Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor


Vintage is, by its very nature, a high variance format. That's a feature, not a bug.


I think I'm with you on Workshop (even though I think the odds of that happening are approximately zero), but I disagree about "foolish argument". Fewer Missteps in blue decks WILL lead to better Workshop matchups, even if just upping the win % by 1 or 2. It may not be as much as you want, but it would be, pretty much by definition, better than nothing.

@Aaron-Patten said in Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor:

They are forced into that position because all strategies must reduce their curve to be competitive against mana denial strategies such as those used in Mishra's Workshop based decks.

This is not true at all. Both Modern and Legacy have a "Race to the bottom" mentality when it comes to mana costs and the closest to Shops you see there is DnT. It has nothing to do with Sphere and everything to do with Tempo. It's a rule in competition decks, you don't pay more than you have to. A 3 mana Goyf is not suddenly going to be more loved than its two mana counterpart in Modern while a 1 mana one would.

If Shops vanished MM would not suddenly become a godsend to Vintage but more of a curse.

A better example of my point would be with Cantrips. You don't play Omen in place of Preordain. Sure, you have gained built in MM protection but the Tempo loss is too great to make that a benefit overall. If you play a Mentor mirror, the 1 extra mana is far far more harmful than the risk of a Counterspell.

last edited by Dice_Box


The best interaction that I know of is Wild Mongrel - 1 Mongrel & 1 Zodiac Dragon (ZD) is one infinitely large attacker. Two ZDs & 1 Zombie Infestation is infinitely many 2/2 Black Zombie tokens as well. I'm sure there are other ways to break it but these are two off the top of my head.

@Prospero You honestly believe the restriction of Treasure Cruise represented a change in philosophy? It dominated every eternal format in the 6 months it remained legal and likely would have reached unparalleled levels of dominance in Vintage if given an extended stay in the format. The Banned List exists to correct such mistakes and always has. I would argue the spree of restrictions since then were A) attempts to undo the damage that the Delve spells brought on the format or B) existing problems in the case of Lodestone and Chalice that could not survive the scrutiny of Modern Magic from the VSL.

If you think the current format is miserable, I'm pretty sure giving Mentor back Cruise and Dig, and Shops back Golem and Chalice is not the way to make a "two-deck" format better.

@Prospero said in Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor:

To try and get back on point, and wrap this up, I'd just ask that people really think deeply about when Vintage really was balanced in the last few years. Maybe we could start taking steps back towards a metagame where players could play with more of their cards, and we weren't looking to just hit everything that ran well for a while, but looked to develop new strategies to combat new problems. Everything in life isn't a nail, and we have more tools at our disposal than a hammer. Terra Nova was built as a rebuke to a comment that no new innovations were possible in Shops until new cards were printed, or new restrictions/unrestrictions took place. Maybe before we take away someone's right to play their cards we can go to the drawing board and work towards addressing the problems at hand in new, unseen ways. This current philosophy is exhausting, and awful for the long-term health of the format.

I'll offer my 2 cents on this, in particular:

The best Vintage format I've played in was at NYSE 2 (or thereabouts).

This format included 4x Golem and 4x Chalice, and I still felt actively favored against Shops.

What I think was a defining feature of format was that the threats didn't match up with the draw engines all that well. Tinker for Blightsteel was the best thing in the format, followed by a lot of other clunkier two card combos (Salvagers, Vault/Key, Oath)--all of which want you to tutor chain, rather than go up cards. The best draw engines weren't in the same deck--and didn't synergize with--the best threats. The best draw engines lived in Delver (with Gush being as dumb as ever--and this was probably secretly the best deck), and Standstill. And there was space in between the two extremes--e.g. Blue Angels or BUG Fish, which had worse than gush/better than Vampiric Tutor draw engines, but better threats and answers than Delver of Secrets and Mishra's Factory.

Note that I haven't mentioned Shops here. That's because Shops decks were, by and large, a boogeyman, but very beatable. You had to show respect, play your 2 drops and EEs and Chewers, but you could win. The small shops creatures were prisony but, outside of Ravager, actively sucked when getting into the red zone (remember--you didn't have Ballista, HBW, or Foundry Inspector!), and the large shops creatures were necessarily clunky and occasionally uncastable.

