Community Cup PureMTGO Coverage

Great players and writers in the MTGO community are playing against the Wizards of the Coast at their headquarters in Renton! Follow along as we provide coverage of the interviews, games and pretty much everything that we can!
By: hamtastic, Erik Friborg
Nov 11 2009 10:42pm
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For those of you that are unaware, Erik Lauer is one of the members of the Wizards of the Coast Research and Development team and if you've enjoyed Magic 2010, Conflux or Alara Reborn you've seen his work in action.  This interview is by far the longest (over 3500 words so far) and doesn't even have everything from the audio... I spent more time with Erik than any other Wizards person last week (beside Mike and/or Marcella), and I must admit that this was an amazingly fun interview session.  Such great topics as Erik beating Flores with old janky cards, the exact length of a Doom Blade and others.  I must thank Erik Lauer for his and for being a great interviewee and competitor during the Community Cup itself.  It was an honor to play against him and an honor to have spent so much time with him.  I hope you all enjoy this last (for now?) interview spawned by this event!

By: hamtastic, Erik Friborg
Nov 10 2009 10:31am
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Newer players may not know the name Lee Sharpe, however, older players will recognize his name immediately as a former 'beeber' from the WotC message boards and the /join bbs room.  He was a judge, a rules guru, and much more and was hired on by WotC to work on the rules engine a little over two years ago.  It was awesome to have a chance to interview Lee and I thank him very much for his time and all his efforts on MTGO.  Lee was able to hang out with the players a lot during the week and he was extremely cool throughout all the events. 

Erik Friborg: You were previously a Rules Engine programmed and now a data spelunker, what does that entail?
Lee Sharpe: I do all sorts of data analysis MOCS, MOPR,  Really great data driven information as well as other things to help us figure out how things are going.  What tournaments are firing what's being played.

EF: How long have you been playing?
LS: Revised to Ice Age, due to lifestyle changes, picked up in college when Invasion came out.

EF: Just MTGO, or even paper magic, etc?
LS: Somewhat yes, but mostly just Magic Online.

EF: Is that because of more data online?
LS: There actually is a lot of paper data.  I can't get into specifics of course, but there is lots of data about Paper Magic.  But online there's a lot more stuff out there for formats we can't track in paper.

EF: Like what's winning in certain in the casual decks room:
LS: Yeah we can't tell what people are playing at their casual games or at the kitchen but we can see all of this in the MTGO Casual room.  It's really our only real view into the Casual Player's world.  You'll see Aaron Forsythe and Ken Nagle talk about them.  Like decks with Hoof Skulkin win 11% of the games.

EF: How did you wind up doing this data analysis from where you were?
LS: We got to a point where the rules team didn't really need me as we've really stabilized the code.  Then I basically started running these types of reports and people didn't hate them and I began to transition into the new job.

EF: Speaking of the game Server, after Future Sight things have been pretty stable.
LS: My very first day was the day the External Beta started for Future Sight, that was my very first day.  I had to quickly get up to speed while dealing with Future Sight.  Ever since then people have been very worried about card interactions.  Even through Lorwyn, people were worried about card releases, but ever since FS things have been much better.  The team there has been doing a really great job lately.

EF: Beta has gotten pretty boring since then, actually.
LS: Yeah, Alexis and company is doing a great job.  And it's the only time I can draft!  I love the beta-beta-beta drafts.. they're insane.

EF: Popular Play formats?
LS: One of the big things, 100 Card Singleton, for example, was only created for Commander but people were playing 100CS in the casual format.  And if you look at what we've been doing for the specialty formats, some of the most popular were Pauper and 100 Card Singleton... and those have been doing pretty well.  We wouldn't have promoted that format if there weren't people playing that format.  Those decisions are being based on hard numbers from real play data.

EF: What's a typical day?:
LS: Some of it is initiative taking, some of it is finding new ways to use our data to improve what we're doing, some of it is just known reports that are great and we use all the time.  Like on's new tournament data.  This is updated much faster than in the past, but the Weekly Decklists will still be there.  I work closely with Mike, Worth and Chris a lot about MTGO, and help out where ever I can.

EF: More frequent data updates, MOPRs?
LS: As has been said on the forums, we'd love to get it to the point where you can just right click your name and see your stuff.  But that's going to take development work, like many other features we'd love to offer, which takes a while and has to go through prioritization.

