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Fun-Off, Part 2: Electric Bugaloo

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The letter A!fter a short archeological break, it's time to get back to the Fun-Off. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, I recommend reading Part 1. For those unwilling or unable to click links, here in a nutshell is what I'm doing: I asked my Twitter followers (I'm thinking of adopting the nickname "tweeps," as "followers" sounds a bit awkward) to send me the card that they found the most fun in all of Magic. I took the first thirty-two answers (and I literally mean the first thirty-two answers, that's why some cards that seem like they don't fit got in and some obvious choices got left out) and have set up a face-off between them, playing out much like a single-elimination tournament. I am doing this to demonstrate a tool to help understand how you feel about a topic. It's all in Part I if you want more info.

When last we left, here's where our standings were:


Before we get to the next round, I want to quickly recap the last round with input from all of you. As you remember, I ended Part I by asking my readers to vote on how you would've decided each of the initial 16 pairings. Unfortunately, I made a grave error in how I posted the questions. By asking you all after I had already explained my choice, I tainted the poll so much, in fact, that all sixteen questions matched my response. This week I'm going to correct that by asking you to vote before I explain my choice.

What all this means is that we have to look through the data with a bit of a bias. I believe any vote that was close easily could have gone the other way if the voters had not yet heard the explanation of my choices. Here's how all of you voted:



Which is more fun?
Shahrazad 4720 83.5%
Goblin Spelunkers 935 16.5%
Total 5655 100.0%

The vast majority agreed that the whimsical flavor of Goblin Spelunkers simply didn't add up to the fun of one of the first out-of-the-box card designs.




Which is more fun?
Stuffy Doll 4576 80.5%
Gleemax 1105 19.5%
Total 5681 100.0%

The majority also agreed that the card that can be played is more fun than the card that can't.




Which is more fun?
Doubling Season 4673 83.5%
Chain Lightning 923 16.5%
Total 5596 100.0%

Uncertainty can be fun, but apparently not as fun as doubling stuff.




Which is more fun?
Elvish Promenade 2827 51.7%
Chaos Confetti 2636 48.3%
Total 5463 100.0%

Here's the first close match-up. I think I overestimated the unfun of ripping the card and underestimated the fun of sprinkling the card over your opponent's permanents. Also, I get the sense that there isn't tons of love for Elvish Promenade.




Which is more fun?
Cheatyface 4813 86.8%
Grizzly Bears 729 13.2%
Total 5542 100.0%

Of all the votes, what got the most? Yes, Cheatyface. A big part of this is that Grizzly Bears seems the odd bear out in the competition, but still, there's some love for the Unhinged Efreet.




Which is more fun?
Mindslaver 3603 64.8%
Snakeform 1954 35.2%
Total 5557 100.0%

While this one seems like Mindslaver would still have taken it, I do admit that I didn't give enough due to Snakeform.




Which is more fun?
Fact or Fiction 3917 71.7%
Shocker 1548 28.3%
Total 5465 100.0%

I'm a little surprised Fact or Fiction didn't do better than it did. I think I didn't take into account that Fact or Fiction can often make one player feel stupid, and that definitely isn't fun.




Which is more fun?
Radiate 3045 55.9%
Gifts Ungiven 2401 44.1%
Total 5446 100.0%

Another close one. It was pointed out in the thread and in some emails that Radiate has potential that is not met as often as you think it would be. Also, Gifts Ungiven has its fans.




Which is more fun?
Ovinomancer 3098 56.9%
Pyromancer Ascension 2350 43.1%
Total 5448 100.0%

Ovinomancer oozes flavor, but I simply didn't give Pyromancer's Ascension enough credit. Quests are little mini-games, and mini-games tend to be fun.




Which is more fun?
Endless Whispers 4101 74.9%
Counterspell 1377 25.1%
Total 5478 100.0%

I feel I both exaggerated Counterspell's unfunness (as pointed out in the thread, counterspells are one of the things that best help stop unfun things from happening) and didn't give Endless Whispers enough credit.




Which is more fun?
Cytoshape 3463 63.6%
Overrun 1979 36.4%
Total 5442 100.0%

Looking back, I don't think I reined in my Johnny instincts enough. As one of my emails said, predictability is not the antithesis of fun. Doing something you really enjoy again and again is fun. Overrun has added a lot of fun to Magic. I'm actually surprised Overrun didn't do better.




