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AlexChurchill, in /MadnessMechanics
I disagree that you need to know the existence of all the latest mechanics to play well.  (The point works mirrored for new players too: I disagree that a new player needs to know the existence, let alone rules subtleties, of all the older mechanics in order to play well.  What's your opinion on this latter?)

The reason I disagree is twofold.  One, the existence of most new mechanics isn't utterly game-shaking.  A deck of big green creatures, or lots of red direct damage, or blue Millstone-control, will still work well, whether or not I'm using the latest new abilities on my new cards.  But two, no strategy can be expected to be airtight either.  Every deck has a weakness, and can be played against.  So knowing this, and not knowing what your opponent's deck will contain anyway, you should expect that a single-minded approach will be thwartable by some cards out there.  Having backup plans, "utility" spells like Disenchant, and suchlike, is all part of designing a good deck.  As is balancing the amounts of such things versus your threats, kill mechanism, theme, and so on.  --AlexChurchill

Quick reply now, more when I'm less busy.  My 'you have to know the environment' comment works best by exaple, I think.  And you provided a lovely one in madness.  Compared to the limited subset of cards I have seen (my sets are years out of date now) that counterspell seems innately broken even without the madness ability.
What, "Counter target spell unless its controller does something"?  For 2U?  When "Counter target spell" itself costs UU?  How can the new one be "broken", or even overpowered?
Yeah, pretty much my view on counterspell there.  Not that green/blue legend denial isn't fun... I was comparing it to ux counter unless pay x - it is blatantly more powerful unless the game is short.  My definition of short later.  -- Vitenka
...Unless, that is, you're one of those who think that Counterspell itself is innately "horrible, broken, overpowered". :)  Which is a point of view I'm sympathetic to, but rather a different discussion... :)  --AlexChurchill
So, because my knowledge of the environment is so wrong (a quick scan of the literature shows me that games are decided far earlier now than they used to be)
Two responses to this:
1) Things are slower now (Onslaught / Odyssey) than they were two years ago (Invasion / Masques).  Two years before that, things were horribly superfast with degenerate combo decks and insane red or green superspeed attacking decks.  Turn 6 kills are very unusual now, they happened quite a bit in Masques block with Rebels, and they were the norm in the Tempest / Urza block format, 4 years ago. 
Um.  I was playing pre iceage.  I haven't even HEARD of most of the sets you are referring to as 'old old'.  Compare to Arabian nights and urza's legacy speed.  (Just after the retributive strike against the broken turn one wins in limited edition - turn 10 was considered unusually fast)
But more to the point, 2) This only applies to tournament players, surely? I don't know about you, but if you're one of the people I think you are, you mainly play Magic casually, not in tournaments.  So you'll play against people with cards from any old set, but also people who haven't spent thousands of pounds on the game, nor have they relentlessly chased down 4 of each rare that would really turbocharge their decks. Looking at the Magic that gets played at GamesEvening, it certainly doesn't seem like games are decided especially early these days.
Not since years ago, no.  But then, yes.
I would have made a wrong decision on what the danger level of an opponents play was, and thus wasted time and effort on it.  An even more striking eample would be a combo deck, where a new player would see the large grene creature as dangerous, rather than the innocous cheap red one which is the key to an infinite mana cycle. -- Vitenka
The argument about not knowing which card is the dangerous one doesn't hold, though.  Because there are frequently "rogue decks" appearing at tournaments, which are (for example) combining two cards that *nobody* had thought to combine before.  Or at least, which most of the rogue's opponents won't have thought of.  Is it my fault for not knowing your cheap red creature is the key to an infinite mana cycle?  What if nobody in the world knows that except you??  No tournament player, let alone a casual player like me, will be prepared for every eventuality, nor will they be expecting every combination of two cards.  (Some 36 million combinations, I think.) So you can't say it makes the game "impossible to play" if you don't know every combination around.
Just the ability to look at and recognise what a card is, what it does.  I won't even be able to categorise a card as 'attack' or 'defence' any more.  Sure, some people find unusual uses for cards - but without the ability to recognise the potential, how can you even tell whether your opponent is playing the same rules you are?
MoonShadow: Would you also argue that one needs to commit to memory all possible chess openings before one can have a fun game of chess in which one stands a reasonable chance of winning? I don't think it makes a difference whether you first come across a new card when your opponent plays it against you, or when you buy a booster pack containing it; you either recognise its potential from the text written on it, or you don't. I agree that you need to be able to recognise its potential to compete in Magic, but that is to learning all card texts by rote what having a clue how to respond to an opponent's move in chess is to memorising chess openings and endgames.
I would say no - but you do need to know what the knight does, what the queen does, why it's bad to have undefended ranks once the rooks are in play.  Chess doesn't have the "And suddenly I turn the whole game on its head" factor in mid game that magic does - since in chess the entire game exists in potentia from the start, whereas in magic you can't see your opponents deck so you need to have at least SOME idea of what they might be able to do.  Riffling through their deck would alleviate that, but also remove most of the fun.  -- Vitenka

