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Archive for August, 2010

Hot off the heels of my M2010 Go Infinite experiment, M2011 was released – I went 9-0-1 in two pre-release events I attended (Sealed Deck), so decided to continue onward to see the viability of Going Infinite with Magic Online. I modified my methods a bit, but I still planned on doing 15 drafts, 5 each of Swiss, 4-3-2-2, and 8-4.

For purposes of continuity and natural progression, I decided to do all 5 swiss drafts first, then the 4-3-2-2, then the 8-4. This makes far more sense, gives me good experience with the format and gives me the best chance to figure out some nuances before I throw myself into the 8-4 fire. I did not take as detailed match by match analysis as I did the the M2010 matches, but here are my results:

M11 – Swiss – 5 Rounds.
Packs Won: 8 (3 wins 1x, 2 wins 2x, 1 win 1x, 0 wins 1x) I should note the 0 win round was as a result of me trying a Jace’s Erasure/Tome Scour/Jace deck. ūüôā
Singles of value: Jace, Foil Jace, Conundrum Sphinx x2, Phylactery Lich x2, Nantuko Shade x2, Temple Bell x2, Foil Rootbound Crag. Total value: 17.
Cost – 70. Value: 49. Total -21.

M11 – 4-3-2-2 – 5 Rounds

Packs Won: 8 (2 2nd place, 1 2nd round loss 2 1st round losses) One of first round losses was due to heavy mana flood.
Singles of Value: Sword, Grave Titan, Nantuko Shade, Garruk, Plat Angel. Total Value: 16.
Cost – 70. Value: 48. Total -22.

M11 Р 8-4 Р5 Rounds

Packs Won: 14 (One victory, one split) 2nd Round Loss to B/R perfect draw.deck, and a first round loss to a W/B heavy removal deck. Ironically, the tourney I won and offered to split was with perhaps my weakest of the 5 rounds. The tourney I split, I offered the draw, my opponent accepted but we decided to play for fun, and I smoked him. My other 2nd round loss was again due to heavy mana flooding in both of my game losses, as well as a play error on my part.

SIDE RANT: In this loss, with 25 cards remaining in my deck, I had drawn 8 out of my 9 plains. I know this happens to a lot of people, and that’s my point – It seems to happen with absurd frequency. The odds against such an occurance are pretty high, the odds of it happening so often ¬†make me raise my eyebrows. The deck I lost against was absolutely awful.

Singles of Value: Sword of Veng, Fauna Shaman, Dragonskull Summit, Ajani Goldmane x2,  Conundrum Sphix, and Temple Bell. Total Value: 16

Cost: 70. Value:  72. +2.

Swiss –¬†Cost – 70. Value: 49. Total -21.

4-3-2-2 –¬†Cost – 70. Value: 48. Total -22.
8-4 –¬†Cost: 70. Value: ¬†72. +2.
Totals: Cost 210, Value: 169. -41.

Conclusions –

1. A total loss of $41, which got me 15 drafts worth of entertainment value, play sets of commons and pretty close to playsets of uncommons, as well as some trash rares. Again, if you break this down by entertainment value, at an average of 1.5 hours per draft, this looks to be a little over $1 per hour of entertainment. Compared again to other popular entertainment activities, this is pretty good.

2. The Nix Tix thing makes a big difference. 15 drafts costs 30 in tix – Take that away my loss goes from $41 to $11.

3. I only opened one real “Chase Rare” – The Grave Titan. This however leads to a larger problem with M2011 in general, and that the NON Mythic rares are all worth jack and shit. The dual lands, birds of paradise and other reprints have all plummeted in value from 2 to 1 due to flood in the market, and none of the other rares except for Fauna Shaman and Obs Baloth are really making any splash. In fact, even the “Chase” cards – Grave Titan, Primeval Titan and Baneslayer seem to be the only ones holding any value. This lack of singles value makes M2011 (much like ROE) an unattractive choice for drafters because you’re basically playing pack lottery and hoping to get your 3 in 120 chance of one of the above 3 cards, and the math just doesn’t add up. Cards like Earthquake and Siege Gang which were selling for 2-3 are gone, and nothing has really replaced them. A couple cards I EXPECTED to do well, Day of Judgement, Reverberate and Mitotic Slime aren’t worth anything. I do feel Phylactery Lich and Steel Overseer may have their value increased with the next block (Artifact heavy) but the market will be loaded with them by the time this happen. The Mythics being the only cards worth anything effect I think is going to continue to have a negative impact on the game.

