Intuition, Anonymity, and Aetherworks

Feature Article from Brian Braun-Duin
Brian Braun-Duin
6/15/2017 11:01:00 AM
submit to reddit » Print «

“Life is like a bag of assorted snacks, you always have a pretty reasonable guess about what you're going to get.”

Intuition vs. Logic

I don't think that intuition and logic are diametrically opposed. A lot of times you see people discuss intuition and logic as though each is the reverse of the other. If you're using your gut—your intuition—to make decisions, then you aren't thinking logically, or so consensus goes. I don't buy that.

I do think the reverse of that is true. If you're stopping to logically think through every possibility when faced with a decision, then you certainly aren't using your intuition. However, one's intuition can also be logical. In fact, generally speaking, I find that our intuition is very logical, it just uses logic that we can't immediately grasp or understand.

I've been thinking about intuition and logic a lot since GP Richmond about a month ago. I went 15-0 in GP Richmond to make the top 8, providing me with an opportunity to be the first player to ever go 18-0 at a Grand Prix. I ended up losing the quarterfinals to Martin Dang to end my streak.

I had a very interesting game 3 against Martin. I was very far ahead. Far enough ahead that I basically couldn't lose the game unless he drew a series of great cards one after another. Martin was attacking me with a creature that he had exerted to boost its size. If I take the damage, I can then untap and kill him and there's no card he could have to not die. However, the danger is that if he has Brute Strength and I don't block, then I die immediately on the spot.

We had the luxury of seeing the pool of cards our opponents had drafted, so I knew that Martin had access to three copies of Brute Strength in his pool. It also didn't make sense for him to exert his attacking creature unless he had the Brute Strength, or wanted me to believe that he did. I was also in a position where if I chump block his attacking creature, I'm still probably something like 90-95% likely to win the game unless he draws an exact series of cards over the next few turns.

That's all logic. Logic that points to me blocking his creature. It prevents me from dying if he has one of his three Brute Strengths. It still makes me very likely to win even if he is just bluffing me. Logically speaking, this seemed like the right play to make.

However, my intuition told me that he didn't have Brute Strength and that he was just bluffing me. My gut was screaming at me that he didn't have it and that I should just take the damage, drop to three life, and then untap and kill him. I've found time and time again playing Magic that whenever I ignore my intuition I tend to lose.

I blocked. He didn't have it. He drew the cards he needed. I flooded out. I lost.

A number of players afterward told me that I made the right play, the logical play, the play that made sense. The problem with that idea is that it assumes that my intuitive play of not-blocking is illogical. Just because it is the intuitive play doesn't mean it can't also be the logical play. Sometimes what we deem logical or illogical is simply wrong because we don't have all the information.

My intuition was working off of information that my conscious logical thought processes weren't able to come to yet. My intuition was telling me that Martin had played two copies of Blazing Volley that game that certainly were not in his maindeck. He had to make room for those cards somehow, and the way that made the most sense would have been to side out Brute Strength, which wasn't very good against my deck anyway. My intuition also told me that him attacking and bluffing Brute Strength was his only avenue to winning, so it wasn't a tell that he had the card. My intuition was also reading his body language to suggest he didn't have it.

Our intuition is one of the most valuable tools we have as a Magic player. Intuition gives us information that our conscious thought-process can't always come to in a reasonable time frame. Our intuition is not always right. It's certainly not perfect. However, I find many players are always trying to logic out what the best play is in any given situation, and that logic never factors in things like reads, the opponent's body language, or what their gut is telling them to do. If you don't rely on your intuition in any capacity as a Magic player, then you're limited to your best play always just being the best “logical” play. That logic isn't always right because it has holes in it, holes that our intuition can often fill.

Anonymous Actions Still Hurt Others

I play a lot of Magic Online. I usually play on unknown alternate accounts when I play. What this means is that people play against me all the time and don't realize that they are playing against me. If you play a lot of competitive leagues on Magic Online, chances are that I have played against you at least once on one of my random accounts. Some of my opponents are extremely mean and rude. Yet when I play on accounts that people know about, people are always super nice and respectful to me.

That has always bothered me. It's not cool that there are players out there who will be super nice if they play against a known player but if they play against someone they don't know, they feel like they have the right to berate that person or complain about how lucky that person got or complain about how badly that person played. To me, this suggests that these people know that what they are doing is wrong. If they are unwilling to do it to a well-known person in the community, but are perfectly happy to do it to some random Magic Online opponent, there is some underlying shame in their actions. Someone's skill level in Magic should never reflect on how you treat them as a person. I have zero respect for people who gauge the worth of a person entirely on how well they play this card game.

