Post Power Level Public Play
Posted on Sept. 22, 2022, 10:13 p.m. by Gidgetimer
It seems that more people are abandoning the use of 1-10 scales for describing decks. More people are being vocal about the problems with them at least. I, for one, welcome this. I have never been a fan, but this thread isn't about the usefulness of scales as a tool. It is about what trying to find a game outside of an established group is going to look like going forward.
I have noticed some things in my perusal of different decks that I would like to discuss and get some feedback on. Some things I see seem like just using a 1-whatever scale but by a different name.
The first thing I would like to discuss is budget. I was looking at a deck and the deck author described their meta as having a "moderate" budget and I don't know if the deck it was on was representative of the meta, but it was a $104 deck. I realize I am an enfranchised player, but my "low budget" decks made out of just my binder and bulk are priced between $160 and $234. How do people think we should discuss budget when looking for games outside of a play group? Actual card price? The number of concessions that were made because of budget? Any other metric that I haven't thought of?
Next on my impromptu agenda is how we discuss overall competitiveness. This is the closest to the distilled essence "power level" was trying to capture, and it still needs to be discussed, even if we are to add some other points to a pre-game discussion. Simply swapping 1-10 for Jank, Precon, Casual, Tuned, Competitive is the same thing by another name. The same deck also listed this as his meta being comprised of casual and tuned (no infinites). To my mind once you start describing a deck as "tuned", playing with or against infinites becomes expected. I don't know how people using such different vocabularies could get into a game without someone misunderstanding the expectations of the table. Do we need to focus a majority of our time during pre-game discussions defining exact expectations? I think we do, and the other considerations could be brought up only if someone feels strongly enough to broach the subject. But I would be interested in if anyone has an elegant solution.
The third point of discussion I would like to hear opinions on is how we express speed of decks. The two major metrices I use to describe speed is expected goldfish win turn and average CMC. This is the one category of pre-game discussion that I find hard numbers useful for. We aren't trying to distill subjective measures into numbers. We are expressing objective numbers (as long as we are honest with goldfish expected win). Does anyone have a way that they prefer to express speed or an opinion on my way?
Finally I would like to discus expected behavior at the table. I'm not talking about breaking Wheaton's Law, I think that following it is the least that we can do as human beings sharing a hobby. I'm talking about stuff like who it is "okay" to attack and when. Willingness to be swayed by politics. And other things that come to a playgroup naturally over time, but it is hard to know if randoms also follow. Do we need to spell these out at some point, and if so how do we know what needs explicitly mentioned? For example, the other day I was playing my Miirym deck (Temur flyers ofc) on untap and one player disconnected on an early turn, so it was just three of us left. The Lord Windgrace player got salty that I "targeted (them) when (they weren't) even the threat". They had got a small pinging engine online and were about to start making flying blockers, so I took them out over the course of 2 turns. And on the second of the turns I also took the remaining player to 1. I was obviously the threat at the table, so Windgrace was right they weren't the threat. But is there an obligation to let someone get scary before you eliminate them? If so should the terms of this be spelled out pre-game?
I'm a newer player, so I'm very interested to hear people's thoughts on this. I have almost no idea how to gauge my own deck's power level
September 22, 2022 10:49 p.m.
I love to go off of the average number of turns it takes to win a game.
Does your deck consistently win on Turn 3 or 4? Then it's a hell of a lot more powerful than my T8 deck.
And that's precisely the level I go for, Turn 8 wins. Because assuming it is 90 seconds to decide your turn, that's 720 seconds each player plays (assuming equal power for decks), which is 12 minutes. That's a 48 - hour game for 4 players, which is the perfect amount of time in my opinion.
Which, if you cut the advertising fluff out of YouTube channels, is about how long a game lasts on Game Knights, Star City Games and I Hate Your Deck.
September 23, 2022 8:14 a.m.
TypicalTimmy I think part of the average number of turns it takes to win the game depends on the average level of the other decks around you, though it could be gauged on its power in a void, without other deck interactions, blockers, and the like.
I usually tend to go for turn 6-8 wins, using the playtester's standards. It's not a perfect system but it works decently enough in my opinion.
I agree, however, that turn 8 winning (for 48 minutes) is a good standard for mid-power decks. I also have to say that I have played some games that have lasted hours. And in those cases, I think the creators of those decks should probably slot in some kind of payoff for their wheels. I'm currently working on a couple of problematic decks of mine that have this issue.
Anyway, yeah, the win-turn system would work pretty well for most midrange and aggro decks. Control by definition doesn't really have a "win turn", unless you count things like Murktide Regent that become threats in the late game. All of it depends on the decks it's competing against for control.