Which is more fun?
Phantom Nishoba 2870 53.8%
Fecundity 2469 46.2%
Total 5339 100.0%

Ironically, as a designer I'm very proud of creating Fecundity, because to me it's a lot of fun. Maybe I overcompensated as a Johnny on this vote.




Which is more fun?
Warp World 3822 71.4%
Thieves' Auction 1534 28.6%
Total 5356 100.0%

I expected this one to be more in Warp World's favor. Turns out that Thieves' Auction has a lot of fans.




Which is more fun?
Day of the Dragons 3727 69.7%
Ink-Treader Nephilim 1621 30.3%
Total 5348 100.0%

Dragons vs. Nephilim. I expected more of a blowout. I think Day of the Dragons' problem is that so often after playing it, you just win, such that the fun is seldom maximized.




Which is more fun?
Booster Tutor 4081 75.8%
Ball Lightning 1300 24.2%
Total 5381 100.0%

While Booster Tutor seems like it was going to win either version of the polling, the reason it's only in the 70s, I think, is that I had a blind spot I couldn't see. A lot of players won't vote for Booster Tutor because it requires another booster to play. As a man with more sealed boosters than I know what to do with (see last week's article), I never really thought about that aspect as a potential negative.

A quick aside. When I talked about Booster Tutor last week, I told a story about wanting to get it into Eighth Edition. While I did try to get it into a base set, my memory was faulty about which one. Unhinged had not been released when Eighth Edition came out, so obviously I argued unsuccessfully to get it into a later core set.




Which is more fun?
Pools of Becoming 2853 51.8%
Goblin Game 2652 48.2%
Total 5505 100.0%

Another very close vote. I didn't give Goblin Game its due. Also, I think a significant number of voters have never played with Planechase. (If you haven't, seriously, give it a try. It's a lot of fun and you can even play it in two-person duels.)

Now that we've seen your take on the first round, let's move onto the second. Remember, this time around you all are going to vote before you see what I choose.

Also before I jump in, a quick reminder that the point of this exercise is to see what issues contrasting two things brings up. Remember that a face-off is more about the journey than the destination.

Round of 16


 Which is more fun?  

This match-up has interesting subtext. Both of these cards can be fun, yet both have the ability to really annoy your opponent (yes, that is fun for some of you). While subgames are a cool, out-of-the-box idea, they do logistically take a lot of time, and that's not even getting into the decks that do it repeatedly. Stuffy Doll has a different problem in that once it's out it shuts down all lot of what the opponent can do. In each case, playing against the card in question has the potential to be unfun.

On the plus side, both cards ooze with flavor. One uses flavor from outside the game while the other is nostalgic to the game's early days, but nonetheless each can bring a smile to the user's face. When I step back and look at the match-up I have a clear winner. Stuffy Doll taps into fun memories, but not really of the card itself. Shahrazad on the other hand has great potential for fun. Sure, it has potential for unfun as well, but so does Stuffy Doll.

The interesting choice I'm making here is taking innovation over nostalgia. Doing something novel feels more fun to me than harking back to something people remember.

WINNER: Shahrazad


 Which is more fun?  

This one doesn't seem close in my mind. One makes Elves. The other makes Elves ... and +1/+1 counters and Squirrels and Saprolings and Goblins and charge counters and a whole assortment of fun things. Tokens are fun. More tokens are more fun.

What's the lesson learned here? I think it's the power of variety. Elvish Promenade is fun, but in a much narrower context than Doubling Season.

WINNER: Doubling Season


 Which is more fun?  

This is the battle of the story-generating cards. Cheatyface and Mindslaver both create unique memorable moments, yet both are griefer cards with the potential to upset the opponent. I chose the winner this time based not on which can be more fun but on which one has the ability to be less fun. When Cheatyface goes wrong, you have to deal with a 2/2. When Mindslaver goes wrong, the game's over.

The interesting lesson here is that sometimes to figure out which item best suits the characteristic in question, you have to look backwards. Which is more not the thing you're examining?

WINNER: Cheatyface


 Which is more fun?  

