Reply – Re: strategy esays
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Re: strategy esays
— by Quintivarium Quintivarium
Power Point Utilization

As I experiment with different decks, I increasingly realize that the ability to make effective use of almost all power points available is absolutely critical to the deck’s success.  Probably more than any other factor, power point utilization makes or breaks a deck.

The basic principle is simple: barring cards that either limit or generate power points, one will get 5 power points to use per round.  We want to use as many as possible.  Playing a four point card will result in wasting one power point unless that card is either coupled with a cost 1 card or a cost 1 creature power (like the darkling assassin’s power).  Playing a three point card “wastes” 2 power points – although 2 power points can always be used to tap the deck for an extra card.  Thus, in creating a deck, one wants a good balance of cards that can be jointly utilized for 5 power points.  (Here, utilized means either played to the board, or buying a use of the card’s special power.)

But the issue is surprisingly deep.  It is very closely tied to both tempo and card management.  Tempo refers to playing cards at a pace that is ideally faster than your opponent can respond.  It is almost always the case that spending an entire turn in ways that does not substantively affect the board concedes tempo to your opponent.  Because the first turn only grants 3 power points instead of the usual 5, effective power point utilization would expect a deck to be able to make a useful play on the first turn – which in turn forces a number of 3 point cards into a hand (or at least one and two point cards).  But first turn aside, it is nice for tempo purposes to be able to make (or to counter) two threats in the same turn – usually something that requires multiple cards.  Because one starts with five cards and draws only one free card per turn, it is impossible to play two cards in tandem on the same turn without depleting one’s hand – unless one draws cards beyond those automatically given.  This I term card management.  Effective power point utilization must also support card management by allowing the occasional purchase of additional cards.

Valentino is a real master at effective power point utilization.  He has shared his favorite formula: 12 five point cards, 16 three point cards, 12 two point cards.  He prefers 3 point – 2 point tandems over 4 point – one point tandems because the 3 (or 2) point card can be used with drawing a card.  I find it an interesting idea to try to fit card to a power point value, rather than choosing a card and then checking the deck to see if the power point costs are in a reasonable ratio, although rigid adherence to a formula reduces flexibility.  (I am quite certain Valentino breaks his own rule if there is reason to.)

I may not follow a formula, but I think it is helpful to have at least 12 (preferably 16) cards I don’t mind playing on the first turn, and to ask myself what I could do with left over power points for any card that costs less than five to start.  Even in some cases where I can consume all my power points, I may be unhappy.  For instance, suppose I take law of the jungle (a 3 power point card).  Suppose also, that the 2 power point options I have in my deck are 4 aquamancers, 4 savage shaman, 4 toxipedes, invoking a toxipede’s poison special, or drawing a new card from my deck.  Even with all these options, I will never be happy playing law of the jungle.  If I play either aquamancers or shaman, I am just setting the card up to die (and prevent law of the jungle from hurting my opponent).  Toxipede is only slightly less likely to interfere with my hope for law of the jungle.  I will be unable to invoke the toxipede special more than once per enemy opposite, so it is not likely to be an available option, and even if it is, may simply affect a creature destroyed by law of the jungle anyway.  And that leaves drawing a card.  Since law of the jungle has no effect until the start of my next turn, I will essentially be taking an entire turn without impacting the board – a very bad idea from the point of view of tempo.

So how many viable tandem playing options do I need for a given card?  The answer really depends: it depends upon probability of having those options available, the severity of the disadvantage to playing only the card in question (I am usually happy with undead giants or ancient ghosts even if I waste an unused power point), and the stage of the game (tempo is far less important when all lanes are deadlocked than when most are open).  But it is hard to dispute the benefit of numerous options.

Now there are still other considerations.  Certain cards change the pool of available power points: many cards grant extra power up to a power point maximum.  Even more impactful is psychic vortex which reduces the maximum power allowed.  Deck construction should at least consider dealing with these events, but discussing them here is beyond the scope of this article.