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



  • @diophan said:

    I think the frequency of asking Twitch chat what to do has been overblown. For instance Rich generally only asks a deck designer about plays or sideboarding when it's a deck he is unfamiliar with. Watching people stream new decks is interesting and hearing what the designers have to say is educational. If a streamer is playing a deck in an important tournament that he knows well, he's not frequently/ever delaying and relying on the brainpower of the chat to find lines for him.

    Another point that I don't think has been focused on enough is how distracting it is to stream. While chat can occasionally suggest a better line, the vast majority of times the streamer's line is better than the suggestions. Although experienced streamers suffer less from this, one's play does degrade when trying to engage with chat. It's not an obvious conclusion whatsoever that streaming gives an overall advantage. I have considered streaming in the past, but I decided not to since it would make me play worse.

    My last point is more of a pragmatic one. I love that people stream on twitch. Vintage is not a frequently played format and understanding why good players make the decisions they do is incredibly informative. I have seen several people state that they started playing the format because of the people who take the effort to stream it.

    Magic Online is a terrible program to stream. Watch a Hearthstone stream to understand why. There are no fun animations. If you don't understand the specific cards being played it's very hard to tell what's going on. The game is not fast paced. There is way too much passing priority back and forth. World famous Magic players like LSV get <10% the number of viewers as popular Hearthstone streamers because of all of these problems.

    IMO, the last thing we need is for WOTC to discourage streaming. A non-negligible amount of value from watching a stream is having someone suggest a play and have the streamer critique it while considering other plays. If you don't allow this, even fewer people are going to watch Magic on Twitch. Moreover, as Steve has mentioned, this outside help rule is unenforceable. Instead of streaming for everyone's benefit, you can just jump on a Skype call with your friends.

    I don't disagree with any of the above, but it seems that if outside assistance were relegated to the unpaid queues, with no collaboration allowed in the tournaments with real stakes on the line, that would serve the interest of the streamers, the broader community, while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the tournament.



  • @diophan It's not totally unenforceable. If you say that you can't publicly stream tournaments (or if you do, you have to set it up so that it's a 1-way stream rather than a 2-way conversation) pros will stop doing it. The fact that you could get around the rule is not the same as saying the rule will have no effect, especially if people generally agree that the rule is proper

    To be totally specific, I am saying that if it is against the rules to receive outside help on MTGO and WotC issues a (very soft) warning or two to people doing it most of the problem will go away, people will self-enforce, and it will be rare that people go around the rule. Unlike banning alcohol (and poisoning hundreds of thousands of people as a means to that end), I expect that forbidding outside help would generally be seen as a worthwhile goal and people would generally voluntarily restrict their use of outside resources (especially other players) if that were the rule.



  • It's unenforceable in the sense that people stop streaming and switch to having Skype calls with their friends. You haven't stopped the "bad"part, which is outside help. You have, however, destroyed most of the good that comes from streaming. It's much less interesting and useful to watch a vod than to have a live conservation with the person streaming.

    This seems so minor to me that I don't understand people's reaction. There are so many other unfair advantages afforded to people, even at paper tournaments, that this seems like a completely insignificant issue. If you are on a high ranking team for a GP or a pro tour you have someone organizing a googledoc to keep track of who is playing what deck. Players on the team submit their opponents' deck, decks they can scout, and decks on camera. When you get paired against someone, if their deck is known you get information before you sit down and play. You have sideboarding information available from the deck designer, which you can either memorize or consult between games. You have tested with people for countless hours. With all the things that are wrong with modo, I don't see how it is reasonable to allocate resources to send out warnings to those promoting the game through streaming.



  • @diophan I still agree with what you're saying about MTGO. As for the second example, that just sounds like good playing to me. This is like casinos trying to say that card counting is cheating... paying attention to the details is cheating? huh...

    When video scouting other teams came into Volleyball, the good teams did it and the bad teams complained. Now if your team can't find someone to drive an hour and tape the other team... well, you're probably not trying that hard to win.

    Why the heck don't the other non-affiliated players just band together and pool their collective knowledge to even the playing field? I wondered to nobody in particular.


  • TMD Supporter

    This is such a complicated subject, that it's difficult to talk about without teasing out the various elements. On the one hand, we have the obvious and positive good of streaming in terms of marketing the game and the format, and educational ends, etc. On the other hand, there are legitimate competitive concerns about the fairness of 1 player facing against a hivemind.

    That said, I think @diophan's point about the help from the chat is probably overstated is well put. It's difficult to know exactly how much any person's input changes outcomes.

    I was looking for recent vintage streams, and I think it just muddles rather than clarifies. A good example is probably this stream from yesterday: https://www.twitch.tv/chubbyrain1/v/68632927 In that, throughout, Danny Batterman, Matt, and Tom Dixon discuss plays - so it's not a twitch viewer feedback loop, but more a team or group of players working together and evaluating options, but, even then, it's easy to overstate how much the folks weighing in really changed Matt's plays. None of those players seemed to know how to play Doomsday anyway, so I'm not sure how much it mattered.

    At a personal/visceral level, I have no problem with that - but I am not their opponents, like Montolio or Rich, who faced them in the daily.

    I dunno. I think there may be real ethical concerns here, and it's interesting to me that a listener of the podcast raised it, and I respect the views of folks like Evouga, who strongly dislike it, but it's hard to know how to weigh the potential harms against the positive benefits.

    The benefits aren't just pedagogical either. There is something nice about having a friend over to play magic with, like when Rich has Brian over and they play in the MTGO P9 events together, and you bounce plays off of each other as I've seen them do. I don't think we should discourage that, just as a normative matter.

    But, to the point I raised in the podcast, even if we thought it was unfair, that doesn't mean it's unethical. And even if we thought it was unethical, that doesn't mean you can or should make a rule against it, since that would just drive such helping more underground, for people who really want to do that kind of thing.

    Which is all to say that I don't really have a personal problem with it, but I can understand how there may be ethical issues here. I just don't know how to weigh them or think about it.



  • It's "completely insignificant" that to win the next Power 9 Challenge, you have to beat not only Rich Shay (one of the most technically proficient players in the game), but a dream team of him, Brian Kelly, BrassMan, and whoever else, all colluding to discover the perfect line at every step of the game?!

    It's like trying to win a triathlon against Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Lance Armstrong all competing as one person.

    If you think that the entertainment value of streams is of primary concern, that's fine, but let's not pretend there is no difference in skill level between a single Vintage player, and a stable of pros brainstorming optimal lines together.



  • @Smmenen You posted your reply while I was composing mine -- you make good points, in particular

    Danny Batterman, Matt, and Tom Dixon discuss plays - so it's not a twitch viewer feedback loop, but more a team or group of players working together and evaluating options, but, even then, it's easy to overstate how much the folks weighing in really changed Matt's plays. None of those players seemed to know how to play Doomsday anyway, so I'm not sure how much it mattered.

    This doesn't bother me either; but one can't make a rule like "you are allowed to collaborate with Twitch viewers, but only if they have low skill level." And you mentioned in the podcast that there was at least one instance of Brian Kelly helping a Twitch streamer play.


  • TMD Supporter

    Yeah - if anything, the imbalance is not the "hive mind" of the twitch stream, but the capacity to "phone a friend." Or, in this case, Skype a friend.


  • TMD Supporter

    I've gone back and forth on this issue at least ten times just today. At first I figured that each player deserves to assume that they are playing one-on-one. When people spend money, there is a certain level of expectation.

    And then I read Diophan's excellent rebuttal and started to lean that way.

    I think this discussion brings Magic back to its roots. The crux of the Magic problem, is that it is unlike any other game. In the early days, Magic wanted to be treated intellectually like Chess- where the best player almost always wins. Then later on it embraced the concept of variance. Part of the appeal of Magic is that on any given day, an amateur can beat a pro (like a hand of Poker). Just not regularly.

    It doesn't take a genius to figure out which approach has been more popular over the years (poker vs. chess). And popularity matters. At the end of the day, Magic is a product.

    The popularity and future of Magic will hinge upon its ability to be marketed properly. People have too many options for their free time. And while I am not a viewer of streams, I can't deny that it isn't super helpful and super enlightening to listen to a pro's thought process. This thought process brings the audience deeper into the Magic world and that is not a bad thing.

    But that comes at the cost of the integrity of the game. And I think that is a tradeoff that Magic has always been willing to accept. If they truly wanted Magic to be a pure, untainted game, we'd eventually have no scouting, complete isolation of competitors, no decklists, and a plethora of other unenforceable restrictions.

    Is it fair to have 2-3 pros looking over your shoulder during a P9 top 8? Of course it's not fair, and I feel like it does taint the integrity of the game to some extent, but I think this is a risk people have to be willing to take (and conversely some might even embrace the concept of taking on a hivemind in search of perfect play).

    However, Wizards (Hasbro) has a product to sell. Poker, Chess, and Go do not. To sell a product, you have to market it. To market it, you need visible pros, and in Magic's case, the illusion that a professional level of play is obtainable for any competitive player is paramount. I think looking to the future, streaming is a large part of that. We've all accepted that Magic is a game filled with variance. I think this is a further element of that.

    The people that object to streaming are also right, and unfortunately, I think they will have to recalibrate their expectations.



  • I definitely can appreciate both sides of the issue. I stream not to gain an advantage but ultimately in the hopes that more people will buy into Vintage on MTGO and in Paper. Does my intent matter? No, I don't think so and I'm glad this conversation is happening.

    As far as actually playing while streaming, it is somewhat distracting. Explaining your lines to viewers while trying to actually execute them on MTGO, the quality program that it is, is a challenge and as a result I have misclicked or botched sequences.



  • This is a tough one for me, for obvious reasons. I had to think for some time before responding, and I suspect I would have done this in article format if I still wrote articles. (As an aside, excellent podcast as usual, guys)

    I stream vintage pretty regularly, I'm likely in the top 2 or 3 players (possibly the top) for "total time spent streaming vintage". I have taken advice from stream viewers, and I regularly stream with another player (usually @T00L) who offers advice.

    As a practical matter, most of the time the chat is too delayed to be of any real advantage use - and most of the time the advice is bad or unusable. There is rarely consensus in chat - if two players in chat loudly argue for each of two obvious possible plays, and you pick the one you were going to anyway, that can't be considered coaching. This is less true for a co-host, which you'll discuss plays with in real-time, though again, as a practical matter, in the rare events that I chose someone else's play against my better judgement, I lose from that play at least as often as I win. On the other hand, I've found a lot of value from viewers watching the stream and pointing out misplays as they happen - too late to take them back given the delay, but this only very rarely gives any kind of advantage in the game currently in progress.

    Of course, that's beside the point. An unfair advantage is unfair, even if it's not a very big advantage, and even if it's sometimes a disadvantage (if you've seen my stream, you know I'm usually not playing at the level I try to bring to tournaments.) This is tricky ... ethics in magic is always tricky. I'm a firm believer that Vintage Online and Vintage are two entirely different games with similar rules. As an example, I think it's not an ethical issue to scoope to a Bomberman player on MTGO. If pressed, I would argue that it's unethical to concede to them - but I usually do anyway, for pragmatic reasons (it makes for a boring stream otherwise). I'd be happy to explain that opinion in more detail, but the reasoning is not entirely relevant here.

    I don't have much of a problem with this in the abstract. While I often "stream on a team", I know that I've been paired against larger and stronger teams, and I welcome the challenge. The argument was raised on the podcast that this is in some way unfair because players don't know what they're up against. Of course, they do. The information that this is happening is publicly available. If a player goes into an event not knowing that this is a possibility, I feel that they're just uninformed about the game they're playing. I don't see this as particularly different than playing a match without knowing how the MTGO clock works, how to hold priority while casting a spell, or perhaps even just being unfamiliar with your deck or what cards are legal. To me, MTGO Vintage is the format where you might have to play against a team, and Paper Vintage is the format where you can't. They test different skills and I'm completely fine with that.

    Of course, it doens't really matter what I'm fine with. The final arbiter of whehter or not group-account use is ethical is the TOS, and the TOS is very intentionally written in vague, widely encompassing legal language. Surely there are a few interpretations, but I suspect the INTENT of the TOS is "no you can't do this, but we're never going to enforce it". I think that makes it a bad rule, but there are lots of bad rules in magic, and it's still unethical to break them.

    It makes me uncomfortable but I'm still going to break this one. It is completely impossible for me to be unbiased here, and I respect dissenting opinions - but I think magic with streamers is a lot more fun than magic without them. I think it significantly reduces the entertainment value to viewers and streamers to restrict strategy disussions with other casters, and take away a sense of audience participation. I think strictly enforcing these rules hurts the vintage more than it helps it.

    tl;dr:

    • I think it should not be against the rules to collaborate while playing mtgo...
    • but I think it is against the rules as they stand now, which makes it unethical to do...
    • but I'm going to do it anyway because I think it's better for the format..
    • but you probably shouldn't listen to anything I say because I'm extremely biased on this issue.


  • @Brass-Man I hope you keep doing it just as you're doing it because that's the best outcome for me personally... talk about ethical!



  • Well, I thank Kevin and Steve for bringing to light that many MTGO matches are now team vs team (I was among the uninformed, it seems). I must say it has left a bitter taste in my mouth, knowing that I've been losing matches and the player points I paid to enter against teams of co-casters (I do agree with Steve and BrassMan that the general chat is likely less useful as source of strategic advice). I will be returning to playing Vintage on paper exclusively, with no hard feelings towards the streamers.