My take on this match-up is very much influenced by the response you all had to Part 1. (If I can sway you, no reason not to have the opposite also be true.) I think I would have picked Radiate over Fact or Fiction as Fact or Fiction seemed to have more potential to make a player feel bad. But the more I read about Radiate the more I keep hearing that the card has trouble living up to its potential. Sure cool things could happen but they never seem to. Also, Fact or Fiction creates fun cerebral moments, and it's unfair to only appreciate the fun emotional moments.

The lesson here is considering how much execution has to do with fun. Something cannot be conceptually fun. It has to actually be fun. (Radiate fans, you can now send me your letters telling me your awesome Radiate stories.)

WINNER: Fact or Fiction


 Which is more fun?  

I feel I overestimated Ovinomancer in the first round (the card is a lot harder to use than one would like) and overlooked Endless Whispers (having a first-round opponent that knocks itself out doesn't make you unfun). That said, I think Ovinomancer pulls out a tight squeaker here. How did I decide? I pulled up both cards on Gatherer and put them side by side. Ovinomancer's the one that brought the smile to my face.

Sometimes contrast is about thinking and sometimes it's about a feeling. Don't underestimate things you feel but cannot verbalize. Those instincts are just as important a part of the process.

WINNER: Ovinomancer


 Which is more fun?  

Cytoshape goes up against another Timmy card, this time Phantom Nishoba. This is a tough match-up as the cards do such different things. Cytoshape is very versatile tricky card, while Phantom Nishoba is a nearly unstoppable creature. While both cards seem to have a lot of potential, I am pulled again towards Cytoshape. There is some fun in Phantom Nishoba's efficiency and difficulty to kill, but in all it seems more potent than enjoyable. As I said last time, this may just be more Johnny sensibilities pulling me towards variety of play.

One of the neat things about a face-off is when you have to compare to things that don't seem to have much in common. This allows you to isolate specific things about the cards and judge your opinion about them against one another. Choosing one side starts to illuminate the reasoning behind your choices.

WINNER: Cytoshape


 Which is more fun?  

As I said before, Day of the Dragons has an awesome moment where all your creatures turn into Dragons. Unfortunately, this is most often followed up by the expression "and you're dead." I feel Warp World takes this match-up because casting Warp World is just the beginning of the fun. First you have to see what's standing when the dust settles, and then you have see how the sudden change of fates affects the game.

The self-realization of this choice is that I tend to favor fun in mechanics over fun in flavor. Both are important obviously, but if one card is fun because it creates fun game play while another creates rich, flavorful appreciations, I tend to prioritize the former. An important part of face-offs is recognizing how you prioritize different aspects of the characteristic in question.

WINNER: Warp World


 Which is more fun?  

This is another hard match-up because it's pitting too such different style of cards against one another. In the end, I side towards Booster Tutor because I feel that Pools of Becoming was advanced more as a nod towards the fun of Planechase than the fun of it individually as a card. Yes, it's very meta and creates some fun chaotic moments, but I don't think it matches the coolness of Booster Tutor. This clearly has a lot to do with my own biases as to what kind of game I most enjoy. If I was more into multiplayer formats, there's a good chance Pools of Becoming would take the match-up.

WINNER: Booster Tutor

With the end of this round, let's check back in on our bracket:


Round of 8 (a.k.a. the Quarterfinals)


 Which is more fun?  

Both cards have a lot of upside, but only one, Shahrazad, has a significant amount of downside. Subgames are fun in concept and definitely are out of the box, but many times they take a half-hour game and turn it into a three-hour one. This isn't to say that Doubling Season Season is incapable of winning on its own merits, but the combination of it all clearly pushes me to give this match-up to Doubling Season.

Shahrazad brings up the interesting distinction between potential and execution. Shahrazad is a very fun card in concept, but the reality of the card isn't quite as fun as what the card in theory is capable of.

WINNER: Doubling Season


 Which is more fun?  

This match-up has a lot to do with a particular spectrum of fun, what I'll call the scope spectrum. How much do you value having you fun be inside the game as opposed to about the game. Fact or Fiction is a mechanic that completely focuses on game-relevant choices. Cheatyface, on the other hand, gets its fun not from choices but from activities. What are you adding to the environment of the game to try and draw attention away from the Cheatyface? As you can see, the hardest votes tend to be the ones where the cards stress different aspects of the characteristic in question.

