This is a long post: maybe grab a refreshing beverage because we might be here for a while, OK? Got one? Good. I want to get back to the idea of *energy* as the theoretical measure of your Rift team capability at any moment. It's not a real number, but it is related to your real Rift score as well as several other factors. I want to take a moment and identify some of these sources of energy. So, let's get some easy ones out of the way. Your defenders are a big influence on your team energy. When they level up, they get stronger and your team energy increases (albeit only slightly). The same applies to your favorite attacking fighters, and the influence is doubled for the fighters that are commonly used in both circumstances. Boosting your movesets will boost your fighter stats, thus adding to your energy. Moving to a better moveset can also add to your energy. This is pretty easy, right? We know how to make our fighters better, and making our fighters better will push our team to a higher energy. But so does working up a new fighter to replace a fighter with low capability. How we set our defenses will affect our energy, and how we decide to attack a particular map will affect our energy. And, in the end all of our tactical decisions will add up to a final energy state that gets compared to our opponent's state. Winner advances, loser declines. Let's talk about the least-attended energy influencer. This is the one thing in Rifts where, if you could get right, you could ascend to the highest ranks in record time. It's you. This, to me, is exactly as it should be. We want to play a game, not have the game dictated to us. We want agency over the game. We have a user interface and a great number of decisions to make within the game that allow us that control, that agency. Our play style is essential to the game experience, so *of course* it affects our energy as well. You rarely get mentioned. That's a mistake. You are the greatest influencer on your rift energy. We must not only mention you, we must study you. Become an expert in you. (I am not an expert in you. I am an expert in me. I can only use me as a guide for you. Your mileage may vary.) There are many (very silly and obvious) ways in which we affect our energy. We can forget we started a rift match - that's a slam dunk, right there. You can't win if you forget to play. Let's mention some of the significant but less obvious strategies: Play in a calm and quiet space. Just try and beat a tough map while riding on a crowded bus at rush hour. Just try it. Nothing beats a comfortable and quiet space for getting deep in a Rift match. Rift Battles are the most difficult thing SGM can throw at you, so do yourself a favor and cut down on the real-world distractions. This includes pets, and I have lost a fight that lost me the battle due to an errant fuzzy paw on my touchscreen. Give yourself time. Sure, I can finish a map in 20 minutes (Gold 1 roadkill maps). I can also admit defeat in 20 minutes (Princess Celestia). When I get a close match, however, I do not want to rush into things. I do not start fighting right away. I need the time to find a quiet space, to plan my attack, to monitor my opponent progress. I need to step away from the game for a breather. I need time, and so do you. Don't rush a difficult task, and don't start a rift battle that you do not have time to finish. Look at the map, plan your attack. Really look at it. Your opponent built this map for you (and many others like you). They have a point of view about what makes a map difficult. They also have a stable of twenty defenders that you can see. Extra credit goes to the player who then looks at the user profile for their opponent to see if there are any fighters that didn't make it into the map. Each node will tell you the total fighter rating, as a single number. The map will also tell you the individual fighter tiers and whether they have their marquee. You are given a number of visual clues as to the difficulty of the map, so rate your chances and plan accordingly. If the match looks close, then your preparation can make the difference between winning and losing. You have your ten fighters, so start assigning jobs. Bleed node looks tough, so let's send Bloodbath in there. Immunity has a diamond RE - that's a job for Ultraviolent. Oh, Taser node has two water fighters? I'll send in Armed Forces to clean that up. Look to your team to get the matchups you want, and find a way to make the most of your fight before you start fighting. Stay cool. This, from an unrepentant phone-thrower. But this is from the heart: put down your phone and walk away. We have all had the bad beat. You know the fight: working over AF with a solid lead, she gets unflinching and then its a quick DaF to Excellebra and your