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At least on Magic: the Gathering questions, which seems to attract the same regular crowd of users, I am starting to see a pattern. A question gets challenged as primarily opinion based, and the author reacts by encapsulating that question inside of an objective one. For example:

Is Card A better than Card B?

... transforms into...

Is there a consensus that Card A is better than Card B?

Sometimes this tactic works, and the question gets reopened. Technically, the question is objectively answerable. I view this as an attempt to squeeze in primarily opinion based questions where they don't belong. Does the rest of the community feel the same way, or do you guys like to see questions transformed like this?

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  • I would say that it is still a primarily opinion based question because based on where you are discussing the question you can still get different answers all depending on play style of the groups in question. – Joe W Mar 19 '15 at 23:14
  • "encapsulating that question inside of an objective one" - when I read this, I think of the transformation "is A better than B?" into "in what situations would A be better than B or vice versa?" which seems a lot more likely to succeed and be received favorably than "is there a consensus..." – Cascabel Mar 24 '15 at 22:14
  • @Jefromi "in what situations [...]" indicates a question that is Too Broad. If I feel like the OP can reasonably narrow down "situations", I'll ask, but when the meat of the question is "is A better than B", I don't expect that the OP will be able to narrow it down in a way that would change my vote. – Rainbolt Mar 24 '15 at 23:07
  • @Rainbolt Situations can be categorized, though. For example, a card might be stronger against decks playing small cheap early creatures. Anyway, the point wasn't to get too much into the detail of the best form there. I'm just saying that your "transformation" is pretty much the worst case, a trivial wrapping of the original question that's hardly a transformation, as opposed to an attempt to actually transform the question into an objective one. (And since we happen to know that we'd prefer an objective form, we should help the OP make it that way, not just say "please narrow it down".) – Cascabel Mar 24 '15 at 23:09
  • @Jefromi Right. My point was that even thought situations can be categorized, I'm not necessarily looking forward to categories of "better than". You see, unlike Pat and yourself, I wouldn't vote to reopen a question just because it said "better against small weenie decks" or "better in a blue control deck". It's still POB to me. – Rainbolt Mar 24 '15 at 23:17
  • And my point was that even though it's possible to change a question into one that's still too subjective or too broad, it's also possible to change it into a good one, so the title here ("morph into objectively answerable questions") doesn't really match what you describe into the body (essentially, morph into another iffy question). – Cascabel Mar 29 '15 at 23:29
  • @Jefromi If I thought that the question could be transformed into a good one while still preserving the original intent, then I probably wouldn't label it primarily opinion based in the first place. Instead, I would make or suggest an edit to change the question's presentation. – Rainbolt Mar 30 '15 at 13:52
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Real questions have answers, not ideas, items or opinions.

Easy to say, but hard to always put into practice as you've noted. A simple "better than" encourages speculation. We don't want that. A good answer will come from the personal experiences of the answerer. Ideally, reading it we should know that they have been there and done that.

My suggestion when faced with a "better than" question is to ask the questioner, "better for what purpose?" and "Why do you want to know?"

A fleshed out question that I would consider valid is:

I'm running a variant of deck X and I'm having trouble with deck Y usually I get (weenie rushed, milled, whatever).

What strategies should I use against this deck? Are there cards I could add to my sideboard?

It's really the same question, just with solid details. These details should encourage people with similar experiences to give great answers. We want these types of answers on the site.

Practical answerable questions based on actual problems

We want to connect experts with people with actual problems, thats why I mentioned "Why do you want to know?" above.

Consider a simple question:

"What is the best blue flier?"

I could see this question coming from a new member of the site. They don't know any better, it's not their fault that StackExchange sites are not really forums. They look similar and the new person wants to fit in, participate and get a discussion started.

Our job is to politely query them to try to determine which of the below two situations the questioner identifies most closely with.

1 - Your buddy, who doesn't play much MtG but loves to talk about it. Recently he was on his couch thinking, "Blue is the best color, so many cool fliers. I wonder what the best one is?"

This person doesn't have a real problem. He just wants to talk. Let's sent him on to a forum.

2 - The serious player. She's been trying out a new deck for a couple weeks, took it to her local store. She did OK, but got crushed by certain decks. She thinks a blue flier might help.

This person has a real problem. Let's help her!

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  • I don't like the example. "What strategies should I use?" is really broad. "What cards could I add to my sideboard?" tends to change with every single release. I would still vote to close this. – Rainbolt Mar 24 '15 at 14:43
  • I wanted to reverse my downvote and cast an upvote, so I made some minor grammatical edits. I was tunnel visioned on the example that I didn't like, and now I've realized that the answer contains very good advice on how to approach the questioner. We all know by now that I need more help than most people on approaching questions tactfully. – Rainbolt Mar 24 '15 at 14:50
  • @Rainbolt - Its a fair question but I think it is OK if answers won't always stand the test of time. In my head, I'm picturing a three paragraph answer by someone with a couple Pro-Tours under their belt. Even a couple years later people should be able to absorb knowledge by reading their answer and seeing the thought process in action even if the cards in question might not be perfect (or even legal) anymore. Meanwhile, s/he gave solid advice to someone that was struggling with the question. – Pat Ludwig Mar 24 '15 at 19:54
  • Huge +1 for "Our job is to politely query..." One of the things I hate most is seeing a vague question closed with unhelpful "this is wrong" style comments that tend to upset the OP, when we could've asked a couple questions (or even just edited ourselves!) and turned it into a good question. – Cascabel Mar 24 '15 at 22:10
  • @Jefromi - Thanks, I looked but didn't see any recent examples. I know I've seen some in the past that were not ideal. Regardless of what folks give us, I'd love to see our initial interaction with them to be very positive. I urge folks to use their votes freely, but comments should be respectful and few. I'd rather see a comment upvoted that wasn't perfect rather than five different comments saying some version of "your question is not awesome" – Pat Ludwig Mar 24 '15 at 23:03
  • Sorry, I wasn't trying to talk about a specific case, just the general idea. I don't think there's anything you need to rush out and save! – Cascabel Mar 24 '15 at 23:06
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Personally I think it is still primarily opinion based for a couple of reasons.

  1. How do you decide what the consensus is? You can visit different communities and they can not only give you different opinion's on which card is better but they can give you different reasons why one card is better then the other. A lot comes done to play style and experience. If one group has figured out a trick to get more use from a card they will likely value it higher then a group that hasn't.
  2. Personal play style and deck construction. This plays a lot into the value of a card. If a card fits into the overall style and construction of your deck you are going to place more value on it then if it doesn't. Which means that if Card A fits into your deck better then card B it doesn't matter that others think more highly of Card B.
  3. Expansions, while I know that answers will get out of date when expansions and rules change the simple fact that a cards value can change drastically with each expansion. Cards can get better as new combos get introduced or get worse as cards leave the legal sets or as rules change.
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