While the Positioning 102 article was where I really felt the series took off the 201 article was where I first had to examine how I had come to my own conclusions about what was good and bad positioning. It was not the first time I had reflected that my positioning in Duelyst was heavily influenced by my then ongoing study of Go but it was the first time I turned such a critical eye to that influence. I found that a lot of the positioning postulates I had proposed correlated to fundamentals from Go and Chess. I decided at the time that I should talk a little about the history of how I came to my conclusions as sort of a, “Hey this is neat.” Michel was again the wiser of the two of us and let me know that I was likely to confuse other players without the same background I had. And when I considered his case I realized he was correct. We reworked the article to give more common names to the formations and did not include the history of how I got to those names. We did this so that the history of those names would not draw reader’s attention away from the lesson. In this retrospective as sort of a nod to those past lessons I have included the original names that were cut as identifiers for the different maneuvers, but have still excluded talking about any history behind how each maneuver got its name. If you get curious you can take a peak at Go, or if you’d rather stick to the Duelyst you can ignore the names and focus on the content behind them. After all, “What is in a name?”
As always I hope you enjoy the article and I look forward to any commentary you have.
Positioning 201: Advanced Maneuvers
Welcome back Duelers! Despite the challenges you have faced you return again unbent, unbroken, and undeterred from your path. Despite your recent successes let us not stand on our laurels but rather strive for new heights. As always we will start by taking a look at the reference sheet and the perspective(s) we will use.
In today’s lesson we will be talking about two or more minions being positioned in addition to your general. Again we refer to positioning involving your general and your minions as maneuvers. Today we will start by considering our opponent to be at position five because we will start by talking a lot about how to position relative to them.
There are many maneuvers for two minion positioning however most are zokusuji (poor positions). The most common of the tesuji (good positions) we will call Sente, Atari, Aji, and Sabaki. We will discuss the merits of each of these maneuvers today. Again I can not stress this enough: begin by assuming that our opponent (Faie) is at position five. This lesson can already be confusing and if you lose track of our reference point it will be nearly impossible.
Sente: The Horizontal Trap
In the horizontal trap we limit our opponent’s vertical movements by placing minions on positions two and eight. This has the effect of severely limiting the enemy general’s ability to withdraw, and makes it impossible to body block either of our minions with a single opposing unit. From an offensive perspective you are forcing your opponent into trying to body block, or trying to body block and take damage to remove one of your pieces. No matter which choice they take barring removal you are still going to have a lot of access to your opponent on you following turn. Let’s take a deeper look at the two options available to your opponent. The first option: pick the side with the weakest minion, move directly in front of the weak minion, attack it, and then attempt a two minion body block on the stronger of the two minions (See Example #1). The second play available to your opponent is to fully withdraw by backing up two squares, and then attempting to body block the stronger of your minions with two units (See Example #2). Unlike option one in which your general has access to their general, in the second option your weaker minion has access to their general instead. There are a lot of different ways this can play out but in terms of them playing two minions in response to your two minions all of the different formations will boil down to one of these two.
Although it is easy to come up with examples where things do not play out exactly like this, those examples are usually the results of a discrepancy between how your opponent views the current board state and how you view the current board state. As a short example your opponent may disagree that you have the initiative. If this is the case your opponent may not respect that they are on the defensive and as such may not make a defensive move. If they do not they will stay right next to your general attacking either you or one of your minions and then playing their own Sente. This dispute of who has the initiative is what I think of as a “Ko” and it is very common when playing two aggressive decks against one another. The dispute will resolve quickly and is very likely to be fatal for whoever was mistaken in their assessment.
Atari: The Vertical Trap
When using the vertical trap we will place a weak minion on position two or eight and then follow with a stronger minion on position six. Similar to the horizontal, the vertical trap strongly encourages our opponents to follow set paths. Because the weaker minion is above (or below them) they would have to stay in their current position to attack the weaker minion. If they choose to stay in their current position they would be forced into a multiple turn engagement that allows your general to attack theirs effectively draining both parties’ health. Another key point is that the vertical trap is an effort to box your opponent in. It reduces their movement options more than any other maneuver that can be made because the board is longer horizontally than vertically. By giving them only vertical movement options you are rapidly putting their general’s back against the wall, and making it very difficult for them to place minions in a position you can not get to.
Aji: The Bait and Switch
Before we can look into the bait and switch we need to switch our perspective back to that of our own general being at position five. While in the previous two the minion were positioned next to the opposing general especially in the case of the vertical trap. But now one of your minions is not in the immediate vicinity of our opponent but rather positioning closer to us. This change of perspective can be jarring so I wanted to make sure it was mentioned before diving into this next section. When using the bait and switch we will position a stronger minion in an attack position (position nine in our example), and then a second weaker minion in the opposite corner (position one in our example). This has the effect of forcing the opponent to decide whether to deal with our “weak” minion by moving above our general into position two, or to make a more defensive play against our strong minion and leave our weak minion alone. In this way our “weak” minion has exerted an incredible amount of influence on the effectiveness of our strong minion or will have kept itself alive with potential to affect the board state on the following turn. The most common use for the bait and switch maneuver as opposed to the atari maneuver will be when attempting to avoid blow-out removal that can change who has initiative (examples include Holy Immolation and Makantor Warbeast). We will discuss more about what removal to play around and how to play around it next week but for now understanding the bait and switch’s basic principal can be useful in learning how to control the board state by using all of your options even if they appear to be “dead” plays.
