[Podcast] SMIP Podcast # 53: Mid-May Vintage Metagame Update

There was a time I thought it curious that folks would live stream MODO tournaments while actively participating in a Chat where others were weighing in on decisions mid-match...sort of airing yourselves out to be accused of cheating, in a way. Despite the fact that your opponent could easily be "ghosting" you, if your opponent doesn't recognize your MODO handle, how would they ever find your stream. If someone was caught with an earpiece in a paper event being given lines of play I would suspect there would be pretty serious consequences to that. There is, of course a middle ground...players delay stream their events, talk about all the decision making they want (no live chats) and then post on twitch later.

That being said, there is value to the community in being able to watch some of the top tier players in the format play the game, explain their decision making, card choices ect...I have personally learned a good deal about proper timing, sequencing, when to play certain cards, when to sit back..all great stuff.

@Islandswamp I agree with that. I do think that MTGO is easier to play though, mainly because all the housekeeping activities are done for you and you don't have to do as much mental upkeep as you do in paper.

What are the implied ethics of hearthstone or online poker?

Wizards obviously loves the streaming attention, but will eventually force them to take a side.

@joshuabrooks Ug... Poker is tough I think. Taking money from people you know can't really afford it... woof. To say nothing of the fact that if you lose over time you basically just have a gambling problem.

meh, it's just shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic of life.

I think the question is clear-cut: do we want an MTGO match to be an individual contest? Or a contest between two arbitrary teams?

If the former, then asking pros and Vintage world champions on chat to play the game for you is clearly cheating.

If the latter, so be it; there is nothing unfair or unethical about this decision provided that it is clearly communicated to all players that there is no longer any expectation of MTGO being an individual contest. And I, personally, will want nothing to do with such a game.

last edited by evouga

@evouga said:

I think the question is clear-cut: do we want an MTGO match to be an individual contest? Or a contest between two arbitrary teams?

If the former, then asking pros and Vintage world champions on chat to play the game for you is clearly cheating.

If the latter, so be it; there is nothing unfair or unethical about this decision provided that it is clearly communicated to all players that there is no longer any expectation of MTGO being an individual contest. And I, personally, will want nothing to do with such a game.

I think Kevin's view is that multiple players playing on a single account of MTGO (or working together) against a common opponent is unethical. Lots of people do that tho.

One question is: how would you clearly communicate that to your opponent? Would you have to tell them before each match? Or, what if people wouldnt play if they do? How do you tell all MTGO opponents before an event?

@Smmenen said:

@evouga said:

I think the question is clear-cut: do we want an MTGO match to be an individual contest? Or a contest between two arbitrary teams?

If the former, then asking pros and Vintage world champions on chat to play the game for you is clearly cheating.

If the latter, so be it; there is nothing unfair or unethical about this decision provided that it is clearly communicated to all players that there is no longer any expectation of MTGO being an individual contest. And I, personally, will want nothing to do with such a game.

I think Kevin's view is that multiple players playing on a single account of MTGO (or working together) against a common opponent is unethical. Lots of people do that tho.

One question is: how would you clearly communicate that to your opponent? Would you have to tell them before each match? Or, what if people wouldnt play if they do? How do you tell all MTGO opponents before an event?

Plus let's remember these are magic players. Even if they had an icon you could switch on to tell people you were "teaming," people would use that as a sole excuse for why they lost.

I agree this is unenforceable.
In the casual playrooms it is fine, but I feel bad for people that spend money to lose to a team.

The community needs to frown upon this, at least in non-disclosed competitive play. Even if you don't use the suggestions of your helpers, it is still an obvious aid to have multiple lines of play being discussed

Edit: still unsure how I feel about this right now.

last edited by joshuabrooks

As has been true in other situations (or at least, perceived to be true) eventually the "right" person will cry loud enough to someone at Wizards, and all of the popular live streamers (not just Vintage, this issue cannot be local to just our format..) will receive some sort of notification "warning" them that if they continue to live stream with an active chat, or otherwise found to be participating in events as a "team" they will have their MODO account revoked blah blah blah ect ect.

The thing that will interest me the most when this inevitably happens will be if the repercussions would stretch to the Paper MTG realm...I doubt they would, but just a thought.

@joshuabrooks said:

The community needs to frown upon this, at least in non-disclosed competitive play. Even if you don't use the suggestions of your helpers, it is still an obvious aid to have multiple lines of play being discussed

This is the fundamental point, in my opinion. Back when I was much more heavily MTGO-involved, immedately after launch and in the years after, it was a common discussion, and as I mentioned above, it was against the TOS to have help. Both in the lobby chats and in talking with people in real life, it was a topic we frequently considered. I haven't seen anyone bring it up in years aside from this episode and this ensuing conversation, which is odd because its more relevant than ever in a world with Twitch.

