Frank Karsten, My New Hero

Frank Karsten began writing for Channel Fireball pretty recently. He had been away from MtG for a while in order to write his thesis, but apparently he’s done with that and is making his return, including joining the Channel Fireball team itself (bringing their total number of hall of famers to six after BenS and LSV are inducted, still one less than Team SCG, even without Budde).

Personally, I’m sort of excited about this. After all, this is a guy who is a hall of famer, but has a totally different perspective on the game. He was known for designing decks based on statistical data taking a bunch of versions of a deck and calculating the best possible mix of cards. Later, he would go on to play highlander and monocolored decks for the for the hell of it in Pro Tours. Clearly, a man after my own heart.

And then there’s this: Frank Analysis – Finding the Optimal Aggro Deck via Computer Simulation. In short, Karsten simplifies aggro decks down to five different cards and tests each possible configuration by goldfishing. This way he found the optimal aggro deck in a vacuum.

Obviously, there are limits to the usefulness of this data, since generally we won’t have enough of really cheap and efficient creatures in a format, and it completely forgets about your opponent, who will generally want to do something during a game too. On the other hand, research like this isn’t done enough. Of course people do calculate odds and will make deck design decisions based on them, but they are still often based on intuition more than anything else. Since CFB already has limited specialists, innovators, honers, combospecialists and so forth, just like their competition, Karsten’s addition will bring them an edge, because no-one else is doing what Karsten does. At least not as visibly.

This is obviously still pretty preliminary research. Magic is a complicated game, so going deeper will be hard, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. Finding the right way to abstract the game (such as Karsten’s way of bringing it down to five cards) will be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. Hopefully we’ll see more from Karsten in the near future (and we probably will).

Maybe I should try it.

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