02/10/2012 LD: "What the Pro Tour Giveth"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Latest Developments, which goes live Friday morning on magicthegathering.com.
I had never realised this before...but it seems very obvious. It's always nice to get a column which elicits that reaction.

Also, man, I wish Tom LaPille had moved to D&D earlier so we'd have had more of Zac. I love his writing style.
76125763 wrote:
Zindaras' meta is like a fossil, ancient and its secrets yet to be uncovered. Only men of yore, long dead, knew of it.
I don't. Well I liked his previous articles, but  I found this a really hard read for some reason.

Take this sentence for example: "Because of that, we've accommodated our set development schedule such that it doesn't end until well after its corresponding Pro Tour."

What does corresponding mean? My first thought was that the coming Pro Tour is named Dark Ascension, so Dark Ascension's set development doesn't end until after it, but that's not what it means. Right? 

Also this: "While it's true that cutthroat-competitive players like to create problems, they also like to solve them.

First, though, let me back up a second."


That second spanned 12 paragraphs, a number of different topics and an entirely new headline midway. I guess there's nothing wrong with foreshadowing, but I just couldn't follow the mental path through the topics that Zac follows without getting Lost in the Woods
I don't. Well I liked his previous articles, but  I found this a really hard read for some reason.
Take this sentence for example: "Because of that, we've accommodated our set development schedule such that it doesn't end until well after its corresponding Pro Tour."

What does corresponding mean? My first thought was that the coming Pro Tour is named Dark Ascension, so Dark Ascension's set development doesn't end until after it, but that's not what it means. Right?



I noticed that as well, but I think he's talking about Avacyn Restored here.

Also this: "While it's true that cutthroat-competitive players like to create problems, they also like to solve them.

First, though, let me back up a second."


That second spanned 12 paragraphs, a number of different topics and an entirely new headline midway. I guess there's nothing wrong with foreshadowing, but I just couldn't follow the mental path through the topics that Zac follows. 



True. This did not annoy me that much (though I agree that he shouldn't have said it was just going to be a second, since it was much, much longer than that).

But what I'm talking about is his overall style. Zac has the same thing that Kelly Digges had: he is genuinely enthousiastic about Magic and manages to convey this in his writing (as opposed to, say, an Adam Styborski, who just reads like he's shouting all the time). You may disagree with him (as I surely did with Kelly and his "let's keep people alive until they kill me"-strategy), but you can't dislike reading his articles. Also, I like his sense of humour and generally find his articles to be good, content-wise. I can forgive faults in his writing style.
76125763 wrote:
Zindaras' meta is like a fossil, ancient and its secrets yet to be uncovered. Only men of yore, long dead, knew of it.
I noticed that as well, but I think he's talking about Avacyn Restored here.



Yeah, I guess this is more because the marketing department has tried really hard lately to tie a Pro Tour to (the release of) a set, so that colors our impression of 'corresponding pro tour'. 

But what I'm talking about is his overall style. Zac has the same thing that Kelly Digges had: he is genuinely enthousiastic about Magic and manages to convey this in his writing (as opposed to, say, an Adam Styborski, who just reads like he's shouting all the time). You may disagree with him (as I surely did with Kelly and his "let's keep people alive until they kill me"-strategy), but you can't dislike reading his articles. Also, I like his sense of humour and generally find his articles to be good, content-wise. I can forgive faults in his writing style.



Yeah, both his enthousiasm and content are awesome. There are so many interesting new insights in this article, well worth the read. 

Okay, just one more thing I think I stumbled over: "It goes deeper than that, though. Not only do players find powerful strategies at the Pro Tour, they find powerful ways to beat those strategies, and their ability to do that informs the kinds of cards we develop to solve problems. Those reactions in turn form new strategies ("There are a lot of 1-toughness creatures in this format that need to be killed. I suppose I'll play Tragic Slip to deal with them—and wow, that card is really good with Snapcaster Mage!") that require us to react to them in turn."

I think 'Those reactions' refers to "players finding ways to answer strategies", but the 'in turn' made me think it refers to "wizards developing answer cards", which completely changes the meaning of what comes afterwards. It's all clear when you stop and think about it, but the first time I read the article this was another thing where I couldn't follow/grok what I was reading anymore.

