The Role of Skill, Variation and Luck

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After watching this video:
www.channelfireball.com/home/magic-tv-ex...

In which Richard Garfield talks about the role of luck versus skill in Magic, it got me to thinking that neither Luck, Skill or Variation in a game is truly dependant on one of the others. That is, every combination of High/Low Luck/Skill/Variation is possible and you can find examples for games that have each possible combination.

I also realized that without exception my favorite games are high skill, high variation, low luck. Games like Agricola, where each game plays out completely different from every other game, yet skilled players are expected to dominate less skilled opponents.

Magic in its current form is a high skill, high variation, high luck game. So in order to convert it to a high skill, high variation, low luck game, the challenge is to reduce luck without also reducing variation or skill.

Are there any practical ways to do this? Most of the attempts I've seen to put games into the high, high, low category have focused on symmetric variation, such that the variation doesn't intrinsically benefit one player over another. But that doesn't seem practical to implement in Magic, which in inherently non-symmetric to begin with.
I also realized that without exception my favorite games are high skill, high variation, low luck. Games like Agricola, where each game plays out completely different from every other game, yet skilled players are expected to dominate less skilled opponents.


Cool. So quit Magic, because
Magic in its current form is a high skill, high variation, high luck game. So in order to convert it to a high skill, high variation, low luck game, the challenge is to reduce luck without also reducing variation or skill.


We like Magic as it is. Stop trying to make it something it's not. Magic is not the kind of game you like. I like the risk of losing to any player.
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My sig was so awesome it broke Browsers, [url= http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75842/29455423/For_some_reason...]I had to remove it.[/url] Support Magic Fiction! Or Bolas will eat you
57193048 wrote:
You should never explain layers to people unless one of the following is true: they're studying for a judge exam, you're both in a Ben Affleck movie and it's the only way to save the world, or you hate them.
56663526 wrote:
We try to maintain the illusion that Magic cards are written in English.
56333196 wrote:
69511863 wrote:
Hell, if they steal from us, we'd be honored.
oh my god, AWESOME! Then changing the Slivers was your idea! haha lol
56734518 wrote:
Occassionally when catering, I've been put the task of arranging Fruit and Cheese or Grilled Vegetable platters. More than once a high class buffet has started with the mark of Phyrexia upon it. Since i've got a good eye for color so it looks great to people who don't get the "joke" (it's a niceley divided circle after all: the outline gives you 4-6 "regions" to work with), this has actually got me put on platter design more often, resulting in Phyrexia's presence at more private and industry events.
I have 6917 Planeswalker points, that's probably more than you. [c=Hero's Resolve]"Destiny, chance, fate, fortune, mana screw; they're all just ways of claiming your successes without claiming your failures." Gerrard of the Weatherlight[/c]
I would argue that high skill, high variation, low luck games are objectively the best types of games. Virtually every best selling computer game falls into that category as well as the top rated board games. Well established card games have moved in that direction as well. Duplicate bridge is the low luck version of Bridge, and Pot-Limit Texas Holdem is the low luck version of Poker.

Did you even watch the video? All enduring games have become less luck dependent over time. As players collectively become more skilled at a game they become more interested in subtle strategy and less intersted in luck dependent outcomes.
Magic continues to grow. Overwhelmingly, the reason people stop playing magic is personal reasons.

The question I always ask Starcraft players; "How do you win from behind?" The response is confusion or avoiding the question. Winning from behind is the absolute best part of magic. Low-luck games lose this aspect.

I've seen you complain about mana troubles in games you won anyway. Doesn't that give you a rush? If it doesn't, you should rethink playing magic.
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My sig was so awesome it broke Browsers, [url= http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75842/29455423/For_some_reason...]I had to remove it.[/url] Support Magic Fiction! Or Bolas will eat you
57193048 wrote:
You should never explain layers to people unless one of the following is true: they're studying for a judge exam, you're both in a Ben Affleck movie and it's the only way to save the world, or you hate them.
56663526 wrote:
We try to maintain the illusion that Magic cards are written in English.
56333196 wrote:
69511863 wrote:
Hell, if they steal from us, we'd be honored.
oh my god, AWESOME! Then changing the Slivers was your idea! haha lol
56734518 wrote:
Occassionally when catering, I've been put the task of arranging Fruit and Cheese or Grilled Vegetable platters. More than once a high class buffet has started with the mark of Phyrexia upon it. Since i've got a good eye for color so it looks great to people who don't get the "joke" (it's a niceley divided circle after all: the outline gives you 4-6 "regions" to work with), this has actually got me put on platter design more often, resulting in Phyrexia's presence at more private and industry events.
I have 6917 Planeswalker points, that's probably more than you. [c=Hero's Resolve]"Destiny, chance, fate, fortune, mana screw; they're all just ways of claiming your successes without claiming your failures." Gerrard of the Weatherlight[/c]
Magic in its current form is a high skill, high variation, high luck game.

You need to prove that Magic is a game with a high degree of luck. I would classify Sealed play as medium luck, while Constructed is low luck.

Level 1 Judge as of 09/26/2013

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"Ability words are flavor text for Melvins." -- Fallingman

I wouldn't discount "Tired of Mana Screw" as a reason for people stopping playing Magic. Of the people I know who have quit for a length of time, that has been the primary reason. I've seen opponents disqualified because they got stuck on two lands for an extended length of time, had to discard and ended up rage-throwing their hand. Too expensive is also on the list, and when I quit back in 1999 or so it's because the game felt stale. Everyone was going after the same strategies with the same decks. Again, a problem with variation, not luck.

You are correct that it is virtually impossible to come back in Starcraft after you've fallen behind. However, there are many different paths that will lead you to victory, and they have varying chances of success based on what your opponent is doing, so there is still quite a bit of variation. The only time I've seen a come-from-behind victory in Starcraft was in multi-player, when I was nearly killed off by one player, only to have them remove their forces before dealing the killing blow (likely because another player was attacking them) After being left alone for awhile I eventually built back to the point I could defeat the remaining player.

It doesn't give me a rush to win games in which I am hangstrung by mana issues for most of it. I don't remember the Starcraft game I mentioned being particularly fun either. My favorite games are the ones where both me and my opponent are playing well, with no serious mana issues, and I end up winning it on some inspired play that I hadn't considered before. For example, in one game my opponent cast Rakdos Charm for what he thought was exactly lethal, but in response I killed one of my own creatures, and won the game in the next two turns. Games like that stand out for me, while the games where either me or my opponent were limited by mana issues all tend to run together.
Magic in its current form is a high skill, high variation, high luck game.

You need to prove that Magic is a game with a high degree of luck. I would classify Sealed play as medium luck, while Constructed is low luck.




True, all Magic formats have high skill, but constructed is lower variation, lower luck when compared to the limited formats, with Sealed being the highest luck of all.
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