easy win becomes a loss. I have gone right back in, thinking "That's garbage, I can trash her!". Same result. DaF to Excellebra and whoops! There goes the phone... I'm not telling you not to get passionate. I love this game for how it makes me feel when I win, and that excitement over winning stems from the knowledge that a loss is waiting to jump you and beat the lunch money out of you when you least expect it. What I am saying is this: let that passion out. Feel it. Get up and jump around and shout and swear and do whatever needs to be done. That passion will not help you win, it will instead take over the battle for you. It will dump all of your calm and rational planning and replace them with the berzerker desire to crush everything all at once. It will take all of your energy, and it will use it on inconsequential things. Put your phone down. Go for a quick walk, or clean up a common room, or pet your dog. Do something else for five minutes. When you come back, come back as the rational thinker with a plan for winning. Crush the noob, learn from the expert. We all get unbalanced fights. We will continue to get them. This is just a fact of Rifts, because there is o accurate way to measure team energy. So, when there is an obvious difference in energy, here is what to do: Crush the noob: This is as much a favor to them as it is to you. If you are outclassing your opponent, blowing through their map will allow them the chance to relax. It sends a clear signal that they do not need to try to be perfect, because your victory is assured. It also *assures your victory*. You have been given a gift: open it, and move on. Learn from the expert: now you're the noob. This is a rare and under-used opportunity to experiment. This is a match that is a foregone conclusion, so what does it matter if you need five attempts at the immunity node AF? Let me give you an example from just yesterday. I queue up for a battle, and I get a D1 that I *know* was just Phenom last week. I am *not* going to win this battle. It's a foregone conclusion. So I go into Halftime where he has a diamond Raw Nerv waiting. My mental though process went a bit like this: "Well, what does he have here? Oof - she's a big girl. 23k. Gonna need some armor...wait. I'll send in Claw. Yeah, let's just see what we have here. Ok - SHOWTIME! Blocking bloocking, oop! Let's get some action. Take that! Oh heck, I'm taking damage! Here she comes! Ow OW MY FACE MY BEAUTIFUL FACE! ...peanuts... So, he put Tainted Blood on Raw Nerv. Clever. That mid-match heal is extra painful. I need a healing character with no crit. Let's try that again!"So what did I lose? I mean, besides the match? Nothing. What did I win? Experience. And that's a vital component for me, and probably for you too. Nothing beats experience. Rift Battles are the hardest gameplay in SGM. You might be done with story, doing dailies on autopilot, crushing prize fights and grinding Accursed Exsperiments. Rift Battles can still show you up, and make you feel like a rookie. Rift AI is also crazy. Prize Fights can be tricky at the highest streaks (My record is a 64-streak, and I know of much higher), but even these can pale in comparison. The Rift AI has tricks and combos that do not occur elsewhere, and they flow into brutal punishing combos that take your breath away. Rift fights feel lethal, like the first mistake will be your last. You get better at rifts by playing rifts. Nothing else will do. The techniques you use in PFs will be revealed as sloppy or inadequate. Your tap-timing will be exposed for the slightest flaw. Your "sometimes" combos will become "not even once" combos. A lot of players throw their hands up and say "I give up! Rifts is too hard." These players willingly surrender their energy, and that is their personal decision. I choose not to surrender, and this means that I choose to admit my faults. The fighting is hard because I am bad at fighting in Rifts. I must learn to be better at Rift battles. Accept that Rifts is hard, accept that you must learn to fight better. Accept this, and then go get fourteen rift battles every week. (I can't do more than one battle during weekdays, but the theory is still sound) Play rifts when you win. Play Rifts when you lose. These individual battles only change your score, not your energy. The more you play, the more you improve. Your strategic planning becomes easier, your tactical combos more crisp. You develop a Rift fighting style, and then when you bring that to Prize Fights or Accursed you will be surprised at how much easier the rest of the game has become. So, that's what I have learned about me. I am confident that at least some of this will apply to you, too. Give me a like if you want more, and feel free to discuss any of this in the comments below.