Volume 3 Newsletter: Contributions

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Volume 3 Newsletter: Contributions

Post by zarathustra » Fri Nov 17, 2006 1:23 am

Gollum’s Grotto: Overdetermination

A Definition

In this article, I will discuss one way to take a good deck with some decent combos and raise it to the level of a great deck with killer combos. The method is what I shall call overdetermination. A card in a deck is overdetermined in that deck if it can be used (either by itself or in combination with multiple other cards in the deck) to do more than one thing. One card is more overdetermined in its deck than another if it can be used (by itself or in combos) in more ways than its counterpart. This is a very sparse way of characterizing what I mean, so I’ll switch to examples.

Hero Example

A card whose overdeterminations are obvious and frequently exploited is Gates of Morning. You might play Gates of Morning simply to counter your opponent’s Snowstorm or Foul Fumes or whatever other nasty environment hazards he has in store. Such a use of Gates of Morning is not overdetermined. You might, however, decide to throw three copies of Many Turns and Doublings into your deck as well. Now both Gates of Morning and Many Turns and Doublings will be singly overdetermined. You can use Gates of Morning in two ways: (G1) to counter your opponent’s environment hazards and (G2) in combination with Many Turns and Doublings to reduce your hazard limit. Similarly, you can use Many Turns and Doublings in two ways: (M1) to cancel an attack and (M2) in combination with Gates of Morning to reduce your hazard limit. Furthermore, you might add a couple copies of The Evenstar to your deck. Now Gates of Morning will be doubly overdetermined, and both Many Turns and Doublings and The Evenstar will be singly overdetermined. (G1) and (G2) come up again, but there is a further use for your Gates of Morning: (G3) in combination with The Evenstar to change a region type (and fizzle a creature, for instance) and increase the prowess of all elves. The Evenstar has two uses: (E1) to increase the prowess of an elf and (E2) in combination with Gates of Morning to change a region type and increase the prowess of all elves.

As I said, you can simply go wild with Gates of Morning. Here, for example, is a hero deck I’ve been toying around with for a few months:
Elladan / Cram
Elrohir / Cram
Gildor Inglorian

3 Pallando

3 Gates of Morning
3 Many Turns and Doublings
3 Dark Quarrels
3 The Cock Crows
3 The Evenstar
3 Risky Blow
3 Quiet Lands
3 Await the Advent of Allies
Tom Bombadil
The Mithril Coat
Elves of Lindon
The basic scheme is to send the brutes (separately – yes, alone!) to fetch the greater items at Carn Dum, Mount Gundabad, and Moria, Galdor to summon the faction, and Haldir to fetch Tom. There’s a Bridge so that you can draw a few extra cards, and perhaps exhaust by turn three. In this deck Gates of Morning is sextuply overdetermined, and each of the other environment cards is doubly overdetermined. It’s possible in this deck to get 10 character points, 3 ally points, 2 faction points, and 12 item points for a total of 27 without even accessing your sideboard once. In all likelihood, you’ll kill a creature or three, so breaking 30 MP with alacrity is a facile task.

Minion Example

Here’s another example, on the minion side of the fence. Let’s say you want to play a dragon faction deck. So you throw in Smaug of course, and then probably Scatha, and Agburanar. You put a couple greater items in the deck, a regiment, and a bunch of cancellers. Great! Instead, however, you could put Agburanar in your sideboard and switch in the Ice-Orcs, who are a bit more versatile, as well as easier to influence. Now, when your Ringwraith comes into play, have him discard five resources from your sideboard, one of which will be Agburanar (you can figure out what the other four should be). In your hazard portion, pack three copies of Parsimony of Seclusion. During your opponent’s turn, you can play Parsimony to fetch your dragon faction to your hand, increasing his hazard limit while simultaneously setting up your resource play for the next turn. Agburanar Roused is now playing a dual role in your deck: (A1) to be a big nasty dragon faction and (A2) in combination with Parsimony of Seclusion to increase your opponent’s hazard limit. But that’s only the beginning. Now you should think to yourself, “Well, I can of course use Parsimony of Seclusion to fetch Daelomin at Home, which would be useful.” Good start. You can also use it to grab Agburanar himself, or even Smaug or Itangast, and then play the creature with (say) Dragon’s Desolation. Now Parsimony is playing a quadruply overdetermined role in your deck: (P1) in combination with a manifestation of Agburanar to increase your opponent’s hazard limit, (P2) in combination with any dragon faction to set up your resources for the next turn, (P3) in combination with any dragon creature to set up a doozy of an attack, and (P4) to return Daelomin at Home to your hand.

