Rearranging the Syllabus

So I posted a description of the class on both the mtgsalvation and wizards forums, to enthusiastic response and great feedback. I just got off the phone with Tom, and we did some rearranging of the syllabus based on feedback from everyone on that topic. Here’s a quick list of some of the people to thank (sorry if I miss you):

tcg_researcher, stsung, zombiefl12, tanishalf, drworm, sacrificial23

So based on that, we rearranged to the following order

  • Week 1 – Overview of topics and the rules of Magic
  • Week 2 – Deckbuilding Basics and “Card Advantage”
  • Week 3 – Game Theory in Multiplayer games
  • Week 4 – Game Design
  • Week 5 – Statistics and Simulation in Deckbuilding
  • Week 6 – Epistemic Logic and Limited
  • Week 7 – Metagame and Applications of Graph Theory
  • Week 8 – Magic-playing Artificial Intelligence
  • Week 9 – Presentations

So a little commentary on the changes is in order as well.

We talked a lot about what we wanted to put in week 2, and we ultimately decided on deckbuilding and card advantage. When we think back to teaching some of our friends, it honestly didn’t take them long to start building their own decks. And that was unguided. Since we’re hoping that students will take us up on open office hours that first week, they should be familiar enough with the game to be ready to at least understand why decks are built as they are and what to look for. Obviously, deckbuilding takes a lot more skill than one can have in week 2, but it makes more sense to lay the ground early then hit harder later.

Card advantage also got lopped in there because we figured that although it’s considered an advanced magic topic, it really isn’t that surprising or rigorous when explained. It doesn’t really fit with any of the academic topics anyways, and works best when talking a little about card selection for deckbuilding.

Game theory and multiplayer is in week 3. We pushed it back a little because of the response, but in the end, we couldn’t see it being in the 2nd half. I think the pull for game theory early is greater than the pull for multiplayer late. The reason why I want these connected is because a lot of game theory deals with cooperative games, and it doesn’t make sense that players should cooperate in a duel (unless they’re trying to draw into the top 8, but whatever). And the reason why it’s in week 3 is because we feel like by this point, in a 10 week quarter, we need to talk about something real.

Week 4 is game design because zendikar is being released on october 2nd, and this class is on the 13th. That gives us  a week and a half to talk about it and read up and put together a presentation on it. We felt like game design could be either 3 or 4, but it goes 4 because game theory is 3 (for the reason above). Although we certainly mean to talk about game design in a larger sense, zendikar at least gives us the grounding in one set so that we can make sense for awhile before explaining the bigger picture.

Week 5 is uninteresting, and week 6 is epistemic logic and limited. When I thought of my examples, a lot dealt with limited formats, and since we moved it out of the first half and away from deckbuilding, we figured it still deserved a lecture slot.

Which means that something had to give, which was metagame. That’s now paired with graph theory. This happened because although tournaments are interesting, they’re not academic. And honestly, my understanding of metagame analysis showed that it maybe wasn’t the same “metagame” that we mean in magic. I think it came up as filler in the original syllabus anyways, so this is a way to put it back in its rightful place.

And AI finishes the course out because it’s my pet lecture that doesn’t really matter for the presentations. That way, we can kill a week on a very academic and very interesting topic that doesn’t really matter. It’s dead week type material.

Comments on the changes?

One Response to “Rearranging the Syllabus”

  1. Kris says:

    For week 5 / week 6, I would suggest a cube draft. People will have knowledge about what cards other people are picking and (in general) have to select their picks accordingly, and there’s not a much better teacher of Epistemic Logic then knowing you opponent has a card in their deck, and weighing their actions vs the probability of them having a specific card in hand.

    Plus nothing teaches deck building faster than seeing someone own you with a card you could have picked but passed up.

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