Tuesday 4 October 2016

Isca Format Review and Updated Points List

A while back I set about putting in place a points system format for MtG play. Although many points system formats already exist they only put a cost on the really obnoxious stuff meaning you see all the same staple cards you find in cube. I wanted to take this a bit further and put a price on a wider range of things with the aim of making a format where far more things were open and of comparable power. Diverse formats are the best.

There are two ways to play the format, of which I have only tried one so far, but in that single run through a lot of insight on how to improve it was gained. The standard way to play the Isca format is constructing a 40 card (and board) deck using 30 points. Each time you use a card in your list the price of it goes up by one. Everyone has the same starting points list. This works fine for small numbers of people as well as large tournaments. The issue I have with it is only having the cards for my cube I cannot supply the cards in any depth for such an event.

To solve this somewhat we did an 8 player "draft" using the Isca points system. Decks were singleton 40 cards and no boards with a 30 point limit. Player order was randomly chosen. The first player then submits their deck list. Then the second player constructs their deck with a +1 point cost added to any non-basic land card used by previous players but the knowledge of those decks gone before them. This is repeated until everyone has submitted a deck. The lists for our first run through are on a previous post.

The draft format works surprisingly well however there is a noticeable advantage for the later players. There are too many fine enough magic cards that even with an extensive points system you can work around other people having increased the points cost on cards. As such you just get to build your deck with complete knowledge of what you are facing and as "The Phyrexian" showed, can build a deck quite easily to dominate the field.

A number of suggestions have been made to re-balance the ordering issue. The first was simply to have the early players with more points and the latter with less. In an 8 man you would start with 34 and finish with only 26. While this sounds fair in the abstract I balanced the system around 30 points and so this might well make some options over powered at 34 points and some, even with no cards taken, non-viable at 26 points.

The second suggestion was to wheel back picking sideboards. The first was just a 5 card board which the 1st player would pick last and last player would pick alongside their main deck. This didn't seem quite significant enough to offset the imbalance but it is quite neat and elegant. Building on that idea we had an increasing sideboard size with last place to build getting no sideboard at all or just one card and then each player wheeling back would be allowed one extra card. Sadly this felt a little to far in the other direction and not quite as neat, Any way of wheeling back a sideboard pose some issue with points allocation and splitting. I think the best solution is just to have no extra points for sideboards and therefore only pick free cards or perhaps with leftover points from your main deck allocation.

All told the Isca draft worked better than expected but does still require balancing beyond getting the points more appropriate. As for the points themselves there is much work to be done. Obviously I forgot a selection of cards that really should be priced up. Several I naughtily used in my own deck which I justified by making it wacky and unlikely to win. Had I wanted to crush people and exploit my previous errors I would have done the burn deck The Phyrexian did after me or a Spliter Twin list.

I was happy enough with how the format punishes two and three colour decks relatively harder than most with the heavy price on good fixing lands but I was less happy with how the mono decks gained so much from it. I also found that a lot of the tier two and three combo decks were far from viable still because so many of the support cards cost excessive amounts.

Red is the best colour and goblins is the best of the tribes, certainly when it comes to beating on other tribes. The thing with red is it has very few powerful cards, just lots of redundancy and the best deal from the colour pie in isolation. As my point system was fairly focused on power a lot of the burn was left of the list and generally the list had a lot less red cards than other colours. As it stands I think all I have done is make red even further ahead of the other colours than before.

Here is the fourth revision of the points list having now actually played the format! This will be the points system we use for the next event. Hopefully it is fairly close to balanced.

18  Black Lotus 
      Sol Ring

16  Ancestral Recall
      Time Walk

14   Mana Crypt
       The Five Good Mox

12   Tolarian Academy

10   Mishra's Workshop

8   Tinker
     Mana Drain

6   Vampiric Tutor
    Force of Will
    Time Spiral
     Demonic Tutor
     Strip Mine
     Mana Vault

5   Show and Tell
     Imperial Seal
     True Name Nemesis
     Swords to Plowshares
     Treasure Cruise
     Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
    Natural Order
    Grim Monolith     

