Card Presence vs. Tempo vs. Luck

This is something that has been bugging me on several boards for a few months now, and it's just silly.

I am getting sick and tired of all the focus and obsession on the concept of total card presence, or TCP, to simplify things. For the 4 people out there not aware of what TCP means, it's simple. It's the number of cards you have in your hand and on the field as compared to the number of cards your opponent has in hand and on the field. If you have 2 in hand, a monster, and a set s/t, and your opponent had 3 in hand, a set monster, and two set s/t's, your opponent is said to have "+2" on you, as you have 4 TCP, and they have 6 TCP. This term and play concept had been bandied about as of late as if it's some kind of holy scripture on how to play and construct decks, and many decks, cards, and strategies are being overlooked simply because they don't provide TCP benefits. This disgusts me. I feel there is more to the game than these numbers, and more than luck as well, and thus we have this thread.

To get things going, we'll discuss why TCP is important. It's something simple, as it's been a part of the game from the get go. When you have access to more cards than your opponent, you have more options. More options means more things you can do, and more ways you can respond to what your opponent does. This usually equates to a higher rate of success. Originally, this concept came under the title of "card advantage", but card advantage is a slightly more restrictive concept than TCP. Card advantage essentially takes into account hand sizes and getting access to cards, but not nevessarily in terms of plusses and minuses purely. In the older formats, we had Delinquent Duo, Confiscation, and The Forceful Sentry. The first two are simple. Duo knocks two cards out of your opponent's hand. Devastating, to say the least. The was just good for advantage, and would be a +1 TCP, as you traded one card for two of your opponents. COnfiscation was an even tradeoff, one for one, but let you have the choice in what was being lost, as well as giving you a glimpse into what your opponent could do for the next few turns(the potency of which will be discussed later). The Forceful Sentry was a slightly more misleading card, and in my opinion, the best of the three. It appears a one for one, as you trade a card in hand for one of the opponents, but in fact, it is actually a two for one card, as I will explain further on. We also had cards such as Pot of Greed, and the newly unbanned Graceful Charity. While Charity ends up an even tradeoff in TCP terms, it's still a +3 card advantage card, as you're still seeing three more cards than you would have without it. Here we see a small sample of the difference between TCP and old-school "card advantage". It's no secret that playing these cards can provide huge swings in the user's favor during a duel, and it's been proven time and again. So, be it card advantage, or TCP, we can all agree that getting to more cards than your opponent helps win games. Now, there's plenty of other cards with card advantage/TCP boosting effect, but I just used the simplest ones here to demonstrate the point.

Alright, now that we've just walked down Obvious Road, we take a turn off into a lesser-known alley of thought: Tempo.

Tempo is a difficult term to nail down, but my best description of tempo would be simply, the pace at which a duel is played. Tempo is affected by many things. The individual player, the type of deck being played, the cards available in hand, the cards you think your opponent has decked, what cards each player has already used, and of course, the condition of the field all play roles in what the tempo of the duel is. The problem here is the fact that aside from the top of the top, few duelists even think about tempo in the course of a match, not knowing that in all likelyhood, it is playing a much larger role in the duel than TCP or even luck. Players are so caught up these days in all the plusses and minuses and counting TCP that it's simply a mathematics game. Decks are being "cookie" and netdecked because players don't understand why those cards/decks are good, only that they are. The strategy has been lost, and focus on TCP at the expense of tempo is the root. What does tempo do for you? Just because it's not a tangible, or countable thing like TCP does not mean it's not there. So, what does tempo do for you? Consider; you're playing a Beastdown deck. A very aggressive battle-oriented deck. Your opponent is playing Pacman. Why do you lose? Is it because you drew less cards, or couldn't destroy enough of theirs? In part, yes. But in reality, it is because of tempo. Your opponent's Pacman deck is playing in such a way and using cards that force you to play outside of your intended pace. You intend to rush the board and deal as much damage as possible as fast as possible. You thrive on a faster tempo. Your opponent is slowing the tempo down, forcing you to play your game at their pace, not yours. In that way, they are controlling the tempo, and thus, the game. The only thing that will pull you out is a timely topdeck. Luck. And that is one more thing taken into account less and less lately in favor of TCP.

