Thinking about Tempo

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by kalasle, Sep 14, 2017.

  1. kalasle

    kalasle Forum Royalty

    About two years ago, I wrote up a thing about "Resource Level Theory", where I argued that considering how many resources various decks want on the board better guides role assignment (offender/defender) than does the "aggro/control" dichotomy of TCGs. In that essay, I mentioned the idea of "Δx", or the rate at which the resource level might change per turn. I brought it up briefly, and didn't have an especially coherent or deep way of talking about it. I said that "any action that reduces per-turn gain will reduce potential Δx, and any action which increases per-turn gain will increase potential Δx" -- basically, if people generate a lot of nora, they can play stuff, and so the aggressor should contest fonts so that their enemy can't play stuff.

    I think that the reasoning I gave holds in some cases, but recent experiences have run somewhat contrary to that assumption about Δx. I'm inclined now to think of Δx as a numerical representation of tempo. "Tempo" is one of those TCG terms that makes some intuitive sense but is devilishly difficult to quantify or schematize in a formal way. As a result, I don't want to say that Δx of the resource level curve is a perfect representation of tempo, but I do think (and I'm making this post to elaborate on the thought) that Δx does match fairly well, and provides some useful insights in the process. Thinking of Δx as tempo does two conceptually useful things right off the bat: it folds tempo into the resource level model, and it distinguishes Δx from resource level in determining both role and strategy.


    To start, I want to say that my conceptualization of Δx was narrow and even misleading. I described Δx almost purely in terms of nora fonts, which is foolish: a lot more things affect not only x but Δx than just font generation. The most obvious these are things that affect Δx in the other direction, namely, damage sources that can remove things from the board. Δx can be very high if a player loses half their board in a single turn, regardless of how many fonts they have. Furthermore, I totally failed to mention that Δx does not exist in isolation, but that it matters in relation to x. (This implicitly leads into how tempo relates to Δx: the higher Δx is in proportion to x, the higher the tempo -- the larger a percent of things that can leave the board on a turn, the higher the tempo. That makes intuitive sense, I think.)

    I would also like to divorce, somewhat, Δx from the x-based resource level calculations; they will not always correlate. In much the same way that I suggested separating resource level from game length when introducing resource level curves, I would like also to suggest separating Δx from either of those two things when discussing strategy. To be sure, Δx and tempo still have a bearing on role assignment. I think that Δx ends up having a fair amount in common with game length: longer game, slower tempo. I don't want to make a hard connection between the two just yet, but the thought holds based on my own experiences and observations.

    Just as introducing resource level curves lets us look at decks not merely within the [short / long] spectrum, but within a matrix of [short / long] + [low / high], thinking of Δx as tempo introduces a third spectrum of identification, [slow / fast].

    My example here has to do with FW, partly because attrition makes a good test case for these theories (and partly because I play a lot of FW). The prevailing wisdom about FW for years was that you should rush: FW attrition is a late-game deck, and you don't want them going late; holding still and building up is a bad idea. One practical cause for me to describe resource levels was to fight this perspective, because I did (and do) believe that FW attrition suffers against well-built balls of opposing champions that can march through a line of un-synergistic meat. Resource levels fight the rushing perspective because they explain that, although attrition plays for a long game, it also wants to play for a low-mid resource game, because it does not want to lose to a better synergy ball that it can't kill, the kind that could emerge if too many champs get on the field. FW attrition is a [long] + [low-mid] deck, not a [long] + [high] deck.

    That old rushing wisdom has something to it though, even if it is conceptually flawed, and looking at tempo/Δx explains why: attrition isn't just a [long] + [low-mid] deck, it is also a [slow] deck. Plenty of other low-resource decks want to be playing at [mid-fast] with generally shorter games, but FW attrition wants to play both [low] and [slow] -- few resources on the field, and not much threat of change. Now, those big late-game balls aren't scary just because they are [high]. They are also scary because, when played properly, they take advantage of a [slow] state to build up to [high], and then can drastically increase the tempo to [fast] and plow through the attrition wall before it can replenish. There is a key tempo transition there that most people overlook, and subsequently do not implement in their play, but that is crucial to making a [high] ball strategy work against FW attrition.

    Why exactly doe attrition want to play [slow]? I think it has to do with setup time: part of playing attrition means getting some number of background effects running that can tip the grind into the attrition player's favor; these almost universally require spending nora, and will cause a tempo hit for the attrition player -- a moment at which they effectively give up Δx on the board to apply their Δx to the attrition piece. (Now, theoretically, a specifically FW attrition deck could play super [long] without needing to manage tempo and go [slow] by leveraging the bonus for greater comparative efficiency over that [long] game, but I think it's unlikely.) So, first, a [slow] tempo allows attrition to manage their tempo hits without getting snowballed from the hit. Second, a [slow] tempo more generally acts as insurance, making it more likely for the deck to get to its desired [long] state where it can accrue its benefits. Judging by the relationship between [short / long] and [fast / slow] here, I can't immediately think of a deck that has inverted feelings about those spectra -- that is, wants a [short] + [slow] game or a [fast] + [long] game. If anyone can think of one, I'd love to hear it.

    I'll close by talking a bit more about how to modify Δx, and with a bit more accuracy than I did in the original article on resource level curves. Basically, I think you up the tempo by playing aggressively, and drop the tempo by playing defensively. It's slightly different from that, but fairly close. You play cautiously for a [slow] tempo, and be risky for a [fast] tempo, at least, assuming that risk-reward has some measure of balance within the deck that you're playing. So a deck looking for a [slow] but [low] game would try to push the aggression, but without moving champions far out of position or dashing to secure kills; it wants to trade resources in a controlled and measured way.


