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.


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, ….”.


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!



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.

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!


An Open Letter on Frontier


Despite my earlier brief article on the new Frontier format, I feel that it is important to elaborate, flesh out, and clarify what I said in that article. Before we begin, I am not going to go on a rant about how Frontier is “toxic” or anything of that ilk. I am going to be as respectful and diplomatic as possible while trying to communicate my point, which doesn’t seem to conform with the general consensus.

Dear Frontier and Frontier supporters,

Frontier was created to be an affordable solution to Standard and Modern, which are too expensive. Quoting the page on Frontier on the Hareruya, Frontier was created because “cards that represent Modern like Tarmogoyf and Liliana of the Veil are very expensive to buy and hard to get a hold of,” and Frontier is “easy to start and a format that you can use your favorite recent cards forever.”

I agree with you that Frontier is great for all of us. Us players that have played from before Magic 2015. We have accrued cards that are in a position where they powerful staples in Standard, but during rotation, suffered major price drops and failed to find a niche in any of the Eternal formats, such as Modern, Legacy, or Vintage. Sure, Standard rotation hurts all of us. I’ve opened cards, and now they’re worth nothing. Frontier gives us a chance to play those cards again and gives those cards value again. Sure, I’m happy that my Dig through Times or my Jaces are climbing, and I’m sure your happy too. However, I have my doubts about the viability and longevity of Frontier.

My concern is prior examples of Eternal formats throughout the history of Magic. Modern was codified and began as a sanctioned format in 2011. What people were thinking when Modern began as a format is exactly what people are thinking now. They were thinking “oh, all this stuff I got from drafting? I can play it now? Sweet.” Now, it’s been in existence for five years. That means that for five years, people have been buying Modern playable cards, and eating up the supply that, before Modern, was just a pile of unplayable cards. Now, Modern staples are scarce. Zendikar fetches are over two hundred dollars a playset, and the top decks range from over five hundred dollars to up to over eighteen hundred dollars for some of the midrange-y “fair” decks such as Jund or Abzan.

Right now, you can build a competitive Frontier deck for a little under a hundred dollars, with the most expensive decks still barely over four hundred dollars. That seems great in contrast to the more expensive decks. However, what I ask you is in five years, when Frontier is in the same situation as Modern is in now, is that a solution?

Even if Wizards recognizes this format and supports it by reprinting staples in supplemental products, it won’t stay cheap. The Masters sets are fine, but they don’t do their jobs well enough. Only a few dozen staples are reprinted, the supply is pretty low, and the price of packs is pretty high.

Now that we have established that Frontier won’t stay cheap and that is only a short term solution for the problem it wishes to solve. I really don’t think Frontier has a chance, in terms of viability and longevity. I welcome your peaceful and respectful disagreements and corrections.


Kai Chang



Why I Play Hearthstone


This past month, I started to play Hearthstone. Here are my observations:


  • Accessibility

Hearthstone is a free mobile app and allows you to find other players in under a minute, where as Magic in real life requires one or more other people, and some degree of planning and organization. Magic: Online is a ten-dollar computer game that is only compatible with Windows. Hearthstone is much more accessible than real life Magic or Magic: Online.

  • Cost

Whereas Magic requires an investment of over a hundred dollars to have a competitive Standard deck, Hearthstone does not require you to spend any money to play. Magic: Online, as I’ve said before, is not treated by Wizards as a game, but as a second Magic: the Gathering on a different platform. This is shown by the way that Wizards costs online product and events. They price them as if they at the same price as they cost in real life. Again, they don’t treat it like a video game, they treat it like a second Magic collection, with all the same financial barriers to entry.

  • Interface

Hearthstone’s interface has been optimized for online play, whereas Magic: Online is clunky and unintuitive to use. I’ve found that my experience playing Hearthstone has been much smoother and more intuitive than my quick forays into Magic: Online.


  • Mechanics

It’s impossible to argue that Hearthstone is a better game than Magic. Impossible. Here are two of the main reasons why I think the mechanics of Hearthstone is inferior to those of Magic: the Gathering:

  1. Restrictive Deckbuilding

Hearthstone has nine “classes” or characters that you build your deck around. Each card is either usable by one of those classes or is neutral, and can be used by all of them. When you choose a class to build you deck around, you limit yourself to a specific set of cards, because cards belonging to other classes are unusable. There a limits to what each class can and can’t do. It’s almost like the color pie, except you can’t mix and match. Imagine only being able to play mono-color decks. It’s like that.

2. Interaction

It’s harder to interact with what your opponent’s gameplan, because there are no “instant speed” cards. There are cards called “Secrets” that you play on your turn and trigger when an opponent performs a specific action, but they are limited and underpowered because they can be played around and you can’t choose what you want to target.

Hearthstone is cheaper and more accessible, but has inferior mechanics. However, I love Magic and wouldn’t think of quitting anytime soon.

What is your take? Comment below!





The New Frontier: Frontier


Today, we discuss Frontier, the emergent format known that has also been dubbed postmodern, because it has the same parameters as Modern. The aim of Frontier is to create a new eternal format, but one that is more accessible for newer players, since many of the staples are still in print or were recently printed.

A major share of current Modern players purchased current modern staples while they were cheaper and more accessible. However, the barrier to entry for Modern rose and rose as cards got older and more expensive, and it’s nearly impossible for someone like me, who started playing in Innistrad, to enter Modern without spending absurd amounts of money.

The point of Frontier is to create a new Modern, and it’ll do just that. It offers a new easier jumping in point for players who want to buy into a new Eternal format. However, this has all of the same flaws of Modern. If it catches on, in a few years, it will be just as hard to enter as Modern is now. Unless they’re going to make a new format every couple years, you can’t keep prices down.

“When players that cannot keep up with the Standard
format, are thinking of starting Modern, cards
that represent Modern like 《Tarmogoyf》 and
《Liliana of the Veil》 are very expensive to buy and
and hard to get a hold of. From a card shop perspective,
these cards are hard to recommend to customers,
and is a risk for shops to have a big inventory of.”

This is nothing but a temporary reprieve from the expensiveness of Modern. They’re solving a problem with a short term solution that will fix nothing. All it will do is create a second Modern that will continue to grow in price as it ages and the card pool increases. It’s like damming a river with some wood that will eventually crumble. In the end, it’s not a real solution.


There is no solution. You can have a non-rotating format that doesn’t get expensive as the cards get older. It’s just impossible.