4. I “won” 2 out of 5 drafts. Perhaps the very best players can expect to do this, if you are of decent or average skill, the basic math means you’ll make it to the finals 1 in 4. I do not expect to split 2 out of every 5 drafts I do, if I could and did, I would in fact be able to “go infinite”. This is hard to do. Some people argue against splitting. If your deck is good and you have an edge, always play, they say. Personally, I’d rather avoid the variance, save myself the 30 minutes, and move on to other things.

So, I feel for $41 I got plenty of play value, filled out my commons and uncommon playsets, (or close to it) and performed as well as can be expected. However, I think those that have the patience to wait should participate in the “Premier Drafts” – Yes, these cost 4 tickets instead of 2, but if you get just one win, you get 2 packs, if you get 2, you get 4 (so you’re paid for) and if you go 3-0 you get at least 6 packs plus an additional free draft. Obviously they won’t do them forever, and it’s probably not feasible for someone to play in 15 (especially since they fill up fast) but I will definitely replace my 8-4 drafts with these when the next set is released.

I feel like my play was much better this go around, and I was more consistent. Other than my fun Millstone experiment in swiss, I drafted stronger and better, raredrafted less, (there’s no reason to now) and played better. I definitely liked my choice to go up the steps ladder in the proper increments, I feel it made a big difference. I didn’t quite go infinite, but I went pretty cheap, and that’s not bad.

About the format – Blue is absolutely the dominant color. It pairs well with everything due to scry, bounce and removal as well as some decent critters. You see a lot of Blue/W and U/B, but given the right cards U/R and U/G can both win. Similarly, R/G and G/W can do well also. B/W can be strong, I feel in general B/R and W/R should be avoided – though I am sure like always, the right cards make it work.

My next post will have to do with some ideas for revamping the Mulligan rules, something that needs to happen badly. Stay tuned.

-LAG

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Magic: The Gathering is a long time hobby of mine. I started playing shortly after its release (My first packs were Antiquities because stores were sold out of Unlimited, and it was just before Revised came out). I was somewhat serious about it for several years around the turn of the century, and a strong force on my local scene, I top 8’d a few PTQ’s and a Regionals once, but never made the big dance. As time went on, my social group started to drift away from the game, as did I – eventually selling my collection and moving on to other things. Every year or so, though – I’d get a wacky hankering to rip some packs and draft, and I would do that with Magic: Online.

Magic, unfortunately is an expensive and time consuming hobby. There’s a lot of skill involved, but there’s also a lot of luck involved. And the stakes are low, and your edge is usually low (the more luck involved, the lower your skill matters) so it’s sometimes hard to justify the amount of time, money and energy going in to becoming good again for a little entertainment. But recently, I got that hankering again – and decided to see if by focusing on limited play on the core set, if I could use my previous experience and knowledge to try to “Go Infinite” – be able to play for free (or make a profit).

With M2010 rotating out, Wizards opted to run many “Nix Tix” events. I chose this time to do my research to see how I would do. My plan was to do 15 drafts, 5 Swiss, 5 4-3-2-2, and 5 8-4 – keep track of my results and sellable cards, and do a final tally. While I realize 15 drafts is by no means a large sample size, I think for purposes of this experiment it would give me at least somewhat useful data. Magic has a TON of variance, and playing limited only adds to that.
As a quick note – I know that the ticket costs I have listed are no longer current, M2011 has changed values of cards quite a bit, but these were relevant at the time.

