SnarkElemental joins us with a great writeup about how they found out what the best card in Mythgard is..
Back in 2016, a dedicated Magic: the Gathering fan pit all the game’s cards against each other in a massive single-elimination voting bracket. The goal of this Magic Bracket was to determine the “best Magic: the Gathering card of all time”. Magic at the time had over 16 thousand cards, resulting in a two year long tournament which ultimately crowned Lightning Bolt as the winner. Two months ago, inspired by this tournament, I set out to do the same thing for Mythgard. I wanted to determine the best card in the game.
In contrast to Magic, Mythgard currently has a much more manageable 528 cards, though this will change soon with the release of the second expansion. The resulting tournament lasted one month. Every day, a new batch of cards would be paired up with each other 1-on-1 and posted in the contest’s Discord server, where users voted on which card they preferred via Discord’s ‘reactions’ feature. The card with more votes at the end of the next day progressed on to the next round.
For example, this is what the start of round 1 looked like.
On October 19th, I opened the Discord server where the contest took place, and announced the event on Reddit, Twitter, and Mythgard’s primary Discord server. The first 22 pairings of round one were posted, and the contest began.
Memes are a Powerful Force?
For the first few hours of the contest, the matchup that drew the most attention was between Bragi’s Ballad and Dora.
For context, Bragi’s Ballad is a useful draw and filtering spell that shows up in a lot of blue decks, and Dora is one of the weakest 1-drops in the game. Dora has actually been buffed since round 1 took place, and it’s still regarded as useless by most players. What Dora had going for it was the fact that it’s a meme.
Cute animal + useless card = meme. The math checks out.
There was some discussion throughout the tournament of the criteria people were using to judge how “good” cards were. According to the rules I wrote out, players weren’t expected to vote based on any particular metrics of card quality other than their personal opinion. Determining the “best” card is a subjective process.
Raziel lost to Armageddon Angel in round 1 despite Izzy’s valiant efforts
Despite the popularity of memes, Bragi’s Ballad was able to pull ahead of Dora and ultimately beat it by a fairly wide margin. That same story repeated throughout round 1 for most meme cards. Grease Monkey, Stab Crab, Cognate of Eratos, and Minitaur all met the same early demise. The majority of voters seemed to favor whichever card was more powerful or more played. Not enough people cared strongly about the memes.
You Win Some, you Lose Some
Single elimination tournaments have a weird quirk to them: sometimes strong competitors will lose far earlier than they deserve due to being unlucky and facing even stronger opponents. Perfect Grade, for instance, isn’t the kind of card you’d imagine losing in round 1. Unfortunately for it though, its first opponent was Magnus Thorsson.
We’re talking pre-nerf Magnus here too. He was a 4/4 at the time of the match.
Another notable instance of this happening was Traitorous Murmur losing in round 2 to Sapo the Devourer.
Matchups in the first round were chosen completely at random and from there subsequent rounds were determined by the shape of the bracket. At no point in the tournament did I make any decisions about which cards should face which, and that led to some anticlimactic losses, some one-sided matches, and a surprising number of uncanny matches between very similar cards. That being said, most of the cards that are arguably the most powerful managed to make it to the final few rounds. Single elimination is still a very efficient way to rank a large number of competitors with decent accuracy. And one thing it definitely has going for it is drama.
Staples and the Patch
Going into this tournament, I genuinely had no idea which card would win. Unlike Magic, Mythgard constantly strives to adjust the power level of its cards, nerfing any cards too egregiously powerful and occasionally mass-buffing large numbers of underperforming ones. As a result, the contest to determine the best card was generally closer, especially in later rounds where the field was narrowed down to the game’s staple cards.
That being said, people had their guesses. A lot of voters were anticipating an Armageddon Angel victory. At the time it was largely considered the most powerful card in the game by many Champion tier players.
Just as round 3 was wrapping up however, the patch notes for one of Mythgard’s largest balance patches ever came out, changing over 100 cards. Angel was suddenly a 3/7 instead of a 7/7, and the trajectory of the tournament was suddenly up in the air.
Even after the nerf Angel still made the top 4.
The Special Round
528 is a number that works oddly in the context of single elimination tournaments. Unless the number of competitors in a bracket is a power of two, there are going to be some byes. As it happens however, 528 keeps dividing into even numbers the first three times you cut it in half, and then winds up at 33.
33 is a terrible number for brackets. It results in a bye every single round for the rest of the bracket. 32 however is a neat power of two. So by eliminating a single competitor in between rounds 4 and 5, the tournament could avoid byes entirely. For this purpose, I held a special round that asked players to eliminate a single card from the remaining pool of 33.
Voters reacted with thumbs up or thumbs down based on whether or not they thought a given card was above or below the average good-ness of the remaining cards. The card with the most negative overall feedback was declared the loser. And that card was…
Stray Panacea is good no doubt, hence why it made the top 33, but most of its function is simply the fact that it replaces itself and buys players time to find other cards that they actually need. So it was fitting that it was deemed the least important card in the final bracket.
With Panacea gone, let’s take a look at the top 32 cards.
There are a few patterns among the top contenders.
