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Hall of Fame Member Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa Joins MTG Arena Zone!

Ask PVDDR Anything – All Questions and Answers

Here are all the questions and answers to PVDDR‘s Ask Me Anything (AMA) held on our Discord community today. A range of interesting questions and answers have been collected – we thank everybody for participating, and we hope to do more events like this in the future! These have not been edited.

Do Superfriends decks even need creatures? And if no, do you think those who incorporate creatures like [[Tenacious Underdog]] that feel like exactly designed to fill this role are actually better off? Also, what is good ratio of spot removal to sweepers in a good Superfriends deck? I know that probably the answer is: it depends 🙂. But, maybe there are some general guidelines

You definitely don’t need creatures in a superfriends deck (for those who don’t know, “superfriends” deck are usually decks with a bunch of planeswalkers). In fact if you can avoid playing creatures altogether and just rely on your planeswalkers to win that’s going to give you an advantage, because you’ll sort of blank your opponent’s removal spells. I wouldn’t say Tenacious Underdog is designed to fill this role, it’s an aggressive card and superfriends decks are usually looking for more defensive options to protect the planeswalkers. It’s a fine card to play, especially if you have more creatures, but I wouldn’t say it’s made for this deck.

As for the ratio of sweepers to spot removal that’s just too hard to tell, it really depends on which sweepers/removal exists and what the top decks in the format are.

I state that: roping is an inevitable result of bad design. Here’s why:

  1. Take rather people’s time than money (make F2P the best way to build a collection).
  2. Base your F2P model on wins.
  3. Now you incentivize people with more time (and less ethics) to prey on those having less time.
  4. Hence roping. Do you find merrit in the above assessment?

No, I think roping is the most fair way of making sure a player doesn’t monopolize all the time in the match.

When testing and tuning decks, what are some heuristics you use to determine whether a deck/card is the best choice for that tournament/slot?

A recent example of cards would be testing strategic planning izzet charm and chart a course in pioneer phoenix

I think if you’re looking for an heuristic, a reasonable one is “the one most people who have success play”. If there’s a “standard” version of the deck, that’s usually for a reason. It’s not 100% reliable, of course, but it’s a good starting point if you’re clueless yourself.

I also tend to prefer decks/cards that are more consistent rather than high variance. For example, if there’s a deck or card that always does the same thing and a card that’s more hit or miss, assuming the one that always does the same thing is good enough, I gravitate towards that. Or the deck that gives you the most options so you can leverage playskill more. But sometimes that’s not what you actually need to do, so again this is not 100%.

Past that, you really need to analyze things in a case by case basis. What does your deck need from this slot? In which matchups is one better than the other?

In the example you gave, I think Izzet Charm is a very different card from the other two. Do you need more removal/interaction or do you just want a card drawing spell? If you need interaction/removal, it’s the best choice. If you want a card drawing spell, it’s the worst choice. Then as for which card drawing spell you want, I think if they are close enough that you just can’t figure out, then it likely doesn’t matter much which one you choose.

How much do you build/test/theorize alone vs with a group? Do you have any thoughts on developing a good group atmosphere for testing? When you test decks, do you mostly run a gamut of matches or do you try to zero in on specific scenarios/matchups? Any advice on finding a good community for testing/workshopping for those outside the tournament community?

There are usually two stages of testing – the first is just testing out the waters, getting to know the format, seeing which decks are viable. In this stage, it’s just a free-for-all, you can play online or with a group, the goal is just to get a lot of games played. Then, once you have a good idea of what the format looks like and what each deck does, you want more specific testing – for example “ok what is important in specifically Phoenix vs Food?” or “is this sideboard card good versus this matchup?”. Then it’s much easier to do this with a group than with by yourself.

I don’t really have any advice on finding a good community for testing unfortunately. For me it mostly happened organically, I was friends with people with similar interests and we grouped together naturally

What are your thoughts about the Alchemy Format ? Do you think all this effort to create new alchemy cards should be focused in the implementation of paper formats in Arena ?

I don’t really like Alchemy. I thought the idea was a bit interesting (let’s have “fixed standard”) but the execution clearly hasn’t been that, since we’re adding extra cards specific to alchemy.

Expanding on @Guilherme “Lanchinho” question: do you think Alchemy limited to rebalancing Standard cards only would be better? And I mean better for us, players, and the game (not necessarily for corporate profits (although I think that the latter is a direct function of the former)).

