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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Repack Walk Through- Week 12 A Word from Maro

This week Mark Rosewater presented a design article addressing the impact of design on the draft environment. In addition to my normal weekly exercise, I will be discussing some of Maro's points from the Repack Draft Perspective.

...To understand layering let's begin by talking about a new axis, the number of concepts in a set. On one end of the axis is one idea. (It can't be zero as a set has to have at least one idea in it.) A set on this end of the spectrum has every card dedicated to this idea. On the other end of the spectrum is a set where every card is about a separate idea. Neither end of the spectrum makes for very good Magic.

To understand why, let's look through each extreme through the eyes of drafting. ... The second extreme creates a draft where there are no inherent strategies. The set has no identity or cohesion and, as such, there are no through-lines to draft. No cards change value based upon deck types, and the draft boils down to taking the best cards, all of which are basically the same to each player. This extreme also creates a draft environment without legs that players stop drafting after a short time.

I'm sorry Mark, but I think you have it wrong here. The second extreme described, is exactly what repack strives for. Its this lack of layered design that allows Repack to present an unpredictable, fresh, and fun draft pool every time. Certain design space exists almost universally through out Magic. Aggro and Control for instance are present in every period of Magic, and nearly every card printed can be applied towards one of these two strategies. In greater depth strategies like Overrun, Rock, Ramp, and Mill can show up with surprising consistency. The idea that cards don't change in value is absolutely wrong. The value of any given card is defined, not only by the deck constructed by a player, but also by all the other decks in construction with in the pool. Many of these core decisions are a product of Branching decisions as discussed later in the article. These will create values with out layering.

Linear Themes vs. "Build Around Me's"
...Linear themes...are themes that strongly encourage players to put certain cards with other specific cards... An important part of making a fun draft experience is giving people through-lines to draft. While linear themes are not the only way to do this, they are the ones that players grab onto the quickest... The most common card designed for draft is what I call a "build around me." These cards usually go in uncommon and their role is to create a draft deck. The idea is that if players draft this early, they will be set up to draft around it. Decks built around these cards won't happen often, but when they do they allow players to explore completely different facets of the set.

Players don't need to be feed prepackaged linear design strategies like Boros, Merfolk, Slivers, Esper, and Landfall. I find that I get tired of a particular draft set very quickly, often after as few as 2-3 experiences. I get tired of playing the same linear design every time, and facing the same few deck archetypes supported by the design space. Repack is able to create a fresh environment more consistently. A player is unlikely to force a base concept consistently, due to table drafting forces pushing him different cards. Secondly, even if a player does play "Big Green" every time, the decks will be significantly different due to the vastly wider card potential. The BG player has more fun, seeing if they can make the base concept work with radically different creatures each time, and opponents don't get killed by Craw Wurm every time!

We Now return to our normally scheduled Repack discussion. Each week I crack a repack, and do a walk through of the contents. I've seen these sort of draft walk through done a lot of different ways, but in my mind, there is one critical question to ask about every card. Should this wheel and why? I use a three point system to analyze a pack  In a "normal" pack, there should be 5 cards of each grade in them.

1) Shouldn't Wheel- these are the best cards in the pack, and should be scooped up before the pack comes back around. Your first pick should almost always come from this group, since odds are you shouldn't see any of them again. If one of these does come back around, and it still fits your developing plan, it's almost a sure thing to pick up on the wheel. One of these coming around may also indicate an open color, or deck strategy, and always worth giving a little thought to.

2) May Wheel-I put these at a 50/50 to wheel. your second pick in the pack will usually come from this group, since the #1 in the pack should already be gone. This group will tell you more about the other decks forming at the table then any other source of information. When the pack wheels around to you in pick nine, there should only be two cards from his group left, picks 9 and 10. The three that are already gone tell you a lot about the "best decks" being built by players 6, 7, and 8. Like wise the card you don't pick, will give you a clue to the "best deck" to be built by the player in position 2. This for all intensive purposes gives you a peek at 4 other decks being constructed. Counting your own deck, this gives you some degree of contrived knowledge about 5 out of 8 decks. If you do this type of thinking for all three packs int he draft, in addition to having perfect knowledge of your deck, you have had 3 peeks at 2 decks (positions 2, and 8), 2 peeks at 2 decks (positions 6, and 7), and one peek at 2 additional decks (positions 3, and 4). It's not a perfect world, and certainly as much art as science, but that is a lot of potential information. Since Repack is main deck mod, you should have a good idea of what you may face against nearly any other player at the table.

3) Should Wheel- This is the crap of the crap. If it wheels, it's exactly what I expected, and increases the likeliness of the predictions made from group 2. If it doesn't it makes things a bit more interesting. In essence it tells me that one or more persons isn't building their "best deck" instead making sub-optimal picks. In this case you are much more likely to have four "bester" decks, those that benefited from better then expected late picks, and then four "worster" decks, those making bad picks, or getting the shaft as others jump on cards expected for their "best" deck.
Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper 2
Simic Basilisk 2
Animate Artifact 3
Overwhelm 2
Armor of Thorns 1
Minitaur Tactician 3
Flight 2
Mystic Visionary 2
Reins of the Vinesteed 3
Brainspoils 1
Stone-Seeder Hierophant 2
Kithkin Greatheart 2
Glorious Charge1
Elvish Visionary 1
Devine Verdict 1

Wow, what this pack lacks in color diversity, it makes up for in mid-range power, a massive 7 level 2 cards, and only 3 lowest tier cards, all of which exceed expectations in the right deck. My first pick here would be Glorious Charge. Combat trick, and alpha striker in one, It easily supports any creature based strategy, but is easy to splash into a variety of X/w options which may present itself later.

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