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MJF 05 16 2008

MJF 05 16 2008

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Published by: api-3853006 on Oct 19, 2008
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Flores Friday - The Basic Test of Metagaming Competence, by Mike Flor...
1 of 7
5/16/2008 12:03 AM
Flores Friday - The Basic Test of Metagaming
by Mike Flores
Let us begin with a quick question.
Assume there is a four person, two round, single elimination tournament,
and that the players break down thusly:

Paper, and

(In case you never learned this on the playground, Rock smashes Scissors,
Scissors cut Paper, and Paper covers Rock.)
Given that there are two copies of Rock, and remembering that there are
two Rocks, which of Rock, Paper, and Scissors is most likely to win this four

person, two round, single elimination tournament?
(This is not a trick question).
Go on...
Which is it?
Here be spoiler space...
Here be more spoiler space...
What about that Presidential election?
Who will win Game Seven?
Will the Celtics be the first team in NBA history to win a title without ever

winning a single game on the road? (Probably not.)
How about religion?

Flores Friday - The Basic Test of Metagaming Competence, by Mike Flor...
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5/16/2008 12:03 AM
I'm giving you room for your answer, in case you didn't realize it...

Paper, and

That is two (2) Rocks, one (1) Paper, and (1) Scissors.
This isnot a trick question.

You said Rock, didn't you?
"Good old Rock; nothing beats Rock." -Bart Simpson

Except Paper.

Most people would glance at the above and assume that Rock wins half the
time, Paper wins a quarter of the time, and Scissors wins a quarter of the
time. The sad thing is, "most people" don't even have the proper
denominator. In fact, the four person tournament can only break down three


Rock1 versus Rock2; Rock (doesn't matter which)
Paper versus Scissors; Scissors
Rock over Scissors

Rock1 versus Paper; Paper
Flores Friday - The Basic Test of Metagaming Competence, by Mike Flor...
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5/16/2008 12:03 AM
Rock2 versus Scissors; Rock

Paper over Rock
Rock1 versus Scissors; Rock

Rock2 versus Paper; Paper
Paper over Rock
So Paper wins 2/3 of the time, Rock wins 1/3 of the time, and given the
constraints of our tournament, Scissors never, ever, wins. Never. Ever.
Wait a second! you might ask. Why are we doing this anyway? Why are
there two copies of Rock in this hypothetical?

Believe it or not, this is probably the most useful article you will ever read
about how to select a deck! Not a specific deck, maybe, but the process by
which you can correctly,ma t h e ma t ica lly, select a deck! Really! And for the
rest of your life!

From the dawn of Internet strategy posts and articles, from the earliest days
of metagaming in Magic, our world has broken down into generalizations of
Rock, Paper, and Scissors. The original R/P/S wasNe cro p o te n ce, U/W
Control, and G/WArm a ge d d o n, with U/W over G/W andNe cro p o te n ce over
U/W; the problem is that as time went on theNe cro p o te n ce decks got
better, and more of the best players played Necropotence, andth e y added

Land Tax to the Restricted List, meaning that this wasn't much of a
Rock-Paper-Scissors because Rock tore right through paper like it was, you
know, soggy paper.

The other reason this wasn't the best place for us to grow from is that it is
potentially harmful to your mental game. I remember sitting down at my first
Pro Tour next to my roommate Worth Wollpert. We had a B/R
Necropotence deck (the same deck that Chris Pikula used to make Top 4 of
that Pro Tour); Worth had an easy White Weenie matchup; I got Paul
McCabe. We were all carrying two losses. Armed with both Black and Red
removal in a deck full of Protection from White, Worth tore his White
Weenie opponent in half... Did I mention I got Paul McCabe? I actually had
a wicked start with first turn Hypnotic Specter, but Paul drew Necropotence
first, recovered, and dispatched me in a tight one. Worth swung and
slugged to Top 16, and McCabe, for his part, didn't lose another game the
rest of the Swiss and, as you probably know, won the whole Pro Tour with
his Ihsan's Shades and Sengir Vampires.

"Don't you know by now that this game is all about matchups?"
I think Worth was trying to make me feel better, but I am pretty sure I went
on tilt and threw my deck across the room at that point instead.
The fact is, this gameis mostly about matchups; the problem is that this
empowers us rather than enervating us, but that's not how most people
treat the information. Given a (real) Rock-Paper-Scissors metagame, many

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