Greetings and Salutations readers, this is the first iteration of an article series I decided to make which will take some of the more complex ideas applied to card games such as Magic and then port them over to be relative to Duelyst. This first article will be about Quadrant Theory. I like to write articles based of subjects that interest me and often get my ideas from articles that I have read, I shall make my best effort to differentiate my articles from their inspiration as much as possible but the core ideas will still be shared. I will post the inspiration for each article in this series at the bottom of the article.
Quadrant Theory is a way of evaluating the usefulness of cards by breaking the game into stages and judging the card based on how effective it is within those states and how many of those stages it is effective in. The basis of this theory is that all games are based on board state, there is almost no deck in gauntlet or constructed that can reliably ignore the board state and still win. Even entirely spell decks which have no board state win through either subverting the board state with cards such as silhouette tracer or controlling the board state with control spells and chipping away at the opponents health. With that in mind you can break the board state into 5 stages, Developing, Parity, Ahead, Behind and Topdeck.
The developing or opening stage of the game is the first few turns where decks start to initiate their gameplan. The length of the Developing stage and exactly what a deck aims to do during it varies from deck to deck. An aggro deck will want to start developing threats to overwhelm their opponent, Midrange vaath may want to develop young silithar or golem metallurgist to take the tile and ramp into some bigger minions, A control deck wants to keep the board clear.
The strength of a card within the developing stage changes depending on the deck you are running and its game plan however there are cards that are universally good such as young silithar for Magmar being a turn 1 play with good stats and rebirth or Azurite Lion as a 2/3 with celerity allowing you to take the tile and push the opponent on your second turn. Of the 5 states the developing is the most dependant on your deck’s archetype.
The parity state as the word suggests is when each player is at a relatively equal board state. In the parity state each player is fighting over the dominant board presence and therefore the ideal cards for this state is a card that either; breaks parity in your favour by putting you ahead on board, or puts the opponent in a position that breaks parity if they cant answer it by developing a threat that would break parity the following turn.
As with most stages of the game the strength of a card within this state depends on the matchup, against swarm your plasma storm may be the card that breaks parity and pushes you into the lead but against something like Midrange or Control it might be that Lavaslasher or Makantor to clear their board whilst developing your own.
The Winning state is when your board state is greatly overwhelming theirs and you have inevitability (Inevitability is another topic I will touch on when I discuss progress theory in a later article but it basically refers to the player who will win if nothing changes) The cards that are effective in this stage are the ones that help push that final bit of damage or further develops your board presence to an unsalvageable state for your opponent.
An example of these would be something like Wanderer, Wanderer can be a pretty weak play if you play it with an empty board and arguably the way to beat wanderer (or at least what I consciously try to do in the Mu) is to keep them behind on board so they can’t afford to spend an entire turn on Wanderer however, If you already are winning the board state dropping Wanderer can turn a winning board into a complete rout. Something that could be bad in the Winning state is Trinity Oath. Trinity Oath is an exceptional card but when your winning you don’t need the healing or the card draw so it becomes a much more lacklustre play than other cards you could be using; especially in Lyonar which has some amazing 4 cost cards.
The losing state is as self explanatory as the other states, it’s when you’re behind on board and the cards that are good in this phase, as you would expect, are the cards that can either pull you back into parity or swing cards that can drag you into winning just from one play.
An example of this would be the aforementioned Trinity Oath. While Trinity Oath may not be great in the winning state the losing state is really where the card excels. Trinity Oath draws cards and heals you for 4 mana which often isn’t your entire turn by the time you’ve exited parity and entered the winning or losing states. Direct Damage is an interesting point of evaluation for the losing state because the cards on their own are bad in the losing state but when combined together for example multiple Phoenix Fire with Eight Gates it can clutch victory from the jaws of defeat and leave your opponent pretty salty.
TopDecking (The Unofficial 5th Quadrant)
Now I know that a quadrant has 4 sectors and when this theory was initially created and applied to magic it did. However, I believe and so do many others, that Quadrant Theory should have a 5th State and that state is Top decking. The Top decking state can coexist with all the other states because it has to do with your hand not with the board but the cards that are good in this stage differ, In that the cards you want are either draw or very high impact. There are some low impact cards that would be good if you had a full hand however ther become significantly worse while in the Topdeck state because it’s the only play you can make and you can’t guarantee that the card you have next turn will do anything.
What does it all mean?
So I’ve described all the Quadrants, including the 5th Unofficial one, but how do you apply this theory into practice? Well, that’s what we are going to do right now as an example. So let’s take Dancing Blades a 5 Mana 4/6 that deals 3 damage to an enemy minion in front of this when it is played.
Developing: The card is fairly weak in the Developing stage because of its cost, I would rate it roughly a 2 out of 4 because it is normally a dead card in hand during developing but if ramped into it can really swing the board in your favour.
Winning: The card is really strong in the Winning stage and I would rate it 3.5/4 Because it develops a 4/6 which are strong stats whilst also contributing to removing their board which puts you further ahead whilst putting your opponent further behind. The reason it loses out on the last half score is because it is outclassed by a lot of 5 drops especially Lavaslasher which does the same thing just better in every possible way.
Losing: Dancing Blades is less impactful in the losing stage then in the winning stage but because it acts as removal whilst developing board I would rate it 2.75/4 I think that there are much better cards whilst you are behind but Dancing blades is definitely not something I would bank on in every Mu because it is more situational than other universally good cards.
Parity: Parity is where this card shines and I would place it at a 4/4 because it develops a 4/6 and removes their 2 drop or contributes to removing something else. It is not the best card in this state but it is still shines in the right deck for pushing out of parity and into winning especially in gauntlet.
Overall: So Dancing Blades got 2/4 in Developing, 3.5/4 in Winning, 2.75/4 in Losing and 4/4 in Parity. What does that mean? It means that Dancing Blades is a good card especially in Duelyst’s draft format Gauntlet in which you can’t choose the ideal cards that would normally outclass this in constructed like Lavaslasher.
So I am going to be putting up an article every Friday at 11pm AEST which translates to 1pm Friday GMT and 9am Friday ET. The topics will vary from deck techs to theory analysis to interviews or maybe something else depending on what I want to write about that week. Hope you all look forward to it 🙂
MAGIC: THE GATHERING. (2018). Quadrant Theory. [online] Available at: https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/li/quadrant-theory-2014-08-20
Anderson, Z. (2016). Spelljammer School: How to Evaluate Cards: Part 2. [online] NumotGaming. Available at: http://www.numotgaming.com/spelljammer-school-how-to-evaluate-cards-part-2/
Magic.tcgplayer.com. (2018). [online] Available at: http://magic.tcgplayer.com/db/article.asp?ID=13815