Efficiency is King: Why Aggro Hasn't Gone Away
by, 03-24-2015 at 08:00 AM (627 Views)
In the early formats of collectable card games, aggressive strategies appear to have the upper hand at first because they often are among the easiest strategies to grasp. As people learn and grow and find new ways to exploit card abilities, there is usually a shift and other builds become viable winning archetypes. That hasn't been the case in Dice Masters to this point, and I'd like to share the reasons why.
See? I'm even using that image again!
One of the earliest articles that I wrote for this website made note of the fact that not only do we need to draw comparisons between this game and collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering or Pokémon - we also need to compare it to deck building games. The reason is pretty obvious. This game has its roots as much in Quarriors as it does in CCGs. And Quarriors, of course, is just a deck building game with dice instead of cards.
Building an Engine
Deck building games rely on a player's ability to make efficient and cost-effective purchases. In order to maximize efficiency, players do things like removing cards from their rotation once they are no longer useful, or because they give a better bonus when used in a different way, like a construct in Ascension or a Starbase in Star Realms. This ensures that your best and most effective cards cycle through as often as possible. I touched upon this in the aforementioned article:
It was also the topic of one of our earliest episodes of the podcast, the "churn" episode, now unfortunately lost to the dust of cyberspace. In Dice Masters, we have multiple opportunities for this sort of culling. We can field dice, or we can use churn techniques to our advantage."One important mechanism in deck building games is the ability to flush out cards that are no longer important to your strategy. This is most effectively used on the starting resources, which often become obsolete rather quickly. In our case, this is the sidekicks. These resources quickly become useless to us as they can offer, at most, one energy for us to spend. Thinning the herd is important, because it lets us draw the dice that we want more often."
Fielding that die can cost anywhere from zero to three energy. It has its drawbacks in certain cases, but also has its advantages. For example, early in the life of this game, fielding sidekicks was considered to be good way to get them out of the rotation (especially when they synergize with Gobby).
But fielding characters is not the reason that aggressive teams continue to be the most effective teams. The reason for that is churn, most especially the incredible efficiency that Professor X grants.
I have one speed, I have one gear: go!
In our game efficiency is king and aggressive play by way of playing the most things possible on your turnis almost always rewarded. It's like this in every deck building game, which is why the mechanism itself isn't surprising. But the effect is dramatically magnified here. This is because instead of playing to 50+ points, as in something like Star Realms, we're only playing with 20.
Now conventional wisdom would say that Professor X and his global allows people to purchase cards that felt out-of-reach before. However, that's only technically true, because those pricier characters don't get bought fast enough. That's because what he alsodid was make four-cost characters the sweet spot, enabling 50% or more of one's life total - the points that win the game - to be gone in one fell swoop. There is nothing so efficient that it gets you halfway to your goal that early on in any other deck building game.
There is no direct counter to the ability, which especially makes it stand out. Prismatic Spray could wipe every global, but you need it to come up the right way a majority of turns. Further, other than something like Halfling Thief, which is new and untested, there is no way to force inefficiency on your opponent as regularly as they can tap into it with the global. Even getting a KO is rarely a benefit in this way, because they go to prep to be rerolled at the next opportunity instead of cycling back through the bag.
Add to that the fact that the genre of game that this falls under doesn't generally reward a longer, more controlling game. As such, constructed continues to be a game of aggressive teams racing to the kill first.