Great podcast, as usual gentlemen. I thoroughly enjoy it every time. You challenged the listeners to talk about a metagame that they enjoyed or thought was balanced.
I often think that people have rose-tinted glasses when remembering formats, and their preference usually comes down to when they played frequently and when they had success. I am guilty of that too.
I particularly loved the 2014/2015 format.
This is a result of playing frequently and also having personal success. That success was likely a result of workshop being underrated by the masses, but it was fun nevertheless. The reason I enjoyed the format so much was that there was (seemingly) a lot of meaningful choice within each archetype.
Workshop players could play 3-4 different version of workshop and hope to top8.
(Martello, Terra Nova, Stax, and the fading Metalworker)
Oath players could play 3-4 different variants of Oath and hope to top8.
Combo players could play 3-4 variants of combo and hope to top8.
(Doomsday, Charbelcher, Steel City Vault, Tendrils)
Blue Players has multiple options as well.
(Big Blue, Delver, Blue Moon, Blightsteel, and even Fish or Standstill)
Now I suspect @Smmenen will tear this notion apart and say there were only a few viable decks (and might be right), but previous to the consolidation of Shops decks, it certainly felt like a wide open field, and people could play a deck they enjoyed, not solely what was optimal. This is an important facet for the contingent of players that are not "Spikes." I think once Ravager was "discovered" and Mentor was printed, the meta got real tight and narrow and you were taking a major penalty not playing Ravager shops or Mentor.
I personally feel this whole period was also right at the advent of MTGO playing a larger role in shaping the Vintage metagame (from 15 person paper tourney once a month to daily results of optimized decks). This too might have contributed to a narrowing of the field. Anyway, that's my perspective.
Other metagames that I enjoyed:
2003-2004- multiple versions of "keeper" were playable, mono black was viable, TNT was awesome, and gro-tog was still developing (memory is fuzzy on this time period).
1999- You mentioned hating the meta immediately pre-Urza, but I loved it. The trinity of Zoo vs MirrorU vs Necro I thought was a great battle, with viable side decks like reanimator, etc on the side. I think a meta like this would get real old in a modern environment, but I found it enjoyable then. But then Urza came along and almost killed Type 1.
Y'all mentioned in passing at the start of the podcast the possibility of the Vintage community maintaining its own B&R list, separate from WotC's own list. Is there any historical precedent for this? Have any major past Vintage tournaments experimented with a custom restricted list?
@smmenen I don't have Twitter so I hope it's OK to do this here: Nezahal, Primal Tide and Merfolk Mistbinder. I guess both were off the radar here on TMD.
Continuing about Star Wars, I find it very odd that people complained that the movie subverts their expectations. Do people really want to see trilogies and trilogies of movies where things are predictable everytime? Is that really what Star Wars fandom is all about? I'm not a SW hardcore fan, so I wouldn't know, but I find it oddly funny. I understood when people complained that EP VII was too much alike EP IV (although the original trilogy has a LOT of repeated plots between the three movies). But complaining that a movie did something different is so... weird to me.
Like, do people REALLY have a problem with Rey's parentage? That was such an awesome moment to me. Force Awakens set things up in a way where you were expected to think that she would be someone's lost daughter and kind of a "chosen one". It's so good that The Last Jedi broke this soap opera expectation and understood that the whole universe story can't be about 1 family feud.
I totally agree with Steve that the movie was coined in a way that we had absolutely no idea what would happen after Kylo and Rey killed Snoke and that's awesome. It even kinda bothered me that after that the movie shifted back to the usual Good vs Evil trope. They give hints that maybe in EP IX this manichaeism will be dismantled and I hope it does.
