SMIP Podcast #64: Amonkhet Preview, Eternal Weekend Europe and a Restricted Mentor

  • @ChubbyRain said in SMIP Podcast #64: Amonkhet Preview, Eternal Weekend Europe and a Restricted Mentor:

    @Smmenen ...Remind me never to use absolutes in a conversation with a lawyer...

    Steve, I've been on the re-restrict Gush line for years, since the Delve spells were printed. It wasn't a position I adopted haphazardly: while trying to beat Gush and Shops (later Eldrazi), I realized that the measures I would take to address one - running more expansive manabases, flexible counterspells, etc. - were directly opposed to those the measures I would take to address the other - in essence, the format was polarized between Gush and Thorn decks with no common ground for other decks to exploit. I've had numerous conversations with people at events and on Facebook on this point. The effect of this polarization is that it limits diversity to the point where other Blue draw engines are not viable - they have fundamental flaws against a third of the field that cannot be overcome through deckbuilding choices. It's why I've been arguing that a Mentor restriction won't undo the dynamics of the Vintage Metagame.

    As for using the word "always", the meaning I was going for was that "My argument has always been based on the premise that Shops and Gush fundamentally push the format in two contradictory directions". It wasn't what I typed, but it was what I meant and I regret that I didn't reread my sentence and interpret it literally. It's a learning impediment - an expressive language disorder - that I've been dealing with since kindergarten. It still comes up in Magic events - I've lost several games because I said the exact opposite of what I meant, including losing out on a Mox Jet at Calvin's Invitational by saying I was using colorless instead of Blue mana.

    Here's what I dont understand about your argument Chubby and where I think you are simply making a leap in logic that doesn't exist. I'm going to lay this out to make sure I am understanding your position correctly.

    You believe gush and shops are the 2 main decks to beat in the meta game right now (agree, btw)
    You believe they work on different axis and making a deck that deals with 1 generally precludes dealing with the other (agree)
    You believe that restricting gush will open up options in U to give more deck choices to builders (not so sure I agree here)

    Do I have those 3 points right? Assuming so here's what I dont get:

    You've laid out that there are 2 pillars that have a good tension between each other and your idea to 'fix the problem' (which many disagree if there even is a problem) is to knock out 1 pillar and leave the other standing.

    What do you think will happen to Shop decks after gush is restricted? What do you think U will do to replace gush (at this point probably go to PO)? What other decks do you see emerging? I'm here with an open mind to your idea. But this is the leap in the logic I'm having hard time crossing. So convince me. Here's your chance to get somebody on your side.

  • The more I think about it, the more I am able to convince myself (which may be a good, or a bad thing): Chalice of the Void feels like it could have been the lynchpin to a good amount of the current discussions around a B&R update.

    In the September 2015 B&R Update:

    Workshop decks have become more and more popular. However, too many games are effectively decided by the first player's first turn. A major problem is that a turn-one Chalice of the Void for 0 deprives the opponent an opportunity to put Moxen on the battlefield. While players can adapt by not playing Moxen, the point of the format is to provide a place to play those cards. Chalice of the Void is restricted.

    Since then Gush has seen a resurgence. I am going to suggest that the resurgence is driven by a glut of CMC1 spells:

    Other CMC1 spells are now seeing less play, including:

    Outside of Paradoxical Outcome decks, moxen usage feels like it has dropped, with many decks electing to not play a full compliment of moxen.

    Since that B&R update, Eldrazi-based decks have cannibalised a portion of Workshop decks.

    Applying these two points to the justification for restricting chalice, makes me question whether the restriction is still needed.

    My hypothesis: *un-restricting Chalice of the Void would force Monastery Mentor - based decks to have a higher mana curve, to allow them to beat chalice on 1. Whilst not blocking mentor as a win condition, it does slow it down significantly (cantrips can be cast to grow mentor, but they are countered). The increase in the mana curve does not play nice with gush. This will cause a drop in the performance of mentor-base decks, and open space for other types of decks to emerge. That is: alleviating the need for alternate restrictions such as mentor, gush, probe, preordain, and misstep.