EF: The newsletter, how's that going?
LS: People are posting in the forums "why am I not getting the newsletter?" instead of "stop spamming me!", which is pretty amazing as they usually post to get us doing less stuff.  I think it's been really well received.

EF: Current projects:
LS: I've been spending a lot of time getting this decklist for the new site's breakdown, and I've been working on that for a long time.  If I don't get deck lists out I hear about out it really fast.

EF: What value do you see for the decklists:
LS: Even if you're an anti-netdeck player - it's good to know what's out there.  For the new player it allows an easy way to see what's doing well and gives them context for the format they're interested in.

EF: Do you get to do much drafting for fun at WotC?
LS: Mostly just future sets, but usually just help with rules and card templating.  I try to keep in touch with R&D.  I hope I never have to stop talking about templating.  I'd be really sad if I had to stop doing that.

EF: You've been here a little over two years, what do you miss:
LS: Tournaments and the judge community, Lots of friends from the Midwest, around St. Louis, Chicago and Indianapolis.  The judge community is a great community and miss that a lot.
I'm always looking for other ways to release small pieces of data, like the top 10 most traded cards.  One way I've done that is through the newsletter.  Recently I ran a report find the card that if it's in the deck, would lead to the fastest win.

EF: Does the structure of the database hinder your queries?
LS: Not really, it's not that difficult.  I think that I'm able to get all the data that I need.

EF: Details like mulligans->winning percentage, or the impacts of play first?:
LS: I would not expect to see any game decisions based details any time soon.  Mostly just card choices, but not in game decision data.  A lot of the fun of the game is in figuring out the best decisions for the format you're in.  The data is much more likely to be card related, like what's in a deck, or what's being traded.  But any actual in game 'decisions' are highly unlikely.
Fun fact: I looked at Classic Tournaments.  The fastest card, if it's in the deck, that would lead to the fastest win in minutes: the top card is Gemstone Caverns, which is right along with Protean Hulk and Flash of course.  The slowest card is Fact or Fiction because it takes long time to build the piles, and it goes into slow decks.

EF: So no Shaharazad online?
LS: I would not expect to see it on MTGO anytime soon, since it's banned in Vintage.
But you did Chains of Mephistopheles?
Ugh.  That card is a nightmare to code, I've been one of the many people who have worked on that card.  It just gets crazy there's a lot of nested draw checking with multiples in play.  But it's totally worth the efforts as it's a beloved old card with very powerful effects.

EF: It must be difficult to know what you know and not let things slip:
LS: Oh yeah, for example, with the M10 rules changes it was hard to not say anything with the wrong terms.  Like saying 'battlefield' or 'exiled' when talking about a card publicly.  I would have one head of "battlefield", "cast", "Exiled" and publicly say "in play", "play", "RFG".  Especially as it was being tested for a long time internally we had to keep a lot of terms straight between the two rule sets.

Thanks again, LeeSharpe2k!

By: hamtastic, Erik Friborg
Nov 07 2009 10:29am
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By: hamtastic, Erik Friborg
Nov 06 2009 10:41am
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To help soothe the wounds of defeat from day 1 WotC threw an after hours event in the Larkspur Landing's first floor room for the WotC folks, the community folks, and the local players.  Algona was able to make an appearance and we had a great chance to talk about the MTGO community, MTGO in general, as well just generally shmooze with Mark Gottlieb.

The events included such typical favorites as 8th Edition Foil Draft.

Wait, what?

Yep, that was our reaction too.  And oh yeah, the collation was 'modified' to be something like five rares per 'pack' and all foil of course.  If you won a game you and your opponent were each able to reveal a foil Zendikar card from a box of foil singles and the winner would get their pick.  I played against Alexis in game one, got wrecked by Temporal Adept and flipped a foil Goblin Guide, Alexis flipped a Kraken Hatchling... tough choice for Alexis... I got the Hatchling.

After we played with this for a bit we then moved into Zendikar sealed where I cracked a decent U/W deck and played against Sam (from

As we wrapped up the night we went to "double foil" mode which is exactly what one would suspect.  At the end of each game each would reveal two cards and it would then go winner->loser->winner->loser.  And I had a chance for a cathartic experience when I was bequeathed the following card.  And if you've been following the coverage so far... this card is the reason I didn't go 3-0 in the draft.  Don't start nothin', (Windborn Charge), won't be nothin'.