Freki Sidecar, Racer in Shadow, Wings of Abaddon, Dashing Ringmaster, and Daring Trapezists all either have or grant Rush. Rush has always been one of the most powerful keywords in all of Mythgard, due to the difficulty of playing around it. It can deal damage or remove minions out of the blue with no setup, combo with enchantments and buffs, and generally make playing around certain decks much harder.
Removal plus Value
Armageddon Angel, Sapo the Devourer, Dark Passenger, Pentacle of Flavors, Merciless Koxinga, Scion of Pride, Magmataur, and Magnus Thorsson can all damage or remove enemy minions while also providing some additional value, such as leaving a body behind. A few others like Meso Libre and Iku-Turso can temporarily neutralize enemy minions while providing value. In many ways these cards are good for the same reason Rush cards are, since Rush often acts like removal attached to a minion. All four cards in the semifinals were minions with removal capabilities.
The semifinalist Scion is a staple mythic because of the flexibility of the Pride of Place spell it creates, allowing players to remove enemy threats or buff their own tokens.
Hopeless Necromantic, Eager Recruit, Twins Junah and Blanque, Seven Ring Ritual, Nine-Tailed Vixen, Born-Again and Serpent Den all have the ability to put multiple minions into play, often not at the same time. This appears to be one of the most powerful ways for a card to generate additional value. Not putting all of your eggs in one basket prevents removal from completely nullifying large threats and losing you card advantage. As a bonus, many of these cards can put a huge amount of total strength and health into play relative to their initial cost. While there’s usually an extra cost associated with summoning the additional minions, the flexibility of not having to pay it all at once is worth a lot.
Serpent Den was the only enchantment in the top 32. To Heaven and Back and Stairway to Hades both lost in round 3, while facing Armageddon Angel and Oak of Dodona respectively.
The Rest of the Best
It’s no surprise that every card which made the top 32 is just generally good. We see some of the best removal such as Misanthropia and Anhelli, as well as some mythic bombs like Kara Mourningwives and God of Gamers that simply have a lot of strength/health and abilities that make them harder to contest. The most surprising cards to make the top 32 in my opinion were Volkov Heavy and Blackened Jotun, two common minions that see much more success in draft than they do in constructed. Come to think of it, most of the cards that made it to the final rounds are excellent draft picks. Throughout the tournament, cards that were generically good tended to beat cards that were stronger but only in the context of one specific strategy. I wonder to what extent the voters were considering drafting when assessing cards?
The Best Card in the Game
After a month of contests, the last few rounds of the tournament were thrilling. Compared to earlier rounds which took days to resolve due to the large number of remaining cards, the final 5 rounds were a blur.
Armageddon Angel lost in the semifinals. I’m torn on whether it should have. The last few rounds of the tournament took place in between when the balance patch was announced and when it went live, so people knew Angel would be weaker but didn’t have any experience playing the new version yet. This may have led to it being underestimated where in any other circumstance it would have won. Or maybe people were just tired of it? Regardless of the reasoning, I wasn’t disappointed to see it fall. After a month of wondering if Angel would simply steal the tournament, we had our answer.
The most debate however happened on the other side of the tournament bracket, where Merciless Koxinga beat Scion of Pride to progress to the finals.
I think it’s safe to say Koxinga isn’t the most powerful card in the game, but he is both flexible and very mechanically and thematically interesting. His ascension to the final round is proof in my eyes that many voters weren’t making decisions specifically based on power level.
It’s also not wise to underestimate how often Koxinga is included in decks. In the past 90 days, 89 decks have been posted on Mythgard Hub that include Koxinga. This is the least out of all the semifinalists, but not by much. Sapo has 90 decks, Angel has 91, and Scion 94.
The semifinals resulted in a very interesting final round. Both Sapo and Koxinga are powerful cards, but I haven’t seen many complaints about either. They have the distinction of being indisputably excellent, but also largely non-controversial.
I whipped together an image for the final vote instead of simply making a text post. By pure coincidence the art on these cards looks really good when the two are opposing each other.
And the winner, by a margin of about 3 to 1, was…
Sapo, the Devourer
However the voters defined the “best” card, Sapo, the Devourer, was their choice to bear the title. And a fine choice it was!
Sapo is a staple mythic, one of the first ones many prospective yellow players will craft with their wild cards. Along with Golden Axolotl, Sapo is one of the two characters that greet new players when they first log into the game, before they even begin story mode or the tutorial. The devouring Cipactli is an icon of Mythgard. Congratulations to Sapo!
In reality of course, there is no best card. Everyone has their own favorite or favorites. Cards will continue to be added and changed, and peoples’ opinions will change with them. It’s even entirely likely that if the tournament was run again with a different starting seed, it would’ve produced different results. But that doesn’t take away from the value or entertainment of running tournaments like this one. I’m glad I ran the event, and thankful for all the people who showed up to vote.
For now, that’s the note I’m going to end on. In the future I’ll likely do smaller contests to determine the best card in subsequent expansions, so look out for announcements on the game’s subreddit and in the #content channel of its official Discord. The link will be there. I look forward to seeing you.