Applying MTG concepts to Weiss Schwarz pt 1: Stages of the game and Tempo

Hello again! Today I will be talking about an important concept in Magic the Gathering and how it applies to Weiss Schwarz in the current meta.

Before we begin, I will be referencing the book “Next Level Magic” by Patrick Chapin in this article. It is an excellent read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get better at any trading card game- it reveals a plethora of concepts and bits of information that is applicable to almost any competitive card game. While I do want to reference as much of the book that I realistically can in this article, I will have to restrain myself quite a bit due to potential copyright issues. If you like what you are reading in this article and want to find out more in depth, I would highly recommend you get the book and give it a read. Even if you don’t play magic, there is a whole lot to learn from it.

The recent Weiss Schwarz meta has been one that’s a bit open for a plethora of series to have their place- GFB, Guilty Crown, Nisekoi, Kantai, Shining, Madoka, Dog Days, SAO, AOT, Charlotte, Little Busters, TLR, IMAS, CG, Love Live, the list goes on and on.   However, each of these sets have specific builds and niches that make them “unique” in their own way- whether it be the LL decks with its seemingly endless number of different advantage engines, Titans with their massive power wall at level 2 and beyond, or GFB or kantai’s ability to hard compress and generate advantage with costless cards and push disgusting game enders in your face, each series has its own way of winning the game, despite all of the “clones” that exist (Musashi, Riki, Azusa/Akatsuki, Eli)

However, not all series are necessarily created equal- some have tools that others do not whereas some are just impossible to play because of how the meta stands (an example is how the eight gate heal spam meta faded away and died out with the release of kantai collection and later nisekoi). Some series and deckbuilds excel at specific stages of the game, and how each series attempts to excel at these stages and how they are played is what really defines them.

There are essentially four stages of the game, for each level that can be obtained:

 

Very early game (Level 0)

Early Game (early Level 1)

Mid game  (level 1 to early level 2)

Mid-Late game (Level 2 to early level 3)

Late game (Level 3)

 

Some series excel in specific stages of the game that others strictly do not. A good example is Soundless Voice Hatsune Miku vs To-Love Ru Y/G:

At level 0, Miku has stronger beaters and arguably better utility cards

pd-s29-017when both players are at level 1, soundless voice is much stronger, as the 1/1 lens easily overpower TLR’s level 1 lineup and deny the advantage-giving climax combo.

when both players are at level 2, most soundless voice builds remains stronger due to the inherent power of the combo itself with the addition of early play level 3s.

when both players are level 3, TLR is, in almost all cases, infinitely stronger than Miku with the existence of 3/2 yami.

 

Another good example is 765 Idolmaster vsim-s07-051 Kantai Collection YGB (featuring hibiki).

At level 0, Idolmaster is arguably stronger due to azusa and OFF time makoto.

At level 1, Idolmaster has the potential to secure board control and is able to deny shimukaze, kill taigei, or deny the advantage given by hibiki by making the Verniy useless since it cannot kill haruka or side attack to maintain damage and stock. Level 2 comes down to the techs played, but in most cases its an extension of level 1 as both players build to level 3.

at level 3, kantai is almost superior in every regard with access to musashi to inflict damage though hard compression, compass to deny restanders, anti-heal, etc, whereas Idolmaster has access to an arguably inconsistent level 3 burn (miki), and a restander that is prone to run into compass (chihaya), various healers that cannot realistically heal due to hibiki in the memory, thus leaving the only reliable finisher to be a clockshooter (iori).

 

the point of these examples are to show you how specific decks play out in certain matchups. There will always be a stage of the game where one deck has a clear advantage over another, simply because of the card effects or relative power levels of the characters played at that stage of the game. 

 

and so, we can categorize decks that play out better in specific stages of the game:

early to mid game decks that attempt to win the game before both players hit level 3, either through damage or by denying the opponent the ability to win the game before the early game deck loses its relative power advantage

Late game decks that want to simply outscale the opponent by trying to stay even throughout the game (and in some cases get an early advantage), then winning at level 3 with strong game finishers (you see this a lot more in the JP meta)

Lets keep these simple rules in mind as we move forward: Decks that wield a strong level 3 lineup generally need time to build to it and generally forgive the opponent for their early game mistakes, whereas decks with a stronger early game punish mistakes much more and will most likely become less relevant as the individual game progresses.

Some decks perform better than others in the later stages of the game, even if both are designed to play for the late game. A good example is a nisekoi deck with only one marika as its finisher vs TLR and its ability to nk-w30-076drop three 3/2 yamis. In this instance, TLR has the favorable level 3. However, Nisekoi has a much stronger level 2 lineup when 3/2 onodera is involved, and thus there is a window of opportunity for the nisekoi player to grab a lead and secure the game before the TLR player can win out in the late game. It is in some of these instances where understanding the matchup and how to play it can determine who is most likely to win the game.

