Monday, 16 October 2017

MTGO: close season

As I explained in my last post, Magic Online is seasonal. I finished a league today and as I found that the entirety of the cards I opened, 6 packs worth 24 tickets unopened, sold for less than a ticket to the tradebots it's time to stop playing as the game is now uneconomic.

I could play on if I wanted to but with the opened cards being miniscule in value I'd need 6 wins per league consistently. I've gone 5-4 in my last game and 6-3 the one before that so I can't expect to do so. Without card sales propping up the prize value a 5-4 would cost about $5 and 4-5 would cost over $10 with 6-3 about break even. I've never gone 7-2.

I did 5 leagues of 9 games each this season all in the Friendly Sealed format. I never opted to pay for more cards to strengthen my deck. I went 6-3 or 5-4 every time making a substantial profit particularly on the early games when the cards were new.

I had a ton of fun, I really do like MTG as a game, but I'm quite happy to wait 3 months now till the next release then splurge again. Next time I'd like to get more leagues done in the first couple of weeks, it really does feel like collecting free money.

I'm becoming a lot better at baiting out the opponent's killer move and trumping it. I deliberately set up situations that might tempt him/her to use their best removal spell or combat trick when I have open mana and a counter card in my hand that will result in a 2 for 1 play. That's very satisfying.

Being self-analytical my psychology is quite weird. I have about 700 tickets, worth about $700. I only play when I think I'll come out ahead and I'm usually correct on that. So each season I end up richer. I can afford to play now and lose money simply because I've such a great stack of tickets. However I don't want to and it's hard to explain why. I really like the game, it makes no sense to have more tickets in the system than I will ever use. Logically I should just play on, losing about $5 per league (about 50c per match) because this wealth is useless unless I spend it. I have the unspent wealth to lose about 100 leagues even in the dry season. However I'm averse to. Loss aversion? Is this why real world billionaires keep piling up the billions when there's no longer anything left to buy? I just don't fancy the idea of playing what is essentially a gambling game now the odds are no longer in my favour even though I'm only risking meaningless game money. I believe Dan Ariely would consider me predictably irrational.

Well it is what it is. I have a new corp and a new adventure starting in Eve Online, time to shelve MtGO for the season.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Magic the Gathering Online update and strategy

MTGO is a strange game for me because it's seasonal. I don't know if I've ever played a computer game so strongly seasonal. There's a best time to play it and times when playing it is economically challenging. I mean, you can play it but it costs more, you get beaten more and the thrill of novelty isn't there.

Here's how the game works and how I approach it. A new set is issued about 4 times a year. The set is available in physical form only over a weekend known as the Pre-Release weekend. Then the game is released online on the Monday.

That Monday and the days immediately after the game is full of casuals who only return at this particular time in the cycle as well as both casuals and veterans who don't know what the new cards do. In addition many of the new cards are highly sought after by people who play constructed.

These conditions (mediocre players and high card prices) degrade rapidly, hourly, and then continue to degrade more slowly over the life of a format. The people who are playing in a format's final week will tend to be the most dedicated players.

MTGO is an expensive game with that expense defrayed by prizes. Many formats also allow you to keep the cards you open which is another way to defray costs. It is a very good game, better than Hearthstone, because you can dick with the other player during their turn (or anticipate them dicking with you and trump them). It' can be supremely satisfying.

Players have a concept of Expected Value which is calculated from your win rate. This calculator allows us to work out whether we're likely to be ahead or behind.

A big part of mastering the economics is selecting the format. Draft tends to have stronger players than Sealed, Competitive tends to have stronger players than Friendly. I play Friendly Sealed which not only has the weakest players but also has the best EV at 50% per the calculator.

I'm a decent but not great MTG player. (Limited Rating 1708). By stacking the odds I'm able to come out ahead (known in the community as "going infinite").

Here's how I finished my last league, a set of Sealed games I went 6-3.

I'd very much recommend playing limited format MTGO and I hope this helps some of you find your feet. Beginner's guides are on the sidebar of the MTGO subreddit. 

The next Limited format starts in January so now would be a good time to pootle around for a couple of months learning the UI and the game mechanics and play some beginner games to prepare yourself for then.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Friday, 18 August 2017

Albion Online: Crafting numbers

Crafting generic items is generally done at a loss. Currently using 4359 silver worth of pine planks to make a T4 bow will give you a bow that sells for about 3000 silver.