Yes I think it would have been better. But even then I’m starting to find the cards that do different things in different formats very jarring so I’m not sure there’s a solution here.

when testing in paper do you use proxies?

nod. do you just print them out on paper and then use them in a sleeve with a mtg card behind them like I do or do you have a better way?


I mostly just use draft commons. For example if I want to proxy 4 lightning bolts I’ll just find four copies of the same card that costs R and throw them in there and say those are lightning bolts. Sometimes I sharpie directly on the card too

If you could choose only one from the following:

  1. Making Alchemy rebalanced Standard only.
  2. Adding Commander to Arena.
  3. Making Pauper and Artisan full-fledged Arena formats instead of incidental events.
  4. Having not only Pioneer but also Modern on Arena.
  5. Basing Arena F2P model on achievements instead of wins. 6. Basing Arena economy on premium cosmetics like custom sounds and animations instead of booster packs. What would you choose? 🙂

I think for me personally the best would be “6”, given that it would save me a lot of money. For the community at large the best might be 4?

Do you believe that artificial scarcity (e.g. cost and availability of cards) is good for the the game of magic?

That is, in a world where proxies were tournament legal and the ability to afford and acquire specific cards were not barriers to entry – do you think the level of competition and/or diversity of decks/strategies improve or get worse and why?

It would definitely improve the level of competition if no one was gated by cost at all, but I think then the game would just not exist so I think this is sort of a moot exercise.

Do you ever think about a special catchphrase when you cast your own Elite Spellbinder? Do you ever jokingly give a look at your opponent when they cast their own Elite Spellbinder with a look on your face that says “how dare you play this against me”? 😁

Haha not really

Can you name Magic colors from your most to your least favorite (and give us some insight on why you prefer them in that order)?

Do you think there are still some keywordable mechanics that the game have never seen yet? Or maybe just any mechanic, not necessarily keywordable , that you can think of and that’s still open for the game?

  • Blue
  • Black
  • Green
  • White
  • Red

I normally like options and I feel like with blue and black you get a lot of that (cheap cards, instant speed, card drawing, etc). Red is a bit one dimensional to me (only aggression all the time). But of course I’ll play all colors, it’s not even a very strong preference, and blue/red specifically is a great combination nowadays.

I think there’s likely an enormous number of viable mechanics and keywords that we haven’t seen, though obviously there’s a limit to how many keywords you can have in a game and expect players to memorize.

What would you do with your time once you retired from professional magic playing?

Well that depends a lot on how much money I have by that point. I would like to travel more for leisure (maybe go on cruises), spend time with my family (wife/children/grandchildren?), watch TV shows, read, play bridge. There’s no shortage of things to do in my life, I doubt I would ever be bored.

Hey PV, hope you’re doing well. Do you have any favorite sets to draft? What do you think makes a set stand out and be fun for drafting?

I liked original Ravnica a lot, as well as Invasion. So I guess you could say I like multicolored formats?

I think in general it’s important for a format to allow both aggressive and controlling decks to exist, though I prefer more controlling decks myself. I don’t like formats in which if you fall behind early you just die, and I also think it’s important that the bombs aren’t unbeatable.

Hello Paulo. In some of your articles you mention game calculation,can you suggest some books\articles related to this topic and which things you always calculate through the game and which don`t. Thank you in advance for your time.

I don’t really have any resources other than a Hypergeometric Calculator ( . If I need to calculate something during a game I just estimate it. I tend to think more in words than numbers, I usually just use numbers to illustrate my thoughts when writing. For example I will think in terms of “if I attack and they don’t block then this will help me only a little bit, whereas if they block it will hurt me a lot” during the game. Then, when writing, to illustrate the point, I’ll say “you get only like 5% if they block but lose 50% if they don’t block”. But the numbers are usually made up to illustrate points, not hard calculations.

Knowing that Magic Arena is played on several continents, do you think the store should accept/support more types of currency other than Dolar and Euro?

I mean, obviously it would be ideal if it supported everything, but I have no clue of the logistics or costs of doing that. I assume if it was easy to do they would already be doing it.

You havent mentioned previously your interest in Bridge. Are there other card games using a 52 card deck that you would recommend as intellectually complex? Any specifically for 2 players?

I only really play Bridge and that doesn’t work with two players unfortunately.

What is the important magic skill you find you share with the most strong players and what skill do you have that you believe many great players have yet to adopt?

I think most strong players are good with having a plan. They know the direction they want the game to go, they know what a game they win looks like, and they know what they have to do to get there. They basically play the whole game, rather than a series of individual turns.

