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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Sep 20 2009 10:12am
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Fun, Spikes and the Death of Formats

Earlier this week (okay last week - I've been busy, and I haven't had time to play or write at all), three writers put up differing takes on what is, in the end, the same issue.  Splendid Belt wrote about being casual in the casual room.  Lord Erman and AJ Impy wrote dueling pieces on why you need to get spikes into the Tribal format - and why that's a terrible idea.  All three authors spent some time thinking about this, and all three worked hard on their articles. 

So who's right?

Unfortunately, there's no answer. 

I'll ask a comparable question, to illustrate what is going on: How do you enjoy your coffee?

  • Carol:  Really hot, with some milk (then microwaved again to reheat it), preferably flavored
  • Bob:  Black, strong enough that the spoon stands straight up
  • Me: I add some cold water to coffee at work, so weak and cool.
  • Ingrid:  I hate coffee - I'll drink tea.
  • Sig:  Espresso, three sugars.
  • Buster (my Golden  Retriever):  I like to tear up the coffee bag and spread the grounds in the carpet, then roll on it.

So - who is right?  Which is the proper way to enjoy coffee?  They all are.

The point is that different people want different things out of Magic.  Mark Rosewater has written several articles about different Magic personalities - about Spike, Johnny, Timmy, Vorthos and Melvin - and combinations of the above.  These are all different personality type - but people are not one type or the other.  All personality traits are not checklists, they are a spectrum - and people move back and forth on that spectrum.  For example, take "happy" and "sad."  People are not automatically one or the other.  Most of the time people are somewhere in the middle - but they move back and forth.  The same is true of most personality indicators.  Over time, someone might be above or below average for any given pair of traits, but that's usually as changeable as the weather.   

The same is true of "spikiness."   Mark Rosewater has a couple long articles that define the "Spike" archetype, but the generally accepted shorthand is that Spikes like to win.  They tend to play the best decks.  More specifically, their choice of decks is motivated by their desire to win the tournament. 

That is not universal. 

I ran a paper tournament last night.  When various players finished matches early, they tended to play other decks and so forth.  A couple of the players were play testing Legacy.  They were discussing the addition of a certain deck, and testing it against other Legacy decks.  I could name the archetypes each player was playing, and their deck lists were pretty well tuned.  They probably qualify as spikes. 

Another player joined a 3HG game between rounds, and was talking about adding Mirror of Fate to his Leveler deck.  He had a very good bargain Warp World deck, and some other very solid stuff.  However, it was pretty obvious that his primary motivation was to make an idea work, rather then to win.

Now these two players are not that different.  They are both good.  They both wanted to win the tournament.  They both ended the Swiss at X-1, IIRC.  They both build original decks.  Still, if I had to choose one of them to represent "Spike," I know which one I would choose.

More importantly, just being a Spike is not a bad thing.  Some Personality types do cause problems - but the spike personality does not.

The "personality" that causes the most problems online, in MTGO and everywhere else, is insecure and immature.  These are the people that tend to be obnoxious. They lack self esteem, and are unsure of their place in the world.  They need an ego boost - something to hang their self respect on.  

In some ways, I have just defined being a teenager - which is an often painful and frequently embarrassing medical condition.  The good news is that condition is curable by regular doses of time. 

These people don't have enough other things in their life to provide a sense of self worth.  For many, their only "accomplishment" is winning at Magic.  When they are losing, they are not only losing the game, they are, to stretch a metaphor, taking emotional damage.  Losing is kicking the props out from under their egos.  Losing really pains these people, and they often "act out" in the same way that other juveniles act out - they call people names, throw tantrums, disconnect, flame people, etc.  In severe cases, they bully.  Most bullying is, after all, a desperate psyche saying "well, maybe I'm useless, but at least I can beat you up."  There is probably some "make you miserable, too" mixed in.

Most of these kids eventually find something that establishes their sense of self worth.  It may be a job, a significant other, kids, hobbies or some other accomplishment, but something provides a good foundation for their egos, and they turn into actual adults.  A few - fortunately a very few - remains complete asses all their lives.  These people make everyone else miserable when they are around, but you can usually avoid them.  It's why we have a block list on MTGO.  In real life, we can just walk away.

Online, immature a$$holes can be a problem.  However, immature a$$holes are not necessarily spikes, and spikes are not necessarily a$$holes.  Some spikes are actually really nice people, so aren't.  

The problem is what Spikes - or maybe prizes - do to a format. 

What Spikes Bring

Exactly what "spike" means may be subject to dispute - or another 4k words of discussion - but everyone is reasonably clear on one point:  spikes like to win.  That's their main motivation.  That's why they play.  The corollary to that, of course, is that they play the best decks - the decks with the best chance of winning.

Again, no human being is entirely one thing.  All people fit somewhere on the non-spike to spike scale.  Some are just spikeier than others.  For example, I'll talk about some of the people I play against, or have played against, in the past.

Skeeter - is working on her Squirrels deck.  Not really a spike.

