Making TD Upgrades Educational – Humble Beginnings

You haven’t played WS for very long if you’ve never seen (or been) a new player asking, ‘how many TDs should I buy?’ The stock standard answer will vary from shop to shop, and from TD to TD, but is usually 2-3, so you can mash the best cards in TDs together for a slightly more coherent deck. What I’m here today to say, however, is that this is not necessarily the right answer. More specifically, it isn’t an answer that will teach players anything they don’t already learn from a single TD. Buying TDs is fine, but I think people need to get in the habit of helping others upgrade their TDs more definitively.

For the uninformed, TDs are trial decks. They go by many names, but in WS they are trial decks. That is precisely what they are: decks to trial the game with. People will make the claim that TDs can top locals with ease, and while that may be true, you won’t get anywhere by being the best with a TD. Trial decks don’t show people the depth of thought and decisions required in WS. They’re generally clunky, draw-reliant, field-reliant, and often don’t have any interesting effects. Booster cards are inevitably needed, and while some people won’t settle for anything but the most optimal build, surprise surprise, you don’t have to give someone an optimal deck to give them a taste of real WS. I’m going to illustrate this with the Sword Art Online II TD and some cards from the EP and boosters that won’t cost more than a couple dollars apiece. It’s much easier if you have access to a vendor, or are willing to do yuyu-tei/snkcards orders for the sake of your new player (they pay, of course, but you handle the order itself).

The Sword Art Online II TD list is as follows:

Level 0

  • 4x
  • 2x
  • 4x
  • 2x
  • 4x

Level 1

  • 1x
  • 4x
  • 4x
  • 2x
  • 2x
  • 2x

Level 2

  • 2x
  • 2x
  • 2x
  • 1x
  • 2x

Level 3

  • 2x

Climax

  • 4x
  • 2x
  • 2x

This is actually an extremely competent TD. Getting two of these and mashing them together WOULD actually get quite a decent deck. However, we want to go further. We want to show people some of the standard things that you can expect from WS, and to do that we have to change it up. This TD only has two Level 3s and a huge number of inefficient Level 2s. The ‘interesting’ (read: good) characters are 1- or 2-ofs, whereas the boring vanillas are prevalent everywhere. If we want to move players towards more competitive (and unassisted) deckbuilding, we’ll need to change a lot of things.

This guide will not be universal to all TDs, but it will be a fairly decent method for upgrading most.

1) Decide on a direction.

This is actually a pretty hard thing to do if you’re working with a limited cardpool, which is why I strongly suggest you get access to a card vendor. You generally want to focus on one particular direction or theme so that you can start streamlining the deck in the deckbuilding stage, which will in turn lead to more fluent and focused gameplay.

that direction

For the sake of this article, I’m removing all the Death Gun and <Target> trait cards and focusing on a Kirito frontrow. The reasons for this are simple. Firstly, it’s dirt cheap. People have awful taste and don’t appreciate the true best girl, so Kirito’s cards are extremely easy to get for close to no cost. Second, you need more TDs if you want to focus in on a Death Gun strategy – you may not have noticed, but the 1/0 Death Gun bomb is a one-of in each TD, so unless you have spares floating around, it’s easier to do it this way. Lastly, Kirito has the best climax combo in the deck. It’s honestly that good. We end up removing:

  • 4x
  • 2x
  • 1x
  • 2x
  • 2x
  • 4x

There are some excellent cards in here. is a fine throwdown, is a very serviceable support, is, as mentioned, a Level 1 bomb, and is a gate. A gate, for crying out loud! However, cuts have to be made somewhere, and for the sake of the article, I’m cutting the red.

2) Remove the Level 0 vanillas.

When I say vanilla, I basically mean the 0/0 3ks. Cards that are 3.5k on your turn/the opponent’s turn are pretty meh as well.

Don’t get me wrong. Normally, vanillas are fine. Make sure you stress this point as you take them out of the deck. There are many cases where they are actually the best cards to play. However, I don’t think Level 0 3ks do much in a trial deck. Vanillas are usually used because they have good traits or names, or because there is a startling lack of other options. In this particular case, neither argument holds water.

plain characters are often great, but we don’t want them right now

Level 0 is often the hardest level to build in a deck. Even common sense tells us that, because we have no colour restrictions, Level 0 will have the most candidates for each prescribed role. For the sake of a new player, you should limit the amount of utility you cram into these slots. Placing a few oversize characters, a cheap brainstorm or two, and perhaps some searchers will be more than enough.