That--at least how I remember it--was the best format I've played.

Mental misstep cannot be restricted, ever, simply because cantrips exist. It's a necessary evil as FoW is, in blue decks. Not only that, but having mental misstep as a 4 of, allows future printings of absurd cards at 1 cmc.

Very well put. I couldn't agree more.

My current take (which is very subject to change):

Someone noted that the Vintage metagame moves slower than others. I think that’s true. However, it moves a lot faster these days because of MTGO.

It’s also true that older players can’t always devote time to playing. I haven’t played Vintage online since March or so: which I believe had the effect of removing Saheeli Oath from the front of the Vintage metagame page of MTGGoldfish. So that’s a piece of evidence for how one player can on MTGO can impact the makeup of the perceived metagame, albeit modestly. And I'm not saying others weren’t on Saheeli Oath, far from it, but I put up a consistent showing with it for a couple of months in the face of Gush Mentor.

I think any Shops problem is solved by a removal spell for colorless permanents that ignores tax effects (like through cycling, but also is not Blue or White). NEW cards can solve old card problems, especially for Shops. And I apologize now for making this a theme in almost every post I write.

For "Cantrip" Mentor, however, I think you have to unrestricted Chalice. Let’s be clear, Misstep and Chalice only really hurt creature decks that don’t play Cavern of Souls. How common is that in Vintage these days? I also strongly agree with someone's comments that Misstep helps keep combo in check (even if it doesn't do as much against PO decks, which is why we need Chalice back).

I would love to see a format where Turbo Xerox and PO decks have to contend with CotV, while Shops decks have to contend with artifact removal that can’t be inhibited by tax effects. I will openly speculate that such a change could allow for other cards to be unrestricted, including Gush, Probe and even Lodestone.

Although, if TMD speculation on a restriction's impact was consistently correct, we wouldn't be in the current mess right now.

last edited by jhport12

@ChubbyRain said in Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor:

If you think the current format is miserable, I'm pretty sure giving Mentor back Cruise and Dig, and Shops back Golem and Chalice is not the way to make a "two-deck" format better.

Perhaps not, but I thought it was a brilliant post. More than that, a voice of wisdom. I did not agree with every statement, but I agreed with the vast majority of it.

Prospero offered some much needed perspective. By drawing back the lens, he put this specific debate in the context of a larger arc of recent Vintage history.

The trajectory we are on has not worked. We've restricted four blue cards and two artifacts from the same two decks in the last 3 years. And what do we have to show for it? When does the madness stop? And, most importantly, where is this really leading?

I completely agree with him that the B&R policy management was much better under the previous regime, the period between the restrictions of Thirst and Cruise. While the alternative, of doing nothing, may seem like a poor choice, Prospero raises a serious question: from all of these restrictions, what have we really gained? What's changed? At the end of the day, the two decks that were the target of all of these restrictions are still the best decks, and after each restriction, the targeted deck leaps back into roughly the same position it held before. All of the doomdaying after the restrictions of Chalice and Golem proved wrong. Shops has never, ever, had a stronger hold on the metagame, in terms of % of Top 8s. Not even in the Trinisphere era.

This raises serious concerns: perhaps these were the wrong restrictions, or, perhaps, as he suggests, our entire approach to management of the format needs a complete rethink or an overhaul.

Maybe we need to break free of old assumptions, old habits, and old patterns.

While I disagree with Rich's theory of the metagame, and further, disagree that the restrictions he proposes will solve the problems with it, I confess I don't really have solutions myself or see a clear path forward. Restricting Mentor sounds reasonable (and it's what I preferred instead of Gush), but I think Prospero raises a larger question: if it doesn't work, what then?

I've said this before, but Prospero echoes it: the route we are on leads to more restrictions, not less. That much should be obvious. That's why I'm inclined to agree with his point that, perhaps, we need put more energy into looking into unrestrictions instead.

The way out of this mess is unclear. I do not believe that restricting Mentor and/or Misstep will reduce the dominance of Shops, and I think it's foolish to believe so, just as I thought it was folly to believe that restricting Gush would weaken Shops. But I'm not sure where the restrictions stop. If Mentor doesn't bring down Shops, then something in Shops is next. And if that doesn't work - and I doubt it will (unless it's Mishra itself), then what?

