Monday, 30 November 2015

The Imperium unveiled

It's been an interesting last few weeks in the Eve meta game.

Hot on the heels of Eve Vegas, Mittani Media  announced a new project, a book about the Test-CFC Fountain War of 2013. This initially met widespread acclaim from a range of science fiction and gaming celebrities. Even the leader of Test alliance, Sapporo Jones, supported the project.

The project then received a Kickstarter page which was, frankly, tacky.

Then /r/eve started to rail against the project. There was much to point at. It was clearly a vanity project for the then CFC, now the Imperium's, famously narcissistic leader, The Mittani. It was likely to slant towards the CFC side even if it tried not to be biased and with the Goons publishing the book many in the community didn't trust it not to be biased. It was garishly and greedily monetarised.

People brought up The Mittani's past sins and the dull state of nullsec, with the concern that the bloated coalition is being kept bloated against the good of the game so that its members can be monetised, the captive audience kept captive by a policy of deliberate stagnation. The case was, perhaps, not helped by an insurge of Imperium Eve players posting for their first time or after long absences about how much the Eve reddit community should support the book, a community which the day before they hadn't particularly been a part of. Jabber pings were leaked amidst allegations of "brigading."

The project faltered. After a healthy first 24 hours people supporting the kickstarter dried up almost completely.

More scandals emerged. Endie and Xander has a conversation which accidentally fell into public hands where Endie spoke of RMT. Due to diligent journalism by Gevlon it now looks as though that was faked at least in part, with Endie perhaps playing the famously leaky Xander to reach his audience indirectly. Nonetheless there have been genuine rifts within The Imperium and the current direction - for real world profit - is not universally supported.

Possibly the greatest embarrassment has been to the leadership of Goons concerning their relationship with author Jeff Edwards. Mr Edwards is an enthusiastic author, well respected in the literary community with admirers like household name Clive Cussler, and a distinguished former US Navy officer who consults for the Department of Defence. I imagine that in recruiting him, Mittens and the others bigged up Eve. It's a unique game where great empires clash in high stakes conflicts that can destroy hundreds of thousands of dollars of virtual assets. It's an emergent dynamic economy that is studied by academics who draw parallels to real life, etc etc.

Then Mr Edwards met some very civilised and charming people at Eve Vegas and developed more enthusiasm for the project.

Then he met /r/eve and discovered hundreds of jibbering monkeys hurling poo at him.

For Mittens and his friends it must have been as if a young man meets a charming young woman, a refined and distinguished person with impeccable manners and taste, nervously brings her home to meet the family hoping they won't show him up, leaves her alone for 5 minutes then finds her outside in the back garden where his hick cousin has his zipper down and is proudly showing her his genital warts. An earth open up and swallow me moment.

This used to happen with roleplaying games back in the 80s. For a while they became in some circles very pretentious. So some young man would try to impress a non-gamer girl with a description of a kind of immersive interactive unscripted improvisational theatre then when she actually got to meet other gamers they'd say things like "watch me stick my d20 up my nose."

The Mittani is not, it seems, inclined to handle disappointment meekly. He gave an emotional and angry speech to "His People" and led them forth to.... well, not much as his intended opponents, Pandemic Horde, melted away under the masterful misdirection of Gobbins, who has cheekily taken to calling them "The Emporium."

The vast armada invaded Cloud Ring and pushed from there into low sec. In low sec they conquered a number of money moons.

Then last night a group of players naively arranged a charity event, involving sacrificing a titan only to have it obliterated by a massive Imperium force.

Well you didn't really think they were nice guys, did you?

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Eve: My farewell to Brave

Hey Brave.

I'm going to move on with my Eve career. This isn't some drama about someone being mean to me, I've loved my time in Brave.

In fact the story is that I've stayed so long.

In January some friends suggested I join them in Brave as my attempt to start up a corp in The Bastion failed, I just couldn't recruit people.

I joined but they promptly burned out.

Well no worries, my friend Smog890 is still here, I'll just hang in his corp. Smog promptly goes and gets a second job and, facing a 70 hour working week decides to cut Eve.

Well no worries, some old friends from Test have made a corp here - I should be fine in J3B.

And not only was I fine but I found myself Captain of our AT team.

But the exit from Fountain happened and J3B decided to move on so I had to find a new home.

