This article is concerned solely with Maladroit, ParaFC openings. It was originally intended as part of an extremely long analysis of all openings, but as that project has proven overly ambitious, I'm publishing several self-contained pieces of it as individual articles, instead.
I tend to group the openings into "P" openings and "S" openings based on the generalizable effects PSD and SWD threats have on matchups, so they are presented here in that order. DPP and DSF are also highly relevant, but D/P is the only popular opening that can employ them with consistent effectiveness, so they don't quite inspire categorization.
Because the 'masters' were all known for having signature openings, I've listed them to the side, in italics.
|D/P is, by far, the most used opening, although it is less totally ubiquitous than it once was. In Confusion, D/P is pretty much the undisputed king of openings (more specifically, DSF/PSD is). Despite the other strategies opened up by RavenBlack's implementation of Maladroit in 2002, D/P is still one of the most popular and most powerful options. It is an aggressive opening that can easily capitalize on weaknesses in an opponent's spellflow.
D/P has a large number of variations. It has two major branches, DP/PS and DS/PS. Usually, these branches are identifiable by their turn 3 disruptions, Amnesia and Maladroit. Both of these spells can be dummied, however, often quite successfully, and the typical turn 3 PSD may lead to PSDF, it may be dummied into another disruption, or it may be replaced with PSFW.
D/P also has a situational offensive option in Maladroit/FOD (popularized by ExDeath), and a defensive one in DWF/PWP (introduced by Taliesin).
Most players who use D/P tend to explore some, but not all, of its possible variations. For that reason, it is frequently crushed by other openings, such as S/W and even S/P, that it actually possesses solid but obscure defenses against.
F/P is famous as the Finger of Death opening, because it offers you a straight shot at Para/FOD. Of course, an opening FOD like that is obvious, and can always be defended successfully.
Although it is rarely seen outside of ParaFF, this opening is quite good in ParaFC as well. Its strength is that it forks somewhat nastily: FF/PW to Para/FOD, or FF/PS to an ogre protected by para. For many openings, it is impossible to defend both possibilities well. Indeed, F/P is one of the few openings that can really give D/P a run for its money. The major drawback to F/P is that if your opponent does defend the line you are using, they can often come out ahead, thanks to this opening's inflexible committment to paralysis.
|S/P has some significant weaknesses, but it also has the potential to punch into a few powerful attacks. The two major variants are SW/PS (very common) and SW/PW (refined by Prioli), the latter of which is quite good in some matchups. SP/PS and SP/PW are also common, but they are decidedly crappy in every matchup. Possibly the least flexible of the major openings.
S/P was the second most common opening (after D/P) for several years, but it is less widespread now, probably due to improved application of D/P by second-tier players.
|S/W, in contrast to most of the other openings, is defensive and reactive. It typically aims to absorb or disarm early disruptions and attacks, utilizing Counter Spell or Protection. By setting up its spellflow shrewdly, it can then steal the initiative and begin its own attacks. Fear is sometimes cast to control the opponent's spellflow as well.
In flattened analyses, S/W often ends up equalizing initiative, and then providing a number of possibilities, some good, some bad, and many obscure, depending on what each player does. For that reason, S/W is most effective when it is employed against a warlock who is less tactically sophisticated than you are.
The opening normally begins SW/WW. The major branch happens in the third turn, between SWD/WWx and SWW/WWx. Which gesture works best in the "x" spot is highly situational, and often is not apparent unless you look several turns ahead, at different possible outcomes. Note that alternate beginnings such as SW/WF and SF/WW are viable in a few particular matchups.
S/W was pioneered by Taliesin in early 2004 in order to defeat Pig's strong but static use of D/P, and was later repopularized by Slartucker.
|S/S was the signature opening of ExDeath, and it is rarely (if ever) used by other warlocks. This is no doubt due to the lack of versatility that its use of just one gesture implies. Indeed, in several matchups the opening behaves somewhat like a less flexible S/W. However, S/S also presents the opportunity to dummy into some very dangerous weaves, and it has a large number of variations, even in the second turn. It is a gamey opening, but its unpredictability can turn to advantage against the unprepared... or the unlucky.|
D/W is a utility opening whose sole purpose is to defeat D/P by introducing a risky decision point that favors D/W. Its superiority to D/P is both slight and haphazard, however, and while it possesses passable defenses against other openings it is not particularly good against any of them. Nonetheless, D/W is notable for its unique approach, which uses Counter Spell to augment the soft control projected by DP.
The newest of the significant openings, Slartucker developed it in 2007 in the face of D/P's renewed dominance.
The above list comprises pretty much all of the openings that are relevant to serious play. Most other openings are very bad, for reasons given in the opening tactics article.
Several others are less disastrous, notably D/S and P/W. Nonetheless, they tend to act like weak cousins of openings given above, and there isn't quite a lot to recommend them in competitive play.