Who's the Beatdown?

Who's the Beatdown? is an article about strategy in a card game called Magic: The Gathering. It was written in 1999 by Mike Flores, an American Magic player known for his deck construction and theorycrafting. Who's the Beatdown? is one of the most popular Magic articles ever written.

The most common (yet subtle, yet disastrous) mistake I see in tournament Magic is the misassignment of who is the beatdown deck and who is the control deck in a similar deck vs. similar deck matchup. The player who misassigns himself is inevitably the loser.

— Mike Flores, Who's the Beatdown?

Flores argues that in every game of Magic, one player has the beatdown deck, and the other the control deck. The control deck wants to maintain the current state of the game whilst the beatdown deck wants to change it. Knowing which deck you should be playing as is key to winning the match.

Another way this is framed is by asking which player has inevitability. In other words if the game state doesn't change until the end of the game, which player will be the winner? The player with inevitability has the control deck and the other has the beatdown.

Another article, Who’s the Beatdown II: Multitasking, written by Zvi Mowshowitz in 2003, introduces this concept of inevitability. Both articles go on to explain how the concept relates specifically to Magic and go into detail about different card and deck matchups.

I think this concept can be applied to almost any sport or esport. It applies particularly well to esports with a draft mechanic such as League of Legends or Dota 2.

In League of Legends teams take turns banning and picking which characters they will play as in the game. This is similar to deck construction in Magic or Hearthstone in that it sets which role each team will take during the game. For League of Legends, the control team is the team which scales better into the late game. The other team is the beatdown since in order to win the game they will generally need to accumulate a lead and end the game before the opposing team can out scale them.

It is important to remember that roles are assigned with both teams in consideration. It is entirely possible that in League of Legends the exact same team composition can be played as both control and beatdown in separate games, depending on the composition of the opposing team.

The concept also applies to regular sports such as football. Although it is usually a lot more obvious which role each team should assume. Being down 0-5 at halftime is a clear indicator that things need to change drastically in order for the scoreless team to win the game.

You can also apply the concept on a more macro level, before a game even starts. Being the underdog in a matchup usually pushes you towards playing as the beatdown. For example, in football, if last place Norwich City are playing first place Manchester City it may be wise for Norwich to try some new or risky strategies, taking the role of the beatdown right from the beginning of the game.

Knowing which role you should be playing as should act as a framework for all decisions you make during the game.

Made with 💜 in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa. © Jono Davis.