Bob - picked up Magic when an injury knocked him out of wrestling.  He is now in the Hall of Fame.  Spike.

John - most memorable decks was probably "One" - in which every card had a converted mana cost of 1.   Not really a spike.

Ingrid - L3 judge, hates to lose, been to over a dozen Pro Tours, etc.  Sounds spiky - but I remember her playing Mirage Incinerates over Lightning Bolt because her deck's theme was cards with skeletons in the art.

Me - often not very spikey.  I play anything, including Tier two decks at PTQs. 

Spikiness does not equate to "unfun" to play against.  Being nice and being fun to play against do not correlate directly or indirectly with being a spike. 

What does correlate well with spikiness is the odds of, when you face them, facing a Tier One deck. 

Bazillions of Magic Articles have set forth the rules for winning tournaments.  They boil down to three things: 

  1. Know the metagame. 
  2. Practice a ton.
  3. Play the best deck. 

 Number three occasionally gets modified to play the best deck, or a deck that beats the metagame.  Occasionally, writers will advise that, in a diverse metagame and if you have not practiced sufficiently, then play the deck you know best.  However, since Spikes will tend to practice hardest with the best decks, for spike, the deck they know best often is the best deck.  

Spikes play Tier One decks, or new tech that may become a Tier One deck.  Having more spikes in the metagame means a higher percentage of Tier One decks being played.  

The Problem: Concentration of Tier One Decks

Tier One decks may be combo, control, beat down, midrange - but no matter what else they may be, they are winners.  That is the definition of a Tier One deck - it wins.  Magic is a game of synergistic interactions of cards, and some synergies are simply better than others.  For the same reason, some decks are just better than others.  The better decks win more often.

Another truism - very very few players like to lose.  Very few players continue playing when they lose.  When players lose often enough, or at a high enough percentage, then they make changes.

Yes, I know all about the old "nothing forces improvement like getting beaten."  True - and for those people who do strive to improve to avoid the beatings, it works.  However, an equally valid saying is "get better or get out."  A lot of people get out.  After all, everyone has a finite amount of time, and we make choices.  If someone disagrees, then answer me this: do you run marathons, do differential equations, sing opera, juggle flaming chainsaws and design cathedrals?  If not - why not?  Are you saying that you didn't have enough time to do it all, or did you just quit?

The earlier statement - nothing forces improvement like losing - has another flaw.  For some players, winning a Standard tournament is not their definition off improvement.  For some players, the ultimate goal might be to use every card ever printed in a deck, or play lots of games with their favorite cards.  (Squirrels - right Skeeter?)  Those are valid goals.  They are just not compatible with winning against Tier One decks. 

Spikes rarely play Tier two decks.  They do, play test, and they play test with Tier One decks.  The more spikes playing the format, the higher the chance that a player looking for a game or match in the casual room will end up facing a Tier One deck, and lose, and not have fun.  If this continues enough, the player who is not looking for match after match against Fae, or 5Color Blood, or [insert name of big net deck here] will look for another venue.

When the concentration of spikes / tier one decks are low, it is reasonably easy to find a fun game.  

Some Examples of this Process

One of our local games stores has a reasonably large casual contingent.  The players are mainly high school age, with some a bit younger and some a bit older.  They play a lot of formats - and a lot of matches that are no real format.  People play one of the four decks they own, or their "dragons deck," or whatever.  When I go to this store to play, I bring a wide assortment of casual and multiplayer decks. 

Two years ago, the players started playing 5color.  These were the 250 card paper decks, complete with a few copies of Contract from Below, etc.  Games were not played for ante, and decks were at best fair.  I played my 275 cards no-search highlander deck, and I won about 55% of my games.  No one was all that good, and I counted 25 players playing 5color one night.

A month or so later, I visited the store.  Now a couple of the older, spikier players had competitive 5color decks, and they were playing for ante on occasion. 

Two months later, maybe just four players had 5color decks still together.  Everyone else was playing casual games in other formats.

Six months later, EDH was big.  Over two dozen players were playing EDH that night.  No one had tuned decks.  A month later, a couple spikes had tuned EDH decks that controlled the board or went off on turn five pretty consistently.  Two months later, EDH was rare, and most players had torn their decks apart.

I knew a judge that played a couple completely insane EDH deck at big events.  His decks consistently comboed by turn six, sometimes on turn four.  After a couple games, the rest of the judges would not play with him or his decks.  We argued that fast combo kills were not what we were looking for in EDH games.  However, that judge was competing in EDH tournaments at his home store.  He wanted to win.  He was spiky.

Recently, he told me that he wasn't enjoying EDH anymore.  He kept facing the same decks every match and attendance was dropping.  Right - that's what a format dominated by Tier One decks is all about.  He also mentioned that he had been trying to play a wider variety of decks, and to get people to play more casually, but that it didn't work.  That's also true - once a format becomes highly competitive, it is really, really difficult to get people to play other decks again.  Those first few non-Tier One decks just get hammered, which is what my judge friend is now discovering.

