• The Transition Zone: The Frustration Factor



    Welcome back to The Transition Zone where we discuss what it takes to move from the world of kitchen table gaming to competitive play. This week I return this series with a topic that seems to have come up quite a bit recently. There is something that I hear constantly from players whether they are casual new players, average or high level competition players. I hear it being said over and over, especially midway through a game or after the competition of a hard fought match. These same words are said by opponents on either end of the playmat, but more often than not they are said by the person who raced to zero life the fastest. I am guilty of it, and after playing with some higher level competitive players recently, I realized we were all saying it or a variation of it. Today on The Transition Zone I want to address this statement echoed since the creation of this game:

    “I just don't know how to play against that card/cards. I never play against it in my meta.”

    Is this something you have said or hear said in the competitive arena? Are you guilty of saying it yourself? Have you brought a card so unique that it throws your opponent into a tizzy that they just don't know what to do but utter the same sentence?

    The Culprits

    First off, let's look at who or what elicits these kind of responses. There are many cards out in the wild for this game, but not all of them should bring out about the type of response we are talking about. Just because you have never played against the rare Oni or the uncommon Nightcrawler doesn't mean that they should give you the visceral response described above.

    But we know the cards that DO create the response I am talking about right? The ones that make you shake your head in utter frustration. These are some of the ones that for me personally have brought on this reaction in myself when I play:

    Jinzo
    Hulk Green Goliath
    Umber hulk
    Guy Gardner
    Zombie Magneto
    Doomcaliber Knight
    Dwarf Wizard
    Elf Thief
    OP Scarecrow
    Ring of Magnetism
    Wonder Girl/Lord of D
    Obelisk
    Parallax
    M.Rod
    M.Puzzle
    Cloud Kill
    Vicious Struggle
    Polymorph
    Transfer Power
    Imprisoned

    The Emotional Response

    So what is it that drives this feeling in you when someone plays that card that brings on the aforementioned response? I think it is a few different things, but more than anything it is a combination of uncertainty and surprise. You don't know how to play against a card on the table because you have never truly played against it. Jinzo wrecked me at World Qualifiers last year because I didn't know how to play against him and when I saw him, I became uncertain of what my game plan really was. That coupled with the fact that I had never seen him before and no specific game plan to address him hurt.

    The other aspect of emotional response that I think is key to point out is frustration. Frustration as a mechanic in this game can turn the tables against you or tip them in your favor depending on who is experiencing it more. This comes in many forms: poor dice rolling, regrets of purchase order, ill-timed play of dice/globals or not getting the draw from the bag you need when you need it. But frustration rears its ugly head here when you line up against a card that you do not know how to play against. And that throws off your game and allows you to do the one thing that you absolutely cannot do often and still win-make mistakes. Mistakes lead to more frustration, which leads to continued bad play, which leads to higher frustration which contributes to further miss-plays which…you see where this is going. Having an effective card or combo that you are unfamiliar with will lead to all of this hitting you hard as a player and it isn't pretty.


    Options-You Only Have Two


    So you have the card or cards you don’t know how to play against, and you are at your point of surprise/frustration that is going to possibly turn the tide away from you and to your opponent. You will do one of two things as a player no matter how experienced you are-ignore it or try to work through it/around it.

    Maybe you have an answer on how to take care of it. Removal, shut-down, or some variance of control to lock down the card and address it from hurting you. The card throws you off but no problem for you because you are a prepared player. If you do then you are a step ahead of most. And this doesn't really apply to those situations. I am talking about those times when you don’t know how to address the oppression and you feel like every option is failing you.

    I have been in that place before and it isn't fun. I remember the first time I played against Transfer Power and Lord of D + Ring of Magnetism. I thought I had seen everything, and I definitely had not seen that before. I had removal, but it didn't work. I felt handcuffed and completely neutralized from doing anything effective. My will had been completely overrun by the will of my opponent. I did the same to another person the first time I used it on them.

    So that leaves you in a place where you need to work around it or through it. And this is the place you want to be. Once you have discovered what you can do, you need to move into it. There are always holes and weaknesses to everything, and sometimes those exact things are on the team of the person bringing the headache combo you are running into.