Maybe the problem is that it's such an abstract concept, as he says in the closing part, compared to normal development articles and issues. For insiders this is all a second nature, but I don't have a framework to place it all in, each new sentence is a frontier. And because of the abstract nature, those sentences have multiple interpretations. 
I found this one a bit disjointed too.  But Zac's allowed an off week.

Since he was talking about year-to-year, I assume the sentence in question meant corresponding month. They'll throw this PT's decks into next year's FFL.  Anything else wouldn't be enough lead time for printing.

If you're on MTGO check out the Free Events via PDCMagic and Gatherling.

Other games you should try:
DC Universe Online - action-based MMO.  Free to play.  Surprisingly well-designed combat and classes.

Planetside 2 - Free to play MMO-meets-FPS and the first shooter I've liked in ages.
Simunomics - Free-to-play economy simulation game.

Apologies for the dense prose.  I was grappling with the best mechanism of expressing a very abstract idea and I don't think I let the 'dough' settle enough when it came to many of these sentences.

"Corresponding" refers to the Pro Tour happening concurrent to the development of the set scheduled to be released a year later.  I kind of didn't want to worry about articulating that and so hoped the ambiguity would be gloss-over-able.  
Ah thanks for the clarification =) Like Zindaras I also would've guessed Avacyn's Restored, but then again that's way too close.

Keep up the good work!
I don't. Well I liked his previous articles, but  I found this a really hard read for some reason.

Take this sentence for example: "Because of that, we've accommodated our set development schedule such that it doesn't end until well after its corresponding Pro Tour."

What does corresponding mean? My first thought was that the coming Pro Tour is named Dark Ascension, so Dark Ascension's set development doesn't end until after it, but that's not what it means. Right? 

Also this: "While it's true that cutthroat-competitive players like to create problems, they also like to solve them.

First, though, let me back up a second."


That second spanned 12 paragraphs, a number of different topics and an entirely new headline midway. I guess there's nothing wrong with foreshadowing, but I just couldn't follow the mental path through the topics that Zac follows without getting Lost in the Woods




For what it is worth, this article is written to a 9.2 grade level. That is higher than typical media. Perhaps Zac being new to writing isn't aware of this topic at all. And also FWIW, to get readability, you use spell check, which found this: " Limited and highlighting sme of the more creative Standard brews from around the world."


SME? Your editor can't even use spellcheck? Do you even have one? This is embarrassing. Spellcheck even highlighted the errors in grammar this article has that should have been fixed. Spellcheck>your editor.     

I read the whole article when I could have just skipped to the last bit.  This article basically said, "I like Magic, we have adjusted our development schedule alongside the Pro-Tour to better react to top-decks, and I look forward to it."

Don't get me wrong, I also enjoy your writing Zac (seriously though, Spell Checker) but this was pretty fluffy.
I read the whole article when I could have just skipped to the last bit.  This article basically said, "I like Magic, we have adjusted our development schedule alongside the Pro-Tour to better react to top-decks, and I look forward to it."

Don't get me wrong, I also enjoy your writing Zac (seriously though, Spell Checker) but this was pretty fluffy.



I do have to disagree with this, the way I see it, there were a lot of interesting insights in the article, like:

we draft with the version of a set you see in booster packs a grand total of one or maybe two times.


[...]

when we've gone a week or so without making changes to a set, it's usually time to put the next set into the FFL.

[...]

When the Pro Tour comes around, we have a chance to evaluate our predictive capacity, and adapt to how reality is actually functioning. It provides a verifiable answer to the question, "What's actually good in this environment?" When we've predicted that correctly, we are provided with a wealth of data that allows us to determine why. When we haven't, we get to analyze why we got it wrong and refine our processes such that we don't make the same mistakes again.

[...]

Because of that, we've accommodated our set development schedule such that it doesn't end until well after its corresponding Pro Tour.

[...]

The most important issue by far is to ensure the next year's sets aren't providing even more fuel to the dominant strategies that already exist.


