Responses: What is the point in competitive MTG?

There’s just too much luck in the game. Not even talking about my own play experiences, if you just watch the videos on channelfireball or SCG, the best players in the world struggle on to win a consistent basis. Owen and Huey just recently did those couple of BTT drafts and got destroyed. Two of the best magic minds in the world, probably several times better than their opponents, and it doesn’t matter because of luck.

The only reason the pros are able to place at events is because they go to tons of them. If I show up at a PTQ of 200 people and have an 80% chance to win every game, I still probably won’t even top 8. You have to really grind out lots big tournaments to even start placing a few times a year.

MTG just does not have enough choices for you to make to consistently allow you to win events. Every deck has a matchup where there’s just not much you can do because your opponent’s cards match up very well against you. In fact, MTG rewards playing non-interactive strategies because the less your opponent is able to do, the better.

MTG is a game where you flip a coin, if heads, you get to make a meaningful choice that improves your position in the game. Then you flip another coin, if heads, this choice actually matters. Why does anyone put up with a game that has so much randomness in it?

I feel like part of the problem too is that the MTG community is very outcome oriented. There’s a lot of pressure to put up straight wins both in the swiss tournament structure and in general the player culture judges you based on the results you put up. This is kind of exacerbated by the fact that everyone walks around bragging about their wins but shuts up about the time they went 1-3 and lost to some little kid playing a green deck. But WOTC also can’t change the tournament structures to be more permissive of losses because then tournaments would go foreverrrr and it would be an implicit admission that there’s a ton of variance in the game so you have to play a hundred matches to find out who truly deserves #1.

Overall I feel like MTG is marketed and perceived as being a lot more skill oriented than it really is. I think people would have a lot less incentive to play it if they had to really internalize how much luck their is in any given match. MTG players seem to sustain themselves by patting themselves on the back when they win, and blaming luck when they lose. While it’s true that you will occasionally get the opportunity to make interesting and game altering decisions, more often than not, the monoblack mirror comes down to who can draw underworld connections first. I’ve seen Turtenwald lose to some scrub who forgot his Erebos was active on camera because his opponent had UWC and he didn’t. Owned Turtenwasted.

I guess I’m just dumb for feeling like you should always be able to win a strategy game against opponents who have a double digit IQ.

Sieben

Today, I read a forum thread that I found really interesting. Someone was making their case for why Magic is too dependent on luck and that there’s no point in playing competitively because “MTG is a game where you flip a coin, ….”.

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-8-13-18-pm

This intrigued me, because if you look at the Hearthstone forums, half the posts are about “luckstone” or people lamenting their ten game loss streaks. However, though variance is a integral of every card game, Hearthstone has randomness as a very, very prominent part of the game. Hearthstone designers take full advantage of the fact that Hearthstone is a computer game that can do things such as generate random numbers or summon random creatures (sort of like Momir).

As for the actual forum post, his first point is that even good players are victim to luck when they aren’t presented with good draft picks or their opponent’s are presented with especially good ones. Though it is a valid point that at a certain point skill can’t overcome luck, I don’t think it’s as pressing as the post says, “best players in the world struggle to win on a consistent basis.” Though they may fall victim to the “coin flip”, their level of skill can help negate or fight through some amount of bad luck.

As for his second point, he says that the only reason pro players place is that they make up for luck by playing in tons of events. Though pro players play in many events and don’t place well in most of them, their average win rate is definitely higher than the average player. It can’t be that pro players are only pro players because they grind really hard. There are plenty of heavy GP grinders that will never set foot in a higher level of competition.

However, he does have a good point when he talks about the Magic community being too results oriented. Instead of understanding why they lost, too many players just get salty and don’t think about if they could’ve played better to their outs, or if they played as well as they could and just lost because their opponent got lucky or they got unlucky. I’m probably not the best person to talk about this, but you can check out this article by Owen Turtenwald on the subject of result-oriented thinking.

Lastly, there is the topic of how to make MTG less luck-based. Limited is inherently a format that relies on luck, but in constructed, and in MTG in general, there aren’t many luck based cards, besides the basic randomness of deck shuffling that is associated with any card game.

This person has some nice insights, though I think he might be stretching a little bit to make a point. Limited is a very high variance format, and I think he’s trying to point that out. Limited is just not a format for all people, and he just might not be the kind of person who enjoys high variance formats such as limited.

Do you like this kind of post? If so, tell me in the comments below! In addition, a big thanks to ChannelFireball, who included me in there “This Week in Magic” article. It’s a great big help!

 

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Why Bad Cards Are So Good (for the game)

Why does Magic: the Gathering have bad cards? Wouldn’t it be great if more cards were playable or if there was less jank? Well, no. There are two answers. The obvious answer is that “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure”, and that there are cards designed for all different formats and player types. For example, Panharmonicon might not be the standard hit (though some people keep on trying to make it work), but in Commander, it’s a powerhouse. As for cards not for 60-card constructed or casual formats, there’s also limited. Cards that are not efficient enough for the competitive card card pool in other formats sometimes have the opportunity to flourish in formats with a smaller card pool. However, what about filler cards that no one will ever play?

The second answer is just simply: they can’t be better. Of course, Wizards could’ve printed them better, but these cards were made to reduce the overall value of packs and increase the amount of money needed to play. It may sound sinister, but it’s not. Wizards has to make money, and the money they make improves the game we play. As the value of packs go up, the amount of packs purchased goes down, because you get more playable cards that you need, and less filler. If Wizards didn’t have filler, we would just have more mediocre cards, because Wizards can’t just increase pack value without losing sales.

I hope this helped you understand why bad cards exist. Looking at you, Gonti’s Machinations.