    My best example of that would be playing against the Apologies In Advanced team build. For those unfamiliar, you can find it HERE. This team is punishing and with the beholder all of your fielded characters get captured and slowly taken from you. Playing this team and just doing what you normally do will get you hurt and bring out the worst in you, mostly feelings of frustration and rage. It is meant to do that. But the team has answers and even brings one itself. Your opponent doesn't buy his Imprisoned dice, but you can. You can use that to grab his Beholder and keep him from doing his thing. The key to these teams is that they work well when you are not prepared and not thinking. Which brings us to our last point.


    Take Time With a Wounded Hand


    Stop. Just stop for a minute. Breathe in, breathe out. Look at the board-all of it. I know you are frustrated and feeling defeated right now. But you need to take time and think. Yes you have a wounded team and may feel like things aren't going your way. But one of the keys to transitioning to a more competitive player is knowing how and when to take control of the game. Nothing is impenetrable in this game 100%. There are ways to get through or around the thing that has brought on this visceral response, and if you can get around it you can win. Can you flood the board or buy BACs that your opponent brought? Do you have a way to take care of it that you didn't plan to play your team as initially, but now can see how it would work? Can you turn their tricks back on them? Playing the Viscous Struggle mini-game for example can help you turn the tables on your opponent and give it back to them when you run into one of these "I don't know what to do" situations.

    How do you get there in the long term? Practice and more practice. Stay calm and look at it all your options. Learn to be a better pilot and run the team you are playing effectively. It is in those moments that you will be able to face the difficult situation that is laid out in front of you and come up with a solution. And when you take away the advantage that a new, unknown team has on you by knowing your board state, knowing your team and knowing how to overcome-you will win. Because remember-a good pilot always beats a good team.
    Comments 18 Comments
    1. Ressless's Avatar
      Ressless -
      Thanks for this great article, i wish some people would read this BUT, there is this thing called horizon. If the person doesn't to widen his, then reading this article won't help. *sad face*

      But i know exactly what you mean and want to tell us.

      I brought Rare Wasp with my team because my team works with Overcrush and Ant-Man global . Problem is, my opponent has Hulk in his team and could ping him this way. I am doomed when Hulk hits the table! So my only choice is a) give up OR b) try to maximize the damage i can do until Hulk arrives. So its 1:1 now and final match will be played tomorrow.^^
    1. Yort's Avatar
      Yort -
      It seems like for many people in The Transition Zone, this can easily work out to this: get your butt handed to you, then post on here or a Facebook group that X card is ridiculous and this game is broken, etc.

      I'd like to point out two things in this situation.

      One: if you are the one dishing out the whuppin', please do your best to help avoid the above situation. Sure, if you're in a WKO tournament, you're not going to tell them how to beat your team during the game. But after the game, explain how your team works, maybe some options on dealing with it, maybe even some moves they could have made with their team to counter it. Anything you can do to help them to leave with a "well, that was the most enjoyable butt-kicking I've ever handed, what a clever mechanic. Maybe I'll have to play around with that and make it my own, or make sure I can beat it in the future."

      Often times the answer is right in front of you, it's just hard to see it at the time. Like when you are losing your guys to Apologies in Advance, for example - in the moment, you're just going &#^!, but when you look back, you realize as Isaac said, you could buy your the Imprisoned die yourself and use it on the Beholder.

      Two: If you are the one who just got the whuppin', I would heartily suggest that you check out the Wiki on this site. For most cards you come up against, the page for that card will have a rather lengthy list of ways to counter it. Or maybe you come up with another one, you can add that.
    1. agentj's Avatar
      agentj -
      I could not agree more. I look at getting beat as an opportunity to learn about the game, the card, the mechanic, etc. When I started playing this game I did not win a game for three weeks. During those three weeks, in which I played at three different stores each week, I learned a lot. Not saying I am a great player because I still have a lot to learn, however if you look as the loss as a learning experience you will become a better player and pilot.
    1. zeon20's Avatar
      zeon20 -
      You really do learn more from a loss than a easy victory. When DND BOF was first released, I had a really cool thematic all dragon team I thought was awesome with half dragons and curse of dragon loops and the quirky stuff lol. Two weeks later, I then face a Nova bolt team my friend was running that smashed my dragon team 4 - 0. But thanks to that brutal defeat I was able to develop some tech to allow my dragons to keep up with the meta n do fairly well n some of the highest levels of competition. So I understand the saltiness of losing, but dont let it frustrate you or deter you from playing what you like. Learn, grow, adapt, and overcome!
    1. IsaacBV's Avatar
      IsaacBV -
      All well said guys!

      I forgot to mention that great point that not every card is "broken" just because it best you. Learn to beat it and up the play level between you and your opponents.

