[Podcast] SMIP Podcast # 53: Mid-May Vintage Metagame Update



  • More data than you can shake a Disrupting Sceptre at.

    Blurb: Kevin Cron and Steve Menendian discuss the mid-May, post-Lodestone Golem restriction Vintage metagame; including MTGO Dailies, the April Premiere event, paper results, and the Bazaar of Moxen.

    Linky: http://www.eternalcentral.com/so-many-insane-plays-podcast-episode-53-the-mid-may-2016-vintage-metagame-update/



  • In response to the "ethics of the MTGO platform" section:

    I think that MTGO and MTG test fundamentally different things at this point due to the nature of digital information and digital communication. I don't think anything can be done about it but I think that MTGO only players have an asterisk next to their name about their skill at MTG.

    MTGO amplifies the advantage that you have due to your network, as the example of "phone a friend call Brian Kelly" or "a team full of pros looking at a screen and playing against one opponent."

    When Steve said, "Well, does it change the impact if I [didn't write my Gush book/had it given to me/gave it to Rich Shay for free]?" that also shows that having a network with the best minds in Vintage is MORE powerful online than offline.

    It is functionally easier to contact others and to get them involved with the decision making process in game where in paper, it is all review, analysis and pregame prep. Skype calls, screen sharing, Twitch chat, Dropbox for documents and reference material are all just a few of the many ways to communicate.

    I think the clock changes the feeling of the game play but not the essential nature of the game play. If the software were better, I think infinite loops or some level of automation would be possible to include those decks that are available in paper but not online.

    Endurance was mentioned, and likely being at home and comfortable in that space has to reduce the endurance challenge - you're not in an unfamiliar space, you like the bathroom and it's private and available, drinks and snacks of the quality of your choosing are readily available. But more importantly, if endurance is a mental attribute that is tested in MTG and you offload that work to reference material and allies then your endurance is not tested in a similar fashion.

    Finally, Steve kind of brushed off the complaints with comments in the spirit of "Well, are unenforceable rules good rules/does this matter since it can't be stopped?" and "There are already problems with the economic availability and networking power baked into the game."

    I would argue that (A) the economic and network advantages that some have over others were essentially agreed to at the outset as they were but this represents an expansion of those advantages (buying reference materials, bots, and pulling in faster and more timely advice from your network) and (B) MTG has had an explosion in both areas that, while it has lifted both sides (internet has decreased some prices, MTGO especially via a competitive marketplace and more people can communicate and connect than ever before, but the Advantaged Network is able to capitalize even better than the Average Network and their cost sharing/economic burden has also become less with store sponsors and card sharing; however, most importantly is that (C) merely because a system currently has problems, similar or not, should we allow an expansion of those problems ethically.

    Good discussion guys, appreciated the podcast as always.



  • Great listen, really enjoyed it. On streaming and the ethics of MTGO, I have noticed that in the past LSV has put his stream on delay (maybe 15mins?) when playing in a major competitive event, which seems like a good decision. Perhaps the stakes aren't quite as high in the two-player queues or leagues to make it as important. But the other side of the issue, which wasn't mentioned on the podcast, is that when streamers play they run the risk of their opponents 'ghosting' to see what they are up to. So it seems to me that for any major tournament if wouldn't make sense to broadcast a live stream of your games. Of course there is still nothing to stop players having helpers in the room with them or watching online via a private connection but I don't think streaming is the main problem.



  • @boxian

    Great post. I don't pretend to have answers, but I do think the concerns I raised are more substantive than a 'brush off.'

    Prohibition was the ultimate lesson of the limits of law enforcement, and it led to widespread disrespect for law. Even if there are real ethical issues here, that doesn't automatically mean that there should be rules or laws to regulate them. Ethics and law are not the same thing, nor should they be.

    To some extent, the issues here pre-suppose some sort of ideal of an MTG match which may or may not have ever existed. I don't know that we can resolve any debates about them, let alone thorny ethics, without have first established the parameters of the ideal case.



  • I had no idea some players on MTGO solicited assistance from the twitch stream in playing their matches. I'm quite disappointed this kind of behavior is going on, and is considered acceptable.

    When I log into MTGO, I'm expecting to play a single opponent, not a hive mind of a dozen pros. That is what a game of Magic is supposed to be about: a battle of wits between two players. How those players chose to prepare -- by playtesting in a team, reading Steve's Gush book, etc, doesn't matter to me, but when it comes time to shuffle up and play the game, I expect to be facing my opponent (and whatever level of preparation they bring to the table) and nobody else. I can't think of a single other game or sport where it's acceptable for arbitrary third parties to jump in and help one of the competitors.

