- Posts: 2267
- Thank you received: 2588
Bugs: Recent Topics Paging, Uploading Images & Preview (11 Dec 2020)
Recent Topics paging, uploading images and preview bugs require a patch which has not yet been released.
The luck factor in Magic
The main thing to keep in mind is that luck in Magic comes in several forms.
- Mana screw: A few years ago I argued that mana issues are mostly the result of either poor shuffling or bad deckbuilding and, at first glance it seems a reasonable position. After all, if I check the data, only a small % of hands are going to be bad, specially after mulliganing, right?
According to this page ( community.wizards.com/forum/mtg-duels-pl...kers/threads/3944651 ), there's a 15% chance that I draw either no lands, one land, 6 or 7 if I play 24 lands in my deck. Any of these combinations is unplayable and when you add colour screw to it, chances are you are going to be forced to mulligan in 1 out of 6 or even out of 5 games. That's quite bad, but if you run the numbers the probability of being mana screwed in the initial hand AND the mulligan is probably tolerable.
On its own, mana screw doesn't seem to add much luck to Magic. On its own.
- Luck of the draw: Magic is a very fast game and you draw very few cards. Most aggro decks in Modern or Legacy will kill you by turn 4 or 5, so you are going to draw less than twenty cards over the course of a game. And more than a third are going to be lands - that do nothing - or spells that are too expensive to cast yet or that are situational or redundant.
On top of that 1 out of 6 chance of being forced to mulligan, you have to add this stuff. A 4-land hand that doens't let you do anything for two turns is a bad hand, even if it's not mana screwed. So it's no longer a matter of having to mulligan because you don't get lands, but also because you don't get the right spells. You need a balanced hand with both and there's a huge chance you won't draw it. So the chance of losing a game because you are forced to mulligan twice is no longer a mere 1 in 36, but probably something closer to 1 in 20.
That's high, but still tolerable.
- Not having an answer to a bomb: The opponent plays a Phyrexian Negator and you don't have a counter in hand. You draw no answers in the next four turns and you die. Like the above, it's a matter of Magic being so fast that you are heavily constrained by what you draw. Even if you pack 7 ways to stop a combo from going off, the probabilitty of being able to do so on turn 3 is not high enough for it not to decide a lot of games. And you are mulliganing quite often so you are often starting the game with less cards in hand than normal. This one is a bigger issue in Limited games than in Constructed.
So you add the games you lose because you are forced to mulligan and the games you lose because you simply don't have the right card and luck starts to be felt in the skin. You start losing games luck with at least some kind of regularity.
- Matchups: This is probably the main problem with constructed play, there are simply a lot of times in which you are going to sit down and lose because your deck is incapable of beating your opponent. Lands can't beat combo, Tempo can't beat Stax and there are not enough counterspells in your deck to counter all the game-winning bombs in my Tooth and Nail deck. And even if you don't lose outright, there's still a have chance you are going to be heavily favoured or disfavoured before you even draw your starting hand.
Does that mean that Magic is very luck based? Well, yes and no. I don't think Magic is too random or that skill doesn't matter or anything like that. I however feel that Magic is far more luck-based than it's typical for a "gamer's game". In a scale, it's closer to the average miniatures game than it is to a strategic title and it's probably on the looser end of dice-chuking oldschool Ameritrash rather than the more controlled side represented by the likes of Chaos in the Old World.
I am inclined to agree with your analysis. I only play magic when one of magic playing friends needs an opponent and rarely build decks myself unless filling a space in a cube draft. I have found that good decks can just blow out surprisingly often, either due to bad draw or just because you cannot counter everything. I've never been to a tournament so i have no idea what they are like. I wonder if you get consistent winners under ko rules.
You play a lot of netrunner Eric, how does that compared? I'd argue it has the same problems but again, i only play casually.
