On a blog I recently found, there was a link to 31 Winning Texas Hold-‘Em Strategies. I don’t play lots of Hold-Them, but I was struck how many of them applied to other CCGs, like Shadowfist. As a ‘noted’ Shadowfist player, here’s my take on these 31 Strategies (slightly modified for posting here), at least the ones that aren’t entirely poker specific.
1. The object of Texas Hold-Em is to win money.
Not so much in Shadowfist. You could maybe make a case for that with Magic at the professional level. But, let’s look at it like this: the object of a game of Shadowfist is to take five Feng Shui sites. If you aren’t playing towards that, why are you playing the game? If you aren’t playing to win, you’re playing to lose. Since money isn’t at stake, this isn’t as big of a deal, but you may be happier finding a game with a victory condition you are more likely to play towards.
2-5: Stuff about Money.
CCGs are rarely an investment. Don’t put any more money into them than you would into any other hobby. Look for bargains and deals. If you find you no longer enjoy the game and are still sinking money into it, it is time to cut your losses and move on.
6/7/9 Do not play when you are having any major personal issues in your life/Don’t play when you know you are not one of the better players./Don’t play when you’re tired.
Since money’s not at stake, these become less of a hard and fast rule. It’s good to realize that outside stressors will affect your play, and know your skill level, and be prepared to know when you’re likely to lose games.
8. Be confident in your skills, but not overly confident.
This is good advice for any game. Know your capabilities, don’t doubt yourself, and play to win.
10. Stay disciplined.
Good advice for anything in which you wish to excell! High-skill level Shadowfist takes lots of research, lots of concentration, and lots of brain power. You have to be able to juggle numbers in your head, guess what other people have, and guess what they’re going to do. This can be a lot of work! Practice and concentration will help you make good decisions more often than bad ones.
11. Do not underestimate your opponent.
This is good advice when playing at a tournament with people you have never met before. At a Gencon world tournament, the player to my left was a woman, and I underestimated her skill level, thinking she was just there with her husband. (This is especially ironic since I’m female too.) I didn’t put as much pressure on her as I should have, and she went on to win the game. Every person at the table is a potential threat.
12. Be selective with your cards.
This advice has some rather poker-specific principles; but in games with Mulligan options it stands. Don’t settle for a bad hand if you think you can get a better one. In Shadowfist, new players are more likely to discard not enough than too much; it is a good skill to develop that leads to more play options.
13. Try to figure out what the opponent is holding.
What face down Feng Shui sites are they likely to have? What events are good for their faction? If they play an unusual card, what other cards are likely to have synergy with it and make a play? How many cards do they have in their hand? Are they saving power for something? Guessing what an opponent has in their hand will put you one step ahead of them and in a better position when they do play their cards. Games are won when Ascended players play a Bite of the Jellyfish on an unsuspecting victim, or a Jammer comes up with a timely Who’s the Monkey Now?
14. Bluffing can be a great asset, but don’t over do it.
Most people telegraph when they’re going to play a trick card, like when they make a doomed attack. Once you have that down, the bluff enters play. A Jammer deck with cards like Elephant Gun, Disco Inferno, Death o Rama, and Far Too Much Dynamite can really put the sweat on an opponent. But if you try that too many times, people will call your bluff, and you’ll get smacked down. Bluffing is harder to pull off in Shadowfist, but it has great rewards.
15. Be able to change your playing style.
This means both ‘style of play’ and ‘deck.’ It’s important to be able to play a wide variety of decks, otherwise people will learn how to beat your signature combo, and they’ll be able to meta against you. Be able to master several different rhythms of play, and you’ll find what works for you, and be harder for other players to pin down.
16. Be selective and agressive.
Only make attacks that you think will get you something, but when you see an opening, go for it! I’ve seen far too many games have a weak player in a favorable position, but squander it because they didn’t attack when there was no one to stop them. Even if everyone else has to clear the board to stop you, as long as they’re losing more assets than you are, it’s a good play.
17. Figure out your opponent’s play patterns.
If you can identify patterns to your opponent’s strategies, you’ll be able to manipulate them to your advantage, by guessing what they’re going to do next, and giving suggestions to push them on the path that’s beneficial to you.
18/19 Very specific hold-em and betting strategies.
20 If you know you are beat, fold.
If you’re going to lose a Feng Shui site anyways, there’s no reason to intercept with all your characters and have them die. If the big hitter is just going to turn on the next turn anyways, don’t try to put damage on it. Pick fights that you can win and that will help your board position.
21. Keep a level head when you are losing.
This is great advice. There’s always a chance for a comeback, and staying calm and watching for your opening is the best way to find it. Don’t freak out, don’t get mad; remember that it’s a game, and keep on trying to do your best.
22/23/24/25/26 On record keeping.
If you care about doing well, it pays to think back afterwards about what happened; this can be a good incentive to write tournament reports and think about what went right, what went wrong, and how you can improve in the future. When thinking about a game, I always try to identify what the winner did that helped him win, what the loser did that helped him lose, and what mistakes I made that I can improve in the future.
27 Discuss strategy with your friends.
I get a lot of mileage talking Shadowfist strategy with Jim; he sees a lot of good cards that I don’t, and vice versa. Different people will have different experiences, and it’s an asset that you can draw upon to better your own play.
28 Buy some quality books.
Few CCGs have quality strategy guides available, but many have internet resources. Investigate the resources available to you, and examine the available knowledge base.
29 Teach someone else to play.
I find that teaching a game is a very good exercise in learning myself, since I have to make sure that I know it inside and out. New players may have fresh questions or ideas that can make you question your own strategies. And plus, you’re getting a new player, which is never bad.
30 Participate in Forums
You have the benefits of conversation and discussion, but with a wider audience! Shadowfist has two good message lists that I’m a member of; the general list, and the Wisconsin list.
31 Never stop learning.
Great advice no matter what the field is!