The problem is that anyone who tries to tone down the power level is going to take a beating until / unless everyone else joins him or her.  That might happen, but the odds are against it.  Here's an analogy - years ago, I played Champions, the super-hero RPG.  One class of character was the Martial Artist, who could hold action to block, and deal damage with a block and riposte.  One adventure, a half dozen heroes and villains were facing off in a bar.  Nearly all were martial artists.  All of them held action, waiting for someone to act first.  This went on for twelve turns - no one took an action, because then all their opponents would have been able to use their held actions and hammer the actor.  After twelve turns, characters all retreated - doing half action moves and holding a half action to block.  The situation there - whoever acted first would have lost badly - is exactly the same situation that a player trying to lower the power level of a format faces.  

Another applicable quote:  "If you leap in front of a speeding freight train and yell 'stop!', the effect on the freight train is purely cosmetic."  - Rodney Stevenson

One more example: 

Six months or so ago, I started playing 100 Card Singleton.  I had one competitive UB control deck I played in the tournament practice room.  I also had a handful of fun decks, that I played in casual.  I had no problem finding matches in either room.  Then the format became dominated by a couple decks, and those decks started showing up in the casual room.  Player and game request numbers dropped, and even I stopped playing.  Looking at it now - at 10am EST on a Saturday - there are still very few 100 Singleton games being played.  

So Your Answer is to be more casual?

I'm not sure there is an answer.  Magic has a problem with power creep in every constructed format.  The only real solution is set rotation.  For example, it has taken two years, but Wizards will finally print an answer to Faeries in Standard in Zendikar.  (The "answer" being that the core of the Fae deck will rotate out.) 

"Casual" games usually mean that the decks involved are not Tier One.  However, even if you eliminate all of the decks from Standard that, for example, have won a major event recently, then the remaining decks are not all going to be equal.  Some will be more powerful - meaning that you might just replace the old Tier One with a new Tier One. 

Part of the issue is that some players - the spikes - will continue to play the best deck left in the format.

The other part of the problem is that Good / Tier One / Powerful to Junk/ Bad / Crap is a continum.  It is like saying here's a Black and white spectrum, shading from white to black.  Show me where the line from light to dark grey falls.  Maybe you could measure from the ends and mark a point, but you cannot hold a ruler up to the Magic good decks/bad decks spectrum.

What about "Gents' Rules"

On MTGO, players often ask for games against “Gentlemen’s” or “Gents Rules” decks.  (At least, they used to.)   This is not an official term, but it generally means no counters, no discard, no land destruction, and often no burn to the head.  Some players add additional restrictions. 


Dom Camus wrote an article on The Ethics of Casual, back in 2005 on another site.   It is an interesting – albeit dated – discussion of what constitutes “Casual” play. Here’s his list:


1) Must not destroy lands.
2) Must not prevent opponents from playing the game (no prison decks).
3) Must win gradually, not via a single devastating move.
4) Must not run counters of any kind.
5) Must not run discard.
6) Must not force the opponent to have specific answers.
7) Must not be overpowered (powerful cards are fine, as long as the deck as a whole is reasonable).
8) Must interact well with a variety of possible decks my partners might run.
9) Must run enough answers itself that no class of threat is an instant game loss.
10) Must be reasonably consistent.


A number of players insist on this sort of thing. Sometimes it is players wanting a long, drawn-out creature battle – in effect constructed decks that play like limited.   Other times, the players just want to make sure no one can interrupt their slow, fragile combo. You can win a lot of games if you run a combo deck and make sure in advance that your opponent can do nothing to disrupt you.  Players who really want to push this ask for "Gent's Rules" games with a starting life total of 100, starting hand size of ten and so forth.  However, these games are really not a lot of fun - probably not for either player.  Sure, it is cool to see a player put together five Doubling Seasons - the player used some Copy Enchantments - then cast a Jace that came into play with 100+ counters on it, which then milled me to death.  Cute - but there is no way to combat that combo with any normal deck.  A Zoo deck cannot deal 100 damage (actually, far more than 100 - Doubling Season and Spike Feeder are a combo.)  Other options to disrupt the opponent - counters, discard, mass removal, etc. - are banned under "Gent's Rules."


The biggest problem with trying to define a casual format, or to examine whether Spikes are needed, is that Magic is a game that is played for the win.  More importantly, winning in Magic means creating and playing a deck that does not let your opponent win before you can kill them.  People can build amazing 14 card combos - but if their decks cannot disrupt the opponent, then the only way they can win is to find a modified format that disrupts the opponent for them.  For example, they could start with 100 life, 10 card hands, and forbid discard, counters, LD, etc. etc.


Very little real Magic is played that way.  Even in the casual room, most decks contain methods of disrupting the opponent. In August, my Wizards status update email contained a relevant Monthly MTGO Factoid:  the top five most commonly played cards in the Casual Room:

Other than Terramorphic Expanse, and maybe Lightning Bolt to the head, every one of those cards exists to eliminate an opponent's threats.  They are all reactive. 

So, after a ton of words, written whenever I could get a minute free over two weeks - I don't have an answer.  