Don't be that person. Anyone choosing to complain in chat to the opponent or put them down in any way is being a huge jerk. Both players are just trying to play a game and have fun. Let's consider what it means to be the person who berates an opponent. When you win, your opponent doesn't go out of their way to take away the enjoyment of the win from you. But when they win, you take the time to say mean things to them purely to ruin the enjoyment they got out of that win. How much of a jerk do you have to be to purposely go out of your way to ruin the enjoyment of a complete stranger at no personal benefit? Think about that. You are taking your own personal time to sit there and say mean things just to hurt someone you don't even know. That's just cruel. Instead, may I suggest letting someone else enjoy something that doesn't affect you at all. No amount of complaining will change a loss into a win.

This goes beyond just Magic Online. Anytime someone says something on social media, twitch chat, or in the comment sections of articles, the person being talked about has a decent chance of seeing what is said. These are real people with real feelings. I go back and watch most of the feature matches that I have at tournaments. That means I see every time someone in twitch chat calls me fat or talks about how bad I am at Magic or whatever other insults they have queued up. I read all the comments on my articles. If someone says something mean about me on reddit, I'll probably see it. Just because I have some small bit of Magic-related fame doesn't mean I'm not also a regular person who has real emotions and feelings. It still hurts when I see people say cruel things about me. It hurts when I put hours into an article and people in the comments say “you suck.” It may just seem like anonymous fun to put someone else down, but it stops being anonymous or fun when that person is actually reading what you're saying.

It's not even bad for me. In fact, I have it really good compared to pretty much everyone. Yet it still sometimes bothers me and I know it's ten times worse for other people. A lot of people who have feature matches are people who are relatively new to playing Magic, inexperienced, or nervous. They didn't ask for a feature match or want one. They are probably going to make a lot of mistakes on camera. Those players are going to go back and watch their match and they are going to see a chat filled with people saying needlessly cruel things and insulting them. Imagine how tough that would be to bounce back from. Why would you want to play Magic again after seeing that?

Now imagine that they are also a marginalized group in the Magic community. Imagine what it would be like to be a woman who has a feature match who later goes back and watches the match. They have to see Twitch chat make fun of how they play, but even beyond that, they have to read people criticizing their appearance, the way they dress, and their motivations for even playing Magic in the first place. Imagine being on camera in front of thousands of people who all just loudly took turns saying mean things about how you look, how you talk, how you act. Imagine how depressing and humiliating that would be.

Just because you're making anonymous comments on twitch chat, or in the comment section of articles, or on twitter or other social media sites doesn't mean that you have free reign to just say whatever you want. Being anonymous doesn't mean that there is no consequences to your actions. You should never say something unless you're ok with the person you're talking about seeing what you say, because there is a decent chance they will see it. And if you're going to say something horrible about someone you don't know and you're ok with them seeing it, well, that ain't cool.

Banning Aetherworks Marvel

This Tuesday, it was announced that Aetherworks Marvel is banned from Standard. There are a lot of mixed feelings about this. For one, a number of people have said that they think Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger should have been banned instead. I can't agree with that. Aetherworks Marvel, and its ability to cast free spells at instant speed with very low opportunity cost is a very broken ability. Aetherworks Marvel may lose a step without Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, but it would just turn to the next big thing, like Nicol Bolas, World Breaker, Kozilek,or what have you. Aetherworks Marvel also narrows the scope of what they can and cannot print, since they would have to make sure every new card doesn't break Aetherworks Marvel again. It's very restrictive, and there's no guarantee that an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger ban would even stop Aetherworks Marvel from being the best deck.

There is another group that believes banning cards in Standard is simply a bad thing and they shouldn't do it. It erodes consumer confidence. I understand this mentality, and I agree that consistently banning cards that people buy certainly reduces the confidence of a person to purchase more cards.

With that being said, it actively improves my confidence to know that they are willing to rectify mistakes that were made. I'd love it if they change their processes to reduce their odds of making these mistakes in the future, and it seems as though they are making strides in that arena. I'm excited to see what comes from that. With that being said, in the case that some card or strategy slips through the cracks, an inevitability with how many people are actively trying to break new cards, it makes me happy to know that they are willing to fix things.

This isn't a problem unique to Magic. Other card games frequently have to fix cards that become too broken. It doesn't bother me that Magic messes up from time to time. It would only bother me if they refused to ever fix their mistakes.

I have a feeling that the way Magic is played these days, with thousands of matches happening on Magic Online by players who are more and more invested into playing the best version of the best decks that we're going to be seeing bans more often. Formats get solved faster these days. It becomes harder and harder to design sets that don't devolve into a best deck by the time the next set comes out.

While the past few sets have had a number of egregious mistakes that they hopefully will learn from and avoid in the future, I still can't imagine that we'll just be mistake-free from here on out. I think bans are going to become a more prevalent part of Standard Magic, and something we're going to need to adapt to and get used to.




submit to reddit » Print «