  • 4x
  • 2x
  • 4x

You may have noticed that, between the vanillas and the Death Gun theme Level 0s, we’ve removed literally all of the Level 0s in the trial deck. In their place, we can put some cheap, effective cards.

Whenever you put cards into somebody’s deck, discuss the card with them. Don’t just pick a pile of cards and throw it at them – they need to be part of the deckbuilding process, as they will have to do their own deckbuilding if they intend to play WS at any level.

  • 4x

An extremely cheap and effective support that supports the Kirito theme we’re going with. It’s a strict upgrade from the TD assist in this build.

  • 2x

A rare that you can get for a couple dollars. Teaches players the value of card advantage, even if the card you get card be used immediately. It also shows players the value (and disadvantages) of taking one damage. It also searches up the combo we’re going to put in later.

  • 4x

Good synergy with the above Asuna support. You could make a case to play or instead, but the former doesn’t actually combo very well with the support. The TD already had a very competent lv0 throwdown that was +level to boot, but the idea of synergy is better reinforced here. The SAO2 3.5k is fine as well if you have them on hand.

  • 2x

is fine too, but Klein’s topcheck is a pretty good effect, and mimics the extremely powerful effect of , an SAO staple. The basic idea is to put a brainstorm of some sort in here, and these are the two cheapest ones. Brainstorming is a concept that you only learn the value of through frequent playing. The benefits they have are honestly pretty enormous, and teaching players about the pros and cons of brainstorming at any given time can act as a springboard for any number of valuable concepts – stock compression, deck thinning and stock conservation foremost among them. or would be better choices, if they’re lying around and are within budget.

  • 3x

This is the cheaper of the two standard searchers, and is in the appropriate colour to boot. Having a discard outlet is extremely important, and having another out to stocked climaxes early is similarly important. This card shows all of that pretty well. Searchers are actually kind of a luxury, but are very common in the newer sets, so whatever.

  • 1x

A pretty cheap RR that has a lot of utility applications, but one that I personally wouldn’t play more than a single copy of. I feel it’s a good idea to include at least a couple one-ofs in deckbuilding. One-of cards are extremely important in WS, as there is incredible zone control compared to most other card games. If you need an ability you only have on your one-of, you have to do a bit of forward thinking. The nature of the one-of is that it is never absolutely vital. A card like this Yui is exactly that – nice to have around, and a great utility if you need a discard or stock out, but hardly something you can’t live without. Sometimes you’ll find that players crutch on their one-ofs very hard, and when you see that, you can suggest that they bump the card up to a two-count. A lot of things are playstyle dependent.

You may have noticed that we now have supports, oversize cards, brainstormers and utility, all for what I would consider a very low price. It’s honestly not that far removed from a normal SAO Level 0, but for the lack of bombs and runners. Anyway, the Level 0 slots are the only ones we’re going to completely revamp, and the rest of the deck will be mostly intact.

3) Put focus on some key cards.

The vast majority of WS decks at the moment will run 4 of a specific card at Level 1 or 0. This is because those cards form a major part of the overall gameplan. You need to instill the idea of key cards in players, because being able to pull off your strategies is the core concept that creates fun in WS. Consistency is key, and key cards create consistency.

it’s past midnight and you want me to find something witty and suitable to post?

The key cards we’re going to focus on here are and a pauper’s combo from the EB: and . Not only are these cards climax combos, but they form a staircase of sorts: Level 1 > Level 2 > Level 3. Even better, the latter two want the help of each other to function, and is perfectly placed to help pull the two together.

The Level 1 Kirito is quite reminiscent of the staple . There are some notable advantages that make Asuna the preferred climax combo in many SAO decks, but Kirito is perfectly serviceable. Two trial decks will get you four of the Kirito and four of the climax, which is what you want.

You might have to scrounge a bit to find the 2/1 and 3/2 Kiritos, but they are perfectly serviceable characters with a high ceiling. They are reasonably easy to find in-game with the aid of the aforementioned Kirito and any searchers you may have, and are an appropriate introduction to lategame climax combos and advance summoning, both of which are extremely prevalent in the English and Japanese metagames. The fact that the Level 3 Kirito also has a combo with the same climax improves consistency, and can help teach players the value of climax triggers – in this case, the Pants/Arch trigger.

