June 4, 2014 by eoj986
Picture the scene, you are mid game, you aren’t particularly winning but then again you aren’t losing either. Turn 2.4 hits and your opponent plays a Phoenix ash – “it’s okay, I can handle one” you think- then they drop another Phoenix. You swear loudly and your iPhone/iPad/keyboard/mouse takes a trip across the room as you curse the Phoenix for ever existing.
I’m sure some people reading this will be well balanced human beings who can in absolutely no way relate to what I am saying. They, unlike me, have not accused Phoenix of being every profanity under the sun. I am equally sure that I am not alone and at least some of the people reading this article know what I am talking about!
My name is Joe and I play SolForge as eoj986 (eoj should rhyme with dodge while I have have a chance to clear the matter up). I’m a competitive lurker, regularly appearing near the bottom of the weekly constructed tournament leader board. I have started ForgeWatch tournaments well, but haven’t yet achieved a Top 16 finish. I am capable of both 4-0ing and occasionally 0-4ing events. I would like to write about the lessons I am slowly learning as I try to become a name that people know in the world of SolForge.
Top players will tell you that they do not put any game loss down to luck. This seems an intelligent enough point, however I really struggle to do this in practice. In theory I can see that during the aforementioned game, while he wasn’t playing his level two cards I had to go for the jugular, try to finish him off so that he never got a chance to see those infernal birds. It is really easy in a game to throw your hands in the air and say, “well the odds of him getting two eggs in his final hand are tiny” and put the loss down to luck. There are still some games when I do this, I think there are some games that quite simply I had lost and there was nothing I was going to do about it. However there are only so many times you can do this before you start asking yourself the question, “Actually, what if I there was something I could have done?”
When I lose games that I think were unwinnable I try to go through the game log at the end, and ask myself when I was lucky. More often than not I find that there were times during a game when I drew well and either didn’t take or maintain the pressure. It is really easy to see a game of SolForge resting on a bit of luck at key points in the game, usually but not exclusively turn 2.4. If you lose at that point then you write the game off as bad luck. This makes the game look as though you might as well throw a pair of dice to decide the result because there is one turn that decides a game.
In doing this you entirely ignore all of the over times that the metaphorical dice were rolled. Easy examples are cards like Storm Bringer, Varna’s Pact and Hunting Pack but there are even more examples that it took me a while to consider. Did you draw two level two cards at player level 2.1? Did you have an Ebonskull Knight in your first hand? Sometimes you will be unlucky, but often you will also have been fortunate at some point in a game. Games are not solely decided by which player is lucky, more which player uses their good fortune to best press home their advantage.
I found that there were three very helpful ways of analyzing which games you lost to RNG and which games you didn’t take full advantage of what the game had given you.
Tip 1 – Learn from wins and losses: If you are losing games when you feel your luck was average or above average, review your deck’s strategy. Consider how many plays you made that allowed your opponent opportunities they might not have otherwise had. A common case is leaving a creature with less than three health in front of a yeti. Yes, you might get away and make the trade, but don’t be surprised when your opponent drops an Uranti Warlord for a free kill. This could be the play that decides the game.
Tip 2 – Record and review your games: By watching yourself and the decisions you made after knowing the outcome of the game, you’ll pick up on where you or your opponent gained advantage on the board or in their decks. You may even spot missed opportunities that would have changed the outcome of the match.
Tip 3 – Get feedback as you play: Get people to watch your games (consider streaming or sharing your screen with a friend on Skype/Google Hangouts). By seeing which plays you make with additional insight of what you had in hand, you’ll have a lot to talk about. The cards you level early heavily influence your plays later. If you are not playing the right cards for your matchup, you’ll have a much tougher time winning regardless of how well you draw.
The hardest part of improving your game will be making the subtle changes that allow you to sneak in an extra win here and there. These little win percentage boosts add up over time and make further tournament play more rewarding. I hope that this article has been at least a little bit helpful. Feedback would be greatly appreciated. Next time I’ll discuss the delicate balancing act that is deck building!