8/10/2012 LD: "Ah Yes. Very Standard."

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Latest Developments, which goes live Friday morning on magicthegathering.com.
This is very telling:

Aggro → Midrange → Ramp/Combo → Control/Disruptive Aggro


Note how there's no arrow pointing back towards aggro.  This is very telling when the best deck in the format for the past 4 years have been either Control or Disruptive Aggro decks, with the exception of the one year when there wasn't a single playable card for either of those archetypes.  For reference:

LOR/ALA: Faeries (Disruptive Aggro, or Control, depending on your definition)
ALA/ZEN: Jund
ZEN/SOM: Caw-Blade (Control)
SOM/ISD: Delver (Disruptive Aggro)

So I suppose that's an accurate description of the Standard metagame.  It's kind of disappointing that R&D appears to engineer the format to act in that way.
What amuses me is how he says they're very happy with how things have worked out since adopting this model...and then in the very next paragraph talks about how Stoneforge Mystic and Snapcaster have messed up these plans...

Because there have been so many Standard environments without either one of those cards, recently... It's definitely not like as soon as the first mistake rotated out (well, was banned, but whatever), they printed the second.
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This is very telling:

Aggro → Midrange → Ramp/Combo → Control/Disruptive Aggro


Note how there's no arrow pointing back towards aggro.  This is very telling when the best deck in the format for the past 4 years have been either Control or Disruptive Aggro decks, with the exception of the one year when there wasn't a single playable card for either of those archetypes.  For reference:

LOR/ALA: Faeries (Disruptive Aggro, or Control, depending on your definition)
ALA/ZEN: Jund
ZEN/SOM: Caw-Blade (Control)
SOM/ISD: Delver (Disruptive Aggro)

So I suppose that's an accurate description of the Standard metagame.  It's kind of disappointing that R&D appears to engineer the format to act in that way.





Reading the article belies that.  He specifically says aggro is supposed to be able to exploit control.

That said, I kinda wonder how cards like Snapcaster are supposed to fit this model.  I mean, they knew very well the card was tournament viable, but they also knew the card is far too cheap and useful to not be a strong counter to aggro, so why print it like that if they're hoping for controlling decks to be anything less than dominant?
This is very telling:

Aggro → Midrange → Ramp/Combo → Control/Disruptive Aggro


Note how there's no arrow pointing back towards aggro.  This is very telling when the best deck in the format for the past 4 years have been either Control or Disruptive Aggro decks, with the exception of the one year when there wasn't a single playable card for either of those archetypes.  For reference:

LOR/ALA: Faeries (Disruptive Aggro, or Control, depending on your definition)
ALA/ZEN: Jund
ZEN/SOM: Caw-Blade (Control)
SOM/ISD: Delver (Disruptive Aggro)

So I suppose that's an accurate description of the Standard metagame.  It's kind of disappointing that R&D appears to engineer the format to act in that way.





Reading the article belies that.  He specifically says aggro is supposed to be able to exploit control.

That said, I kinda wonder how cards like Snapcaster are supposed to fit this model.  I mean, they knew very well the card was tournament viable, but they also knew the card is far too cheap and useful to not be a strong counter to aggro, so why print it like that if they're hoping for controlling decks to be anything less than dominant?


Snapcaster doesn't really counter aggro, Restoration Angel and Blade Splicer do. Without them, Zombies has a very good matchup against delver
So I suppose that's an accurate description of the Standard metagame.  It's kind of disappointing that R&D appears to engineer the format to act in that way.


It's not that they make us a few decks of each category. This division has existed for a long time, and we have known how each category is supposed to act against one another. In fact, it's beneficial that the people that balance the game (among other things) know this, because, as the article says, they can print powerful things in every category, giving every one a chance (theoretically).

EDIT: What's with the messed-up colors in Grim Monolith's picture, by the way? 
When blocking isn't a "thing," each one of your creatures is just a down-payment investment that depreciates your opponent's life total by a rate equal to its power every turn, and deck design is about nothing but figuring out what the most efficient way to do that is without losing all your guys to removal.


If blocking is ever profitable (in a two-player game, and excluding the chump-block sense where the alternative is immediate reduction to 0% Win Probability), then attacking isn't, hence ideal play would dictate that the attack never takes place. The "blocking problem", if indeed it is one, is a direct consequence of that, and nothing more.

Blocking doesn't always mean "blocking profitably". The game is more interesting when chump blocking, gang blocking and trading are possible good moves, too, as Limited as that sounds.

There's also the "aggro gambit": I lose creatures to your blocks but still get enough damage through from others to eventually win the game.

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This article has been long due! I image I'll link to it often in the future.
This is very telling:

Aggro → Midrange → Ramp/Combo → Control/Disruptive Aggro


Note how there's no arrow pointing back towards aggro.