 

 

Matchups: Controlling the tempo of the game, and when to be the aggressor

As we begin to recognize how each of these decks have different power spikes at specific stages of the game, it now comes down to how to play these decks effectively, particularly in specific matchups. For that, we have to understand one of the most important concepts in playing TCGs: Tempo.

As described in Next Level Magic, tempo in the context of TCGs, is “The manipulation of any resource that you gain over time, but do not start with.” This can be a number of things, from stock generation to damage leads, to climax leads or deficits, to specific cards that enable counterplay and win conditions.

 

One thing that a lot of players may not have a full grasp of about the game is how to play out specific matchups or situations that requires an extra amount of aggression in order to secure an advantage and win the game, despite being at a heavy disadvantage.

One specific instance is understanding the importance of power spikes, whether they be utility based or power based (sometimes both). One good example is kantai collection abyssal set. The set features a plethora of utility cards that generate either a compression advantage, advantage in card economy, or even denying the opposition through raw power, all in the early to mid game. This is achieved through stock generation at level 0, and costless characters with various effects centered around board and damage control:

kc-se28-06kc-se28-27kc-se28-38kc-se28-01

 

Combine that with a strong level 2 (anti-change / early drop) and 3 lineup that scales extremely well as the game progresses and you have a recipe for a very strong deck:

kc-se28-28kc-s25-002kc-s25-035kc-s25-031

 

it is at this point in which you have to ask yourself: how do you win in a matchup that features such a stable and strong lineup at the later stages of the game? This is where the concept of tempo comes into play. As you can see, most of the level 1 lineup is centered around abusing its utility engine in order to maintain board control and set up for level 2 and beyond. The early drop level 2 requires a specific amount of climaxes in the waiting room, and the level 3 akagi and musashi are extremely strong because by the time both you and the kantai player hit level 3, the kantai player is able to drop everything on the board and secure the game with extreme damage.

This is where tempo comes into play: Kantai collection is a series that requires extensive build up in order to achieve its glorified late game and punishes players who are too passive. Ideally, the kantai player would want to stay equal to the opponent and stall the game out until late game.

However against a player that plays the role of the aggressor and accelerates the tempo of the game, kantai will struggle and show the holes in its otherwise strong gameplan.

In reality, the level 0 and the level 1 “power spike” that this iteration of the deck is where the deck is at its weakest. Because the early drop requires 2 or less climaxes in the waiting room, and the main search engine of the abyssal deck requires the player to clock themselves for 1 damage, the most effective way to put the abyssal player behind is to use the window of opportunity that you are granted at late level 0 and early level 1 to rush the opponent, preferably forcing them to level 2 before their first refresh. This leaves them in a bad position: they may not not have the time to build stock and handsize for late game, and using the wo-class carrier effect will put them further behind in stock and damage. A series that is capable of doing this rather effectively is nisekoi (both key and Weapon/Daughter builds). From there, a nisekoi player has the opportunity to maintain the pressure and lead through anti-change and early drops of their own (which are much easier to accomplish than kantai’s) and close out the game at level 3 with marika:

nk-w30-056nk-w30-079nk-w30-029nk-we22-17nk-w30-068

speaking of weapon/daughter, shout out to Mike Cheng because he is the based weiss god, who discovered the potential of this deck when he borrowed our friend’s W/D build and repeatedly stomped me with it at a carls jr before locals one day. You can see the article on his deck here: https://finethaicuisine.wordpress.com/2015/12/26/chapter-199-nisekoi-weapondaughter/

any ways, back to the article.

 

That said, In matchups where the opponent has the potential to outscale you, it is almost always correct to play the role of the aggressor and negate their potential to close out the game against you with a strong lead. 

any one who plays the game League of Legends understands this concept very well: Jax and Nasus are some of the strongest late game carries in league, yet are extremely vulnerable and can be shut down by simply gaining such a large lead that you win the game before they can get strong enough to demolish you. In yugioh, a lightsworn deck has the ability to completely overwhelm a player with judgement dragon if the game goes on long enough, but struggles immensely in the opening turns and can lose the game before it gets to see its win condition. The same can be applied in Weiss Schwarz: late game decks are reliant on their ability to kill you outright with raw damage, and being able to deny the opponent the ability  to do so with a large enough compression + damage lead can win you the game.

 

Let’s take a look at another series (that’s a little less popular) that features a strong level 3 lineup: Shining.

Shining, while not necessarily popular, is actually one of the stronger decks out there simply because of its ability to secure consistent board control + card advantage to build up, and win games at level 2 and beyond:

sr-se25-02sr-se25-22sr-se25-25sr-se25-27

sr-se25-07sr-se25-08

Unlike the abyssal kantai set, shining features an early drop that is more flexible as its condition to play her is extremely simple to accomplish and there is less opportunity to punish the shining player due to the 3/2 early heal rebound that the series offers (she’s also really pretty). Furthermore, the set scales very well into level 3 with yuma and the dragon that honestly looks and plays like it belongs in vanguard instead of Weiss Schwarz.

