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Topics - DeckBuilder

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Rules Discussion / Your ideas for a tournament tie-breaker
« on: July 21, 2013, 08:57:01 PM »
[Significant edits on original post]

I shall assume everyone reading this knows the GenCon tie-breaker rule change implemented. If not, it's on the main site front page. This is an attempt to get everyone to contribute ideas on how to make Mage Wars into a tournament game which generates fair results.

So... what to do with a game of variable length based on strategy match-up?

I don't profess to have a definitive answer. I'm hoping this post will provoke a brainstorm that will generate the best idea. However, I will set the ball rolling with my (current) take on this predicament.

My qualifications to start this thread are poor: a tournament organiser (way back in the last millennium) and a pseudo-statistician (the heavily lifting done by stats programs) so I am in no way qualified to come up with the breakthrough concept, I am hoping however that the loyal fan base will jump at the opportunity to put their own stamp on the game by coming up with a better one to mine.

A Starting Idea

So Mage Wars is to be played in a Swiss tournament.
The number of rounds in the tournament = N (based on Con timetable scheduling)
If players > 2^N, we may get more than 2 players in the final round with 100% wins.
So there needs to be tie-breakers not just for draws but for all scores to decide who is in the final.

The result of a game is either
(a) a win = 2 points
(b) a draw = 1 point
(c) a loss = 0 points

Why no win premium? Because to get to "The Final", you have to win all your matches anyway.
And to get in the top half, you will have to win more than you lose.
Tournament players are not newbies turtling; they enter the tournament to play to win.
Half points for a draw is to salve the sting of only getting a draw due to defensive play.

We should strive for the same elegant single tie-breaker used for any match result.
There really is no need to have 3 levels of tie-breakers like in Magic tournaments.
This game does not warrant complicated mechanisms against a "Swiss gambit" etc.
After all, Magic has a $1 million Pro Tour; that is why it has algorithmic tie-breakers.

Let us assume every mage (package of spell points + life + channel + training + powers) is made equal.
(The nerfed Priestess may moan that some are made more equal than others, to paraphrase Orwell.)
In which case a lower life mage has traded "loss resilience" for other benefits (often greater channel).
Therefore any tie breaker that looks at "remaining life left" (life - damage) would be intrinsically flawed.

Let us assume the spell level of every object (any permanent in play) is indicative of its power.
Is this fair? Probably not. But it's elegantly simple and investment is definitely correlated to level.
And we can see that investment is also correlated to a spell's power, benefit or utility (exc. HoB).

The Tie-Breaker Formula

At the end of every game, win, lose or draw, the following calculation must be made.

My positional score = 2x total of the levels of all objects I own (not control) in play at game end
My aggression score = damage inflicted on opponent at game end (may not exceed total life)

My tie-breaker score for this game =
my positional score + my aggression score - opponent's positional score - opponent's aggression score

Check: my tie-breaker score = my opponent's tie-breaker score x -1

My tournament tie-breaker score is the average of every round where I have an opponent who plays legally.
You do not count rounds where I have a bye or where my opponent does not show or is DQ'd.

One final rule: "The Final" has double the normal time limit to ensure it rarely ends in a draw.

Some Objections (preemptively discussed)

Why 2x levels for positional score?
Well, for a start, 1x level would be far too little to make any difference in most game ends.
Attack and healing is roughly equal to 4x level as a one-shot benefit to aggression scores.
But objects have persistence; their existence helps gain more board control, removing enemy objects.
I wish I can demo a half-life formula or binomial infinite series to prove that 2x is a good approximation.
I confess it's based on intuition and some scenario testing of hypothetical board positions and damage.

So what about damage or conditions on objects?
Well, remember that if you win with 1 life left, you still win = 2 points, kerchingg!
So having objects with 1 hit point left follows the same threshold include/exclude approach.
As for weakness, rot etc. shame on you for not finishing off those objects that can hinder etc.
It would be needlessly complicated defining non-temporary conditions, applying minuses etc.

So what about upkeep costs?
Control spells with upkeep costs (because of the points swing) are nerfed by the "own" rule.
For enchantments with upkeep costs (for either player), its owner gets points for its benefits.
We assume that any owner upkeep cost is a persistent part of the cost of casting that spell.

What about channel mana advantage in a drawn game?
Ah, remember the mage package means you traded loss resilience for more channel etc.
If you built up greater channel, those conjurations, enchantments and equipment are objects,
So they are contributing to your positional score over your opponent.