I have played more than 20 games of innovation over the past month, and i've come round to the view that it has a lot of randomness built into its draw as well. You need to draw either a card that increases your draw or something that allows you to skip tech levels early. In the mid game you need something that can help you score cards. In my experience on side gets clearly blown out about 1 in every 5 games playing 2 player. To an extent i think its just the nature of card games. Unless the card deck has lots and lots of replicated cards and very few niche corner case cards its always going to be chaotic. Games like Magic or Innovation are interesting because of all the weird corner case cards but as a consequence, whilst skill does matter, a skilled player won't always get a fair shot.
Oh dear, I was trying to avoid the subject, comparisons are an odious subject.
DukeofChutney wrote: You play a lot of netrunner Erik, how does that compare? I'd argue it has the same problems but again, i only play casually.
The main thing is that Netrunner is a far less volatile game, deep down it's a game of economics with a thick layer of hidden information layered on top. . In Magic you are this incredibly powerful wizard bending laws of the universe to do your bidding so it's full of rules-breaking and crazy stuff like taking infinite turns in a row. So they are very different games right out of the gate. Still:
- Resource screw: In Netrunner you don't need cards to do stuff on your turn, you can use your actions to draw, get credits or make a run. You can always do something, it's more of a matter of whether you should do than about whether you can. This was one of Garfield's design goals with the game and I think he succeded pretty well.
- Luck of the draw: Netrunner games are fairly long, I don't think games dip under 12 turns for the fastest decks and often go as high as 25 or 30 for the rest. You are going to draw a huge part of your deck, sodrawing a single card or not doesn't matter much. This is particularly noticiable because the most well-known "combo" requires two copies of the same card and one of another, which would be awful in any other game, and because 1-ofs are common for end-game strategies.
The main factor of luck of the draw in Netrunner is probably agenda flood, if the Corp draws too many agendas things can get hard for them. This was an issue at the beginning of the game but there's now a card (Jackson Howard) that fixes and there are always outs like bluffing or playing fewer agendas Agendas with in-built defenses help too.
Of course, there's alwaysgames in which the Runner just hits the deck three or four times and wins, but they are a very tolerable amount.
- Bombs: Netrunner doesn't have much in the way of bombs. It has lots of cards that are threats and must be destroyed and you need to bait the Runner as Corp, but there's little inevitability built into the game, most effects are, ultimately, quite small and playing something big generally won't win you the game on its own. There are bombs and big plays but there's not much in the way of "I played this, now you lose", at least without a hefty investment.
- Matchups are very close in Netrunner, there are favoured or disfavoured matchups but big differences between decks are rare. There are several reasons for this but I think the most important one is that you cannot build overly extreme decks in Netrunner, you are always going to have your economy slots, your breakers/agendas and a couple tricks. It seems to me that in Magic decks with overly negative matchups can manage to beat enough other decks to make up their weaknesses so they remain in a contentious equilibrium but in Netrunner that's not very viable because you only play one game and you can't sideboard so decks tend to stray more down the middle.
There are some widely loopsided matchups in the game (Maxx against Industrial Genomics) but they don't have much of a metagame presence. I feel odd talking about this, because I'm...kind of responsible for that metagame presence, I like very grindy, overly defensive decks and some of them turned out to be quite popular online. So yeah, sorry, I guess.
I think the pros play in such a way they don't need to counter as much stuff. Still, I feel like the "I cannot counter everything" is a constant through the game at all levels.
DukeofChutney wrote: I am inclined to agree with your analysis. I only play magic when one of magic playing friends needs an opponent and rarely build decks myself unless filling a space in a cube draft. I have found that good decks can just blow out surprisingly often, either due to bad draw or just because you cannot counter everything. I've never been to a tournament so i have no idea what they are like. I wonder if you get consistent winners under ko rules.
Still, Magic is now far more creature-based than it used to be so there's less of a need to counter cards because you can deal with them through combat or a wider variety of cards. (It's easier to kill a creature than a spell).
I did have one famous day when I had 4 matchups (decided 2-0, 2-1, 2-0 and 1-2) and someone lost 7 of the 10 individual games due to mana problems.
But I still think Magic is primarily a topdecking game (luck-based) that puts far more emphasis on proper deck construction (to mitigate the huge luck factor) over actual gameplay.