For reference: http://company.wizards.com/policies/web/conduct

Specifically:

10. Do not violate the terms of any official organized play tournament rules as published and updated by Wizard from time to time and at its sole discretion.

Which would seem to bring into scope: http://wpn.wizards.com/sites/wpn/files/attachements/mtg_mtr_8apr16_ena.pdf

Specifically:

1.11 Spectators
Any person physically present at a tournament and not in any other category above is a spectator. Spectators are
responsible for remaining silent and passive during matches and other official tournament sections in which
players are also required to be silent. If spectators believe they have observed a rules or policy violation, they are
encouraged to alert a judge as soon as possible. At Regular or Competitive REL, spectators are permitted to ask
the players to pause the match while they alert a judge. At Professional REL, spectators must not interfere with
the match directly

as well as

2.11 Taking Notes
Players are allowed to take written notes during a match and may refer to those notes while that match is in
progress. At the beginning of a match, each player’s note sheet must be empty and must remain visible throughout
the match. Players do not have to explain or reveal notes to other players. Judges may ask to see a player’s notes
and/or request that the player explain his or her notes.
Players may not refer to other notes, including notes from previous matches, during games.
Between games, players may refer to a brief set of notes made before the match. They are not required to reveal
these notes to their opponents. These notes must be removed from the play area before the beginning of the next
game. Excessive quantities of notes (more than a sheet or two) are not allowed and may be penalized as slow
play.
The use of electronic devices to take and refer to notes is permitted at Regular Rules Enforcement Level (see
section 2.12 – Electronic Devices).
Players and spectators (exception: authorized press) may not make notes while drafting. Players may not reference
any outside notes during drafting, card pool registration, or deckbuilding.
Players may refer to Oracle text at any time. They must do so publicly and in a format which contains no other
strategic information. Consulting online sources, such as gatherer.wizards.com, is allowed at Regular Rules
Enforcement Level. If a player wishes to view Oracle text in private, he or she must ask a judge.
Artistic modifications to cards that indirectly provide minor strategic information are acceptable. The Head Judge
is the final arbiter on what cards and notes are acceptable for a tournament.

However, that document is clearly written from the perspective of paper tournaments and includes numerous elements that simply ignore and/or do not apply to MTGO. As such... it's unclear to me what to conclude.

last edited by CHA1N5

@McAra It never even occurred to me that this kind of thing could be going on. Of course I watch the VSL, and I assumed most "twitch streams" are of a similar format: the player shares their screen and discusses their thoughts on the game and lines of play, with a one-way flow of information from the player to the audience.

@mediumsteve At some point, assuming things are going well, you start to feel like the iceberg. I'm cold, but not that cold.

I think the frequency of asking Twitch chat what to do has been overblown. For instance Rich generally only asks a deck designer about plays or sideboarding when it's a deck he is unfamiliar with. Watching people stream new decks is interesting and hearing what the designers have to say is educational. If a streamer is playing a deck in an important tournament that he knows well, he's not frequently/ever delaying and relying on the brainpower of the chat to find lines for him.

Another point that I don't think has been focused on enough is how distracting it is to stream. While chat can occasionally suggest a better line, the vast majority of times the streamer's line is better than the suggestions. Although experienced streamers suffer less from this, one's play does degrade when trying to engage with chat. It's not an obvious conclusion whatsoever that streaming gives an overall advantage. I have considered streaming in the past, but I decided not to since it would make me play worse.

My last point is more of a pragmatic one. I love that people stream on twitch. Vintage is not a frequently played format and understanding why good players make the decisions they do is incredibly informative. I have seen several people state that they started playing the format because of the people who take the effort to stream it.

Magic Online is a terrible program to stream. Watch a Hearthstone stream to understand why. There are no fun animations. If you don't understand the specific cards being played it's very hard to tell what's going on. The game is not fast paced. There is way too much passing priority back and forth. World famous Magic players like LSV get <10% the number of viewers as popular Hearthstone streamers because of all of these problems.

IMO, the last thing we need is for WOTC to discourage streaming. A non-negligible amount of value from watching a stream is having someone suggest a play and have the streamer critique it while considering other plays. If you don't allow this, even fewer people are going to watch Magic on Twitch. Moreover, as Steve has mentioned, this outside help rule is unenforceable. Instead of streaming for everyone's benefit, you can just jump on a Skype call with your friends.

last edited by diophan

@diophan Yup. I'm officially an old man. I took your advice and watched some Hearthstone steaming. It's like watching a second grader vomit skittles onto the board continuously.