One area I think I’m better than even most strong players is just raw understanding of the game. I’ve always made it a point to understand the “whys” of everything, and this makes it easy for me to theorize and extrapolate. Why is this card good, why does this deck win? Sometimes I need one or two games to know if a deck is viable or not, one or two games to know if a sideboard card is actually good, whereas other strong players might need 5 or 10 to figure out the same thing.

What are good resources on constructed manabase construction? I use Frank Kartsten’s mana base sources for limited but in constructed you have to weigh speed and power more than limited ever can.

I don’t really have any 🙁

Your recent tweet about deck selection for the RCQ said that doing the basics was better than trying to reinvent the wheel. Could you elaborate a bit more about it? Do you mean chosing decks with less polarized matchups or simply chosing a deck that has proven itself in a given format? I’m more of a tabletop player so if you have some examples with Modern or Pioneer it would be awesome 🙂 btw, I’d love if we could get a little more content from you in those formats.

I didn’t mean necessarily choosing decks with more or less polarized matchups – more that you should just pick one of the top decks in the format and go with it rather than trying to brew something new or changing an existing deck too much. I’m not very familiar with Modern or Pioneer right now, but I think for example in Modern it’s fine to play a 4c deck, or hammer, or living end, or rhinos, or any of the decks that’s actually good, but don’t go around playing Mono U Pirates because you think it’s some kind of answer to the metagame because it very likely isn’t.

I think people tend to think “I’m not the best player in the room so if I just play the same deck as everyone else, I’m unlikely to win”. This is true, but what people miss is that if you play a worse deck than everyone else then you’re even less likely to win. I think you shouldn’t play a deck that’s worse just because it’s different and you’re getting some edge there.

Q1: Assume the next premier event is 3v3. If you have to pick 1 boomer and 1 zoomer for your group, who would it be? If it helps, let’s assume the format is draft/standard(next blk)/pioneer

Q2: You’ll also notice that I bring in a second Legion Angel, making it a 2-2 split. On this topic, when would it be correct to go 0 angels post sb.

Hm, tricky. I think the best player in the world right now is Shota Yasooka, so he would be my pick on theoretical power level alone, but we’re also not really friends and communication would be tough, so he wouldn’t be my actual pick. I think right now I would probably pick Austin Bursavich and Zach Kiihne for a mix of playskill, deck selection and how well we’d work together as a team.

I think going to 0 Angels is reasonable when the matchup is not grindy (so a fast matchup), you don’t need a flying blocker, and you win the late-game anyway. If they don’t have small fliers the Angel is not a good blocker, so if you’re worried about dying you can take it out. If it’s a grindy matchup I always go to 2-2. I think playing 0-4 is not outrageous either for whatever that’s worth.

What should a casual MTGA player focus on and keep thinking to improve their game?

I think the main thing is having a plan – playing the whole game rather than each individual turn. How do you win the game here? What can make you lose? Is life the resource that matters in this game, or is it cards or time? Once you know that, then it gives you a direction for every decision you take during the game and it should make everything easier.

On average how much time do you spend playing magic?

It really depends… I usually don’t play for fun, so it’ll depend on what I’m testing for. If I have a tournament soon I’ll play a lot, like4-ish hours a day. Sometimes I want to write an article so I play some too so I have a better idea what’s going on. But if there’s no specific reason for me to play then I usually play 0. I always try to stay in touch with whats happening though, I talk about Magic a lot even when I’m not playing

Sure, what’s your favorite card in current Standard (and why it’s [[Tergrid]] 😉)

it’s this one

but if it wasn’t for this one it would be Tergrid of course

why is it that in the control mirror the player who casts thought distortion always loses?

well I don’t know if that’s true, I’ve liked playing thought distortion in BG food and I won a lot of the time I cast it 😛

What are your bets on rare lands in Dominaria United?

I honestly have no clue

Do you think, there are still some sleeper cards in Standard? Maybe not of the format-warping magnitude of [[Fable of the Mirror-Breaker]] but still? Do you have some favorites you think deserve greater recognition than they get?

Still? It’s possible, but I wouldn’t bet on it, the format is quite developed. There are probably cards that are bad now that will become good once more cards are released, though. Sometimes metagames change too and then certain cards become better but that doesn’t mean they were sleepers, they were just not good before.

I think what happened with Fable was very unusual, it was like the most underrated card in the past 10 years. I think Wedding Announcement might be the most underestimated card, not in the sense that it isnt played a lot (it is) but in the sense that people don’t understand how strong it is. They think it’s a 7 and it’s actually a 9. I see a lot of people taking it out for sideboarding for example and that’s almost always wrong.

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