Factually incorrect, but never invalid

In the recent re-debut of The Field Report, I linked to an article by Josh Silvestri on CFB as an example of a good fundamental analysis of the components of the metagame.
Josh and I have clearly been on the same wavelength, as he busted out an excellent article in his regular weekly column at GatheringMagic.com that takes another stab at discussing the sentimental component of metagame analysis.
In case you’re lost as to what sentimental analysis is, I go into it elsewhere, but the short version is “It’s what people think the metagame will do” (as contrasted with what the metagame has done already and evaluation of the parts that make up the metagame — the decks).
Josh is right on the money with this remark:
“User perception can be factually incorrect but never invalid”

For the curious, part 2

Per Ian’s suggestion:
Click here for a larger version.
This chart shows the attendance for each Legacy Open divided by the attendance for each Standard Open that occurred during the same weekend. In other words, if Legacy and Standard attendance are trending together, the line should move horizontally. If one attendance trends more than another, it will skew up or down.
Click here for the other chart on this topic.

A small GP trumps a big PTQ?

Last weekend was one of the few without an SCG Open Series weekend – mostly because SCG reasonably enough doesn’t want to overlap with American GP events. After all, you don’t want your “name” players to have to decide between the Open Series and the one North American Legacy GP this year.
Perhaps not coincidentally, this gave Riki Hayashi a little time to consider a fairly dramatic downturn in attendance at his local PTQs – leading him to ask if the SCG Open Series is killing PTQs.
You should read Riki’s post, but his spark for thinking about this issue was a PTQ with 30 players in Roanoke, Virginia. That’s shockingly low for a PTQ along the American east coast. As Riki says, it feels more like one of the PTQs that one hears about in smaller Eastern European nations, or in isolated American states like Alaska and Hawaii.
Riki does a good job of breaking out some reasonable hypotheses for possible causes of this weak turnout:

  • Competition from GP providence (he thinks Roanoke may have lost perhaps 5-10 players to this)
  • Memorial Day weekend (people off on family vacations, etc)
  • Standard hate (people stay home to avoid Stoneforge Mystic and friends)
  • The SCG Open Series

These are all reasonable hypotheses, but Riki lingers on the last one, which is particularly interesting. The core idea goes like so:
An Open Series event is more generally rewarding than a PTQ.
I’ll use Riki’s words for this part:
PTQs have always been a winner-take-all thing. No one is there to collect their packs of product. Heck, when allowed to split the product prize, most finals give all of the packs to the loser, and he is indeed the loser because 2 boxes is nothing compared to qualifying for the Pro Tour. When 2nd place is “tied for dead last” you have a lopsided prize structure.
On the other hand, tournaments like the SCG Open Series provide cash prizes down to 32nd place, and making Top 8 is a pretty good day all around. With Top 4 prize splits being the norm, the only extra bonus for winning it all is a trophy, some extra Player’s Club points, and some more notoriety. Even before he finally broke through in Charlotte last month, AJ Sacher was doing quite well on the Open Series circuit despite “never winning anything.” PTQs are not so forgiving, and it’s possible that having an alternative tournament series where you can actually go home with something substantive despite not winning it all is changing the way people look at PTQs.

That’s a highly plausible suggestion. If you’re going to have to travel any significant distance to a PTQ where the prize structure is, in essence, “one player wins, everyone else loses” then you might prefer to just head out to an Open Series event instead, where you earn points toward leveling up and you have the potential to meaningfully “cash” in each event.
By extension, the impact here is not limited to the SCG Open Series, but to other, similar events that have really proliferated with the success of the Open Series. For example, the TCGPlayer series which, while incredibly poorly promoted, still features a fairly regular schedule of large events.
So, neat hypothesis. Does it pan out?
Testing Riki’s hypothesis
I agree with the intrinsic plausibility of the “Open Series trumps PTQs” hypothesis

What more does a card have to do to get banned?

Jonathan Richmond (aka norbert88) wrote this today on twitter, which I thought encapsulated the sentiment of the post-GP DFW discussion about Jace quite well:
Ted Knutson, who knows how to leverage controversy into blog traffic, has written about the case for banning Jace here. It’s a worthy read, and it segues into what I’m hoping will be an entertaining propaganda poster contest.
The question Jonathan asked can be simplified into the more basic, “What gets a card banned?”
Click through to the extended to find out.

Continue reading

Look for the union label

This tickles me in a very “Sergio Aragones” kind of way. I bet you find work like this in the margins of the Phyrexian edition of Mad Magazine.
I agree with Josh – both here and in his Men of Magic interview. I love the flavor and story of Magic, but I tend to love it more the way we encounter it in bits and pieces through the cards. Other than Arena, which I read after buying it to get Sewers of Estark, I haven’t read any other Magic novels. Although I’d like to be able to detect the story from the cards – I realized today I have no idea what underlying plot was actually supposed to be happening during Lorwyn block – I don’t really want the super-drawn-out novel version.
The way we interact with cards is actually the way we interact with a lot of history and the real world – in bits and pieces. When I check in with the BBC, I don’t get the next chapter in our protagonist’s narrative. Instead, I get a story filed by a British reporter who’s stuck in Misratah and hasn’t seen much outside of his apartment block, but who’s been able to check in via phone with the local hospital.
For more about the joys of Magic worlds as seen through these snippets of card, check out the latest Inkwell Looter post.

Allergic to victory

Every so often, comment threads prompt me to start asking, “Why would anyone..?” before I complete my own thought with, “Because anyone can comment.”
As C.S. Lewis, among others, reminds us, there is a natural human impulse to tear down. I’ve heard this expressed in the particularly American context as rooting for everyone to do well, then hating them when they do. So it’s not exactly surprising that you could bet money, blind, on seeing ill-considered, angry-sounding comments on almost any online content.
So it goes.
That said, I do find particularly curious the brand of hate that gets fired at fellow ChannelFireball writer and local nice guy Matt Nass.
In his latest article, Matt wrote about the Elves deck he played to a top four finish in the most recent SCG Open Series event. It’s a pretty cool article in which Matt links to a conversation that led to the build of the deck he ended up running. If you appreciate insight into how things work (and if you read anything I write, you do), then you’ll enjoy going through that, as well as his general explanation of the deck and how it played.
So, good article after a very good finish in a big event.
Naturally, the comments start with several people bitching about how all Matt ever writes about is Elves, how Matt sucks, and the ‘clever’ remark that we should have an author for each other tribe.
But you see, Matt won. Like, a lot.
And then he played a different Elves deck the following day in the Legacy Open and also did damn well, finishing in the top sixteen.
As LSV points out in his comment on the article, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa basically does the same thing Matt has been doing lately, playing some form of U/W control whenever he can…just that for Matt, it’s Elves.
Now, I get it when I draw fire for suggesting a build that hasn’t been tested particularly broadly — or, indeed, when any author draws fire for that. But Matt is talking about deck lists with which he has seen significant success at major events. As he also pointed out, he was not alone in taking the deck out for a spin on the Standard day:
Yes, that’s the American national champion busting people up with Elves.
So…what’s the issue? Is there just enough of a “Timmy” flavor to Elves as a deck to give an extra handhold to all the bitter trolls out there? As I said in the intro, I understand that there’s a basic desire to tear other people down rather than figure out how to make ourselves better. But it seems like it takes a particularly willful lack of mental integrity — in the sense of “structural” and not “moral” — to go after a successful player for their choice of paths to success.
For an outside observer, it just looks like a bunch of people who are allergic to victory.