(The 4th thing gives us somewhat of an indication of when the development process ends) 
I read the whole article when I could have just skipped to the last bit.  This article basically said, "I like Magic, we have adjusted our development schedule alongside the Pro-Tour to better react to top-decks, and I look forward to it."

Don't get me wrong, I also enjoy your writing Zac (seriously though, Spell Checker) but this was pretty fluffy.



I do have to disagree with this, the way I see it, there were a lot of interesting insights in the article, like:

Don't get me wrong Toby, I'm glad these things are happening and that they are comfortable telling us...but then I assumed such things had been going on for some time.  Guess I was wrong?
Don't get me wrong Toby, I'm glad these things are happening and that they are comfortable telling us...but then I assumed such things had been going on for some time.  Guess I was wrong?



Oh no, I'm sure things like this have been going on for a while, but they never told us (well at least to me those things were new). There's a lot they haven't told us yet about design and development. For example the first time MaRo talked about the design skeleton, those things have been going on for a long time, but it was new to us, so it was an interesting read. I had the same with this one. Perhaps one day they'll tell us the reason they can't get rid of the Reserve List, which has been going on for quite some time too =p
Don't get me wrong Toby, I'm glad these things are happening and that they are comfortable telling us...but then I assumed such things had been going on for some time.  Guess I was wrong?



Oh no, I'm sure things like this have been going on for a while, but they never told us (well at least to me those things were new). There's a lot they haven't told us yet about design and development. For example the first time MaRo talked about the design skeleton, those things have been going on for a long time, but it was new to us, so it was an interesting read. I had the same with this one. Perhaps one day they'll tell us the reason they can't get rid of the Reserve List, which has been going on for quite some time too =p



I think they've stated their reasons for not offing the Reserve List a lot of times already: the Reserve List represents a promise they made to the players a long time ago. They don't want to break their promises (or, at least not the ones that they put strongly and clearly. They're quite comfortable with all the stuff surrounding the mythic rarity).
76125763 wrote:
Zindaras' meta is like a fossil, ancient and its secrets yet to be uncovered. Only men of yore, long dead, knew of it.
I think they've stated their reasons for not offing the Reserve List a lot of times already: the Reserve List represents a promise they made to the players a long time ago. They don't want to break their promises (or, at least not the ones that they put strongly and clearly. They're quite comfortable with all the stuff surrounding the mythic rarity).



They do. At least, more frank people like Aaron Forsythe have made statements that make it sound like Wizards is willing to do away with the policy, but possibly unable to do so. The 'we won't break promises' is spin just like 'we do away with worlds, here's an awesome 16-man event instead which is an improvement'.

And they haven't broken any promises about mythics, really.
I think they've stated their reasons for not offing the Reserve List a lot of times already: the Reserve List represents a promise they made to the players a long time ago. They don't want to break their promises (or, at least not the ones that they put strongly and clearly. They're quite comfortable with all the stuff surrounding the mythic rarity).



They do. At least, more frank people like Aaron Forsythe have made statements that make it sound like Wizards is willing to do away with the policy, but possibly unable to do so.



Because of the promise it represents. They may even have cemented it in legal terms.

And they haven't broken any promises about mythics, really.



No, I did not say that either. What I'm talking about is the power creep aspect related to mythics (which we were told would not happen). Also, if what I have heard is true (that the move of the Prerelease card to rare rather than mythic rare is permanent), this would also be a serious disappointment.

To be honest, it seems to me as if Magic at a top level is becoming more and more about rares and mythic rares. When Wizards makes rares that are better than commons, that's fine by me. When Wizards makes (mythic rares) that make a common look like cardboard crap, that's just sad, as it splits casual environments into the haves and the have-nots far too strongly.
76125763 wrote:
Zindaras' meta is like a fossil, ancient and its secrets yet to be uncovered. Only men of yore, long dead, knew of it.
Because of the promise it represents. They may even have cemented it in legal terms.



And I believe they possibly do want to break their promises, but can't. It's just that it seems such a taboo subject to talk about. I don't think we've heard/understand the whole story yet.

And they haven't broken any promises about mythics, really.



What I'm talking about is the power creep aspect related to mythics (which we were told would not happen).



