Thursday, January 3, 2013

Trigger Variety - What it means for gameplay

So I noticed some things that make cardfighting difficult...


...and by triggers, I mean my teammate's penchant for "rainbow trigger" decks.

And so, this article will be dedicated to TRIGGERS, the wonderful grade 0 cards that make this game fun!

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All triggers give a unit +5000 power.  Past that, the effects they have vary.

Heal Trigger: Heal a damage (move card from damage to drop zone), but only if your damage is equal to or greater than your opponent's before the check.

Critical Trigger: A unit's attack (if it hits) does 1 more damage.

Stand Trigger: Stands a rested unit.

Draw Trigger: Pauses gameplay to draw a card immediately.
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However, you must remember that your opponent ALSO has triggers in their deck.  The triggers your opponent has should factor into the way you play (to an extent).

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Aichi's 6th damage...when it counts.
Heal Trigger: Almost everyone will run 4 of these, because they're just that good.  In fact, they're so good you can't have more than 4 of them.  (This isn't going to stop me from attempting 16 crit Blaukruger deck someday.)  Usually in competitive play, it is almost 100% safe to assume that your opponent has 4 heal triggers.

What this means: Each player has to be wary of the damage they give and receive.  Having a lot less damage than your opponent means that it becomes easier for them to close the damage gap.

Imagine this are at 2 damage and your opponent is at 4.  This is a damage gap of 2 cards.  Your opponent drive checks a heal trigger after you declare "no guard".  They heal a damage, and you take one.  Both sides end up at 3 damage each.  Now there exists no damage gap.  See how fast you can lose a damage advantage?

In late game, a heal trigger often means that you can survive for another turn.  I mean, just look what happened in the anime!

Because heal triggers exist, having less damage than your opponent occasionally becomes inconvenient.  Of course, the damage gap you choose to maintain also often depends on other factors such as when it becomes most convenient to guard, what deck you play, how many counterblasts you need, etc.

In short, keep they heal triggers in mind when you play and don't be surprised when they come up (unless your opponent's last remaining sunny smile angel has come up as the 6th damage check for the 3rd time......then, you might want to cut their deck or call a judge).
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Just like heal triggers, each of the remaining triggers also adds a different factor of uncertainty to the gameplay.

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Declare "no guard" at 4 damage...
go on, I dare you...
Critical Trigger: A lot of decks run critical triggers as their main offensive trigger.  12 criticals is normal for some decks, while others might have 8 (due to having a use for draws, or another trigger with a good effect, or not having access to 12 criticals).

What this means: The uncertainty here is in the number of damage taken per hit.  When your opponent runs critical triggers, it means that the number of unguarded attacks does not always equal the number of damage dealt (excluding effects that add criticals).

Against an opponent that runs critical triggers, you should never take an attack from their vanguard if you are at 4 damage (because you will risk the often high chance that they will get a critical trigger and deal 2 damage).

On the other hand, if your opponent does not run critical triggers, you will always know exactly how much damage an attack will deal.  (And you can "no guard" a vanguard at 4 damage...unless they have on hit effects)

In short, critical triggers mean: 1 attack =/= 1 damage (at least, not always)
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Moving on to less popular triggers...

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You had enough to guard 3 attacks...
Here!  Take a 4th!
Stand Trigger: The decks that use stand triggers are usually the ones that don't use critical triggers.  They often appear in the same ratios as critical triggers (12 and 8 are common numbers).

What this means: The uncertainty here is in the number of attacks your opponent can perform.  When your opponent runs stand triggers, it measn that the number of available attacks does not always equal the number of front row attackers they have (excluding stand skills and such).

Against an opponent that runs stand triggers (and this seems less obvious than the criticals rule; probably because stands are less commonly seen), you should always be ready to guard a 4th or 5th attack.  Don't separate your hand into 3 piles of cards to use for guarding (I've seen this!).

On the other hand, if your opponent does not run stand triggers, you will always know exactly how many attacks they can perform.

In short, stand triggers mean: 3 attackers =/= 3 attacks
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Both of the offensive triggers eventually mean that your opponent needs more than is apparent to guard with.

Now, moving on to the "defensive" trigger.

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Triggers may also have additional effects.

Draw Trigger: A draw trigger can show up in almost any deck at any time, and it is always usable.  It is known as a "defensive" trigger because it can use its secondary effect during damage checks as well (criticals and stands are nearly useless on damage checks past the 5000 they give...unless you're playing against megacolony...).

What this means: The uncertainty here is the number of cards your opponent gains each turn, and for those who like to keep track of it, the number of cards your opponent has that you did not see.  Usually (assuming grade 3s are already out), a player gains 3 cards each turn.  A draw phase, and a twin drive (plus any drawing skills they have, but those are more obvious when they occur).  Draw triggers can push this number past 3.

Against an opponent that runs draw triggers, you cannot safely assume how many cards are available to them each turn.  Card advantage becomes a bit more difficult to keep track of.

On the other hand, if your opponent has no draw triggers (this isn't always easy to tell), it's easier to know what cards they have to guard with.  Then you can know when to push for game.
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So, going back to my teammate's "rainbow triggers".  Running both stands and criticals is generally frowned upon in competitive play it seems.  And by that I mean that there's a concept that says it's not quite optimal.

But there is clearly an advantage to trigger variety as well!
Since each type of trigger adds a factor of uncertainty to the gameplay, having different types of triggers makes it difficult for your opponent to make predictions.

And that is why I lose to this guy more often than I should.  I guard for crit, he stands.  I leave guards for the stands, he crits instead.  I thought he was out of cards to guard with, he drew another.

I assume it works both ways though.  My experience with stands and criticals in my own decks has taught me that you can confuse yourself AND your opponent sometimes by running too many different kinds of triggers.

I need to do more analysis and simulation with this......



    Rather interesting review of the trigger system, have you thought about expanding this in the context of clans? For example early builds of aqua force were exclusively built around stand triggers because of the need for the vanguard to battle last, whilst self standing vanguards make excellent critical trigger pressure.

    1. Sorry for the late reply! We will take your comment into consideration, and I'm sure my colleagues and I would like to do further analysis into this particular topic especially with more clans and deck variants having been released since the time this was written!

      We were actually considering the idea of doing podcasts and such in the future, so maybe this could be something we could discuss as a group!

  2. My brother is trying to get "rainbow criticals"which means getting criticals with different pictures. He claims the opponent might think you have 12 crits, because the only other reason why people have triggers with different pictures are because no card can have more than 4 of the same. I have a feeling this may or may not actually work...

    1. I think that does work to an extent. I usually do the exact opposite, by running 4 copies of a single art to minimize the different art seen in hopes that the opponent will think I have 12 crits instead of 16 because they didn't see too many different ones.