So... how about you view it the way the game's designer originally intended - that you're *supposed* to not know some cards exist until you play against them??  Before widespread Internet usage took off, MtG existed quite well like that.
Besides, even knowing a card exists doesn't mean you know all the tricks that can be done with it.  Even someone like me (who studies spoiler lists of new sets, looking for combos) can (frequently) be surprised when someone pulls off one I hadn't thought of.  Thus rendering, say, an inoffensive 2/2 creature the key to a source of unlimited 5/5 flying Dragon tokens. Or whatever.  That's the same as your earlier "key to an infinite mana loop" point... I'm saying nobody will always recognise such things until they see the trick pulled off.  That's part of the appeal in pulling off the trick - to surprise friends by using cards they're familiar with to do things they hadn't thought of :)  So everyone is in the same boat you describe.  Why claim that it makes the game unplayable?
I agree.  If every card was fresh and new to every player then it would be a wonderful (and very different) game.  But enough players DO know the environment that this can never be achieved.  (Indeed, I would argue - and have done so elsewhere, that attempting to prevent such a spread of knowledge makes the game less enjoyable)  The 'no internet' thing is a blind, information can easily spread by other methods.  And anyway, I was seeing printed card lists being spread around the week the game came out.  --Vitenka
Please note I'm not claiming that knowledge of the new cards (or old cards) is useless.  I just strongly think that it doesn't have to be a barrier to new players, or returning players.  And assessing which of your opponent's cards is a threat is something which encyclopaedic knowledge doesn't necessarily help with.  There's skill there, as well as skill in lots of other places. -- AlexChurchill
I think it's a bit like chess, where experienced players always have a strong advantage compared to newcomers, since they have analysed so many situations. However, in Magic, beginners are MUCH more likely to win, and even if they lose, they have discovered cards and combos, and that's usually quite fun. I'll always remember the laugh I had when I discovered The Cheese Stands Alone, that made me lose what I thought a sure win...
Besides, i don't think many games are really fair in a confrontation between experienced players and neophytes... :)  --Yves?

Said on /FinancialTradeoffs:

MoonShadow used to play with proxies.

Well, that works too - but brings up the 'know everything available' problem again ;)

I still assert this isn't a problem.  Why is using proxies a problem?  If you're afraid of people cheating, it's simple enough to go to one of the several online card lookup engines.  Or set up a database on your computer containing every card - I know at least 2 of us ToothyWikizens have done that.
Or just trust your friends :)

I have a database on my MobileBrain which knows all of the BabylonFiveCCG? cards. -- Senji

I mean that you need to know all available cards in order to make full use of such an ability to proxy.  Again, someone with such a knowledge will be able to outdesign and thus beat someone without such knowledge.  --Vitenka

Not true. As was previously mentioned, if you have an easily searchable database of the cards, and you're looking for, say, a large red flier, then it won't take you long to find the sorts of things that could go there, so you can decide for yourself which you want to use. Even if you don't have such a database, you'll surely know of what it is you want for the deck! Perhaps building entire decks without much outside knowledge may be hard, but if you're in a group that approves playing with proxies anyway, then there should be very little problem in asking them what would work for what you're trying to achieve. - GreenOpal

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