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Strategy and Game Play: The Hidden Power of Tutoring
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
By JMatthew

One of the things I really like about Duel Masters is how each cards functions are completely straightforward. This is not always true for all CCGs. Take the most successful CCG ever, Magic: The Gathering. Wizards of the Coast has produced cards so obtuse for their hit game that even they felt the need to poke fun at their own confusingly long text in their first joke set Unglued. How about Yugi-Oh, the game with such contradictory mouse-text that players need to bring an electron microscope to tournaments just to be sure their decks do what they think they do.

All because Duel Masters doesn’t riddle us with text doesn’t mean that it’s a simple game. In fact, plenty of cards possess hidden abilities. To benefit from these you must allow yourself to think outside of the box. Today, I would like to focus on thinking out of the box about ‘tutor’ cards.

What the heck is a ‘tutor’ card? The term originated in Magic: The Gathering. The first tutor was called Demonic Tutor and allowed the player to search for any one card from their deck. Later, Wizards of the Coast continued to produce more cards with the name ‘tutor’ in them and each of them had a similar ability to allow the player to search their deck for one card. Thus the term has made its way into the lingo of the Magic playing community.

The reason I provide this bit of history is because I believe this term can be an acceptable crossover into Duel Masters. A tutor in real life is “one that gives additional, special, or remedial instruction.” So, essentially, we can define a tutor in CCG card terms as any card that allows you to replace it with another card from your deck and thus grants ‘remedial instruction’ to the player and provides the card they need at that time.

So, before we start thinking out of the box about tutors in Duel Masters, let’s look at what tutors are actually available to us:

            Each of these cards perform a valuable function - they allow us to get a card from out of our deck and put in our hand. In the case of Logic Cube and Dimension Gate we are limited to a Spell or Creature, however with Crystal Memory we are allowed any card. That’s great, but we aren’t really here to look at what the cards say they do, we are here to look at what the cards don’t say they do. So, what is this mysterious advantage hidden deep within these cards? The ability to look at your deck in the middle of the game!

            Now, in most CCGs, if you know your deck well, this is not that useful of a function. You can normally look at the board, your hand and discard pile and figure out what is left in your deck without even picking it up. Duel Masters is different, though. Duel Masters has what we call shields. Normally, unless we cast a spell that allows us to look at them, we have no idea as to what shields are there. However, with the assistance of our tutor cards, we can easily figure out for ourselves what cards are hiding in our shield zone!

            But how is this useful? Kenny Rogers once sang a song that illustrates the answer to just that question:

"You got to know when to hold 'em;
know when to fold 'em.
Know when to walk away;
know when to run...

Knowing exactly what cards are in your shields allows you to know exactly where you stand in the game. Do you have that Holy Awe somewhere in those remaining shields which would allow you to attack the opposing player instead of his creatures?  How useful would be the knowledge of a Terror Pit ready to shield trigger? Would it give a certain amount of comfort when facing off against that menacing Billion-Degree Dragon. Even better, knowing that you have at least one Mana Nexus in your shields will help you to know whether you can set down every Mana Nexus you draw into your mana zone or if you need to keep at least one to cast.

            Just giving out this advice would be pretty much useless without advising you how to make this work. Tossing a couple of tutors in your deck just before that big match won’t do. Using a strategy such as this requires more preparation than that. This advice I will be providing you will help make the most of this strategic advantage. As an important note, you will need to be quick when you do your little investigation. If you take to long then your opponent can call you on it. So, how do we do it and do it fast?

            First, keep your deck small. Forty cards is the minimum in Duel Masters and you should always keep to as close as you can to that. Keeping it small also means that you should keep the variety of cards down. If you have only 1xs and 2xs of each card in your deck then you are not likely to deduce what those shields are going to be. Think about it – if you have 40 card deck and 2x of each card you will have at least 20 different cards in your deck. That’s a lot to keep track of. The typical Duel Masters deck should have only about 10 to 12 different cards in it – especially if you plan to take advantage of those tutors.

            So, you’ve now got your deck down to 40 cards with only 10 to 12 varieties of cards. For this next task you will be glad you did. You should know every card in your deck by heart and exactly how many of that card is in your deck. If you can’t write out a complete deck list without looking at your deck, then you are not ready. Get it in that memory however works for you. If you are a visual learner you can lay the entire deck out in from of you and simply stare at it for a while. For those who learn by listening you may want to write down the list of cards and simply recite them out loud – be sure to listen to yourself, though! Knowing exactly what cards you have will drastically improve your ability to check your own deck – not to mention that in time you will find that it will help you in many other areas of you Duel Masters game.

            Now that you have your deck ready and know it well you will need to practice interpreting your shields. Lay out the top five cards as if you are laying down shields at the start of a game. Pick up your deck and see if you can figure out what shields you laid down. About 40 to 45 seconds should be about the longest you should take – too much longer and you may have a problem with the judges for stalling. When you think you’ve got it, pick up those shields and see if you were right. Once you get that down pat you may want to try doing it again along with drawing a hand or putting some cards in the discard pile. Do you do as well? If so, you’re just about ready!

            Next, you need to know what card you are going to actually tutor for before you even cast the spell. During all portions of the game you should have an idea of what you would get in case you where able to cast a tutor. Until you have, you never know if you might shield trigger into one. Once you have spent time checking your deck to see what shields you have you will need to be ready to quickly grab the card you want. If you decided after you have already checked your deck you may take to long and your opponent will have more than enough right to call the judge over to issue you a warning.

            Lastly, don’t be obvious when you are checking your deck. Your opponent doesn’t need to know what you doing. Let him think that you are just having a hard time determining the best card for the situation. Don’t count how many of each card are in your deck out loud. Be discrete if you have to check your mana zone or discard pile to see what cards are in those (though it would be best if you could keep track of those in your head). Take out the card you are tutoring for last – even if you see it in passing.

            Once you have all that down I’m sure you will find your entire game moving to a new level. Information is power and the technique I just described to you will defiantly grant you information that will often prove invaluable. The next time your opponent attacks go ahead and smirk – inside your mind at least. After all, you already know what he’s going to hit and you’ve planned your next attack perfectly thanks to those tutors!





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