You CAN Play Type I #121: Back to Basics, Part XI: Counting Shadow Prices, Unifying the Theories of Magic

Don’t worry, the formulas in this article aren’t serious, I’ve had it with fancy math. Last week, I snuck into the cafeteria for a bite, and the only other person there was a grad student from the neighboring college, studying calculus models for a Macroeconomics midterm. Missing my Bachelor’s in Economics days, I took the seat beside her, put on a big smile, and asked,”So, what’s your favorite equation?”

Type I News backlog

[author name="Doug Linn"]Doug Linn[/author] reports on the latest Gay Fish.

“Smmenycakes” Menendian looks at Type I for 2004.

[author name="Philip Stanton"]Philip Stanton[/author] a.k.a. DrSylvan gauges set design with quantitative analysis.

[author name="Abe Sargent"]Abe Sargent[/author] revamps our classic decks.

Counting Time

“Grace is given of God but knowledge is bought in the market.”-Arthur Clough

Magic: the Gathering is really just a mathematical construct.

You begin with a fixed number of resources, execute your choice of moves under set rules, and move towards a predetermined victory condition (opponent at zero life, opponent at zero cards in library during his draw step, opponent with ten poison counters, and so on). It’s not all that different from, say, Starcraft, where you develop resources and then outmaneuver an opponent, whether you try a Zergling rush, or a lategame turtle fortress where there was once a lone SCV.

With this focus on resources, a game of Magic distilled is little more than a cardboard stock exchange.

Today, we’ll try to tie together the disparate”Back to Basics” articles under a unifying framework, and show how each Magic move is just a trade-off in the underlying game economy.

Disclaimer for the mathematically frustrated (a.k.a. Glenson Lim)

Don’t worry, the formulas in this article aren’t serious, like the first sabermetrics formula below.

I’ve had it with fancy math. Last week, I snuck into the cafeteria for a bite, and the only other person there was a grad student from the neighboring college, studying calculus models for a Macroeconomics midterm. Missing my Bachelor’s in Economics days, I took the seat beside her, put on a big smile, and asked,”So, what’s your favorite equation?”

[Smoothest. Magic Player. Ever. After JP’s article, I’m just waiting to see the”You CAN Date Oscar”Cinnamon Buns” Tan: Letting Girls Play With Your Deck” column. – Knut, long-winded, but amused]

Unfortunately, she actually had one, and my smile turned into rigor mortis as I sifted through the exponential formulas in my head, in the box labeled,”Ancient History.”

While we had a lovely chat, I learned an important lesson that day: When striking up a conversation with a summa cum laude Economics student, pick safer intros like,”What’s your favorite color?”,”Seen Return of the King yet?”,”Do you believe in God?” and”Really, your mother is my professor?!?!”

Of course, my favorite formula is drinking = going to Heaven. (If get drunk, we fall asleep… if we fall asleep, we commit no sin…)

The framework

The”Back to Basics” series is written around the Time Walk deconstruction I used in”The Control Player’s Bible, Part VIII” two years ago. The quintessential cantrip reflects the four fundamental restrictions in the game:

Restriction 1: You draw one card per turn

Restriction 2: You untap your cards once per turn (your mana producers, most importantly)

Restriction 3: You play up to one land per turn

Restriction 4: You attack up to once per turn

Magic is won by breaking these rules.

In classic theory, Restriction 1 is covered by card advantage, and if Magic were a game of checkers, breaking it would be like slipping more pieces onto your side of the board. Card advantage is discussed in:

Back to Basics, Part 3: Counting card advantage

Back to Basics, Part 4: Recounting card advantage (Additional scenarios)

Back to Basics, Part 8: Revisiting card advantage (More additional scenarios)

Back to Basics, Part 9: The Ten-Second Card Advantage Solution

Back to Basics, Part 10: The Backyard Brawl and your Ten-Second Answers

Restrictions 2, 3, and 4 are covered by tempo, and breaking tempo restrictions are akin to taking more turns in the same checkers game. Tempo is discussed in:

Back to Basics, Part 5: Counting tempo, Part I (Land drops)

Back to Basics, Part 6: Counting tempo, Part II (Untap phases and mana per turn)