Well no worries, after a brief crash landing in BNI, I joined Kite Co, a corp where many of my Tourney friends were based.

And then they left last month.

I love Brave, I've had a wonderful time here, thank you so much for taking me in and trusting me to take charge of some awesome things like fleets and AT etc. I've had a blast flying with you.

My long term plans are towards elite pvp, particularly an alliance with a more experienced AT team. Maybe explore some of this empire-building stuff, I like the idea of my own personal space fortress.

Something Lychton said once: people leave Brave but some part of them is always brave. I hope that will be true of me and in any event I'll always be happy to chat.

There's one unfinished piece of business, CCP still haven't issued the ship skin prizes we won in the AT. Nancy, just contact me on Skype or in-game when those show up please.

7o guys

Sunday, 25 October 2015

MTGO: Lions, jackals and wildebeest

The classic nineteenth century view of the African savannah was this:

The lordly lion, King of the Beasts, makes a kill on a hapless wildebeest. Jackals, vultures and hyenas slope towards the feasting big cat and watch from a safe distance until he's done and it's safe from them to wrangle over the leftovers.

But that's not usually how it works.

You see lions are both powerful and lazy and quite often jackals or hyenas will make a kill, the lion will smell it, saunter over and - because the other animals won't fuck with a lion - settle down for a nice lunch, the smaller predators watching from a safe distance until the big cat is done.

Magic players were categorised in a classic Mark Rosewater article into 3 types: Timmy, Johnny and Spike. For this analysis we're looking at Spikes. Lions are the competent successful Spikes and Jackals are the Spikes who are just starting out or who have simply plateaued where they're doing all they can to optimise but just aren't that good.

Magic is a hugely successful competitive game. It's a zero sum game, in fact worse than zero sum because the house takes a cut. In order for someone to have a 64% win rate like me there needs on average to be someone who's happy with a 36% win rate or two people happy with 43% win rates.

The game has appeal though to other types of player than the min/maxing optimiser and that's what keeps it successful, those people and the enjoyment they get from the game are so important to its success.

If Magic were only for optimisers it would enter a death spiral of the worst players leaving because they have terrible win rate and subsidise everyone else, then the next worst tranch of players becoming the new bads because the pool quality went up and the players they used to feast on all left, etc.

So unless Magic enters a death spiral (which it's certainly not doing now, it's growing) there will always be Timmys and Johnnys, the wildebeest for the game's predators to feast on.

An inferior predator like a starting out Spike or an African jackal needs to hunt the prey without having top predators in the vicinity.

A Jackal needs to ask what do Lions like?

Lions like good EV and fast turnover. The Standard Contructed Daily tournaments offer good payout, have the payout slanted to the top so it particularly favours winners over losers and are 4 games. The 8 player Single Elimination format probably beats Leagues for these players. A 70% win rate player makes $4.16 from an 8 player Single Elimination event or $4.59 from a League. On average he will play 2.16 games per Single Elimination event, he will always play the full 5 games in a League. So for this player he makes about the same profit in under half the time.

2 player matches are so flexible that anyone might play them and I've read that the good players will play these while simultaneously playing the more significant events. But they may be wildebeest country, I'm not sure.

So that's my surface impression, my educated guess, about how the event demographics work and where it might be easiest to break into the daunting world of competitive online Magic.

Go gentle, there be Lions out there!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

MTGO: a look at PP gain from league play

I'm interested in whether I can grind Constructed and keep the boosters or the tix gained from them. This means hitting a win rate where the EV of the player points alone is enough to go infinite and the other stuff you win is just gravy.

Using Goatbot's handy calculator at my current win rate of 64% I would average 88.27 Play points per game, comfortable enough to pay an 80 PP entry fee to start another game.

62% win rate returns 84.86 PP.

60% win rate returns 81.3 PP

59% win rate returns 79.39 PP

So it's about 59.4% win rate to cover entry fees and keep infinite while cashing out the boosters for tix which I can use to grow my collection.

It's early days yet and my current 64% rate may flatter me. I still make a lot of awful newbie mistakes. The other day I decided to trade my 2/2 for his 2/2 attacked then cast a spell that buffs a creature to make it stronger. However I cast it on the wrong creature. I was a little surprised when his guy confidently munched mine!

So leagues feel like the right place. Normally for a player with over 50% win rate the EV encourages that player to play different events. Even more so when one considers that a league is always the full 5 games so it's lesser payout and more time-consuming.