So here are my results:

1. 4-3-2-2 (1) Р(Siege Gang Commander (1)) R/G VS. B/R  Mana Flooded in game 3, otherwise a very winnable match. (Packs Won: 0)
Cost: 12. Value: 1. Total -11

2. 8-4 (1) – (Banselayer (34)) W/B/R. . Won round 1, lost round 2 to a really good B/G deck who had all the answers. The guy was a tool though, and thankfully he lost in the finals. (Packs Won: 0)
Cost: 12. Value: 34. Total +22

3. 4-3-2-2 (2) – Foil Prot Hydra, Drowned Catacomb. I passed a Great stable Stag pack 2 for a Doom Blade, which of course I play U/B and my first round opponent drops… Great Stable Stag with oakenform both games. GG. My opp topdecked literally 4 cards in a row to win game 2. It was quite frustrating. Between this match, and my previous ME1 ME2 ME3 loss to the worst player in the universe (4 colors, literally with 1 land of one, and 2 of the other, and by turn 4 in game 3 he had… All 4 colors.) (Packs Won: 0)
Cost: 12. Value: 7. Total -5.

4. 4-3-2-2 (3) – Pithing Needle (1), Elvish Archdruid (1.5) R/G (Packs Won: 2 ) Mana flooded VERY badly in game 3 of a winnable round 2 matchup. Saw/Drew 13 of my decks lands, and 4 non lands. This of course after Mulliganning my first hand, which had one land. (Packs Won: 2)

Cost: 12. Value: 10.5. Total -1.5

5. 8-4 (2) – Only rare I drafted was a Djinn of Wishes, and I am playing a rough 3 color W/R/B deck with scads of removal and fliers. We’ll see how it goes. Got smoked in the first round to a solid R/B deck, got mana hosed and had to Mulligan game 2. (Packs Won: 0)

Cost: 12. Value 0. Total -12.

6. 4-3-2-2 (4) – Rootbound Crag (2), Drowned Catacomb (2), Ball Lightning (1.5)

Hey, guess what? In another very winnable match, I mana flood literally drawing like 9 land in a row in game 2, and then get mana screwed in game 3. Weeee! (Packs won: 0)
Cost: 12. Value: 5.5. Total -6.5

7. Swiss (1) – Sunpetal Grove (2), Dragonskull Summit (4). This was a very crazy draft, and I once again ended up 3 colors, W/U/G. People were sending mixed signals everywhere, and it was hard to get

a serious color. I probably was the benefit of some mana screwing this time, and I go 2-3, winning 2 packs. (Packs Won: 2)
Cost: 12. Value 14. Total +2.

8. 4-3-2-2 (5) – Drowned Catacomb (2), Great Stable Stag (1.5). This time when going U/B, I TOOK the Great Stable Stag when it was passed to me in pack 2. This was a weird draft, I wasn’t def Blue until late in 2nd pack, but an Air Elemental and Djinn of Wishes changed my mind. I win a good match in round 1, a VERY tight match in round 2 againt B/W complete with lightwielder Paladin and Priest Exile Black Critter guy. My opponent in the finals, who had a bye in round 2, doesn’t show up for round 3, and I win. (Packs won: 4)

Cost: 12. Value 19.5. Total +7.5
TOTALS FOR 4-3-2-2: Cost 60, Value 43.6. Total -16.5. (Packs Won: 6)

9. Swiss (2) – Vapire Nocturnus (5.5). Again, kind of a strange draft with a lot of mixed signals. I ended up with an OK R/G deck that I had to splash Blue for for Sleep and Merfolk Looters. I had 3 Borderland rangers. My deck, was OK, got beat in round 2 by a pretty legit G/U deck though I made a couple misplays, and lost in round 3 a turn 3 5/5 Oakenformed Grizzly bear coming at me. W/G is a bad matchup for me. Crazy that me and all 3 of my opponents were playing green. (Packs Won: 1)

Cost: 12. Value 9.5 Total -2.5

10. 8-4 (3) – Got a couple of rares, and a Sunpetal (2). Drafted a pretty amazing B/G deck, with removal, evasion, defense, and even finishers. Won round one pretty easily, round 2 I smoke my opponent in game 1, and even after siding in TWO Mold Adders against the MONO BLUE deck, I manage to lose – Then in round 3, I draw 6 land and 2 rampant growth in a row and lose. Lost the unloseable matchup, and it cost me 6 packs. And is pretty much killing any desire I have to play Magic with this run I’ve been going on, so. (Packs Won: 0) This match pissed me off beyond belief.