Why Overdetermination?

“Why are you telling us to play combos, Mark? We already know that combos are very important.”

I am telling you to play combos, but I’m not just telling you to play any old combos. Rather, I’m telling you which combos to play: overdetermined ones.

“I don’t know, Mark. I feel like the really fast and effective decks are usually the ones that don’t have any (or at any rate, many) combos. Combos make for hand jam, and that can be the death of a deck.”

Combos do make for hand jam, it’s true. However, overdetermined cards reduce the likelihood of hand jam because they can be used in so many ways. The reason you get a hand jam is that you’re waiting to draw a certain card, which once drawn will allow you to play two or more cards at once. But if you are not waiting to draw just one card, but any of a large number of cards (as in the elf deck listed above), the likelihood of hand jam decreases dramatically.

“I’m still not convinced. Show me some strong decks that actually use this overdetermination principle.”

Gates of Morning Lucky Search Deck.
Hobbits in Dragon Country (Halfling Strength overdetermined)
Red Hills (Hold Rebuilt overdetermined)
Elf-Lords Squatting (Elf-Song overdetermined)
The Mouth Influencing Factions (Bane overdetermined)
Elven CVCC
Hobbits with ’Gorn on the High Seas

[There's a bunch of links to go with this]

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Post by zarathustra » Sat Nov 18, 2006 8:08 am

The Fellowship: Prize Support

Hello again, MECCG-ers. This time around, I'd like to enumerate one of the many projects the newly revitalized CoE is engaged in: Prize Support.

Of course, the primary reason to play our great game is the simple joy of entering Tolkien's Middle Earth. But there are other reasons. One, for instance, is to tell a story. Another is to humiliate your friend (I mean, opponent... ;)). But yet another is to win some nifty prizes. I myself can attest to this, having racked up two gold One Rings over the course of my MECCG career....

This article, however, is all about you, and in particular, your tournament organizers. As Wolfgang Penetsdorfer pointed out in his article that appeared in volume 2 of the newsletter, there exists a diverse range of MECCG-related items floating around in the community. The CoE is now willing and prepared to offer some such items as prize support to tournament organizers. In particular, for national championships, we now have installed two huge maps of Tolkien's world in Europe, and two more in the USA. These will be shipped from tournament to tournament by the respective organizers of each. At last sighting the European ones were in Spain, but they will be sure to make it to LURE, and from there the sky is the limit.

We also have a number of other items to offer. The attendees of North American championships know all about the cool new buttons featuring card art. These are now available to any tournament organizer who expects to have at least 10 participants in his event. The Swedes, the Finns, and Spanish, and the Austrians have already received their first installment of buttons, and more are waiting as needed. From Finland, we also have stickers with the burning eye of Sauron on them. From Germany, there are the special promos.

All these and more can be yours. But, there are three catches. The first is that you have to ask at least one month before the tournament, to allow time for shipping. That's right, just ask. The second is that you need to be in a country with a CoE-recognized national council. Check out our website -- www.councilofelrond.org -- for exact info. And the third criterion is that you need to collect 1 dollar or euro (depending on where you are) from each player at the tourney and send that, via paypal, to Chris Cable (chscable@feinus.com), the newly elected treasurer of the CoE. Chris will hold any funds received and dispense them as the CoE sees fit for the funding of prize support for big tournaments. So really, the tiny fee is just helping to fund further prize support for yourselves and other players in the future.

If you have any questions about this program, please, by all means, contact us. I can always be reached at mark.alfano@gmail.com, and the contact information for all members of the CoE is available on our website.