I'll think about it some more.


"one million words" on MTGO, if I ever find time to play.


Interesting article. I wrote by Paul Leicht at Sun, 09/20/2009 - 11:32
Paul Leicht's picture

Interesting article. I wrote about magic personalities myself a few weeks ago so I get where you are coming from but it sounds a little like you think that Spikes can ruin casual formats and I have to disagree. Pure spikes are a rare find outside of the PT. Casual formats imho are self-degrading in the sense that they eventually lead to being solved. Essentially being puzzles. The way to avoid this is to fix the B/R lists so that the card interactions that solve the format don't come up.

In 100cs I think the % of spikes is a bit higher than elsewhere because it is a format with so many broken 2card combos and a fleet of the best counters in the game (though admittedly 1x each). I keep hearing that the format itself isn't broken and that there is plenty of casual play left. I am not certain yet if that is true. (cf my last article) I am a Johnny/Spike though not as much of a Spike as I used to be and maybe not as Johnny as I could be. I find casual games fun but I really don't like to lose. I am not spike enough to play only tier 1 decks but I don't consider tier 1 decks to be off-limits. I do lose as a result of playing rogue builds but the wins I do get against tier 1 decks are all that much sweeter as a result. It is not beyond me to pick up a Tier 1 deck and detune it until it is rogue. My experience in 100cs is that with the the regular tourney players I can expect to face as close to tier 1 decks as that format has (top 8 decks I guess) with minor variations and when I ask for games with strangers in casual I get a variety of different strength decks. I have generally done well in casual and only mediocre to poorly against the tourney players. (I'm working on that.)

By the way, I used to write modules for Champions/Hero System tourneys years ago (early 90s). I never once ran into such a stand off. Interesting phenomenon. I guess we didn't have enough spikish players ('min-maxer' is what Id call someone abusing tactical mechanics in an RPG but it sounds a lot like spikish behavior.) Though there is nothing wrong with that, the point of RPGs isn't necessarily to win every fight. Particularly my tourneys were designed to emphasise the Role Playing aspects even to the point of encouraging some minor Life Action just to illustrate some scenes.

About the 100 life/10 card players, they seem very spikish to me in their own way. They are merely changing the settings to be to their advantage.

really? by Chad (not verified) at Sun, 09/20/2009 - 16:15
Chad's picture

Your article title is horrible ... grow up.

The "horrible title" comment by Paul Leicht at Sun, 09/20/2009 - 17:13
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The "horrible title" comment was reasonable (as your opinion) even if I disagree but the "grow up" part sounds ridiculous. Peter is a grown man with responsibilities etc and he takes the time to write articles here regularly (to pleasure of many) so give him a little slack if you don't like his Internet meme approach to one article. Did you read the rest of the article? Nothing more critical to comment on than the title?

You grow up, Paul. Don't you by Chad (not verified) at Sun, 09/20/2009 - 19:17
Chad's picture

You grow up, Paul. Don't you have better things to do than hit refresh all day on this site? Also, I'm sick of the amount of writing you do whether it is articles or comments. I'm sure there are people who agree with me. Only if you could block a certain user's comments this site would be spectacular.

Chad how very personal from by Paul Leicht at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 07:51
Paul Leicht's picture

Chad how very personal from someone Ive never heard from before. I am sorry you dislike my writing. But as the saying goes: not my problem. :) I remember this js snippet you could use as a bookmark to remove comments from a forum. I don't recall it offhand but it is some kind of simple dom manipulation. Try google.

I am the origianl "Chad" in by Chad (not verified) at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 16:40
Chad's picture

I am the origianl "Chad" in this thread, and I did not make that comment you are responding to ... just so you know. It was someone else using the same name.

Haha, by Klemzo at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 01:08
Klemzo's picture

this one one of the worse comments I saw this month ^^

Anyhow, great article, tho I don't really care about this personality stuff that much. Or atleast I don't notice it a lot. For me every game is fun tho I do sometimes see those rich bastards that have promo foiled lands and all cards foiled or promo... -.-

I'm a true Spike in the way by Wyrath (not verified) at Sun, 09/20/2009 - 18:04
Wyrath's picture

I'm a true Spike in the way that I play to win, and I just can't understand why this would not be the main objective of anyone playing a game (I undestand that there are other objectives, and that everyone is different obviously), and in my experience that really IS true for almost everyone. Yes, even mr. Johnnyscrub McNoob with his 5$ Walls deck prefers winning to losing - this is simply basic human nature. What has amused me the most through my time playing Magic is that "Spikes" generally complain the least, and are generally able to accept that when they lose it is either because of the matchup, bad luck or a difference in playing skill (I remember my good friend getting destroyed by LSV playing Faeries in a game last Extended season - we both had a good laugh there (my friend and I that is)). Most players from the other "demographics" (I feel so stupid using these simpleton terms) tend to get pissed off, and simply blame it on "OMG U SPEND 500$ ON THAT NET DECK!!!1" - something that really pisses me off when I actually never net deck as that is just about the most stupid thing you can do, and no true Spike ever would - or simply luck.