    That's about all I have to say on tempo and resource levels for now. I had been thinking a lot more -- and talking a lot more -- about tempo recently, and was seeing the game through that light, so I wanted to make it public, and see what other people thought or had to say on the matter. If anyone finds typos or a spot that doesn't make sense, please point it out, because I haven't re-read this for editing. Comments encouraged.
    Woffleet likes this.
  2. GoldTiger

    GoldTiger I need me some PIE!

    For me tempo is always about AP (+ve usage) on the current board. It's sister is value which I relate to nora/HP.
    For example.
    Making lots of attacks and moving forward --> high tempo. Playing defensive and turtling --> low tempo. Divine favour --> low tempo high value. Killing a champion and getting its nora globe safely --> very high tempo (removing champions = removing AP = removing tempo from your opponent), high value. Spending a 50 nora spell to kill a 15 hp champion --> high tempo low value. Playing marsh song --> low tempo, high value. Spending 50 nora for horn of the order --> huge tempo, low value (youre literally creating AP out of thin air) etc. etc.

    The risk of playing high tempo is the risk of your opponent out valuing you. Generally a tempo based BG (aggressive, say old school BE UD) sacrifices value for tempo, as youre more focused on progressing your board state rather than creating one. In the eyes of @xaznsoulx, the tempo gain of running a flying champ which has objectively less raw value was wide and far worth it. On a little side note the reason BE was so broken was because it generated insane tempo (gave you what was essentially 4 AP) at an unreasonably fair cost so youre sacrificing no value. The new iteration was just as bad, sacrificing some of the tempo but retaining all of its value in the form of that portal whatever defensive ability.

    In its simplest form for me; if youre playing on a very large map for example (extreme case), say the old old school FS map, your dreams of playing high tempo is crushed because youre using up all this AP for only movement and not a +ve board state.
  3. xaznsoulx

    xaznsoulx Supreme Dream Team 夢想 隊

    You wrote a book with no pictures. I became illiterate.
    MaruXV likes this.
  4. xaznsoulx

    xaznsoulx Supreme Dream Team 夢想 隊

    But in all seriousness, UD was gutted beyond viability. They nerfed BE, Drain, and fiery ambush. You take these out of a bruiser heavy faction with Bane Shift range and you basically ruin it. I don't even know why the ud bonus was nerfed on ranged units in the first place.
  5. Etherielin

    Etherielin The Floof Cultist

    I thought the thread is about Tempo the ability because of the capitalised T.
  6. themacca

    themacca Master of Challenges

    it was a bigger deal when UD had more than 4 ranged units
  7. MrBadguy

    MrBadguy Guest

    At least UD has sacrifice. Removing cleanse from SP was easily one of the harshest faction-wide nerfs in the past 10 years. The kicker is I haven't seen a single ST player use emerald.

  8. themacca

    themacca Master of Challenges

    cause why would they. they have cleansing storm
  9. MrBadguy

    MrBadguy Guest

    Exactly. So why make it KF/ST? It's such a half assed job. And I know why it was done but it was almost a completely one-sided wrath rapefest. Prot gets to keep all the wrath toys just cause and there's 3 FW zealots in the council so that one gets diplomatic immunity.
  10. kalasle

    kalasle Forum Royalty

    If you are talking about cleanse, I have been vocally advocating for fw to lose it for years, and neither macca nor yobanchi have ever bothered to contradict me.

    Anything else to say on this matter deserves its own thread.
  11. super71

    super71 I need me some PIE!

    I have no sympathy for sp, that faction was broken for so long and that couple months I saw of straight voil and mika still brings me nightmares. In my opinion they could have deleted the whole faction and I wouldn't have even batted an eye. Damn voil
  12. Chris

    Chris I need me some PIE!

    The trick is getting the tempo/value balance right :)
  13. themacca

    themacca Master of Challenges

    to be fair i havent ran it in FW for years so it'd be strange for me to have an issue with it.
  14. GoldTiger

    GoldTiger I need me some PIE!

    Exactly what he said.
  15. Imba

    Imba The King of Potatoes

    This was probably the best post I've ever seen on this forum. Tempting me to do some calculus and try to flesh out a theory.
    xaznsoulx likes this.
  16. Bondman007

    Bondman007 I need me some PIE!

    No worries now man. SP is suffering. The nerf hammer messed that faction up badly as a full faction.
  17. Chris

    Chris I need me some PIE!

    nothing really changed in ff sp, its still top tier it just doesnt have anyone play it.
  18. darklord48

    darklord48 Forum Royalty

    SP has almost always been the least played faction since it was released.
  19. super71

    super71 I need me some PIE!

    I agree with this, and I think they super buff it to make it a more interesting option. The reason nobody plays sp though is because the themes aren't really popular.

    Kthir- trees and elves
    Ironfist- dwarves, magical constructs, paladins
    Underdepths- demons
    Forglar- mirefolk
    Savage tundra- yeti
    Forsaken wastes- zombies, spirits, liches
    Sundered lands- dragons
    Shattered peaks- just cyclops are about the only theme I've seen that people would notice, and they aren't very interesting to play.
  20. super71

    super71 I need me some PIE!

    Good, they ran train for months.

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