So, what’s the downside to this? Shining features a very subpar level 0 and 1 game that doesn’t do a good job of punishing the opponent and pretty much exists only to build up for level 2 and beyond. When put against a good player playing a deck that seeks to punish the opponent’s weak early game, shining can struggle quite a bit. A good example is Idolmaster Cinderella Girls, which offers a plethora of answers to every level 0 and 1 that shining resonance’s limited carpool can bring out, and the utility to fetch these answers at will:

imc-w41-042imc-w41-001imc-w41-079imc-w41-058imc-w41-023imc-w41-t36

combine that with the fact that damage rushing early game is a very strong strategy against shining, which still needs time to build up even though it has a strong rebound, and you have a matchup that has the potential to be completely one-sided if played correctly.

 

Finally, I will show an example of a deck that seeks to completely demolish the early game, yet can struggle late game against some of the best decks out there.

im-s21-063765 Idolmaster features one of the strongest early game lineups that WS has to offer. The series offers what is arguably the best runner in the game, paired with one of the strongest supports, and followed up with one of the best 1/0 characters with a climax combo that threatens to board wipe and generate massive advantage at the first possible opportunity. The deck is extremely powerful in the opening stages of the game and there are not a whole lot of sets out there that can reliably contest its early to mid game prowess.

However, the power of idolmaster is its ability to hard compress and pressure the opponent as early as turn one and its power level slowly diminishes as both players reach level 2 and eventually level 3. Why is this? it is simply because the tools that are offered to other decks at the later stages of the game simply outclass IMAS’s lineup, and IMAS does not have an anti-change counter or game enders that are available to some of the stronger sets out there. That does not nessasarily mean that IMAS has a weak level 2 and level 3 lineup available to it (rather, it is quite strong), but in the context of a competitive meta power is relative and there is no doubt that there are many series that offer a stronger level 2 and 3 power spike. Hence, in a majority of matchups you will see that if the IMAS player cannot obtain a lead in the early to middle stages of the game the IMAS player has a high chance of losing. Hence, the IMAS player is usually the aggressor in many of his/her matchups – playing the most aggressively and denying the opponent as much as possible in the early to mid stages of the game to achieve a win condition before level 3.

 

 

However, matchups are not the only indicator where tempo needs to be evaluated and manipulated. The most important factor in assessing when you should be the aggressor or when you should take a more passive role and inflict less damage is the number of climaxes that are still in the deck (for both you and your opponent). I actually go over this quite a bit in detail in one of my previous articles here, but I will show some specific examples to give you a better grasp:

 

tl-w37-001One of the worst misplays you can make is to push your opponent to level 3 when 1. they are set up to refresh soon, and 2. when you have very few
climaxes to cancel with. For example, sending a TLR player to level 3 when you don’t have a lot of climaxes is a death sentence because you will now have the opportunity to get completely demolished with a yami push, followed by a refresh damage penalty which is, in most cases, game ending. To avoid this, it is much better to play a slightly more passive role at level 2 and avoid putting down that climax to soul rush to solidify your position and not misplay into a game-changing yami rush.

One situation that may occur is you being behind in damage while the opponent is still relatively compressed. This is a rather tricky situation, but in this instance more often than not the correct answer is to play the aggressor and kill the opponent’s cards.  This will force the opponent to clock / brainstorm at times where it is unfavorable for them to do so and hence they will either be unable to answer your board or worst case scenario lose climaxes from their compression and give you a window of opportunity to take back the game.

kc-s31-040Assuming you are hard compressed, there are certain effects you can hold back on since using them will only burn through climaxes and hurt your compression (akatsuki for example), and thus should seek to slow down the game with more passive play to deny the opponent a window of opportunity to push you in.

 

 

and of course, the classic “I got screwed out 5 climaxes on turn 1”

this is where the understanding of tempo matters most: when you know you are likely to win or lose based on the context of the situation. When you are massively behind, you have to play the aggressor, whether you like it or not.  The reasoning behind this is simple- you are going to lose if you continue to play normally, and thus you need to play as aggressive as possible to equalize the gamestate and effectively negate the advantage that your opponent had over you. It’s either you die trying to win the game (thereby increasing your chances of winning the game), or you lose playing normally and be salty about it. This can mean a number of things in various situations, such as swarming the board early to generate stock for a brainstorm at level 0 or simply attempting to steal a game in a “do or die” situation at level 3.

Finally, I want to end this article with a simple reminder that not every game can be won. You can play as perfectly as can be, but can still lose for whatever reason- Sometimes you can just trigger 3 climaxes in a row at level 3, or your opponent dropped a +2 soul and you took 12 damage despite having 7-8 climaxes in deck. maybe your opponent got lucky or you simply got unlucky, it can happen. However, that does not mean that skillful play doesn’t exist. Weiss is actually quite a skillful game when you learn to play it at a competitive level and there are quite a bit of interactions to discover and learn from. Don’t throw away the competitive potential of the game under the premise that WS is all luck and no skill.

 

 

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