But that's exactly why I want to stick with leagues for a bit. It's good for me to play lots of games, it's good for me to learn and to get past the stage of making silly mistakes.

I also suspect that Leagues are Wildebeest country. I'll explain that term in my next blog post.

Friday, 23 October 2015

MTGO: a look at the new Devoid mechanic in Battle for Zendikar

Magic: The Gathering's new expansion has brought several interesting game mechanics into the mix including the brand new Devoid mechanic. Actually in some ways it's not new at all as "Devoid" simply means devoid of colour, colorless in game terms, and that's a trait that has been a property of artifacts and land since the start of Magic. And that in turn leads to other interesting mechanic opportunities as lands, awakened lands, morphs, artifact creatures and items are all subject  to interactions with the new cards.

In addition some of the Devoid cards have a secondary mechanic system going: the Ingest/Process system. The way this works is that Processors can apply powerful effects by moving a card from the exile pile into the graveyard pile. However normally the exile pile is empty. That's where the Ingest mechanic comes in, a special ability on some creatures that moves the top card of an opponent's library into exile. This has the appealing and probably accidental side-effect of causing distress in an opponent when a vital card is consumed. (Actually it all averages out in that end, the Ingest is just as likely to bring a key card to the top by clearing trash out of the way).

Let's start by looking at each colour's Devoid spells. (By the way you won't be able to search them out by colour on the Gatherer database as quite properly they're not tagged with any colour). If you want to see the cards while reading this just use the search term "Devoid."

Black: Black has lots of Ingest creatures although they lack the evasion of the Blue Ingest creatures.  It's worth mentioning how good the humble Sludge Crawler is at getting though as it comes down on turn 1 and threatens to pump, perhaps without actually needing to.

Ingest/exile creatures:

Culling Drone B1 - averageDominator Drone B2 - average
Fathom Feeder BU - ridiculously good.
Sire of Stagnation BU4 Very strong.
Sludge Crawler B - really effective

Spells that exile a card.

Complete Disregard B2 Strong
Grave Birthing B2 Useful cantrip. +1 scion.
Grip of Desolation BB4 ridiculously good.
Trangress the Mind B1 average

Processor/consumer creatures 

Mind Raker B3 Average
Ulamog's Nullifer BU2 Excellent
Wasteland Strangler B2 Very strong

Other Devoid creatures.

Brood Butcher BG3  Very strong
Catacomb Sifter BG1 Strong
Dust Stalker BR2 Decent aggro creature, can be used as a Dash creature.
Forerunner of Slaughter BR - Strong aggro creature, can Haste your whole team as they come in. 
Silent Skimmer B3 Strong
Skitterskin B3 Decent aggro creature.
Smothering Abomination BB2 Strong, requires sacrifice creatures.

Devoid spells

Swarm Surge B2 bit of a win more card imo.

Blue. Has the best Ingest tech.

Ingest/exile creatures:

Benthic Infiltrator U2 - outstanding for Ingest decks, probably the best Ingest creature.
Fathom Feeder BU - ridiculously good.
Mist Intruder U1 - decent Ingest creature.
Ruination Guide U2 - Very strong, anthem for colorless creatures (+1,+0)
Salvage Drone U - Weak.
Sire of Stagnation BU4 Very strong.

Spells that exile a card.

Brutal Expulsion UR2 - Very strong, worth noting that this can bounce your own processor creatures so they can be dropped again to apply the effect a second time. (It even feeds you the exiled card you'll need).
Horribly Awry U1 - mediocre counter spell that exiles.
Spell Shrivel U2 - average counterspell.

Processor/consumer creatures 

Cryptic Cruiser U3 - Decent. Process to tap.
Murk Strider U3 - Strong. Process to bounce a creature.
Oracle of Dust U4 - Decent. Process to loot.
Ulamog's Nullifer BU2 Excellent. Flash flier, process to counterspell.
Ulamog's Reclaimer U4 - Strong, regrows an instant or sorcery spell.

Other Devoid creatures.

Drowner of Hope U5 - Decent. +2 scions, consumes scions.
Eldrazi Skyspawner U2 - Strong. +1 scion.
Herald of Kozilek UR1 - Strong. Reduces cost of all colorless spells by one colorless mana.
Incubator Drone U3 - average. +1 scion.
Tide Drifter U1 - decent, anthem to colorless +0,+1.

