Three on Two: Temur Walkers, Elk Blade, Goblin Blade and Dino Blade

Remember: Ban the London Mulligan

It all started when I faced an awful-seeming Temur deck that played a second turn The Royal Scions. It ended with a bunch of decks that use Arboreal Grazer and Gilded Goose as a bridge to Embercleave.

At the time, I was playing a mono-green deck designed to kill players on turn four or occasionally turn three, so playing a bunch of planeswalkers that all died did not seem impressive. The deck seemed terrible. But Brian David-Marshall, who was watching, found the list and told me this was the Deck of the Moment, designed by Jeff Hoogland. By using Arboreal Grazer and Gilded Goose with Once Upon a Time and the London Mulligan, you could start deploying planeswalkers on turn two more reliably than those relying only on Gilded Goose, building strong sweeper-resistant pressure on an opponents’ life total that also did not much care about an army of 2/2 zombies with Questing Beast, Wicked Wolf and Sarkhan, the Masterless as the high end.

At the time, these were important considerations. Jeff abandoned the deck after Field of the Dead was banned, as its plan is not especially relevant in Oko mirrors.

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Ban the London Mulligan

Previously: On The London Mulligan

Oko, Thief of Crowns is a highly messed up Magic card and needs to be banned in Standard. On that we can all agree. Throne of Eldraine contains many other messed up Magic cards. Some of them, like Once Upon a Time, Wicked Wolf and Gilded Goose, are not getting the appreciation they deserve because Oko, Thief of Crowns is stealing the spotlight. If all of those cards are Standard legal when they rotate out, I will be quite surprised. Then there are Fires of Invention, Caldron Familiar / Witch’s Oven, Embercleave, Emry, Lurker of the Lock. Then there’s Feasting Troll King, Questing Beast, Bonecrusher Giant, Lovestruck Beast, Edgewall Inkeeper and the list goes on. And yes, it has a lot of green in it. There are also messed up Magic cards one can choose from previous sets, although the density of them is far lower.

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Artifact: What Went Wrong?

Previously: Card Balance and ArtifactArtifact Embraces Card Balance ChangesReview: Artifact

Epistemic Status: Looks pretty dead

Artifact had every advantage. Artifact should have been great. Artifact was great for the right players, and had generally positive reviews. Then Artifact fell flat, its players bled out, its cards lost most of their value, and the game died.

Valve takes the long view, so the game is being retooled and might return. But for now, for all practical purposes, the game is dead.

Richard Garfield and Skaff Elias have one take on this podcast. They follow up with more thoughts in this interview.

Here’s my take, which is that multiple major mistakes were made, all of which mattered, and all of which will be key to avoid if we are to bring the combination of strategic depth and player-friendly economic models back to collectible card games.

I see ten key mistakes, which I will detail below.

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Free Money at PredictIt?

Previously on Prediction Markets (among others): Prediction Markets: When Do They Work?Subsidizing Prediction Markets

Epistemic Status: No huge new insights, but a little fun, a little free money, also Happy Petrov Day?

Yesterday, with everything happening regarding impeachment, I decided to check PredictIt to find out how impactful things were. When I checked, I noticed some obvious inconsistencies. They’re slightly less bad today, but still not gone.

I figured it would be fun and potentially enlightening to break this down. Before I begin, I will state that unless I messed up this post expresses zero political opinions whatsoever on what election or other outcomes would be good or bad, and does its best to only make what I consider very safe observations on probabilities of events. All comments advocating political positions or candidates will be deleted in reign-of-terror style. No exceptions.

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Timer Toxicities

Follow-up to: Free-to-Play Games: Three Key Trade-Offs

The central free-to-play mechanic is to ration action and resources via real world time. This leads to two of the three key trade offs. Players are prevented from having fun because they are time restricted, either unable to play or unable to have the resources to play the way they would like, allowing the game to sell a solution to these problems. More perniciously, players become trained to constantly check in with the game in order to claim rewards and keep their resources from becoming idle. This can warp a person’s life more than one would think, changing behavior to allow timely access, and preventing focus on other subjects.

This obsession effect, and the ability of real world time delays to be an interesting resource to include in trade-offs, have also caused these mechanics to seep into non-free games, especially RPGs.

Resource rationing takes the form of timers. The form of the timer does a lot to determine how toxic the rationing will be to the player. There are several knobs one can turn.

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Free-to-Play Games: Three Key Trade-Offs

Most free-to-play games, especially mobile free-to-play games, use similar models to extract revenue and keep players coming back. These models work by creating toxic trade-offs that are central to their functioning. This post highlights the main three, and will act as reference for future gaming posts. Note that some games that can be played for free, such as the excellent Path of Exile, mostly do not do these things and are not fundamentally ‘free-to-play’ games, rather they are games that are free. But they are the exception, the extreme end of a continuum from ‘so friendly we just give you this great experience in the hopes you’ll want to throw us money’ to ‘made a pact with the Canadian devil.’

For an analysis of Magic: The Gathering Arena in particular, this remains the central point of my analysis, centered on what I here call the third trade-off. Arena counts as free-to-play in bad ways, but is on the less toxic end of the spectrum, especially with regard to the second trade-off, which I am seeing over time as more central. However, while Arena remains relatively friendly, it is moving towards being more toxic, with things like the second wildcard for historic card creation and with the mastery track.

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Who To Root For: 2019 College Football Edition

Epistemic Status: Unquestionably Accurate

Football, like all sports, is better with someone to root for, and someone to root against. It’s us versus them. Ideally, it’s our house, because no one beats us in our house. That gives us a baseline heuristic – root, root root for the home team – if we can’t do any better. Luckily, we can do better. Not only are some teams objectively superior to others in their worthiness of our quest to be adjacently vicariously victorious, consistently rooting for the same teams is much more fun than choosing independently each time.

With so many teams out there, it’s tough to untangle the right rank order of who to root for. Luckily, that’s where this post comes in. We will rank all the teams you might encounter, complete with explanations, so that not only will you know who you’ll be supporting, you’ll know why you’re supporting them.

Before we start naming names, let’s go over some basic points.

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