Plays of the Pros

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I watched some of the coverage of Pro Tour Gatecrash and I was surprised at how many "obvious" mistakes they seemed to make. Two that come to mind are Melissa running into orzhov charm restoration angel (Martell had zealous conscripts and telegraphed charm by playing shock untapped), and then not charming her own thragtusk , and owen slamming an olivia voldaren and an arbor elf with 6 mana into a garruk relentless when he could have easily just pinged to go out of fight range rather than play the elf. There were some other minor sequencing mistakes (Efro attacking with reckoner before playing a second reckoner, leaving himself open to tragic slip that prevented his gyre sage from evolving.)

While the obvious ones dont contain much useful information other than to make the rest of us feel better knowing that sleep deprived pros arent perfect, video of professional games where the time limits are much more lax (top 8 of a pro tour) can provide reasonable situations that come up in real games where we as a community can think of what the 'optimal' play may have been.

One that interested me in particular was Efro's play against Tom Martell in the deciding game. Efro has 6 lands, 4 of which produce red, a gyre sage with one counter, a loxodon smiter, and a boros reckoner and 2x hellrider and 1x aurelia, the warleader in hand. Tom has 2x [c]doomed traveler[c], 2x boros reckoner, and a cartel aristocrat as well as 1 card in hand (blasphemous act) and is tapped out. Both players are I believe on 17. 

 Efro plays aurelia and swings with the team, deals a ton of damage but loses his own reckoner and subsequently loses to blashemous act. Of course, act is a 2 of at most from martell's deck, and it doesnt make sense to necessarily play around it. That said, he has a ton of gas in hand, and can probably afford to play around a lot. Was there a way he could reasonably play around act in this spot, i.e. beat act, or another creature/removal spell if martell doesnt have act.

I cant find a line where Aurelia can beat act. That said I think playing aurelia using 1 from gyre sage and swinging with smiter, reckoner and aurelia (with the option of giving reckoner first strike) is a better line than what efro actually did. Martell still wins with act but little else, it severely depletes martell's resources such that he loses with anything but act, and leaves efro in a position to follow up with double hellrider. Martell doesnt have a way of actually killing reckoner without losing both his reckoners unless he blocks twice with a protected aristocrat. Martell will then be forced to block with his reckoner. Likely response is block aristocrat traveler on smiter reckoner sac for prot white and take 3, on the second swing if efro swings with all... he blocks token on aurelia, traveler blocks reckoner a second time, reckoner blocks smiter, and aristocrat blocks gyre sage. In the end martell is at 14 with spirit token, reckoner, aristocrat and efro is at 13 with all his guys, and then loses to act.

Efro can also cast hellrider and swing with 4 guys, with mana for first strike on his reckoner. The 4 triggers but martell to 13 and he will be unable to kill reckoner without losing both his reckoner. Thus, this play will beat the act, but costs Efro a lot of his board (trading something like two half doomed traveler and reckoner for smiter, sage, and hellrider. 

Efro can also go for double hellrider using sage and swing with hellrider/hellrider/smiter. This line doesnt lose to act, but its not clear it beats removal spell either. It loses all 3 creatures in exchange for something like doomer traveler/reckoner. He can also attack with hellrider/hellrider/reckoner/smiter. If martell wants to go for a reckoner win, then he cant block with either reckoner, else he loses both and cant use act. He takes 8 from triggers and goes to 9. To kill reckoner he blocks with artistocrat and traveler, and then chumps smiter with traveler and takes 6 from hellrider... but he cant do that because then he  loses when he takes 3 from reckoner. The 'all out attack' appears safe from a reckoner win. Of course, knowing this, Martell can instead 2-for-1 efro with his reckoners, wrecking his board...

Anyone see any significant downside to the double hellrider swing with the team play? Is there a better line? Would the double hellrider line likely lead to victory if martell doesnt have act (and instead has, say, removal)? Does anyone remember other gamestates from the pro tour that were interesting and worth discussing?




Due to the sheer length of most tournaments, Top 8 games tend to have more play mistakes than earlier rounds due to fatigue.

While I didn't watch much of the coverage, I think I can speak a little bit about what could have been in the heads of the players:

Melissa could have thought Martell was bluffing Charm with the playing of the shockland untapped (I've done similar bluffs to feed false intel).  She could have help back on her own Charm because she might ended up needing the draw later, or the bounce to defend herself.  It's not like a dead Thragtusk leaves you with nothing, you still get that 3/3 token.

