Patrick Hoban: How to Properly Play Test

hobanHey everybody! Over the last few days I’ve seen several people claim they highly recommend going over 40 cards and that they hardly notice a difference when play testing. No, this isn’t another article to talk about why 40 cards is superior (though it still is), but rather this made me come to the realization that most people don’t properly play test or look for the right things when play testing. That’s why I want to bring you an article on how to do this and get the most out of your testing.

The first thing we should start with is the question “What is the point of play testing?”Now the obvious answer to this would be to find out what works and what doesn’t, but really that’s starting in the middle. Let’s say you’re giving someone a step by step guide for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That answer would be telling them to put peanut butter on the bread. You do that, but don’t you have to get the bread out of the closet first? It’s the same thing with play testing. You are going to try to figure out what works and what doesn’t work, but you have to have some idea of what might work. That may seem like a nitpicky difference in terms of a starting point, but really it brings to light a whole different side of the game that comes before play testing; theory. The theory is the first step of play testing and is what you think might or might work.  A much more accurate reason to play test is to understand the relationship between cards, to identify repeatable patterns, and to strengthen or clarify theory.

DarkHoleSYE-NA-C-1EUnderstand the Relationship between Cards

The point of theory is to give a rational explanation for the relationship between cards and how they interact. For instance, let’s take a look at Dark Hole right now. While the card has traditionally been a staple, it may be weaker now than it has ever been in the game’s history, but why is that? Let’s take a look at how [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] stacks up against the top matchups.

Against Dragons: While the deck does up a lot of big monsters, you can almost bet that they end pretty much every play with a Dracossack and some tokens. In this common scenario, all [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] does is get rid of the tokens and leaves them with Dracossack.

Against Spellbooks: [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] may not be entirely obvious as to how it would play out in this matchup as there are several factors that rely specifically on the game. I’ll come back to this matchup.

Against Evilswarm: On top of the 39% chance that they just straight draw [ccProd]Infestation Pandemic[/ccProd], they also search the card any time they bring out their boss monster. It seems rather obvious that [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] is lacking in this matchup.

Understanding the relationships between cards and how they interact with one another is the first reason to play test and is its application is almost entirely theory.

maxx cIdentify Repeatable Patterns

The next reason to play test is to identify repeatable patterns. The key word here is repeatable. Let’s say you’re play test with [ccProd]Card Destruction[/ccProd] in the Dragon mirror. In theory the card is very bad in the mirror. You load your graveyard with Dragons, but you’re also loading their graveyard with just as many if not more Dragons. Identifying this potential problem falls under the theory category, but let’s say you actually sit down and test the idea and you end up being able to deck your opponent out when they play Maxx “C” and you have [ccProd]Card Destruction[/ccProd]. Is that something that you can repeat? How consistently will you be able to deck your opponent out? If it’s not something you can consistently repeat, you’ll likely want to dismiss it.

Strengthen or Clarify Theory

Sometimes you may not fully be able to tell exactly how something will play out based entirely off theory. A prime example of this is [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] in the Spellbook matchup. When is it going to be good? If you’re playing Dragons, it seems advantageous to have it as a 1 card out to Jowgen. But there is the possibility of [ccProd]Spellbook of Wisdom[/ccProd]. How often will they have that when they have Jowgen? Even if they don’t, will [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] be effective enough? It’s entirely possible that even if you are able to 1 for 1 with Jowgen and are now free to special, it may not be enough as they still searched 3+ times off Judgment before they put Jowgen on the field and that 1 for 1 may leave you in too weak of a position to capitalize since they have so many extra cards.

How to Play Test

One big mistake people make when they actually sit down and play test is they play to win. Don’t do that. There is only one right play in every scenario and if you’re playing to win you’re going to make what you think is the right play in every scenario. This has a few big problems with it. The first is that if you’re not making the right play, you’re practicing making the wrong play and therefore will continue to make the wrong play when the tournament that you’re play testing for arrives. The second is that it doesn’t allow for you to find out what the actual best play is. If you keep trying different things you’ll be able to see what works the best and in what scenarios certain things work. Because of this, I encourage you to try different things that you might not normally try in a tournament in play testing.

The second thing you need to do is make sure you have a big enough sample size. As I said when I was talking about patterns, they need to be repeatable. If you only test a few games and then make your decisions based off those few times, you may not get the full picture. Play test a card or idea at least 30 times to get an accurate idea of how the card really interacts with other cards.

Evilswarm OphionEvaluating Results

The next thing you want to do is evaluate your results. This is a delicate balance and depends on how strong your theory is. If you have a theory that is really strong such as [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] being bad against Evilswarm then you would need a lot of results that show the opposite to convince you that the card is actually good against them.

On the reverse side, if your theory on a card or interaction is weak, you may need fewer results to show how something actually works. Let’s say that in theory you were worried about being at a disadvantage when you [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] your opponent’s Jowgen because you fear that they might have Wisdom or you fear that they have too many cards already and taking a 1 for 1 and simplifying the game state is bad when they have more cards. Well if your results show that if you don’t remove Jowgen, you’ll lose anyway and that it actually gives you a chance at winning and that your results also show that they prioritize searching Fate over Wisdom. If this is the case, you can conclude that [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] is actually good against Spellbooks when playing Dragons.

Create Shortcuts

The last thing you want to do when play testing is to create shortcuts that can be later used. When was summoning Big Eye in the Dragon mirror good? When was it bad? If testing shows that they can readily make two Big Eyes of their own, one Veiler wouldn’t be enough. And if testing shows that if you have two Veilers, you can safely make Big Eye in the mirror because they won’t be able to make enough of their own. If this is the case, you can create the following shortcuts.

-          Don’t make Big Eye if you have 0 or 1 [ccProd]Effect Veiler[/ccProd]s.

-           Make Big Eye if you have 2 [ccProd]Effect Veiler[/ccProd]s.

This kind of thing will allow for expedient and effective plays when the actual tournament comes around. You’ll know what to do in most common scenarios as you will have already been in them and see what works and what doesn’t. Until next time everybody, play hard or go home!


Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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