I think it's pretty clear from the text of the article that this was meant to be turned into a circular diagram with arrows pointing from C/DA back to Aggro.

And yes, I have to disagree with SadisticMystic's claim that an attacker would never consider it a net positive attack step if any one of their creatures gets blocked.

This is disappointing. This is really, really disappointing. As SadisticMystic pointed out above, turning the format into creatures-only DOESN'T encourage creature interaction. It turns it into one of the following:

1. I have the advantage in creatures, so I can attack without fear. If he blocks, I trade favorably; if he tries to race, I win.
2. I do not have the advantage in creatures, so I cannot attack. I'm just going to wait to drop Bomby Mythic Rare and then win.
3. I have a creature with evasion, so I'm going to attack with that and leave everything else back.
4. I am playing a heavy aggro deck like RDW, so blocking does not exist. I am going to attack every turn unless there's a really persuasive reason not to.

As you see, NONE of those involve complex combat calculations. There's no calculated risk in straight-up creature fights. You know that you're going to win or lose, barring combat tricks, which continue to get worse (no Giant Growth, depleting stores of removal, HEXPROOF EVERYWHERE). So you attack when it's advantageous, and don't when it's not. This translates to a lot of racing and stalling, and very little actual interaction.

Another problem is how important it is who goes first when creatures are involved. Here are two examples using mirrors in today's popular decks:

First, RG Aggro. Player 1 lands Huntmaster of the Fells. Player 2 lands Huntmaster of the Fells. Player 1 untaps, draws, plays a land, and passes turn. During Player 2's upkeep, Player 1's Huntmaster flips first and snipes the enemy Huntmaster, putting him in a commanding lead. This is a commonly accepted scenario for this mirror, and one in which the player who is on the play has an immense advantage.

Second, UW Delver. The player who goes second is always on the back foot in many, many ways. He's ALWAYS going to be behind in tempo, barring extreme luck. He can't make calculated decisions to hold back mana for a counterspell, because his opponent will always end up in the lead. His opponent can wait until turn 4 and then hold mana for a Restoration Angel or Mana Leak, knowing he already has the advantage in tempo. Everything goes the way of the player who plays first.

When Control and Combo are involved, it isn't this cut and dry. The cards from the Control player traditionally have more power, because they are answers rather than threats. They are able to neutralize threats for less mana, and will often generate card advantage.  This is fine, because the Control player is on the back foot for the whole game until they stabilize and land a finisher like Mahamoti Djinn: nothing more than a big body that's on-color. Combo similarly likes having more cards because it means they have more pieces of the puzzle, although it's also happy going first because then it can get the combo off earlier.

The final issue with this stupid creature metagame is the way it's being implemented: with huge, swingy creatures. A player lands a Titan, and everything's pretty much over. If you look at the best Control decks in the format, they pretty much boil down to: turn 1-3 play a couple of target removal spells and some acceleration, turn 4 play a sweeper, turn 5 or 6 drop a Titan and hope it's enough. These dumb creatures are now HOW you stabilize, not what you do ONCE you've stabilized. The reason that's inappropriate is that it makes the game much more luck-reliant. In a standard Control-Aggro matchup, Aggro just needs to get ONE creature to stick in order to win. It matters much less which creature it is. Similarly, Control needs just ONE removal spell to stabilize. It matters much less which removal spell it is. Now, it's about whether you can get the right creature AND enough land to play it. But once you do play it, the game ends. That's wildly inappropriate, because games suddenly become luck-of-the-draw. How dull. Don't get me started on Delver. Some games, it flips on turn 2 and you have a 7-turn clock starting right off the bat (more like 4 once that Runechanter's Pike gets equipped). Some games, it never flips and it's a vanilla 1/1 in a tempo deck. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I really hope you guys at Wizards realize soon how terrible this is for the metagame. You're turning the game into Sorcery-speed, when all interaction happens at Instant-speed. You're turning it into a topdeckfest. You're turning it into Delver Goldfish, instead of the calculations of Control. It's just sad.

EDIT: Oh, I forgot about Bonfire of the Damned. You know, maybe it isn't a problem with a creature-centric metagame. Maybe it's just that R&D is terrible at making cards these days. That could be it too.
This is very telling:

Aggro → Midrange → Ramp/Combo → Control/Disruptive Aggro


Note how there's no arrow pointing back towards aggro.  This is very telling when the best deck in the format for the past 4 years have been either Control or Disruptive Aggro decks, with the exception of the one year when there wasn't a single playable card for either of those archetypes.  For reference:

LOR/ALA: Faeries (Disruptive Aggro, or Control, depending on your definition)
ALA/ZEN: Jund
ZEN/SOM: Caw-Blade (Control)
SOM/ISD: Delver (Disruptive Aggro)

So I suppose that's an accurate description of the Standard metagame.  It's kind of disappointing that R&D appears to engineer the format to act in that way.