You also get some planks back:

Resource return by Location:

Black Zone crafting station

Private/guild island: 0% (35% with focus)

Caerleon or other major city: 15% (45% with focus)

Black zone city: 20% (48% with focus)

Food buffs:  

You can improve crafting speed and quality by using food. This is a huge buff and you should always do it.

Bean Salad: +33% speed and quality for 5 minutes.

Turnip Salad: +66% speed and quality for 5 minutes.

Potato Salad: +100% speed and quality for 5 minutes.


The higher a crafter's skills the more quality and focus cost efficiency they gain. Each item has 2 skills that boost these attributes, the two furthest out on its spoke of the Destiny Wheel.

The base skill, the skill unlocking your crafting tiers starting with Tier 4 gives
+0.3 bonus focus cost efficiency and +0.75 increase in quality to all the items it shows in its window.

The specialist skills give
+0.3 bonus focus cost efficiency and +0.75 increase in quality to all the items in its weapon group.
+2.5 bonus focus cost efficiency and +6 increase in quality to the specific weapon. The artifacts specialisation applies to all artifacts of the weapon group.

For example:

Callduron is specialising in making Warbows.

16/100 Bow Crafter gives +4.2 bonus cost efficiency and +12 increase in quality when crafting all bows.

9/100 Warbow Crafting Specialist gives +3.3 bonus focus cost efficiency and +6.75 increase in quality while crafting all bows. It also gives +22.5 bonus focus cost efficiency and +54 increase in quality when crafting warbows.

The other bow specialisms are at 0 so I get no bonuses from them.

Maximum possible skill bonuses are + 400 focus cost efficiency and +975 increase in quality.

Putting it all together:

Max resource return: 48% (crafting in the black zone with focus).

Best crafting speed buff: +100% from food

Crafting quality: up to +975 from skills, +100% from food (I don't know how those stack). Using focus also gives a quality bonus.

Bonus focus cost efficiency: up to +400 from skills.

The life of a high level crafter then will be a matter of passively collecting your 10k focus per day, then using it to make highly lucrative x.3 or x.2 items which will bring a small profit if you get a low quality or make mad bank if the RNG gods give you Outstanding or Masterpiece quality. Actually you can probably find items that you make small profits on even without focus.

This places two soft constraints on a hardcore crafter:

- it's a big waste to do anything else with your focus.

- it's a big waste to do anything else with your learning points.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Albion Online: Gear set management

Playing on with this very addictive MMO. I'm now Tier 5 in my gear which while nothing exciting is solidly mid-pack.

I've realised that it's all too easy to suffer excessive financial setback through mismanagement of gear. In fact I just found out the hard way.

I joined a ZvZ group which is a Zerg v Zerg group for some open world pvp. In ZvZ gear doesn't matter that much. If there are 10 of you and 3 of them you win, if there are 3 of you (because you got separated or over-enthusiastic) against 10 of them you lose. Gear will tip an even fight but that's a relatively unusual circumstance.

When I died I had a moderately expensive mount on me (a T5 Armoured Warhorse).  Just silly not to swap it out. The zerg moves rather slower than the speed of its slowest member and as a healer I'm not out flanking in exposed positions. I should just stick with the group on a cheap horse as all fighting will be done on foot. Anyway not a bank-breaker and lesson learned.

So it's about gearing on the cheap.

For me that's this build.

Add t3 or t4 riding horse and you're fine for supporting a zvz. Possilby a gathering tool if you think you're likely to make it home with more than the value of the tool.

It's probably not true for tanks. If you're going to charge boldly in you probably need decent survivability from gear quality.

But for healers and dps I think it's better to have more uptime (ie I can carry on past 3 deaths) than higher quality. (I died, sorry guys, got to go.)

I don't think the same is true of gathering unless you're consciously going into dangerous zones. I do most of my gathering in the black zones just outside our friendly town. For me to get ganked they would have to manage to sneak multiple people between me and the safe haven of our town. I have multiple escapes on the gear plus it's really hard to close quickly on someone in the very cluttered forest terrain.