But still, no system can be perfect to describe all decks.
September 23, 2022 9:05 a.m.
*Point 3) It is getting hard to average turns. With changing complexity of mechanics, turn wins can have variable dependency. This is very true with groupslug. I have a Kardur, Doomscourge deck that is so parasitic with how it wins.. Just so dependent on what your opponents are bringing to the table.... Basically, I am getting to Goldfish win-turn is becoming a difficult metric to use with the rising complexity of the game (the rise of interdependent mechanics as a legit path to winning).
Point 4) I've gotten stuck on that one too. I often play slug & death by cumulative lifeloss (player removal is* problem removal & life matters). Therefore, I have learned to peck at obvious control players while I can, I chisel at the player that cannot gain the life back to put pressure on them. I played at an LGS a little while ago & killed someone (instead of spreading it out) with their own deck & utilized another player's unwillingness to attack. I think the expectation was to spread around the damage until this person assembled a secondary wincon & they were pretty miffed that I would just kill them before this happened. It is an oddity to me that expected behavior can influence the power level in public play, but I have witnessed it.
September 23, 2022 11:37 a.m.
Tl;dr: It costs nothing but a few minutes to communicate before a match, and that can resolve so many problems before they come up.
TypicalTimmy I dunno, when I play a 48-hour game I consider that a marathon session, not a typical game night. (I know what you meant.)
But I agree, with a slight tweak. I've never been good at directly evaluating a deck at a glance beyond "How much is the mana base worth and how many win conditions does it have?" I count turns until win/lock (being just a little bit of a dirty staxxer) and the amount of interaction I use. If my deck is jam-packed with redundancies, draw, mana ramp, etc., but no removal or protection, it doesn't matter if it goldfish-wins turn 3 every time. It's going to fold to a single Sea of Clouds. So, eyeballing and estimating when the best time to slow down and consider the board should also be part of it.
The surest way to know the power level of a deck is to use it in live play. If you genuinely can't estimate, try it against a group of decks of known and similar power and see how well it does. As a courtesy, say that upfront: "This is going to be a playtest round for me. I'm still feeling out how good this deck is."
As far as budget, that's highly subjective, and I don't think there can be any universal definition without being both arbitrary and exclusionary. Some people consider $10 for a card to be budget. Others will consider that too high. Is $500 for a deck budget? If highly competitive, that's low to the point of unable to compete. If it's for Saturday night pizza, that might be several times the next highest.
I have to admit, I haven't played a round of EDH in person for a couple of years now (and I miss that, and I want to go back to it). In person, I'm very willing to spend a few minutes discussing decks pre-match. If there's no time constraints, take the time to discuss expected match length, infinite combos, non-deterministic combos (the ones that lead to half an hour of shuffling or whatever), non-threats, alliances and agreements, and general power level. At minimum, ask about expected match length; if someone expects a three-turn win/lock and someone else is looking for turn eight, it's time to reevaluate. I get suspicious when some one says "Let's just play and you'll see." That's either going to be hypercompetitve, total jank, or something that takes an hour to resolve and is completely interaction-proof. And as I write this after reading berryjon's article, I realize those are the toxic ends of the player psychographics.
As you stay with a group long enough, you'll be able to skip the introductions and dive right in. If you admit a new person, or if you are the new person, please lay out the expectations and be willing to adjust a little. You shouldn't need to completely reset your group dynamics every time someone shows up, but help new people understand what's going on, and be prepared to accommodate.
September 23, 2022 11:59 a.m.
If you're playing with strangers, I think the best route to take is extreme transparency. What kind of game experience did you build your deck for? Battlecruiser magic or more competitive games? Are you running any infinites or game ending combos? How fast is your mana? Almost everyone has a Sol Ring but some casual decks won't be handling Mana Crypt/Mana Vault decks. Also, do you typically try to make a lot of deals or do you just go after whoever you think is the threat? It's been my experience that bad games are when people look at what's going on and think, "There was no point in me shuffling up for this, I'm not doing anything relevant and I don't enjoy this."
As an example, I do like longer games that through combat. I don't build my decks with infinites or things like Doubling Season+Planeswalker Ult. However I don't typically deal, and if I have an opening for an attack I'll take it. If I think I need to take you out early, I will. As a general rule I go after pillow fort/group hug players first.
And also in general but especially among strangers, practice some empathy first. If someone's been mana screwed, maybe let them have an impact when they finally cast something. And recognize that if someone's just not having fun, it's valid for them to want to leave the game.