I agree with you in that Aggro vs Control balance has somewhat shifted to favor Control. I think it is a direct result of R&D's decision to make better creatures. All archetypes benefitted from that, but Aggro benefitted somewhat less and Control somewhat more, resulting in that Aggro now can have three 2/2s on turn 2 more consistently, but Control can now have Blade Splicer and Restoration Angel on turns 3 and 4, which stem the bleeding much better than Wrath of God/Day of Judgment it used to rely on.

Another article showing that the people behind the game know very little about it. Look at the format that most people woudl say is the best, Modern, why is it good? Because there is aggro, combo and control.

So they've intentionally made the format worse, control is very interactive, it's the most interactive archetype, so it's worth having in the format for sure. What about Combo? How is ramp more interactive than something like Twin was? Answer is that it isn't.

You can't remove two thirds of the game and make it better.
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Another article showing that the people behind the game know very little about it.



Pretty much.

The first environment I took very seriously was Tempest/Urza's Standard



I am disappointed that Wizards doesn't hire people who have been with the game from its birth to oversee it. There is no shortage of candidates.

As someone who was playing during Tempest/Urza's Standard, I remember that environment caused a lot of people to quit Magic, since nothing beat Academy Combo, and Academy Combo was also unfun to play with/against.

An environment that requires one to play a deck that wins by attacking is little better than one that does not permit one to win by attacking. It's about choice.

Not content to merely no longer print cards like Aether Storm or Soul Barrier, Wizards has seen fit to reach into the past and retroactively neuter Winter Orb.

I'm sure they'd be comfortable printing any of those cards on a mythic bear, though. The previous sentence was steeped in cynicism.

******************

Just so this isn't entirely destructive criticism, here is one thing I'd do to fix the situation:

Stop it with all the "When cardname attacks," triggered abilities. Just changing it to "When cardname damages a player" would:

1. Enable decks that use cards like Hermetic Study / Fire Whip / Viridian Longbow / etc. for combo.

2. Balance cards like Primeval Titan.

3. Reward successful attacks, not just attacking for its own sake.

In general, the only abilities that should trigger on attacking are those that are only meaningful in the context of the pending combat. [Card]Chasm Drake[/card] should trigger when attacking. Conundrum Sphinx should not.
Thanks, Zac - it was great to see this written out!  I think in a year or two we'll reference this article as much as MaRo's writings about how design goals have changed.

I'm thinking "Disruptive Aggro" = what we formerly called "Aggro/Control".

I agree with the categorization of combo as the deck that tries to do something orthogonal to the game to win - to move the goalposts as it were.  I don't necessarily agree with making Combo something that only fits in the ****s in the metagame, though - it seems like if everything's balanced properly, it should be OK for combo to be strong (i.e. a consistent 25% of the metagame all the time) because Control and aggro/control should still be able to keep a lid on it.

I think the trick for making Combo viable is that you can make the parts stronger, but you have to make sure there's not an over the top anti-Control element that the combo decks can play to fend off their natural enemies.  For example, Pauper combo might use Gigadrowse to shut down mono-blue control; you probably don't want to have that available in a hypothetical metagame.
I love how zac put control on his diagram but never talked about it...

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To barrow a part of a movie quote.

NOT EVEN WOTC KNOWS WHAT THERE DOING!
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[sblock]
57307308 wrote:
Yes, but DOES HE PEE COLOURLESS MANA?
144543765 wrote:
144018173 wrote:
Serra Angel Serra Sphinx Serra Spider Though Vigilance is a poor fit for red, so I'm not sure if we'll ever see Serra Dragon. I could see Serra Demon, though.
Black Serra creature would have vigilance and fear. It would basically be Batman.
[//sblock]

They don't need to wreck archetypes etc, if they just balanced things out. Replacing combo with ramp seems like a really bad move.

I do wonder if they have just stated this after the fact having seen how much of an error the format is, they then claimed to have made it that may on purpose, since poor intention seems better than ignorance.
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I...I have no words...*shakes head*

Those who fear the darkness have never seen what the light can do.

I've seen angels fall from blinding heights. But you yourself are nothing so divine. Just next in line.

191752181 wrote:
All I'm saying is, I don't really see how she goes around petrifying swords and boots and especially mirrors. How the heck does she beat a Panoptic Mirror? It makes no sense for artifacts either. Or enchantments, for that matter. "Well, you see, Jimmy cast this spell to flood the mountain, but then the gorgon just looked at the water really hard and it went away."
There are two huge problems with this setup. First,

AggroMidrangeRamp/Combo → Control/Disruptive Aggro



play the same. Their strategy is to play lots of powerful creatures and attack for the win. This makes for a lot of samey decks and a lot of samey games.

