Posted by: thederangedbear | August 6, 2008

W’s Day: Who’s the Beatdown?

Who’s the Beatdown?

One of the nice things about strategy games is that so many of the basic concepts are interchangeable. This is a topic I’m going to talk a bit more at tomorrow’s Bearsday at vs-blog, and I think is one of those things is underdeveloped in VS.

Today’s ‘W’ is for ‘Writing’. Coincidentally, it also stands for “Who’s the Beatdown?”

In my opinion, Who’s the Beatdown is perhaps one of the most influential articles on CCG strategy. When I first read it, it was as if a lightbulb went off in my head. While the article is written about of Magic: the Gathering (booo!) it is relatively easy to understand even without any M:tG backdrop.

It should be required reading for anyone aspiring to get better at CCGs.

The basic idea is that in every match-up one deck is ideally better suited to be the control deck and one deck is better suited to be the aggressive deck. It is crucial to understand what role you play in the match-up, or else, as Mike Flores so eloquently puts it:

Misassignment of role = game loss

How does this translate to VS?

If you are the beatdown in a match-up, you want to trade aggressively. Not only does this force damage, but it also stifles the opposition’s development. Conversely, if you are the control deck, you want to avoid exchanges at all costs simply because you want to get to the later turns where you can play some huge guy who completely negates the opposition’s investments.

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out which you are – say Checkmate/VU vs Inmates – and sometimes both decks want to play the same role – say Sniper Shot vs Cold School. This is where metagaming comes in; if you foresee a given match-up as being one where you feel you’re not sure you can find a strategic niche, you retool it so that you have one.

One of the best examples I’ve seen came from blues686 for MegaWeekend: NY, for the Family of Four vs World’s Finest match-up. Traditionally, World’s Finest is a dog in this match-up because it can be neither the beatdown or the control deck.

What blues686 did, was to play Gamma Bomb and multiple Superman – Deterrent Forces and position himself further down the spectrum as the control deck.

His game plan was to underdrop another copy of Superman – Deterrent Force to stall the opponent’s turn eight out via double activations, then go to turn nine and play Gamma Bomb.


The unsuspecting opponent who thought Silver Surfer – Norrin Radd was his auto-win card would suddenly be devoid of answers, while blues686 could go on to handily recruit an eight drop unopposed.

There are other awesome examples of similar ideas, but this is the one that struck me as most brilliant recently. If you don’t have a game role in a match-up, it’s probably a bad match-up, until you find the niche you want to play. You can also concede the match-up as unwinnable, but c’mon… who wants to do that?




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