Just for reference, where did they tell this? =)

To be honest, it seems to me as if Magic at a top level is becoming more and more about rares and mythic rares. When Wizards makes rares that are better than commons, that's fine by me. When Wizards makes (mythic rares) that make a common look like cardboard crap, that's just sad, as it splits casual environments into the haves and the have-nots far too strongly.



Yes this is unfortunate. It seems wizards thinks this is the best business model for the game. 
Because of the promise it represents. They may even have cemented it in legal terms.



And I believe they possibly do want to break their promises, but can't. It's just that it seems such a taboo subject to talk about. I don't think we've heard/understand the whole story yet.



There's no argument to refute that

And they haven't broken any promises about mythics, really.



What I'm talking about is the power creep aspect related to mythics (which we were told would not happen).



Just for reference, where did they tell this? =)



www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.a...

I know they haven't necessarily broken it. I know they're keeping utility cards at rare. But there are a number of mythic rare cards which did not feel mythic rare (Lotus Cobra is the most egregious offender). Then there's the stuff they're doing that's just stupid. Phyrexian Obliterator, Vorapede, Batterskull, the Titans, planeswalkers (Jace, of course, but I also think the other planeswalkers are getting over the top). It's strongly affecting Limited (a number of mythic rares are such absolute auto-wins that one might as well scoop the moment they hit play). It's nice for Wizards and top players don't really need to care, but budget players and the casual crowd are being hurt by this.

Yes this is unfortunate. It seems wizards thinks this is the best business model for the game. 



And it works. Or, at least, it has worked so far. The long-term effects could be significant, but nobody knows them, of course.
76125763 wrote:
Zindaras' meta is like a fossil, ancient and its secrets yet to be uncovered. Only men of yore, long dead, knew of it.
Re: the mythic "assurance"

(a) "They will not just be a list of each set's most powerful tournament-level cards."

The letter of what was said was not broken, but if you look closely at what those words mean, you'll see that there was actually no way it could be broken. "I won't just do X" rhymes a lot with "I won't do X", but actually means that I may do X to my heart's content as long as I do other things too. If the letter of what was promised could not be breached then the only thing left to look at is the spirit of those words as seen from the recipient's perspective (different from the intended meaning), which I venture is somewhere around "we won't be designing the most powerful tourney cards for the mythic slot". If that is the sense of what was promised, I think it can be challenged.

(b) "We've also decided that there are certain things we specifically do not want to be mythic rares. The largest category is utility cards, what I'll define as cards that fill a universal function. Some examples of this category would be cycles of dual lands..."

Other examples include Lotus Cobra, which probably wouldn't be half so debated if its name was just "Mana Snake".

Re: the power creep assurance

From: "when good cards go bad"

"Yes, in theory, we could design a 330 card set where every card sees play. But what about the next set? Would anyone buy the next small expansion if none of the cards were tournament worthy? Of course not. The only way to then make the next set have tournament-worthy cards is to increase the power level. The new more powerful cards would then displace some of the cards from the first set. Unfortunately, this solution would ultimately destroy the game as the power level would keep increasing until it spun madly out of control."

No assurance given but clear dictum of what we already know, that year on year power creep is bad and ultimately self-defeating.

Re: the increasing redundancy of non-rares (and, to some extent, non-mythics)

I agree with Zindaras that we don't know the longterm effects of their current business model of the emphasis on mythics and rares. What I lack is precise figures to say that this is bourne out in practice. For example, over the last five years what has been the %age appearance in tournaments of each rarity, and secondly what is the %age usage of that rarity in tournaments across the year. The first figure gives you a measure of the importance of that rarity, the second a measure of the redundancy of that rarity.

If the figures show a decline in the lower rarities and an increased redundancy of that pool, then the real speculation begins. If more cards are valueless / disposable, does that increase or decrease the longterm consumption? Parallels with music show no decline in use, but a decline in what people will pay for the product. Of course it is way more complex than that but these are the questions I hope someone at Hasbro is asking.
Re: the mythic "assurance"

(a) "They will not just be a list of each set's most powerful tournament-level cards."