The only difference is when they win, which doesn't improve matters much. The experience of running and playing the deck is virtually the same. And this is supposed to be 62.5% of the metagame (75% if you include disruptive aggro, which at least plays somewhat differently)!

Next,

Aggro → Midrange → Ramp/Combo → Control/Disruptive Aggro



is where all the fun stuff happens (note: I don't mean instant-win combo, but what Zac called combo here) and it's squeezed into a little sliver of the metagame. You have a game where there is a tremendous variety of card effects that can do all sorts of amazing things and make for all sorts of creative, interesting, and fun decks that can do all sorts of fun stuff, from getting discount wurm tokens via Aquamoeba to suddenly Bidding an entire goblin army into play to soulshifting a Tallowisp back via a sacrificed Thief of Hope so that you can get the aura you need to coming up with clever combinations of stuff to get back with Revialiark.

No wonder standard is so dull.

Do you want to make blocking matter more? The problem with blocking is that removal effects are so extraordinarily powerful that playing creatures to block with is just plain worse. Why try to negate an attacker with a wall when you can Doom Blade it for the same amount of mana? Why don't you try drastically toning down removal effects and pumping up walls instead? Why not make the best removal Nettling-Imp based effects? More Tidal Waves perhaps? Trade in Bonfire of the Damned for Wall Tokens of the Damned?
They don't need to wreck archetypes etc, if they just balanced things out. Replacing combo with ramp seems like a really bad move.


In which way is Ramp worse than combo? At worse, both ignore the opponent until they go off and they both demand either counterspells or narrow answers to combat them. Let's go back to the past: 9th, Kamigawa and Ravnica standard is widely claimed as the most diverse standard format ever, with over 10 different tier 1 decks. How many viable "combo" decks were? Just one: Heartbeat of Spring. Was it even tier 1? No, it waxed and waned as the hate cards went in and out the sideboards. Which cards did that "combo" deck played?

4 Sakura-tribe Elder
3 Kodama's Reach
4 Heartbeat of Spring
4 Early Harvest
Sometimes Rampant Groth too.

That's right: the only "combo" deck played was actually a ramp deck. People may not be aware of it, but by calling that format "best Standard ever" and the current block "the best block ever" they are sending a very clear message about combo being unfun, undeserving of a 3rd portion of the metagame and ramp being a proper replacement of it.

and fun decks that can do all sorts of fun stuff, from getting discount wurm tokens via Aquamoeba to suddenly Bidding an entire goblin army into play to soulshifting a Tallowisp back via a sacrificed Thief of Hope so that you can get the aura you need to coming up with clever combinations of stuff to get back with Revialiark.


None of those examples is actually combo: UG Madness is a tempo deck, Goblin Bidding is an aggro deck and UW Reveillark is a control deck. They only have little combo elements on them and that's what you probably like. Do you really enjoy playing with or against pure combo decks like most Storm decks, UR Splinter Twin, Dredge or Academy? I doubt it, and the majority of people get tired with combo quickly. That's why combo should exist but at about 10 % maximum of any given metagame.
If Limited gets in the way of printing good Constructed cards... Screw limited
Nobody is calling INN block the "best block ever." Scars was an infinitely better draft format, and it's pretty mediocre on the constructed scale.

Also... what exactly was Ghost Dad if not a combo deck? 

IMAGE(http://i1101.photobucket.com/albums/g424/syreal94/SIGS1AL.png) Sig by zpikduM.

Nobody is calling INN block the "best block ever." Scars was an infinitely better draft format, and it's pretty mediocre on the constructed scale.

Also... what exactly was Ghost Dad if not a combo deck? 


I was under the impression it was Tempo?
Just one: Heartbeat of Spring. Was it even tier 1? No, it waxed and waned as the hate cards went in and out the sideboards.

Do you even have any idea what you're talking about? Heartbeat was widely considered the best deck in the format for several months.

I was under the impression it was Tempo?

It was tempo/"disruptive aggro" (to use this article's terminology) that abused an engine card in Tallowisp to generate advantage. It's always been debatable whether that makes it "part combo" or not.

Husk could also been seen as combo in the same way that Affinity could be seen as combo in that while clearly an aggressive deck it had explosive synergy-abusing kills.
blah blah metal lyrics
Just one: Heartbeat of Spring. Was it even tier 1? No, it waxed and waned as the hate cards went in and out the sideboards.

Do you even have any idea what you're talking about? Heartbeat was widely considered the best deck in the format for several months.

I was under the impression it was Tempo?

It was tempo/"disruptive aggro" (to use this article's terminology) that abused an engine card in Tallowisp to generate advantage. It's always been debatable whether that makes it "part combo" or not.

Husk could also been seen as combo in the same way that Affinity could be seen as combo in that while clearly an aggressive deck it had explosive synergy-abusing kills.


