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Bracket #17: Shapers and the Evils of Common Knowledge

Bracket #17: Shapers and the Evils of Common Knowledge

On Common Knowledge

I hate common knowledge.  There is nothing more disruptive to a competitive environment.

Common knowledge is a piece of information that everyone “knows” to be true, and that everyone also “knows” that everyone else “knows” it to be true.

Of course, sometimes common knowledge actually is true: it’s common knowledge that humans must eat and breathe to survive.  While there have been some to dispute these things for brief periods of time, those “movements” tend to be short-lived… literally.

But all too often, common knowledge is false.  

It was common knowledge in Major League Baseball for decades that proper scouting meant finding “five-tool” players with particularly athletic body types.  If you’ve ever read or seen Moneyball, you know how that turned out.  It was common knowledge in the NFL for decades that defensive linemen were too big and slow to drop into pass coverage, until the Chicago Bears’ Zone Blitz defense in the 1980s starting dominating by doing just that.  It was common knowledge in League of Legends, when Yorick, The Grave Digger first came out, that he was completely worthless in competitive play.  It took months (and a small, and in retrospect unnecessary buff) for the competitive community to finally discover that not only was Yorick not worthless; he was actually brokenly overpowered.

The problem in all of these cases was that the common knowledge stuck around because it was, in fact, common knowledge.  If everyone knows something to be true, and acts on that knowledge, then that knowledge never gets challenged.  None of the top LoL teams used Yorick because they all thought he was weak, and therefore it took a tremendously long time for anyone to experiment enough with him to learn he was capable of dominance.

Why is this a problem?  Because with common knowledge, it becomes impossible to tell if the top LoL teams were successful BECAUSE they avoided Yorick, or if they were successful DESPITE avoiding Yorick.  (The latter turned out to be true.)  In scientific terminology, the existence of common knowledge prevents the development of an adequate control group to which to compare.

As a result, flawed strategies stick around much longer than they should.  MLB teams should have been scouting differently decades ago.  Top competitive LoL players should have discovered Yorick well before they did.  And NFL defensive coordinators should have been trying to find ways to incorporate their lineman into pass defenses decades sooner.

Why do I bring this up now?  Because in the world of SolForge, we are quickly developing our own set of Common Knowledge.  In particular, it is quickly becoming common knowledge that Shaper Decks are the dominant deck design.   More than two-thirds of the decks in each of last weekend’s Constructed tournament played some kind of Shaper card–and in the Unheroic event the percentage was even higher.

So yes, it isn’t surprising that four of the top eight in the Constructed tournament used at least one Shaper card, nor that all eight of the top finishers in the Unheroic tournament did.  If we were to randomly draw winners from the pool of submitted decks, it is very likely that we would have ended up with similar results.  After all, while all of the Unheroic tournaments top players made have played with Shapers, but so did most of those who finished near the bottom.

Which means that we still can’t answer our basic question: were those decks successful BECAUSE of the Shapers, or where they successful DESPITE the Shapers?

I hate common knowledge.

Unheroic Tournament

Okay, so enough with my rant about what we can’t know about the current metagame; let’s try to figure out what we can know.

I’ll start with the Unheroic tournament, which we saw the first of last weekend.  Clearly Shaper decks were the theme.  Otherwise, the winning decks tended to fall into two camps:

Four of the top eight relied primarily on Uterran Growth creatures and buffs (Spring Dryad, Shardplate Delver, Grove Huntress, Enrage, etc.) in tandem with either Alloyin creatures (Alloyin General, Forgeplate Beta, etc.) or Nekrium creatures (Corpse Crawler, Fell Walker, Death Seeker, etc.).  Three others relied primarily on Tempys aggression (Ashurian Mystic, Wind Primordial) and direct damage (Volcanic Giant, Flameshaper Savant, Lightning Spark).  The final deck played a hybrid of the two strategies.

More specifically, here are the Top Eight, in order:

  1. Rootbreaker: Nekrium/Uterra; Growth (with Corpse Crawler)
  2. IkorRn: Alloyin/Uterra; Growth
  3. TheMidnight: Nekrium/Tempys; Agression/Direct Damage
  4. Tristan: Tempys/Uterra; Agression
  5. Justice: Nekrium/Tempys; Aggression/Direct Damage
  6. 2Frisky: Alloyin/Uterra; Growth
  7. SkyAnemone: Nekrium/Uterra; Growth (with Corpse Crawler)
  8. VoodooTurtle: Tempys/Uterra; Growth-Aggression Hybrid

In particular, I will note that Shardplate Delver appeared in only about 40% of all decks, but was in the decks of five of the top eight.  So if you are looking for the card that is most indicative of success in the Unheroic tournament, I wouldn’t start with the Shapers; I would start with Delver.