Back to Basics, Part 7: Counting tempo, Part III (Attack phases)

Back to Basics, Part 1: Why Timmy and [author name="Brian Kibler"]Brian Kibler[/author] shouldn’t play Type I (why fat is bad)

Back to Basics, Part 2: A mana curve can be a line or a blob

Magic resources correspond to these restrictions. Cards are relevant to breaking Restriction 1, or gaining card advantage. Mana is relevant to breaking Restrictions 2 and 3, or gaining tempo. Finally, loosely speaking, life is relevant to Restriction 4 (and aiming for other victory conditions is analogous to attacking the life total with a different count).

Many beginning players get fixated on card advantage theory (and later say it’s useless because it doesn’t capture the entire game or because they don’t understand it), but I’ve repeated in every article that enlightenment comes with understanding all the game’s building blocks, and CA is just one of these.

Counting Resources

In-game mental accounting is extremely important, since you need to know how far a play pushes you ahead in a resource. Thus,”The Ten-Second Card Advantage Solution” detailed T.H.E.F.U.C.C. and its simplified three-phrase system for tracking cards.

T.H.E.F.U.C.C. is as easily applied to track other resources, like mana and life. For example:

Widened and Honed Application of Tan’s Highly Educational Formula for Uber-Card Counting (W.H.A.T.H.E.F.U.C.C.)

Decision: Should Ferrett Chastise Knut’s Phyrexian Colossus? WTF?

Option 1: Ferrett doesn’t cast Chastise on Knut’s Phyrexian Colossus. WTF?

Life Advantage (Ferrett)

-8 (From Phyrexian Colossus’s 8 power)

LA (Knut)

-0 (no life loss)


Option 2: Ferret casts Chastise on Knut’s Phyrexian Colossus. WTF?

LA (Ferrett)

+8 (From Chastise and Phyrexian Colossus’ 8 toughness)

LA (Knut)

-0 (no life loss)

Total LA: LA (Option 2) – LA (Option 1) = 8 – -8 = +16 life

Thus, the Chastise play creates a 16-point life swing, just as there’s theoretically a three mana swing and a zero card swing. (You saw this kind of analysis in”Head to Head: Goblins.”)

As in”The Backyard Brawl and your Ten-Second Answers“, this is so easy a ten-year old could do it.

The tough calls come, however, when you have to compare different resources.

It’s easy to pick a voluptuous girl over a sexy girl, a gorgeous girl over a cute girl, and a vivacious girl over a friendly girl. But what happens when a mature guy like you has to choose between looks and personality?

In Magic terms, countering Ancestral Recall is obvious CA gain, but what about:

Decision: Ferrett’s Dark Ritual is on the stack. Knut is holding Force of Will and a Blue card. WTF?

Option 1: Knut lets Dark Ritual resolve. WTF?


-0 (loses nothing)


+3 mana (Dark Ritual)


Option 2: Knut casts Force of Will. WTF?


-2 CA (Force of Will and a blue card leave Knut’s hand)

-1 life (Force of Will alternate casting cost)


-0 (loses nothing)

Total: Option 2 – Option 1 = (-2 CA + -1 life) – (-3 mana) = -2 CA + -1 life + 3 mana

Thus, the common Type I opening dilemma is whether to throw two blue cards after that Dark Ritual, or let the opponent get two extra mana. In other words, do you trade your cards for your opponent’s tempo?

This isn’t simple since if it were turn 1, you’d Force in a lot of cases (see the last feature game in”Head to Head: Dragon“). If it were Turn 30, why bother?

A more general problem: Play or draw? On Turn 1, in almost all formats, you’d pass on your draw to lay the first land. But on turn 30, you’d gladly trade your land drop for a card draw. Chrome Mox presents a similar dilemma.

It’s this kind of apples to oranges to steak that a Grand Unifying Theory of Magic has to cut through.

