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Frisco Del Rosario writes about chess960, women's basketball, minor league baseball, unsupported collectible card games, lettering in comic books, and Golden Age movies

How often must you get it before you’ve got it? 04/05/2018

There’s nothing like a string of losing sessions to push you to change your cards or your tactics.

When things go well, you alter nothing. Like baseball players, maybe you eat the same dinner every night during the trend up.

When things go poorly, it seems your lineup and methods are modified with each loss (when you risk not recognizing when your deck is good, because you’re making changes in a frenzy).

I wrote weeks ago about the importance of the first card played in an SPPD battle. The first rock can run into immediate paper. The first scissors can be crushed by a rock.

layer-40I said it must be a reasonable idea to play a Butters at move one, because if they scarf him with rats, you’re somewhat compensated by the deathwish. Also, it can’t be bad at move one to deploy Nelly, because her area damage prevents them from overwhelming her with a group of small bastards.

Despite the fact that I’ve probably given more thought to this than my opponents, I lost match after match because they were winning the first skirmish, usually resulting in the first bar. First blood counts hugely. I found, by counting wins and losses accordingly.

When I win the first bar: 28-5-0. The freeze cards are built for winning  1-0; win one bar, then freeze the ball. But they’re very bad at coming back from deficits; if the opponents lead and aim to stop counterplay, the freeze kids don’t muster enough brute force to bash in.

When they win the first bar: 6-48-2.

Over 89 matches, that’s -19, a lopsidedness that makes you question everything (and also drops you four ranks), but primarily: “Why the hell am I losing so many first skirmishes and then first bars?!”

I think I’ve got the right idea. 4-1 is an impractically slight sample, but I think I think I might sustain a winning way.

Consider an SPPD match like a chess position. Competent chess players break down a position according to its imbalances. Imbalances in a chess position can hinge on as little as one pawn, or one square, but in the big picture, we consider force, time, and space.

When I say I’ve got a third-rate deck, I mean it. Program Stan pales against Moon Stan and Great Stan, two of the most effective cards in the game. Captain Wendy slays, Angel Wendy heals, and Shield Wendy is invincible — Ice Sniper Wendy ices them for four seconds. AWESOM-O isn’t in Zen Cartman’s league for effect on a battle, and loses to Sheriff Cartman on cost and damage. Powerfist Dougie deals much less damage than Barrel Dougie. Compared to Poison, Mind Control, and Lightning Bolt, Freeze Ray is a giggle.

However, the value of five freeze cards is greater than the sum of its individual cards. When Program, Ice Sniper, AWESOM-O, and Freeze Ray work in succession, enemies can find that their only mobile unit is the one they just spawned (who is about to be frozen). The freeze cards control time, but are helpless against the power cards (force) and vulnerable to fliers (space). Against fliers, the freeze group is often reduced to frosting them in range of NK zaps), and Nathan, who works at a long distance (space).

At the beginning of a match, my deck starts from behind. If the first units clash in the middle, the power cards beat Popsicles, and if there’s a ranger behind their front line, it’s a winning advantage.

The only way to maximize my advantage in time is to sit back and wait. Wait to see which of them to doubleteam, wait to ambush their big charger with Hercules, wait for the Timmys, Bebes, and Nathans to reach the halfline to limit the damage they do while our guys are crossing the field to reach them.

In other words, when I thought my game plan was to go fast, sneak away with one bar, and use ice to hold on, it was plain faulty. The correct early-game scheme is probably like “hypermodern” chess openings: let them take the middle, then counterattack it.

When their Mecha Timmy comes out first and reaches the halfline, before they continue with a powerful group, they crush.

The hypermodern openers accept some brutal losses in which their counterplay never gets started. They understand if you play in that fashion, sometimes you can’t find a seam in their center formation, and they steamroll you. Which is how it looks on the SPPD field when four units trample the dead NK.

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