Also, it makes me roll my eyes when people complain about Luke. It seems fans wanted him to be a fully vanilla badass. When the movie presents a character that's a bit complex (come on, this is Star Wars, things aren't even that complex ever) people complain, even though he's the ultimate badass in the movie. The crowd in my theater was shouting and standing up to clap when he pulled his trick against Kylo. So yeah, I don't get any of the criticism, other than the movie being kinda badly written when you compare it to recent fantasy stuff like GoT - but that also makes me giggle because SW was always this naive, so I kinda thought people liked it exactly for that, or at least in spite of it.
I've heard @Smmenen mention many times on the SMIP podcast that one of his major tenants of Vintage "is keeping the B&R list as small as possible." This comment doesn't seem to be debated much on this forum, so I was curious if most other Vintage players feel the same way? I only ask because I personally have never cared on the length of the B&R list.
I know this type of belief sounds great in concept, but the corollary statement is often "people should be able to play as many of their cards as possible," and I've often thought this to be a little bit of a fantasy in Vintage. Realistically, the average Vintage player will play with <200? 500? 1000? cards. Due to so many cards being absolutely, strictly better, there are "soft caps" on the playability of the average Vintage card. Then factor in that most decks already have 15-20 of their 75 cards fixed before deckbuilding even begins and the available card pool quickly shrinks.
I know this isn't a higher-level debate, but I'm curious if the interest in a B&R "as small as possible" is an abstract concept or a fixed principle (and not necessarily to Steve, but anyone else who agrees)? There are plenty of players that would like to see the B&R cut down much further, so the spectrum on this seems pretty broad. I personally would prefer to see a much larger B&R list if it meant dozens of more decks were viable (but I might be alone in placing a premium on vast meta diversity)
Players who agree with a B&R "as small as possible:"
How steadfast are you in this principle (what's your threshold for un/restriction)?
What are your parameters or your end goal? (where on the scale of B&R brevity vs deck variety do you reside?)
Is B&R brevity even contradictory to deck variety?
Or is it much more simple than this, in that you just think Magic players are horrible at metagame crafting and you'd just prefer a higher standard for restriction and only limit the truly broken cards?
I largely addressed this issue in another thread, so I will simply recapitulate my key points here:
The reason that the difference between a 40 and 50 card Restricted List is not mere fetishism is because those 10 cards, could, in theory, mean 10 more possible viable decks.
I think the most important goal for the DCI is not to maximize a perception or feeling of interactivity, but to maximize the quantity of possible viable decks and promote metagame diversity. That is the prime directive, and anything else, should be subsidiary in my opinion, including complaints about game play. I would prefer to have players make meaningful deck choices than meaningful in-game choices, if confronted with a Hobson's/Sophie's choice like that.
To put it in extreme terms to illustrate the point, as between a Vintage format with one viable deck that is deeply interactive and engaging (a format of Keeper mirrors, say), or a format with many decks, but many of which are largely non-interactive or "outrageous" according to your standards, I would prefer the latter to the former. Meaningful deck choice is the most important choice in the Vintage format.
I prefer a format with outragenous decks like Dredge and Prison and Oath and Show and Tell and Storm to a format where such outrageous decks are excised in the interest of "interactivity."
It follows from those starting principles that desiring a 40 instead of 50 card restricted list isn't fetishism. It's a logical conclusion derived derived from first principles, which seeks more viable deck options for each player.
Now obviously not every restriction renders a deck unviable, but restricting cards like Doomsday or Oath of Druids plucks decks out of the environment that give Vintage flavor and make it interesting. Those strategies rely on 4-ofs, and can't function with a single Oath or Doomsday, since so much of the deck is constructed around it. Restricting those cards renders those decks effectively non-viable.
In summary, a smaller restricted list creates more potential deck design and selection options in the format that is the last home for Magic cards. In addition, I believe that using restriction to stop a dominant deck is the only truly legitimate basis for restriction. Any other ground for restriction is 1) too subjective and subject to bias or, more importantly, 2) has the potential to undermine the more important goal of promoting diversity. That's because if a restriction occurs because of grounds other than stopping a dominant deck, it risks reducing format diversity.
