Sullivan Library: Rebutting the Hullabaloo

What a mess. What a mess. First of all, as I’ve read the forum thread to Geordie Tait’s article, I’ve grown sadder and sadder.
GT has decided to write a card advantage article for new players. Fine. We start debating the finer points of it. Fine. People get heated. Even this is fine.

There are two not-fines. One from Oscar Tan. One from GT.

What a mess. What a mess.

First of all, as I’ve read the forum thread to Geordie’s article, I’ve grown sadder and sadder.

GT has decided to write a card advantage article for new players. Fine. We start debating the finer points of it. Fine. People get heated. Even this is fine.

There are two not-fines.

One from Oscar Tan. One from GT.

For Oscar (and a few others), his”not-fine” is that he’s stepping ahead of Geordie’s article series by getting into Virtual Card Advantage a little bit. Virtual Card Advantage will be (I presume from Geordie’s comments to this effect) gotten into. So, let’s leave the Virtual Stuff alone, and give him a chance to write about it. Those of us who have read EDT’s fabulous work here know that this is worthy Magic Theory on the highest order. I hope that GT decides to link to it, or if not that, that a humble editor puts it in there. That said, Oscar has some very valid points. (And, also, to be fair, Geordie started touching on the Virtual stuff too here in forums…)

GT’s”not-fine” is a part of the basic premise, and is bigger. I already know that he’s planning three articles.”Pure” is here.”Virtual” and”Effective” are on the way. I can assume that he’s going to be doing Virtual right. So, that leaves”Effective”. Here, I imagine, he’ll get into the”exceptions” like Beast Attack, which create”Pure” card disadvantage, but are”Effective”ly two cards.

And this whole idea is a load. (If I’m wrong about what he’s planning about effective, then I’ll change my problem to his basic definition of”Pure”.)

As Flores stated earlier, the concept of card advantage is not necessarily all that useful, but it is one of those ideas that help bring you forward. We all owe The Deck a lot.

The reason that the whole idea is a load is that it is completely and utterly unuseful and teaches people bad lessons. This is the danger of trying to write Magic Theory. If you teach bad or unuseful lessons, there was no point.

The good lessons of what card advantage is are all there in the basics of the Pure article, but so are bad ideas, because you are making an unnecessary distinction between a pair of Beast Attack tokens (not cards, so -1) and a Durkwood Boar (a card, so 0) or you are creating a needless sub-definition of card advantage.

So which is it? A description of”Effective” Card Advantage which is needless (because you could just count Beast Attack as two”cards” and pretty easily have a newbie get it (“Look, 2 Beasts! 1 Card spent! +1”). Or is it that you literally don’t consider the Beasts anything other than a -1? I’m pretty sure it is the first case. But that case is completely unnecessary and will hurt the growth of the reader.

Now, to some post specific stuff…

General Notes: I’m assuming Geordie is definitionally calling tokens”Effective Card Advantage”. If I’m wrong about this, and he means something different by that term, then all of his points about tokens are bona fida way the hell off from a pure definitional standpoint.

“20 Soldier tokens isn’t card advantage unless they end up trading with opposing cards. If you want to call it anything, call it board advantage.” Board advantage is not a useful term, since it is subjective.

“If you want to get really technical about it, the only card advantage gained by firing off a massive Decree is virtual card advantage. Not because it creates tokens or pseudo-cards or any of that nonsense (that’s not what virtual card advantage means!), but because the one turn clock renders almost every card in your opponent’s deck completely useless.”

This is a very interesting stretch off the Virtual Card Advantage theory. This might be useful to explore, for real.


One card that makes twenty is card advantage.”

Uh…*no it isn’t.* One card that draws twenty is card advantage. One card that makes twenty tokens still leaves you down a card (though when you cycle it, at least it replaces itself in this case). You’re might be about to win, but you’re down a card nonetheless. How can you call it card advantage when you now have one less card in hand than your opponent? You have twenty tokens, congratulations. That’s not card advantage, that’s an aspect of your board position.

If pure card advantage were generated by putting permanents on the table, Acorn Harvest would be equal to Deep Analysis.

This is spurious, at best. Either you’re subscribing to the idea that Effective Card Advantage is going on here (I’m guessing here, since I don’t know what your definition or application of that term is going to be) and then you are picking nits, or worse, you think that you haven’t gained card advantage. Definitionally (from the perspectives of the giants whose shoulders you stand on), you have. If you aren’t calling this card advantage (in either the Pure or Effective categories) your definition system is flawed at a fundamental level.

You say”Congratulations” with regard to the tokens. You make the comparison between Acorn Harvest and Deep Analysis, scoffingly. In a traditional non-Virtual approach to counting card advantage, they do indeed have the same card advantage count. Just as an Akroma, Angel of Wrath and a Skirk Prospector do. Don’t ignore the fact that card advantage is only concerned with counting. It doesn’t care about card quality. In the Akroma/Skirk case, they both have the same card advantage value, but as we all know that isn’t the end-all be-all. The Skirk is lucky enough to get out on turn 1. The Akroma is much higher card quality, and when it gets out has the added benefit of creating virtual card advantage vs. a Skirk.

These are reasons why people largely discounted non-virtual card advantage as a true tool in useful discussion. Because, while they are a great starting point, they don’t really contribute much beyond being a starting point for players that aren’t aware of card advantage.

As a starting point, I think you’ve done some great work. But don’t do a disservice to the good stuff in this work by not acknowledging that it needs some additional work to make it perfect. Usually, all of our material could stand for some polish.

“The reason the PCA system doesn’t determine card advantage as soon as you stick permanents on the board is because you have no idea how many cards your opponent will have to spend in order to deal with those invested threats.”

This drives me nuts. From a simple logical evaluation, this falls down because it is not unique to tokens. The same can be said of actual cards. If an opponent might spend two cards to kill one card or token is irrelevant until they actually spend them. We can’t start guessing how many cards it will take to answer either a card or a token to determine it’s card advantage until they expend the card(s).

As for the Decree of Justice/Moat example that comes up in the thread, one of the things to think about is that again you fall under either a bad definition (if you don’t count the creation of numerous tokens as some kind of card advantage) to an unnecessary one (if you count them as”Effective”).

Whether you are using either of those, or the more traditional one settled on by your opponent, arguments about what is simpler are unimportant. Regardless, it is a case of Moat obtaining Virtual Card Advantage. Long ago, the concept of tokens being hard to quantify (of what value is a Saproling? how does it compared to a second Saproling? How does it compare to a Scryb Sprite? Or a vanilla 1/1 green card?) first caused the discussion that resulted in agreement on one thing: Card Advantage could be counted… but was often meaningless the more you looked into it. It wasn’t until EDT introduced Virtual Card Advantage that we really had something to gnaw our teeth on.

All told, I am looking forward to your next articles. I just hope that you let loose a little of this defensiveness.