Who’s the Beatdown?

This article refers to a concept from other games, specifically one I’ve encountered in the CCG (collectible card game, i.e. strategy card game) context.  Basically, the concept is that one side or the other has INEVITABILITY.  That is, the longer the game goes, the more likely that side is to win.  Accordingly, the other side must play the Beatdown, and beat the other team down before inevitability sets in.

The Beatdown

Take a simple example:  Manchester United is playing Chelsea in the soccerfootball championships.  Chelsea is up 2-0 after sixty minutes.  Man U must now be the aggressor, because if the score remains as is, Chelsea will win.  Inevitability is on the side of Chelsea, thus Man U must become the BEATDOWN.  You will often see this in real soccer or hockey games!  Teams that are losing get more aggressive in the closing minutes, even going so far as to have their goalie play up with the rest of the team (soccer) or leave the ice for another attacker (hockey).  However, soccer and hockey start 0-0, so at the beginning of the game, neither side is the beatdown.

Let’s modify the example a bit.  Suppose Chelsea’s team has lots of stamina, but Man U’s does not.  In fact, Man U’s team will get so tired that they will be unable to score after halftime.  Now, even though the game starts 0-0, Man U must be the aggressor, because if they do nothing in the first half they will almost certainly lose the game or draw at best.  Thus, even going into the game, Man U knows it must be the BEATDOWN.

Let’s take an example from the CCG context.  Say we’re playing the fictional game Tiggarius the Card Game (TM): Game of Cards edition.  The basic idea is that we play creatures from our hand onto the board, and then use them to deal damage to each other’s main hero to reduce his health from 50 to 0 (whereby the player whose hero’s health reaches zero loses).  We can also play spells that affect the board or each other’s hero or our hands or our decks or what have you.  Cards cost mana.  Each turn you draw a card from your deck and gain additional mana so you can play larger and more powerful things.  Ok, so say you’re playing an aggressive Harpy deck.  You have lots of little creatures that you can start playing immediately (when we both have not-so-much mana), and you have some spells that do damage directly to my life total to help finish the job.  You’re trying to kill me quickly.  My deck is a slower Armadillo deck with some giant Armadillos that will take you out in short order, but I need time to amass the mana to play them.  So, I’m trying to play defensively early.  Maybe I have spells that heal me or deal small amounts of damage to the board in order to remove your Harpies.  Seems reasonable, right?  You can clearly identify that the Harpy player is the BEATDOWN here, as if he doesn’t finish off the Armadillo player before that player can “stabilize,” he will ultimately lose.

Identifying when you are the Beatdown is very important to knowing what strategy you should come in with.  The Harpy player should take more risks early if he doesn’t think he’ll be able to finish the Armadillo player otherwise.  Man U should try to play offense in the first half because they won’t be able to in the second half.  Etc.  If the Harpy player plays safe, he’ll probably lose.  And sometimes that strategy may change — it isn’t always so clear-cut which side is the beatdown, and it may change mid-match.

To read more about this concept, you can check out this fabulous article.

But now I want to talk about its application to Atlas Reactor.

When playing a game of Atlas Reactor, you should first look at the team compositions and figure out which side should be the beatdown.  There isn’t always a clear answer, of course.  But here are some general examples:

2 supports vs. 1 support.  The 1 support side is probably the beatdown, because the two-support side can heal up more easily and turtle them out.

Non-Quark vs. Quark.  The non-Quark side is probably the beatdown, because the Quark will do insane healing if left unchecked.

Helio support vs. non-Helio.  Helio can’t actually heal, so his team can’t really recover their health, thus they need to secure kills –> they are the beatdown.

Of course, other circumstances matter as well.  If the other team scores a kill early, throw all of that team comp stuff out the window because now your team MUST be the beatdown.  If neither side engages, the enemy team will simply win a 1-0 victory.  (This means that if you didn’t want your comp to have to play the beatdown role, you must be particularly careful not to give up an early kill!)

Another relevant point is cooldowns.  Suppose the enemy Blackburn uses his dash.  You now have a 5-turn window before it comes back up in which to pressure that Blackburn, hopefully making him blow his dash catalyst or killing him or in some other way pressuring him to force the other team to waste resources or get out of position.  That means that with respect to that Blackburn, your team is the beatdown for that window.  Of course, if you have a very defensive team or you’re already up a kill, you don’t have to assume the beatdown role.  You can stay safe and let the Blackburn get his dash back up — you don’t need to press the advantage.  But the point is that you may want to try to capitalize.  There is a window of opportunity wherein you must act or else cede a potential advantage to the forces of inevitability.

Recognizing these moments is crucial to overall strategy.  You already know the basics of this: most players know to try to hit that Nix while his invisibility is down, or that they should try to kill a Finn’s teammate while his heal and bubble are not available.  But people don’t always think through the larger picture.

A great example of this is in the World Championship finals, Game 1.  Vezzed Gaming picked a comp of Lockwood, Blackburn, Quark and Orion — two supports, and one of them a Quark.  The Imperium picked Asana, Zuki, Celeste and Khita.  Khita is the only support, and she does not have any passive healing — her Take Aim! mark only heals if her team is actively dealing damage to the other team.  So, now that you’ve read this article, you probably recognize that The Imperium’s team must play the beatdown in this scenario, and that if they don’t confirm kills quickly and crisply the Quark’s healing (and the Orion’s healing) will negate the damage they have dealt.

However, The Imperium played what I would call a relatively passive game.  They played a clean game — relatively low on mistakes from the technical side — and the game ended up being close, but I think their overall strategic approach cost them.  I believe they needed to have the Zuki and Khita play a bit more aggressive early when Vezzed were in a corner, because they were on a clock.  When the game ended (2-1), Vezzed’s Blackburn was actually quite low and would probably have died the following turn.  But even if the game had been tied 2-2 at that point, The Imperium’s Zuki, Celeste and Khita were all about half health, whereas Vezzed’s players were nearly full.  There simply wasn’t a way for The Imperium to catch up because they couldn’t regain health.  Indeed, Night’s Asana ended up dying twice because he was playing aggressive but got low as a result and could not be picked back up.  This forced him to waste cooldowns (Shift, Ult) very ineffectively simply to try to stay alive.  I would have preferred him to go down in a blaze of glory, with the rest of The Imperium capitalizing on his pressure (and his drawing of the enemy team’s damage) to position more aggressively and focus down a target.  Had The Imperium kept in mind their need to play the Beatdown role given the lancer compositions, I think they would have taken such an approach and had more success.

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