On Interaction

I'd like to start this off by stating some things that I think should be fairly obvious.

First, the goal in playing Magic the Gathering is to win. Yes, some may correct me and restate this as "to have fun". But who enjoys losing? If we are being honest with ourselves, who builds a deck specifically to lose? Maybe a few kitchen table players, or players who are simply trying to be contrary. For the most part, however, anyone who is actually interested in playing even a semi-competitive game is looking to win. If the people who "don't care about winning" actually don't care about winning, then why do they complain about not being able to interact in a relevant enough manner to make winning possible? The truth is that if they didn't care about winning, they shouldn't be complaining about losing.

Second, Magic the Gathering is an engineering game at heart. We, the deckbuilders and players, are using the options given to us by Wizards of the Coast and constructing decks that, usually, fulfill a win state. The more efficient the deck is at achieving that purpose, the more likely it is going to win.

The most efficient way for a deck to achieve that state is often by making it so that the opponent(s) cannot interact with our plans to the degree that they might disrupt them. Allowing the opponent to interact in a meaningful manner is the surest way to give the opponent the game. That's the purpose of them attempting to interact with the gamestate. Even competitive decks that "allow" the opponent the opportunity to interact are only doing so to the degree that the interaction is as meaningless as possible.

There are a number of ways of reducing the opponent's ability to interact. One may build a deck which has the goal of winning before the opponent can interact in a meaningful way. These are often extremely quick combo, burn, or aggro decks. Another is to use spells that delay an opponent's meaningful interactions, often using countermagic like Remand. They typically try to land an early threat and attempt to restrict any meaningful interaction on the opponent's behalf until the threat has won them the game. There is the "midrange" method, by which, even through interaction, the opponent is slowly bleeding card advantage. These often employ discard spells that remove interactive cards and other cards that ensure that any interaction is in favor of the pilot of the midrange deck. Prison decks attempt to restrict interaction via denial of resources, like mana (often through increasing mana requirements or land destruction) or relevant cards (as is the case of Lantern Control).

In the world of chess, what type of player finds fault in their opponent for not "allowing" them to interact meaningfully? Is the opponent called a "net-opener" for studying opening strategies online? It, like Magic, is a competitive and strategic game in which meaningful interaction usually leads to securing a win. Are opponents accused of "bad sportsmanship" for not allowing others to meaningfully interact?

Each time that the opponent is allowed to interact in a meaningful manner, that opponent is given an opportunity to put interaction in his or her favor. Not allowing them this relevant interaction isn't necessarily being a "bad sport". We can have good sportsmanship while winning by just not bragging or rubbing it in. Sometimes an opponent will get unlucky with their shuffle and just not draw the cards he or she needs to interact in a meaningful way. So long as there's been no dishonest shuffling techniques, this isn't anyone's fault (assuming that he or she shuffled their own deck sufficiently). Other times an opponent cannot interact because their deck choice happens to be inferior in that particular matchup. It could be their own fault, choosing to play a strictly inferior deck in that meta, or maybe they just got unlucky and paired up against a minority deck that happens to be built in such a way that interaction was just not going to happen.

While there are cards in each format's cardpool that may seem "oppressive", so long as the metagame isn't warped to the degree where each player is forced to play either that specific deck archetype (or a deck specifically designed to beat it), then there is likely a way to interact meaningfully. Even in that warped meta, there are usually options available to the builders and pilots for meaningful interaction. They may not like it, but it likely exists.

So maybe there's a card in the format's cardpool that simply removes our ability to interact. Is it so oppressive that every single other deck archetype loses to it as well? If not, why are they not affected? Maybe we can learn how to adjust our strategies to maybe incorporate those strengths and resilience into our own decks or strategies. With the larger cardpools, there are probably cards that are capable of doing that. If that isn't something that we are comfortable with, then maybe it's time to switch to a format that we feel safer and more comfortable in.

But resorting to knee-jerk reactions and emotional appeals for ways to "fix the format" are likely going to do nothing but attract like-minded, close-minded individuals. Even if these suggestions are adopted, this will not fix the root problem. The root problem is that those who have these knee-jerk reactions and emotional appeals are refusing to acknowledge that there are likely answers already available. They may not like them, but they don't have to like them. If the suggestions are adopted, and cards are banned or unbanned, or any other similar suggestion is incorporated, then all that will happen is that these people will simply find new targets to find blame with - Targets other than their own inability to consider that maybe they could do some work and learn how to adapt, rather than try to force the game to adapt to them. The targets will shift and evolve, and eventually, if these people have their way, they will have formed a game or format that is designed to allow them to win without learning or changing strategies. This is not a path of growth, for themselves or for the game. Ironically, these methods are an attempt to force others to play according to "their rules", where others are not allowed to interact in a way that they deem "unacceptable".



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