As for Spikes ruining the casual room, I actually think you have a point. I wouldn't call these individuals Spikes, though - failed Spikes perhaps. These individuals that are playing T1 decks in the casual room are either A) pathetic individuals that loves to prey on easy targets, B) normal players that want to test their decks against humans instead of running solitaires (important for control decks) or C) scrubs that don't have the guts to play on an even footing. I've many times played against T1 RDW or Burn decks in the Casual room - piloted by complete scrubs - and when I've confronted them with this, they've almost universally expressed disbelief over my annoyance; to them it's simply normal to pick up an extremely cheap and competitive deck and go out and "own" noobs.

The solution? Divide MTGO in three parts. Casual, competitive decks and tournament practice. Casual is for junk and a place for new players to have fun. Use some moderation to kick out the ones that harass others. Competitive decks for players interested in both diversity and a challenge, and tournament practice for your boring metagame Faeries on Faeries hot action. I truly believe this could help a bit.

While I understand most of by Paul Leicht at Sun, 09/20/2009 - 18:51
Paul Leicht's picture

While I understand most of your sentiments I can not disagree more with a few. The casual room does have scrubs piloting "Tier 1" decks (though I am guessing they untune them at the first opportunity if they have any Johnny in them) But I have played against fairly good players running the whole gammut from unstoppable combo to go draw. Many of these players are plenty competitive when they feel up to it and sometimes they just play fun decks to relax and enjoy something other than the most cut throat of games. (Personally I find games where the outcome is not really based on good play but on who draws into the easy win first to be abhorrent but I know some people love those kinds of games.)

Also this assertion that casual is for junk seems like an easy dismissal from someone who doesn't enjoy playing anything other than tier 1. I am not saying there isn't a lot of junk floating around as there is but you do see interesting decks out there too, particularly in the 'fringe' formats. But anyway what's the saying? To each their own.

RE: the guys crying about $500 decks...well if the cards you are playing with do cost $500 to put together that does mean something. It isn't merely a matter of liking certain cards more than others that raise costs. The more effective and efficient a card is at winning the higher its cost goes as people demand their own copies. Those who throw money at the game to some extent DO have an advantage over those who don't. That said, creativity, play skill and luck can do wonders to even the playing field of most formats. (Though I maintain that Eternal formats are really not very playable without the big cards unless you are running RDW or something relatively cheaper that just sometimes wins.)

I agree that moderation is in order. No matter whether you netdeck or play rogue, play only the very best decks, or play sub par cards just to win with style, your behavior online should be modeled from your behavior in person. I think bad behavior should meet fitting consequences.

Your solution was tried: the by AJ_Impy at Sun, 09/20/2009 - 20:24
AJ_Impy's picture

Your solution was tried: the end result was the status quo, with no-one using the room between 'Casual' and 'Tournament Practice'. Nonetheless the idea is good on paper, if there is a way to transfer it successfully online.

@ AJ_Impy I actually didn't by Wyrath (not verified) at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 04:33
Wyrath's picture

@ AJ_Impy

I actually didn't know that. Thanks for enlightening me. I think it could be succesful if there was more moderation, and that it was made more clear. Perhaps renaming the casual room to "the budget room", and then forcifully removing the ones playing high tier tournament decks. Obviously I don't know how it could be done properly - being the regular Joe that I am - but I think it's unfair that casual players are having their fun "destroyed", and as a good player I find it annoying to only having to resort to the tournament practice room, when I just want to test my semi-competitive Legacy-ported list of DNT.

I wonder what would be a good by Paul Leicht at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 08:14
Paul Leicht's picture

I wonder what would be a good cut off for a budget room? It is a hard line to define, because there are insanely expensive cards, expensive cards, not cheap cards etc. Are we banning anything that costs over .25 tickets? or over 3 tickets? What if a card fluctuates over and under that line? I agree that the average Joe should be able to build non-tiered decks and still have fun. I think it is quite possible if you make your tables and set rules to them ("No Counter Decks please!", or "No Mass LD"). Enforcing them is as simple as conceding and restarting if someone breaks the rules. That is what most casual players do now if they object to a particular type of play. It isn't perfect and occasionally a person needs to be blocked for rudeness or what not but it isn't terribly hard to just move on.

"casual magic" by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 21:07
Anonymous's picture

""These individuals that are playing T1 decks in the casual room are either A) pathetic individuals that loves to prey on easy targets, B) normal players that want to test their decks against humans instead of running solitaires (important for control decks) or C) scrubs that don't have the guts to play on an even footing.""

Those are such bizarre reactions to people playing a (slightly better) deck than you.
For players with these peculiar rules for what casual "is" and "isn't", the onus is on you to communicate that you can't function normally.
Maybe someone doesn't have time to keep up with the metagame so as to gauge what is a properly "casual deck"? I just want to play some cards. Sometimes, even my rares.
If you are not happy about the game, kindly concede, don't whine or blame others.
Or list your silly restrictions in the "notes" section that MTGO provides.
Or play with your clanmates or in the beginners room.
Good topic.