It’s not even an exotic or specialized problem. Discussing Extended”Dump Truck” which won Grand Prix Anaheim, [author name="Ben Rubin"]Ben Rubin[/author] wrote,”First of all, it must be understood what sort of deck this is. Whereas Tinker and Goblins attempted to overpower by doing better things than the opponent, and Ponza expects to win before the opponent can set up, my deck expects not to go toe to toe with anyone. Rather, the idea is to dedicate almost all resources to disrupting them, and hope the remaining core of the deck (card drawing and Exalted Angel) will best whatever dismembered parts their game has left. As such, speed is really not an emphasis in most circumstances (hence the absence of cards like Chrome Mox and Phyrexian Negator) – especially since cards spent to speed things along mean I am both less likely to succeed in finally crippling them, and that once I’ve crippled them I may be less able to take advantage of it.”

Unifying theory, or unifying formula?

The most interesting correspondence regarding”The Ten-Second Card Advantage Solution” came from hard sciences people. Tom Carpenter, an American engineer, started a nice chat about baseball’s sabermetrics, statistical methods for gauging the defect rate in Tom’s aluminum foundry, and T.H.E.F.U.C.C.

Now, sabermetrics is an attempt to predict baseball teams’ winnability by taking various statistics judged to be highly relevant to winning, and adding them up into a single score. For example, one statistic I randomly took from the Internet is:

Runs = .5 * (singles) + .72 * (doubles) + 1.04 * (triples)+ 1.44 * (home runs) + .34 * (hit by pitch+walks-intentional walks) + .25 * (intentional walks) + .37 * (sacrifice flies) + .04 * (sacrifice hits) + .18 * (stolen bases) – .32 * (caught stealing) -.09 * (at bats-hits-strikeouts) – .098 * (strikeouts) – .37 * (grounded into double plays)

Following sabermetrics, instead of runs and strikeouts, you might chop up a card into its gain in CA, mana, and damage (or whatever victory condition), and add these up into a single score:

Card score = Points(CA) + Points(mana) + Points (damage)

Then, you add up the score of your forty or sixty cards, and aim for the highest”deck score.”

Deck score = Points(Card 1) + Points(Card 2) + … + Points(Card 60)

(Baseball is nonexistent here in Manila, but I never realized you Americans played it with calculators. Like, we don’t really track the”elbows made to actual fouls” in local basketball.)

I don’t think it works for Magic.

First, unlike a baseball player, a Magic player’s abilities change as the game progresses. Like that lowly SCV, a Magic player’s mana or damage per attack is different on Turn 1 and on turn 30. Indeed, some cards are useless on Turn 1, and others are useless on turn 30.

Second, you’d have to assign a value to each of thousands of unique cards, and even if you limit yourself to a single expansion, it’s still a tall order.

Third, Magic cards aren’t played in a vacuum. For example, Seat of the Synod’s value is very different when it’s alone, when it’s with Broodstar or Goblin Welder, and when the opponent has Blood Moon out. You’ll have to assign a value for each of the possible combinations as well, and it’s this kind of overlap that shoots simple Economics-Statistics models to pieces.

Finally, even if you can manage all this, you have to redo it all whenever a new expansion is printed.

Doesn’t this prospect just grab you by the testicles and make you want to run to the card store right now and compute up the perfect Sealed Deck?

Until DCI implements fifty-hour matches and allows mainframes in tourneys, I don’t think this is the way to go.

This”single score” idea isn’t new, however. Simpler models have been proposed in the past.

The best one was Scott Keller’s proposal (“Everything is a Time Walk“, New Wave Games, September 7, 2000) that time in the sense of turns should be the basic unit of Magic. Keller observed that Magic theory began with Brian Weissman and card advantage, but other less visible factors like mana fell outside this model, and were overlooked by many players.

Using the turn as a harmonizing unit, though, isn’t any more practical. For example, can we say:

1 card = 1 turn’s worth of mana = 1 land drop = 1 attack

This is extremely problematic. Control and combo decks, for example, barely use the attack phase. To give another example, one turn’s worth of mana is not equal to one turn’s worth of mana. That is, a deck that opens with Ancient Tomb and Grim Monolith has more turn 1 mana than a deck that opens with Island, go. And further, a deck’s turn 1 mana is very different from a deck’s turn 30 mana.

What about:

W cards = X turn’s worth of mana = Y land drops = Z attacks

It’s still a problem, since if a theoretical answer exists, our Force of Will on Dark Ritual question should have only one answer.

