Wednesday, April 7, 2010

starcraft 2 and magic

Well, here's your standard apology-blogpost for not updating. I moved across the country and haven't been playing much Magic- there are a few guys here that are interested in learning, so we'll see what that brings. I'm hopeful.

Before I moved, I was playing the Starcraft 2 beta. Obviously amazing. I've been watching a bunch of videos about high-level strategy and play in it, and it's really fascinating to see all the perspectives and ideas on an entirely different competitive game, with its own jargon, metagame shifts, and general ideas.

What's really interesting to me is the lack of theory there is about the game- in video games, it's just not needed. You don't need to come up with elaborate concepts; things happen in real time, units take X time and Y resources, which are harvested at Z rate. If a player kills someone else, you can watch the replay and see exactly why. Pretty straightforward. There is one broad concept that's interesting to me for its application to Magic, though: the idea of a "timing push" ('push' basically just means an attack). The idea is to do your attacks at a timing that is either very convenient for you- such as when you're throwing down an expansion, or a key upgrade just finished as you're waltzing across the map- or extremely inconvenient for your opponent, such as when they're teching to something incredibly powerful, but either don't have it yet, or don't have them in any significant number, or when they just finished an expansion and haven't broken even on it yet.

How does this apply to Magic? When you're thinking about how matchups work, especially sideboard cards, don't just think of what your cards are doing, but when. Okay, that card is a fantastic hoser for your opponent's entire strategy... but it comes out when you're two thirds of the way to dead. Instead, you should try to fill in the gaps in your own tempo, and look for points where your opponent isn't doing that much that's very powerful, or they have to do a bunch of awkward things and can't react to what you're doing. This means you want to look for cards that come right at the moment when your opponent has to tap out for some spell that's usually safe to cast, and you want to play three-drops against decks with Cryptic Command or Thirst for Knowledge (so that they have to decide between countering it and drawing cards). Say you're playing an aggressive deck or Elf combo against scapeshift. Their two most important "timings" are turn three for Firespout (post-board, sometimes pre) and Cryptic, and usually winning on turn five. This means that you'll want to cast small guys (hopefully disruptive ones) after their turn three to put them in a maximally awkward position, and they can't stop your entire turn with Cryptic.

This is drifting toward very traditional theory, but I'll write more as I think more.


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