Luck. We all know what luck is, and we all have absolutely no control over it. Or do we? What few consider is that teh cards we play affect our luck. If I play 3 Sak Armor, I have better luck drawing one than playing one. Simple. If I play Sak Armor over Widespread Ruin, I have better luck at destroying the monster I want to destroy(when multiple monsters are coming at you, of course). Quantity and quality of cards in our decks can affect our luck, as can how many cards we have/have seen. And thus we come back to TCP.

See how we've come full circle? Tempo beats TCP, Luck beats Tempo, and TCP beats Luck. It's like rock/paper/scissors. It's a circle of factors, and if each factor is not taken into account equally when building and playing your deck.

The focus on TCP is rather disappointing. I see it all to often. This lack of insight into the three, not one, facet of success is what separates SJC champions, regionals winners, national champs, and world champs from that guy who wins all the tournaments at the local shop who scrubs at the SJC.

If we all don't wake up and open our eyes, we're never gonna improve our games enough to be successful on a major level.
Since this isn't a card review, I'll need to move it someplace else. That said, mods, if you have issues with this let me know, but this reminds me of some of our old Netrep articles. So I don't see any reason it shouldn't be moved to Netrep Articles.
This is a very interesting topic that people bring up, but really the card presence will win you games as long as it is used intelligently. Obviously it isn't the only thing that matters since you can have a lot of cards, but still run out of life points. However, the more cards you have the more options you have and probably the more answers you have to what ever the opponent does. I now have at least 3 examples where my card advantage was worthless.

It did happen to me one day that my opponent had Wave Motion Cannon on the field and I could not get rid of it, but I wasn't too worried because I was still at 8000 and was continually doing 1200-1500 damage to my opponent each turn. I had many more cards in hand, but I was beginning to get greedy with my Spirit Reaper hitting my opponent's life when the WMC hit 5000 my opponent top decks Chainsaw Insect and had a set Ceasefire. Three effect monsters were on the field so... a total of 8100 damage was done to me and I lost. Although, if I would have just drawn anything that could have stopped that monster I would have won easily. I was a bit foolish with my Reaper when I had the card advantage and had I not done so I would have won still.

Secondly, the other day I was really behind on hand advantage due to my opponent playing PoA about three times, however it was late game and I was near top decking so my opponent only really had monsters left in his deck. His field was clogged with a 3 goat tokens Dekoichi in attack mode and he had 500 lps left. I had a few cards, but he left his Dekoichi in attack mode to hit my fairly significant lifepoint total. On my draw I get Slate Warrior. I summon it, attack Dekoichi and win.

Thirdly, at my last regionals when I was 4-1 I lost when I had a huge card advantage. I had a Spirit Reaper in defense mode, a Goblin Elite in defense (it had just attacked my opponent's face-down Reaper which was a stupid move), and Breaker without a counter. My opponent summons Exarion Universe hitting my Reaper knocking me down to 100. Following turn I special summon my Dark Necrofear killing the Exarion leaving him with 900 lifepoints. Now, this is where I make my error, I leave my weakling Breaker in attack mode. Following turn my opponent topdecks Cyber Dragon, sacrifices Spirit Reaper for it (I had a set m/t... but whatever) and attacks my Breaker. My set was Call of the Haunted so I lose.

However, as bad as those three situations look, if the loser would have played smart they could have won each of them since they had card advantage. Those are the only really big situations I can think of occuring recently where the person with card advantage lost. About every other game went the other way.

Now, as far as tempo goes it really depends on the decks. Most people seem to be able to adjust accordingly. I play a game of attrition where I try to hold even card advantage and only particular big plays in any situation can destroy it. I have seen people who play fast and I don't see that kind of temp really disrupting my slow play too much. However, forcing your opponent to play a different style can work wonders, but I don't think its the most important thing about a duel. It can work in your favor, but it depends on the opponent and how they are affected by it. Mathematical parts of the game are definitely something you can control while your opponent's are not. Probably the reason most people focus more on the numbers than the tempo.
The only thing is, sometimes it does not matter what you have in your hand if you cannot use it or whatever. What is point of declaring you have 4 cards in your hand over my 1 card on my field and 1-2 in my hand? If you are not able to even use them it becomes moot.
Well... obviously this can be a bit random, but if a person is a good duelist than every card should have high utility and be useful in many situations. However, the one card that is being used right now with the least utility and ending card presence is Return from a Different Dimension. It seems to break the mold since it is a game ender similar, but a bit more splashable than Cyber Stein.