I don't mind considering other factors, such as interactivity, but only in conjunction with dominance/metagame prevalance. I would only use other factors as tie-breaker, and never justify a restriction of a card that wasn't heavily played.
The only thing I didn't say, but wish to add, is the violence and harm done to players when restriction occurs. While most players breathe relief at restriction, we must never forget that someone, somewhere is upset by any given restriction. From a purely utilitarian perspective, this is acceptable - we want to maximize happiness, and that sometimes means making some people unhappy.
But the problem in Vintage is that the player base is organized into factions that are largely, but not entirely, discrete and insular. That is, you have cohorts of Workshop players, cohorts of TX players, cohorts of Dredge players, and so on.
Restriction is a very grave action. Every restriction harms one segment to the benefit of another. If Bazaar were restricted, the Dredge players would cry foul. If Workshop were restricted, the Workshop players would be upset. And so on.
Think of it like a government program or benefit. Restriction is like taking away some resource from one group for the benefit of other groups. When the government does it, people complain that the government is favoring one group or another.
I think there are far too many people who are cavalier about weighing these harms. These are real harms. There are people who literally quit Vintage when their favorite cards are restricted, no matter how necessary those restrictions may be. Someone posted here on these boards that he quit when Lodestone was restricted. There are many reports of people quitting due to the '08 wave restrictions.
If the Vintage player base were organized uniformly, and deck choices weren't formed by years of experience in "Schools of Magic," restriction would look less like one group lobby the DCI to harm another group. But that's what it looks like.
Historically, I have typically been an opponent of most restrictions. I led the movement to stop restricting cards in the early 2000s, when restriction was far too prevalent, and when Keeper players regularly called for restrictions in a way that had the appearance of favoritism, if not the actual reality. Because of my long history with the format, and that community memory, I'm especially sensitive to how different groups feel or regard various restrictions, and the legitimate claims of bias that seep into so many of these debates.
Every call for restriction should not only be evaluated on it's merits, but through a lens of how it divides the player base.
That's one reason that I feel that only the most objectively defensible criteria should be used to support restrictions, and that restrictions should only be used as an absolute last resort. It follows that I feel that the restricted list should be as small as possible in pursuit of the goal of maintaining format diversity. And the DCI agrees, as I quoted above.
On the unrestriction side, I would consider unrestricting any card that has a low risk of generating a dominant deck. Once under consideration, factors such as interactivity may be weighed, but I wouldn't consider them a complete bar.
This is partly why I think that Gush should not have been restricted. With Mentor restricted, the truth is that we simply don't know how prevalant Gush would be. Matt thinks it would be dominant; I'm more much more skeptical. If the restriction of Mentor brought Gush decks to an acceptable level or % of the metagame, then Gush should not also be restricted. But, there may be disagreements exactly what is considered "acceptable." I think that Gush decks, with Mentor restricted, are very unlikely to be more than 30% of Top 8s. If Gush were unrestricted this past Eternal Weekend, I don't believe it would have made a bit of difference to that Top 8.
The restriction of Probe is a complete farce, and unnecessarily wounded already weak decks like DPS.
@chubbyrain Thanks for finding and sharing this! Those are all pretty spicy lists, especally the Geier Reach Sanitarium and Spirit of the Labyrinth soft lock in Oscar's list. Cavern of Souls is my favorite pillar, and I'm glad it hasn't crumbled.
I was surprised that you found Tragic Lesson so interesting; it seems to be that it's a big dud. I listened to you discuss how it bounces lands so it actually loads your hand with 3 cards, and how it has similarities to Thirst for Knowledge and Gush, and all of that. At the end of the day, though, I think you missed the forest for the trees.
The forest is this: Tragic Lesson costs 3, and for that price, you get to replace the card and dig 2 deep into your deck. This is Divination territory in a format where we can draw 3 mana for U.
Yes, you can also bounce your lands to generate mana, save them from wasteland, or simply keep more cards in your hand if you need to do that. But, these are situation-dependent uses.