    Now if a player asks permission at the start of the match to involve their twitch stream, I probably wouldn't mind (except at the Daily level of competition, or above -- here I think it is completely unreasonable, and tantamount to cheating, to bring a crew of pros to help you win the tournament). But I'm completely opposed to a culture where outside assistance is allowed as a rule.

    Whether or not a prohibition is enforceable is, in my mind, a red herring: behavior can be unethical, unsportsmanlike, and considered unacceptable regardless of whether it is possible to detect in every instance or not. For example, Slow Play in paper magic is impossible to police objectively, and if you decide to seed your FNM draft pool with a few commons and uncommons every week, you have a very high chance to get away with it -- yet I hope we can agree that both of these behaviors should have no place in sportsmanlike play.



  • @smmenen You obliterated the meaning of the word "unfairness" in using it to refer to both defects in the thing being tested by a process (ex: skill in Magic, due to inexperience for example) as well as defects in the testing process (ex: one player has a room full of professional players giving them advice)

    It's correct and wise to say that a court where you can't face your accuser is unfair

    It's incorrect and foolish to say that a court where overwhelming evidence of your guilt is presented is also unfair



  • To what extent is one allowed to use prepared notes in a paper magic tourney? To what extent is one allowed to ask players questions between rounds or between games? Are there hard and fast rules for this?



  • @Topical_Island No notes during games but can use previously made notes between games. (There's a soft limit to the amount of notes you can have.) You can't ask questions related to the tournament except from your opponent or a judge between games. You can do anything you want besides insulting, colluding and similar stuff between rounds.



  • @Smmenen

    Thanks, and I probably characterized your view a bit harshly. I understood that you didn't think it was worth pursuing deeply because of a lack of enforcability which is likely not exactly what you intended, but you were hightlighting the largest problem and a historical lesson.

    I agree that I presupposed an ideal MTG match that maybe has never existed, but in my mind, has been the goal of the rule set. And I'm not confident that we can make rules inside the actual judge administered rules to handle the technology.

    What I would consider though, if as a community it became desirable to put technological limitations on ourselves so that we move toward "an ideal MTG match" (definition pending), is that the community comes out with guidelines on what is too far, what feels wrong, write those down and try to encourage and create a culture of that.

    Here are the Mana Drain, there has always been a culture of respect to other members and providing reasoning behind what you say. That's not true at other forums, and when membership at TMD changes, reminders become necessary. At the beginning of competitive Magic, cheating was a part of the culture and Pikula and others spearheaded charges to change the culture. So MTG cultures can be changed and shaped to match what the community wants.

    A guideline that I would start from would be something like "golf culture" where people remain silent during the swing, to include the set up, the execution, and a bit after. Once a MTG match has started, stop using outside information, the same as if you were in a tournament hall. Between, do whatever you want.

    The problem with this is that goes nearly directly against Twitch tactics to monetize your stream, grow a community, grow a fanbase and so on. How can you interact with a Twitch chat like an entertaining streamer and also avoid listening to them?

    If the Vintage community wants something like a removal of outside influence to happen, then I think it has to be a part of the culture of the Vintage community and can't be a codified ruleset as much of some guidelines and examples. And while TMD is the home of the Vintage community, I'm certain that there are a significant number of Vintage MTGO only players who don't come here - how would those people get bought in, or would the Vintage community always hamper itself?

    However, we maybe happy with online Magic testing different skills, such as how strong (ELO-wise, I assume they're willing to help) is your network, how available are they when you play, how intelligent is your twitch chat and suggestions (which could be seen as: how well have you educated your twitch chat), how well organized is your information, do you maintain a significantly broad and deep collection of MTG reference materials, and how do you deal with information overload, which are all valid skills and interesting in their own right.



  • @boxian I'm fine with assuming an idea situation... generally speaking, that's pretty much all rules are - an assumed ideal, and usually an associated punishment when someone deviates too far or extremely from the ideal... (Does everyone go 35 in the 35 zone... But if you go 70 a visit to county court is quite likely in your future.)

    I agree that enforceability is a concern, but since a perfectly enforceable rule has never been created in the history of humanity, it seems like that shouldn't be a deal breaker. It seems like delaying streaming by a few minutes is a good practice for players. It seems like a mild punishment just put on the books, one enough to create a social stigma, might not be a terrible idea either.

    Rules are creatures born of theory, but they're decided ultimately in the practical realm. Everything has a fail rate, including enforcement for everything. I don't think that imperfect enforcement is that great a reason for not outlawing something. So long as it passes a cost benefit test... seems good to me. Ultimately rules are a collective voice saying, "Hey, don't do that." I'd be fine with being a part of that chorus... even if some people are going to ignore me anyway. At least they'd reduced to being "that guy who won't quite doing that thing." Which would probably reduce the practice a lot.