    Historically, chalice is most often played on 0 and 1. Every now and then, it is played on 2, or another number. Decks that are likely to use it include Thorn of Amethyst and Sphere of Resistance -based decks, which roughly translates to Eldrazi, and Workshops.

  • Good riddance to Chalice.

  • @rbartlet I'm all for unrestricting Chalice of the Void, and I was one of the biggest ones FOR it originally.

    Often times, the theory is different than the practice. I feel this is one of those times.

  • I love Chalices design and making my opponent miserable, but I'm not certain it makes for interesting games (produces non-games and makes mulligan decisions basically coin flips) or a compelling deck building experience (an auto include in certain archetypes). These are the two prime reasons I think Mental Misstep needs to go. Derpy game play (derrr I had more den you!) and a restricted deck building experience that reduces the already shrunken (the restricted list) deck building space.

  • One thing that I always note about @Smmenen is that I've never heard him take off his lawyer goggles for any discussion. It makes these discussions really engaging because of the commitment to being right and the technical nature of the arguments.

    I need to just start taking notes while listening so that I can rebut what I want to in a style that he would appreciate - often I see arguments occur where @Smmenen wins just through technical debate tactics and word count, even if the other party had a good point. And he does an excellent job of coming to any discussion armed with concrete examples to pull from rather than heuristics and experience based statements without dates, times, and third party verified sources.

    All that to say, I really appreciate Kevin the more SMIP episodes that I listen to because he provides some of the stuff I want to say, but maybe isn't as forceful as I'd like him to be.

    I think that focusing only on the Top 8 metagame %s is a good example of this. I think it's fallacious to only think on that metagame experience when we all have had experiences where the Top 8 did not bear out the larger tournament metagame. Kevin did a good job bringing up part of that and saying that the formula needed to account for tournament metagame and Top 8 metagame shares.

    Oh, and on the framing of the problem, I thought that "Mentor was restricting the ability to play other creatures" was higher than you guys said, but that's just my opinion so maybe no one shares it. It creates the opposite pole to Shops decks and restricts the ability to compete for most of the vertical creatures or innovative "whole greater than sum of parts" style strategies like a White Trash and it's descendants strategies.

    There were other spots but like I said, I didn't take notes to properly interact (high levels of engagement, great stuff) and comment here on specifics.

    One other thing I would note, which I mentioned on twitter and want to expand on here, is that SMIP took a pretty congratulatory view of the Vintage community demographics. It's refreshing to hear someone view it positively and is definitely a new take, but I think it's still wrong.

    The comparison to chess was made, which seems both incorrect and like the wrong goal to hold up. Chess has been dying out and plateaued as a game, but it's still got wide currency as a technical, intelligent, and skill based game from it's previous position in the world. Vintage, and Magic, doesn't - it was never that widespread and Vintage is far too expensive for people to experience and recognize "oh this is hard, you must be smart" and stop like they do in chess. But more importantly, and worse, is the high engagement but low playerbase and low new player rate of chess - it is leading itself toward a "dead game" failure point.

    Along with that, the discussion kind of highlighted that the players who play Vintage are mostly people who started with that format. If that's true, then there is another big problem - the games aren't compelling to the rest of the Magic audience and the format love is broadly based on (a) already having bought in before the prices climbed and (b) nostalgia of playing T1 rather than (c) the highly strategic nature of the game. I think that (c) reveals itself, but it doesn't seem to be a draw - no one, by the SMIP discussion, says "wow, Legacy/Modern/Standard/Limited/etc have a lot going on, but it's not enough, I want to go to Vintage for the real strategy"

    So if the format is predicated on the people who played MTG and T1 in the early days when T1 was called T1 and wasn't a rarity, and now it faces a huge financial barrier, and the strategic complexity doesn't compel new converts, then why wouldn't we expect Vintage to die when the Vintage community dies (30-60 years, a long time but certainly not the ageless game it was being compared to)? And why should we celebrate that?