Devoid spells

Adverse conditions U3 - Average +1 scion.

Green. Green Devoid tech is more often built around the Sacrifice a Scion mechanic than the Ingest/Process mechanic and is a strong colour to include if you want plenty of bodies to sacrifice.

Processor/consumer creatures 

Void Attendant G2 Strong. Pumps out scions.

Other Devoid creatures.

Blisterpod G. Decent. 1 scion.
Brood Butcher BG3  Very strong. Eats scions, starts with one.
Brood Monitor GG4 Strong. 3 Scions.
Catacomb Sifter BG1 Strong. 1 Scion
Eyeless Watcher G3 Decent. 2 Scions.

Devoid spells

Call the Scions. G2. Decent. 2 scions
Unnatural Aggression G2. Average.


From Beyond G3 - Excellent, gets bonus points for the HP Lovecraft reference. Pumps out scions.


Ingest/exile creatures:

Vile Aggregate R2 - Excellent.

Spells that exile a card.

Brutal Expulsion UR2 - Very strong, worth noting that this can bounce your own processor creatures so they can be dropped again to apply the effect a second time. (It even feeds you the exiled card you'll need).
Crumble to Dust R3 - Strong in the Standard meta against some decks. Probably unplayable in Limited.
Touch of the Void. R2 - Decent.

Consumer spell

Processor Assault R1 - decent if you can count on early Ingest.

Other Devoid creatures.

Barrage Tyrant R4 - Strong. Eats creatures.
Dust Stalker BR2 Decent aggro creature, can be used as a Dash creature.
Forerunner of Slaughter BR - Strong aggro creature, can Haste your whole team as they come in.
Herald of Kozilek UR1 - Strong. Reduces cost of all colorless spells by one colorless mana.
Kozilek's Sentinel R1 - Decent.
Nettle Drone R2 - Strong
Vestige of Emrakul R3 - Average.

Devoid spells

Serpentine Spike RR5 Very strong in Limited, possibly a bit too conditional in Constructed.
Turn Against R4 Strong.


Molten Nursery R2 Seems weak although someone's bound to come up with an abusive deck in Contructed. 


Doesn't get this mechanic!

Colorless (ie no colored mana in casting cost).

Ingest/exile creatures:

Bane of Bala Ged 7 - Very strong
Oblivion Sower 6 - Very strong
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger 10 - Complete bomb, you won't lack for processor fuel if he gets to attack.

Spells that exile a card.

Aligned Hedron Network 4 - possibly unplayable unless you build around it.
Scour from existence. 7 - average.
Titan's Presence 3 - Decent in colorless decks, otherwise unplayable.

Processor creatures

Blight Herder 5 - Strong, +3 scions.
Ruin Processor 7 - Decent
Ulamog's Despoiler 6 - Strong if it gets to process.

Other Devoid creatures.

Conduit of Ruin 6 Strong in ramp strategy.
Deathless Behemoth 6 Consumes scions

Devoid spells

Gruesome Slaughter 6 Needs to be built around, otherwise seems weak.


Spawning Bed 0 - Strong. Sac for+3 scions.

Archtypes summary 

There are 3 main archtypes associated with the Devoid cards. These don't necessarily synergise with each other, for example spewing out Scions won't necessarily help with an Ingest/Processor strategy.

The Colorless strategies.

Many of the new cards synergise with Colorless spells and creatures. These also synergise with artifact creatures and awakened lands.  In Limited note that there is some hate built in for this archtype. There are two artifacts that punish colorless creatures in BFZ. Neither are especially popular but that may change as the meta swings towards the more common use of colorless strategies. I had quite an interesting play in a Sealed match. I ran my 2/2 out with the arrows attached and my opponent blocked with his 2/3. I then moved the arrows to another creature and pinged for 1 damage.

None of the set reviews I've watched had much time for the arrows but pinging has a long tradition in MtG and combos well with some mechanics like -2/-2 or First Strike.

 There's also one artifact creature, a 1/1 flier that's an afterthought of a land draw spell but which becomes a capable aerial threat when Ruination Guide is about. In Standard the cards should synergise in interesting ways, particularly Origins which had a Thopter theme for its Blue Red cards.

The Scion strategies.