      From @zeon20 last sentence, it reminds me of one of things said in Taekwondo: I don't lose. I either win or I learn.
    1. CobraCommander's Avatar
      CobraCommander -
      What adds unnecessarily to this frustration is playing against AvX cards you werent around to purchase while they were being printed. How do you practice against OOP cards when your local meta just got into DM and they dont have them to use? I guess you can proxy and pretend. But you cant use a proxied card in a WKO. I dont make this point because I want a lengthy discussion about set rotation. Please just don't. Regardless of what side of the fence you sit on, the basic LOGIC of a game that my opponent has something available to him/her that IS NOT AVAILABLE TO ME is frustrating. Take any basic game: monopoly for example. I got there first and only I can buy boardwalk. It's not like my opponent needs boardwalk to win so I guess it's still fair right? Of course it isn't. That would be my biggest frustration. Did I gotout of my way to trade for hulk dice, hulk GG to go to the WKO? Guilty. I honesty wish I didn't though.

      This aside, I'd like to end on something positive. I enjoyed your article tremendously. I do get that frustration in the back of my head when I see the slide to losing and I should just be taking a step back instead of irritatingly making costly mistakes. And even if its hopeless... find something to laugh at because it is a game afterall. And perhaps just as importantly, learn from the game. Griping and complaining about supposed OP strategies isn't learning. Adapting with a smile is.
    1. ctuchik's Avatar
      ctuchik -
      I both agree and disagree with your post.

      I think it is a good idea to look at the whole board, and several times your opponent's globals and basic actions can be used against him. It can also tell you which of your character dice to prioritize vs. theirs.

      However, where I disagree is that you will necessarily have an answer for a card. There are several cards that you may never see in your local scene and it will surprise you. While there are several answers for cards like Guy Gardner, if you don't have any of them, you're probably going to have an un-fun time. I feel like the article is really shallow in the sense that you're just telling people not to cry and to not give up. While good advice, I don't think there's any substance there.

      Just as a bit of a sticking point; there are 1,366 Unique Cards in Dice Masters.

      Of those Less than 100 are competitive.

      As a proof of point, the 1st and 2nd place teams of the last 2 PDC's (all regions)have only played 79 unique cards.

      The bottom line is if you want to play competitively, you need to learn how to deal with these top cards, or buy them yourself. There's a reason these cards are at the top, and it would be foolish to dismiss them.
      Anyone can go out, buy a gravity feed and play, but if you want to compete less than 5% of the printed cards matter.
    1. Jwannabe's Avatar
      Jwannabe -
      Quote Originally Posted by ctuchik View Post
      I both agree and disagree with your post.

      I think it is a good idea to look at the whole board, and several times your opponent's globals and basic actions can be used against him. It can also tell you which of your character dice to prioritize vs. theirs.

      However, where I disagree is that you will necessarily have an answer for a card. There are several cards that you may never see in your local scene and it will surprise you. While there are several answers for cards like Guy Gardner, if you don't have any of them, you're probably going to have an un-fun time. I feel like the article is really shallow in the sense that you're just telling people not to cry and to not give up. While good advice, I don't think there's any substance there.

      Just as a bit of a sticking point; there are 1,366 Unique Cards in Dice Masters.

      Of those Less than 100 are competitive.

      As a proof of point, the 1st and 2nd place teams of the last 2 PDC's (all regions)have only played 79 unique cards.

      The bottom line is if you want to play competitively, you need to learn how to deal with these top cards, or buy them yourself. There's a reason these cards are at the top, and it would be foolish to dismiss them.
      Anyone can go out, buy a gravity feed and play, but if you want to compete less than 5% of the printed cards matter.
      I would disagree with the less than 100 cards are competitive comment, respectfully. I find that it is more the case that 90% of players are not creative.