The way I always understood combo was that it spent a few turns messing around and setting up the pieces (the best combo decks took zero turns, but we tend to not really like those ones), and then get an explosive series of plays off in one turn that take the combo player from being "behind" to instantly winning the game. Tempo and aggro are focused towards taking their opponent down piecemeal, instead of that one big play. The turns where you whack your opponent with Stromkirk Noble, Stormblood Berserker, and Chandra's Phoenix are just as important as the turn you play Hellrider and swing in for 16. Even if your Hellrider gets Mana Leaked, you've still done a lot of damage and can mostly rely on the creatures you already have to keep punching in those points. The Hellrider is just icing on the cake, so to speak. Am I making sense, or just coming up with arbitrary restrictions?
No, that's more less true, but there's some grey area. What if you're spending a few turns hitting your opponent, then making an explosive series of plays that instantly win the game? That's essentially how decks like Affinity (and to a lesser extent Husk) operate, and it's effective because putting pressure on your opponent makes it harder for them to hold back and just look for their combo answers.
blah blah metal lyrics
I'd say the main issue is: what happens if the explosive play gets turned off? Say, the Grapeshot gets hit by Mindbreak Trap, or Hellrider runs headlong into a Doom Blade. In an aggro deck, they can just sit tight on their board position and keep on racing. In a combo deck, it's instant concession. I'm sure you know how Dredge players will just concede on turn 1 if their opponent lands a Leyline of the Void. That's the difference to me between aggro with explosive plays (just like pretty much every other deck) and combo.
This is disappointing. This is really, really disappointing. As SadisticMystic pointed out above, turning the format into creatures-only DOESN'T encourage creature interaction. It turns it into one of the following:

1. I have the advantage in creatures, so I can attack without fear. If he blocks, I trade favorably; if he tries to race, I win.
2. I do not have the advantage in creatures, so I cannot attack. I'm just going to wait to drop Bomby Mythic Rare and then win.
3. I have a creature with evasion, so I'm going to attack with that and leave everything else back.
4. I am playing a heavy aggro deck like RDW, so blocking does not exist. I am going to attack every turn unless there's a really persuasive reason not to.

As you see, NONE of those involve complex combat calculations. There's no calculated risk in straight-up creature fights. You know that you're going to win or lose, barring combat tricks, which continue to get worse (no Giant Growth, depleting stores of removal, HEXPROOF EVERYWHERE). So you attack when it's advantageous, and don't when it's not. This translates to a lot of racing and stalling, and very little actual interaction.



Even beyond that, any amount of "complex calculations" loses importance as long as the combined, forward-moving efforts of the player base are able to comprehend and evaluate a given position. It's just like if you know that Fermat's Last Theorem is definitely proven, you don't have to rewrite all 130 pages, let alone understand every last step taken there, to establish a result that depends on it being true.

The final issue with this stupid creature metagame is the way it's being implemented: with huge, swingy creatures. A player lands a Titan, and everything's pretty much over. If you look at the best Control decks in the format, they pretty much boil down to: turn 1-3 play a couple of target removal spells and some acceleration, turn 4 play a sweeper, turn 5 or 6 drop a Titan and hope it's enough. These dumb creatures are now HOW you stabilize, not what you do ONCE you've stabilized. The reason that's inappropriate is that it makes the game much more luck-reliant. In a standard Control-Aggro matchup, Aggro just needs to get ONE creature to stick in order to win. It matters much less which creature it is. Similarly, Control needs just ONE removal spell to stabilize. It matters much less which removal spell it is. Now, it's about whether you can get the right creature AND enough land to play it. But once you do play it, the game ends. That's wildly inappropriate, because games suddenly become luck-of-the-draw. How dull. Don't get me started on Delver. Some games, it flips on turn 2 and you have a 7-turn clock starting right off the bat (more like 4 once that Runechanter's Pike gets equipped). Some games, it never flips and it's a vanilla 1/1 in a tempo deck. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I really hope you guys at Wizards realize soon how terrible this is for the metagame. You're turning the game into Sorcery-speed, when all interaction happens at Instant-speed. You're turning it into a topdeckfest. You're turning it into Delver Goldfish, instead of the calculations of Control. It's just sad.



