Strategy Session #1
Sun Tzu – “The Art of War”
My name is Tom Lafleur, and I
have been playing CCGs
(collectable card games) for over 6 years.
Some of the games I play are MTG, Pokemon, Star
Wars, Middle Earth, and Legend of the five Rings.
This is the first of many strategy sessions that
I will post Pojo MTG page – some of you will
definitely benefit from the words of this great Chinese
Tzu was a general and a philosopher who lived 2,500
years ago, and revolutionized ancient warfare.
His maxims are still taught to military students
today – and for good reason!
My goal is to take the wisdom of this great
strategist and try to explain it to you in terms of deck
building, tournament preparation, and general CCG
A CCG player is just like a
forces are the creatures and spells in your deck.
To be a good general, Sun Tzu says that you must
follow the 5 constant factors:
Sun Tzu’s CCG Advice
Know all the rules of the game
Improve your physical condition
Know all the cards and popular deck
Build a deck and rehearse
Your mental state
Let’s spend a minute talking
about these 5 bits of advice.
First, to be an effective player, you must know
the rules of the game.
This means reading the latest rule book
and checking on-line with the latest rule
you practice with your friends, you must play by the
way, you will always play as if you were in a
Your overall physical health is
very important – if you are in good shape physically,
you won’t run out of gas in the later tournament
that the tournament gets tougher with each round, and if
you are tired and hungry, you will be more likely to
make bad decisions and lose games.
Keep up your energy with healthy snacks – bring
them with you in your backpack to snack on between
food for sale at most tournaments is mainly quick energy
snacks – candy, sodas, chips.
This type of food will give you a burst of
energy, but you will crash even harder in the next
fruit, juice, nuts, a sandwich, granola bars, celery,
carrots, and stuff like that.
You have to be an expert at the
most popular and most effective decks in order to win.
Let’s face it, some players will just take a
deck off of the internet and play it in a tournament and
lose horribly. They
won’t understand why they lost, when someone else won
a whole tournament with it.
The main reason is that they don’t understand
how to play the deck most effectively. This leads into the next point – rehearsing your deck.
Play your new deck against as many of the most
popular deck types you can.
Strive to play against the best players in your
area – that will be the kind of player you will face
in a tournament, and the bigger the tournament, the
tougher the competition.
When your deck does well, note the cards and
combinations that worked.
When your deck does poorly, write down the cards
you wished you would have had.
After about 20 games, take a look at your piece
of paper and add some cards and take away cards that
didn’t work. You
have just tuned your own deck!
This is when you really take a good look at your
cards that only work against a specific deck type are
cards you should consider for your sideboard.
Finally, your attitude can make
the difference between winning and losing.
It is easy to be happy when you are winning, but
you must be positive even when you are losing –
especially when you are losing.
With a properly built deck, even a hopeless
situation can be turned around with a lucky draw.
Think positively and keep your spirits up.
When you lose, lose gracefully.
Shake his hand and tell him ‘good job’.
Make your opponent earn the victory, and when he
does, congratulate him on a great game.
You really do learn more from the games you lose
than from the ones you win!
Sun Tzu also said that we must
rely on our own abilities, not the opponent’s lack of
This means that we must strive to be the best we
can be, and to treat each opponent as the hardest player
we ever fought. That way, we are using all of our skill to defeat him, and
are really trying hard not to make mistakes.
If we assume that the opponent is weak, we will
make more mistakes and play more sloppily.
Sun Tzu reminds us of the 5
faults of a bad general:
All these things will cause you
to lose a game. If
you play too fast, using your creatures once you draw
them, you may be playing recklessly, and your opponent
could wrath them all away.
You must wait for the right time to use your
spells…but Sun Tzu also says that if you are afraid to
try a bold or risky move, then you will surely lose too!
He knows that there is the right time to play
your spells, and only through experience will you
realize when that time is.
That’s why you have to playtest your deck so
much – to be able to see the point in the game when
things can take a major turn for the worse or better by
One of the worst things you can
do after losing a game in a tournament is to dwell on
you are angry or ashamed about a loss, you will keep
thinking about that game, the one you lost, instead of
thinking about the one you are currently playing.
This will lead to mistakes, and maybe another
don’t spend too much energy worrying about your next
opponent – especially if he is a really highly ranked
player, or someone who always beats you.
Remember that any given deck can be beaten with
skillful play and a little luck.
You must always think positively!
Remember, Sun Tzu said that if
you know your deck, but you don’t know your
opponent’s deck, you can win half of your games.
If you know your opponent’s deck, but you
don’t know your own, you can also win half of your
is the master who knows his own deck (playtest, build it
properly, good mental and physical condition) and knows
his opponent’s deck (know all the cards, know the
rules) who can win all of his games!
Next week I will finish up with
the rest of Sun Tzu’s lessons for CCG players.
Good luck and keep playing!