I can't speak to Owen's play without knowing the board state.

As a general rule, you play creatures in the second main phase.  This leaves mana up for combat tricks/bluffing.  I'd have done the same as Efro in the first case.  In the second, I don't know what was going on there.  I'd have made the double Hellrider alpha strike, maybe holding back Reckoner.  But I'm sitting as an outside party, and not presently in a final top 8 game.  The Aurelia alpha strike was likely deemed the safest play, knowing Aurelia would get 6 damage though unless both travelers got saced to make spirit tokens, and didn't want to risk playing around a threat that wasn't there.

An Aurelia + Smiter + Sage swing might have been a bit safer of a play, holding back Reckoner in case he did have Act, but that could still result in losing to Act, since if Martell could have chumped Smiter with a traveler (making a token to block Aurelia next swing), sacing a token to the Cartel for pro-White so Cartel can block Smiter unscathed and makes a token to block Aurelia on this swing).  That leaves him taking 6 damage going to 11 (if your accurate on the life totals) if he doesn't block the 3/4 Sage on both passes.  He could block it with a Reckoner, but then he losses a Reckoner to the Sage, and since Cartel is currently pro-White (and thus can kill the Smiter on swing 2), he can dome Efro's face with the Reckoner trigger, bringing Efro to 14 and just eat 3 from Sage's second swing (thus not risking Reckoner #2).  That puts Efro -1 Smiter (though I doubt Smiter would have been involved in combat round 2, and Martell could just as easily gone pro-Green, leting him block Sage (and kill it) on round 2) and on 14 and Martell either at 14 or still at 17 and -2 Traveler (and tokens), -1 Reckoner (if he risked it), with an Act in hand.  In that event though I think Martell just goes to 14, hopes to top deck a creature (maybe he had a Lingering Souls in the 'yard?) then play Act bringing them both to 1, but that extra creature could be sac'd to Cartel with Act on the Stack to make it Pro-Red, so when the dust settles Martell has a 2/2 and can swing for lethal.  But if he wiffed that creature draw, the game would have been Efro's. 
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It's easy to say they made misakes when you have all of the information about what is going on and your'e not the one actually doing it. Nobody plays perfect Magic because it's impossible. In a large tournament setting most of the time its about who makes the least amount of mistakes rather than who is playing the best all the time. In ever match there are going to be mistakes from both sides. What makes them pros is learning from this and getting better. 

I remember a few of the lines you're talking about which could have cost them games but I don't see how it's super relevant.  
No one is good at Magic.

It is a matter of who sucks the least. 
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No one is good at Magic.

It is a matter of who sucks the least. 



Speak for yourself, i'm the best there is at this game...

i just get unlucky a lot.... 

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OP-
Attend a Grand Prix. There really isn't a whole lot more to be said on what you might not understand on the subject.

What makes "pros" and "good players" good is that they can use imperfect information to make strong plays. This involves knowing when you need to play conservatively, and when you need to force a crazy play.
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No one is good at Magic.

It is a matter of who sucks the least. 


You're getting sig'd.

Also 50 catpoints. 

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139359831 wrote:
I hope all this helps you to see things in a greater light—and understand that Magic: the Gathering was really created by extraterrestials using Richard Garfield as a medium. The game itself reflects the socio-psycho realtivity between living beings, and the science that takes precedence over them—to define reality for them all (like telekinesis, weather, scientific reaction, phenomenon, ingenuity, how the brain works, etc.). I'd also bet there is an entity floating thousands of miles above us, looking down on the current state of game, shaking its fist like... "Wtf are you doing?! You're getting it all screwed up!". Awkward—to be evolved, and yet still subject to the ladder that is the concepts of the game. In this case, misconception, corruption, and deception. With the realities of each color becoming distorted (through oblivious designers), leading the game to reflect a false state of reality that warps the understanding that other people have about those things. For example, people thinking that white could be anything except pure good. This shouldn't be too far off though, I mean...Magic is designed based on reality after all, so that entity (those entities) should be subject to those things. Anyways, I guess when you're busy doing space stuff you can't always be around to ensure quality control. It's no wonder they choose Garfield, they're so much alike; that's exactly what happened to him and Magic.
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omg snortng so much febbdelicious /intocixated in rl
I think the purpose of this thread may have been somewhat misinterpreted. It was not meant to be "I dont understand, why are these pro players so bad!?!?!?!?". The point was even pros make mistakes. I am not a pro, and Im sure I make many more than they do. 