As the theory goes (which I ascribe to anyway, and I'm certainly not alone in doing so), the increased prevalence of luck in the game is a deliberate crafting on their part. The line of reasoning goes something like this:

-When Timmy plays against Spike in earlier Magic settings (let's say prior to 2005), Spike is still his same old self, figuring out which plays evaluate the best. Timmy isn't interested in such calculations, and leaves so much win equity on the table, and that's not even speaking of what he throws away in deck construction. Spike probably goes to town to the tune of about a .970 win rate.
-Timmy may not care about maximizing wins, but he's not going to stick around for 60 years in a perennial loser's role like the Washington Generals either. If he cares about "adventure" in the game but finds out that isn't a factor that weighs into success rate (represented in the game as win percentage), he's going to abandon the game and look for something else that ties into his values more closely.
-So maybe Timmy would be better off as the audience for a different activity. But Wizards wants to actively appeal to Timmy as their core audience, for a key reason. As the psychographic ruled by adventures and experiences, Timmy is the most impulsive type of player. And while Spike's focus on optimality may even extend outside the game setup, to such matters as "If I want to keep playing the game, what's the right amount of cards I should acquire from the new set, which cards are they, and what channel should I use to obtain those cards?", the pure Timmy mindset gives into the impulse and splurges--even oversplurges often. Coincidentally (or not), such spending, while it may be to his own detriment, works to the benefit of one Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. And they, like the control player who's simply inviting his opponent to overextend while sitting on a Wrath, aren't going to object to that at all.
-So if their goal is to allow Timmy to experience more success as a means of positive encouragement, kind of like the customer rewards programs you'll find at a casino, what can they do? Some of his opponents will, by the nature of their approach to the game, be able to exhibit a dominant strategy over him at any decision-making juncture that's allowed to arise. One obvious solution is to limit the number of such junctures that are allowed to exist--in other words, actively reshape the game into something that is less about the players and more about the cards. This calls for "splashy" cards that automatically create massive swings in Win Probability while being disguised as a dragon, or a giant hell-bent on rampaging all over the place, or whatnot, with their optimal lines of play dictated by nothing more than a blunt force hammer to smack your opponent over the head with, because the hammer brings the game to an end soon, and that means fewer steps on the decision tree and fewer opportunities for their valued customers to make a misplay and ruin everything.

It would be interesting to get an official answer on behalf of R&D to a thought experiment:
You have two players, each with the same pool of cards to build a deck from. Let's call one the Logical Strategy Vocalizer, a hypothetical being who understands all the information it's entitled to under the rules, and makes decisions according to which course of action provides the greatest average equity according to its internal equity tables. On the other side of the table we have Extremely Evel Knievel, a player who's had two years of experience with the game and enough fundamental strategy knowledge to get through DotP 2013, but who is ultimately driven by the game's visceral experiences that R&D talks about wanting to provide front and center. The two players play 1,000 games of Standard, taking place simultaneously in 1,000 parallel universes a la Arabian Nights--in any case, the experiment is constructed such that fatigue isn't an issue for either player. In different universes, they might build different decks from the card pool, either because an attack on an unknown metagame calls for a probabilistic weighting of archetypes, or because someone might just be in the mood to play different colors in different universes. Then the question is, how many of those 1,000 games does R&D want that E.E.K. player to be able to win? Expressed another way, what is the greatest extent to which the L.S.V.'s decision-making should be allowed to affect its win percentage?

If you ever get an answer to that (which is pretty unlikely in itself), you can run a slight modification of the thought experiment. Previously, we held card accessibility to be constant between the players. This time, we'll give the L.S.V. a budget of $50 to accumulate its card pool (and assume that card-borrowing favors are a non-factor), while EEK is willing to spend $500. Re-running the 1,000-game test under these circumstances, how many games should each player be able to win this time?

The results of those two exercises could tell a lot as far as the likely future roadmap for design. But of course, if R&D even has answers, they would be closely guarded as marketing data.
This article has set new gears to turning in my head.  I'm going to go look at my decks and see which ones fall where.  I think the best thing to remember is that these aren't boxes that you fit into but a spectrum that you fall somewhere on.  Changing a few cards can push you one direction or another quite suddenly, but usually doesn't unless they are key cards.
@SadisticMystic (not gonna quote your rather impressive wall of text for the sake of making things readable for everyone else):
Agreed. They've made it quite clear they're aiming for the lower end of the strategic spectrum. The issue is, those players never were playing in tournaments and never will. They aren't interested in competition! They just want to have fun. The biggest organized event you're gonna get your average Timmy to go to is a Prerelease. The only people who go to tournaments are the Spikes who love winning and the Johnnies who like brewing. Timmies stick to the kitchen table, where they can play casual games with one another where every card is legal. Has it occurred to WotC that the ultimate un-fun for Timmies is having the rules of the game dictate that you can't play some cards? Standard is exactly the opposite of what they want. It means they can't play that super awesome dragon they opened in a Planar Chaos pack, and instead have to grab something like Thundermaw Hellkite, which is, while very strong, not anywhere near as viscerally appealing as something like Intet, the Dreamer (you mean I can play a card for FREE?). They're trying to sell Standard to the group of people who will never buy, and in the process alienating huge swaths of their fanbase.

This is also bad for the long-term growth of the game. There are plenty of players who start out as Timmies, but as they get more in-tune with the game, they start turning into Johnnies and Spikes. They want the next stage of the game beyond the Topdeck Timmy, which is hardcore brewing and careful strategy. By going for this luck-based format, Wizards is destroying that evolution and limiting player retention. Magic becomes something that players grow out of.

