Reflections on Duo Standard

Previously: Speculations on Duo StandardReflections on the Mythic Invitational

Companion Piece: Reflections on the Mythic Invitational

Frank Karsten (Channel-Fireball): The Mythic Invitational Wasn’t Perfect And It Was Still a Smashing Success

There are two big questions to ask about Duo Standard.

The first question is, is Duo Standard a good format? Should we continue to play it? Or should we abandon it?

Wizards has already answered that this is definitely not the final form. That still leaves the question of why, and how to improve.

The second question is, What is the right thing to do in Duo Standard, right now or in general? What game theory questions, metagame shifts and strategic issues are most important? How does this differ not only from best-of-three, but from best-of-one?

My answer to the first question is: No. Duo Standard is not a good format. We should not continue to play it. The Mythic Invitational was played and the verdict is in. 

The best way to give a more complete answer to the first question is to answer the second question, then double back. So that’s how this is structured.

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Reflections on the Mythic Invitational

Previously / Compare and Contrast To: Reflections on the 2017 Magic Online Championship

Previously: Speculations on Duo Standard

Compare To (Frank Karsten at Channel Fireball): The Mythic Invitational Wasn’t Perfect—And It Was Still a Smashing Success

And Remember, Guys, You Asked For It: The “And” of MTG Arena

Two years ago we were treated to a virtuoso performance on all fronts at the 2017 Magic Online Championship. All the players on the Sunday stage played the best Magic we’ve ever seen. The commentary drew us into exactly that which made the games, and the game of Magic in general, great. I called upon the game to bottle that lightning, and build upon it to create our future.

At the Invitational we experienced a very different digital tournament.

Some stuff was great. We made giant leaps forward in some areas.

Including viewers. We’re playing in a different league now.

We turned ourselves into a real e-sport! Woo-hoo!

Other areas, not so much. We mustn’t let the good distract from fixing the bad.

I won’t speak of the minor technical difficulties, as this is already far too long and they are doubtless being addressed. Frank Karsten mentions them in his article, along with good suggestions for the Arena client.

This is a case of ‘I should get this out there one way or another’ so I’m doing that. I hope it helps.

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Deck Guide: Biomancer’s Familiar

Biomancer’s Familiar is a great card. I wanted it to happen so bad. I spent a substantial portion of my preperations for Cleveland trying to make Biomancer’s Familiar happen. I tried two color versions. I tried three color versions. I tried going big, going small, going wide, and everything else I could think of. I came close enough to consider buying the cards.

Ultimately, I could not make it happen. Blue was too strong and too structurally tough. You had to give up Pelt Collector, had to pay real mana for your spells. The format wanted different things than the Familiar deck could provide. Sideboarding wasn’t as impactful for you as I wanted. The deck was good. It was fun as hell. But not good enough. I switched to blue, tore up the ladder with it, and never looked back. Things didn’t work out at the Pro Tour, but given the overall results, I am confident I made the right decision.

There are three reasons to share the deck now.

The first reason is, as noted, that the deck is great fun. As constructed, it’s a step behind where it needs to be to win major tournamens, but it’s still good enough to get five wins more often than not in Traditional Constructed. Its best draws bury people if not answered, and it gets them often.

The second reason is that perhaps I missed something. There’s a lot of good things going on, so the deck might be one card, or one idea or sideboard plan, away from competitive. That might be a two color or three color build. It might involve a card from War of the Spark.

The third reason is that now that I write it out, I think this deck plays fine against what’s out there right now. My results weren’t as good as with blue, but perhaps things have changed.

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Follow-up to: Blackmail

[Note on Compass Rose response: This is not a response to the recent Compass Rose response, it was written before that, but with my post on Hacker News I need to get this out now. It has been edited in light of what was said. His first section is a new counter-argument against a particular point that I made – it is interesting, and I have a response but it is beyond scope here. It does not fall into either main category, because it is addressing a particular argument of mine rather than being a general argument for blackmail. The second counter-argument is a form of #1 below, combined with #2, #3 and #4 (they do tend to go together) so it is addressed somewhat below, especially the difference between ‘information tends to be good’ and ‘information chosen, engineered and shared so to be maximally harmful tends to be bad.’ My model and Ben’s of practical results also greatly differ. We intend to hash all this out in detail in conversations, and I hope to have a write-up at some point. Anyway, on to the post at hand.]

There are two main categories of objection to my explicit thesis that blackmail should remain illegal.

Today we will not address what I consider the more challenging category. Claims that while blackmail is bad, making it illegal does not improve matters. Mainly because we can’t or won’t enforce laws, so it is unclear what the point is. Or costs of enforcement exceed benefits.

The category I address here claims blackmail is good. We want more.

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Speculations on Duo Standard

Epistemic Status: Wild Mass Guessing

Next week’s invitational tournament at PAX East will feature the new Duo Standard format. Each player will have two decks, play one in each of the first two games in a random order, then choose which deck they want for game three. There will be no sideboards.

Reading Wyatt Darby’s recent otherwise excellent article about preparing for the tournament, I noticed a lack of strategic thinking about the format. Wyatt was thinking well about best of one as opposed to best of three, in terms of lack of sideboards and the ban on Nexus of Fate. What he wasn’t thinking about at all, or was wisely keeping to himself, was the question of how choosing one of two decks for game three changes things.

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New York Restaurants I Love: Pizza

Previously in series: New York Restaurants I Love: Breakfast

Previously in pizza: Restaurant Guide 2: Pizza

If you don’t live in and aren’t visiting New York, and want to know how to find good pizza, refer to the guide above. It tells you what you need to know.

This series is about the particular places I love. I want to help people find them, so they can enjoy, and can help the places stay in business. It does not mean these are the best pizza places in the city. Again, some of these are some of the best places. They are the ones that have the most value to me, based on where I live and my taste in a pie.

I mostly order plain (red) pizza, either regular, Sicilian or where available Grandma Sicilian. Most toppings, in my view, detract rather than add value. I’ll take fresh garlic when available, and can be easily talked into ricotta. Where I can get prosciutto, I’ll often take that, but definitely not other meats. I can’t speak to topping quality, in most cases.

Remember, if you order in New York, use Slice.

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On The London Mulligan

Original Announcement: Mythic Championship II Format and the London Test

Previously (Patrick Sullivan at Star City Games): The London Mulligan: A Game Designer’s Perspective

We’ve now had about a week to think about the London Mulligan rule. I’ve changed my mind several times in that period. There are big advantages and big disadvantages. It’s not obvious which should dominate.

My preliminary conclusion is that this is quite bad for Modern, Legacy and Vintage, and probably small positive for Limited. I’m increasingly confident it’s also bad for Standard.

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