Maybe Vintage, after 25 years, has hit a wall. Maybe there is no way out. Maybe this is the endgame of a format that has 25 years of accumulated printings without bannings. If the Dack-Delve draw engine is really what's powering the Mentor deck, then restricting Mentor isn't going to solve that problem, and, as you've said before in the arguments over Gush, we will just substitute cards like Pyromancer instead. Frankly, I've already begun testing what to replace 3 Mentors with in my deck for EW (a far more interesting endeavor than playing the current format).

This might be hyperbole, but it's not entirely implausible to think that you could restrict Mentor, Preordain, Misstep, JVP, and perhaps a few more cards, and the "blue stew" with the Dack-Delve/Gush draw engine would still probably be a tier 1 deck; perhaps even the best blue deck, still. Similarly, I don't see what you can restrict from Workshops at this point that would make it not at least 25%+ of the field. I don't think restricting Sphere or Thorn alone would make much difference.

Given that the path that we are on leads to either 1) restrictions that won't solve the problem, 2) many, many more restrictions to solve the problem, or, perhaps, 3) a scenario where restrictions don't actually matter - where the restriction policy device has actually lost it's power because a critical mass of restricted cards can support a deck, then perhaps it is better to try something else instead or rethink this flawed approach.

This is the moment to try to think this through very carefully before continuing down this road any further.

last edited by Smmenen


Square is much worse because it triggers at the beginning of your upkeep. So if you dredge during your upkeep or draw steep, you'd have to wait a full turn to discard it. And it's not a dread return target.

@Prospero great opinion. Thank you for taking the time to voice it.

last edited by gkraigher

@Smmenen I think it's very reasonable to debate whether or not the restricted list has reached the limit of its utility, and what to do then. However, it is equivalent to proving a negative. How does one know that subsequent restrictions will not have an effect if, as Nick said, the outcome of restrictions is difficult or impossible to predict? One would have to try out those restrictions before throwing in the towel.

People have a nostalgia for before this recent arc of history, but you cannot roll back the clock and ignore the printings of Cruise, Dig, and Monastery Mentor. You cannot ignore the printings of Walking Ballista, Foundry Inspector, Fleetwheel Cruiser, and others. Focusing the blame on a "philosophy of restriction" is frankly wrong, and the major gripe I have concerning @Prospero's argument. I do not see a more balanced and diverse metagame with Treasure Cruise and Lodestone Golem unrestricted. It would certainly not lead to a more interactive and skill-intensive format. To think otherwise is a textbook example of recollection bias.

@p3temangus said in Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor:

@Chronatog said in Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor:

So any prognostication about metagame changes should take into account all Magic-unrelated factors. Otherwise, such discussions will remain only theoretical discussion quite disconnected from the reality.

Except now, with MTGO, Players do have cheap access to all cards, and can react immediately to the changes. Hell, anyone trying to test hypothetical restrictions can EASILY do so on MTGO.

This is a good point, @p3temangus. Since I am not familiar with MTGO, and to avoid representativeness bias, perhaps you can help me here. Where I can find number of unique monthly MTGO player? And similar data but with unique players who play more than once per month? And unique players who play a few times per year. And then we can compare these numbers with number of players attending some big vintage paper events in the past and decide if MTGO stats are representative.

In general, I agree with you that with MTGO players have cheaper access to cards (though some cards are more expensive on-line, e.g. Wasteland and Rishadan Port), but I disagree that everyone can (and want to) react immediately.

Using my limited experience and some anecdotal evidence, I suspect that MTGO does not represent all players well enough to serve as a yardstick. At least for Vintage. And any decisions about restricting cards in Vintage should be made based on a variety complimentary data sources. And common sense, of course.

And I like the reasoning @THE ATOG LORD used in his article and hope that we will have more balanced and objective posts here, supported by relevant data.