The solution to this is pretty simple. Keep printing stuff like Commander, because it REALLY appeals to Timmies. Print a few splashy mythics in each block, things like the original Alara cycle. That was a really well-designed cycle, because it gave casual players a set of big cool cards and a cycle of smaller creatures that allowed them to both tutor for those cards and cheat them out. If I'd found that eight years ago, I would have gone absolutely wild over it. Something like Falkenrath Aristocrat? They're not going to spare that a second glance. Same with Lotus Cobra. Same with Bonfire. Same with Huntmaster. Timmies won't buy tournament-viable mythics, because the price is so high and because tournament-viable cards simply aren't as splashy. As for tournament-level cards, those need to be oriented towards complex strategy and decisionmaking. That way you give experienced players a game to grow into.

Of course, this will never happen. WotC seems determined to go down in flames. In a Bonfire of the Damned, perhaps.
They're trying to sell Standard to the group of people who will never buy, and in the process alienating huge swaths of their fanbase.

...

Of course, this will never happen. WotC seems determined to go down in flames. In a Bonfire of the Damned, perhaps.



Theories like this really need to account for the fact that Magic is selling better now than at pretty much any time in history, unless they want to be dismissed as lone rants.



Hello, Lawsuit.
"Possibilities abound, too numerous to count." "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969) "Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion Backs)

None of those examples is actually combo: UG Madness is a tempo deck, Goblin Bidding is an aggro deck and UW Reveillark is a control deck. They only have little combo elements on them



(note: I don't mean instant-win combo, but what Zac called combo here)



Uhg! I thought I was clear: I'm using Zac's definiton of combo, which seems to be "what if we made a deck that took advantage of this 'rules text' thing?"
 
Personally, I think instant-win combo decks (the traditional definition) are fun only in theory, never in actual play. Sure I enjoy going off with an eggs deck, but I don't need a miserable opponent to do that.

I agree that an archetype system made of equal parts aggro, control, and instant-win combo has too much instant-winning in it, but surely there's a better archetype system than "Offensive Creature Deck (if it wins, does so quickly), Offensive Creature Deck (if wins, does so after a short pause), Mana Searching Deck that Becomes an Offensive Creature Deck Once it Has 6 Mana, Defensive Controlling Deck That Becomes An Offensive Creature Deck Once It Has 6 Mana, Offensive Creature Deck (with controlling elements), and Everything Else" with equal weight in each category.
Dear Zac:

How about you focus less on whatever idea you have of how the rock/paper/scissors aspects should work out, and more on the "we want a greater overall number of Constructed-viable cards, which requires us to expand the space of mana-costs that would ordinarily be considered playable" aspects? Please refer to Ravnica/Time Spiral formats. You know, BEFORE you ramped up the power level with Mythic Rares.

Doing that would more or less solve the problem itself, given that you already make a wide variety of cards for a wide variety of strategies. Some formats might end up being more aggro, others more control, others another way...but if the power level is balanced, and there's consistent variety, worrying about which strategy is going to match up well against another is no longer relevant: the format itself can determine the matchups.

Really, it would be okay to have formats again in which Centaur Courser is a playable constructed card. You can still make splashy effects like the Titans had, just don't give them uncreatively identical nigh-unkillable 6/6 bodies and/nor the bargain price of 6 mana. You can still make hyper efficient cards like Snapcaster Mage, just cost them appropriately (at 3) or make them chump blockers (1/1, like our buddy Sakura-Tribe Elder). You can even still make undercosted, game-alteringly powerful effects, just go for narrow cards like Tempered Steel...as long as you make sure that it's not so much so that everyone is playing that build-around deck (like in Scars block).

The formats now are, admittedly, diverse, BUT: a lot of that has to do with aggressive bannings in older formats, and a lot of it has to do with there being enough super-powerful cards and/or strategies that continue to be printed in newer formats. While that's fine if you want lots of decks with a dozen mythics and a dozen $5-20 lands, it's not so fine if you truly want to see "a greater overall number of Constructed-viable cards".
@SadisticMystic (not gonna quote your rather impressive wall of text for the sake of making things readable for everyone else):
Agreed. They've made it quite clear they're aiming for the lower end of the strategic spectrum. The issue is, those players never were playing in tournaments and never will. They aren't interested in competition! They just want to have fun. The biggest organized event you're gonna get your average Timmy to go to is a Prerelease. The only people who go to tournaments are the Spikes who love winning and the Johnnies who like brewing. Timmies stick to the kitchen table, where they can play casual games with one another where every card is legal. Has it occurred to WotC that the ultimate un-fun for Timmies is having the rules of the game dictate that you can't play some cards? Standard is exactly the opposite of what they want. It means they can't play that super awesome dragon they opened in a Planar Chaos pack, and instead have to grab something like Thundermaw Hellkite, which is, while very strong, not anywhere near as viscerally appealing as something like Intet, the Dreamer (you mean I can play a card for FREE?). They're trying to sell Standard to the group of people who will never buy, and in the process alienating huge swaths of their fanbase.

