Saturday, July 1, 2017

Can an unsolvable format be created? Part 2

In part 1 we talked about using a point system to ensure that most decks in the format are roughly the same power level.

Unfortunately, the point system only works for a small format and can not be updated as new cards are released.

Now I present a theoretically unsolvable format that you can play right now with any of the decks you already have!

Here are the full rules.

The idea behind the Parley rule is to prevent raw card power from determining the strength of a deck. 

If you have ever tried to play a casual game with a friend you probably noticed that your decks were not balanced. This is fine for the first few games, but gets boring after a while since the games become predictable. With Parley each game is balanced regardless of traditional deck power. 

Mana screw and mana flood are no longer a problem. If you get bad mana you can simply wait until you draw all the cards you need. The parley rule will keep you safe long enough to set up an interesting board. 

The size of the meta game is expanded. A healthy meta game in a traditional format has at most 15-20 decks, but in some cases can have as few as one or two. In Parley the size of the meta game is limited to the number of decks with win conditions. At the time of writing there are about 15 thousand Magic Cards printed. The number of possible combinations of cards that make legal decks easily dwarfs the number of atoms in the universe. In other words Parley is a deck builders dream!

To build a winning Parley deck you don't have to copy a netdeck. In fact using a well known deck is probably a disadvantage. The best Parley deck is the deck you build yourself. Since neither player can win until both agree that the board looks more or less even you will want to build decks with cards and combos that are difficult to evaluate. 

Now this format is only theoretically unsolvable. In the next month or two I'll be hosting a Parley tournament and will post an update with lots of pictures and results. I'll be offering some nice prizes and really try to put this format to the test. I plan on playing a traditionally weak old school deck. I'm sure my opponents will bring lots of modern powerful cards.

The main idea behind Parley is to use bargaining to balance decks before players actually battle. But how do we know that bargaining is balanced? Economists have been studying this problem for decades, and as far as I can tell from the research bargaining is balanced. 

I'm excited to see what happens!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Making a Magic Card Box

Heres another box I made. This time I experimented with a metal bezzle. 

The inside of the lid is lined with stained sheet metal.

I chose brass because it is stiffer than copper.

I went down to my local metal warehouse (Schorr Metals) and picked up some cheap scrap brass. 

I used a Dremel tool to cut the brass with a Dremel Cut-off wheel attachment

To fold the brass. I took an exact-o-knife and used it to file a groove. I knew the groove was deep enough when I could feel the metal starting to give way by hand. 

Once I could feel it giving I clamped it down and folded the bend. 

Although this box does not wobble or squeak. It is rather heavy. Also I don't really like the way metal feels. I learned a lot making it, but I don't recommend it, it just does not feel as nice as a solid wood box. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Can an "unsolvable" format be created?

Today I want to talk about the concept of creating an "unsolvable" TCG format.

The idea is simple, just assign a power level to each card and then limit the total power level of each deck.

I built a simple version of this idea using 93/94 here:

My implementation has yet to be balanced, but I think the idea has a lot of potential.

The benefits are:

* Netdecks don't oppress creativity.

* You get a format with a large number of Tier 1 decks, maybe up to 60.

* Each Tier 1 deck can have a 50-51% win rate vs other Tier 1 decks on average.

* The vast majority of the card pool is playable.

* Decks can be balanced with greater precision than banning, restricting, or re-writing cards.

I think the idea works well for static formats like 93/94, and will also work well for digital TCG's like Hearthstone and Shadowverse.

Unfortunately, I don't think it can be implemented for modern paper TCG's since as new cards are introduced the power level of each card would need to be updated.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Common Proxy Mistakes

We can learn a lot from mistakes! Lets look at a few.


If you see these little dots it probably means you're not using enough FolkArt. 

The FolkArt bonds with the InkAid/Digital Ground and gives it more adhesion. The adhesion is what allows the InkAid to dry evenly over the whole card. The InkAid naturally wants to bead up like water over wax. Thats why you see the dot like pattern above. Its a result of the InkAid/Digital Ground beading up and then drying in that pattern. 


