I hear a surprising number of of players, of late, complaining that they are unhappy with Vintage of late, that the metagame is stagnant, that PO decks are too fast, or any other number of complaints.
I look at the format, and I see a really healthy, diverse metagame. I discussed this in my article here and our [recent podcast](link url).
If you think that Vintage is so bad right now, can you please tell me when exactly you felt that Vintage was so much better than it was now?
I'm genuinely curious. Be specific. Give me dates.
Breaking up Vintage into 8 different periods since Khans of Tarkir was released in October, 2014, demarcated by major new printings and by restrictions, I'd love for someone to tell me which period they felt was actually better. Let's look back:
- Was it from October, 2014 to January, 2015? If so, that's hard to imagine. Treasure Cruise dominated the format and was promptly restricted.
Anyone saying that they loved this format has to answer the question: why did Treasure Cruise need to be restricted, then?
Was it January, 2015 until Sept 28, 2015? I remember this period well. We had a big NYSE and season 2 and 3 of the VSL. If this period was so great, then why were TWO cards restricted at the end of it, including Chalice of the Void and Dig Through Time? All I heard were incessant complaining that led to the restriction of both. If anything, Dig Through Time was even better than Treasure Cruise.
Was it Sept 28, 2015 until April 4, 2016? I remember good things about this format. It wasn't that bad. But if it was truly so much better than now, then why did it culminate in the restriction of Lodestone Golem? If that metagame was really so great, then surely LSG didn't have to be restricted.
OK OK - All of those periods resulted in a restriction. But what about the period of April 4, 2016, until Kaladesh was printed at the end of September, 2016? Maybe April 4-Sept 30, was a better period?
If that was really so great, then why was that the period in which players complained the most about Gush? There were more angry posts about Gush than almost any other time. Also, the metagame breakdown had Gush at 35% of Top 8s - which was almost as high as Treasure Cruise was before it got whacked.
Well, what about the period from Kaladesh until April, 2017? That metagame was probably better than the summer before it, as PO was released, but players were not all happy about Walking Ballista in that period. And, in any case, it ended with the restriction of Gush AND Gitaxian Probe on April 24th. So, it's really hard to make the case that that metagame was any better.
Ok, but didn't things settle after the restriction of Gush? Wasn't April 24-August 28, 2017 any better?
Not by a long shot. That summer, Shops and Mentor decks put on such a performance, that at the end of August, the DCI restricted BOTH Mentor and Thorn. That was one of the statistically worst metagames we've ever had. Shops were 40% of Top 8s in the Vintage Challenges.
Did things improve after that? Not unless you think that a vintage championship top 8 that was 5 Shop decks and 3 Oath decks was an improvement.
In contrast, from January to June 30, this year, the Vintage Challenge results had this Top 8 metagame:
17% TX (Mentor and Delver)
That's the most statistically balanced metagame Vintage has had, at least, since the Summer of 2014.
For people going so far as to even "boycott" the format right now, I just have to wonder how this format is any worse than any other instantiation of vintage we've experienced since 2014.
In fact, instead of apologize for the format. It's miles better than it's been in many years. Is it perfect? No. The SCG P9 tournament still had too many Shops in the Top 8 for my taste. But the format is by any known statistical measure, much more diverse than its been in years. Hell, we just had Survival win the most recent major Vintage tournament.
Vintage is still the deepest, and most strategically intricate format in Magic, and this is frankly one of the better Vintage formats we've had. Is it perfect? Of course not. Very few Vintage metagames have been. But it's far better than most.
PO is not nearly as dominant as its critics suggest. It's won only one of the four 100+ player paper Vintage tournaments held this year so far. And it's only been the best performing deck on MTGO for one month this year, as measured by Top 8 appearances (February). It's usually the 3rd or 2nd best performing deck.
I won two leagues over the labor day weekend, and even went on a 14 match win streak (which Hiromichi Ito unkindly snapped), playing neither Shops nor PO. The Leagues are well populated with 110 ish players last I checked, and the challenges are still regularly getting 50-65 players, which is where they've been for a year now.
There have been lots of wretched Vintage metagames in the last 5 years. This isn't one of them.
Vintage is actually pretty great right now, and I'm psyched for Eternal Weekend.