These cards just happen to be the climax combos in the specific deck, but the key focus card doesn’t necessarily have to have a climax combo – it may be a specific field combination, such as the Marcos from Terraformars needing multiple Alex cards, or some number of Haruue behind an Uiharu or Saten-based field. Starting players off like this will give them something to focus on, which is very important in a game where you go through cards extremely quickly and often have to make decisions about which cards you want to take. You clock for most of Level 0-1, and you often get at least one opportunity to search the deck. The choice to search the deck is in itself something with purpose, and giving players some key cards to focus on will give them that purpose.

To summarise:

  • 4x
  • 4x
  • 3-4x
  • 3-4x
  • 4x

With this, we’ve established the climax combos in the deck and created a focus for the mid- and endgames. I’m very aware that 4-counts of these cards are not necessarily right, but you can cut them down whenever you want to.

4) Support your key cards

You’ve hopefully helped give their deck a direction. You’ve put focus on a specific character, and maxed (or close to maxed) the counts of that character in the deck. What’s left is deciding the cards you want to play alongside all of the other stuff.

A good place to start is Level 1. Make sure the session continues to be interactive, and that you are teaching as much as possible. You want to refer back to the game plan that you’ve introduced – in our case, the Kirito climax combo. That gameplan should continue to be the centerpiece of the deck’s Level 1 game, and the remaining cards are just support players. That being said, you want your support players to be functional.

these are some support characters who are great

Firstly, talk to your new player about the merits of your gameplan. The 2/1 to 3/2 combo is already adequately supported by your 1/1 combo, as well as with the and . This leaves the 1/1 climax combo itself, which leads us into deciding the Level 1 game as a whole.

The 1/1 Kirito is a moderately large attacker, sitting at a healthy 6.5k. This goes up to a stalwart 7.5k with appropriate backrow supports, but even that is easily beaten with a climax or the like. We need to try and get our stock’s worth from playing this card, especially if you’re forced to play it without the climax in hand. The first thing I would think of is trying to keep this card alive for more than a turn. To do that, we move to using counters. The best counter is , but it’s always possible we  can’t find or afford those. In that case, we can move to , from the second set, or . I think the 老虎证券 latter is a fantastic card due to the fact it combos with (which might even be our other beater of choice), but the fact that you can’t search it with the 1/1 Kirito itself is a bit irritating. Regardless, pick a counter and move on forward. I decided I rather liked partway through typing this paragraph, so I’m going to throw them in for our example.

  • 4x
  • 4x

The 1/0 card I’ve tossed in here has the Accelerate ability, which is another keyword your new player will have to remember. This effect returns the event counter from the Waiting Room to your Hand. This is yet another good thing, because it gives the new player yet another goal – get into the discard by clocking or dropping it at Level 0, because you can get some value out of returning it with your 1/0. It also lets your 6.5k 1/1s reach a healthy 8.5k before support, which is usually enough to keep it alive, and possibly give it another go at getting the combo off.

As for other cards to put in here, any assortment of decent costless beaters, utility counters and good Level 3s should be fine. I would play some number of and , simply because they’re already in the trial deck, and cap it off with (gets buffs from the Asuna support) and (there are so many little lessons to be taught with this card).

The end result:

  • 4x
  • 2x Sinon, Ideal Self
  • 4x Kirito, Swimming Submerged
  • 2x
  • 3x
  • 1x
  • 4x
  • 4x
  • 2x
  • 4x
  • 3x
  • 2x
  • 1x
  • 3x
  • 3x
  • 4x
  • 4x

The goal of this deck is exceedingly clear, the character counts at each Level are basically the same as any competitive deck (in contrast to a trial deck), and you have good zone management at pretty much any point in the game.

5) Play games. Open-handed.

No point if you don’t actually play with them. Open-handed playing is, in my opinion, one of the most underused techniques in teaching someone how to play a more advanced deck. Not only do you get to see and correct any inefficient plays they might be making, but you can show them what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and can then proceed to explain what you’re ultimately aiming for. You’ll quickly find that you make far more small decisions in WS than you might believe you do, and that most of them are intuitive. The ultimate goal is to get players to the level where things such as choosing what to clock, what to salvage and what to field are mostly instinctive, and a great way to get started is by exposing players to what you, a presumably-more-experienced player, are thinking and doing when you make in-game choices.

Go through the motions a couple times. I promise that it works. It’s a fantastic way to get players further into the game without breaking the bank, and if they like what they see, then your job is done.

About lycheepunnet

the victim in an abusive relationship with cardboard
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