Which is more fun to me, compelling choices in play or interesting things happening while you play? When I think back to the games that have been the most fun for me personally, they tend to be about the nature of the game more than the game choices, so I'm going to side with Cheatyface in this match-up. It's close and I begrudge no one who tips the other way, but when I dig deep Cheatyface is just more fun for me than Fact or Fiction.

WINNER: Cheatyface


 Which is more fun?  

So do I side with the card that can turn creatures into Sheep, or the card that can turn creatures into Sheep ... or Dragons or Demons or Goblins or Elves, etc? If you had asked me up-front, I don't know if I would have predicted Cytoshape making it so far, but this match-up pushes me in Cytoshape's direction. Ovinomancer is fun but in the end, all the hoops you have to jump through add up.

It's interesting to point out that sometimes match-ups become easy because of the way a particular match-up falls. Cytoshape barely squeaked by in the last two match-ups but handily wins this time. This illustrates that cards can create very different impressions based on the contrasts created.

WINNER: Cytoshape


 Which is more fun?  

Of all the Quarterfinal match-ups this one is the hardest for me. Why? Because I'm a big fan of both of these cards. I have to pick, though, so I've decided to pull a little farther back. Both cards are fun to play. Both cards lead to cool moments. Warp World, though, can be pulled back a step further in that it's something fun that you can build an entire deck around. Booster Tutor, for all its awesomeness, lacks this more meta-level concern and since I have to make my decision on something, I'm going to choose that.

In face-offs when you get tough logjams like this, it forces you to reevaluate and find something that matters. This will make you examine elements of the card that you might never think about if you were looking at the card alone.

WINNER: Warp World

Let's take another peek at our pairings for the next round:


Round of 4 (a.k.a. the Semifinals)


 Which is more fun?  

I've played decks where each of these cards was very central to the deck. I have nothing but positive, fun memories of both of the cards. But this is a face-off so I'm forced to make a decision. I guess I'm going to side with Doubling Season for this reason: I've never gotten tired of playing against Doubling Season but I have found myself getting tired of playing against Cheatyface. In the beginning it's a lot of fun but eventually it becomes too hard not to let your guard down. Forced to pick, I choose Doubling Season.

Be aware that the tough picks are the most valuable part of a face-off. Making easy decisions doesn't force you to think about why you are making the decisions you are. Tough decisions force you to face issues that you might never have had to face in the past.

WINNER: Doubling Season


 Which is more fun?  

This is the easiest Semifinal match-up for me. While I like Cytoshape it clearly made it as far as it did based on pairings. In my mind Warp World is a classic card that will weave in and out of Magic. Cytoshape is a Clone variant, and not even one of the best. It's fun, but it's not a classic, and when faced against a card I do consider to be a classic it's fated to lose.

Note that I randomly assign pairings because I like the work randomness does in forcing issues I might never have thought of. The downside is that sometimes pairings allow cards to get further than they might otherwise get. This isn't a bad thing, but it does mean that not all cards at a certain level are equal.

WINNER: Warp World

This all brings us to our final match:


Round of 2 (a.k.a. the Finals)


 Which is more fun?  

I'm very curious to see how all of you vote on this. One would think that the Finals would be the hardest match-up of all, but my pick is pretty clear to me. It definitely falls into my own biases. I love counters and tokens. I love doubling things. Doubling Season is so much of what I find fun about Magic. Warp World's no slouch, but it just doesn't measure up in my mind to Doubling Season

WINNER: Doubling Season

And with that our Fun-Off is over. In two weeks, I'll let you guys see the results of your picks. (Two weeks as I need time to allow you all to vote—remember, I write my articles ahead.)


Before I sign off I want to stress the point of this whole exercise. The face-off is a valuable tool to help a designer (or anyone who's interested in understanding his or her own position on a topic) get a better grasp of his or her priorities on a particular characteristic. The power of contrast is a strong tool and should be used where appropriate.

As always when I step a bit off the beaten path, I'm curious to hear what you all think about the column. Feel free to give me feedback in the thread, in my email, or on Twitter (@maro254). I will read everything sent to me, although I will not be able to respond to the majority of the messages I get.

That's all I got for today. Join me next week when I explain how to not avoid a draft.

Until then, may you find your own inner source of fun.

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