Semifinals Side-B Vanguard Match Analysis Part 1 – Shenanigan and Some Setting Exploration

I’m quite pumped for the finals but it is moving slowly for my taste so I’ve decided to slowly start analyzing the semifinals. Unlike the quarterfinals which can stand on its own, I believe the semifinals and the finals should be taken as one whole, instead of piecemeal. The latest vanguard match just increased my opinion.

Thus, while we wait for the finals to end, let’s begin the analysis. (Though, there isn’t much analysis on this post and more setting exploration)

East 1 and you already can see some shenanigans going on…

First, let’s talk about Yuuki’s opening hand.  As usual of Yuuki’s hand in East 1, it is very nice. After discarding the six of bamboo, the hand is 2 tiles away from tenpai. More than that, it has 2 dora making it potentially more valuable.

As for hand development…. next turn, we know that Yuuki drew the red dragon, an effective draw. Then, Yuuki called a pon on Satoha’s eight of circles…

This is the part that confused me. Such move isn’t really part of Yuuki’s usual modus operandi and I don’t think it is really worth it to open Yuuki’s hand like that especially so early.

As Naraku of Usuzan has remarked, if she has that hand she would not have called the eight of circles. And Satoha herself confirms my observation that the calling itself is not something that Yuuki usually do. While Yuuki calls occasionally, more often than not, Yuuki keeps her hand closed and used riichi for extra han.

If Yuuki developed that hand more and not called anything, this would be the result:

Assuming that there are no further hand composition changes, Yuuki could wait for any of this four tiles and have a two-sided wait for a mangan tsumo which is worth 12,000 points or ron worth 9,600 points.  ( It would theoretically be a three-sided wait  but we are ignoring the eight of circles because there would be none left to draw at this point).

Of course, this hand could go higher if you call a riichi as well and perhaps get the ura-dora. ^^

So yeah it is weird….

While Suzu might have panicked a bit due to things not going according to plan. Satoha and Naruka observed, Yuuki’s change of style is more favorable to her opponent than is apparent.

Remember Yuuki’s number 1 selling point is her fast and valuable hands in the East Round.  Speed and value are usually negatively correlated meaning the faster one hand is the less valuable it is and vice-versa. Having both in the East Round is what makes Yuuki effective and scary.

You only need to see  Usuzan’s thought bubble to know that Yuuki isn’t as terrifying to her opponents as before.

“Since her hand values are low, even if she’s speedy, I can go on the offensive too.”  

Meaning besides firepower, Yuuki lost some deterrent power. But, that is to be expected, Yuuki’s hand are now cheap, players would not fear getting directly hit by Yuuki and thus would be able to develop their hands more freely.

That said, it is not all gloom and doom. There are some advantages to Yuuki’s change of style as well. One, it would throw her opponents a bit off their game since it wasn’t what they are expecting like what happened to Himematsu’ Suzu. Second, if Yuuki is able to perfectly meld the calling with her earlier style, she would have more varied attack patterns and going to be hard to deal in the future.

Whatever the disadvantages though, Kiyosumi or more specifically Hisa is willing to risk it here. Ryuumonbuchi discussed that this calling practice by Yuuki is something that was prepared in the training camp, that its only used in the semifinal and not the quarterfinals make you feel that its a card that they saved for this match.

If you look deeper though, said strategy seems to be deeper than exchanging value for more speed. Because honestly, I don’t think Yuuki sped up at all for this match. I already talked about that, elsewhere.  If you don’t mind some spoilers about the finals though, go to this post for some more analysis about Yuuki change of style and its purpose.

Still, Yuuki isn’t just the one in the table. We now turn to one of the most vaunted character that we wanted to appear since she is introduced – Satoha Tsujigaito, the person who ranked third in the previous individual inter-high tournament. What does she think of this development?

“I’ve been hearing that she was just a bit of a fool, but that fighting spirit is commendable. Still, having a first year as their vanguard…

That reminds me. Last year, at the final table of the individuals, sat a first year.”

Looks like Yuuki’s fighting spirit is earning some respect from Satoha which is nice to see. Yuuki might be a bit of a comic relief character but she’s grown steadily in this tournament. So much so that Satoha compared her to Kei, the acknowledged 2nd place in the interhigh individuals, which is high praise indeed!

With that said, the basis of the comparison is being a first year. To show the significance of this statement, we must first answer what does a first year in the inter-high mean?

