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Author Topic: Tactics and Suspend  (Read 969 times)
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« on: January 18, 2015, 05:39:41 am »

This is more of a theoretical concept than a concrete idea or suggestion. I hope that sort of thing is welcome here, if not, I do apologize.

Perhaps there are situations where using the suspend mechanic can create a tactical advantage. Suspend is the price of using strictly worse cards like Lotus Bloom or Ancestral Vision, but my proposed question is if the obvious downsides of forecasting your spells three or four turns in advance could be used in a tactical way to create an advantage.

In Magic we are used to imperfect and asymmetrical knowledge. The more we know about our opponent's future actions (his hand, his draws) the better, although we are not willing to pay more than Gitaxian Probe costs to learn about their hand, and even then Probe is perhaps a marginal card.

I therefore would like to make the following claim.
Claim: The present value of increased knowledge about the future is strictly worse than having future resources to defend against what the future actually brings.

Or simply put, a counter is better than a Probe. We would rather stop a specific threat than simply know about possible threats. For this same reason, a counter is better than something wholly not-played like Extract. In that case, countering whatever threat the opponent actually plays is preferable to eliminating one potential threat from the library. It makes far more sense to counter whichever of his win conditions he actually plays than to eliminate one of three potential win conditions. This is somewhat like the famous Monty Hall gameshow problem, with goats and cars.

So let us now reverse this. The history of vintage tells us that giving purely information to an opponent is a marginal resource. Pure information a resource, but it is rarely one that is important enough to gain a card slot. Probe is only playable at all because it is also a can-trip and thus card-advantage neutral. The marginal status of probe, where it is playable though rarely the ideal use for a card slot, informs us that the disadvantage of giving away information is accordingly marginal, and may be offset by equally marginal advantages.

Ancestral Vision, of course, is not so simple as giving away a little information. Not only does the opponent gain information about when the spell will resolve, he gains perfect information (the likelihood of anything interfering with the timeline by which the suspended card will resolve is practically limited to the likelihood a player wins the game in the interim) and he gains four turns to do something about it. During this entire time, we are at a significant card disadvantage. It as if we chose to mulligan to six. Obviously, there are reasons Ancestral Visions has been found unplayable.

But cannot we use this to our tactical advantage. The nice thing about perfect information is we know our opponent knows. The critical turn that the suspended card is due to resolve, we gain a significant advantage. We gain a mana, which we invested a while back, we gain a free storm count, which may or may not be relevant, we gain a free Ancestral too which our opponent has to respond in a non-free way.

The knowledge that both players have about the suspended cards imminent resolution or non-resolution affects how they play the previous turn. The suspended card creates context for any counter battles that happen the preceding turn or turns. It creates a tactical situation.

This is not to argue the card is playable. If it was playable, it is overwhelmingly likely that it would already be played. It is to argue that perhaps there is some compensating value in creating a tactical situation through revealing knowledge about one's future actions. Another example could be revealing a card in hand to an opponent. It seems that information and its affects on tactics is a marginal resource, but it is one that as a marginal resource may be possible to exploit for minor advantages in currently unexplored ways and potentially inexpensively (regarding card slots and casting cost).
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« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2015, 11:14:46 am »

An issue with suspend is often not the timing but rather other factors. Suspend cards are sorcery speed and always resolve during your upkeep where you yourself have imperfect information about what your own turn will be. This is obviously not ideal. You will be drawing 4 the turn an ancestral resolves if you include the draw step, so knowing if you should protect a spell with a counter can be an interesting question for you, where as your opponent will rarely be faced with the issue of should he counter your visions. If you spend mana that turn to protect a spell, you may not be able to cast the cards you drew, etc.

The other issue is of not getting any value of a suspend card. In order for the card you play to be worth the mana in many situations outside of theoretical speculation and bluffing (my opponent sat on a counter for ancestral for 3 turns instead of countering the spell he should have) and not just be a free mulligan for your opponent, the card does have to resolve. Everyone seems to have a bad case of best case scenario thinking around ancestral visions because it is a likely dead card after turn 2, and almost definitely after the first one resolves. How long does the average vintage match up last? 5 turns for a long game?

There have been some other format decks that abuse suspend, but typically they do so with cards that play off the 0 CMC some of them have by cascading into them, and Rift bolt is still playable in burn, though it is likely now the worst spell. Suspend the mechanic is not a bad mechanic, there are just no cards powerful enough or aggressively costed enough with suspend right now for it to see play in vintage.

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« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2015, 02:51:59 pm »

Lots of matches take more than 5 turns, but of course some don't, and drawing this card in the late game is nearly a dead draw. Giving the info to the opponent does not help at all. In overall, is a kind of invest, but that you don't know if you can recover. Too risky in a format where matches can effectively be lost from a topdeck.

Btw, between Probe and a counter, I think it depends on the deck. An aggressive deck with manipulation and several win conditions can easily prefer probe.
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