Introductions Are in Order
Still here? That word “math” didn’t scare you away? Wow… well, congratulations, and thank you. I promise it won’t all be math in this blog. Well, mostly math, but it will be fun, just wait!
Well, fun for us math geeks, anyway. But want to know a secret? Come a little closer, let me whisper it to you.
If you play Magic: the Gathering, you’re a math geek.
There, I’ve said it. Don’t believe me? What if I told you a game of Magic was just one huge mathematical operation. Even the entire game of Magic, with all its tens of thousands of cards and trillions of potential interactions, can still be summed up in something as simple as a vector space. A very large vector space, granted, but not infinite.
Sorry to say, but every game of Magic you’ve ever played has just been locating, step by step, your place in this giant vector space. The names of the cards don’t matter, the flavor, the colors, all bow down to the might of math.
I sense I may be losing you, come back! It’s not all bad. The fact Magic is based on math isn’t entirely a bad thing. It’s what allows judges to make unambiguous rulings at tournaments, what allows Duels of the Planeswalkers to beat you every once in a while. And, most importantly, it lets R&D make new cards – usually by taking a look at the underlying equations and saying “okay, how can we break these?”.
If you want to play Magic without math you can, however it would become very… strange very fast. You and your opponent would have to debate what a Stronghold Overseer actually oversees, and whether Calling the Wild summons wolves to do your bidding, or just lets your Evolving Wild, well, evolve. In short, it would be a game without rules, just with storytelling. That game exists too, and it’s called “Dungeons and Dragons” (which technically has rules, but also has a player that can override any of those rules at a whim). Many people do enjoy that game, and many of them also enjoy Magic, but I feel quite confident that those few that actually play Magic solely for the flavor will be quickly disappointed when you equip your Sword of Feast and Famine to a Wall of Omens, and struggle to figure out how any of that makes any kind of flavor sense.
Yes, Magic is based on rules, and rules are based on math. I am firmly of the opinion that understanding math is key to becoming a better Magic player. With that in mind, I intend to dive in to the swirling morass of algebra, probability theory, game theory, and perhaps even a bit of calculus (though probably not a lot) that goes into each and every game of magic you’ll play.
For a flavor of what I intend to look out, check out the article I wrote for Cardshark.com (if you just read that in Chewies voice, then send me an email!) at http://www.cardshark.com/Articles/Magic-the-Gathering/Thomas-Edgar/Math-Magic/View-Article/4270. And if you don’t believe me that math can be fun, check out Vi Hart’s YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/Vihart.
Stay tuned for my first article on the Math of Magic, where we will look at something that happens in every single game of Magic, oftentimes before it even begins: shuffling.
If you want to get in touch with me, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow my Twitter feed at twitter.com/Tosus, call my voicemail line at 425-200-4335, or subscribe to me on Facebook under https://www.facebook.com/Tosusiam.
Thank you for reading, and stay mathy!