Keller’s discussion, though, linked various theories far better than cruder formulations. For example, one idea was vaguely referred to as”resource theory” in the forums. Likely using Sylvan Library and Jayemdae Tome as benchmarks, this unarticulated theory uses the equation:

4 life = 4 mana = 1 card

So Sacred Nectar is as good as Merchant Scroll in all cases?

Again, it’s hard to accept that a fixed”exchange rate” – especially one picked out of a hat – can govern all formats, all cards ever printed, all interactions in the Type I card pool, and all turns from turn 1 onwards.

It’s like apples to oranges to steak mixed into a mush of baby food called”resource points.”

So whether points, turns, resource points, gold pieces, credits, or bottle caps, it looks like no single currency is good enough.

Does this mean our cardboard market model falls apart?

Not at all. Europe did well enough before the Euro, and our ancestors got by with barter. Two guys with two trade binders and no money can walk away happy, too.

Thus, you should think more about what to buy in the market than about whether to pay in resource points or bottle caps. You don’t care what you pay with, so long as you get a good deal.

Let’s try that Dark Ritual again

Decision: Ferrett’s Dark Ritual is on the stack. Knut is holding Force of Will and a Blue card. WTF?

Option 1: Knut lets Dark Ritual resolve. WTF?


-0 (loses nothing)


+3 mana (Dark Ritual)


Option 2: Knut casts Force of Will. WTF?


-2 CA (Force of Will and a blue card leave Knut’s hand)

-1 life (Force of Will alternate casting cost)


-0 (loses nothing)

Total: Option 2 – Option 1 = (-2 CA + -1 life) – (-3 mana) = -2 CA + -1 life + 3 mana

Without a simplifying currency, how do we do this? Again, you just ask yourself if you’d make the trade.

Assume Knut is running mono-Blue and Ferrett has mono-Black. Then assume it’s Turn 1.

If you were Knut, you’d gladly make the trade. On Turn 1, you both have full hands, but an extra mana that early is worth its weight in gold (see”Counting Tempo, Part I“). Indeed, Elvish Spirit Guide and Lotus Petal are very powerful combo boosts in Type I, and all the more after Lion’s Eye Diamond’s restriction. As for the life, going from twenty to nineteen on turn 1 is negligible, and Polluted Delta sees a lot of mileage.

But what if it’s turn 30?

Going from one to three mana is a world of difference compared to going from ten mana to twelve. With mana abundant and hands possibly depleted, you’ll generally make each card – especially each counter – count.

Both short answers make a lot of sense without a”unifying” measurement.

Note you don’t know exactly”how much” you’re ahead. That is, you don’t know if Force of Will on a turn 1 Dark Ritual is five points ahead, ten points ahead, or 3.1412 points ahead.

But that’s okay. Imagine you’re thinking of taking Jill or Jean to the fraternity ball. You might sit down for a minute and tell yourself,”Jill has a warmer smile” or”I like Jean’s legs,” but you definitely won’t sit down with a graphical calculator and take Jill because she’s an 8.3945 compared to Jean’s 8.3761. [These are Magic players, Oscar… broken things happen. – Knut]

Again, so long as you can decide which the better deal is, you don’t desperately need the exact scores. All you need is an accurate count for each resource, so you can tabulate them properly and judge from there.

The Shadow Price

The cardboard stock market puts an invisible set of weighing scales inside your head every time you make a move.

You don’t care exactly how much you’re ahead so long as you’re making the better play, but the truth is, you have some idea. Imagine your two options as the two pans of those invisible weighing scales. Going back to Force of Will on Dark Ritual, your judgment call might change if you add something to either pan. For example, if you had to lose another card (Foil) or your entire hand (Null Brooch) to counter Dark Ritual, you might change your mind.

At some imaginary point after fiddling with the scales, the two weights will be equal. Beyond that, the scales will swing the other way. Thus, you’re telling yourself that you’re willing to make the trade so long as the scales haven’t moved past that imaginary balance point.

Let’s call this imaginary balance point the invisible or”shadow” price.

