New Format: Top Deck

Discussion in 'Games Run By CPA Members' started by BigBlue, Apr 29, 2008.

  1. turgy22 Nothing Special

    I decided to bump this thread since our latest match thread got so long.

    Anyway, I have to hand it to BigBlue, this is the most fun Magic format I have ever played. And I'm not just saying that because I won. I've just never played any game that required this much depth and thought - open to so many possibilities. It's like combining deck building and game playing into one. It also completely eliminates the luck factor from Magic (IMO, the one thing that makes the game un-fun) because you can never draw a bad hand. The card you want is always available, although it takes some effort to find the right card for every situation, especially when trying to anticipate your opponent's next move. It's like playing a game of chess on a giant board with 80,000+ different pieces. I suggest everyone here who participates in the games give this one a try.

    Okay, enough raving. I think we should start another thread (or move this one) in another forum, where it won't be constantly bumped down. There, we can keep track of any rules updates, strategies, general discussion, etc. Speaking of rules updates, Erratic Explosion & Kaboom! will need to be banned. 16 damage for 3 mana seems a little bit too powerful, even if you can only do it once. That's all for now, but I know I had some other thoughts I wanted to share.
  2. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    I think this type of format is out of my depth. I'm only familiar with cards up through Tempest block and some cards up through Mirrodin. There's no way I would know what to search for on cards in later blocks that might help me...

    But it does look fun.
  3. BigBlue Magic Jones

    Spidey... I'm with you in terms of "my" knowledge...

    Gatherer and Apprentice take a lot of work out of it - though I have issues with both...

    If I were to have a Perfect search engine for cards - it would do more than exact phrases...

    Some good phrases to search on:

    Draw a card - gets you cantrips and slowtrips
    instead - gets you ACC spells

    (I'm sure I used others, but those two helped alot.)

    Apprentice was nice because you could add the CC to it, you know what you can pay. And, if not looking for a specific card, it also let's you look at what you can play.

    Wish I knew how to have them eliminate UNH, UG and banned cards - I tried using the vintage legal cards on Apprentice, but it's got a problem or something because the cardpool dropped by 6000 cards.

    I'm sort of working on taking the suitcase DB and converting it to a usable Excel spreadsheet... I'd like to use it to make a booster generator for google docs and also maybe a search engine. I just don't have the time - well if I didn't play I might, but what's the fun in that? :)

    I'm up for another game w/ any takers Limited version or Wide Open. Turgy is VERY good at this format. I felt like I was constantly battling back. The game I won, I finally figured out a lot of things and I thought I could win game 4, then I sorta slipped up w/ the disrupt thing... but that's all part of the game.

    Like Turgy said, it's much more like chess. Oddly enough I think this is the sort of game Richard Garfield envisioned - he wanted a chess type card game...
  4. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    What kind of usable Excel spreadsheet? When I started doing the expansions starting from BOK, I make an Excel spreadsheet that's the input to the db to begin with.
  5. BigBlue Magic Jones

    I want a spreadsheet with all cards.

    Each card should include Name, Type, Expansion, Rarity, Casting Cost, and Oracle Text. To me P/T are part of rules text similar to what we use on the forums and I would use * to denote special for power or toughness.

    I really have 2 uses for such a list - one would require more details on rarity and expansions - for generating boosters... The other is simply to search on and expansions and rarity really don't matter and sort of get in the way.

    The only expansion to potentially include multiple rares in a pack was TS, right? (not counting factory mistakes). They've gone back to a random foil simply replacing a card of similar rarity, right?
  6. turgy22 Nothing Special

    I'll echo BigBlue's sentiments that card knowledge is not a must. I didn't play much between Ice Age and Judgment, so I'm really not familiar with those cards, but I don't feel like it hampered me.

    Personally, I used Gatherer for all my card-digging needs and I think it worked pretty well, despite slowing my computer down significantly on some of the broader searches. Like he said, "draw a card" is probably the most important phrase you'll need, especially on cheap cards. It helps you get a card in play, or at least some helpful effect, plus a pivotal land drop early in the game. I'm actually starting to think that Wall of Blossoms is the best card in the format.
  7. BigBlue Magic Jones

    there are some other combos I didn't try and thought about, but would get distracted by what you were doing... Foreshadow was fun w/ the bauble... Mishra's Bauble in general is strong, since you get to know what's coming and then get a card to deal with it. I was very surprised at the number of 0 or 1 cost slowtrips and cantrips...
  8. turgy22 Nothing Special

    Land Destruction - Personally, I don't think it's overly powerful. I was actually really worried about it when we first started, but as we played, I found that even the best LD cards really don't have the same effect as in constructed Magic. Think about it. If you're playing a game and an opponent knocks out three of your lands in consecutive turns, how big of an impact is it really if you then proceed to draw three lands in a row? The effect is minimal. Obviously the Wasteland/Strip Mine/Ghost Quarter + Crucible combo is pretty good, but again, in a format where there is always an answer, are they really that effective? I think the only real devastation happens when one player gets ahead by two or more lands and their opponent only has one to work with. But in those cases, it's nobody's fault but the person who didn't manage their lands correctly. And if someone's really worried about LD, they just need to keep an answer in hand, such as Reroute, Skyshroud Blessing, or Teferi's Response. Or find some other way to protect your lands, like Sacred Ground.

    Isochron Scepter - You mentioned this earlier and again, I don't think it's that great. In order to do anything effective, you need 4 lands in play and 2 cards in hand during your turn. And no matter what gets imprinted, there's always going to be an answer available, such as Krosan Grip or Wipe Away.

    Flashback - Probably underused, although I'm not sure. I looked through all the Flashback cards a few times and found most of them fit into one of two categories: Too Expensive and Too Weak. The best ones, IMO are answer cards, such as Ancient Grudge, Coffin Purge, Ray of Revelation and Moment's Peace.

    Buyback - Buyback, on the other hand, I simply felt was too expensive. Most buyback costs are at least 2 or 3 mana, plus the cost of the spell. Others require a sacrifice, which is outrageous considering the scarcity of cards. I'm inclined to feel that most buyback cards are completely unplayable in this format.

    Cycling - This is what I believe to be the most powerful mechanic and personally, I feel that Street Wraith is going to be one of the best cards in this format. Playing reactive is very smart and being able to draw any answer at instant speed while immune to most counters is really good. I wish I had drawn more cycling cards at times, instead of trying to guess your next move and getting stuck with useless cards in my hand.

    Finally, I'm wondering how many cards we REALLY need to ban in this format. I think your rule of 1-card per spell per turn really fixed any brokenness to the format. Here's some of the banned cards and what they do now:

    Ancestral Recall: Target player draw a card
    Fact of Fiction: Reveal the top card of your library. Put it into your hand or graveyard.
    Frantic Search: Draw a card. Discard two cards. Untap 3 lands.
    Gifts Ungiven: Put a card from your library into your graveyard.
    Necropotence: Skip your draw step. Draw a card at the end of your turn, instead, and lose 1 life for doing so.
    Time Spiral: Each player removes his graveyard from the game and draw a card. Untap 6 lands.
    Timetwister: Each player removes his graveyard from the game and draw a card.
    Traumatize: Target player puts the top card of his library into his graveyard.
    Wheel of Fortune: Each player discards his hand and draws a card.
    Windfall: Each player discards his hand and maybe draws a card.
    Yawgmoth's Bargain: Skip your draw step. Pay 1 life to draw a card. Play this ability only once each turn.

    So basically, all these super-powerful cards have gone to being anywhere from decent to downright bad. The only card that's remotely playable in Topdeck is probably Yawgmoth's Bargain, simply because you can draw an extra card during your opponent's turn. But it's an enchantment and easy to deal with and it costs 6 mana to play.

    As far as the rest of the banned list, I'm not so sure, at least with respect to the mana-producing stuff. The Academy is probably still way too good, as is Channel and Yawgmoth's Will. Maybe Black Lotus and Balance, but I'm not completely sure. And the Moxes don't seem like they would be too powerful, either, since you couldn't draw a bunch in a row. And although it wasn't on your earlier list, I think Land Tax is probably too powerful. Also, Mindslaver probably isn't too good if we stipulate that each player chooses his library order, regardless of who controls the turn.

    Right now, if I were writing up a banned list for the format, it would be as follows:
    Erratic Explosion
    Howltooth Hollow
    Land Tax
    Riddle of Lightning
    Shadow of Doubt
    The Rack
    Tolarian Academy
    Undying Flames
    Yawgmoth's Will
    Zur's Weirding

    I honestly don't perceive any other cards being so good as to ruin the balance of the format, although I'm sure there are some I've overlooked.

