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Competitive Concepts: Interaction and It's Forms
Written by Kinship
Created 06 February, 2024
Last updated 06 February, 2024
Welcome to the next edition of Competitive Concepts! We're going on a journey to the heart of what makes a card game worth playing, the interaction!
What is Interaction?
Interaction within the context of GA is simply anything that is done to respond or react in some way to your opponent's actions. Interaction is important as you can trade a small amount of your resources to deny your opponents a large amount of value.
An example of this would be playing out a Resolute Stand in response to an opponent's Ensoul. You both lose a card in the interaction, but you have often blocked most of the damage from your opponent and have denied them one of their cards that act as their win-con. While you had to pay either the zero or three cost to do this they were forced to put six cards down, which could potentially remove their ability to react to your next turn allowing you the opportunity to win.
If a card can be played at fast speed, then there is a decent chance that it is meant to be some form of interaction. However, that is not to say that slow-speed cards cannot be interaction as well.
Damage As Interaction
Allies represent a consistent form of value generation as they will continue to damage you every turn until dealt with. However, allies have a health stat, which leaves them open to the most common form of interaction: damage.
Damage can come from from multiple sources in the form of skill damage, such as Blazing Throw, spell damage, such as Refracting Missile, or allies themselves, such as... well, every ally with a power stat! Usually damage from champions comes from weapon regalia such as Sword of Seeking or from attack cards such as Hurricane Sweep. Rarely we can also get damage from non-weapon such Endura, Scepter of Ignition or from champions with an innate power stat such as the upcoming Vanitas, Convergent Ruin. In the case of allies, damage usually comes as interaction when you attack your opponent's allies, but retaliation is also a kind of interaction in itself. Intercept, taunt, and steadfast are all abilities that change this dynamic in interesting ways with intercept and taunt changing the target of the attack itself and steadfast acting to retaliate which can lower the value of your opponents attacks by potentially trading their ally for yours.
Skills and spells that deal damage can happen at fast or slow speed. Slow spell damage is powerful in its own right and can come at a cheaper cost than what it is trying to kill. Voltaic Sphere can take out huge allies for a mere two cost, as can Focused Flames. Anger the skies can take out the entire board for a single card. Fast spells typically offer less value overall than slow spells, but can do so more proactively. Spontaneous Combustion costs one more reserve cost than Focused Flames while doing the same damage, but can be done before an opponent's creature ever gets to attack you. Fireball might not be capable of wiping out the board, but it can wipe out any one unit (including a champion) with enough setup.
Removal As Interaction
Sometimes your opponent will have a card that doesn't have a life stat. In these cases damage isn't going to help and you will instead have to rely on removal. Removal happens when a card is sent directly to another zone from the field. This is most commonly done by sending a card from the field to the graveyard, but cards can also be sent to banishment. In very rare cases, such as Dematerialize, cards can also be sent back into the material deck. Currently only one card can send something from the field back into the deck itself, being Fishing Accident which needs two prep counters, which is a steep price to pay for ally removal. A slightly less powerful version of this effect comes in the form of Dream Fairy, which sends a card from the field back into memory.
Effects that send cards to the graveyard from the field typically do so through destruction. This is often either broad and costly, or narrow and cheap. Spurn to Ash only has three reserve cost, but it can only target regalia and only if that regalia has a memory cost of one or less, while Disintegrate can destroy any regalia or ally. This of course comes in at a whopping eight reserve cost (With efficiency as a class bonus to help mages a bit). Effects that send cards to banishment from the field typically do it temporarily. Wind has access to removal through cards like Zephyr, Scattering Gusts, and the board-clearing Ravaging Tempest . Luxem has it in the form of Uther, Illustrious King's banishment while he is on the field.
Prevention As Interaction
In GA (and every card game) not every card has the same level of power. Even if a deck isn't built with a single card as its win-con, almost every strategy will have a few cards that do most of the heavy lifting in terms of working towards the win. In terms of interaction this can be taken in two directions: either you have to stop your opponent from taking out your high-value cards, or you have to stop them from playing theirs. Fundamentally prevention comes in two flavors.
The first of these is what I will refer to as 'action prevention'. This is any prevention that disrupts your opponent's ability to interact with an object. For allies an example of action prevention could be playing a card, such as Smoke Bombs, that imparts stealth. Rather than taking out their ally through damage or through removal, their ally is left intact. While this seems like it is outright lower power than the alternatives, it comes at a much lower cost, and still wastes an attack on their end. If your opponent is more inclined to use spells, spellshroud works in much the same way, with cards like Anthem of Vitality preventing any spells from targeting your animals or beasts. Currently there are no cards that prevent targeting from skills, but I would not be surprised if something akin to 'skillshroud' were introduced in the future. I often hear players complain about 'skill diff' when playing against me so I can only assume this is the cause of their gripes.
There are a couple of interesting outliers to look at in the form of 'rest' and 'end combat phase' abilities. Cards like Lunette, Frostbinder Priest and Sudden Snow both work to make allies come in rested, while Bubble Mage and Snow Fairy rest units that have already entered the field. These effects can be important as some allies have 'on-attack' triggers that will resolve regardless of if they hit their target and simply making them lose their target is not enough to deal with them. To take this even a step further Glacial Guidance and Freeze Stiff can end the combat phase. When a phase ends all abilites that are on the stack cease to exist. This means not only will on-attack triggers not resolve, but also any spells that they might have played on their ally.
The second type of prevention is 'negation'. Rather than trying to respond to the effect of your opponents cards, negation negates the activation of their cards itself. Cards that negate are typically not 'cheap', but their value lies in the fact that they can stop extremely high-value cards from resolving. Negating cards come in three flavors, each relative to the cost your opponent has to face to stop them. The first of these is the absolute negate. The best example of this is the upcoming Astral Seal. You play it against your opponent's card and it's negated and banished. End of story. The second of these is the set condition negate. Frostbind is an example of a set condition negate as your opponent always has to pay a set two reserve cost to stop the effect. The final negate is the variable condition negate. Flash Freeze can be negated if your opponent pays your current level in reserve cost. This can be anything from 0 up, so the power of this card varies greatly depending both on how late the game is and the current number of cards your opponent has in hand.
What Comes Next
It's a bit hard to highlight the importance of interaction in a vacuum, so I won't be going in depth as to the implications of having it. However, you can look forward to another competitive concepts article in the future where I will be combining the concepts of card advantage, deck archetypes, and interaction in order to explain why we care about any of these things in the first place: the wincon.