Sabaki: The Phalanx and Walling Maneuvers
These maneuvers are not ones you want to be making. These are for when things have gone awry. We are bundling them together because while they have their intricacies they all center around the core idea: “I need to get my general away from the enemy general to disengage.” Usually this means you are in serious danger of losing the game, but it does not mean that the opponent is not also in serious danger of losing. Just because we are in a bad spot does not mean we are destined to lose and our positioning still matters. First bear in mind that all of these maneuvers are designed to try and save ourselves so when looking at the pros and cons remember that they are comparing themselves to one another.
The full withdraw is a simple enough maneuver to make you move directly away from your opponent and then place your weaker minion followed by your stronger minion. You want to order them this way because they are more likely to remove the weaker minion than the stronger one and in order to get to that weak minion they will need to move their general to positions two or eight relative to the stronger minion. This means that your strong minion will remain in proximity to not only the enemy general but also any minion they may play. Finally, if your strong minion is frightening enough to get your opponent to withdraw as well we want the stronger minion to be as close to the enemy general as possible so that it may engage.
The general withdraw is a move that requires some contentiousness to play. When making other maneuvers the ordering of moving your general and/or placing units first may not matter. In essence no matter what you attempt first you can not “screw yourself.” With the general withdraw you can. Before you retreat your general two squares backwards you will need to play your weaker unit either north or south of your self. If you back up first your will not be able to play both minions next to the opposing general. This maneuver is a mild gambit variation of the full withdraw. You are betting that they do not have good removal for the stronger of your two minions. If they do then they can easily reengage your general. If they do not then they have to decide between not approaching your general at all to eliminate the weaker minion or getting one square closer to your general but leaving the weaker minion alive. Finally, if the opponent also elects to withdraw from the engagement then they now have two of your minions as close to them as possible. This is a fantastic maneuver to make if you think you might be able to swing the game back in your favor in the next couple of turns.
The wall withdraw is often the beginning of the end. It reduces the freedom of movement for both parties and makes it difficult to maneuver and score damage on the generals while also making it easy to body block units. When you start reducing the freedom of movement for units it is a defender’s advantage, however all of their minions are now body blockers. It becomes very difficult to place minions in a “safe” position because there is often only one safe spot created by the various maneuvers and that spot is often occupied by your general. This is usually the last ditch effort for defenders who have no options left to them. If you have a hand full of minions and a very low health total this is where you will end up. I often describe this position as “CTD” or circling the drain because that person is about to die. Surprisingly, despite their desperation players often mess up this maneuver. To begin the most common mistake is where they place their minions. The minion that is most likely to survive needs to be place away from the wall because if it does survive we want it to have as many movement options as possible. It may end up repositioning to defend us or it may run far away from us to place a fragile threat so that the opponent has to turn around. If you position correctly on the wall withdraw your opponent again has two options for remaining engaged. The first option is to not move, remove the weak minion with their face, and then play their minion in the newly vacated spot. Their minion is now easy to body block or if we remove their minion their general got no closer to us so we are in a better position to run. Their second option is to move to their position one (in our sabaki example) of the stronger minion and play their minion where it will have a lot of freedom of movement and be difficult to run from, but they will have left our weaker minion alive. Only a foolish opponent would move directly in front of our weaker minion and join the wall with us so there isn’t any need to discuss that as an option.
Holy Crap! That was a lot of information. In fairness I probably could have broken this article into two parts one for advanced defensive maneuvers and one for offensive. I was originally a little unhappy with how sabaki turned out so I decided to expand on that section a lot. One of the big things I hope you caught on your own while reading was how these maneuvers are combinations of the simple maneuvers from Positioning 102 and the stances from Positioning 101. If you started to see how multiple aggressive maneuvers come together to form the more aggressive advanced maneuvers then you are well on your way to internalizing this information. In the next article, Positioning 202: Maneuvering Around Removal, we are going to talk about specific cards which we have not done in these first three articles, but we are going to talk about how those cards can influence your positioning decisions so it is not a change of direction for the Positioning series. As always I now encourage you to go out and play some Duelyst. I recently had a long talk about sports psychology with a friend, and it made me think about another series of articles that Duelyst probably needs anyways. While I wont start writing that right now, I can summarize that discussion by saying that your positioning needs to become part of your intuitive knowledge and the only way to do that is to practice.
Thank you guys very much for reading the article. I hope that it helps you improve, and as always much love,
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