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The original concept of "fundamental turn" comes from Magic: The Gathering, particularly from Pro-player and writer Zvi Mowshowitz . In a nutshell, the concept talks about a critical "turn" in a Magic game where a player using a particular kind of Magic deck will a) win outright, or b) set up his game position such that victory is largely assured. I thought about this when I was having a discussion on why I felt that an Agent with a full-on Demon set is arguably the strongest defensive Agent setup in M:AA today. At first I couldn't put my finger on why I thought that way, I just relied on my experience where, stats and level generally equal, a Demon-set Agent would hand me my ass. Then I remembered the concept of the fundamental turn, and it felt like the proper fit.

In this entry I'll try to translate the concept of the fundamental turn into the M:AA game format, in the hopes of explaining my observations of the game and, with some luck, create a set of guideposts to formulate strategies for both PvE and PvP. I'll also try to reconcile the concept of the Fundamental Round with that of Turn Advantage , as this concept has much to do with the Fundamental Round.


Version History

1.0 - 2/21/2013 12:00 MNL - blog post uploaded!

1.01 - 2/21/2013 8:41 MNL - added headers


Preliminaries

All of this is based on my own analysis, which necessarily means that it comes from my own experiences and observations. Our observations may vary. That's fine. All I ask is that you step back and think about what I'm saying first before going postal in the comments section. =)

This is a work in progress, so contributions are absolutely welcome. Arguments are okay, except a) they have to make sense, and b) they have to be accompanied by constructive suggestions. Posts lacking (a) or (b) - especially (a) - will be ignored.

With that out of the way, let's start with:


What Is the Fundamental Round?

There are two ways we can understand the Fundamental Round. The first is with respect to a team we run, whether ir be PvE or PvP. For any given team you run, the Fundamental Round is that round where you either a) win outright, or b) position yourself such that it is extremely unlikely that you would lose in the subsequent rounds until the fight ends.

The second is with respect to the PvP "metagame," pertaining to the Fundamental Round of the most widely-used team, or a widely-used strategy, whether it be an active team or a defensive team.


How do we determine the Fundamental Round?

On the first aspect, it is far easier to determine the Fundamental Round of teams that focus on offense (e.g. Glass Cannon , Top Gun teams). Generally, their Fundamental Round is the round where they knock out the opposing team. At bare minimum, it is the round where they are able to reduce the opposing team to one remaining member, and retain at least a 2-on-1 advantage, without any of their remaining members being in trouble of getting knocked out. I use this specific game state as the key point in a fight because barring very specific situations, taking two turns of your own for every one turn of your opponent in itself should win you the game.


To illustrate: a common Agent setup I encountered in the previous Season had Phoenix Flare, Sudden Support and Arc Reactor. This setup is capable of dealing a huge amount of damage, and cannot be Protected against as Phoenix Flare is Stealthy. However, both Phoenix Flare and Sudden Support start cooled down, and are only available in Round 2. Ergo, assuming that this is the primary way by which this setup wins, we peg its Fundamental Round at Round 2. On the other hand, a team set up to use Modern Thor on the very first round to deal a large amount of damage can be said to have Round 1 as its Fundamental Round.

On the other hand, a team that incorporates a tanking strategy (e.g.Volcano , Hammer Time teams), a reactive strategy (e.g. Aikido teams ) or lock-out teams (e.g. teams that utilize Invisible Woman's Force Cage) may have several Fundamental Rounds, depending on how the strategies are broken down and when it is able to execute its game-winning strategy. For example, teams that utilize a Ghost Tank (namely, Agents equipped with a Protect gear and Sinister Scepter) or a combination of Phoenix and Shadowcat Kitty Pryde may have its Fundamental Round pegged at Round 1 relative to its defensive setup, but may have a later offensive Fundamental Round as far as killing the opposing team is concerned.


The Fundamental Round and the PvP Metagame

We earlier said that the Fundamental Round can also be a characteristic of the PvP game environment, or the "metagame." Note that by "metagame," we're not talking about a fixed environment. Remember that the players you face are dependent on a) your Agent level, b) your Elo Rating, and c) how far away you are from the end of the Season. Changes to any of the three can cause the Fundamental Round of the teams you face to shift up or down.

Recognizing the Fundamental Round of the metagame you face will allow you to make better team-build decisions. Simply put, whatever the Fundamental Round is of the metagame, field a team that has its Fundamental Round of at least one round earlier. Using the "Phoenix Flare, Sudden Support and Arc Reactor" metagame example: since that team generally goes off on Round 2, fielding a team that can go off in Round 1 will generally result in you winning. As those teams generally fielded Blaster White Crown Phoenix and Tactician Pheonix 5 Emma Frost, I simply ran a Bruiser Agent with Coulson's Revenge, a Grey suit Tactician Black Widow and an Infiltrator White Crown Phoenix. Tactician Black Widow could neutralize the opposing Phoenix on the very first turn, and the Infiltrator White Crown Phoenix negated both the Agent combo (Death and Rebirth) and kept Emma Frost in check (due to an AI quirk that prevents Tactician Emma from using Mental Trauma if there is any Infiltrator in the opposing team). By identifying the opposing team's Fundamental Round, addressing each of his team's components and finding a way to counteract them, I successfully delayed that team's Fundamental Round indefinitely, as often I could stabilize my game position as early as Round 1.

The alternative is to field a team that can delay the Fundamental Round of the opposing team long enough for you to get to your own Fundamental Round and either stabilize the game in your favor, or overtake the opposing team and win outright. Tanking and lockout strategies come to mind here, as well as teams that can focus-fire on a single target unimpeded.


The Fundamental Round and Turn Advantage

These two aren't synonymous, but they do dovetail nicely. The Fundamental Round is a turning point, a flash point if you will, in the course of the game. Turn Advantage can be used to either get you there faster, or keep your opponent from getting to theirs sooner.

In this sense, if you're familiar with Turn Advantage, you now have a definite goal towards which you gauge that advantage. How quickly can you generate Turn Advantage to achieve your Fundamental Round by Round 2? What about Round 1? On the other hand, can the Turn Advantage you gain be enough to keep your opponent from reaching his Fundamental Turn? Is it a one-time stall, or can you stall him indefinitely?

Going back to my earlier "Phoenix Flare, Sudden Support and Arc Reactor" example, we can say that the way in which I addressed the opposing team comprised of several ways by which to gain Turn Advantage, mostly focused on Black Widow and her ability to both maximize her damage AND potentially stun any opposing team member despite the presence of a Protecting tank. That's not even counting the possibility of getting the Tactician class bonus to trigger against a Blaster Phoenix, nor considering Coordinated Attack triggers from Coulson's Revenge. 

I earlier mentioned that I thought of Fundamental Round when trying to justify how the Demon Set is arguably the strongest Agent setup today. The rationale is simple: the Demon Set is maximized in terms of damage potential from Round 1, and can potentially Stun the entire opposing team while applying excellent debufs (Melt Armor, Burning, via Hotshot ), if not deal damage comparable to a Round 1 Modern Thor (via Grief ). Very few Agent setups can compare to this, offensively or even defensively.


Wrapping It Up For Now

Going into character and team specifics would be too far in-depth for this blog post to cover, but at least we now have a definite set of tools to examine the playing field, make the necessary adjustments, and make the correct play decisions. Hopefully this will carry you to an Adamantium finish.

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