Cost: 12. Value 2. Total -10.

11. 8-4 (4) – Earthquake (3) Drafted a godawful Monoblack deck, with a splash for the quake. I hate myself for drafting this pile. Shockingly, I get a Win in Round 1, and lost in Round 2 to a strong R/W deck packing both Lightwielder Pal and Shivan Dragon, (which he dropped on turn 5 and 6) and then an armored ascension. Poof. So in 3 out of 4 of my 8-4s, I lost in Round 2.

Cost 12. Value 3. Total -9.

12. Swiss (3) – Rootbound Crag (2), Drowned Catacomb (2), Dragonskull Summit (3.5), Foil Ball Lightning (4), Lost in Round 1 to Johnny Bombs Alot, as he had Ant Queen, Captain of the Watch, etc etc. His deck was definitely better, and he drew like all his bombs in perfect order both games. Round 2 I smoke my opponent in game 1, and I mana flood badly in games 2 and 3. His deck was pretty good, but I would have had a chance to win if i didn’t draw like 6 lands in a row. Both games. I won round 3, snagging a pack. (Packs Won: 1)

Cost: 12. Value 15.5 Total +3.5

13. 8-4 (5) – Darksteel Colossus (1.5), Drowned Cat (2), Glacial Fortress (2), Elvish ARchdruid (1.5). U/B deck, played against R/B in round one, and once again I mana flooded to death. Getting used to it.

Cost 12. Value 7 Total -5
TOTALS FOR 8-4: Cost 60, Value 46. Total -14. (Packs Won: 0)

14. Swiss (4) ¬†– No rares at all. Drafted a really strong R/G deck, packing 2 Overruns, and believe it or not through the entire tourney, I casted Overrun exactly once when I didn’t even need to. I lost in round one after winning the first game to some nasty mana flood, and I smashed my opps the next two with aggression and burn and Oakenformed beasties. (Packs Won: 2)

Cost 12: Value 8. Total -4.

15. Swiss (5) – Dragonskull Summit (3.5), Vampire Nocturnus (5.5), despite being one of the weaker decks I feel I draged (U/G with some fliers, Oakenforms and Overrun) I got good draws and quickly get 2 wins. In game 3, against a slow W/U deck, I get a few flyers and Overrun for the win both games. Ironically enough, one of my weaker decks was the only one in 15 drafts I won with. (Packs Won: 3)

Cost: 12. Value 21. Total +9

TOTALS FOR SWISS: Cost 60, Value 59. Total -1. (Packs Won: 9) Card Value: 23, Pack Value 36.

TOTALS FOR 4-3-2-2: Cost 60, Value 43.5. Total -16.5. (Packs Won: 6) Card Value 19.5, Pack Value 24.
TOTALS FOR 8-4: Cost 60, Value 46. Total -14. (Packs Won: 0) Card Value: 46, Pack Value 0.
TOTALS FOR 15 DRAFTS: COST 180, VALUE: 148.5. Total -31.5.

So here are my conclusions –

Obviously, this sample size is not nearly large enough to draw any sort of definite ideas, but I think the trends shown have some value.

I drafted 15 times at a total loss of 31.5 dollars. I am not thrilled with these results, but for the cost of playing, my entertainment time (Average 2 hours per draft), really the cost wasn’t all that awful. Obviously, I am only counting rares in these numbers, and not any uncommons/commons/foils I may have gotten otherwise, so I am sure there is a few ticket value in there as well.

