8/16/2011 SF: "From the Teeming Millions"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Serious Fun, which goes live Tuesday morning on magicthegathering.com.
what i have found the best way to playtest decks is to get magic workstation (sorry it is cheap and always has people on it) but if u go to a card shop find someone that likes differnt ideas and is willing to see a few games with u for a hour or 2 i mean clerics where fun but they need that card that just makes up for the tempo for later yes if that list is still a work in progress
Magicball: If you're actually serious about creating that, I'd start by looking into the Nomic genre, since those are about as close in 'real' games that you can get to Calvinball (I'm including the Nomic-other hybrids here). The four that spring to mind being:

Nomic itself - A dice based experiment in democracy and lawmaking with its own victory condition (until the players change it). The starting point between Magic and Nomic would probably be a bit too different to really use it as a basis, but worth looking up all the same.
Dvorak - A card based Nomic, with a bit of democracy thrown in (All players vote on the proposed rules changes and new cards) - Remove the new cards possibility so that players are only making new rules, and you're probably at something playable already, though I'd be tempted to make proposing a new rule compulsory on your turn.
1000 Blank White Cards - Like Dvorak, but without the ability to make new rules, only cards, and without the democracy. (The only thing preventing you from making a card worth a million points is the possibility of your opponant making one worth either two million points, entering an arms race, or making a card forcing anyone who controls a card worth over a thousand points to eat it). Make it rules only and you're probably closer to the spirit of Calvinball.
Mao - Obviously I can't talk about the rules of the original (Seriously. That's basically the only rule the rules allow me to talk about), but if you can figure out the equivilent of winning a hand in Magic (Winning a game of Magic, especially multiplayer, might take a bit too long. Do X amount of damage on a single turn, perhaps?), and you're familiar enough with Mao to know why this might work, a similar principle might work. With or without the 'You cannot talk about the rules' rule.

Whatever you use as your starting point for figuring out how to get it to work, however, I'd probably lean towards singleton deck construction for it. And see no point disallowing Un cards, you're going to be in something at least as bizare as silver bordered land soon enough.
Magicball: the simplest version would probably be as follows: "During each player's turn, that player can change up to one rule of the game at instant speed, except for rules regarding win conditions or rules already changed in this game by other players."

The last clause is necessary to keep people from playing tug of war over one card or board state. So, for example, if I cast a Baneslayer Angel, on my opponent's turn he can change the rule about flying so it now works like phasing and my angel won't be around next turn. On my turn I can change first strike to work like double strike so when I finally do get my angel it hits even harder (or change the phasing rules to make it less bad for me, or just change flying to shadow or horsemanship, but let's keep this example simple), but I can't just change flying back to flying.

The game is likely to end when players realize that "up to one rule of the game" includes this rule, and they start allowing multiple rules changes per turn or something. But then, it always was clear that it takes a certain mentality to play Calvinball and enjoy it.
Magicball: the simplest version would probably be as follows: "During each player's turn, that player can change up to one rule of the game at instant speed, except for rules regarding win conditions or rules already changed in this game by other players."

The last clause is necessary to keep people from playing tug of war over one card or board state. So, for example, if I cast a Baneslayer Angel, on my opponent's turn he can change the rule about flying so it now works like phasing and my angel won't be around next turn. On my turn I can change first strike to work like double strike so when I finally do get my angel it hits even harder (or change the phasing rules to make it less bad for me, or just change flying to shadow or horsemanship, but let's keep this example simple), but I can't just change flying back to flying.

The game is likely to end when players realize that "up to one rule of the game" includes this rule, and they start allowing multiple rules changes per turn or something. But then, it always was clear that it takes a certain mentality to play Calvinball and enjoy it.



When the players start messing with the rules about messing with the rules, that's not when that sort of game ends. That's when the fun begins. (I'm only half kidding. My favourite form of that is when components of the game start being able to mess with the rules via various conditions - Rules for rules being able to breed with each other to create children that combine various properties of the parents tends to get rather cool even if the rules that can create are utterly, utterly, bizare (And sometimes very self destructive - If a rule of "If exactly 13 rules exist; then destroy a random rule" breeds with "If a rule is destroyed; then add a widget where it was last located" breed, you might wind up with "If a rule is destroyed; then destroy a random rule." depending on how you define your rule breeding algorithm))

You are right that it's often needed that some rules are less mutable than others - Calvinball's obvious examples would be that the Masks and the 'no two games the same' are absolutely immutable, I think in the game Nomic as proposed by its inventor there are a bunch of rules that require a super majority to change whereas most just require a simple majority. What rules you put into that protected or semi-protected status depends a lot on how chaotic you want the game to be, though sometimes it's simple gentleman's agreement that keeps the protected status rules protected.
I answered "Multiplayer (using variant rules: Commander, Two-Headed Giant, etc.)".

The reason is quite simple. In a dual, a mythic creature and a lot of removals are most likely ensures your victory. An inbalanced situation (mana screw or a bad draw) often decides who wins.

Why I haven't chosen the second choice will be explained later.

A normal multiplayer game isn't playable anymore. Assuming that you have 5 players, chances are about 100% that someone plays an infinity loop (even if only 1/5 of your decks has one). Another fact is that once you know the power of card advantage, you'll add mass removals to your deck. And also assuming that any deck has at least 4 copies, chances are high that there could be a mass removal every other turn in a 5-players-multiplayer group.

So to have more fun, a multiplayer group needs some sort of restriction. You can ban any infinite combo, but once you try to ban mass removal, other "cheating" effects dominate the game (see Overrun or Elvish Promenade). So you could play pauper - and we do so - but then you'll learn that WotC didn't balanced the colors and usually, black common creatures suck. Being able to revive a underwhelming creature doesn't make it better. Also other effects like "protection" or landwalk / fear can become problematic.

Another choice is to play Singleton or Highlander games, since then neither a single copy of a Wrath of God, nor a very unlikely combo will totally ruin the game. But with Highlander, especially EDH, there comes another problem: Players try to "cheat" and add any card that can search their library for a win effect, etc.. So the game often ends in a 10min shuffle+search and 1min doing-something. This isn't funny.

An easy solution: Every card that let's you search your library is limited to the top 10 cards instead.

Still you shouldn't play EDH, since a 40 lifetotal prevents most weenie strategies and EDH decks tend to be lame during the first 5-10 turns. So it's 10min shuffle + 10min lame-game. Rather keep up with the 20 life.

That's what we liked most. But still, in a multiplayer group, some cards are MUCH more powerful than other cards and tend to be unfun or a must-have. To reduce the impact, we have decided to play Star or Starlet games. "Star" means, that you have to build a mono-colored deck and there have to 5 players. Each player has a differently colored deck. Each player fights against the 2 enemy colors.

Since this is basically a twisted 3 vs. 2, your targeted destruction spells don't neccesarily cause any significant card disadvantage and mass effects also stop your allies as well.

But back to the question, why I haven't answered duels with modifications:
If I play against one person, this is really straight forward and personal... and this tends to be a quite and hateful atmosphere. And players don't enjoy to lose the 10th time in succession. And these players often look for online magic in searhch for a larger playground. A multiplayer game is just more interactive, joyful and overall balanced. And players are more likely to return on the next week.