Monday, March 14, 2016

Pro-Level Draft with DFCs




This is our 3rd time drafting with Double Faced Cards (DFCs).  The first, Innistrad block, went okay, but it had some issues that always bothered me.   Those issues came home to roost in Magic Origins draft (with 5 mythic DFCs).  And I’ll like to see these issues discussed and possibly corrected before the third dance.

I believe things work fine as is at low stakes.  Drafting at home, drafting at FNM, fine.  But in a super competitive or professional-level setting, there are real issues:

1) Asking players to keep their eyes forward (so as to not be able to see, or appear to have seen, the normal cards people are drafting), while simultaneously scattering a bunch of tempting “public” information around the table is asking two incompatible things of the players.

A Jace was opened in one of my Pro Tour drafts and I had no idea whether I was allowed to track it as it went around the table.  Was it cheating to look while my neighbor had cards in his hand?  Was it cheating to look between picks when the cards were laid out?  This was never made clear.  I ended up using “the corner of my eye” to look at the top card of my neighbor’s draft pile once that neighbor had selected a card.  Was this cheating?  I sure hope not, but I really don’t know.  Could I have looked 2 people over between picks and gotten more info?  I don’t know.

2) Even bigger than that first large issue: It makes the timing of when you select a card hyper-relevant.  I want to wait until my neighbor picks a card, and he or she wants to do the same to me (and our other neighbors, etc.).  With two DFCs per pack in SOI [EDIT: between 1 and 2 per pack], the upcoming set, the odds of a first-pick DFC is super high.  So to maximize the impact of the info I can get (whether legal or illegal to look, people will look), I should wait as long as I can.  How long can I wait?  Well, theoretically my neighbor and I both have to draft a card simultaneously immediately when the called says “Draft” but that is laughably unenforceable and rife for opportunities to shoot the angle better and get an edge.

This is a major problem.  If people didn’t realize they should wait to take a card in Innistrad, they will realize now that every pack has 2 DFCs.  Really surprised me to see on Twitter than Matt Tabak and Toby Elliot (two people who I respect a great deal and who don’t miss much) don’t even have it on their radar. 

Proposed solutions:

1) Use checklist cards in professional level drafts.  Cleanest, best solution.  No chance of hidden costs.  Has the obvious cost of losing the “cool” feel of drafting with DFCs, and another cost of making practice difficult, but those are known costs at least. 

2) Permit looking around between picks.  Allow 3 seconds for this.  To prevent the timing issue related to peeking, come up with a way players can cover cards as they select them, and only reveal during the “look around” 3 seconds.  Drafting player covering their pile with their hand is one way, have a tool that covers the pile like a small tent which you can slide picks under and then lift to reveal is another.  


If neither solution is adopted, life will go on, but we may end up playing a “don’t flinch!” Pro Tour where players are waiting to see their neighbor’s card before selecting their own in a cascading effect.  Players might also be penalized for looking around OR not penalized for looking in directions where they could see hidden information, both disasters at the pro level. 

12 comments:

  1. Worst part is having rectangular tables where it's a huge disadvantage to be on the edge seats instead of the middle.

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    1. Good point, forgot about this one but remember it from the Innistrad days.

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  2. Thanks for the thoughts. It's not that we aren't aware of these issues, as much as they weren't enough of a problem last time around to warrant considering wholesale changes, as changes are likely to introduce as many problems as they solve.

    Minor nitpick: there's slightly over 1 DFC per pack, not 2. At a table of 8, looks like 1 person will open 2 DFCs. So it's closer to the original experience than you think.

    Solution 1 is probably a nonstarter. We want the drafts at the Pro Level to be recognizable to the general public. The extra layer of strategy around drafting DFCs is a plus, and it's be a shame to lose that. It's part of what makes Innistrad special.

    Solution 2 is reasonable, and something that the HJ might implement, especially as it's basically at the same time as counting out packs. However, that doesn't address the timing question. Honestly, we worried about that in Innistrad, and the concerns never materialized. The MTR has answers for untimed drafts (upstream drafts first), and those could be applied in timed drafts, but it never came up.

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    1. Just so I understand upstream drafts first, what would that mean? If all 8 players refuse to draft, no one is penalized, and then what? I am not familiar with that solution.

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    2. As for issues not materializing, I lived the Jace example I gave, and have heard multiple other real examples from people with no stake in the game other than relaying a story of something that broke down.

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    3. Just because something wasn't addressed by the rules committee or complained about extensively on twitter doesn't mean it "wasn't enough of a problem last time around." I echo Matt's sentiment that it absolutely was. I also thought that the holding up the card solution for Innistrad was unfair as some players would make what they opened very obvious while others would try to be more conspicuous, and which seat you were assigned on a rectangular table made a big difference to how available information was. Please solve this before the PT.

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    4. IMO, the best solution would be to just implement a new rule for ALL draft formats, that if a double faced card is opened, it must be revealed to the table, then IMMEDIATELY swapped for a checklist/sharpied proxy card.

      This will eliminate any kind of confusion or possible allegations of cheating while looking for DFCs, as well as any kind of special picking manipulation, while still adding the small "extra layer of strategy" by alerting other drafters that a certain card is in the draft, and they'll have an idea of who could have it when/if they see or don't see it.

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    5. I just realized that would create a problem of how to pass/who would acquire the non-proxy/checklist card. Haha. Maybe that won't work =(

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    6. Theoretically, the double faced cards could be left in the center of the table, and the players could claim them, publicly, after the draft was over. This has the benefit of eliminating the "alleged cheats" and "dexterity picking" and doesn't give any more information than having to pay attention to other drafters at the time the cards are picked.

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