The letter of what was said was not broken, but if you look closely at what those words mean, you'll see that there was actually no way it could be broken. "I won't just do X" rhymes a lot with "I won't do X", but actually means that I may do X to my heart's content as long as I do other things too. If the letter of what was promised could not be breached then the only thing left to look at is the spirit of those words as seen from the recipient's perspective (different from the intended meaning), which I venture is somewhere around "we won't be designing the most powerful tourney cards for the mythic slot". If that is the sense of what was promised, I think it can be challenged.



Yeah, exactly, there's a lot of leeway in the promise made, if only by the fact that it would be nearly impossible to build a Standard deck with only mythics (there simply aren't enough).

(b) "We've also decided that there are certain things we specifically do not want to be mythic rares. The largest category is utility cards, what I'll define as cards that fill a universal function. Some examples of this category would be cycles of dual lands..."

Other examples include Lotus Cobra, which probably wouldn't be half so debated if its name was just "Mana Snake".

Re: the power creep assurance

From: "when good cards go bad"

"Yes, in theory, we could design a 330 card set where every card sees play. But what about the next set? Would anyone buy the next small expansion if none of the cards were tournament worthy? Of course not. The only way to then make the next set have tournament-worthy cards is to increase the power level. The new more powerful cards would then displace some of the cards from the first set. Unfortunately, this solution would ultimately destroy the game as the power level would keep increasing until it spun madly out of control."

No assurance given but clear dictum of what we already know, that year on year power creep is bad and ultimately self-defeating.



Totally true, but perhaps the term "mythic creep" isn't that good a term in that it's not creeping. After Alara block introduced the rarity, they figured that nobody would be watching anymore and just upped the general power level, which has remained relatively stable afterwards. It's just that they've decided that mythics basically deserve a +2/+2 upgrade over everything else. This is not year on year. This is a stable factor, much like it was the same for rares before (which also did not kill the game, remember?).

Re: the increasing redundancy of non-rares (and, to some extent, non-mythics)

I agree with Zindaras that we don't know the longterm effects of their current business model of the emphasis on mythics and rares. What I lack is precise figures to say that this is bourne out in practice. For example, over the last five years what has been the %age appearance in tournaments of each rarity, and secondly what is the %age usage of that rarity in tournaments across the year. The first figure gives you a measure of the importance of that rarity, the second a measure of the redundancy of that rarity.

If the figures show a decline in the lower rarities and an increased redundancy of that pool, then the real speculation begins. If more cards are valueless / disposable, does that increase or decrease the longterm consumption? Parallels with music show no decline in use, but a decline in what people will pay for the product. Of course it is way more complex than that but these are the questions I hope someone at Hasbro is asking.


But I don't think the problems are as much with the tournament crowd, at least not the high-level tournament crowd on which you have a lot of statistics. Go down to the FNM level and we might start noticing it. Go down to casual playgroups and it'll be even more obvious. I remember playing someone else's Commander deck in a multiplayer game. It was basically just packed full of all the industry standards. Put those decks up against a guy who buys about 10 boosters of each set and you have a huge power discrepancy.

And this is just a general comment for, basically, all three promises, but today's deck of the day somewhat proves my points: every single non-utility creature in that deck is mythic rare.
76125763 wrote:
Zindaras' meta is like a fossil, ancient and its secrets yet to be uncovered. Only men of yore, long dead, knew of it.
Re: the mythic "assurance"

(a) "They will not just be a list of each set's most powerful tournament-level cards."

[...]



Yeah, exactly, there's a lot of leeway in the promise made, if only by the fact that it would be nearly impossible to build a Standard deck with only mythics (there simply aren't enough).



Well, about that one, even without the word 'just' it's hard to break it. "They will not be a list of each set's most powerful tournament-level cards". 

That would mean that the lists of the 15 most powerful cards of a set and the list of 15 mythics of a set should not be the same. They can make the 10 most powerful cards of a set mythic and not break that promise.  
Its funny how random subjects turn into Mythic debates.
Seriously, 1/2 DKA's Mythics arent Pro Tour cards and those that are still stand next to Delver, Lingering Souls, Drogskol Captain, Whipflare, Galvanic Blast, Rampant Growth, Sphere of the Suns...blah blah blah
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