Card advantage theory is a fundamental pillar of the game, because it is a quantifiable way of determining who has the upper hand in a Duel. You have probably heard the terms “plussing” and “minusing” thrown around without explanation before, but hopefully by the end of this article you will have a better understanding of what they mean. As a subsection of advantage theory, the term card presence refers to the overall number of cards in a player’s hand and on a player’s field. This is the simplest form of advantage, because it is represented with integer values. Let’s take a look at +1 Fire Fists, for example, which run Cardcar D to generate advantage. Cardcar D is a +1 in terms of card presence because it not only replaces itself with a card, but also gives you an extra card: normal summoning Cardcar (+0,) tributing Cardcar to activate it’s effect (-1,) and then drawing two cards (+2) leaves you with a net plus of 1 card. (0 - 1 + 2 = 1) Also note that card presence counts for all the cards in your hand and on your field, so normal summoning a monster is not considered to be a -1. Why does it matter? Simply put, the more card presence you possess, the more cards you have with which to hurt your opponent. In general, you want to use cards that can generate some advantage for you. Although closely related, card advantage and card presence are not explicitly the same. Take Gravekeepers, for example. Assume the opponent has some problematic card that you want to get rid of, like a key boss monster. With a Gravekeeper’s Descendant on the field, I normal summon Gravekeeper’s Recruiter (+0) from my hand. My next move is to tribute him for Descendant’s effect (-1) and then use Recruiter’s effect to search for another card (+1.) If 0 -1 +1 = 0, I have not gained any presence at all from my play. This is where overall card advantage comes into play. Above, we have left a critical piece of advantage theory out of the equation: Descendant’s effect also destroyed one of my opponent’s cards, which is in itself a +1 for me. The opponent having less resources with which to beat you is an advantage, so we must account for that in our equation. 0 - 1 + 1 +1 = +1, which means that, by utilizing Recruiter, I have eliminated a threatening monster while still managing to go “plus.” While card advantage is very important, what is equally important is knowing when to use +0 or even -1 cards, as these still have a use in the game. One of the most powerful decks around today runs almost exclusively off of +0 interactions. Bujin Yamato facilitates +0: adding one card to your hand (+1) and then discarding a card (-1) results in you possessing the same presence you had when you started (+0.) This is where integer advantage theory fails us: it cannot account for the nuances of some cards in this game. If you have any experience with Bujins, you would know that the integers as listed above do not tell the whole story. This is called virtual advantage, because the interactions of cards like Bujin Yamato go beyond simple integer values. Say you draw Bujingi Turtle in your opening hand, along with Bujin Yamato. Bujingi Turtle is more or less a dead card in hand: the only play you have with him would be to normal summon or set him, as his effect cannot be activated from the hand. Being the wise player you are, you instead decide to normal summon Bujiin Yamato, and at the end phase you search Bujingi Crane and dump Turtle to the graveyard. Integer theory states that you have just broke even (+0) on your play, but virtual advantage tells you that you have actually made a “virtual plus.” In the same move, you have searched out a card that thrives in the hand (Crane) and also gotten rid of a dead card in your hand (Turtle.) Your Yamato on the field is not only safe from attacks, but he is also safe from targetting effects, all thanks to a +0 effect. -1 effects can also be useful, but only when used sparingly. Take Rageki Break for instance; you activate the card (-1,) discard another card (-1,) and then destroy one of your opponent’s cards (+1) ( -1 -1 +1 = -1) This is a minus play, but sometimes disrupting one of your opponent’s key plays is worth it. The skill involved in this game is knowing when to minus yourself so that you hurt the opponent more than the minus hurts you. Dead cards in the hand, like Bujingi Turtle, contribute to your virtual advantage. If I’m running Prophecy and I open with two copies of Spellbook of Secrets, I am actually at a virtual disadvantage in relation to my opponent. My opponent has 6 cards to hurt me with, but I only have 5. Why? Because Secrets can only be used once per turn, so my “virtual” options are limited to only 5 cards instead of the usual 6. Virtual advantage also applies to the relative “worth” of a card, which cannot be mathematically stated. In integer theory, activating a spell card is a minus one, and summoning four monsters with it is a plus four. (-1 + 4 = +3) Plus three? That’s insane advantage! Why doesn’t everyone run this card? Because the card is Scapegoat, which summons 0 ATK sheep tokens. Obviously these sheep aren’t going to be winning you games, because they’re not worth very much on their own. Yes, you did just +3 in terms of presence, but the virtual advantage is not so great. That is why only some decks run Scapegoat (like Destiny HERO - Plasma decks,) because they run other cards to capitalize on the advantage you’ve created. Any deck can +3 from a Scapegoat, but it is useless advantage if it cannot bring you closer to winning. You can also apply virtual advantage to -1 plays, in order to justify them. Remember when we used Rageki Break earlier? What if you discarded a drawn Bujingi Turtle for Rageki Break’s cost? You’ve still minused yourself in terms of presence, and you may have virtually broken even (another way of saying +0,) but in this situation you have actually increased the utility of the cards at your disposal. The “worth” of the Turtle you discarded can actually lead to a virtual “+1,” because your Turtle is now where he needs to be in order to be useful. So, should you run 3 Rageki Break in a Bujin deck? Why not, if it can be a “virtual +1” when used with Turtle? Because a “virtual +1” and an actual +1 are very different things. When using Rageki Break, you’ve still -1’d yourself in terms of presence, even if you’re doing better in virtual advantage. Again, context is necessary: you also have Bujin Yamato in your deck, who can get Turtle out of your hand at a +0. This is clearly the superior play, because Yamato also searches other cards for you. If you have other (and better) avenues to get rid of the Turtle, why minus yourself needlessly? Some decks, like Dragon Rulers or Zombies, even utilize “virtual” card presence. Although a Ruler player may have no cards in their hand or on their field, they can create huge fields out of nowhere from the graveyard, which functions for them almost like a second hand. This is important to remember because cards like Dark Hole or even Royal Tribute cannot stop Dragon Rulers for very long, and because the graveyard functions as a hand, we must include it in the opponent’s virtual card presence. This is the reason why Dragon Rulers are so powerful: their virtual card presence is very difficult to destroy. Card advantage theory is not an exact science, because “card worth” is relative: not all players (and not all decks for this matter) view every card in exactly the same light. However, by continually versing yourself in the subtleties of advantage, you will eventually develop a good instinct for which cards are good, and which ones are trash. To decide this you need a working knowledge of both integer and virtual advantage theory; it is, after all, your place as a Duelist to choose the cards that will make up your deck. Is Expressroid a +2 on summon? Yes. Should you use it outside of a roid deck? No. Is Double Summon a -1 in a Fire Fist deck? Yes. Is it a -1 in a Gadget deck? No. Choosing deck-appropriate cards that net you advantage, and also cards that trade your advantage for disruption, is one of the most important steps to take when preparing for your deck because you’re setting yourself up for victory before the first card is drawn, instantly giving you an edge over a player that does not grasp advantage.
I do not take full credit for this, I helped make it but I was not the poster. This was not in my file but I got it from a friend who posted it in another website.