A number of cards in the set feed off Eldrazi scions or produce them. The scions themselves are useful comboing well with When a creature dies effects or anthems etc. In Standard Grim Haruspex is a card which is popular with scion swarming decks. The ramp effect of the Scions shouldn't be discounted, a Turn 4 Grip of Desolation could destroy a player who's struggling to get his mana base online. It's very useful for smoothing your curve so if you don't have a Turn 3 play you could get your turn 4 play down by saccing a Scion. In Limited they probably work best if conserved to enable top end spells or powerful turns where multiple spells are cast. They also enable reactive play so if you were almost tapped out but had one Blue up you could Spell Shrivel for two scions or just threaten it.

The Ingest/Processor strategies.

In Limited this is a difficult strategy to Draft and a fortunate strategy to find in your Sealed Pool. You absolutely need both parts of the combo and most of the cards are weak without that. You don't want to be casting 3/3s for 4 mana if you can't activate their special abilities nor do you want to heavily Ingest your opponent's Library if you lack cards that can apply punch. DarkestMage has uploaded footage of his PTQ win which was pretty awesome and relied heavily on a pair of Ulamog's Nullifiers plus several other Ingest/Processor synergies.

In Standard this strategy is very much complicated by the existence of older cards that use the exile mechanic. Annafenza in particular is an amazing Ingest engine. Players will self ingest - in my Atarka Red deck I have Abbots and Delve which fill the exiled pile up very nicely. In fact there's an interesting minigame around Delve versus Ingest/Process. The person using Delve can choose whether to flood his exiled pile which then opens the opportunity for the Processor player to punish him. So good decisions are needed on whether to expose yourself to this. For instance if there are no cards in my graveyard then I cast Become Immense the opponent can counter it with Ulamog's Nullifier using cards that I just paid the casting cost with (I think that's how it works anyway). These complex interactions are the heart of Magic.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

MTGO: my first competitive League

So I decided to start out by playing in one of MTGO's recently added features - a competitive league.

It cost 80 play points to enter but even if you get zero wins they give you 10 back so I'm only risking 70 PP, equivalent to $7.

Match 1

My first game was against this guy: Janez_Veliki, a Magic player with a good track record and also an interest in Chess. His record was absolutely dominant 18 months ago, a really serious player. Yikes.

Game 1 he dropped a Warden of the First Tree and beautifully pumped it at exactly the right times, my attack petered out by about turn 7 leaving me with no cards or boards and him with an 8/8 trampling lifelink creature.

Game 2 I blew a Titan's Strength and a Zurgo Bellstriker killing his Warden but that left him open enough for me to pull out a win. My single Goblin Heelcutter did valuable work that game.

Game 3 I established a strong board and got him down to low life before foolishly forgetting his Shambling Vent. It's a land that can suddenly turn into a lifelinking creature. Worst of all for a rookie it hides amongst his lands presenting an apparently clean board. It killed one of my creatures and got him 2 life back but luckily I was able to kill him next turn with Atarka's Command.

I ended up taking the match 2-1 after losing the first game. This was against a genuinely good player, a strong chess player too according to google. Very pleased with that.  

Match 2

Next I played Escarate, I think a rather newer player. He had a strong but slightly off meta deck, red aggro with lots of tokens rather than instant buffs.

Game 1 I flooded, got murdered.

Game 2 I won a close game.

Game 3 He utterly dominated. Then, with himself on 16 life and me on 5 life he used an Exquisite Firecraft spell to take me to 1 life instead of removing my only creature. Tapped out all lands all creatures, he passed the turn. I'm guessing he hasn't seen the Atarka Red deck much. My 1/2 Monastery Swiftspear rushed over as an 9/10 double striker and won me the game from nowhere.

I won this match 2-1 due to an opponent error.

I must admit it was a bit of a relief to play an opponent who wasn't perfect. I was getting the impression that all competitive MTGO players are years old veterans who own all the cards and who never make mistakes. Don't get me wrong, Escarate is a decent player, he's just human and not super-optimised.

This is such a scary format to start out in.

Match 3

I played against Gamsbart, another newish seeming player with an off-meta deck. 

Game 1: He started pretty scary with an early Hangarback Walker. I again used 2 cards to kill 1 early threat, again to good result. Without the Hangarback I ran over him.