The problem with this one is that the text is pretty blurry. 

This is probably the most common problem people have. This happens because either you don't apply enough FolkArt or your printer's settings are producing too much ink. 

One of the main purposes of the FolkArt Glass and Tile Medium is to provide a porous surface to absorb ink like a sponge. If the ink is not absorbed it will have no where to go and just bleed out. 

To solve this problem you apply more mixture or increase the amount of FolkArt in your mixture. 

Or you adjust your printer settings to produce less ink. If you have a fancy printer you can set the ink levels directly, otherwise you'll probably have to adjust your "Paper Type" setting and do some trial and error until it looks right. 


This is what happens if you try to print on a card without InkAid/Digital Ground. InkAid allows the InkJet ink to bond with precision. If we don't use it the ink will look like a big blur. 

Here you can see that the card on the left is super washed out. 

This can happen because your "black levels" in Photoshop are not low enough or your "contrast" in Photoshop is not high enough. Setting black levels and contrast requires calibration and is the main skill used in producing really nice prints. 

In the above case, however, the problem turned out to be a printer problem. The guy was using a really nice Epson Photo Stylus R2880 which uses pigmented inks. It seems the solution to his problem was to adjust the printer speed. I've never seen the problem in person and it seems to be a rare problem, but hopefully it will help someone else. 

In the above picture there are globs of mixture on the card as opposed to a smooth texture. The exact cause of this problem is still unknown. Here are some things to try if this happens to you:

Firstly, make sure that you STIR the FolkArt. If you read the instructions on the back of the FolkArt is says that shaking it is not enough. This is true in my experience. FolkArt naturally congeals and the only way to ensure that it is a smooth texture is to take the end of your brush and stir the liquid. 

If that doesn't solve the issue then the next thing to try is to apply the FolkArt first, let it dry fully, then apply the InkAid or Digital Ground as a second layer. The reason that applying the chemicals in two separate layers can sometimes fix this issue is still unknown. Most people are able to mix the FolkArt and Digital Ground with no issue. Some people, however, when using the exact same brands do experience this issue. We believe that some batches of InkAid or Digital ground have slightly different formulas that result in a chemical reaction that causes the mixture to congeal. If you have any information on why this could be happening please email me. 

Mixing the two products is only a convenience and is not required for making a great print. In the non-foil video I apply the mixtures in two separate layers and achieve fantastic results. 

One final note on this--if you are making a foil cards please allow enough time for the IndAid/Digital Ground layer to fully dry before applying any gloss. If you apply the gloss before the lower layers have a chance to fully dry then, since the gloss is wet, it can cause the lower layers to mix and create the bumps. 


In the first picture, you can see some horizontal lines running across the blue part of the card. In the second picture you can see sketchy black lines also running horizontally. There are two causes for this problem. 
1) Your printer is low on ink.
2) Your print heads need to be cleaned. 
Most printers have an option to automatically clean the print heads. If that doesn't resolve the issue you may need to clean your print heads manually. To do this take the print cartridges out of the printer. Take and use a cotton swab or paper towel and moisten it slightly with some warm water. Then use dab the place where the ink comes out lightly with the swab until its clean. Let it dry and put it back. 

I'll be sure to post more common problems here in the future. If you don't see your problem here email me with pictures and I'll post it and the solution. 

chess314 at gmail dot com


Monday, September 19, 2016

One more box

Here's another box design.

My favorite part of the box are the dots on the outside:

I made them with a soldering iron. Can you guess what they are for? They are actually a Quinary life counter. 

Each half of the box represents one quinary numeral. You put them together to make a number. 
Take this orientation for example: 

The three dots on the left are the quinary number 3. Since that is the left most numeral we multiply 3 * 5 to get 15. The dot on the right is the quinary number 1. So the above orientation represents the number 15 + 1 = 16. This box can count all the way up to 24--pretty cool!

The bezel is made of brass.
I tried making boxes with wooden bezels, but the problem with that is that they squeak and wobble.
I also tried making a box entirely out of brass, but the problem with that is that the box is too heavy and also too wobbly over all, since thin metal is not very ridged.