@ paul leicht ... I find it by Chad (not verified) at Sun, 09/20/2009 - 19:22
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@ paul leicht ... I find it really immature (or maybe a better word would be irresponsible) to having to resort to dropping f bombs in the title of what has always seemed to be an all age friendly site.

F Bomb by JXClaytor at Sun, 09/20/2009 - 23:26
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I stand by my decision to keep the title as is. Is it a little edgy yes, but I respect the years and years and years of work that Pete Jahn has put in in regards to magic writing. I will always err on his side, as he in my mind is one of the best.

I am sorry if anyone was offended by the title, but I do want you to know that hours of thought was put in to it before I decided to run it.

Pete Jahn is a fantastic writer and a great person, I know it was not his intent to be harmful or immature in anyway with the title.

Thank you for the comments, now can we please get back to talking about the article itself

You do have a point there. I by Paul Leicht at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 08:00
Paul Leicht's picture

You do have a point there. I guess I find myself a bit calloused to that sort of language by now but I can see where a parent would have concerns with the spicy tone of the title if they have very young children reading it. On the other hand, most parents control what their children read online (or should) and magic is a subject I'd not want my children reading about until they were mature enough to handle that kind of thing anyway. (That said I am not a parent nor will I ever be.)

The solution is ignored... by MechtaK at Sun, 09/20/2009 - 19:37
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What I mean is, the solution is right there in MTGO. There is a competitive room, and there is a casual room. Now, in that regard, I'm not too upset about anyone that wants to play competitive or "play to win" in the casual room (really, to me this is a ridiculous observation, because everyone plays to win, if it wasn't so, they'd just concede immediately). Well, anyhow, nice combos, swarms, deck archetypes, player archetypes, nothing like this is really the problem with the argument. The problem with the argument is, casual means you are looking for a fun game that both players can play. Observe, both players should be able to play and both players should be able to have fun win or lose. But there is a predominance of decks that are what I call tournament decks, or to be more clear "masturbatory" decks (sorry for the comment, but nothing makes the point better). These kinds of decks are, "I play my stuff, I don't let you play", in other words, it plays well with itself, and really becomes more of a deck that has no opponent. For example, counterspell heavy decks aren't casual, though I'll admit you can play and have fun against them (but really, it involves a whole lot of sitting around and drawing cards waiting for the right moment, and frankly, it's more fun for the counterspell deck and quite boring for you). Elf Grenade is not casual. RDW is not casual. These decks win in 3 to 4 turns and don't allow anyone to actually get into a groove to play a game. Much less, most that play casual want to play a game in which each person has the time, or has the ability, to play their deck.

Besides, the argument comes down to this. If your deck is a copy of a tourney deck, or is being tested for tourney, well, there is a room right there, called tournament practice, that serves that purpose. In casual, you are far more unlikely to even understand or know how to play a tourney deck against other tourney archetypes, because those decks are not prevalent in casual. My point of view is, if I see you play nothing but counterspells for the first 4 turns, I concede with a "good game". I see a time sieve "I take 5 or 6 turns in a row" deck, I concede. So for me, this argument affects me little, though I can see the point being made by both sides (tourney people say they can never find quality opponents in the tourney room, whatever, its a cope out). Frankly, if I want to play casual, and I play against a non casual deck, I just concede and move on to the next opponent. You have control of conceding, so just concede and move on if you don't like the deck your playing against. What other solution could be simpler. My two mana worth.

Excellent take on things, by AJ_Impy at Sun, 09/20/2009 - 20:29
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Excellent take on things, Pete. I've also seen formats wax and wane in popularity over time, both official and unofficial, and there is a correlation as you have described. Another striking example is Kaleidoscope: Massive interest and creativity at the format launch, the refining of the best decks, stagnation and abandonment due to lack of rotation. I see one or two games posted by stalwarts of the format from time to time, but that's it.

Interesting. by moerutora (not verified) at Sun, 09/20/2009 - 20:40
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Didnt read article. Just skimmed through it and got the gist of what you were implying.
I dont like the title either but whatever.

Anyways- I play a lot of casual decks online and have recently made a deck thats more competitive since I got bored of semi-casual. I played Cascade-Mill which I got bored of. I played Mill which I got bored of. I played an ALA Artifact which got boring. Played Sanguine Bond deck which I made a day after M10 came out and I challeneged some dude last week who copied almost everything about my deck. Which he admitted. I got bored of that deck because its slow and loses too fast. Made a fun deck that just irritates the opponent which I should play more. I think playing against and with LD, Counters, Stasis is quite fun. I was doing it ever since School
I have currently a U/W Exxy Deck which is fun sine I win and am able to compete with all those lame Lorwyn-Shadowmoor lameness. Most of my decks are block oriented. I dont like to mix sets because its so lame. I havent challenged a toury deck recently in the casual room but when I did it was mostly with my Cascade Mill. If they didnt kill me by turn 4 or 5 then theyre in trouble though it was rare to have a good starting hand with good draws. Most of these people didnt complain if they lost. They just 'lol'd' several times.