    EDIT: Banned list updated, adding Mindslaver and SoD. Removed Spellbook and Library of Leng. Now alpabetized, as well!
  9. BigBlue Magic Jones

    I agree with your interpretations on the banned list for the most part...

    Fast (or Academy-like large amounts of) mana is still bad, way too many cantrips and slowtrips available and you could simply grow too big too fast.

    Balance is one of the cards I really felt would be missed. it's the quick catch up for when your opponent gets too far ahead.

    Fastbond is broken I think - especially w/ crucible of worlds. I was going to do a reaping the rewards buyback loop at some point in the first match, you simply denied me the ability to do it.

    I still think the hand size effects have to be out - given we've limited the hand size to 1 and usually a person has an empty hand. At one point I was thinking you could allow for a "normal" hand size, but just start with only 1 card... that restriction was simply to prevent the mondo first turn kills from happening.
  10. turgy22 Nothing Special

    I'm not sure I agree about Fastbond. I thought about it a lot and didn't really see any clear advantage. Obviously, with the Crucible in play, it can get out of hand, but if your opponent lets you play Fastbond and Crucible, he probably deserves to lose. Like most cards, I just feel like it's too easy to deal with.

    Regarding the hand size effects, I think The Rack is the only one that's too powerful. Cards that require large hands are completely useless. And other cards that go off of empty hands (such as Hellbent) seem good, but not unfair. Here's a look at some of the better ones:
    Avatar of Will - Very good, but easy to kill.
    Keldon Megaliths - Good card, but slow effect with heavy mana investment.
    Thumbscrews - Easy to kill; slow effect.
    Nezumi Shortfang - Slow; easy to kill.
    Gobhobbler Rats - Good, not great.
    Mindstorm Crown - Very good card; easy to kill.
    Pauper's Cage - Good, but slow; easy to kill.
    Veiled Crocodile - See Avatar of Will, but worse.
    Sokenzen Renegade - Easy to kill; easy to steal.
    Jagged Poppet - Very good creature, but not too powerful.
    Howltooth Hollow - WAY too good. I would say it deserves a banishment.

    So of the nearly 60 cards that show up in a Gatherer search of "cards in hand," I could only find one that I would classify as too powerful. And only 11 were even worth mentioning. I think the basic criteria for banning any card should be whether or not it allows a significant advantage that the opponent would not be able to react to.

    Also, add Riddle of Lightning and Undying Flames to the banned list. They basically have the Erratic Explosion / Kaboom! mechanic, which is way too powerful, even on expensive cards.
  11. BigBlue Magic Jones

    So, are you suggesting Scry effects be banned? What about Clash? We never had it come up, but if you add a way to shuffle, you could make it so you'd win every clash and stick your opponent w/ useless cards if they tried to win clashes?

    The "reveal" cards in general might be more powerful than they ought to be since they force your opponent out of the "top deck" format idea by not giving you a choice...

    Among the goals I had for creating the format I had one to try to keep the game as similar to the actual game as possible while keeping the format from becoming a combo-palooza. Since you can control every draw, combos are entirely too easy to achieve. which is why we eliminated the multi draw effects...
  12. turgy22 Nothing Special

    No. Just the ones that deal damage based on converted mana cost. And Counterbalance, which I forgot to mention earlier. With a shuffling effect, it's way too easy to lock down the game. I don't think any of the clash cards have a powerful enough effect that would be worth abusing, nor do most cards with a scry-type ability.
  13. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    Well, from just watching your games, it seemed like it was half strategy and half reacting to the other. Either way, I'm not that great thinking up what cards I should be planning for and what cards might be useful to deal to my opponent's plan, especially seeing the kind of combos you guys pulled off. There's no way I would have thought of those kind of things :)

    I mean, I can give it a try, but I'm not sure how much "game" I'll really give someone :)
  14. BigBlue Magic Jones

    I'm game spidey... you'll find it's not as difficult once you start...

    remember cantrips and slowtrips when you can...

    I think for the banned cards, we'll try turgy's list... which is short...
  15. BigBlue Magic Jones

    Turgy, add Mindslaver to your list, also Shadow of Doubt (not that it's powerful it just doesn't work)
  16. turgy22 Nothing Special

    So are we definitely banning Mindslaver? I don't think it's broken if each player determines the order of the library they "own" instead of letting the player controlling the turn decide that.

    And what's the purpose of banning a card that doesn't work? Doesn't Shadow of Doubt basically read "Draw a card."?

    I only protest because I think the format will be the most fun if we keep the banned list as small as possible and only take out cards that seriously unbalance the game. If we banned every card that simply doesn't work, we'll probably have a pretty long list.

    Also, what's your opinion on cards that simply increase or decrease hand size, but don't make them limitless, such as Gnat Miser or Trusted Advisor? I don't think they're too good myself. And I even think we'll realize that Spellbook and Library of Leng aren't that good, either, and eventually we can do away with maximum hand sizes altogether. It just takes too long to fill up your hand when you can only draw at most one card in a spell.
  17. BigBlue Magic Jones

    Shadow of Doubt states "players may not search their library this turn"... So, if we interpret the rules correctly it would disallow any draws for a turn, since a draw has been changed to "Search your library for a card". That would include the cantrip part... I guess it could stay, it's functionally different, and if played during an upkeep would prevent the opponent from drawing...

    It's either that or make some method of getting a random draw out of a library of about 9,000 cards...

    I think you were correct in stating Mindslaver would allow the selection and playing of any card from the library. There are plenty of ways to force an opponent to lose... Final Fortune or reanimate a phage for two methods. Given the fact I adjusted the library effects to only reveal or remove only one card per turn, the method you used against me wouldn't work any longer... so, I guess you could leave Mindslaver in, I just don't like the idea of an "I win" card without much chance of rebuttal.

    For the record, I'm in complete agreement the number of banned cards should be as small as possible, I just don't want to see cards which were not intended to be "I win" cards get morphed into that due to the format.
  18. Ransac CPA Trash Man

    I agree with BB's interpretation of Shadow of Doubt. In order to alter this, one would have to create an errata for the card in this format. It'd be easier to just ban the card.

    Ransac, cpa trash man
  19. BigBlue Magic Jones

    As far as the hand size thing... I guess it doesn't matter too much to me, if a player starts with just 1 card in hand, it prevents the early combofest I desperately wanted to avoid... like you said, it takes a long time to build up a hand, especially since we changed all draw effects to only get at most one card at a time... to do it you forego doing something during your turn. I doubt you'd ever see more than 2 or 3 cards in a hand...

    Fool's tome is easier to use w/ the limited handsizes. There are ways to put cards in an opponents hand to counteract hellbent... (bounce for example) So they aren't as bad.

    Maybe we'll look at ways to improve the limited resources - if a player gets 2 or more lands ahead, it makes it nearly impossible to catch back up... We could make it similar to MindMaster w/ basic lands... where you can draw from them (up to a limited #)

    I'd like to try the limited version too...

    Another version could be use 1 booster as a shared library, then add 1 booster to the pool after all cards are used up... It ends up being a morphed Mindmaster in that way...
  20. turgy22 Nothing Special

    Good explanation. I'll agree then on the banning of both Mindslaver and Shadow of Doubt and add them to the list.

    Hand sizes - do we have a final ruling on this one?

    In the current iteration of the format, I don't think there's a necessity for unlimited Basics. There are plenty of land options and most are better than the Basics. Although I think almost any limiting of the card pool would require that to change. And I definitely think it's a bad idea to allow a free land drop every turn, like in MindMaster. It would make it way too easy to get some crazy combos going. One of the most challenging things about the format is deciding when the right time to draw a land is.

    FWIW, I'm not too interested in a booster by booster version of the game. I think the fun right now is that there's almost always an answer ready for you or your opponent. Tossing random boosters out will add a huge luck factor since one might come out with something that's impossible to deal with. I also like the fact that there's absolutely no work involved to set up the matches. You just start with every card out there.

    One thing I would like to try though, would be Topdeck Constructed. The ONLY thing I don't like about this format is that it really only works on a message board, where each player can go back and forth, digging through available answers and post their plays when ready. It doesn't really translate to real life. So a fix for that might be to allow each player to make decks of 200 - 250 cards. Everything else stays the same, except the card pool is limited to what a player owns. Maybe allow 5 - 10 of each Basic, since most people aren't going to have an incredibly diverse collection of quality lands to choose from.

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