UB Improvise Control

Hello everyone! For a few weeks, I took a short break from playing and writing and playing Magic and worked more on improving my Hearthstone skills. However, I am back with a decktech for a really interesting deck I was talking about during the spoiler season. The deck is a UB Control deck, that has a few artifacts cheap artifacts that help fuel super efficient removal and counterspells, such as Battle at the Bridge and Metallic Rebuke.

Merchant’s Dockhand is a cheap early game play as a blocker and also can fuel improvise cards. However, it also provides a lategame card advantage and selection engine. Prophetic Prism is an early game redraw and mana smoother, and also works well fueling improvise cards. Metalspinner’s Puzzleknot works in the same way, with the added bonus of being able to draw another card when it’s not needed to fuel improvise anymore in the later game.

Here are the main cards that benefit from playing a lot of cheap artifacts. Just tapping a unneeded artifact such as Prophetic Prism or Metalspinner’s Puzzleknot that you have can lead to explosive turns where you kill a creature, draw a few cards, and still leave up a counterspell for opposing threats or answers.

We also have two cards that act as large beaters in the late game against control decks. Herald of Anguish generates so much card advantage when left unanswered, and Metalwork Colossus can wade through a storm of removal when playing the control mirror.

Decklist: UB Improvise Control

What did you think? Comment below!

Emergency Banning of Emrakul, Copter, Reflector Mage, Gitaxian Probe, and Golgari Grave-Troll

Reflector Mage, Emrakul, the Promised End, and Smuggler’s Copter were all banned in yesterday’s emergency ban. This weakened several very strong decks such  as Aetherworks Marvel, Delirium, Flash, and the aggressive Vehicle decks. Whether or not you agree with the idea of bannings in Standard, I think it can be agreed that playing against a non-interactive deck that combos off turn four with a huge 13/13 isn’t fun. Though Fatal Push was printed as a foil to Copter, it can only be played in black decks, where Copter can be played in any deck. Reflector Mage seems a little bit weird, since it’s not that powerful, but I think that Wizards was trying to weaken the UW Flash deck, but not ban anything that saw too much play outside of the deck.

Though it doesn’t kill Dredge or Infect, Dredge and Infect get a lot less competitive from the bans of Probe and Grave-Troll, respectively. Speaking as an Modern Infect player, Probe is one the best cards in the deck. It thins the deck for free, allows you to check if you need Vines as protection for your infect creature, and fuel Become Immense. Though this doesn’t come close to killing Infect, it may lower the amount of Become Immenses to two because they’re harder to fuel with only fetches. As for Grave-Troll, it is the card that really pushed Dredge when it was unbanned, and Dredge will fall back down.

What do you think? Comment below!

 

 

Wizards Emergency Ban Incoming!

Magic: the Gathering tweeted this tweet out approximately an hour ago from the release of this article. They announced that they will move the Banned & Restricted list announcement from next Monday to 11AM this Monday. This will be the second emergency ban, the first one being the emergency ban of Memory Jar in Standard.

As for what will be banned, this ban is most definitely a pre-emptive ban to ban some card out of Aether Revolt before too much brewing ensues. As for likely culprits, the most likely is probably Felidar Guardian out of the “Standard Splinter Twin Combo”. As I wrote about in my previous article, this combo is quite powerful. Though they could ban Saheeli, Saheeli has more uses outside of the combo than Felidar Guardian has.

What do you think are the likely culprits? Comment below!

 

Full Spoiler of Aether Revolt!

Today, Aether Revolt was fully spoiled. You can see the full spoiler here. However, in this post, I want to talk about two cool infinite combos that were spoiled and will be legal in Standard.

Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai are a nice turn four infinite combo that can win on turn four. This seems almost like the Splinter Twin combo. Though this can be a very fast combo to assemble, you can run a WUR Control shell and run these cards as a win condition, dropping them both in the same turn to win the game so your opponent can’t interact.

Crackdown Construct and Wandering Fumarole are another infinite combo that can be run in a UR control shell. Baral’s Expertise is very good in this deck, because it can clear the board to open up the board for Crackdown Construct so you win the game, while also dropping a Crackdown Consulate, though it’s a little more fragile to removal and also needs the board to be clear or needs Crackdown Construct to be unblockable.

I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about these combos because I thought these were cool. What do you think? Comment below!

 

Aether Revolt Spoiler Highlights of Jan 5!

karizev

Zari Kev, Skyship Raider is pretty cool. It’s a pirate, and it makes legendary monkeys! Though it doesn’t seem great in standard as a 1/3. Keep in mind that the monkey getting exiled also triggers revolt, so this card is pretty good with other aggressively costed revolt cards. Seems good with the revolt creature that is a 3/2 for 2B and gives a creature -3/-3 if one of your permanents left the battlefield this turn. I really want this card to be good, but the fact that it’s a 1/3 really holds it back.

karizevsexpertise

Most threaten effects aren’t that good, but there’s a lot of potential in this one. In addition to giving you a creature for the turn, it also allows you to drop another creature while your at it. A small number of them seem good in aggressive decks to swing the game against more midrange-y decks so they can’t stabilize.

heraldofanguish

Herald of Anguish is a very powerful card. A deck I really want to see is one that uses clue producing cards to cheat out big improvise cards. This big demon not only impacts the board when it comes down by making opponent’s start to discard cards, it also has the ability to sacrifice clues to shoot down creatures.

treasurekeeper

In Emerge decks, this card is almost as good as Bloodbraid Elf, allowing you to pull more low cost emerge fodder from your deck when you sacrifice it to emerge a big Elder Deep Fiend or Distended Mindbender. Also decent in some of the trinket-y artifact commander decks that generate value by sacrificing artifacts and bring them back.

What do you think? Comment below!