The design is simple, but you need to make sure that the top of the bezel is perfectly flat otherwise you'll get squeaks. Takes a bit of trial and error.

The wood is 1/16th inch thick Cherry. I applied three coats of shellac to the interior of the wood to protect against acid off gassing. The shellac should last about the 20 years it will take for the wood to deplete all its acid.

Overall I don't really like this design that much because the lid tends to wobble and the metal is rather heavy...  back to the drawing board for me.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Favorite Deck Box Design

Here’s another little deck box I made.

I like the design of this deck box better than the sliding top or the suction fit since this design doesn’t squeak or wobble.

I have two smaller pins on the top and bottom for extra stability. When closed this box feels like one solid piece of wood.

The latch is a metal nail that I’ve bent and driven into the lid. It fits into a ~1 cm long metal tube hidden in the side of the box.

You can adjust how tight you want the latch to hold by bending the nail slightly with pliers. My latch is set tight enough to never open accidently or even when vigorously shaken.

I prefer wood deck boxes to metal ones because wood is more rigid and lighter, but fresh cut wood does produce acid. To deal with this it is important to seal the inside of the box with 3 layers of shellac or polyurethane.

No need to worry about the protective layer breaking down, by the time that happens (~15 years) the wood will have dissipated all of its acid.
See this technical document about wood and acid with a list of low acid emitting woods.

The sides and top are 1/8th inch thick Walnut. The bottom panel is actually 1/16th inch thick to reduce the thickness even more.

The box is only 3.7cm thick so it can easily fit in my pocket. It holds 75 sealed perfect fits sleeved cards.

If you decide to paint your box note that it takes three weeks for acrylic (aka latex) paint to fully dry. Even though it feels dry, the lid will make sticky tacky sounds and may stick to the bottom. This will all go away in three weeks once the paint is fully dry. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Sealing Inner Sleeves

I noticed that a few people were using a $25 Impulse Sealer to seal their card sleeves.

Sealing card sleeves is cool, but I think there are issues with judges not allowing them in tournaments since the top seals could appear marked.

If you seal your inner sleeves this is not a problem, since an outer sleeve will obscure the seal.

I tried sealing KMC perfect fits and it works great! (Sealing does not work with Ultra-Pro inner sleeves)

Perfect seal. Nothing is gonna damage that Gerrard’s Wisdom now!

So why bother sealing inner sleeves?

Well, it provides more protection than conventional double sleeving since it’s a complete seal, but what I really like about it is that I can just play with KMC perfect fits by themselves in a causal environment.

I suspect that they are actually less likely to tear or split than normal un-sealed single sleeves since the card itself supports the plastic corners. I’ve been doing this for months and haven’t had a single split.

Of course they keep out more dirt and moisture than an un-sealed single sleeve. 

They are obviously much cheaper than normal single sleeves. 

For casual play I really like the thinner plastic. When I play causally with friends I want the closest experience possible to playing with just bare cards. I like that I can see the card backs and not some ugly uniform plastic color. I like that the cards feel like cards and not thick plastic.

The thickness of your decks is of course massively reduced. A 75 card deck can easily fit in my pocket when using only sealed KMC Perfect Fit sleeves.

To make a seal I recommend you take off the little cloth thing. Put the card in a small book to push out all the air and hold it flat. Then hold the sleeve at a 90 degree angle to the sealer. Turn the sealer to the lowest possible setting and push down.

No need to worry about the sealer damaging the cards either. It is not heat operated, but rather works by sending an electrical impulse through the plastic. If you accidentally hit the card it won’t heat the card since the card will break the circuit. I’ve sealed a lot of my expensive beta cards this way. They are perfectly fine. 

Just to reiterate, the impulse sealer will not work with ultra-pro inner sleeves. For some reason Ultra-Pro plastic just disintegrates instead of sealing. 

Also, there will be little air pockets at first, but after a few days the extra air will defuse through the plastic and they will be nice and flat.