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Dave

Efficiency is King: Why Aggro Hasn't Gone Away

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See? I'm even using that image again!
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.

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.
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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:

"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."
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.

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.
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Comments

  1. Brennen Hilgendorf imported's Avatar
    Do you find that the PXG gets old after awhile? When playing games with my wife (which is my primary way of playing Dicemasters) she's actually said that she doesn't like what PXG does to the game. Since it becomes all about leveraging the advantage that the global provides you, it no longer becomes fun for her. I can definitely see her point, and I've stopped putting it into any of our decks when we play together.
  2. Jason Wolowicz imported's Avatar
    I like to play the old Prof X so I can whittle down my opponents life while they use pxg. With some of the new DC cards maybe control teams will be more viable. The new Joker teamed up with Loki so they can't field 2 characters, and Deadman which provides the first good superhero capture die I've seen. Even the SR Constantine would help block certain characters. Also, like the new Marvel Girl OP card, maybe life gain will be more possible. Maybe Age of Ultron will shake up the game like pxg did with the release of Uncanny.
  3. Brennen Hilgendorf imported's Avatar
    Maybe Agent Coulson's Card will assist with Life Gain. It'd be pretty thematic
  4. Stephen Mitchell imported's Avatar
    I refuse to build a team around PXG. If my team is efficient without him, then it's super efficient if my opponent brings him.

    And I'm okay with that.
  5. Dave imported's Avatar
    Absofrigginloutely. I am absolutely tired of this card and what it does to the game. i've been very subtly doing a series on the problems presented by this card, and I capstone it tomorrow. Stay tuned.
  6. Brennen Hilgendorf imported's Avatar
    Dave, can't wait to read it tomorrow! To me, it's the Tsarina/Gobby of UXM, and I'm feeling pretty over it.