On Expanding What You Are Tracking in Your Head


I recently read and have been thinking about johnswentworth’s What Are You Tracking In Your Head?. As is often the case with work I see from this sphere it offers an interesting frame and in hindsight feels obviously correct. The applications to Magic specifically are very interesting to me in that while I often feel that improving at Magic is an intractable process not far removed from your bashing your head against a brick wall, this frame seems to offer a plausible object level method for doing so by consciously working to expand what you are tracking when playing.

A good example of this is a Modern match of 4C against UR that I played recently where I was motivated to keep a generally strong hand that is soft to Ragavan by the fact that my opponent was slow to keep a seven. These sort of timing driven tells are something I have been tracking for a long time that I believe many people are not. I don’t believe the equity to be generated by this specific pattern to be hugely meaningful and plausibly the mental capacity expended to identify would be better expended elsewhere but I am not sure if I could generate another example from personal experience. This potentially serves to explain my win-rate being what it is.

Having said, I have a few other data points to back up this theory. The first and weakest is that it aligns with my model of what being a good Magic player is. I have previously said that “I truly do believe that the tightness of fit between these weights[weights being used to parse granular inputs] of yours and reality is the best predictor for finding success in Magic” and expanding the data set being parsed would likely offer much greater equity than further optimizing weights on an existing data set. Beyond that, when I had at one point in the past seen a Twitter post asking where people believed their edge to come from, the overwhelmingly common response was maintaining a persistent plan of action during games. In a similar vein but with a smaller n, I have seen a number of cases of players I believe to be good tracking their opponents hands with far greater fidelity than I am capable of.

I will aim to investigate the extent to which this approach is tractable and/or rewarding.