Just a small kine experience with the casual room.

Re: Turning down the heat by tempesteye at Sun, 09/20/2009 - 21:04
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Pete, I have to agree 100% with your assessment that once a format becomes competitive it's nearly impossible for it to return to a more casual state; I think this was also one of the major reasons behind the eventual failure of Prismatic, Rainbow Stairwell, Vanguard, and now K-Scope and 100 Singleton.

My experience is that once "casual" players believe a format has become competitive they stop investing in it and look for something else. And you never get them back.

I really like EDH/Commander, they're now the only formats I play for 'fun' and I can see the writing on the wall for them as well. It's why I hope WotC never sanctions Commander.

100 Card by Zimbardo at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 00:27
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I'd like to take exception to the notion that 100 Card Singleton and K-scope are in a similar place. K-scope's failure is inevitable, as it will go a full year with no new cards and is a poorly conceived format in the first place. By contrast, 100CS has some genuinely compelling aspects, a decent number of articles written about it, and a steady niche following.

I'm glad they dropped the "casual format" label, because it's a misnomer. It applies well to EDH/Commander since there are no tournaments, but it doesn't make sense to offer sanctioned tournaments to a format and call it casual. Even if they have flatter prize structures.

One more thing I'll add is that some of us in 100CS have been making an effort to keep our tournament decks in the tournament practice room, and we have had at least a bit of success. Nowadays you can usually find a match opponent there, whereas before there was hardly ever anybody playing 100CS in TP. Hopefully this effort helps the casual players who just want to have a fun/random/casual game of 100CS. If people are testing tournament 100CS decks, please use the TP room! Thanks!

I think you are wrong about by Reaper9889 at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 02:51
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I think you are wrong about Vanguard. That killed the format was the shift to 3.0 followed by only allowing vanguards of cards in std...

The first meant that the format slept for some time, as in a long periode were ppl didnt play vanguard (I belive it would have been fine if they had introduced those weekend challenges abit faster). The second broke the format. Vanguard was pretty fast (as in I think it was faster than ext most of the time). There were more or less a 1-1 between vanguards and decks (Daarkon had more but that was about it). Usually some of the newest + some old stalwarts vanguard were the ones played. Than they removed the old it didnt mean a slow down of the format, but more that the number of decks that could stand a chance in the format went down. That, to me, killed the format - limits breed creativity, but it DOES get less like fun and more like work :/

While I definitely think that by me, myself and i (not verified) at Sun, 09/20/2009 - 23:56
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While I definitely think that most of the blame for this falls on the players who play noncasual decks in casual room, alot of the blame can go to wotc too.Cards like planeswalkers that win on their own are one of the biggest problems. Anyone remember them saying how mythics were not going to be tourney rares that you need to win? The difference between the money cards and non money cards, in terms of power level, is so immense that it is really tough to have any chance unless you have the $ in your deck. While its always been like that, since mythics came out the prices for good cards has become ridiculous.

Now i wont try to assume by ShardFenix at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 01:09
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Now i wont try to assume everyone's budget is moderate. I know until recently my budget kept me playing Pauper for a long time and I have recently started branching out into other formats. Personally I try to avoid spending more than $20 dollars a deck. But I have also recently been able to build a 2hg deck that wins consistently based on the power of some "junk" rares as well as a semi decent standard deck that is more or less waiting for zendikar before i would consider it possibly tourney worthy. A lot of money-issues are unavoidable but can be remedied by smart purchasing. I've seen a lot of players just grab up cards that look fun and then never find a good place for them and now they are out money that could have been used for cards they needed.
As far as dividing up the rooms...well I might not see it the same way. I play almost strictly casual magic with the exception of PRE's. I have no need to ever step foot into tournament practice nor do i have the desire to play with people who are aggresively trying to win. The problem with casual is that I rend to be more of a Johnnh than anything and apparently combo decks really irk some of the people in cas/cas. Im not sure why since in my experience combo tends to be a very risky deck to play at times relying on good draws and almost a "cooperation" from opponents. I think the main thing is people for the most part in cas/cas need to "lighten" up a little. It is just a game and not every match is a winner. I have no problem with someone conceding on me. But to have someone concede and then start flaming you and your deck is just the height of immature.

i think the way the rooms are by mullaccm (not verified) at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 06:27
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i think the way the rooms are split now is fine. i'm pretty open to ld, counters, discard in the casual room if it's done in a casual (aka nontournament) way. the only thing i can't stand is people who run classic dredge (or any tourney deck) in the casual room.

my new technique when that happens...put on a movie and act like i have massive lag. then when the guy complains i tell him not to waste my time next time by using tourney decks in the casual room. just complaining to the people makes them happy. waste their time, they'll stop coming to the casual room with tourney decks.

The Formats are Bad by Jimb0v (not verified) at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 11:46
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The elephant in the room is that the formats are bad.