What about healing being more efficient than attack spells?
Ah, the big one. Healing does not need to penetrate armour.
Group Heal is selective while Firestorm, Ring of Fire etc isn't.
I contend a tournament format where draws don't win you tournaments solves this,
Healing may not need to penetrate armour but it heals no conditions.
Damage spells often impose advantageous effects for that game state.
Both have an opportunity cost and are very short-term burst plays.
But healing only maintains the status quo, excess healing is wasted.
Excess damage is also wasted but that object is no longer in existence.
As for Ring of Asrya and Divine Reward, these are "Priestess package" benefits.
Because we don't look at remaining life, Divine Reward will only help avoid loss.
Also every mana spent on healing yourself is not improving your position
Meantime the opponent is improving board position and has a chance to win.
Why would a good player over-commit to a healing strategy if it only avoids a loss?
These are not newbies turtling, these are tournament players wanting to win.

The bottom line is: to win a tournament, you will need to win every round.
Healing does not help you do that. It just helps you potentially avoid a loss, at a cost.
If you want to aim for mid-table mediocrity with good tie-breaks, go healing for draws.
Healing will be used for board control by saving assets, only at a pinch to avoid a loss.

The reasons behind what I tentatively propose should be obvious,
It is designed so a mage who trades life for board control, who should win if it continued, is rewarded,
It is designed for transparency, simple addition and subtraction maths, not some mysterious algorithm.
But most of all, it is designed so that the margin of victory of all matches becomes cumulatively relevant.
It does add a small bit of simple maths at game end, both players checking to see they reconcile totals.
The current horrible solution is extra admin throughout a game of keeping track of total damage taken!

[See post below on 80min game length and Planning timers for more on this approach]

So there you have it: a "thought-starter" in Brainstorm Facilitator-speak,
It's by no means a fully-formed idea, It's just out there to be shot down.
However, I'd really like to start a discussion on possible tie breaker mechanisms.
The game designers are reading this so why not put YOUR IDEA out there too?
Who knows, you may get the thrill of boasting "that was my idea, you know"...

So come on, people, what tournament tie-breaker would you use for Mage Wars?

Rules Discussion / Can you Guard Conjurations against Flyers?
« on: July 11, 2013, 05:12:09 PM »
Guarding (p29)

"Protect the Zone: If a creature is in a zone with one or more enemies with guard markers (except for guards he can ignore; see sidebar), that creature cannot make a melee attack against any object without a guard marker."

Ignoring Guards (sidebar p29)

"In some cases, guards can be ignored. If an attacking creature can ignore a guard, it may choose to melee attack a different target in the zone, and does not have to attack the ignored guard.

Flying Creatures and Guards: Guards affect a flying creature when it makes a melee attack, but only if it is attacking a non-Flying creature in the guard's zone."

I contend that the rules as they stand allow Flyers to ignore guards when melee attacking conjurations in that zone. The rules specifically only allow guards to interpose against flyers when they melee-attack non-Flying creatures.

The logical and grammatical syntax of the above is follows:
(a) There are exceptions to the Guard rule
(b) Flyers is one of these exceptions
(c) However Flyers attacking non-Flying creatures is an exception to exception (b)

However,  this interpretation (RAW as the game uses precise terminology) has caused some disagreement.

Can someone please clear this up? Many thanks!

Strategy and Tactics / Mana Denial: viable strategy?
« on: July 04, 2013, 06:23:03 PM »

This is a first post here (padawanofthegames, who has been incredibly friendly, told me to join here on the BGG forum that I joined last week).

I am conceptualising a Mana Denial strategy for when I unveil my Wizard to my meta, which has (self-imposed) limited itself to 1 Core at present. My issue is I am worried that Mana Denial is a flawed strategy (perhaps within the 1 Core limitation).

I note Mana Siphon, Suppression Orb, Mordok's Obelisj and Pestilence Orb are all Epic (I appreciate the latter 3 must be played only after the opponent "over-extends" by over-summoning at distance). So playing with 1 Core does not hurt the strategy (most of those conjurations are contingency vs. swarm).

But I am also aware a Core set only has limited copies of the following non-Epic spells: Suppression Cloak (1),  Essence Drain (3), Pacify (2) and Drain Power (2) - although I am not sold on the latter as it seems over-costed, even with an Arcane ring discount.

My question is simply this: am I being too ambitious trying a Mana Denial strategy with just a 1 Core pool? Please note my opponents are equally restricted to 1 Core, so can't summon 2 Grizzlies to kill my conjurations.

Is Mana Denial really feasible as a competitive build or an illusory half-realised concept awaiting future cards?

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