Constructed Tournament

In the Constructed Tournament, there was a much greater variance of design among the top decks.  The field as a whole leaned Nekrium, although less obviously than in the first Constructed tournament, and Grimgaunt Predator was still one of the most played cards.  This is reflected in the top eight results, where five of the top eight decks relied on at least one kind of Grimgaunt.  But just like the Shapers, this tells us nothing about whether Grimgaunt Predator is actually a strong card; it only tells us that he is widely perceived as being a strong card.

Still, I would like to point out that Raidrinn’s winning deck not only did not play Nekrium (and therefore did not include a Grimgaunt), but it did include Alloyin (easily the least played faction in this tournament).

Here’s the breakdown of the top decks, in order of how they finished:

  • 1st: Raidrinn: A/T; Spell-Heavy with significant Direct Damage and Card Drawing
  • 2nd: Rootbreaker: N/U; Grimgaunts and Shapers
  • 3rd (tie): trumpets: N/U; Grimguants and Phytobomb
  • 3rd (tie): Decurion: N; Grimgaunts and Zombies (Xrath, Dreadknight of Varna)
  • 5th (tie): Snook: N/T; Spell-Heavy with Grimgaunt and Shapers
  • 5th (tie): Mathemagician: N/U; Grimgaunts and Shapers
  • 5th (tie): hans: T/U; Growth with Restless Wanderers
  • 5th (tie): Skies: T/U; Growth

From now on, the plan is for Forgewatch to hold both a Constructed and a Limited Rarity (Unheroic, Common-only, Draft, Sealed Deck, etc.) event every weekend.  The Limited Rarity tournament will be held on Friday; Kit is the primary organizer of these events, and will try to alternate between holding them Friday afternoon and evening (US East Coast time).  The Constructed Tournament will float around during the weekend, and will be hosted by another Forgewatch member.  As always, the latest information on tournaments can be found in this thread.

Finally, please note that we are still experimenting with different tournament formats and rule-sets; if you have any suggestions or have a strong preference for one format over another, please feel free to email

I would also like to congratulate Raidrinn, the winner of the Constructed tournament, and offer a special congratulations to Rootbreaker for winning the Unheroic tournament and finishing second in the Constructed tournament on consecutive days.  And on behalf of Forgewatch, I would like to thank all of those who continue to participate in these events; we work hard to make them as fun and accessible as possible and it is tremendously satisfying to see so many people continue to participate in them.

About mnmike2002

mnmike2002 (aka Mike Edwards) is a writer and blogger. When he's not writing, he's probably either reading (history books or fantasy novels) or playing video games (mostly RPGs). He's published one book so far: Democracy Despite Itself: Why a System that Shouldn't Work at all Works So Well, co-authored with Danny Oppenheimer. He lives in Cambridge, MA with his wife, Sarah.


  1. as much as we hate and deplore common knowledge and the preconception it leads to, it will always be a huge part of any online game.. we are now so used to have everything only a google search away.. though to overthrow the perceived best deck a.k.a. the savant decks one would need to do serious experimentation and by doing that you need time, and you will loose many many times while trying to figure it out, and you might only really put it to the real test in a tournament and then the question will be, are you willing to risk loosing to try something new or will you stay with something that does work? Most people will stay with what they know to work and have good success record, and statistics show that they will mostly continue winning with that deck, but then once in a while there will come someone that spent much time and lost many games, but he was willing to take the risk, and the established meta is overturned in a night, but keep in mind before this guy came there might have been many others that tried and risked and failed…

    currently the stakes are not that hight and people will be more willing to try crazy stuff in the off chance of winning but when real money start getting involved many people will take the safe route, which of course was the case with both your football and baseball examples above.

  2. Great job ripping into Common Knowledge. I love the quote, though I forget the attribution, “If what you believe is common knowledge, you’re usually in the grip of an old idea”.

    One reason Shapers are so popular right now though has probably got to be that they’re Rares and a lot of cards they work best with are commons. It’s an accessible deck to build in a limited cardpool with everyone starting up their collections (especially free accounts).

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