Conspiracy Unraveler | Murders at Karlov Manor | Art by Wayne Reynolds
27, May, 24

MTG Players Discover Secret Matchmaking Code!

Article at a Glance

There’s an element of mystery inherent in all digital card games. While most claim true fairness, or to operate on systems designed to ensure it, rarely are said systems exposed to the player base. Or at least, not by the developers themselves. Over the last couple of days, a bizarre error in MTG Arena has spurred an investigation into the Brawl MMR system.

The results of this investigation are remarkable. Not only have players discovered a weighting system that governs every card in the format, but they’ve worked out how said weighting affects your matchups, too. This is big news for the Brawl community, and it could have ramifications for MTG Arena in general going forward.

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Weight Of The World

Bearer of the Heavens | Journey Into Nyx | Art by Ryan Alexander Lee

So how did this all begin? Well it started, as many great MTG stories do, with a janky deck list. A user called lieyanqzu attempted to take an unusual Roalesk, Prime Specimen list into battle in Brawl. The list was posted by thisnotfor back in February, and involves using Treasure Hunt and Splendid Reclamation to amass a huge number of lands, then flip Roalesk and conjure a game-ending threat, such as Emrakul, the Promised End.

Treasure Hunt combos are nothing new, but this list was fairly novel for Brawl. When lieyangzu attempted to queue up with it, though, they received a strange error message. It read “Invalid Deck. Deck validation failed.” Confused, they checked their game log and discovered a curious line of code: “errorType: DeckWeightTooLow.” This confirmed two things: that MTG Arena calculates a ‘weight’ value for Brawl decks to determine their power level, and that said value plays a part in the matchmaking process.

Once this information came to light, the floodgates well and truly opened. Players began experimenting with different combinations of cards, attempting to calculate the weighting of each one. The Roalesk deck that started it all was unusual in that it played 96 Basic lands and only four ‘real’ cards, hence the very low weighting. Every card in the format has its own weight, though, and players were keen to figure them all out.

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Masters Of Manipulation

Mass Manipulation | Ravnica Allegiance | Art by Anthony Palumbo

You can see the evidence of this plainly in the last few days of posts on the r/MagicArena subreddit. There are memes around the surprisingly high weighting of cards like Zenith Flare. There are entire discussions on which cards are weighted too highly for the power they offer. In typical Magic player fashion, the community is starting to build a metagame out of deck weighting, calculating the optimal builds that pack a lot of power while still coming in at a reasonable overall weight.

To this end, players have started compiling tools. Deck weight calculators have sprung up across multiple Reddit posts, aiming to catalog every card’s weight and give each deck an overall value. The goal? To create decks that perform well, but don’t get matched into what Brawl players not-so-affectionately call the ‘Hell Queue.’

As mentioned above, deck weighting is used in the Brawl matchmaking process. It factors into a player’s MMR, or Matchmaking Rating, alongside other factors such as win rate, etc. This is a complicated system, and we still don’t know all the details yet. On a basic level, though, the higher your deck’s weighting, the better the opponents, and decks, you’ll be matched against.

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What Is The Hell Queue?


According to early calculations, a total deck weight of 2000 or more will greatly increase your chances of being matched in the ‘Hell Queue.’ This is an informal term for a group of Brawl Commanders the community considers overpowered. The exact contents of this queue vary from person to person, but typically Rusko, Clockmaker, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Golos, Tireless Pilgrim make the cut.

Looking at the data gathered by the community so far, this does ring true. Both Rusko and Ragavan have a weight of 1800, the highest available. Golos has a weight of 1440, the next tier down. They’re some of the weightiest Commanders out there. Therefore, you’ll only be matched against them if your deck packs a similar weight.

These high values only really apply if you use one of the ‘Hell Queue’ members as your Commander. A card carries a lot more weight as your Commander than it does in the 99, after all. That said, they’re still useful to bear in mind during deck construction, since a few smart cuts can help you avoid the top tier of opponents.

Of course, this isn’t how the system is supposed to function. Players aren’t supposed to have the information they do now, much less work with it to optimize their lists. The fallout of these developments could be a new Brawl meta that feels worse than the last one. A meta where powerful decks are able to match against much less powerful ones, on account of some shrewd weight budgeting.

Players are predicting a change to the Brawl MMR system in response to these discoveries. Given how different the format feels now that the genie is out of the bottle, that’s probably a good thing.

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