      But yes, you do need to prepare for popular cards to be competitive yourself.
    1. gkpon66's Avatar
      gkpon66 -
      Thanks for the article Issac, yet another good article that new people can read and learn from. With a properly open mind.
    1. StrangeBrew's Avatar
      StrangeBrew -
      Thank you once again for a great article. Here are a couple of my thoughts. Because Dice Masters continues to grow in popularity, new cards keep coming out at a very quick pace, so new counters to big monsters pop up frequently. For almost every card played, there are effective, established counters, and people come up with new ones all the time. I personally hope DM does not go to a limited format where older sets are rotated out, but that is because my budget is limited and I don't want to have to make holes in playable teams and then pour money into those holes. I would also like to point out on AvX that the basic starter remains widely available still at retail cost, and picking it up guarantees a player the ability to run Hulk Jade Giant, a very effective counter card to some of those listed above (especially Green Goliath). So, to paraphrase you, Isaac, and also a King of England, when I'm jammed up I intend to "Keep Calm, Carry On, And Continue To Play Dice Masters".
    1. TheConductr's Avatar
      TheConductr -
      You should definitely remember that your opponent Mera......... (cue epic fail Price Is Right music)
    1. Jwannabe's Avatar
      Jwannabe -
      Quote Originally Posted by StrangeBrew View Post
      Thank you once again for a great article. Here are a couple of my thoughts. Because Dice Masters continues to grow in popularity, new cards keep coming out at a very quick pace, so new counters to big monsters pop up frequently. For almost every card played, there are effective, established counters, and people come up with new ones all the time. I personally hope DM does not go to a limited format where older sets are rotated out, but that is because my budget is limited and I don't want to have to make holes in playable teams and then pour money into those holes. I would also like to point out on AvX that the basic starter remains widely available still at retail cost, and picking it up guarantees a player the ability to run Hulk Jade Giant, a very effective counter card to some of those listed above (especially Green Goliath). So, to paraphrase you, Isaac, and also a King of England, when I'm jammed up I intend to "Keep Calm, Carry On, And Continue To Play Dice Masters".

      I agree with everything you said 100%. I have posted in multiple places on multiple forums you can play a very competitive team out of the avx starter. If you buy 2 you have almost everything. Sure there is a card or two that would help but the base is there.

      I'm sure someone will say this is untrue but if you can't feel like you have a chance to win with beast, human torch, storm, hulk, and Iron man then you are not trying very hard.

      On a side note, I know he's not played very much, but throw down an avx Thor against a team with a field of guy Gardners that brought relentless and watch their face
      :avx23: :avx24: :avx94:
    1. StrangeBrew's Avatar
      StrangeBrew -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jwannabe View Post
      I agree with everything you said 100%. I have posted in multiple places on multiple forums you can play a very competitive team out of the avx starter. If you buy 2 you have almost everything. Sure there is a card or two that would help but the base is there.

      I'm sure someone will say this is untrue but if you can't feel like you have a chance to win with beast, human torch, storm, hulk, and Iron man then you are not trying very hard.

      On a side note, I know he's not played very much, but throw down an avx Thor against a team with a field of guy Gardners that brought relentless and watch their face
      Thank you for the kind words. The article here at TRP on a team made completely of starter characters really opened my eyes to these possibilities several months ago, and I've tried to keep that in mind ever since then. Unless I'm flat broke I usually try to get 2 starters right out of the gate for the 4 dice in everything (as well as duplicate BAC to have multiple decks ready to go).
    1. JakeSalvage's Avatar
      JakeSalvage -
      I agree with the sentiment of the article, which is more about dealing with combos and teams you haven't seen in action or aren't prepared for. But I feel like the natural progression of this and many collectible games is what I like to think as the Competitive Singularity.

      So, if you play casual, and your group plays casual, then you don't have anything to worry about. Until someone plays competitive. Then they completely wreck everyone that brought a casual team. So some of the people who get wrecked decide to learn some counters to that play, and others decide to bring an equally competitive team instead of a casual one. Everyone gets a chance to win, eventually things cool down and everyone basically goes back to casual teams until competitive comes up again.

      So far so good. This is normal, and it's the flux of my current local meta, at least, and I enjoy this style of local play.

      BUT... sometimes, a group evolves together, becomes competitive, and they all play tourney-level teams against eachother on the regs. This could work out well, if all the players have an ample budget to continue collecting seriously, and are generally ok with a higher level of competitions.

      More often than not though, it leaves those without an ample budget out of play entirely. Without access to a lot of the more powerful cards, these players get burnt out trying to find alternatives to strategies and constantly playing reactionary teams. Thankfully, there are more cards now in the lower rarity tiers that are just as competitive, but unfortunately, there are plenty of AvX super-rares that early comers have that low-budget newer players can't afford or find... this is what I mean by Competitive Singularity. The players have reached an apex where there is no wiggle room for moving out of the higher-tier and higher-priced meta. And, just like in the Prisoner's Dillema, either all the players dial back the competitive aggression or else the players that dial it down end up getting crushed by those who stick by the competitive mindset.