4   Armageddon
     Ravages of War
     Time Twister
     Auriok Salvagers
     Academy Rector
     Library of Alexandria 
     Shelldock Isle
     Birthing Pod
     Sneak Attack
    Splinter Twin
     Goblin Welder
    Goblin Sharpshooter
     Mind Twist
     Lion's Eye Diamond
    Sensei's Divining Top
     Crucible of Worlds
     Ancient Tomb
     City of Traitors
     Path to Exile
     Lightning Bolt
    Sulphuric Vortex
    Vedalken Shackles     Brainstorm
     Cryptic Command
     Dig Through Time
     Mesmeric Orb

  3   Imperial Recruiter
         Wheel of Fortune
       Kiki Jiki Mirror Breaker
       Thundermaw Hellkite

       Monastery Swiftspear
       Goblin Guide

     The Dual Lands   
     The Sac Lands
     Dark Depths
     Rishidan Port
     Gaea's Cradle
     Lake of the Dead
     Stonefore Mystic
     Elspeth, Knight Errant
     Land Tax

     Lotus Cobra
     Bird of Paradise
     Survival of the Fittest
     Noble Hierarch
     Oath of Druids
     Snapcaster Mage
     Jace, the Mind Sculptor
     Pact of Negation
     Mystical Tutor
     Archive Trap

     Recurring Nightmare
     Yawgmoth's Will
     Dark Confidant

     Kitchen Finks
     Fire / Ice
    Deathrite Shaman
     Umezawa's Jitte
     Wurmcoil Engine
     Tangle Wire
     Chrome Mox
     Mox Opal
     Mox Diamond
     Memory Jar
     Gilded Lotus

The Two Point Cards

2   The Shock Lands
     The Man Lands 
     The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
     Bloodbraid Elf
     Supreme Verdict
    Baleful Strix
     Kolaghan's Command
     Ashiok, the Nightmare Weaver
     Dragonlord Atrarka
     Lim-Duls Vault
     Glimpse the Unthinkable
     Pernicious Deed

     Lotus Petal
     Emrakul, the Eons Torn 
     Emrakul, the Promised End
     Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
     Blightsteel Colossus
     Winter Orb
     Scroll Rack
     Cranial Plating
     Thran Dynamo

     Trinket Mage
     Frantic Search
     High Tide
     Blue Elemental Blast
     Acid Rain
     Temporal Manipulation
     Time Warp
     Personal Tutor
     Mystic Confluence
     Delver of Secrets
     Gitaxian Probe
     Spell Pierce
     Lat-Nam's Legacy
     Cyclonic Rift
     Arcane Denial
     Ancestral Visions
     Merchant's Scroll
     Mind's Desire
     Hedron Crab

     Simean Spirit Guide
     Seething Song
     Orcish Lumberjack
     Abbot of Keral Keep
     Goblin Lackey 
     Young Pyromancer
     Chain Lightning
     Faithless Looting 
     Arc Trail
     Stoke the Flames
     Inferno Titan
     Red Elemental Blast

     Enlightened Tutor
     Wrath of God
     Day of Judgement
     Kytheon, Hero of Akros
     Mother of Runes
     Soulfire Grandmaster
     Lingering Souls
     Elspeth, Sun's Champion

Dark Ritual
Toxic Deluge
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Grave Titan
Liliana of the Veil
Cabal Therapy
Inquisition of Kozilek
Engineered Plague
Living Death
Death Cloud
Hymn to Tourach
Yawgmoth's Bargain
Shallow Grave

     Llanowar Elf / Elvish Mystic / Fyndhorn Elf
     Avacyn's Pilgrim
     Elves of Deep Shadow
     Courser of Kruphix
     Elvish Spirit Guide 
     Protean Hulk
     Tireless Tracker
     Garruk Wildspeaker
     Craterhoof Behemoth
     Green Sun's Zenith
     Primeval Titan
     Worldspine Wurm
     Eternal Witness
     Sylvan Library

The One Point Cards

1   The Pain Lands
     The Filter Lands
     The Check Lands
     The Quick Lands
     The Scry Lands
     The Battle Lands
     The Artifact Lands
     The Shadow Lands

