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Halp, I've Plateaued!

Hey, all,

As some (all?) of you may know, I’ve been playing for a couple of years (since IYL 5?), and now I run a lot of tournaments here through the forums. However, I feel like despite playing regularly, my play has plateaued/declined in the past 6 months to a year. I think some, or perhaps all, of that is due just to not playing as much. But! I’m interested in hearing from other folks, long-time or otherwise, any of

  1. thoughts on my play in particular, based on observations of your games w/ me
  2. particular training or practice you’ve done that has helped. I’ve heard (but not implemented) the idea of focusing on particular aspects of play, and working on improving just those, irrespective of your results (which feels hard when most games also happen in tournaments, these days). So, what are aspects of Yomi that make sense to focus on? Range shifts? Blocking more? Valuation (how do you evaluate that yourself)?
  3. other thoughts? How do you practice Yomi?
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Ime the hardest part in yomi, where i struggled and seen other ppl struggle too (some never managed to overcome the bottleneck) is getting out of your comfort zone. If you watch your games, you’ll notice you have bad habits (VG: in my case i had the habit to play safe once reached the red zone.). Use the replay function to observe your playstyle, esp when you lost and overcome your fear to do the “bold”/“patient” move. If you struggle against a particular MU and you lack a real opp, even bots can help. Fight against the yomibot until you win regularly, then against the EX char. The OPness makes up for it.

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What are the things that you are thinking about as you play your turns? Like, if you had to summarize where your focus was during the “pick your combat reveal” stage of the game, what things would you list?

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I think my attention priority is roughly:

  1. What options have good payoff this turn? (Dodge into big damage, block at low hand-size, dump a hand as Sets)
  2. Am I being too predictable? Am I about to rule-of-three?
  3. Do I have an obvious good-play this turn? Do I have the counter-play for the thing that beats the obvious good play?
  4. Do I have any guesses about what the opponent will play this turn?

One thing that I feel I’m particularly bad at (esp in regards to 4.) is having a good understanding/mental model of where my opponent is in their game-plan, and what their recent plays might say about their hand. It’s something I’ve noticed you doing in your live-cast games, and I mostly just marvel at, because I’m never really sure how best to make those inferences.

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I think #2 can more or less be thrown out or dropped to the bottom of the list. Sometimes the opponent isn’t even trying to predict you, or had a bad prediction, or predicted correctly but second guessed themselves. Disregarding all of that: if you thoroughly answer #1 & #4 than it might not matter how predictable you feel. Throw 5 times in a row if you have too, it’s a much more proactive mindset.

I would suggest playing some grave while constantly (every turn) trying to glean the contents of their hand, and what their choices reveals about their fears or intentions. Then you use graves 7 to check how close you were.

When do you tend to play? I could spar with you a bit. I certainly need to practice what I preach.

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I think another big problem, honestly, is that I really only make time to play when its time for a tournament game. My schedule is such that finding time to sit down at a computer and play something is a relatively infrequent occasion. That’s good feedback on howto shift my focus, and a good idea on how to practice #4 effectively in the confines of a game. Thanks!

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I cannot comment to your play style, but I can give general advice. I keep tabs on what my opponent is likely to have. It is prudent to know the range of possible threats. I mix-up playing good options with safe options. Sometimes, I will play sub-optimally if I get a read that my opponent knows I will play high value/safe plays. If my opponent plays risky or low payoff plays, then I will almost exclusively play high value/safe plays. I try to keep it simple.

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If you can make time to watch other players play a match, I recommend it as an effective way to build this skill. Not that you can’t develop it while playing in games yourself, but I find it can be easier to do without the distraction of having to manage your hand and pick combat reveals.

It’s easier to do with characters whose hands are relatively stable over time (so, not Setsuki or Gwen, for example), since the contents of their hands will tend to become more complex slowly (through blocking) and less complex quickly (by spending cards on combos). It’s also easier to do the more specialized the cards of your opponent are: it’s easier to read Grave’s hand than Troq’s, because Grave’s J, Q, and K all do very specific things, whereas Troq’s deck is just throws, reversals, and dodges.

The first step of building a sense of your opponent’s hand is to identify differences between what they combat reveal and the optimal combat reveal. If Grave throws you with a 9, then you can be confident they didn’t have an 8 - since, all things being equal, Grave would prefer to throw you with an 8 than a 9 - and maybe didn’t have a 7 either. Likewise, if they’re playing 3 attack in neutral, what are the odds they have a 2 in hand? Maybe they’re looking to hit with a straight - let’s assign some weight to the possibility of a 4 and a 5 in hand then.

Inefficient combos can do the same thing: if Grave throws you and combos into a single K, then they likely don’t have another K in their hand to play next turn. If Grave is dodging, you should seriously think about TPoS, because Grave has pretty terrible payoffs from dodge outside of TPoS. The better you know a character, the easier a time you will have making guesses about their hand.

The other half of the equation is checking your opponent’s discard - after all, it’s easy to play like your opponent has no Ks if all four of them are in the discard. Or even if three of them are; that’s probably not an option you should give much respect when choosing your combat option. If they’re getting low on dodges, when would you expect them to play them? Same thing if they’re getting low on throws, reversals, etc.

It’s near impossible to map out an opponent’s hand perfectly, but any information you can discern is going to be an improvement over no knowledge at all.

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Making guesses about your opponent’s hand is also match-up dependent. In a given match-up, certain cards will be important for your opponent to have (and thus important for you to make guesses about them having). If you are Zane fighting against Onimaru, and last turn when they were knocked down, they didn’t play a 5 or a Q, you should consider that they just don’t have it. It’s much less risky for them to just reversal in that situation than block, unless they have reason to suspect you have Max Anarchy online, for example.

In every MU, at different phases in the match, specific cards will be key resources for both players - Final Authority in the lategame for Oni, Grave’s J in the first few turns of a match, Zane’s K in the mid-game. At that point, a lot of other cards will become functionally identical. In the mid-game, I don’t really care if Grave has one or more 5s or 6s in hand - they get grouped into the “combo filler” or “slow, bad attack” category and ignored.

As you get better at understanding the rhythm of a given match-up (what cards are relevant when), you’ll be able to take in and interpret the information your opponent is providing more effectively. And once you’re doing that, you’ll have a much stronger foundation for reading their likely combat reveals, beyond more broad feelings about their overall tendencies as a player.

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A player should also recognize when the Yomi gods are on their side. When you draw that unlikely card, increase your likelihood to play it. Unless your opponent is bad (i.e. not paying attention to discard), the odds are definitely in your favor.

The moral of the story is to use whatever small edge you can to swing your win rate incrementally above 50 percent.

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