    I'm not interested in saying that everyone should be able to and WotC needs to provide easy access for everyone to Vintage, but it seems like the lack of an on-ramp to get people over to Vintage and keep them engaged is detrimental to the format.

    Finally, SMIP talked about the uptick in attendance in OH and CA. That's great, but here in GA, a Vintage scene was started and it's limping along (held together by mostly 1 person and that person's collection), last I checked (I have had to take an extended break, so I might be wrong, but last I heard it has not grown like it was hoped for). So I think that paper Vintage is still region locked to areas of the country where they've historically had Vintage events because MTG players want to play above all things.

    Now, with all that in mind, I turn to the discussion on the digital/paper split. And I think in a small community, breaking it apart into smaller subsections is not great. Especially when we're dealing with complex systems that need a lot of analysis of the strategy involved. So I think that being cavalier about the digital/paper split is the wrong attitude to take and while there are some technical impossibilities (e.g. Salvagers), we should try to think on the two expressions of Vintage as the same as much as possible.

    thanks for the podcast, lots of fun stuff to kick around in it!


    @boxian said in SMIP Podcast #64: Amonkhet Preview, Eternal Weekend Europe and a Restricted Mentor:

    One thing that I always note about @Smmenen is that I've never heard him take off his lawyer goggles for any discussion. It makes these discussions really engaging because of the commitment to being right and the technical nature of the arguments.

    I agree, and I think he's less persuasive than he could be as a result. I've engaged in some discussions with Steve on the Drain over the last decade,*FN and I've learned something. He is usually 100% correct, but it is sometimes hard to tease out exactly what he means. This is particularly true when he starts to debate about debating (“No, you said this, then I said that”).

    I mean, here’s an example:

    Regarding the substantive description of the polarization problem: Although you said that you've been making the same argument Adam has been for years now, the way you just articulated it is substantively and conceptually different than how Adam Pierce articulated it in the second post in this thread.

    Why not just say this:

    But, let’s talk about the problem you brought up: decks get polarized to fight either Gush or Shops. You claim that you’re making the same argument Adam Pierce has been for years now, but I think the way you’re presenting it is meaningfully different from his. Look at what Adam said in the second post of this thread.

    I’m not trying to insist on editorial excellence in posts, just pointing out that Steve tends to say things in a much more complicated and jargony way than he probably needs to. But – and this is the biggest point – no one should disregard what he’s trying to say based on how he says it. It’s worth the extra effort to understand what he means, because he’s usually right.


    SIMP’s analysis was right on - the only time we discard in Vintage is as a cost to get some other effect. You don’t get any benefit out of Shadow unless you’ve discarded as a cost to do something else. Seen from that perspective, Shadow is not actually a recursion engine at all; it’s a cost-reducer. Or, more specifically, it’s a cost-unwinder. It is almost like it said, “Add mana to your mana pool equal to the casting cost of the last spell you cast.”

    From that perspective, the only feasible home for Shadow is where a cost is massive, the effect is massive, and unwinding the effect puts you in an insane position. Basically, wheel effects. Memory Jar into Shadow is legit terrifying. Based on this interaction alone, I suspect it may be possible to fashion some kind of storm/belcher/outcome deck that loads up on Draw 7s and uses Shadow.

    But, I’m skeptical. I can’t see wanting to run too many copies of Shadow, and if you’re running a tutor target, then Yawgwill seems like a superior choice. So, my verdict? Vintage playable, but won’t see play.

    FOOTNOTE* = The funniest one was a thread about Power Level Errata. Steve was trying to convey the point that this term really only applies to Oracle text which was enacted with the specific intention of lowering a card's power level and does not really apply to Oracle text that my have the effect of lowering a cards' power level if the change was justified by something else, such as original ruled function. This took about six pages for me to parse out. :D

  • @thecravenone I agree completely :)

  • @MaximumCDawg I totally agree and I didn't mean to phrase it so as to say that "we should ignore @Smmenen more because of the size of his vocabulary"

    I find that while it can be a hard thing to parse, there is a clarity to it once you get past the jargon and you always get interesting thought exercises out of it. My personal frustration is just that I'm not on the call to real time interact with him, which is why I am grateful for Kevin who often says what I want to in response and likely does so with much more grace because he can decode Steve very quickly and get other points in.