However, it’s critical to note that all of this was done during NIX TIX events, which saves 2 dollars per event, and a total of $30. You factor that in, and my loss becomes $61.5, which doesn’t look nearly as good. that being said, if you average say, 1.5 hours of entertainment per event though, the cost per hour of entertainment doesn’t seem to be any worse than going to the movies, or playing mini golf, or plunking down some quarters in an arcade, so that’s something to consider as well. I’d be looking at $4 or so per draft, which is probably worth the price of admission in entertainment value alone.

Variance is also important to factor in. I opened a Baneslayer, which obviously isn’t going to happen every 15 drafts. However, one match in particular in 8-4 that would have led me to 6 packs most likely was an incredible turn of bad luck, so I am going to wash these two out. It’s also important to note that I had won 3 out of my 5 PREVIOUS 8-4 drafts going into this experiment, so to go from winning (splitting) 3 out of 5 events to not even getting to the finals in 5 tries is pretty rough luck. But that’s something that happens with Magic. No matter what the super awesome pro players say, there is a colossal amount of luck in every facet of Magic. ¬†In Limited formats, it’s even more so – You have the luck of who is drafting near you, what they open, what the people next to them are drafting, what matchups you end up with, etc etc etc. And that’s all before the game even starts. My point being, variance is a bitch.

How was my play? Mediocre. While I feel I was probably simply outplayed/outdecked in 2-3 of my events, I’d say in 4-5 of them I got so mana hosed that it made it impossible for me to win. Yes, when you are rare drafting for value (especially in 8-4 events) you’re going to be hurting your deck and strengthening the decks of others, so you’re taking an awful big risk. The reality is the Non-Mythic rares just aren’t worth enough to rare draft for – You’re better off taking your chances. The logical problem with that is when you get mana crunched, you take a mild amount of solace in saying “Well, at least I got a couple decent rares.” Also, I feel my inexperience in the format led me to be a little liberal with a few of my decks hoping to splash. While several of my opponents seem to do this without problem (or mana fixers) I
didn’t seem to have as much luck.

It’s also interesting to note that I lost 3 8-4 matches in round 2, and 2 in round 1. In 4-3-2-2, I lost 3 in round 1, and 1 in round 2. If I get just one more round 2 loss in 4-3-2-2, that’s an additional $8 in value right there. Again, variance. No one can argue that 8-4 players are WORSE than 4-3-2-2 players, so theoretically if I am making it to round 2 in 8-4 over half the time, I should be doing the same in 4-3-2-2. I’m also pretty confident that I should be getting packs in 3 out of 5 of my 4-3-2-2 events. I will also take this time to say how much I dislike 4-3-2-2, which should be 5-3-2-2. There’s no good reason in the world for a pack to be missing out of the prize pool. 8-4 and Swiss both give away 12, that format should as well.

Also, I am frustrated to see that the decks I considered my BEST, I had poor results with, whereas I had some of my best results with a couple of my weaker decks. Draft #10 probably put me “on tilt” a little for draft #11, because I was so incredibly frustrated with the results. However, that too is how Magic goes sometimes – and that’s something good players have to overcome.

What surprised me most about all this was the value of cards I got during Swiss events. I expected them to be complete raredraft fests, and that only happened in ONE out of my FIVE events. I got $5 or more value in 4 out of my 5 Swiss events in cards alone, and I am confident in the long run I can average about 2 packs per swiss event, which would be $13 in value for $14 in cost – Which isn’t bad at all. Is this profitible? No – And this assumes I am selling all of the valuable cards I acquire, so it won’t help me much for constructed play. But if I just want to draft and play limited and acquire playsets of commons and uncommons, it seems to be a solid way to go.

So, am I good enough or ready to go infinte on drafts alone? No, I am clearly not. I have some improving to do, and far more results would be needed to see how much statistical variance I am a victim of. ¬†To be honest, with the new Rarity systems and the value of most cards being so low, I am skeptical that anyone but the very very best can truly “Go Infinite” with draft play alone.

I will run this same experiemnt during 2011 drafting, with a new format and more people (and probably worse players) drafting to acquire new cards – so stay tuned. I went to two M2011 pre-release events, and went 9-0-1 in sealed play, so I am confident I can handle some of the nuances of the new set.

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