Welcome to another episode of Delving with Devin. Today we will be looking into a recent announcement from wizards in regards to posting fewer winning lists from magic online competitive leagues, and the implications it may have on magic. If you missed the announcement, you can read the whole thing right here:
Basically, the reason for posting fewer lists is wizards feels that constructed formats are being perceived as solved much quicker then they would like. Wizards will only be posting 5 lists a day instead of 10, and they have the be at least 10 cards different from any other deck on the list, to create a perception of diversity. Wizards feels that part of the reason for a dwindling attendance in standard is that people feel that there are only 2 or 3 playable decks, and the average player gets bored with that type of environment. (I would argue against this being the reason for dwindling standard attendance numbers.)
Wizards hopes that by holding back information and statistics on which lists are performing well, it might slow down the process of those lists being tuned, or perceived as being dominant. Basically Wizards is hoping that more players will run janky lists for longer to keep the format fresher, for longer.
First of all, on the point of dwindling standard attendance numbers, I feel that the reason for this has nothing to do with diversity, or the perceived notion that the format is solved, and everything to do with the game play itself.
The last few years, wizards has been pushing the power level of mythics and rares to help create hype for the set to boost sales, this has finally bit wizards in the behind, essentially hitting it’s breaking point. Printing hyper powerful rares and mythics basically creates what we call battlecruiser magic. When so many cards in every deck can simply run away with the game if not immediately answered, this type of game play gets stale fast. You need an immediate answers to a wide variety of threats, and the answers have been getting worse and worse as time goes on. This creates very polarizing game play. On the draw? Don’t have an answer to that Gideon? Good game. Opponent casts a Marvel, and immediately spins into an Ulamog. Nice playing, see you in the drop bracket. This is not fun magic, and standard has basically been suffering from this play pattern for way too long.
Years ago I used to joke that Force of Will would be fine to print into standard, since its only good in more powerful formats where broken things are happening, we’ve reached a point where standard might NEED Force of Will to deal with the cards on an individual power level. If Wizards wants to save Standard, improving the interaction, and decreasing the spikey power level of cards needs to happen.
When an opponent casts a Tireless Tracker and you don’t have that spot removal and they get to draw 3 or 4 cards off it, while creating an 8 power creature, your 20 life and one draw step a turn can only keep you in the game for so long. (Tireless Tracker is a very modest example of an over powered card compared to what we’ve seen.)
Alright, now that we’ve saved Standard, what are my thoughts on reducing and restricting the information on what lists are performing well?
I feel like wizards reducing and restricting the lists that get published is a big step backwards for Magic. Imagine that viewership in Hockey was dwindling, and people just weren’t interested in watching the lower ranked teams play, and people were sick of always watching Pittsburgh and Chicago winning. So the NHL’s solution would be to not post statistics or standings, so the average viewer wouldn’t know which teams were good or bad, and in theory people would be more willing to watch the bad teams duke it out, because hey, maybe they are the good teams. I feel that Wizards taking this approach and effectively babying the player base is an insult.
The stronger players already have a massive advantage over weaker players even assuming they are running the same decks (ever wonder why its the same handful of players who perform well at events?).
Now add in imperfect information, where the weaker, more casual, less networked player is also playing a non-tuned list, and its a slaughter of the lambs.
Now lets say that there actually is a broken deck in a format, but it takes players longer to figure it out because lists aren’t being posted to the degree that they used to be. Not only will those players who have figured it out be able to take advantage of the field for a longer time, but the players who are trying to meta game against that stronger tier 1 deck now have a larger, diverse field of random decks to fight through, which often makes meta gaming that much harder. For instance, lets say that there is a mono blue deck that is just the best deck, but only 10% of people have realized this. The 8% who are playing this list are crushing it, and the 2% who want to meta game against this deck want to run main deck Gainsay, but they cant because 90% of the field is jamming random non-blue decks. So the answer to the mono blue deck can never come to fruition. The 10% then move over to the mono blue deck, and slice and dice the other players. Two months later the masses realize that they’ve been losing to mono blue this whole time, but by then rotation is happening and they were the cash cow for the players with the information.
Another negative of posting fewer lists, is I know a lot of players who don’t have the time to play every week, and already these players are disadvantaged. They don’t have the practice, they don’t know every single interaction in the format, etc etc. One thing that they do have though, is the ability to somewhat keep up with the format by checking the top 10 lists every day to see how things are going. By reducing the number of lists posted, there is less information for these players to review, and these players may actually lose interest in the game without this link to the meta game.
I’m dating myself here, but I remember growing up playing Warcraft 2 and Starcraft. This was before the replay feature existed. When you played online, and got smashed by someone better then you, you had no idea why or how. How did he have twice as many units as me? What’s going on, they must be cheating! You were very much in the dark, and it made improving very difficult. And then replay’s were invented years later, and all of a sudden weaker players were able to see exactly what the stronger players were doing, seeing how efficient they were with their units, and how their build order was set up for maximum efficiency. This helped level the playing field, as now players could mimic the stronger players, and meta game against what they were doing. Without replays, you’d constantly get smashed and wonder what went wrong. Wizards, don’t put us in a time machine scheduled or the 90s! It’s 2017, let the information be free!
In conclusion, wizards, give us the information! The edge in constructed magic in 1994 might have been in deck construction but we’ve come to a point where play skill should be the dominant factor. If players want to brew they will still get 1-2 weeks worth of events before their prized jewel is on display for everyone to see.
You want the truth? You cant handle the truth!
Ultimately, if wizards wants standard to not be solved so quickly, then they need to put more effort into the development. Create cards that have counter play against one another, create more synergy, more answers, and less raw power. What are you running this weekend? post the lists in the chat below, because wizards surely wont be!