      Don't get me wrong, I enjoy playing competitively... but I personally don't have the budget to keep up on Super Rares or older sets, though thankfully I have a fair amount of AvX (no SRs) and through trading locally, have managed to keep up the C-U and dice for new sets. But if the Competitive Singularity ever happened, I'd be SOL and unable to keep up... and would either try to find another group or drop off eventually.
    1. Yort's Avatar
      Yort -
      That's a great point, I unfortunately I've seen that happen several times. Even with places that are mixing up formats between Unlimited Constructed, Draft, and Themed Constrcuted, the problem becomes that some people are just plain better at the game, and they tend to win no matter what the format is. Not sure what the best solution for that would be, kinda hoping Dave comes up with something on his new blog.
    1. Jwannabe's Avatar
      Jwannabe -
      Quote Originally Posted by JakeSalvage View Post
      I agree with the sentiment of the article, which is more about dealing with combos and teams you haven't seen in action or aren't prepared for. But I feel like the natural progression of this and many collectible games is what I like to think as the Competitive Singularity.

      So, if you play casual, and your group plays casual, then you don't have anything to worry about. Until someone plays competitive. Then they completely wreck everyone that brought a casual team. So some of the people who get wrecked decide to learn some counters to that play, and others decide to bring an equally competitive team instead of a casual one. Everyone gets a chance to win, eventually things cool down and everyone basically goes back to casual teams until competitive comes up again.

      So far so good. This is normal, and it's the flux of my current local meta, at least, and I enjoy this style of local play.

      BUT... sometimes, a group evolves together, becomes competitive, and they all play tourney-level teams against eachother on the regs. This could work out well, if all the players have an ample budget to continue collecting seriously, and are generally ok with a higher level of competitions.

      More often than not though, it leaves those without an ample budget out of play entirely. Without access to a lot of the more powerful cards, these players get burnt out trying to find alternatives to strategies and constantly playing reactionary teams. Thankfully, there are more cards now in the lower rarity tiers that are just as competitive, but unfortunately, there are plenty of AvX super-rares that early comers have that low-budget newer players can't afford or find... this is what I mean by Competitive Singularity. The players have reached an apex where there is no wiggle room for moving out of the higher-tier and higher-priced meta. And, just like in the Prisoner's Dillema, either all the players dial back the competitive aggression or else the players that dial it down end up getting crushed by those who stick by the competitive mindset.

      Don't get me wrong, I enjoy playing competitively... but I personally don't have the budget to keep up on Super Rares or older sets, though thankfully I have a fair amount of AvX (no SRs) and through trading locally, have managed to keep up the C-U and dice for new sets. But if the Competitive Singularity ever happened, I'd be SOL and unable to keep up... and would either try to find another group or drop off eventually.

      A great point. This also makes it very hard for new players to break into a group completely.

      Some stores do a great job of mixing the formats, and I think the best way to bring new players is to have the majority of your events being new set focused so there is no "catch up" feeling. Then you can have an anything goes event every once in a while.
    1. Jwannabe's Avatar
      Jwannabe -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yort View Post
      That's a great point, I unfortunately I've seen that happen several times. Even with places that are mixing up formats between Unlimited Constructed, Draft, and Themed Constrcuted, the problem becomes that some people are just plain better at the game, and they tend to win no matter what the format is. Not sure what the best solution for that would be, kinda hoping Dave comes up with something on his new blog.
      This can be true for any game or sport and some will rise to the competition and others will quit. The average player though is happy if they have 1 or 2 really good games even if they lose the event.

      Sportsmanship I believe is the key to retaining players, and the average DM player to tends to possess this on spades. I would much rather lose to a person I like than a jerk.
    1. ctuchik's Avatar
      ctuchik -
      I would disagree with the less than 100 cards are competitive comment, respectfully. I find that it is more the case that 90% of players are not creative.

      But yes, you do need to prepare for popular cards to be competitive yourself.

      I can see that as a valid opinion/point.

      Players are a bit lazy at times and go for "power cards", but WizKids also just prints sub-par versions of cards a lot of the time. Even if we were to get inventive I don't think we'd ever break 200 Competitive cards. They also make a lot of themed cards that are good in draft, but unusable in unlimited.

      That's not necessarily a bad thing, it lets you know what to expect and what you'll see if you want to play competitively.

      Now, if they start printing similar effects on new cards that are existing in top cards, you'll see more diverse play and a broader list of competitive cards.