Here's my gathering gear:

Horse is a Tier 5 Armoured Warhorse.

Here's my expedition/fame farming gear.

The boots are a little behind the other armour types as I realised late that I wanted to wear Assassin's boots at end game so they're in my fame-grinding set.

One final point about gear in relation to consumables. A lot of people skip food and potions. This is an error of analysis. If you are playing in a context that is quite likely to kill you then it's all consumable. There's no point cheaping out on consumables when you can just use cheap ones as everything is just going to be lost sooner or later anyway. When you die every half an hour, a hat is just a consumable that gives you some stats and the Ice Block ability for 30 mins.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Albion Online: first fortnight

Albion Online launched about a month ago, the latest in a long line of games aiming to be a "fantasy Eve."

In Albion's case they seem to have struck closer to the mark than some of the previous attempts. There's a single shard server with a very interesting economy. There's a relationship between pvp, pve and crafting/gathering that's dynamic and engaging. We even have a Goon blob guild that is offending the elite pvpers.

If you want to know more about the basics then there's a ton of good beginner's guides on youtube.

I'm going to talk about my heavily sub-optimal start to the game.

Optimisation in this game is straightforward. Pick a thing, do it over and over. Dull but efficient.

I'm not wired that way so I've experimented with all kinds of things. I started as a Fire Mage, then turned into a Holy Priest simply by equipping a new staff. I can go back to being a Fire Mage at any time by equipping that weapon which is need.

Healing is fun in pvp and efficient in doing the game's pickup dungeons. I wait 30 seconds for a group as  healer compared to about 15-20 minutes if I do one as a fire mage.

I've also done lots of gathering with him.

I built a private island, then decided I'd put it in the wrong place and had to demolish it and start over. I'd definitely advise waiting a bit on the island until you're clear what you will be doing in the game.

I made a tank alt and a rogue alt. The classes are really fun and if you want to check out a different playstyle you just change your weapon.

Silver is incredibly impactful in the game and you can make alot of progress if you're wealthy.

The end game that I'm working towards is 5v5 pvp content. 5v5 fights are used to contest territory and the game world is a huge Risk map of conquerable zones. There are also special dungeons called Hellgates where you run a normal dungeon with mobs and bosses but the kicker is there's another 5 man party in there.

So far it's exceptionally fun, the only notable downside being a rather large amount of DDOS related downtime. Highly recommended and if you're an Eve player you may meet a lot of familiar names here.

Here's a video of some high level players having a laugh in a Hellgate.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

AT XV Villore Accords debrief

In Magic: The Gathering there's a concept of recognising when you're not the beat-down. You may have constructed your deck to get a fast start with plenty of cheap creatures aiming to finish an opponent quickly. However if your opponent has a similar deck and gets a better start you need to recognise that your usual aggressive tactics are wrong for this match and play defensively. You need to recognise you're not the beat-down.

Villore Accords met two close-range blaster set-ups in this tournament. We needed to kite, to minimise the time spent doing damage by the enemy blaster boats. We didn't get this.

Even, agonisingly, a situation developed in our second match where a whole bunch of enemy Brutixes etc were chasing but not catching a ship that was about 30km off them not doing any damage. All the pilot had to do was nothing - let his ship coast out towards the edge of the arena dragging the defanged enemy team behind him. Instead he decided to turn around and fly back into the happy wolfpack.

Now the key to this I think is practice. We practiced once or twice a week and our practices were not efficient in terms of matches played per time spent. I'd guess we were about 1.5 matches per hour which is not a lot when a match lasts at most ten minutes.

People were also getting tilted too easily in practices.

Let's now look at some positives. The practices and tournament games was very useful experience and we saw some sigificant  improvement in some players. I'd like to mention WubtheCook (our logi) and Malmar (frigate pilot) particularly. Ship fitting was  good (Ashley being a supremely gifted pyfa wizard) and doctrine theorycrafting was fine. It's the understanding of how the enemy's doctrine works that we didn't get and that's a very achievable goal for next year.

It was a ton of fun and I was very glad to be allowed to participate after I fell out with my former alliance just days before the cut-off.

Match 1: Villore Accords v United Federation of Conifers

Match 2: Villore Accords v SOLAR Fleet