Game 2: I had 1 land so I mulliganed, got no land so I mulliganed again, got no land so I mulled down to 4. We then had a rather pathetic game where my opponent got stuck on 2 land while I beat him slowly do death with tiny creatures. Reviewing it I think I was too keen to trade, I should have kept things back for the big finish. Ho hum, got there somehow.

Another win, I'm 3-0 so far. I have earned enough prize to pay for another League entry already which is nice - a win or two in my last 2 games would put me well into the black.

Match 4

I played against JDDA3D, possibly another newish player, no results on the Google search. He played the same deck as me, Atarka Red, resulting in 2 very close games.

Game 1: I got a bit flooded and he out-resourced me, winning with a classic Atarka Red burst.

Game 2: I misplayed. A very tight game, I was one mana or one spell in the graveyard short of a Titan's Strength - Become Immense - Double Strike combo. I also had a Wild strike in hand and it occurs to me I should have cast it just to add a Delve card. I'm still learning the subtleties, or not so subtleties of this deck - blow everything except the killer combo seems like a fine way to play. On viewing the replay I realised I missed lethal, I could have used 1 mana to Wild Strike him for 2 damage, then the card would have been in the graveyard to pay for my delve spell. 2 damage would have been enough.

A loss, now I'm down to a more realistic 3-1 for the series. One match to go and I'm at least break even whatever happens.

Match 5

Played against a really good player called seriocomic. Google turned nothing up. His deck was Azban modified for the meta with the inclusion of counterspells. Key disruption of the pump spells and the use of solid creatures like Siege Rhino and Mantis Rider overpowered me.

Game 1: Hammered.

Game 2: I managed to set up my win condition but he used 2 counterspells to deny me.


I still have some way to go learning the finer points of the incredibly complex interplay. I'm definitely playing the right deck as it's consistently brutal against anything not built to contain it. 3-2 is a fine result for my first competitive MTGO tournament and won me free entry into the next tournament.

Had the cards come out a little differently there was no one I faced who I couldn't have beaten. The deck is basically fine. At some point I may invest a little as I'm not quite running the netdeck version (3 cards different).

As for my opponents I feel there were 2 experienced players with very strong decks, one other newbie with a netdeck and 2 newish players with sub-par decks. So not totally offputting, there are people around I should beat more times than not.

Monday, 19 October 2015

MTGO: An EV based approach to starting competitively

A new set has come out for Magic: The Gathering and it's very fun and very interesting. With this set coming in and older cards rotating out I'm now at the point where every Magic card in the Standard ruleset was introduced while or slightly before I started playing in December. So I finally really know the cards well.

So I'm looking to play competitive Standard format Magic Online and I'm trying to strategise my best approach.

Goatbots do an Expected Value calculator. This tool allows you to determine how much value you'll get back at specific win rates for different formats.

Let's start by looking at 50% win rate.

The first thing that really stands out is that Limited is much more expensive than Contructed. Currently the cheapest Limited format is Khans Draft which will lose you on average $2.55 per go while Standard 2 player only loses you 25c per go.

Another way to look at it is by cost not per tournament but per match. We're seeing this as us needing to experience an amount of games to become practiced enough to be competitive. The best pick on this approach is playing a League which loses us 14c per game.

To play Constructed we will need a deck. To consistently win in Constructed we need a really good deck. The best decks are listed on sites like MtgGoldfish. Currently one of the best decks is Atarka Red which is also significantly cheaper than the other top decks and this is the one I decided to make. If you chose to netdeck you miss out on one of the more fun part of the game - constructing clever synergies but for a new player it's almost guaranteed to be more effective than coming up with your own strategies.

Magic is very good at showing you cards that inspire good ideas for decks. You see "this card gives all your Elves +1/+1" and your mind naturally goes towards thinking about an Elf deck. These synergies feel powerful and you get a sense of ownership of the idea, of personal cleverness. In truth every Magic player who saw that card had pretty much the same idea and the deck you're so proud to have created will have been tested by hundreds of people in dozens of variations and it isn't ruling the metagame.

So except for the top professionals we get to pick one: own our deck idea or decent win rate.

Atarka Red is a very quick somewhat gimmicky deck. You get some fast creature damage in then pump - preferably when your opponent is tapped out - for an explosive finisher. On a Prowess creature like Abbot of Keral Keep the pump cards Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage take it from a 2/1 to a 10/9 Double Strike trampler which is a straight kill on a clear board or more commonly a kill through a blocker against an opponent who has already lost some life.