  • @varal What if I ran basic Island in my sideboard, but had the original artist alter it so that it had a probability chart on it, then just looked at my SB whenever I wanted... (But if I brought it in against Shops I'd have to crack a fetch and go find it...) legal? Alter-art Show and Tell so there's some sweet info in the back on the chalk board? Menendian's entire Gush book written in microfiche?



  • @Topical_Island There's actually a rule against alters containing significant strategic information.



  • @varal awesome.... now THAT is a rule. Wizards should print an actual card with a probability chart... 1U... Mathematical Tutor?



  • I find nothing unethical about engaging with a twitch chat about plays or strategy. That's the counterbalance to the EXTREME disadvantage a streamer gets by having their hand/strategy completely open for any opponent to look at.



  • MTGO ethics has always interested me. Interestingly, back in the day, the TOS had a clause about not using outside help to play. Anyone know if its still there? When streaming first took off, I noticed some people doing it and asked. The general response from the streamers was, "Yeah I talk about plays and ask chat what they think but my decisions are my own and I won't change lines just cuz LSV is in my chat telling me I'm wrong."

    Even more interesting, at one point a streamer (maybe Kenji?) told me WotC had actually contacted him to "verify that his decisions were his own and that nothing unfair was going on." I have no idea how true it is or if WotC ever has/still does care, but at the outset, it was something that was curtailed by the rules of MTGO, even if it wasn't enforceable at all. Has anyone ever been banned from MTGO for getting outside help?

    All in all, I fully agree with the * by MTGO players' skill. Its not that MTGO is a worse way to play Magic, it just tests different things; things that are not tested by our long-held, historical understanding of 'sitting down to play a game of Magic.'



  • @ajfirecracker said:

    @smmenen You obliterated the meaning of the word "unfairness" in using it to refer to both defects in the thing being tested by a process (ex: skill in Magic, due to inexperience for example) as well as defects in the testing process (ex: one player has a room full of professional players giving them advice)

    It's correct and wise to say that a court where you can't face your accuser is unfair

    It's incorrect and foolish to say that a court where overwhelming evidence of your guilt is presented is also unfair

    Your post suggests that fairness is a black/white or objective idea, when it fact, it has subjective elements. Think about trades - some trades people think are fair, and others inequitable.

    Is it unfair that some people have larger collections or more money for cards to enjoy a strategic advantage over their opponents? Probably. Is it unethical? No.

    Is it unfair that some basketball players have height advantages? Possibly. But is it unethical? Definitely not.

    Even ethics, a branch of philosophy, depends upon premises and values, which people disagree on (see, for example, how Rawls constructs starting principles in Justice as Fairness).

    I don't pretend to have an answer here, but I felt my role in the podcast was to complicate the issue a bit by introducing elements that could be seen as unfair from some perspectives.

    I think Boxian gets it right or close to right when he says that twitch has the capacity to exacerbate existing unfairnesses, but I don't necessarily see that as unethical.

    I think we were talking about ethics in the podcast, and you are talking about fairness.
    Let's not confuse fairness with ethics.

    I agree that enforceability is a concern, but since a perfectly enforceable rule has never been created in the history of humanity,

    Yeah - but rules that inherently unenforceable are especially problematic because they foster disrespect for other rules. If people feel they can violate one rule with impunity, then it undermines a culture of rule following. See Wall Street.



  • What a bait-and-switch... you use the word "unfairness" over and over and then when I say you were being overbroad and destroying important distinctions I've somehow improperly identified the topic



  • Well, Kevin framed the issue in terms of ethics, IIRC, but I spoke at times about fairness, which is a different but related issue. In either case, my point is that neither are black and white. They depend upon starting premises or values. You spoke in terms of one being "correct" or "incorrect."



  • @Smmenen Semantics aside, are you simply content to just shrug and say that it's all relative? Do you have an opinion with a practical application? (I understand the role of broadening discussion as per the pod cast... I really am asking if you have a feeling about this.)



  • @Topical_Island said:

    @Smmenen Semantics aside, are you simply content to just shrug and say that it's all relative? Do you have an opinion with a practical application? (I understand the role of broadening discussion as per the pod cast... I really am asking if you have a feeling about this.)

    I feel like there may be valid ethical issues here, but that this is a huge can of worms, and to resolve it requires careful consideration of the merits on all sides. In short, I don't have a strong opinion at all.

    I am, however, enjoying the discussion here.



  • I gave a black-and-white example to illustrate my point, obviously you can make finer distinctions in areas where it's not as clear


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