I also had a chance to EDH against Alex (Spike) and Alex and Pete (one million words).  Great fun, great format.  Platinum Angel is great as long as she, ya know... lives.  Meh.  Good times!  

Expect some curveballs today as we mix things up!

By: hamtastic, Erik Friborg
Nov 05 2009 8:40pm
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After a WotC routing in round 2 our heroes run into a very painful round three.  After starting 0-5 Alex, the Community Side MVP is able to score the first win of the round for the Community.  Shortly after this, Pete storms through with a win of Mike Turian with an amazing win via Profane Command for just enough to finish Turian off.  A great win out of nowhere thanks to the tag team of Ob Nixilis and Profane Command.

This brings us to 2-6 for the round... the good guys are needing a late format rally to come back into this one.

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Thanks to Alex's (Spike) 3-0 results in the Zendikar draft we are now ahead of the WotC group by one point and we're sitting at 59-58 going into the 100 Card Singleton section!

Aaron Forsythe was working on the WotC decks until last night and I think that will be their downfall as they were loading decks to see thier changes even today.  I certainly hope that more than once a WotC player will think a specific card exists in their deck but that has actually been removed.

Lee Sharpe has already started the trash talking during lunch, and will make it all the sweeter when he's dream crushed for the next four rounds. 

But in all seriousness, I think this has been a great time so far and am really looking forward to seeing how this goes for the next few hours!

By: hamtastic, Erik Friborg
Nov 05 2009 2:23pm
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After some insane top deck luck in match one that stole victory from my waiting hand (seriously, 0 cards, draw Windborn Charge for exactly lethal?)  I return to the world of minor victories with a 2-1 win over WotC Chris! 

Round two started in bad style with me stalling out with four lands, a spire barage and 2x Goblin ShockGuy in hand.  I battled back to win the next two in grand fashion and have pulled my results to 1-1!

The current standings are 24 wins for the Wizards folks and 24 wins for the Community Members and we're heading.

I am now heading into round three against WotC Alexis, and will have to deal with giantic woodcrashers of doooommmmm!

By: hamtastic, Erik Friborg
Nov 05 2009 10:06am
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We had a fantastic welcome party at the Claim jumper with some of our WotC competition and all of the Community Cup participants that had arrived. Pete Jahn had been scheduled to attend but a double whammy of a delay and a broken plane kept him from joining us.  John (geekdad) is not scheduled to be town until late into day one which left us down a player from the get go.  Luckily enough for us WotC PR has found us an acceptable replacement... I won't spoil the surprise yet, but it's safe to say that we are going to be well covered despite being down a player.  I hope that all works out for Pete and John on their trips, delays are so frustrating.

We had a great time at the Claim Jumper, the food was fantastic, and the WotC folks are terrific hosts so far.  We were all able to hang out, chat, and just get to know each other a bit as this was the first time many of us have met in person.  Walter, Sam, Mike, Alex, Thomas and myself were in attendance along with various WotC competitors such as Marcella, Tolena, and Eric.  We are a bizarre mix of players, but at the end of the day we're all MTG players at heart.  I'm really looking forward to the events today and will keep things updated as we play.

There's a definite 'vibe' throughout the WotC offices about the Community Cup and MTGO in general.  It was hard to go anywhere without seeing screen shots of the new UI, or something MTGO related up on a wall or pinned to a cubicle, etc.  The more I see the dedication and efforts going into MTGO and the new UI and the general feeling of the company towards it I am becoming far more comfortable with the future of our preferred medium. 

Alas, my time is up and I must get ready for breakfast and the first events!

By: hamtastic, Erik Friborg
Nov 04 2009 9:40pm
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My first interviewee was Gordon Culp, whom you may or may not know.  Gordon is the guy behind the scenes technical direction of Magic Digital, and its various incarnations.  Be it our beloved MTGO, Duels of the Planeswalkers or the new MTG Tactics, Gordon's hands are sure to be close by.  I was fortunate enough to nab some of his time to talk about how things are going, the directions we're headed and more!  I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Gordon for his time and his very candid answers.  Thank you Gordon! 

By: hamtastic, Erik Friborg
Nov 04 2009 11:45am
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I'm not sure why Delta allows cats on their planes, but I can safely say that I'll take Snakes on a plane over cats on a plane any day of the week!