How to "program" paperstrips

by wickeddarkman on 25 August 2020

Main Deck (60 cards)

Sideboard (18 cards)

Sorceries (3)

Artifacts (6)

Submit a list of cards below to bulk import them all into your sideboard. Post one card per line using a format like "4x Birds of Paradise" or "1 Blaze", you can even enter just the card name by itself like "Wrath of God" for single cards.

Deck Description

The above deck was designed by evolution through the use of my "paperstrip method" where paperstrips become a statistical tool to find out what cards perform the worst within the deck.

Those are removed and new cards are selected to enter this survival of the fittest system.

I've covered how I use the strips in past posts, but it is rare that I reveal just how detailed paper stripping can get.

The simple process of slipping a paper inside a sleeve in front of a magic card, can do irreversible damage when done extensively...

Usually paperstrips are divided into a cut and a keep section, but from time to time some cards are harder to evaluate than others and I use the paperstrips to gain even more data on those cards in order to evaluate them fairly.

How do you truly evaluate a magic card ?
Most of the time when you draw a card, it is probably one out of several copies.
I started using paperstrips because I wanted to know how much impact a single extra raging goblin did (R. 1/1 haste) I played 4 in my deck at the time and I wanted to know exactly what would change if I cut 1 to play another card.

Figuring out how much damage an individual goblin in a deck with 4 would deal meant I had to track that goblin. I could have marked it with a pen, but I only had a play set of these so I didn't want to mark it physically. So instead I put a small strip of paper in front of the card. I was ready to collect data on the goblin.

Later I learned that the fate of individual cards are often tied together.
The first raging goblin I cast, would die, and since the opponent had 7 cards in hand it often died very fast. This lead to the demand of tracking multiple cards at the same time, keeping track of which goblin was cast first, how much damage it managed to deal, and how much damage the second, third and fourth goblin would deal.

I learned that each individual card in the deck had an individual impact on the game.
This also meant that by tracking 4 raging goblins I would also be able to get some very specific data on how much damage it dealt on an average. I've long since forgotten what the result was, so let's take another example.

Merfolk secretkeeper // venture deeper:
In my stream of thought mill I've recently tracked the behaviour of 3 of these cards.
In 40 games against 4 different decks (10 games against each) I would cast a card 23 times as a venture deeper. In 12 of these events I also played the card from exile as merfolk secretkeeper. A total of three times a card was cast only as a merfolk secretkeeper. This means that at least one of those cards were cast every second game and that in every 4th game one of the cards were cast as both halves of the card. I also know the exact behaviour of each cards against each of the 4 decktypes.
So how did I construct the paperstrip to gather this data?

The first generations:
I started out with a classic keep/cut layout of each card.
At the top was the title of the card and its priority letter.
I label the cards after the priority in which I intend to cast them. I label them a, b, c and d. A is always cast first if I have several of the cards in hand and d is always the last to be cast. This allows me to see different behaviour from them all.
If a card was cast during the game it got a mark in the keep section of the card, and if it wasn't cast it got marked cut. This often means that priority c and d get very few points and often get more Mark's with cut. That way I know exactly how many copies of the cards that it pays out to play with.

The later generations:
As soon as I knew how many of the cards I would be playing with, I wanted to know more about the effect of individual cards on the deck. How often was it used as venture deeper, and how many times as merfolk secretkeeper. I split the paperstrip in two halves, venture deeper and merfolk secretkeeper. For a while I measured the cards like that, but then realised that I wanted to track how many times a card was cast as venture deeper, how many times I then cast it as merfolk secretkeeper from exile and how many times I cast the card as just merfolk secretkeeper. I also wanted to know the answer to this against each of the 4 testdecks I was testing against.

The venture, venture +, merfolk strip:
Cut out a piece of paper so it fits into a card sleeve in front of a card.
At the top of that paper create a margin line. Do the same with the left of the strip.
At the corner where these two lines meet there is now a small square. This is where I usually write the priority letter.
From top to bottom, draw two lines that split the strip within the margins into three equally large sections. This will make three small rooms at the top margin. Write VD in one, VD+ in the second and write MO in the last. This stands for venture deeper, venture deeper + and merfolk only.
Now make 3 lines from left to right that divides the strip into 4 new sections, creating a total of 12 rooms and that divides the left margin in 4 small rooms as well.
In each of these small vertical rooms write down one of the 4 decknames.

That's my current paperstrip design to track merfolk secretkeeper // venture deeper.
In past times I've kept track of games against as many as 20 decks by using the front AND back of the paperstrip.

If you use those plastic sheets to collect cards within you can store the data of an entire deck in one sheet. This data can later be refined in many ways, creating permanent data on how each card behaves.

Once you find ways to abuse that kind of data it will change the way you look at your decks.

The cards that needs advanced analysis are often the most difficult to "program"
I often write additional texts on some strips as a reminder of cards that have synergy with it.

Some cards will take truly radical means to collect data on, but the more cards you track simultaneously, the better the data.

I keep track of the effect of stream of thought by using very small strips. One strip is the origin strip, placed on the stream of thought I used to reshuffle the cards. The reshuffled cards each get a small strip to mark which stream of thought they were reshuffled by. This is how I know that I get to play a reshuffled card in 1 out of 5 games with my 3 stream of thought. It demands that I constantly remove small strips after games, but I get knowledge in exchange of this trouble.

In my tests of my 7th generation of mill I will be testing 3 compelling argument, and I'll be able to see if they increase the rate at which I recast cards reshuffled with stream of thought. Over a period of time I can then analyse just how many draw cards it will take to replay a reshuffled card EACH game.

Deck Tags

  • paperstrips

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Card Legality

  • Not Legal in Standard
  • Legal in Modern
  • Legal in Vintage
  • Legal in Legacy

Deck discussion for How to "program" paperstrips

I actually use the a-e method, although for certain decks (like my elemental deck) I used high and low, and this is pretty impressive commitment

Posted 26 August 2020 at 00:54


Thank you, I do my best :)
This is also why I use an archive file on every card.
The data gained makes it easy for me to get things on my backbone.
Take the burn project I opened a while ago, remembering that pithing needle can lock down griselbrands carddraw is vital. It gives you one more turn to win before they go lifegain on you. I only remember that because of the past with the cards. Beating a god like klythos with dismember is also a backbone reaction.

All of this knowledge from the past could have been spent on shaping the meta by giving people a hint, once in a while, but that doesn't work in here because so few listen.

We all know the phrase:
If you don't know the past you are doomed to repeat It.
This counts especially in magic.

All that I currently work from is based on 2018 knowledge, and it works, because people forgot about it :)
Ironically I have to dig in old archives to understand why the future looks as it does, so I too is doomed to relive the past because I never was part of it.

Posted 30 August 2020 at 18:21