[Note: Do not publish in current form. I am going to put in a plug for the new Rules Docs.]
Last edited by zarathustra on Sun Jan 28, 2007 6:47 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by zarathustra » Sun Nov 19, 2006 7:29 pm

Card of the Month: Bitter Cold

In this article, I will highlight the sorcery card: Bitter Cold. When played, it gives -1 prowess and -1 body to all attacks against the sorcerer's company for the rest of the turn. He then makes a corruption check modified by -4. That's a high price to pay for a seemingly small adjustment. Why is the cc so nasty? Well, in general, reducing body is difficult in the world of MECCG. Prowess modifications are a dime a dozen, but body modifications are more meaningful (think of Black Arrow, Sacrifice of Form, Morgul Blade, etc.). Bitter Cold lasts till the end of the turn, so if you know you're going on a killing spree, it would be nice to have around.

But when can you know you're going on a killing spree? CVCC cries out, but Bitter Cold will have no effect if you are the attacker. What, then?

This was the question I set myself, when I came up with the following solution: The Great Hunt. Outside of scenarios, there's no better way to be sure you face a bunch of creatures. The next question is: how should you use Bitter Cold? Two answers spring to mind: (1) Hador and (2) Fallen Alatar himself (with Spells Born of Discord).

If I were to make a deck based on (1), I would gather up a bunch of Dunedain like Beretar and Faramir, and then either get (a) some Men or (b) some Elves. If I went with (1b), I'd use Sun to boost the ladies as they ripped through the Nazgul. If, instead, I went with (1b), I would use Star of High Hope to make the elves and dunedain beefcakes. Throw in a couple copies of Bitter Cold (one copy of Never Refuse should help here), and you'll have yourself a grand old time.

If, on the other hand, I were to make a deck based on (2), I'd pump the deck up with all kinds of spells. For help, Bad Company is in order, with Ulkaur, Ugluk, and a couple orcs. Since men (and women) can join up with such a company, Eowyn (or perhaps Peath) with Glamdring is a must. Since there's orcs afoot, throw in a couple copies of Swarm of Bats. If you can manage to play both copies of Bitter Cold and a Swarm of Bats, your Great Hunt will be aided by a permanent Old Thrush: -3/-3 to all attacks! Eowyn with Glamdring is 11 prowess against Nazgul, so she'd be 11 vs. 12 against most of them, and they would be reduced to 2 body! If you have a way to keep her untapped, either by supporting her as she fights or playing a Risky Blow, you can kill multiple dark riders in your org phase! (By the way, Wizard's River-Horses is a must in this kind of deck -- to put all those lovely nazgul in the discard pile right before you hunt them....)

So, as often happens, Bitter Cold is not particularly useful in any straightforward sense, but if you build your deck to its strengths (i.e., decreasing body), it can be very powerful.

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Post by zarathustra » Fri Dec 01, 2006 6:51 pm

Quiz (more of a challenge this time):

Come up with a deck prominently featuring card X (we must decide this first -- it should be a weird or underused one). The deck list should include everything: pool, characters in deck, resources, hazards, and sb. It can be vs, hero or vs. minion.

The best deck (by our judgment) wins.

What do you think?

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Post by Manuel » Mon Dec 04, 2006 10:43 pm

Seems a very nice idea to me. I will prolly participate in that one, if I'm allowed to :)

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Post by zarathustra » Tue Jan 09, 2007 5:51 pm

In my opinion, the most boring / least exotic matches are minion vs. minion, so let's solicit decks of this type. Here's the idea:
It has come to our attention that minion versus minion games tend to be boring, for at least three reasons. First, there are only a few strong deck types. Second, there are only a couple strong avatars. And third, most decks tend to use the same 10 MP-resources (the Lieutenants, Ice-Orcs, Orcs of Gundabad, Orcs of Dol Guldur/Moria, Thong of Fire, The Arkenstone, Ancient Black Axe, Regiment of Black Crows).

To help alleviate this problem, we are soliciting deck lists for minion vs. minion games. The lists should include everything about the deck: pool, characters in deck, resources, hazards, sideboard, and a few paragraphs on how to play the deck.

Decks will be judged on three criteria:
(1) Originality: have we seen its like before?
(2) Power: could it win versus a cheezy Balrog deck?
(3) Innovation: does it use the same boring resources as most other minion vs. minion decks?