The only use case that is likely to come up reliably is generating mana. "Right," you say, "and that's a lot of the reason why Gush is so good." Kind of. Gush is also free to cast, so the act of tapping UU and Gushing to replay a land generates mana. With Tragic Lesson, you have to spend 3 to get the ball rolling, so all that a replay does is gives you the option to play it for 1U if you do so at sorcery speed (because it has to be your turn still to get the land drop). Is a card that is situationally a Predict good?
Spending 3 mana to counter a wasteland is generally not a workable solution, since there will be many situations where the mana denial strategy prevents you from ever getting there. I love me some Rack and Ruin, but it sees no play over 1 casting cost removal spells.
And then we come to the comparison to Thirst and Compulsive Research. Thirst at 3 mana digs 3 deep and puts them all in your hand; and then it lets you put an artifact halfway into play by binning it. That's a ton of reliable, non-situational value that is better than Tragic's best case scenario.
This smells more like Research. You trade sorcery speed and 3 cards with discard for instant speed and 2 cards plus shenanigans. And while, as you mention, people tinker with Research, it realistically sees no active play today.
All in all, I think you guys may have gone too deep into this card. It's not a very nice-looking forest.
Thank you both for recording this! I've been trying to find the reason why I am so unenthusiastic about the format lately. I thought it may have been about other reasons, such as my lack of budget to switch archetypes or my daily dose of Vintage being tainted by the vitrol of anonymous users on TMD and Facebook. The fact of the matter is, I don't want to play Mentor or against Mentor. Unfortunately it's the TOs, and not WotC, that count the dollar votes of an angry userbase due to the low percentage of new cards finding a spot in the metagame. While the post-restriction metagame was inspirational, it was solved rather quickly, and decks that I might have been able to play were easily showcased as simply not good enough. I hope the mismanagement of Vintage is just that, and not a WotC tactic to kill support and visibility of a format that most players are priced out of.
I also don't think minislaver will be a thing, but there are a lot of little disruptive applications Hope has that no other card can duplicate. You can attack, sac this and play a threat like Mentor knowing your opponent won't be able to try and deal with it before you untap. That's just huge. You can over-extend with Mentor knowing for sure your opponent won't Supreme Verdict you. You may even tap out for that and don't care.
This is way different than Silence. Silence can help you combo, or pseudo-Time Walk, but this can make you play stuff after the effect knowing for sure they won't be dealt with before you untap. No need to leave Flusterstorm or Drain mana up,
You can also sac this and just pass the turn, knowing you'll win all counter wars and that you'll resolve that Dig uncontested eot.
I think it has a lot of applications. We normally fail to understand novel effects because it's hard to get the nuances without actually playing the card. Hope is not Silence, not at all. Granted, it suffers in a Misstep/StP/Bolt/Null Rod meta, so maybe it's not that splashy (which is a good thing). But dismissing it's effect by saying it's worse than Silence is like saying Dack was just a worse Faithless Looting and that card disadvantage was bad. Remember? A LOT of people dismissed Dack - we actually had long discussions on CA vs card quality and filtering.
Just listened to this the other day and I agree with @CHA1N5 on him not being sure if Emrakul is actually correct in landstill. I find it to be insanely slow, boarded out in more matchups than I'd like, and honestly ONLY good in a late game grind vs blue. But at that point there are other better options that came down a bunch of turns earlier that already started winning me the game. I'll go on the record and say I only think he's OK in landstill. Feels wrong more often than not
I think the time is right for Dredge to sneak in a win. It's flying under the radar right now, which is always when it's at its most dangerous. There's not much combo (it seems like no one plays DPS offline), there's lots of Shops, and the format just feels slow in general. If a good Dredge pilot makes it through the early rounds unscathed by Belcher or one of these glass canon Paradoxical Outcome decks, I think they'll have a great shot. Sideboards at the top tables, based on EE5, will look like: