MTGO Outside Assistance



  • In the past, I have given advice via Twitch, received advice via Twitch, and shared advice live via Skype. I now think I was wrong to do so.

    First, what changed my mind?

    I had heard discussions in the past (including @Smmenen and @CHA1N5 excellent podcast So Many Insane Plays) about players playing as a team rather than a single player. The conclusion they seemed to come to, and the one I accepted, was that it was potentially unfair but worthwhile for the community benefit and the production of subsequent content. You can't exactly stream Magic and interact with your chat room if there is a rule against live assistance, for example. Today, I placed 4-2 in the Vintage Power 9 Challenge while streaming the event. After I wrapped up the Swiss, I considered watching any Top 8 streams still active. I saw that both @Brass-Man and @The-Atog-Lord had made Top 8, and both were playing with a team of players rather than a single player. One of the flimsiest justifications in favor of this practice - that it doesn't provide that much advantage, as the primary player has to expend additional energy and concentration dealing with spectating players - is no justification at all if multiple players giving advice actually promotes successful play. I was and am upset that I lost one of my matches (which I thought was a heads-up match against an excellent player) to a team of players working in concert. In my opinion, 1v1 Magic play is supposed to be a contest of two individual players, not two teams of players. In paper tournament play, there are "outside assistance" rules which forbid exactly that. In MTGO play, that rule does not exist. I believe it should.

    I think multiple players controlling a single account and competing against a single player is obviously unfair.

    I think the rules should ban whatever is unfair, either by general categories or by specifically naming different actions.

    It would obviously be unfair to make the rule retroactive. Andy, Rich, and others should not face a penalty for actions which were legal at the time they were taken.

    The fact that in some cases multiple people can control a single account without being detected should not prevent forbidding the practice. Consider cheating - no player would argue that card manipulation should be legal just because some players might get away with it.



  • What's your enforcement mechanism? At the same time, the streamers risk an opponent ghosting without repercussions, so it evens out. I'd rather flesh out a set of ethical guidelines for the situation before ever trying to flesh out a set of rules. If we simply turn off the stream, the community is a poorer place, and you still haven't prevented teams of players working behind camera.



  • @BazaarOfBaghdad said in MTGO Outside Assistance:

    At the same time, the streamers risk an opponent ghosting without repercussions, so it evens out.

    This is an absolutely toxic attitude. I have to peek at my opponent's hand in order to make up for his outside assistance? That is pure nonsense and I refuse to stoop to it.



  • Do you think it is easier to do well while streaming? Streaming means you have a thousand voices in your ears at once. Is it fun? Yes. But I assure you, I would play much better in solitude. The only "solution" would be not to allow streaming. And really, that would just make it harder to detect.



  • @The-Atog-Lord said in MTGO Outside Assistance:

    Do you think it is easier to do well while streaming? Streaming means you have a thousand voices in your ears at once. Is it fun? Yes. But I assure you, I would play much better in solitude. The only "solution" would be not to allow streaming. And really, that would just make it harder to detect.

    This isn't about streaming. It's about whether you have a team of players on your couch helping you win one of the season's major Vintage events. And if you're saying you would break rules against outside assistance if you could get away with it because it's "harder to detect" I have no sympathy for that cheater mindset at all.

    Edited to add: You know I stream a lot, right? I'm not ignorant of the strategic trade-offs there



  • I didn't say I would cheat. I said that it would be hard to detect.



  • @The-Atog-Lord well then what's your point? Lots of unethical things are hard to detect, that does not imply they should be allowed in principle



  • Magic Online is not paper Magic. I can read @Smmenen's Doomsday article while resolving a doomsday. There are no draws, intentional or otherwise. No one can miss a CotV or narcomoeba trigger. My opponent can time out while executing the Salvagers combo. I can consult mtggoldfish for a list of my opponent's recently played decks after the round has started, but I cannot watch others' matches after I have finished mine. I can accidentally misclick while resolving a flusterstorm or choosing the order triggers go on the stack. I can play from my apartment without putting on pants and microwave a burrito after F6'ing as my opponent goes off. My opponent can play a deck for 600 tix instead of $18,000.

    Some of these things are "good" while others are "bad". I think it is misguided to put one particular paper rule on a pedestal.

    EDIT: Also the beginning of combat step exists.



  • I don't see how streaming would be allowed at all under what you propose. A lot of streaming involves discussing plays and lines. Doing that without having any input from the audience seems impossible. The logical extension is not to stream.



  • @The-Atog-Lord Again, what is your point? I think if you had the whole VSL squad in your basement (That's what that is, right?) it would obviously be unethical. But somehow "only" a couple buddies is exactly as inconsequential as Twitch chat? Come on, be honest. There really is a difference there.



  • ajfirecracker, You're the one with the toxic attitude here, over the entire thread. I only talked about the risk of ghosting to even out, not that you personally would have to do it. Just knowing that someone will eventually do so more than cancels out any incremental advantages gained. Ultimately, though, I get a kick out of beating up on the whole crew, if such it is. It makes me a better player (incidentally, to brag a little, I think I'm a very lucky 5-0 against The Atog Lord in MTGO events who is an awesome player and ambassador). You could stream too if you want, if you thought it was such an advantage. But even if you don't want to ghost (and I never would either), just imagine the tactical points you could gain in going over the archived video of your games with the streamer afterwards - you see his entire decision process which is a huge advantage for your next encounter. In short, I don't think we have a problem here.



  • @BazaarOfBaghdad I do stream, was streaming today, and streaming is not the point.

    Am I playing against Rich Shay when we play a match online, or am I playing against Rich plus his Vintage-playing friends?



  • @diophan The difference is this particular paper rule is an ethical rule. I think a similar thing would be looking at your opponents hand. I think in the rules of Magic that's wrong to do whether in person or via Twitch



  • @ajfirecracker I think it is unethical that people cannot play in Champs because they either did not buy their power over 5 years ago or are wealthy.

    The distinction between outside assistance before and during a tournament is, in my opinion, fairly arbitrary. As someone who is currently reasonably established in vintage I can test with/ask the opinions of very skilled players. A couple years ago I was working all by myself deciding on a decklist and testing. I don't see much of a difference between the advantage someone who is well connected has in game versus out of game.

    I get your frustration. Seeing a couple skilled vintage pilots playing against you when you lose is tilting. However I do not agree that whether something is (potentially) visible should determine if it is ethical.



  • @diophan that's a rationalization. We do make a distinction in this game between preparation and actually playing a deck. Pretending that distinction does not exist in order to pardon unethical behavior is dishonest.


  • TMD Supporter

    Not streaming gives you the best chance to win, provided you make all the best plays.

    If I'm in the power 9 challenge, I absolutely check to see what Rich Shay is playing and he has no idea what I'm playing. Depending on how I craft my deck, that's an advantage that cannot be overcome no matter how many people are on his side.

    I check everyone's stream. Gives me best chance to win.

    I've never ghosted anyone but, might as well next time, right?

    AJ, if you start ghosting Rich, I can almost guarantee that he puts his stream on a delay, in which he can no longer get help. Problem solved.



  • You can always set higher stream delay. However this may be bad interaction for twitch viewers. If someone would actually want to play with 5 people behind his back, he can always choose not to stream. Streaming is not the problem here.


  • Administrators

    If it makes you feel any better, I 5-1'd the swiss today completely alone, and as soon as Stefan showed up I immediately lost in the top 8 :D


  • TMD Supporter

    I have remained mostly silent about this issue for a long time because I have friends who stream and I have friends who played (and won) events both large and small with one or more "copilots" on Skype. I do not wish any ill will towards them or anyone.

    However I have to say that is feels discouraging to know I might have to defeat a team of people to win a single round of Magic on MTGO. I'm certainly not the best player in the world, but I do all my work on my own and I set a strong emphasis on honor. I have never ghosted a stream, even when I knew I could. But to think that my opponent might have beaten me because their buddy stopped them from making a mistake feels awful. That's just how I feel, and my feelings are valid as a human being.


  • TMD Supporter

    I'll preface this by saying I haven't gotten to play much competitive magic at all in the last 1.5yrs and don't follow streams, so I apologize if I misunderstand something.

    After following this topic a few times, it still seems incomprehensible to me to defend group play. I understand an elite player might not gain anything from a stream, or that MTGO is a different game, but I will say one aspect of Magic has always been consistent since the beginning. It's always been my best effort against my opponent's best effort.

    I know digital magic is a different beast, but if people were chiming in during a paper match at a live tournament, people would be going ballistic.

    The defense that it's not enforceable doesn't sit well with me.

    The defense that it doesn't help, I can't verify. I've heard elite players say they have never gained from help, but I can't speak to that. I would imagine that most help is distracting chatter, but not all of it can be.

    The defense that streaming is better for the publicity of MTGO might be perfectly valid.

    I guess at the end of the day, it truly is unenforceble, so at least kudos to those that don't do it in the shadows.

    I might play less in a year than some people play in a week, however, if I sat down to play in a tournament on MTGO, I would (perhaps unrealistically) assume I was playing against one person and if it were otherwise, I can't pretend I wouldn't be disappointed.


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