As for what you said. I agree with it all the way. Honestly, I don't really care about MTGO. So people can do what they want so far as I'm concerned. If it helps make the game more popular that is great. And there is no doubt that watching streamers helps you get better.

@diophan said:

I think the frequency of asking Twitch chat what to do has been overblown. For instance Rich generally only asks a deck designer about plays or sideboarding when it's a deck he is unfamiliar with. Watching people stream new decks is interesting and hearing what the designers have to say is educational. If a streamer is playing a deck in an important tournament that he knows well, he's not frequently/ever delaying and relying on the brainpower of the chat to find lines for him.

Another point that I don't think has been focused on enough is how distracting it is to stream. While chat can occasionally suggest a better line, the vast majority of times the streamer's line is better than the suggestions. Although experienced streamers suffer less from this, one's play does degrade when trying to engage with chat. It's not an obvious conclusion whatsoever that streaming gives an overall advantage. I have considered streaming in the past, but I decided not to since it would make me play worse.

My last point is more of a pragmatic one. I love that people stream on twitch. Vintage is not a frequently played format and understanding why good players make the decisions they do is incredibly informative. I have seen several people state that they started playing the format because of the people who take the effort to stream it.

Magic Online is a terrible program to stream. Watch a Hearthstone stream to understand why. There are no fun animations. If you don't understand the specific cards being played it's very hard to tell what's going on. The game is not fast paced. There is way too much passing priority back and forth. World famous Magic players like LSV get <10% the number of viewers as popular Hearthstone streamers because of all of these problems.

IMO, the last thing we need is for WOTC to discourage streaming. A non-negligible amount of value from watching a stream is having someone suggest a play and have the streamer critique it while considering other plays. If you don't allow this, even fewer people are going to watch Magic on Twitch. Moreover, as Steve has mentioned, this outside help rule is unenforceable. Instead of streaming for everyone's benefit, you can just jump on a Skype call with your friends.

I don't disagree with any of the above, but it seems that if outside assistance were relegated to the unpaid queues, with no collaboration allowed in the tournaments with real stakes on the line, that would serve the interest of the streamers, the broader community, while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the tournament.

@diophan It's not totally unenforceable. If you say that you can't publicly stream tournaments (or if you do, you have to set it up so that it's a 1-way stream rather than a 2-way conversation) pros will stop doing it. The fact that you could get around the rule is not the same as saying the rule will have no effect, especially if people generally agree that the rule is proper

To be totally specific, I am saying that if it is against the rules to receive outside help on MTGO and WotC issues a (very soft) warning or two to people doing it most of the problem will go away, people will self-enforce, and it will be rare that people go around the rule. Unlike banning alcohol (and poisoning hundreds of thousands of people as a means to that end), I expect that forbidding outside help would generally be seen as a worthwhile goal and people would generally voluntarily restrict their use of outside resources (especially other players) if that were the rule.

last edited by ajfirecracker

It's unenforceable in the sense that people stop streaming and switch to having Skype calls with their friends. You haven't stopped the "bad"part, which is outside help. You have, however, destroyed most of the good that comes from streaming. It's much less interesting and useful to watch a vod than to have a live conservation with the person streaming.

This seems so minor to me that I don't understand people's reaction. There are so many other unfair advantages afforded to people, even at paper tournaments, that this seems like a completely insignificant issue. If you are on a high ranking team for a GP or a pro tour you have someone organizing a googledoc to keep track of who is playing what deck. Players on the team submit their opponents' deck, decks they can scout, and decks on camera. When you get paired against someone, if their deck is known you get information before you sit down and play. You have sideboarding information available from the deck designer, which you can either memorize or consult between games. You have tested with people for countless hours. With all the things that are wrong with modo, I don't see how it is reasonable to allocate resources to send out warnings to those promoting the game through streaming.

last edited by diophan

@diophan I still agree with what you're saying about MTGO. As for the second example, that just sounds like good playing to me. This is like casinos trying to say that card counting is cheating... paying attention to the details is cheating? huh...

When video scouting other teams came into Volleyball, the good teams did it and the bad teams complained. Now if your team can't find someone to drive an hour and tape the other team... well, you're probably not trying that hard to win.

Why the heck don't the other non-affiliated players just band together and pool their collective knowledge to even the playing field? I wondered to nobody in particular.

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