  • TMD Supporter

    @Smmenen I agree that having a bunch of people helping you (or even one person) is highly unethical. I wish there was a way to stop it to be honest, because it is completely unfair.


  • TMD Supporter

    @evouga I really don't think THAT many people are doing it, at least not for Vintage, but I guess I don't know. Any time I've streamed I have barely paid attention to the comments (but that is more my fault than my choice).

    I would be more concerned with people ghosting and knowing what is in someone's hand.


  • TMD Supporter

    @boxian said:

    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.

    This is the particular comment that I take an issue with. I don't think it's fair to categorize all MTGO players in such a fashion. There are plenty of highly skilled players in all arenas of Matic.



  • I think people are underestimating the impact of the hive mind. I've seen instances from both Rich and Andy where they are mulling over a complicated board state and propose a play that would be an obvious blunder (playing into an opposing Chalice of the Void or whatever). Everyone in twitch chat immediately objects and the play doesn't get made and the caster moves on without really processing this as a distinct strategic event - because it is not strategic, it's informational.

    If Magic is "supposed" to be 1v1, even online, then I think there's no question that receiving outside advice (even if it is low-quality) is outside the realm of fair play. It seems like that is the dividing line between people who claim it's wrong or troubling (even if desirable on other grounds) and people who claim it's not troubling (even if undesirable on other grounds)



  • something i find a little funny is if someone is live streaming whats to stop the opponent from watching said stream to know what they are doing.



  • This is my take & I know that I am not as big of a name as Brassman, Rich, Islandswamp, etc.
    I stream and often have someone sitting next to me commentating. However they are never as well versed in Vintage as I am, or in the case when my wife is streaming with me well-versed in Magic. And to be honest, they are more of a distraction than anything else. Last week I misclicked and lost from a winnable position because my wife was talking to me and showed me something on her phone.

    My chat is on the default 15 second delay, so if I were to ask them something to actually get their opinion I would lose even more time on my clock. It is hard to balance talking to the chat about what I'm doing , answering their questions, & other general nonsense with the clock.

    Several of my opponents know who I am & know that I stream. They will pop in & out of the stream depending on if they are playing me or not.

    I also KNOW I have been ghosted. I don't care. If that opponent feels that they gained enough information to beat me then so be it. That is a risk I run by not extending the delay on my stream. I feel like it is better entertainment if I do not.


  • TMD Supporter

    @evouga said:

    Well, I thank Kevin and Steve for bringing to light that many MTGO matches are now team vs team (I was among the uninformed, it seems). I must say it has left a bitter taste in my mouth, knowing that I've been losing matches and the player points I paid to enter against teams of co-casters (I do agree with Steve and BrassMan that the general chat is likely less useful as source of strategic advice). I will be returning to playing Vintage on paper exclusively, with no hard feelings towards the streamers.

    If true, that's incredibly sad. We need to grow the MTGO user base, not shrink it. I hope you reconsider.

    @ajfirecracker said:

    I think people are underestimating the impact of the hive mind. I've seen instances from both Rich and Andy where they are mulling over a complicated board state and propose a play that would be an obvious blunder (playing into an opposing Chalice of the Void or whatever). Everyone in twitch chat immediately objects and the play doesn't get made and the caster moves on without really processing this as a distinct strategic event - because it is not strategic, it's informational.

    Can you point to specific examples? It would be helpful to see this actually happen to assess it's actual impact.

    @infant_no_1 said:

    This is my take & I know that I am not as big of a name as Brassman, Rich, Islandswamp, etc.
    I stream and often have someone sitting next to me commentating. However they are never as well versed in Vintage as I am, or in the case when my wife is streaming with me well-versed in Magic. And to be honest, they are more of a distraction than anything else. Last week I misclicked and lost from a winnable position because my wife was talking to me and showed me something on her phone.

    My chat is on the default 15 second delay, so if I were to ask them something to actually get their opinion I would lose even more time on my clock. It is hard to balance talking to the chat about what I'm doing , answering their questions, & other general nonsense with the clock.

    Several of my opponents know who I am & know that I stream. They will pop in & out of the stream depending on if they are playing me or not.

    I also KNOW I have been ghosted. I don't care. If that opponent feels that they gained enough information to beat me then so be it. That is a risk I run by not extending the delay on my stream. I feel like it is better entertainment if I do not.

    I think what this suggests is that matches should be best streamed after an event is over, or on a significant delay. They can be recorded live, but they don't have to be streamed live. I realize that diminishes the interaction with the streamer, but that's probably inevitable regardless.


 

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