My intent was for people to discuss tricky boardstates and advocate for different lines of play. I brought in pro play because I felt it makes the game states more interesting if they actually occured. It could be that the 'pro' made a non-intuitive play that ended up being really good (i.e. turn 3 boros charm from Joel Larsson). I also was impressed by Lucas J.'s (could be misremembering his name) insta-scoop to Wafo-Tapa after a mull to 5.

Of course, watching replays, its easy to be biased because we might know a player has a certain card (i.e. blasphemous act). Obviously its best to try to put forth different lines of play in as unbiased a way as possible. 

TL;DR how can we as a forum community use the play of others to improve our own playing ability? 
Once you get your mechanics down there isn't much to learn from watching others play. Watching pros play is more about understanding why they are playing the cards they are and seeing what kind of interactions they've discovered. It's also just entertaining to see people play. I don't think you can become a great player watching other people play. You just need to get in the reps. 
watching pro play can be nice for learning to try and think in a different manner than usual.  you can have the mechanics down, but there could always be different or unconvential ways to look at board states.  pros are good at finding the better, but unexpected lines of play.  those things are definitely worth watching.

of course, this won't always happen, but magic is a pretty diverse and complicated game where there can always been different lines of play.

like chess, "easy" to learn, "difficult" to master   

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I actually think that there's a huge amount to be learned from watching Pros play, but you need a solid technical foundation first. Once you have that, watching optimal or near-optimal playing can inform you on a few things:

1) Actual optimal plays
2) How to interpret your opponent's choices of mana played, mana tapped, creature combat, etc. And no, I'm not talking about reading your opponent (though that's useful). I mean inference based on play-by-play choices.
3) Seeing different approaches in situations where there's no determinable "optimal" choice (note that this is because of human limitation, not because those situations are actually unsolvable)
4) Why decks are built the way they're built. One of the primary things I learn from watching good players is why they include certain miser cards, etc.

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..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />1) Actual optimal plays



This is an awkward statement because R&D is very much so about trying to undo the number of FOOS (First Order Optimal Strategy) in Magic. While I understand what you're saying isn't "autopiloting"- sometimes just being aware of "random" plays, choices and cards can help put you ahead of your opponent.
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..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />1) Actual optimal plays



This is an awkward statement because R&D is very much so about trying to undo the number of FOOS (First Order Optimal Strategy) in Magic. While I understand what you're saying isn't "autopiloting"- sometimes just being aware of "random" plays, choices and cards can help put you ahead of your opponent.


This is logical and mathematical cockamamy BS. Wizards has dramatically INCREASED the number of scenarios with obvious optimal plays and encouraged deckbuilding and archetypes where they exist in abundance. That, and there is ALWAYS an optimal play, first order or otherwise. And watching pros play should teach you more about the non-obvious ones than the obvious ones (hence "strong technical foundation").

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Its impossible to create a game that doesn't have optimal play choices. You can reduce those, but to do so would require you to play a game with fewer choices, or a game that isn't set up the way Magic is (For example, Ascension's gameplay greatly reduces the need for first order optimization).

There's stuff to be learned from playing Magic, even if its simply learning to discern board states and what not. 

(at)MrEnglish22

..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />1) Actual optimal plays



This is an awkward statement



you're right, this is an awkward statement.

Blue is the best color ever. How do you deal?  ------------------------------  Team GFG - "gulf, foxtrot, gulf" 

 

 

I produce Dubstep and House beats:

https://soundcloud.com/burning_forest

 

Best Pauper Deck in the format, not close:

http://community.wizards.com/content/forum-topic/2974646#comment-49713276

 

Photobucket

..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />1) Actual optimal plays



This is an awkward statement because R&D is very much so about trying to undo the number of FOOS (First Order Optimal Strategy) in Magic. While I understand what you're saying isn't "autopiloting"- sometimes just being aware of "random" plays, choices and cards can help put you ahead of your opponent.


This is logical and mathematical cockamamy BS. Wizards has dramatically INCREASED the number of scenarios with obvious optimal plays and encouraged deckbuilding and archetypes where they exist in abundance. That, and there is ALWAYS an optimal play, first order or otherwise. And watching pros play should teach you more about the non-obvious ones than the obvious ones (hence "strong technical foundation").



