Thursday, September 25, 2014

Aggro, Combo, & Control in MLP CCG ??

Aggro, Combo, Control.
These are the basic three archetypes of decks, according to Magic the Gathering (as well as many or most CCG's).

With the new (2013) and increasingly popular My Little Pony CCG, there is a lot of talk about which MLP CCG deck's are which archetype and which Mane Characters lend themselves best to which deck style.

I'm not convinced MLP fits so neatly into these categories.

Let's stick to the simplest for the time being.

Aggressive decks, typically defined as non-interactive, creature focused (either big and powerful creatures or many (cheap) and little), direct damage, with goals to kill your opponent directly and quickly (bring their Life Points to 0).

If we're going to use MTG terms for MLP we'll need to tweak the definitions slightly to fit the theme/game.

  1. non-interactive - this can translate easily
  2. creature focused - this can translate into Friends
  3. direct damage - not so easily translated, there is no direct attacking or damage in MLP, as winning is achieved by attaining 15 points. But this could translate into ability to Confront (solve) Problems easily
  4. kill opponent (reduce Life to 0) - again, there is no objective of 'killing' or wiping out one's opponent, so this too doesn't easily translate.

At initial inspection the first 2 translate pretty well and directly with little modification, but the latter 2 do not. (In MLP, there is no direct damage inflicted and there is no 'kill your opponent' or 'reduce opponent's life to 0').

An Aggro MLP deck would focus on - not creatures - but Friends and since Confronting Problems is how you score points to win, preferably Friends with high Power.

However, it isn't so simple. You can also score points (often alot!) by winning faceoffs - both Problem faceoffs and Troublemaker Faceoffs.

This is done by your Friends' combined Powers and your draw deck - which brings the Draw Curve into this equation of an "Aggressive Deck") (Overall high powered cards, often including Events, Resources, and Troublemakers).

A higher than normal amount of Troublemakers in a deck would definitely swing the Draw Curve towards "aggressive" because of the higher chances of drawing a high powered cards (like rolling a d6 with 4 sides reading "5"), but these same Troublemakers are clearly interactive in play, taking on a less offensive and more defensive roll.

A good example of a MLP CCG "Aggro" deck would be Fluttershy's.
With her Critter Friends - they're cheap, quick to play - and her Caretaker ability, Fluttershy is a brutal and overwhelming deck, clearly in the straight-forward realm of Aggro... but it isn't.

The Caretaker ability is what makes it powerful, and it relies on synergy, or combinations, to function.

The only real "Aggro-trait" this deck has is its swarm-like nature.... of its cheap, low-powered Critter Friends... but, once again, this "swarming" tactic isn't overly effective.

Where this will work in an Aggressive deck in MTG (ie a mono red Goblin Swarm deck), cheap, low cost, fast to play, 1/1 red goblins, will become extremely effective in the early game - however, this same game tactic in MLP (let's stick with the yellow Critter Friends example) won't.

Numerous yellow (butterfly) Critter Friends (0-requirements, 1 AT cost, 1-power) will only get you so far, with a self-rectifying solution.
Here's why;
Firstly, they can only help you confront your opponent's Problem (Your Problem still needs a secondary colour Friend(s)).

The fasted and best case scenario puts a 1-power yellow Friend and a 1-power other-colour Friend at your Problem on Turn 1.
Turn 2 puts 3 yellow 1-power Friend at your opponent's Problem and - to follow the swarming tactic - another 3 in Turn 3.

That's 6 yellow 1-power Friends at your opponent's Problem. Should you enter a Problem faceoff - win or lose - all 6 Friend are returning Home. With no extra Action Tokens to move Fluttershy (in order to flip (boost) her), your Home Limit is still 3. You've just discarded 3 of your "swarming-tactic" Friends.

The game mechanism self-rectifies this Aggro-Swarming tactic.

My point is simply this;
Yes, there are certain MLP decks which function or play more aggressively/offensively compared to others. Yes, some are more defensive compared to others, and yes, some rely on more synergy compared to others... but compared to the MTG main three deck archetypes, MLP CCG does not and cannot fit within its boundaries.

Simply put MLP CCG (any deck) incorporates all these features into itself, and not only requires, but necessitates its players to use offensive and defensive strategies.

I'd be interested in seeing a Rogue deck (non-netdeck) built with no (0) Troublemakers (because they're interactive), no (0) cards with synergies, and either a) all 1-powered, 0-requirement Friends, or b) all very high-powered Friends.

I've seen the results of the first (see Discord & Chaos!). I'd like to see the other.

~ ~ ~

Rainbow Dash, Turbo Troublemaker Deck.

This deck began as the basic, out-of-the-box Rainbow Dash deck. (Primary Colour: blue, Secondary Colour: white. MC: Rainbow Dash, Premier (1st Generation)), and became extremely modified.
It makes a good example because it does not lend itself well into the Aggro-Control-Combo categorization.

This deck carries 14 Troublemakers (nearly 24%), and when the number of troublemakers are this high some interesting effects occur.
Since most Troublemakers have high power (3-6) this drastically increases the Draw Curve. A drastic increase in a deck's Draw Curve moves the deck's archetype towards Aggro.

However, at the same time, the very act of playing a Troublemaker (let alone this high of a percentage) is clearly taking control of the "battlefield". This aspect moves the deck's archetype towards Control.

So, this sample deck, with its high number of Troublemakers,would seem to point towards Aggro-Control.
...but it doesn't end there. With Friends like Scootaloo, Creature Catcher, Big Shot, Wildlife Photographer, and Rising Star, In the Spotlight

and Resources like The High Ground, Foal Free Press, and A Fiery Temper

all working in sync with any and all Troublemakers, as well as Rumble, Fast Learner, Rainbowshine, Cloud Wrangler, Wild Fire, Speed Racer, and Holly Dash, Flighty Filly,

they have their own synergy.

This synergistic aspect moves this deck's archetype towards Combo (Synergy).

Although this specific deck clearly lies dead centre of the Aggro-Control-Combo chart, many if not all MLP CCG decks float and hover within this central region.

Unlike Magic, The Gathering, I believe it is impossible to build a MLP CCG deck that is exclusively any one of these main archetypes (ie a mono red Goblin Swarm deck).
MLP decks may only be referred to as one of these archetype decks in relation to one another, but ultimately are all centrally and evenly balanced.
The game simply doesn't fit these parameters.
The question becomes, what parameters does it fit? What's its measuring stick?

In short, ultimately, my point is that My Little Pony CCG plays drastically different than Magic the Gathering,; specifically that it requires more strategy.

...and because it's 20% cooler.

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