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.
The entire point of the Vintage format is that it's the last place to play all of your cards, and to the maximum extent possible. This isn't just my view of the format. The DCI said this several times: Regarding the Restricted List, "we'll keep looking for things to take off the lists with the goal of having them be as short as possible."
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.