Oof,  you obviously feel very strongly here. I agree on most accounts- (The amount of utter chaff in AVR paired with the extreme power of the set's good cards is mind boggling.) But what separates a player like Reid Duke from most grinders on MODO is that he doesn't see Pacifism or Smite or other fringe playable cards and get into an uproar about he got put out by something random or not with the meta. He just makes sure not to play into it twice. What I learn from the pros is that instead of looking for the best play, look for what you may not expect, look for auto-piloting mistakes, look for ways to exploit marginal mistakes on your opponent's part. Learn to feel out the game so that you possess a number of plays under the conditions of imperfect information, And while this doesn't guarantee you get every game you play in "Next Level Mode", it does push your W:L ratio and more importantly "the bar" in your meta. I think most people see optimal play as autopiloting with the best cards, but perceptiveness is terrifyingly important to play well.

With regards to optimal play, it does exist, but only when perfect information is available. Deckbuilding on rails is an issue, but I'm trying to not get too wrapped up in the issue because we're still in Hill-era Magic, probably at it's worst. I was only commenting on your first statement because it's a particularly sticky one.
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Pros aren't the infallible god beings most people seem to treat them as. I've never really understood pro-worship.
Pros aren't the infallible god beings most people seem to treat them as. I've never really understood pro-worship.



Nobody said they were, but we admire some of them for the same reason that people admire athletic stars or Niel DeGrasse Tyson. We learn by watching their example, and when you've played enough competitive Magic, you get to appreciate the little intricacies and subgames that the "next level" mindset gets to play. It's not a matter of worship but a matter of receptiveness and admiratiion for people who are more attuned to the game than I or others may be, or even to just experience the game through a different mind. More importantly though, we learn through mistakes that pros make, be they bad pet cards, tournament fraud, or accidentally spoiling an entire set 2 months premature.


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Pros aren't the infallible god beings most people seem to treat them as. I've never really understood pro-worship.



Nobody said they were, but we admire some of them for the same reason that people admire athletic stars or Niel DeGrasse Tyson. We learn by watching their example, and when you've played enough competitive Magic, you get to appreciate the little intricacies and subgames that the "next level" mindset gets to play. It's not a matter of worship but a matter of receptiveness and admiratiion for people who are more attuned to the game than I or others may be, or even to just experience the game through a different mind. More importantly though, we learn through mistakes that pros make, be they bad pet cards, tournament fraud, or accidentally spoiling an entire set 2 months premature.




Then I simply don't get the admiration.
Pros aren't the infallible god beings most people seem to treat them as. I've never really understood pro-worship.



Nobody said they were, but we admire some of them for the same reason that people admire athletic stars or Niel DeGrasse Tyson. We learn by watching their example, and when you've played enough competitive Magic, you get to appreciate the little intricacies and subgames that the "next level" mindset gets to play. It's not a matter of worship but a matter of receptiveness and admiratiion for people who are more attuned to the game than I or others may be, or even to just experience the game through a different mind. More importantly though, we learn through mistakes that pros make, be they bad pet cards, tournament fraud, or accidentally spoiling an entire set 2 months premature.




Then I simply don't get the admiration.


More like not getting what it means to be good at magic. 
@Wynzerman: It might just be that I actually covered the exact same point about limitations and optimal plays in my third statement. But the point where I feel strongly is any statement that wotc is trying to reduce foos, because that's just completely wrong in every way.

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I also was impressed by Lucas J.'s (could be misremembering his name) insta-scoop to Wafo-Tapa after a mull to 5.



I thought it was pretty funny and ironic that it backfired into a draw, I'm sure the guy thought it was such a cool and clever thing to do, but in the end it was just his ego doing a move on him.

@Wynzerman: It might just be that I actually covered the exact same point about limitations and optimal plays in my third statement. But the point where I feel strongly is any statement that wotc is trying to reduce foos, because that's just completely wrong in every way.



Trying and doing are not the same thing. I want to give WotC the benefit of the doubt and say that Innistrad was a matter of well executed design, and that AVR was a fluke of a mistake. Mostly because I believe there are some genuinely great people who work on most of these sets. I think you're right to say that they are failing miserably in many scenarios to expand the variation in play, but I think that it's an unintentional result of trying to create the opposite effect.
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Guys, give the carbonatedsoda kid a break. He's obviously just too cool for all of us.

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