Defence in the BattledomeElise Kozler
In the world of finance, the way investors make money is to consistently find stocks and bonds that are worth more than the market has determined. In the early 1980’s junk bonds could be bought for less than they were actually worth. This was true not because they actually made less money than blue chip bonds (in fact, they made more), but prevailing wisdom said that blue chip bonds were a smarter investment. People who traded in junk bonds were looked down upon; all the while raking in ridiculous profits the blue chippers never could dream of attaining. The ironic twist to this story is that after people realized junk bonds were profitable, demand surged to overvalue them and make them just as unprofitable as blue chip bonds. The key then was getting in front of the wave, and realizing that there was a value to the junk bonds while other people still didn’t want them. Only by realizing that some commodity is undervalued do you truly profit.
Right now, the Neopian Battledome, and the market for its weapons, resembles the bond market of the 1980’s: people are consistently overvaluing one type of weapon and undervaluing another. Forever, the focus has been on how many icons (and to some extent the types of icons) that a weapon deals out, and those icons determine that weapon’s market price. Recently some work by sirhatter has changed that focus slightly to incorporate fractional icons into the way people look at weapons, and that focus has marginally changed the demand for certain weapons and affected their price. For example, a year ago you’d see many users trumpeting around the Pink Poogle Toy forums boasting about how great their Sinsis Swords were. After sirhatter revealed the sword to be a real fractional icon whore those boasts are relatively rare. However, one trait of weapons, defense, is still undervalued by the market and people who are trying to create an effective battle set on a budget can profit now just like the bond traders who jumped on junk bonds early did.
In Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane, reveals that he is able to build a team that wins more games in the regular season than almost every team in the league (all except the Atlanta Braves) despite operating on one of the smallest budgets to pay players with by acquiring players who have skills that are undervalued by the market and ignoring players with skills that are overvalued. In particular the ability to draw walks is undervalued by the rest of the league because they are looking at a player’s batting average in determining how good he is at offense. Of course, the result of a base hit is the same as drawing a walk: the player gets on first base. But because it is cheaper to hire a player with a slightly lower batting average that can draw more walks, Billy Beane is able to build a winning team on a lower budget. This approach reveals Beane’s greatest strength: he looks at the same game as every other manager differently by generating the same outcome using a different process.
Just like Beane, the opportunity for battledomers exists to fundamentally alter the way a battle is fought through their choice of weapon selection and ultimately strategy. Because the focus is currently on the number of icons a weapon deals out by itself, the demand for those weapons shape the way people think about the game. Most users attempt to win by attempting to reduce their opponent’s hp to zero, and while this is required to win it’s also necessary to keep your hp above zero. Sometimes instead of playing to win, you need to play not to lose.
Weapons that reward this win-seeking behavior, like the portable kiln with its 11 fire icons, are greatly sought after while weapons that decrease the likelihood of a loss, like the mask of coltzan with 8 fire icons, are largely ignored. The relative demand of these weapons greatly affects the price they are purchased at. Because the kiln is highly sought after it often sells for 3 million neopoints, or only 5% off of its hidden tower price. In contrast the mask of coltzan can be had for a price of 3.3 million neopoints, or 10.8% off of its hidden tower price. This in spite of the fact that in actuality the mask is more effective than the kiln in most battles and in an efficient market would sell for much closer to its 3.7 million np retail price. The market inefficiency seen above is because battledomers are like most baseball executives in that they undervalue the ability to prevent damage just like baseball executives undervalue the ability to draw a walk. After all, if the point is to have your hp longer than your opponent does then anything that preserves your hp is just as valuable as something that takes your opponent’s away. The smart battledomer will exploit this mistake in perception just like Billy Beane.
Take for example the following comparison between the kiln and the mask of coltzan:
Cost: 3 million nps
Attributes: 11 fire icons dealt
Net icons (will explain later): 11 icons
Cost per net icon: 272,727 np
Mask of Coltzan
Cost: 3.3 million nps
Attributes: 8 fire icons dealt. 5 earth and 6 dark defended
Net icons: 8-19
Cost per net icon: 173,684 – 412,500 np
Net icons is the battledome’s answer to baseball’s on-base percentage. On-base percentage measures exactly what the name would suggest, the likelihood that a player will reach base. This moots out the difference between getting on base by hitting a ball or walking, both will be measured equally by on-base percentage. Similarly using net icons moots out the difference between damage dealt and damage prevented. In this way, net icons are a better measure of a weapon’s worth than a weapons offensive capacity.