    My post unfortunately went very long because I was trying to substantively engage with the actual content of SMIP, not just make a joking-among-friends observation about one of the smart guys in the group.

  • TMD Supporter

    @boxian said in SMIP Podcast #64: Amonkhet Preview, Eternal Weekend Europe and a Restricted Mentor:

    I think that focusing only on the Top 8 metagame %s is a good example of this. I think it's fallacious to only think on that metagame experience when we all have had experiences where the Top 8 did not bear out the larger tournament metagame. Kevin did a good job bringing up part of that and saying that the formula needed to account for tournament metagame and Top 8 metagame shares.

    This point has been endlessly debated in the past, so I didn't think it worth rehashing. For example, this thread:

    Having complete metagame breakdowns is a relatively novel development in the history of the format. For 99% of recorded events, we only have Top 8 data.

    MTGO allows a complete metagame breakdown, and in the case of a few events, like the NA Vintage Championship, some people have recorded the entire metagame breakdown. The first instance of this I can remember is the 2003 Type I championship, but it didn't happen again for a long time. So, when making historical comparisons, we tend to focus on Top 8s rather than overall metagames, because we just don't have them.

    In general Top 8 appearances is much more important, and perhaps the most important statistic, in terms of actual performance. The overall metagame breakdown, by itself, is not a performance measure. A large representation doesn't tell you what won the tournament. A metagame breakdown can, however, create the context in which you can evaluate performance.

    Consider three scenarios:

    1. Deck A made 0% of the Top 8.
    2. Deck A made 37.5% of the Top 8.
    3. Deck A made 12.5% of the Top 8, but won the tournament.

    Now, add four contextual factors to each scenario (for 12 different scenarios):

    i) Deck A was 50% of the Metagame
    ii.) Deck A was 30% of the metagame
    iii) Deck A was 10% of the metagame
    iv) Deck A was 2% of the metagame

    Each bit of contextual information gives you very different kinds of insights.

    Scenario 1i would be a very bad deck. 50% of the metagame, but 0% of the Top 8 signals a terrible choice.

    Scenario 2iv is very impressive, but most people would think that 2i is not very impressive, and average, at best. Even 3i is not very impressive, despite winning the tournament.

    In practice, however, metagames don't give you numbers like that. So it's not really clear how much metagame breakdowns really matter. If MTGO metagames are at least 75% the same from month to month, does it really make a difference what the metagame is? The Top 8 from month to month is going to be a direct comparison. But to my knowledge no one has really studied this.

    @Aaron-Patten 's formula from the above-linked thread is promising, but to my knowledge, no one has used it as a performance measure that incorporates broader metagame data.

  • @Smmenen That's fair, I was unaware of the previous discussions and will do some reading in the linked thread.

    Another way to read scenario 1i is that the format is Deck A vs Deck Anti-A (Z?) and they knocked themselves out of the tournament - it's a technically bad choice because of the over-representation, but it's also a bad format.

    I recognize that we don't have hard data to pull from, but I think that the Top 8 is a much more limited pool and we ought to do what we can (redesign match slips or how things are reported) to have a full metagame report, but until those steps are taken, do some kind of poll or take into account people's feelings on the events. The feelings of the participants, not the sour grapes on losing but just the general sense of how the tournament felt, is valuable data in this entirely elective pursuit.

    So if polling people gets a consensus, then we ought to take that consensus into account.

    And maybe it's in the thread, but how do we weight the winner of the tournament? It's still got some amount of variance and is match up dependent and the tournament isn't round robin, etc. So if the winner doesn't get a weight, then it seems that the Top 8 is getting an undue weight in statistics.

    But ultimately, if it's the only data we have then I guess we just use it as we can for now and work on changing other reporting solutions. It is unfortunate that WotC doesn't want to share as much of the data from MTGO with us.


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