The Learning Yomi series of articles focuses on helping new players improve their game. This installment by Coffee concentrates on understanding the relative value of different cards as the game progresses. You can find more useful posts for new players on the FantasyStrike forums. Update: This article caused some interesting discussion, see the end for more comments. I'm somewhat of a card game veteran, but when I initially started researching Yomi I knew in theory that the depth was somehow there, but I couldn't make any sense of the game. I was missing something that was required for the game to click. That missing element was the playfield and card costs, and more precisely the clues they gave as to the stage and general development of the game. Without that information I couldn't evaluate plays—why did this play make sense here, but not later, or vice versa? This understanding of the different phases of the game was something necessary to start playing seriously. As with most games, a Yomi match can be divided into three different parts: the early game, the mid game and the late game. The biggest single indicators of the game's state are the cards held by players and their life totals. Players can be in slightly different spots on the journey to the late game, but assuming a relatively even pace, this is how a game of Yomi develops: The Early Game Yomi's early game is characterized by both players having high life totals, relatively small and undeveloped hands, and little information about the opponent's tendencies. The strong plays early on are block and throw. Consider your other options: big combos or multi-Ace plays are usually impossible due to the random nature of your starting hand, and undesirable even if you have them. Think about Grave's True Power of Storms in the mid or late game, when life totals are less than 50. It pretty much ends the game in one fell swoop if it hits. Grave probably has a good amount of cards in his hand at this point, so he won't be totally out of options if it doesn't hit. He also won't have to sustain the game for too long, so having a smaller hand is acceptable. In contrast, even a Storms that hits is rather unremarkable in the early game. Sure, it takes a bunch of your opponent’s life, but now you have a small hand severely lacking in power. Your opponent can simply start throwing more than usual and thus deny you the ability to rebuild your hand with extra cards. In contrast, your opponent’s hand is in better shape and he can make more judicious use of his cards, including blocks to keep his hand healthy. Your opponent isnot under as much pressure as you are, and he can probably close most of the damage gap by just winning combat more frequently with better cards. When you enter the midgame, you'll have a distinct disadvantage in hand quality. Since attacks that use a lot of cards are undesirable early, dodges are also relatively weak. You're not in any immediate danger of dying, and the opponent may be unwilling to follow up a throw. Blocking is safe and builds up your hand, giving you more power and options later in the game. You want to block or snipe the opponent's blocks with throws to starve him of card-drawing abilities. Characteristics of the early game: Lack of immediate danger of death. The number of cards in your hand and their quality is important, as they allow you to keep your options open. Block is the default option, attacks for safety, throws for aggression. Dodges are generally weak. The Mid Game The mid game is characterized by both players starting to have strong, developed hands. This means they have strong options and/or large hand sizes (which translates into power for some characters). Life totals likely hover around fifty points or a little lower. The first thing to understand about the mid game is the danger of death is slowly starting to become a reality. Multi-Ace moves can drop a player to about 10 hit points if not outright kill him. The relative strength of single moves increases the value of dodges. With bigger hands, throws also start to gain usefulness as genuine damage dealers. Even without Aces, many characters can slam throws that do about 20 damage for reasonable card expenditure in relation to the now-bigger hand. These multi-card plays are viable now because they don’t cripple the player in the future. Thus Aces aren't the only thing a player needs to worry about: a few major combats can actually kill, which wasn't the case previously. Highly efficient, fast, safe Enders deal a bigger chunk of a player's life now, and start to be a consideration here, damage-wise. They are still above all a safety play: blocks can't kill and it is unlikely a dodge will, either. But attacks and throws can and will hurt like hell. The dodge may lead to a throw and thus knockdown, but being comboed when getting up from knockdown is far from a sure thing. The general theme is that combos are threatening but not lethal and single attacks sting but aren't really worrisome. Given the increased power of combos and generally lower life totals, blue bursting with Jokers (using Jokers to escape a combo) starts to look more attractive. The main focus of hand management starts to veer simply from hoarding cards to keeping your options open—when the threats are for your life instead of some tickling, you better have answers ready if you wish to survive. Fast attacks and throws are very valuable for mounting a more risk-free offense. Size still matters, as a large hand enables you to squeeze damage in with throw and poke (normal/linker-starting) combos and random pumps. The Late Game The main characteristic of the late game is the ever-present fear of death. Life totals are usually 30 or less, so a couple of normal combats can just kill kill a player then and there. Aces are death incarnate, which in turn makes dodges very valuable. Dodges also avoid chip damage, which is a real danger in the final stages of a match, where it all comes to reading your opponent and optimizing your play for safety. Fast attacks and dodges should be your default play. They minimize the risk of being killed while wearing the opponent down. Blocking feels impotent, merely stalling for little actual gain in exchange of exposing yourself to desperate throws and chip damage. Throwing is outright foolish because it is so risky. One missed throw and you can easily be dead. Closing Words New players who wish to learn the game should use this article as a proper framework on which they can build their own understanding and improve. As a new player, getting better is largely about your increasing your understanding of valuation—meaning that you know what cards are valuable when. Good valuation tells you what the sane, strong, safe options are at any time. Contrast valuation with reading, the skill of knowing what your opponent will do. You need to play sane, strong options because no one’s reads can be right all the time. If the only thing keeping you in the game is strong reading, the few moments you are wrong against a player with solid valuation can cost you the game. Understanding the three stages of a Yomi match will help you know which cards are valuable at any given time, thus giving you a start on valuation. To summarize: Early in the game, both players will want to build up hands, so blocks are valuable and throws are valuable to beat your opponent’s blocks. As players build good hands and life totals start to shrink, blocks become less valuable and attacks and dodges start to become viable. In the late game, fast attacks can be devastating, so dodges become very valuable as well. Throws and blocks tend to be weak. Huge thanks to Bob199 for creating the banner image for this article. Editor's Update (Oct. 10, 2012): This article was an edited version of an older post by Coffee that may not reflect the community's consensus on optimal Yomi play. I (skeller, your friendly neighborhood editor) wanted to provide a few of those comments here for context. In particular, saying that landing True Power of Storms early in the game is "unremarkable" is not true. Beyond that, waterd provided a good explanation (read his comments below) of the game's various phases. As he puts it, if your starting hand is capable of doing 79 damage, "your job is just to land it and go home." But the reality is most starting hands don't have that sort of damage, so blocking early is generally good in order to get better cards so that you can deal more damage. It also allows you to build up pairs and sets of cards that you can power up for aces, and in general gives you more options for later in the game. I strongly recommend that new players read through the comment section to get some more perspective on this article.