We know from Funaq’s data that there is some significance in the year level. For one, third years received a quantified boost in their abilities. This makes sense considering that mahjong in Saki is influenced by mindsets. I imagine that third years being in their last year to participate in the inter-high would have more willpower. There is also the experience factor to consider as well.

That said, Funaq also mentioned that there are first years which can beat even the most seasoned third years. Considering we are following Saki and Kiyosumi in particular (a team that has 3 first year in their roster), I think that this is important to consider. Netherless, it is also important to keep in mind that these are exceptions and not the rule.

For the rule, I think Senriyama’s Izumi would be closer to the average to a typical inter-high freshman. Undoubtedly brilliant, considering that she was able to enter Senriyama roster as a freshman ahead of her seniors. But, at the same time, it is clear to see that Izumi takes an inexperience penalty when pitted against the more seasoned rivals.

For illustration purposes,  let us think how a mahjong club simulation game for the inter-high would handle year levels. For me, I would set the stats penalty/boost to something like this.

  • 3rd Year – +10% to +50% boost (Calculated using the last two years, depending on flag triggered and investment of the individual on the club and inter-high)
  • 2nd Year- 0% boost (Doesn’t have any boost regarding year level. That said may have negative or positive boost depending on other factors)
  • 1st Year – -10% to -50% penalty/ with a 10% to 50% boost for surprise factor if any (To me first years are all about the potential to be unearthed. The trick here is how much potential one can use and how to leverage it for the surprise factor boost. That said, the surprise factor boost isn’t limited to the first years, any year level should be able to use it.)

As you can see using this as the basis it is possible if an individual’s ability is high enough, you can pretty much get a theoretical first year who has -50% penalty defeating a theoretical third year who has a +50% boost. You can look at some of Saki’s matches for how this works, I suppose.

A second option is a powerful first year who is running in almost a full potential. An example of this is Nodoka or to be more accurate to the post, Yuuki. Someone who even at the high-stress situation can fight full power against their more seasoned opponents which I think what Satoha is talking about.

Remember, using the current zeitgeist many teams put their aces in the Vanguard position. Hoping to steal a march on other players and keep it for the rest of the match.

Frankly, Yuuki had a tough time in this tournament.

“I won’t make light of even a first year from an unknown school” 

Have I mentioned how I like how Satoha is being portrayed here?

She feels like an experienced warrior (or perhaps samurai would be better considering her aesthetic). Satoha gives respect and treats the battle with the seriousness that it deserved even though Yuuki is a first year from an unknown school.  But, then again, to Satoha Arakawa Kei is also a first year from an unknown school, once upon a time.

Speaking of that we have some confirmation of what happened on the last individual tournament, the final tournament has an unknown third year who graduated by now, two second-year students which are of course – Teru and Satoha and finally the sole first year – Kei.

The ranking of the individuals is then as follows:

1st – Teru 

2nd – Kei 

3rd – Satoha 

4th – Unknown (Graduated Already)

Speaking of Arakawa Kei, the psp games of dubious canonicity has revealed that her ability/power is to get good hands the more rounds she doesn’t win. Which when you think about it has a great synergy with Teru’s ever-increasing wins.

There is also some disconnect regarding what exactly went down there. Satoha said, “Arakawa Kei’s smile did not leave her face.” On the other hand, the same Arakawa Kei described Teru  as someone that isn’t human to Achiga once upon a time.

It bothered me a bit until I remembered Subara. Once could describe Subara as someone who’s smile did not leave her face even when getting a whooping of the century at the semifinals Side-A. It could be even said that going with the description that Kei gave and that Satoha found the fact that Kei can smile at the match significant shows how ridiculous Teru probably is at that match.

What the hell Teru!  Now, I’m hyping myself for your performance in the Finals.

Future Implications: 

Hmmm…. it seems the rank of the top individuals is decided by a match which is important to know. This  meant that the individuals isn’t going to be just a point gathering game. Previously, at the prefecture level, the ranks were decided by how much plus points you have got which is a bit worrying for a narrative point of view. For example in the prefecture match, I don’t think we have an on-screen match showing a fight for the top ranks. (which is a bit of a letdown, in my opinion.)

It  is a bit reassuring that no matter what tournament structure  as long as Saki and Teru keep winning they will definitely meet each other.  And yeah, that was a legitimate worry before this information came to light. After all, using the prefecture individual structure, it is possible if Ritz was particular cruel to just have Saki and Teru bypass each other and just compete on score. (Not that I truly believe that. Fans will riot if that happens. Still, a meta-confirmation is nice to have.)

Now we just need another decade for it to happen. ^^

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