(Note to readers who’ve taken Linear Programming or Economics. No, I’m not using”shadow price” in the higher math sense. If you can’t live with this, just call it”Tan price” and go start a conversation by asking someone for her favorite calculus equation.)

So, if you want to intuitively weigh a trade, list all the resources for both options in a W.H.A.T.H.E.F.U.C.C. table, and ask yourself if the”exchange rate” is still below the shadow price you’ll do business at.

If you’ve ever played Blue control against Sligh and your life total dips below ten, you’ve probably done this mental weighing. Rationing your counters, you’ll probably ignore a Shock and maybe Lightning Bolt or Incinerate, seriously think about Fireblast or Goblin Grenade, but definitely counter Price of Progress or Flaming Gambit.

What you’re really doing is asking yourself how much life would make you throw away that card in hand instead. Moreover, this shadow price shifts, until you’re so close to that last, priceless life point that you’ll trade anything to stay alive.

It’s easier to keep this an imaginary, intuitive concept than try to whip up a fancy equation (and requisition a mainframe), but we can paint the general picture:

Shadow Principle 1: From Magic’s four fundamental restrictions, all effects and abilities can be expressed in terms of gain in cards, mana, or damage (or whatever relevant victory condition).

Shadow Principle 2: The value of mana decreases as the game progresses.

Shadow Principle 3: The value of cards increases as the game progresses.

Shadow Principle 4: The value of life increases as your life total decreases, and the last life point is priceless. (Parallel principles describe other victory conditions.)

Again, this is intuitive. Principles 2 and 3 combined explain why the Force of Will on Dark Ritual example can’t have a single answer. At the start of the game, you haven’t played out your hands but are jockeying for position. Later, you might find yourself in a topdeck slugfest, a battle of attrition the old school control deck wants to move the game into, and something aggro and aggro-control decks hope to avoid by winning first.

Principle 4 explains the Sligh example above, and explains why Necropotence’s life for cards trade is broken. It works for other conditions as well. For example, you’d ignore a Brain Freeze, unless it comes with fifteen Storm triggers.

Principle 1 might sound too ambitious, but it works for our broad, intuitive purposes. How do you weigh”card quality” boosters, for example, like Brainstorm and Impulse? Simply extend your T.H.E.F.U.C.C. time frame by a couple of turns, so you can gauge the benefit of fixing your hand for a minimal mana cost over weaker immediate topdecks (note it can go both ways, since the minimal mana cost can postpone a play in a more aggressive deck).

If you take this broader view, you can model most effects from more exotic card effects to creature abilities. Since”card quality” is often meant as a mishmash of how a card breaks fundamental restrictions, it’s a vague, abstract term that’s as useful as saying,”She’s nice” or”She’s good” (Or saying card advantage doesn’t work because we each lost a card but mine was”better”).”Card quality” is probably most useful in Limited, where picks are enough of a”fifth fundamental constraint” that such a shorthand term is useful enough.

Otherwise,”card quality” is reminiscent of the resource point baby food mush or the single score thinking. The precise concepts are more useful, unless you want to simply say”better” the way a”Top 20 Magic cards” list runs. (Debate with yourself whether Counterspell is better than Island, or see the lists in”Three Takes on Type I” by Brian David-Marshall.)

Applying the Shadow Price

Again, all you have to do is list the resources for your options on the two ends of a T.H.E.F.U.C.C. scales, and think about where your shadow price is, without aiming to get things down to the tenth decimal point. It may take some experience and your benchmarks will vary from format to format, but it should come intuitively once you’re conscious of how each resource moves.

Moreover, a lot of trades are dominated by one aspect, so you just have to feel out card against mana, or card against life, for example, and pay less attention to the rest. The easiest are those dominated by only one resource, and you only need to count a la T.H.E.F.U.C.C. without the shadows to feel out cards against cards or mana against mana.

It might be fun to go back to many of the examples in”The Backyard Brawl and your Ten-Second Answers” and move beyond the CA-focused T.H.E.F.U.C.C. solutions. For example, take the last problem submitted by Nick Lynn:

Play: Nick has Black Lotus, Gemstone Mine with one counter, tapped Volcanic Island, and tapped Tropical Island in play. He has Guerilla Tactics, two Arrogant Wurms, Mana Drain, and Death Spark in hand.

