evolved state that typically grants +2/+2, allows it to attack enemy followers on the same turn it was played, and might even grant addition effects such as Floral Fencer which summons two additional followers. Evolutions grant huge tempo swings and can be used in both an aggressive and defensive manner, and using them efficiently is key to winning a game of Shadowverse.

I played my first few ranked games with a cheap Swordcraft deck that almost always went for face damage. The speed and aggressive nature of the deck matched the play-style I was looking for, and it was a quick way to earn some wins to complete my daily missions. Aggressively evolving followers for more face damage is a completely valid strategy for this style of deck. However, that aggressive play-style didn’t translate well to my first few attempts at a Control Runecraft deck.

My evolutions were almost always used on the first few followers I could play to kill enemy followers that were already on the board. The fast play-style of Swordcraft ingrained the use of early and aggressive evolutions into me. Loss after loss, I blamed almost everything: my cards, my draws, my opponent’s cards, my mouse—everything but myself.

When I’m not frothing at the mouth from a salt overdose I can be quite analytical about my plays. It didn’t take long for me to realise that evolving aggressively didn’t work in control-oriented decks, and with a few adjustments I began to see the wonders of a slow-paced and well thought out game of Shadowverse. Not only has it increased my enjoyment of the game, it’s also opened up possibilities for me to play decks that don’t aim for the face 95% of the time.

5

I still suck

I still have a lot to learn about Shadowverse and CCGs in general. I used to consider myself a fast learner, but that self-praise has been crushed with my horrible performance so far in Shadowverse. It’s a fun journey that continues to open my eyes about the intricacies of card games, and I hope to continue improving, one mistake at a time.

To quote my editor at MMOs.com:

it is important to push yourself in new directions. Always challenge yourself outside of your comfort zone. That’s how you grow and get better and whatever you want to do.

For me, card games are out of my comfort zone and then some. Using my brain is hard.

Ooga booga

i hit face

 

 

 

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