This is also bad for the long-term growth of the game. There are plenty of players who start out as Timmies, but as they get more in-tune with the game, they start turning into Johnnies and Spikes. They want the next stage of the game beyond the Topdeck Timmy, which is hardcore brewing and careful strategy. By going for this luck-based format, Wizards is destroying that evolution and limiting player retention. Magic becomes something that players grow out of.

The solution to this is pretty simple. Keep printing stuff like Commander, because it REALLY appeals to Timmies. Print a few splashy mythics in each block, things like the original Alara cycle. That was a really well-designed cycle, because it gave casual players a set of big cool cards and a cycle of smaller creatures that allowed them to both tutor for those cards and cheat them out. If I'd found that eight years ago, I would have gone absolutely wild over it. Something like Falkenrath Aristocrat? They're not going to spare that a second glance. Same with Lotus Cobra. Same with Bonfire. Same with Huntmaster. Timmies won't buy tournament-viable mythics, because the price is so high and because tournament-viable cards simply aren't as splashy. As for tournament-level cards, those need to be oriented towards complex strategy and decisionmaking. That way you give experienced players a game to grow into.

Of course, this will never happen. WotC seems determined to go down in flames. In a Bonfire of the Damned, perhaps.


This is a good post and I agree with most of it.

IMAGE(http://i1.minus.com/jbcBXM4z66fMtK.jpg)

192884403 wrote:
surely one can't say complex conditional passive language is bad grammar ?
I can't make an argument that would be better than anyone else here, so I say this:
F#+ you Zac, and anyone else at wotc who thinks som-inn standard has been good at any point. You guys have bombed hard lately, and my nerdrage is reaching its limit.

(at)MrEnglish22

I hope Wizards actually reads our responses here and takes it seriously.

There is no truly viable combo or control in the current meta.  Don't try to make specific examples as arguments either.

If what Zac said in this article reflects Wizards' true feelings toward Standard, then the format is really doomed.

Player's want interaction in the meta game to mean that HOW I play my cards is more important than WHAT cards I have that are better than yours.  I don't want to base my wins/losses on rather or not I draw my Bonfires first, I want my wins to occur because I was patient at the right time, aggressive at the right time, or went off at the correct moment.

See what I did there?

1. Patient (Control)
2. Aggresive (Aggro)
3. Went Off (Combo)

This is why I play Naya Pod, because it gives me the best chances to truly interact with my opponent.  With a pod, I can typically find my answer to whatever my opponent is doing.  But more and more, I find myself winning simply because I hit Bonfire.  I like winning, but not just because I drew the right card at the right time; I like winning because I made the right choices and I built the deck in a manner that increases my chances of having those options.

Essentially I think that's what should go into building a deck.  In Control, you want to have options available to react to your opponent.  In Aggro, you want your curb to give you your best options early and quickly.  In Combo, you want your deck to give you the quickest and safest opportunity to "go off."

I've only been playing Magic since 2006 but this article is really disappointing.
56735468 wrote:
Residual energetic and psychic emenations from the spark of planewalkers going in and out of the blind eternities like it was a windmill eventually coalesced into beings named eldrazi who by their very nature could not consume mundane sources of nourishment to sustain their existence.
Rather than jump into the deep end of all the semantic argueing and WOTC bashing I am going to try and address a new point.


There is always a lot of talk in articles from Wizards about the Future League.  There is enough time having passed since this was first discussed that some of the Standard formats on which decisions were made have passed into antiquity.  I would really like to see some of the decks and metagame discussion that evolved during that time.  I mean, what were the decks that the FL built for the Alara-Zendikar season?  How did they match-up against each other and how did that influence what cards saw print?


I ask this because I am a fan of Birthing Pod, which I have heard was quite the boogieman in the FL, so much so that they had to seed so much hate all through it's standard time so as to almost be unplayable until just recently.   I would really like to see how those determinations were made.
I was hoping I would see more people suggest this in this thread, but I would love to see an article discussing development's views on the top decks in Standard in the past few years, where they fall, and what that suggests about how balanced the environments were. Basically I guess trying to answer the objections of the people in this thread, or at least saying whether R&D sees them as valid.
I was hoping I would see more people suggest this in this thread, but I would love to see an article discussing development's views on the top decks in Standard in the past few years, where they fall, and what that suggests about how balanced the environments were. Basically I guess trying to answer the objections of the people in this thread, or at least saying whether R&D sees them as valid.



I agree