Ferrett has, all tapped, two Jackal Pups, a Slith Firewalker with two counters, two Mountains, and Rishadan Port. He has no hand and Wheel of Fortune on the stack.

Nick is at 5 life, Ferrett is at 20. WTF?

This looks like a straight CA problem because of Wheel of Fortune, but T.H.E.F.U.C.C. showed that CA between countering and not countering Wheel of Fortune is roughly even. If you widen and hone, however, you’ll see the complete picture described in”The Backyard Brawl and your Ten-Second Answers“. Other solutions likewise discussed tempo.

While I think of shadow prices as something you keep in mind while deciding to make plays, they’re also relevant to deckbuilding. Shadow prices are in the context of trade-offs, and in Constructed, every slot you fill means a card you have to give up. Thinking in terms of all the resources can show you how a well-timed Blinding Beam can break a Limited game open, but how Relentless Assault is less useful than simply another creature in your Constructed.

More importantly, though, the cards you pick set up the trades you plan to make, and a deck usually aims to win by dominating in a particular resource.

Consider, for example, that an environment would be very different if cheap removal and cheap counterspells were all gone. Fat creatures and expensive spells would be playable because the shadow prices would be very different; it’s no longer possible to get the bargain of killing a nine-mana Dragon with a two-mana instant at the end of your turn.

Further, certain decks just aren’t feasible when certain shadow prices are skewed. Stompy can’t be built, for example, when there are no Green weenies with a good enough power-to-mana ratio. Blue weakens when the counters and card drawers with good shadow prices rotate out. In Type I, combo took a hit when the one-card-for-three-mana Lion’s Eye Diamond was restricted, and gauge the effects of the last Extended bannings, too.

In fact, as cards are added to a pool, whether Type I or the latest block, others become obsolete because new cards in the same niche make for better trades, or simply because its trade becomes weaker against the pool’s shadow prices. Jayemdae Tome was a classic control mainstay, for example, but it’s just too slow for modern Type I and Extended. On the other hand, Isochron Scepter with an activation of half the mana, was an important part of the recent Dülmen builds for Type I, and Extended ‘Tog.

Thus, if you want to see what kind of archetype would excel after a rotation, it might help to see which cards offer bargain resource trades compared to the new pool’s implied shadow prices.

However, to end, I prefer to keep the shadow price idea as a state of mind to strive for. It’s an intuitive reminder to master the mental accounting of each resource and keep conscious of all their movements, then weigh them all intuitively before trading them off in a play. Have fun with the underlying numbers of the cardboard stock market without getting buried in them!


In last week’s column,”The Backyard Brawl and your Ten-Second Answers“, I wrote off Rod of Ruin with Rule 3, for -1 CA, and said it broke even the first time you killed a weenie.

My mindset was to model the weenie killing a la Serrated Arrows, and chuck the direct damage in the back as a very secondary ability. After all, Rod of Ruin eats up ten times the mana just to get the same effect as Shock. (You start thinking like this in some other situations as well, like when you compare The Rack in Pox to other creatures, seeing how The Rack snipes at the opponent’s life total, but does nothing on the board. Thus, some people have argued against it as a damage source there.)

Christopher a.k.a. Yosarian, a twenty-four-year old New Jersey grad student, said on the forums:”I decided that the problem is not with your model, which I like very much, but that you broke one of your own rules. The -1 was only if a card ‘Has no other effect not covered by another rule.’ In this case, the Rod of Ruin does have another effect that is not covered by another rule, which is that it can do damage to the other player.”

This is a more logical general answer. Rod of Ruin, thus, should be counted as +0 CA, more like Cursed Scroll and unlike classic -1 CA Flores-esque investment permanents like Jayemdae Tome and Browse. You can write it off later if you think the direct damage ability is”dead” under Rule 3, but this should be the exception and not the rule.

It’s actually amusing, since my brain is wired for Type I. Although I think Rod of Ruin is great in Eighth Edition draft, the last time I actually held one was in Revised.

