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Twn2dn

Who drives, the deck or the player?

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Hi everyone,

I know we already have 1 or 2 threads about the "direction of the game," and so this one may overlap significantly with others. However, I wanted to more exclusively focus on the question of who the real driver is. In theory it's the player, but in practice I feel that many competitive decks follow a certain recipe and flow that are somewhat sensitive to tampering or improvisation from the players.

I posted a longer CardGameDB article here, and would love to get people's thoughts/comments.

Cheers!

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Without reading the article, my personal opinion has long been that the player drives the deck, but that some decks are easier to drive than others. Some shortcomings as a player can be made up as a deck builder, and vice versa.

The professional stunt driver will not necessarily be at an advantage when the goal is to get your Corolla to Wal-Mart and back home again. Then again, the novice pilot will not necessarily be at a disadvantage once you get to cruising altitude and engage the auto-pilot (although getting there and landing again might be a different story).

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I have lost a lot of games because I have "driven" my deck like crap.  The sheer fact that I've forgotten to trigger certain effects has killed me several times in a game.  I have even forgotten when my entire point in doing a certain action was to trigger a card effect.  I might have built the best decks ever and wouldn't even know it because of crap like that.  I forget to move chains off of TMP, forget to trigger Lannisport Brothel, etc etc.  I drive my deck like a woman drives a car.

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 Very few people who play with my decks do well with them.  Yet I often do.  Sometimes it isn't just the driver though, its the driver's intimacy with what they are driving.  

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 I'll have a look at the article itself, but wanted to start with my initial impressions based on this forum post of yours.

I feel that combo and, to a lesser extent, rush decks drive themselves, because they tend to do the same thing regardless of what the opponent is doing.  The goal is to setup your combo, which then wins. Magic has a tremendous amount of combo decks, and so in that case the deck typically drives. Control decks rarely, if ever, have the tools to control absolutely everything on the board - and that decision making process means the driver has to be much more careful how he spends his resources. 

The extent varies; a Greyjoy choke (control) is much more deck driven, while a Lannister kneel probably more driver. A rush deck that probably already has his plot rotation picked out (At the Gates, Outwit, art of seduction or some such) for the first 4 turns is certainly a more "deck driven" deck. 

Seeing as I enjoy my games varied, my current favourite deck is one which plays fairly differently based on who my opponent is (a neutral nobles deck; I always have more characters in hand than I can play, and have to choose them based on their abilities that slot nicely vs specific decks). I don't think either approach is bad, so long as they both exist. Some people enjoy the building of decks more than the playing, and prefer to build decks that play themselves - and that's fine, so long as it's not the only option!

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Ulairi said:

 The player drives the deck but it's a whole lot easier to drive a Mercedes across country than a Yugo. 

Valid point because my wife finds it pretty easy to drive me crazy.  She sucks at driving anything else.

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I think I may have been slightly too general in my initial post/article. I agree that play mistakes can cost a game, and that a good player who plays the deck *as intended* will beat a player who makes a lot of mistakes (everything else being equal). My point though was more about how much flexibility there is when you're actually playing a deck.

Dobbler brings up a good point. I've seen his decks, and they remind me a bit of impressionist paintings. Look closely and all you see is a bunch of crappy stuff (reinforcements, seriously?), but step back and watch it in action and it's a work of real beauty. The thing is, I feel that further underscores my point…there's 1-2 "right ways" to play Dobbler's decks. Anyone who isn't him isn't able to play them correctly. More generally, my point is that there aren't very many options to take different paths from the one designated.

Again, I'm not saying we've reached the point to where this is a mindless game. We're still light-years ahead of MTG. I do think though that we've been moving in the wrong direction for the past year or so. As character removal becomes ubiquitous, aggro/control/combo become faster, and more traited plots are popular, real in-game choices (not to be confused with opportunities to mess up, like forgetting you have a hard in hand) actually feel like they are decreasing.

I'm likely in the minority here, but just thought I'd throw it out. Have to talk about something in the pre-GenCon silence of no strategy discussions.

@Istaril: I think I agree with you. It seems to me that aggro and combo decks are less thinking-intensive than control. There are some exceptions of course…Bear Island is especially "point-and-click," as is Lannisport Brothel and a few other reoccurring effects. Overall though, control players probably have to think quite a bit more during the game (not that thinking is always a good thing…many more opportunities to make a bad decision).