Once we get to the stage where we have positive EV then a fast aggro deck like this particularly pays off as it allows us to churn through games very fast.

Let's now review the pieces we need to put together to be an effective competitive MTGO player.

- some natural aptitude for this type of puzzle-solving.
- knowledge of the current card set and meta.
- an expensive deck. (Subbing in less powerful commons for high impact rares will lower your win rate).
- experience.

So I've pretty much blown out my reserves putting together this deck and subsidised it by selling off most of the valuable cards I don't need (like an Ugin). My natural aptitude is what it is, by definition it's not something any of us can alter. The rest comes from experience, learning and understanding the plays and counterplays as one practices against other decks in the meta and decks that come from out of left field and do unexpected things.

The strength of Atarka Red is that it's so brutal it flat out beats decks that can't contain it. That is, if my opponent is focused on building his own strategy rather than removing my creatures or otherwise breaking my game flow I'm likely to win. It kills so fast left undisrupted and can cope with several removal spells and still go on for a win depending on the draws.

For Standard format the 8 player Swiss listed on Goatbot EV isn't an option so my choices are:
Standard Daily Swiss
Standard Single Elimination
Standard League

The Daily Swiss concentrates its payouts at the top. You play 4 matches and you get a ton of prizes for winning all 4, a good payout for winning 3 and nothing for winning 2, 1 or 0. This makes it a very punishing format for new players. This format actually is the first to become EV positive with rising win rate. At 52% win rate currently you are net positive. However that is heavily skewed towards the top end so 52% win rate with high variance is great but consistently scoring 2 wins - 2 losses is terrible even if it's around 50%.

The Single Elimination is much more accessible. Win one match and you win enough Play Points to enter another one. Win more than one and you get substantial rewards though nowhere near what a Daily winner gets. Even if you're really bad you will sometimes get a payout simply because your opponent got awful draws.

The Standard 2 player is the worst EV of the Constructed formats for good players but the best for bad players. Even if you never win (0% win rate) you still get some rewards in this format.

Standard League has the lowest EV loss per game which makes it a good choice at the gaining experience stage of our MTGO careers.

Now let's talk about rewards. I have a slightly different valuation on some of the rewards to the Goatbot calculator.

Play Points are valued at 0.10 which I agree with and forms a good base line. If you're a very good player you may find you win more Play Points than you could possibly spend at which point the value of these is zero until you run out and find yourself needing to build them up again. For a rookie you can always spend your Play Points. If you start to build up more than you spend grinding optimal formats like 2 players Standard then you can splash them on some events that are fun but really bad EV like Limited events and prerelease events. Only a pretty advanced player will not have a 0.10c value on a Play Point. In fact for a newbie I'd say Play Points are the best type of prize since you can just use them with no hassle trying to sell something to another player or bot.

Boosters are sellable to the bots for close to list price. At this stage in a set's life the value of boosters may be going down as people win more than they open. This was a terrible problem before Play Points were introduced a couple of months ago with some 4.00 boosters sinking to under 2.00 on the secondary market because of flooding caused by how much players won as prizes. It's very unlikely the current set will ever sink down to that level but in theory it could happen if not many people want to play Limited and the 8 or 16 man Constructed tournaments are paying out a lot of packs.

QPs are valued at 0 and I think they're worth a bit more than that. 15 QPs gives you a free entry into a MOCS season preliminary tournament where you probably won't win anything but it could be pretty exciting. You need 5 wins from 6 games to get into the next stage, there's no prizes except a Promo card in this tournament.

35 QPs or getting 5 or 6 wins in a Prelim puts you into a MOCS Final where there's very big payouts for the top 32 and even an invitation to professional tour for the first place winner.

QPs are worth nothing if under 15 are collected during the qualifying month, are worth a little to a new player, mostly for the fun of being in a higher level tournament if you have 15-34 and are definitely worthwhile if you have 35+ since a rookie could get lucky and finish in the top 32 or better.

Opened cards form part of the EV from Limited events and I suspect they're overvalued. You should be able to sell your premium cards but a junk card might be listed at 0.01c but no one will ever buy it off you.

I currently have 80 Play Points and 15 Event tickets so I'm going to try out some events and see how I get on. Hopefully I'll be able to keep going for some time before I run out of currency to enter events, maybe I'll even hit the magic number where I win more than the events cost.