There are huge underlying problem with Tribal Wars, Stairwell, EDH, Singleton, and the other "casual" formats.

If you want a format that doesn't end on the fifth turn to comboing out the whole table, then craft the format in such a way that that cannot happen.

The fact of the matter is, the stuff like the EDH judge not being allowed to play with the other because his deck is "too good" is a big problem that hurts the community.

The formats need to be developed and designed in such a way that they hold up to the intense scrutiny and 1000's of hours of thought being put into them to destroy the format.

Great article. The cycles you by onefinemess (not verified) at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 12:24
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Great article.

The cycles you describe of formats coming and going as the prizes & spikes come pretty much mirror what I've seen in my brief few years on MtGO.

I guess what I would like to see are more "supported" formats (ie more restrictions to shape a format you can apply to deck verification & game type) that are NOT EVER going to be used in tournaments.

Ideally, allowing us to create & define our own casual forms would be awesome. At minimum, something like combining existing rulesets: tribal + pauper = Tribal Pauper, Extended + kscope = etc. (And yes, I keep trying to play my Tribal Pauper spiders deck and getting my butt kicked by tuned competitive pauper decks...). At best, something like allowing us to create our own banned & restricted lists in addition to setting the boundaries for the sets to pull cards from would be great.

title by mtgotraders at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 13:38
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The title has been changed and Pete asked that I use this new one. Now we can all get back to talking about the content instead of the title. :)
I just wanted to apologize by one million words at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 17:54
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I just wanted to apologize for the original title. It was a first draft, and I should have fixed it. The new title was always at the top of the actual article - and it is better.

I also want to thank JXC for leaving my original title in. I appreciate his compliments, and the fact that he didn't want to overrule my decisions. In the future, though, when I screw up - feel free to fix it.


Thought about the multiple room issues by BrokenNut at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 13:49
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What if MTGO did like some of the online consoles do and try to pair you up with someone of "equal" skill? My 1st idea was that there were several(around 10 or so) rooms, the bottom being casual and the top being competitive. You can start wherever you want and each time you win, you move up a room and each time you lose you move down a room. At some point the Tier 1 decks would all end up in the top few rooms and all the casual stuff would end up towards the bottom.

Sure someone could just rejoin the bottom room with his Tier 1 to demolish people, but they would have to keep rejoining the room every time they win 1 or 2 games. Seems like a big enough hassle that they might just let it go and keep playing in whatever room they end up in. Or just take away the ability to join a specific room and you can only join in the middle.

This works with games like by theintangiblefatman at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 15:51
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This works with games like Halo, because every game is more or less the same. With Magic, such a system is much harder to implement, because the outcome of each game depends not only on the players' relative skills but also the relative strength of their decks. I personally have decks of wildly varying power levels that all get played in the casual room, because they are not powerful enough to compete in the tournament practice room; I assume most players are in a similar position. Your ranking system breaks down when players switch between decks every few games and wind up always gravitating towards another tier rather than stabilizing on one.

Well, you could have a by Wyrath (not verified) at Tue, 09/22/2009 - 03:31
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Well, you could have a winning % that only registrered games in the casual room for pairing - wouldn't exactly be hard to implement (X games played, Y won) - and you could only "cheat" it by playing on different accounts/making new ones, and who in their right mind would go to such lengths to annoy others? Still, when we can't even get to display our ratings these days that's probably not going to happen (for some odd reason it's not allowed to have proof of being better on MTGO any longer). I probably have a very high one (winning percentage that is - not rating) as I mostly play decks that aren't quite good enough for tournament play a la DNT in Classic, Red Rock and Merfolk in Extended and so forth, and I would love to get paired with similar decks/players. Sometimes I advocate my games with the classic "Only good decks, please.", but that merely results in people bringing either their M10 preconstructed decks because those people don't read the descriptions anyway or a random tier 1 deck from the format in question.

I wanted to echo Zimbardo's by platipus10 at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 18:05
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I wanted to echo Zimbardo's comment. For 100CS we have somewhat successfully managed to get a few people to only use TP for testing their Tier 1 decks. This is very difficult to do because there are always a few who just insist on using the Casual room either because they need an ego boost or because they can find a game quicker. I know that I have had much more fun since helping promote this effort. I even try to go into casual every once in awhile and play more casual oriented decks, which has been fun.

"Fun" for both players tends to be when you are able to match up power levels of decks and this is something that has always been difficult on MTGO especially when many people mis-evaluate the power of their own decks and the ones they are playing against. For exampl eyou can play a Tier 2 deck against an opponent with a Tier 4 deck and have him yell at you for brining a super competitive deck into the casual room when you know darn well that your deck has no place at all competing in a PE against Teir 1 decks.

"When the concentration of spikes / tier one decks are low, it is reasonably easy to find a fun game."

If you are a spike this statement is false.

good article by Seahorse (not verified) at Tue, 09/22/2009 - 08:14
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Good article.

I don't see that title as offensive. Playing the casual room with teenagers, now that's offensive. You learn a lot more words that way, and W T F is fine there :)