Comments on T.H.E.F.U.C.C.’s test run: Debate over”dead” cards

I’d like to share some incisive comments regarding last week’s”The Backyard Brawl and your Ten-Second Answers.” Adrian Sullivan e-mailed on Rule 3:”When I saw you add that, I knew you were in for a firestorm.”

I said last week that a player needs to use his judgment when using Rule 3, unlike the more concrete Rules 1 and 2. Adrian is quite right, but I felt Rule 3 had to be in T.H.E.F.U.C.C. to be a complete guide, so I’ll risk debate regarding the more slippery counts like local enchantments. As he wrote in the forums,”If he didn’t do that, his system is very correct and complete. Ideas of dead cards are arbitrary. Rod of Ruin is a great example. Everything else is completely objective.”

To compensate in”The Ten-Second Card Advantage Solution,” I gave examples where Rule 3 is clear: Counting Jayemdae Tome the same way as Stroke of Genius, counting Moat’s effect on non-flyers, and mulliganing away a hand of Shatters against an artifact-less deck. To take Adrian’s point, though, it might make counts even simpler to apply Rules 1 and 2 first, and then Rule 3.

Note Adrian feels that CA and Eric“Danger” Taylor’s”virtual” CA must be counted separately, while I think they’re part of the same concept. I wrote, though, that regardless, Rule 3 handles all cases of”virtual” CA plus others, such as cards written off.

Comments on T.H.E.F.U.C.C.’s test run: Which simplifications?

Richard Melvin a.k.a. Soru, a thirty-seven-year old engineer and online Type II enthusiast from Cardiff, said:

“No theory of Magic can be simultaneously universal, correct and useful. Pick any two.

“In order to be useful, a theory needs to be simpler than the complete ruleset of Magic and the contents and ordering of the 2 decks in contention…

“Oscar’s card advantage makes the kinds of simplifications that make sense for a Keeper-style control deck (or playing against a deck of that type). For example, it doesn’t care about the difference between a 1/1 and a 3/3, or a flyer and a non-flyer, because either dies to the same spells. It doesn’t care about life gain, because it can kill someone with 24 life as easily as 20. It doesn’t care about the first 19 points of direct damage, because it is confident it can stop the 20th.

“Playing a different type of deck, the ideal set of simplifications needed would be different. For example, in a match between two burning bridges deck, more or less the only thing you need to choose between two plays is the opponents life total.”

This makes a lot of sense, and I thought about alternative sets of simplifications. I’ve used T.H.E.F.U.C.C. since the earliest Control Player’s Bible articles back in 2001, and I think it’s the best general set. I’m okay with it for aggro, control and aggro-control (see”Counting Tempo, Part III“). However, Richard makes me wonder, for example, if there might be a more specialized combo against combo model that emphasizes different factors.

It’s like economics. Your high school demand/supply curves are wonderful general cases and can be adapted or tweaked for many things, but more complex price models exist for special applications.

Comments on T.H.E.F.U.C.C.’s test run: Huh?

Some critics defied mathematical common sense. For example, Will Rieffer a.k.a. Force of Will said the example that showed Time Walk was a cantrip was wrong, because the comparison used a time frame with two of your turns and one of your opponent’s. He wrote:”What’s so cool is that unlike normal, I can go back in time after casting a Time Walk and pick up the previous draw step. In this case Oscar’s Time Walk advantage evaporates the second the opponent resolves their own draw step and moves toward resolving the general half turn from his own main phase.”

Thing is, you only need to keep your Options 1 and 2 consistent. Whatever time frame you use, everything you add cancels out, and you’ll still show that Time Walk doesn’t lose CA.

“njx” also said that T.H.E.F.U.C.C. doesn’t work, because it says if you Naturalize a Jayemdae Tome, CA is even. However, he refused to consider an Option 1 and 2 that counted the next turns, where Tome would draw cards.

I like a vigorous debate as much as anyone, but sometimes you simply have to agree to disagree with critics, as even the most open and informative debate will not convince some people. Till next week!

Oscar Tan (e-mail: Rakso at StarCityGames.com)

rakso on #BDChat on EFNet

Paragon of Vintage

University of the Philippines, College of Law

Forum Administrator, Star City Games

Featured Writer, Star City Games

Author of the Control Player’s Bible

Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (R.I.P.)

Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance