Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rush in an Elevator

"I am sorry to write such a long letter. I didn't have time to write a short one.”   Mark Twain

For the last 2 days, I have been working on post about pure combat constructs.  I needed to get away from the subject.  I found the post was getting too long to be easily digestible and Twain’s quote was scratching at me like a burr.  So I finished the first part of the blog on “pool gain” to distance myself from the combat subject.

Afterwards, getting some ice cream, the thousands of words on combat crystallized into an “elevator message” and I had to get typing immediately. 

For those not deeply entrenched in a private enterprise:

Elevator message (n): a concise, simply worded series of statements delivered to corporate executives as your shared elevator descends from their lofty office space.

Rush in an Elevator:

In order to secure a game win, any deck design must be capable ousting 2 other decks.  Pure combat decks must effectively oust a 3rd deck (their predator) if they are to be successful.  This additional overhead places even the best combat design at a significant and immediate disadvantage. 

Cross-table rescuing negates many benefits derived from a successful combat, compounding that disadvantage.   That no analogous (cardless) function hampers bleed-based or vote-based decks adds insult to injury.

It’s still a little longer than I like, but it does encapsulate the need to backrush and why that’s inherently inefficient.  It touches on the inequities of cross-table rescuing.   But it’s unfortunately impossible to distill the concepts 1-player isolation (e.g., a One Cap Hack deck), 2-player isolation (e.g., a Legacy of Pander deck) and unrestricted interaction (e.g., [CEL] guns deck) into 5 sentences.

We’ll cover those topics in a later blog.  Tune in next week, for another exiting episode?

The Misnomer of Pool Gain


I have been thinking a lot about "pool gain" lately.  It seems that most of the time I hear someone talk about their deck's "pool gain", I channel an excerpt from one of my favorite films.

What most folks consider "pool gain," I divide into several different mechanical functions, which I'll cover in more depth over the next few days.  But here's the upshot:  

The most-often seen methods used to “gain pool” don’t GAIN pool …..they RECUR blood to pool. 

Recur implies "to occur again"" – to get back.  You have to have invested, at least temporarily, pool to recur it.    At best, perfectly recurring blood yields a maximum of 30 pool.

Gain implies "create, or add."  There is no link between pool invested and the ability to create pool, nor is there a limit to the amount of pool that can be generated.

People complain violently about Villein-Lilith’s Blessing (V-LB) as "excessive pool gain".  It is not……instead it is perfect blood recursion (getting back everything that was spent) with a subsequent creation of a 3 blood maintenance infusion (not intended to be transformed into pool.)

I'm not saying that people solely rely on V-LB.  I'm merely suggesting that V-LB is not intended to independently yield more than 30 pool.

There are points at which the line between that simple distinction I made becomes blurred.  Extending the VB-L above example, a Villein-Giant's Blood-Villein-Lilith's Blessing sequence transforms a tactic primarily intended for blood recursion into genuine pool creation mechanic.  Voter Captivation-Minion Tap does the same thing in a more repeatable fashion.

This is why "pool gain", "blood recursion" or "pool creation" all inadequately describe the functions associated with the way pool is managed.

Over the next few days, I'll describe the way I think about pool management using the following terminology.
  1. Direct Blood Recursion
  2. Indirect Blood Recursion
  3. Direct Pool Generation
  4. Indirect Pool Generation
  5. Pool Theft
  6. Hybrid Methodologies
I'll also talk about the difference between vertically and horizontally scaling approaches in many of those broad categories and the ramifications of volatility associated with the approaches.  

The Predator's Haiku

Sixty counters gone
from predatory effects
living all the while

All of this section should be a separate blog post, but it aligns well with the topics above so you're getting hit with a Wall of Text.

The short verse above is based on the tactical payload implications of playing against decks with complete blood recursion.

I believe that more perfect blood recursion options lead to a higher average ousting hurdle than was faced before tech like V-LB was introduced.  Instead of some portion of player’s invested pool being "tied up" on minions, it is more often fully returned to the players resource pool.

Still, it’s a fixed target that can be considered.  Assuming perfect recursion, no other pool management and an expenditure of 4 pool that won't be returned, one has to successfully address 26 counters to oust it's prey.  Those counters might be removed through combat with newly influenced minions before blood is recurred, or directly from their pool by bleeding or political actions.

That number passes a gut-feel for the minimum target to address only vertically-scaling blood recursion like V-LB.  It's entirely possible that Lilith's Blessing doesn't come into play before the initial minion (likely lowering the target payload) or that additional pool/blood creation occurs (increasing the target).

If a target payload of 26 seems like a reasonable place to start, the inevitable conclusion is that people simply waiting for their prey to drop into the old-school "10-pool range" before lunging will be sorely disappointed.  

V-LB might have highly volatile pool levels as minions are influenced into play, but there's no reason to believe that they need drop below 15 at any point in the process.

Now, make a set of observations around the single-use case with Giant's Blood to get into a worst-case analysis taking only V-LB into account.
  1. The V-LB player can't Bless that minion again.   
  2. A second Villein on the previously Villeined minion costs one pool.   
Now, a couple of assumptions are merited.
  1. If the VLB player uses Giant's Blood, it is likely being played no later than mid game, before someone else plays it.  It follows that they are unlikely to fully empty the minion at this game stage, they are more likely to exclude at least 2 blood and continue generating offensive pressure.  
  2. Because the deck is using primarily Villeins, a 10 capacity minion is the target.
The resulting pool CREATION in this situation is [10 blood on the minion - 1 pool for duplicate Villiens - 2 blood remaining on the minion] = 7 pool created.

Our offensive hurdle increases from 26 to 33 for that player alone.  Any subsequent player who uses perfect recursion and didn't face predation remains a 26 pool target.  If I want to garner 2 victory points, my baseline payload against double V-LB hovers around removing 60 counters from the table, surviving my predator in the process.

Of course this is a highly theoretical target - perhaps even ludicrous.  Its very unlikely that one would face double V-LB without any other pool management or pool rewards from an oust (making the hurdle significantly higher), that both target players get all the cards they need on schedule (making the target lower), that one's eventual grand-predator would entirely escape predation (also making the hurdle lower).

But it still seems like a good place to start.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Echoing of Babbles

It’s been quite a while since my last post.  I’m not apologetic, though I’ll tell you why the blog was idle. 

Sometimes even obsessive players need a lengthy break from this kind of intense hobby.  I know I did.  

Sometimes life intrudes on our hobbies.  My recent landscaping project consumed a lot of time (and even more money).  

Sometimes, we develop new interests that occupy our time, as my latest foray into photography has.  

But somehow, I always get sucked back into this old and comfortable pastime.  My incentive to return from this hiatus is May’s North American Championships and the Week of Nightmares.  It’s not so much the back-to-back tournaments that we play that week that lure me.
But the people……that’s the draw.  I get to see friends from everywhere in the world during that week-long marathon.   They are good people, fun people and often among the diabolically clever people I know.  The only downside is that much of the time we spend together is totally devoted to orchestrating their demise.

So, for at least a couple of months, I’ll be back to using Inferior Babble to organize my thoughts for the upcoming week of Nightmares.  Yes, I said I'm going for the people, but I can't help but try to be competitive at the same time.  

Once again, I welcome those of you demented enough to read along with me as I try to organize my thoughts in crystalline ways.