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 I am sure my opinions are not weighted as much as others but I really like this topic. I feel like the player still is responsible for driving the deck because it is their practice that makes the deck choices seem so obvious. There are certain situations where a rush deck will throw out the set of plots you alluded to but over all everything comes down to understanding. Ot only what your deck can do but whatever your opponents deck will probably do. The one thing that I do think is to your point is there needs to be more diversity at the top end of the scale. If I sit down against a martell maester deck I knabout what to expect. If I sit down against any stark deck and see a card in shadows I play like its meera until I see what it is. If against bara I do what I can to keep tls/Val off the table at the same time. The game could improve if there were more choices in deck building to be competative. 

I gUsss you can argue that many different deck/agenda have won regionals but some of that is the competition they are up against, I still say that if you put top players with less than ideal decks up against top decks with less than ideal players the beteer player wins most of the time. That makes the game fu, but it would be better if top player with a top deck wouldn't always beat a top player with a less than top deck

 

I know that was a lot of generalization but I think my point sstands at least to get accross my opinion. 

 

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 I believe that there are a few best decks out there, but game is complex enough that better players will play any deck more consistently and in a right way and worse players will lower the win/loss ratio even for a Tier 1 deck.

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(Just reread my above post. When I said we have been moving in the wrong direction, I meant with specific regard to an accelerated environment where shorter matches permit less in-game decisions. I actually really like how the environment has evolved in terms of the diversity, and didn't intend to sound so negative.)

Sirduck makes a really good observation…the problem may be particularly acute at the top end of the spectrum. Half a step down, it feels like the variety really explodes exponentially, with in game decisions being more of the focus.

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If your deck is a football team, you're probably the quarterback. You're still gonna lose if your GM put together a terrible team, though. Trent Dilfer can win a superbowl with a great team around him. Dan Marino can never win a super bowl and still be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Tom Brady wins all the time because he's a great quarterback with a great team around him.

And if you're saying, "Who the hell is Trent Dilfer?", that's the point. Baltimore Ravens 2000/2001 QB during their 2001 superbowl run. He was good, but never great. He didn't make mistakes and made the throws that were open.

Not sure if the same would be true in this game, but the thinking would be, "Give a player who doesn't make mistakes and knows how to play a deck and they'll probably do well, maybe win the whole thing. Give a great player a terrible deck and they'll probably never win the whole thing. Give a great player a great deck and they'll probably dominate the field."

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For me Dobbler already said it well. When the driver knows very closely what he is driving even when it's really strange things are going a lot better than if the driver were to run someone others deck. I feel that when you have build your deck and know how it drives you get to make adaptive choices with it while you are playing and recognize the opportunities. What I'm saying is that the builder usually knows more ways to drive the deck depending on the situation, heck its even possible to transform the whole deck to something else with correct card interactions and knowing what your deck is capable of.

As for the age old question on what is hardest to drive. I have to disagree with nearly everyone. Yes with control I have a lot more choices to be made than say aggro or rush, but I also never have felt like that in control one of my choices cost me the game, it usually is about more than one choices that ruined the control game. As control there are a lot choices, but they are not as severe. When I play aggro or rush I cannot make one mistake or miscalculation, I have lost too many times on one mistake when playing those deck types. So control does need more concentration from the driver, but I feel that other forms can more easily be crushed if they lose concentration.

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Back from my CCG days, I remember a really great Baratheon deck using Threat from the East Agenda, that won a lot. I netdecked it, and had lost all games I played with it. Since I believed it is really good, I sat down, and tinkered with it until it was closer to my liking. I also made sure I knew why I put any given card into the deck. I proceeded to win with this deck for quite some time.

 

I don't like netdecking, and that's one of the reasons - if I don't know why the card is there, I don't know why to play it, which leads to losing.

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 In all games it is both. The player can't drive what he doesn't understand, so no matter how good the deck, no matter how fool proof, he can lose and lose often. That said a great player can only ever do as good as his deck allows. Sure I can try and bluff and make my opponent think that the two standing influence was left standing on purpose and when it looks like he is going to execute a challenge move a card from the read of my hand to the front and then place my hand near the influence… but I can't do that if the threat isn't a realistic one… in other words if there is not two influence it does not accomplish anything.

I think the last year, maybe as much as the last two the top tier of AGoT players have been flattening out and becoming very similar in thinking and approach. Entire Metas are showing up with the same deck (or minor variations) or you have large amounts of tournament players netdecking the deck that one this or that other tournament. I don't recall anything that drastic three or four years ago. I'm pretty sure it is not good for the game, and I'm positive it isn't good for the metagame.

We do still see original decks pop up and do well, I'd say remarkably well but the main thing remarkable about their victory is the owner didn't choose the deck/house common wisdom said was the best, but those innovative decks rarely get much play outside of that single tournament, dismissed or marginalized… and those that do, have the players learning entirely the wrong lesson, that "this is the best" rather than it just takes advantage of everyone else acting like a drone.

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To the OP question: Is the game evolving to where the "driver" is more on auto-pilot.  I can't tell- maybe because I have only been playing a year.  But, after thinking about it, I think the other side of the question is true:  deck-building is becoming less creative.  I attribute it to "power creep" and netdecking.

I am one of those who do not think the power is growing too fast, but the continual expansion of the card pool will naturally increase the number of powerful cards and synergy of themes.  Sometimes even strong new cards force other strong cards out of play.  Carrion birds, Varys, and Syrio, for example, are not the "auto-includes" they used to be.  

The deck I am likely to play at GenCon is an original deck in that I built it from scratch.  It started as a char-agenda and ended up being what it is now.  And that is a deck that looks, feels, and plays like a tried and true good deck that is as a whole… unoriginal.  That is because the "best" cards are the best cards - adjust as needed for the meta-game.

Red Queen Faithful and Manning the City Walls are new, fun, and strong cards that folks are playing around with and revitalizing old themes: army and holy.  However, the versions I and most all else are build look very similar.  So, I am agreeing Twn2dn's comment that while house diversity is at its best, within the houses, decks look the same.

 

Penfold said:

 

 …

I think the last year, maybe as much as the last two the top tier of AGoT players have been flattening out and becoming very similar in thinking and approach. Entire Metas are showing up with the same deck (or minor variations) or you have large amounts of tournament players netdecking the deck that one this or that other tournament. I don't recall anything that drastic three or four years ago. I'm pretty sure it is not good for the game, and I'm positive it isn't good for the metagame.

 

 

 

Agree.  What drove me out of Magic eons ago was the advent of netdecking - that term wasn't around - I called it copy-catting.  You show up at a tournament and most are playing the same deck that won a big tournament somewhere in the world, or they are playing the deck that won the tournament two weeks ago.  A few good players have improved on the originals. So, you show up with your original build and get trounced.  I didn't then and don't now have the many hours it takes to compete with the collective deck-building of the masses.

It's not nearly that bad in aGoT now, but it's a lot closer to that state than when I started a year ago.

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 While watching the Team Covenant Gencon coverage I couldn't help but remember this thread. During the interview with the AGOT joust winner, when asked about the success story of his deck, Dan said "I make play mistakes, and the characters are just so good in Stark that you just get there." The winner of the Netrunner tourney, David, when asked what's the best part about the game, answered: "The really fun thing about this game is that despite the fact that when you deck build, you're going to be putting a lot of thought into deck building, if you don't play smart, you're going to lose. There's no deck in this game that plays itself." Now obviously, Dan is being a little modest, but I think it still points to the case Twn2dn was trying to make.

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 Saturnine: I've got the same thought. I thought, Dan even say, that the deck drives itself. It made me a little sad and just made me looking forward to Netrunner.

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I find the finalist quote comparison hilarious. It may be a slight exaggeration, but maybe not depending on the deck you're playing. I guess a rush deck is pretty much scripted.

On the bright side, it looks like they continue to add decision points to the game. Whether or not someone agrees with the current version of decision trees, the fact that they continue to create them increases the significance of good decision making. I like to think good decision making likens to good gameplay, so increasing decisions increases gameplay.

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I don't think it’s just how well you can drive your deck but also how well you can predict how others will drive their deck that leads to very high levels of play

So no I don't think the deck drives the player. The deck is just a set of tools the player has out together to try and use to win the game. But just because you know how to play your deck isn't enough. You have to also have some sort of idea of what your opponents deck is going to do and how he will play it.

There are so many decisions to be made even in simple games I can't believe that a deck could drive a player. It might seem like that to players who have played a lot though and have figured out the best plays they should make. At that point you have stopped making decisions and are just following your preset rules of engagement.

These are my feeling on the matter.

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