     City of Brass
     Mana Confluence
     Mishra's Factory
     Inkmoth Nexus
     Blinkmoth Nexus 
     Bazaar of Baghdad
     Westvale Abbey 
     Kessig Wolf Run
     Nykthos Shrine to Nyx
     Myriad Landscape
     Temple of the False God
     Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
     Treetop Village
     Faerie Conclave
     Grove of the Burnwillows
     Academy Ruins
     Flagstones of Trokair
     Barbarian Ring

Lightning Helix
Voice of Resurgence
Qasali Pridemage
Thopter Foundry
Mirari's Wake
Time Sieve
Swans of Bryn Argoll
Sphinx of the Steel Wind
Figure of Destiny
Dack Fayden
Siege Rhino
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Coiling Oracle
Shardless Agent
Abrupt Decay 
Eladamri's Call
Jori En, Ruin Diver
Shadow of Doubt
Mind Funeral

Burning of Xinye
Magus of the Wheel
Goblin Rabblemaster
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Daretti, Scrap Savant
Grim Lavamancer
Fiery Confluence
Dualcaster Mage
Bonfire of the Damned
Warren Instigator
Goblin Warchief
Goblin Cheiftain 
Goblin Piledriver
Goblin Recruiter
Goblin Matron
Goblin Ringleader
Mana Flare
Siesmic Assualt
Empty the Warrens
Scrap Mastery
Grape Shot 
Seal of Fire
Fire Bolt
Wild Slash
Galvanic Blast
Pillar of Flame
Forked Bolt
Incediary Flow
Searing Spear
Lightining Strike
Searing Blaze
Punishing Fire
Burst Lightning
Gorilla Shaman 

Baneslayer Angel 
Selfless Spirit
Declaration in Stone
Hallowed Spiritkeeper
Global Ruin
Wing Shards
Unexpectedly Absent
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Containment Priest
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Thalia, Guardian of Threben
Mana Tithe
Wall of Omens
Restoration Angel
Entreat the Angels
Monastery Mentor   
Orim's Chant
Ethersworn Cannonist
Kataki, War's Wage
Solitary Confinement
Kor Firewalker
Iona, Shield of Emeria

Grey Mechant of Asphodel
Flesh Carver
Animate Dead
Tendrils of Agony
Patriarch's Bidding
Tainted Pact 
Collective Brutality
Liliana, Heretical Healer
Liliana, the Last Hope
Ad Nauseam
Goyro's Vegeance
Corpse Dance

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Nissa, Vastwood Seer 
Grapple with the Past
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Den Protector
Chord of Calling
Heartbeat of Spring
Priest of Titania
Wirewood Symbiote
Heritage Druid
Glimpse of Nature
Sylvan Caryatid
Sakura Tribe Elder
Wall of Roots
Devoted Druid
Bloom Tender
Reclaimation Sage
Hermit Druid
Crop Rotation
Nostalgic Dreams
Scavenging Ooze
Joraga Treespeaker
Arbor Elf
Avenger of Zendikar
Hornet Queen
Oath of Nissa
Strangleroot Giest
Worldly Tutor
Summoner's Pact
Woodfall Primus

Spell Snare
Force Spike
Mental Misstep
Mana Leak
Memory Laspe 
Jace Beleren
Jace, Architect of Thought
Fact or Fiction
Teferi, Temporal Archmage
Glen Elandra Archamge
Phyrexian Metalmorph
Vendilion Clique
Inkwell Leviathan
Consecrated Sphinx
Serum Visions
Slight of Hand
Temporal Mastery
Looter il-Kor
Mindbreak Trap
Thirst for Knowledge
Tezzeret the Seeker
Dream Halls
Mind Over Matter
Spell Burst
Jace, Memory Adept

Ankh of Mishra
Cursed Scroll
Sword of Fire and Ice
Elixir of Immortality
Coalition Relic
Basalt Monolith
Worn Powerstone
Myr Battleshpere
Sundering Titan
Zuran Orb
Lotus Bloom
Smuggler's Copter
Engineered Explosives
Arcbound Ravager
Black Vise
Myr Retriever
Voltaic Key
Aether Vial
Goblin Charbelcher
Sphere of Resistance
Karn Liberated
Ulamog, the Ceasless Hunger
Ulamog, the Infinte Gyre

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