Alternatively, we could save that one, and go with the original plan to build a deck around a specific card. Ones that came to mind for me were: Tower Raided, Necklace of Girion (either alignment), and By the Ringwraith's Word.
Last edited by zarathustra on Thu Jan 11, 2007 2:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by thorondor » Tue Jan 09, 2007 10:27 pm

maybe nicolai wants to introduce to one of his dream card expansions? especially the firstborn CH-deck tourney format has attracted quite some popularity at lure.

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Post by Frodo » Sun Mar 18, 2007 1:48 pm

Okay guys, I've been behind the ball with the newsletter, as usual, but I'd like to get it published again. SO, let's have new articles emailed to me, stat! Also, if you know of someone who'd like to write an article, please contact them--because 4 articles ain't gonna cut it.

I will write a long article about the V-cards this time, too.

If someone had answered the newsletter "call" to be my new assistant editor, this wouldl have gone much faster!


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Post by miguel » Sat Mar 31, 2007 8:09 pm

I'll write a Thoughts on the Playing Field article about using innovative decks in tournament play.

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Post by Frodo » Sat Mar 31, 2007 11:51 pm

Let's have some articles, guys!

Send me your stuff to joebisz@verizon.net (as a word attachment if possible) by this Friday night, Eastern Standard, April 6th. If you REALLY REALLY need the time, you can send it Saturday.

But that's it!!

--joe bisz

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Post by miguel » Tue Apr 03, 2007 12:13 pm

Thoughts on the Playing Field: Innovative Decks in Tournaments

In top-level tournaments you often see certain decktypes from time to time. They are very solid, quite easy to play and fast decks, that are extremely hard to stop with a general hazard strategy. These include the likes of Wolfiegast, Red Hills, and Mordor-shuffle, to name a few. The fact that you’re almost guaranteed to run into these decks in tournaments sooner or later, makes it worthwhile to be prepared with a suitable hazard strategy, and most players are. The biggest advantage when playing against decks like these is that you know what your opponent is going to do. Information is power. That combined with the proper anti-cards, you should be able to either slow your opponent down considerably, or in some cases even shut his deck down completely. That’s why you shouldn’t play any of these well-known decks, but rather come up with an original strategy of your own!

Innovative Gameplay

In all strategic games the element of surprise can play a major role. Innovative decks are a real headache for even the sharpest opponents, since most of the time they won’t know which hazards to hold on to and what to get from the sideboard. They can make educated guesses, but that’s all. This allows you to play a relatively easy game, because you won’t have to make a lot of hard choices. To put it another way, the longer your opponent is in the dark about your deck, the more likely he is to make mistakes, while you are more likely to avoid them. And at the end of the day, mistakes cost games. The less you make them, the more likely you are to win.

All of the now popular decks have of course been innovative at one point in time. Red Hills is a good example of a deck like this from the recent past. At first people couldn’t really cope with the challenge Red Hills presented, due to its fresh strategy and seemingly untouchable companies. With time, players have come up with some good strategies against it, and playing Red Hills in a tournament these days is becoming a risk. If you happen to run into a good player who is well prepared, you are likely to lose.

New Kid on the Block

Coming up with great innovative decks that go on to dominate the playing field for some time is quite hard. However, you do not have to create a masterpiece like that to win a tournament. Your deck needs to be fresh only once! You can either take an existing decktype that doesn’t see much play and improve it, or come up with a totally new one. I’ve done this in the last three big tournaments I’ve played in, with great results: I won every game I played, finishing 2nd at Nordic Cup and winning at Finnish nationals and Lure of MeCCG. A valuable side-effect of playing innovative decks is that you freshen up the tournament scene, so in a way everybody wins!

When building an original deck, you should of course determine the main strategy of your deck first, and expand from there. As I mentioned in my tournament report published in the last Council of Elrond newsletter, I played a deck called On the Rocks at Nordic Cup. While it’s certainly not the best deck I’ve made and somewhat lacks in efficiency, the surprising strategy allowed me to get the upper hand most of the time. The main idea was to squat at The Stones, Rebuild it and use Fireworks to untap it several times, making greater items quite easy to get. The other aspects of the deck were just complementary to this main strategy. So basically all you need is an idea, and you’re half-way there!


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