Realistically the masks icons come in sets, much like the sword of the air faeries icons come in sets. The Mask has four possibilities in how many net icons in can generate: 8, 13, 14, and 19 with a median of 13.5, well above the kiln’s median of 11. So when looking at the mask’s averages we need to remember that the defense comes in sets and depends upon your opponent’s weapon choice. This is important to remember because it illuminates how a variable net icon weapon like the mask can be predictable in a way that a variable icon offense weapon, like the fire and ice blade, isn’t. The Fire and Ice blade is a crapshoot, you can come to the idb and get a rough idea of what the probability different icon distributions will be, but in the actual fight you have no control over the outcome. The Mask of Coltzan is different in that you can tell if your opponent is using the weapons that make it do more net icons. For example, if your opponent is using a spider on a string you know that your 5 earth icons are going to kick in and the mask will generate 13 icons every time. That reliability is nice when determining in-round strategy.
More importantly, the Mask is good because of the types of icons that it blocks. Dark and Earth are easily the two most common types of icons used by today’s battledomers. Most mid-range to above-average battlers will be seen packing around mystery fruit bowls, dark battle ducks, melting mirrors, werelupe claws, zaptwigs, spiders on a string, honey potions, dusty magic brooms (another fine defensive weapon), swords of skardsden, carrotblades, and air faerie crowns. The common thread in all of those weapons is that they deal out either dark or earth damage, which is what the mask blocks. Thus in most mid-level fights you can determine early on what amount of damage your opponent will do. The results are both staggering and surprising. In a survey of 35 quickfight challenges I did fighting opponents between the 55 strength boost and 125 defense boost the mask of coltzan was so useful that it averaged 14.7 net icons. The defense came through so often that it was often the best weapon in my lineup despite the fact that I employ two weapons that do more offensive icons. Furthermore, it turns out that 14.7 icons is an absolute bargain for the price that I paid.
What would a weapon that dealt out 14.7 icons in damage on average cost you? Well, we don’t really know because no weapons that average that exact amount exist. What we can see however is how much weapons in that range cost and compare them to the mask for their cost. At quick glance we can see that the Asparachucks deals out 14 icons and costs over 7 million np. Basically this means that you’re paying 500,000np for every icon of production. By contrast, averaging 14.7 icons for 3.3 million np incurs a cost of 224,490np, less than half of the per icon cost. Even a more popular and cost efficient like the werelupe claw compares unfavorably with the mask’s efficiency. At a price tag of 7.9 million and averaging 15.85 icons it costs roughly 498,422 for every icon of damage.
This shows the real power of choosing weapons that have defensive abilities to add to their net icons. Many people have observed that the cost of a weapon per icon goes up exponentially as the number of icons increases, but you’re able to get around that by getting weapons with a high net iconage. Many people on the message boards have argued that getting weapons with defense costs too much in comparison to simply getting a better weapon, but on this point the doctrine of net icons sorely disagrees. For instance one may be tempted to get a cheap 9 icon weapon like the mystery fruit bowl (which at 133,333 per icon is quite a steal), rather than a dusty magic broom. The dusty magic broom is a weapon that can be bought for about 1.3 million and deals 8 icons (5 earth, 3 air. Perfect for use against sink) and also defends 5 light icons. Lets say that your opponent uses light based attacks only 33% of the time that you use your dusty magic broom. In reality it will probably be more often than this because you’ll use it more often when you see your opponent using a pumpkin stick or a zapatron, but for the sake of argument we’ll assume the low end. In this situation the dusty magic broom has an average of 9.57 net icons and a price per icon of 135,841np. Rather than paying a lot for that extra .57 icons you’re paying very little on a per icon basis.
Needless to say, the net icon approach should fundamentally change the way that you look at weapon choice just like Billy Beane’s approach to walks should have changed the behavior of every other GM in the league. However, flying in the face of conventional wisdom isn’t something that has come easy in baseball and likely won’t in the battledome either. However, like Beane you should be willing to capitalize on the market failure presented in the current neopian economy and grab these great defensive items for a fraction of the cost of what a similar weapon would cost that is purely offensive. Remember, if you think in net icons suddenly lots more weapons are valuable. Go be greedy and exploit the weakness of other player’s weapon choices, it’s certainly been working for me thus far.