@ChubbyRain said in Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor:

@Smmenen I think it's very reasonable to debate whether or not the restricted list has reached the limit of its utility, and what to do then. However, it is equivalent to proving a negative. How does one know that subsequent restrictions will not have an effect if, as Nick said, the outcome of restrictions is difficult or impossible to predict? One would have to try out those restrictions before throwing in the towel.

People have a nostalgia for before this recent arc of history, but you cannot roll back the clock and ignore the printings of Cruise, Dig, and Monastery Mentor. You cannot ignore the printings of Walking Ballista, Foundry Inspector, Fleetwheel Cruiser, and others. Focusing the blame on a "philosophy of restriction" is frankly wrong, and the major gripe I have concerning @Prospero's argument. I do not see a more balanced and diverse metagame with Treasure Cruise and Lodestone Golem unrestricted. It would certainly not lead to a more interactive and skill-intensive format. To think otherwise is a textbook example of recollection bias.

I think you are missing the forest for the trees here. Unless I'm misreading him, I don't think he's calling for the unrestriction of Treasure Cruise. I think he's saying that we are on a dangerous path, it's not working out, and we should try to figure out where this is going, to game plan and think carefully and strategically instead of treating restriction like a tactic, which is generally how it's been treated -- a knee-jerk response to an immediate problem. I think he's also saying, that as a general matter, we should be much more circumspect about restrictions, which I also agree with. So he's not saying we can never restrict, but that the path we are on isn't working out, and it's making things worse. So, I think maybe he's suggesting what i was suggesting in the other thread, that we should look at unrestrictions as a better way out rather than just focus on restrictions, without specifying what those might be. Personally, I think either Bargain and/or Windfall are serious candidates for unrestriction. Maybe that's a better path to start on.

last edited by Smmenen

The problem with this whole discussion is that T1 came to MTGO in the last years. Both the printing of absurd cards for TX strategies (first Pyromancer dominating the format, then Mentor) and Shops and the advent of total information and transparency lead to a homogenization of the format. I think this would have happened anyway, even if some cards wouldn't exist and even if some archetypes would be different, just because MTGO changed the whole approach to data we had before.

I can't really comment on the time before T1 came to MTGO but I would guess that it developed way slower and that previous tier 1 decks often needed longer to break through. With MTGO these kind of things become apparent within a small frame of maybe a few weeks.

The main problem is not MTGO, though. Wotc just printed a high number of degenerate cards in the last few years, and T1, with the unability to outright ban a card, became the most susceptible for power creep. Blue, always a good color, became so much more stronger and aggressive, while the other colors hardly got anything (Mentor is blue with the restriction of not going into Force). On the other hand, colorless, which wasn't even considered a color before, suddenly became a real force. And then another artifact block came along, which always means a few more toys for Shops. The development of their game design just shits on T1 and that is a big problem.

Actually I would even argue that Wotc kinda maneuvered the format into the worst possible dead end; not just with all the latest printings but also with the restrictions. They kinda forced a TX vs Shops Aggro format on us. Sadly, this is just another byproduct of T1 coming to MTGO and the hype that the VSL created.

What happened to the other archetypes though? Ok, so here is my point of view again: they are mostly flawed. Susceptible to variance. I mean yeah, Oath didn't get the same cool new tools as TX got. Oath, needing more specific cards to devote its gameplan to is essentially just a worse TX deck, no matter whether it plays Mentor or Pyro. Oath is of course still a great deck and can have bombastic openings, but if it only wins 55 of its 100 games while TX wins 62 out of 100 then it is just a matter of time until people switch to the archetype that grants them a higher win % over the long run.
The same is true for a deck like Dredge. I enjoy Dredge, it just crushes and operates on a different axis than any other deck. But if also produces nongames, where you just mulligan to oblivion, or get your Bazaar wasted, Dredge one or two more times just to get stack. It's not fun gameplay and it will lead to Dredge never becoming the best in the format again, unless we get another Serum Powder one day.
Other decks just generally suffer from a too high curve. Like, I think Consecrated Sphinx is a cool card, but does it really has a place in Vintage? Chances are that it just rots in your hand the whole game.

Is there a way back? I can't really tell. The way the format is structured right now is I don't really think so. Mentor gets restricted next, I think that is certainly a given, but what will happen to Shops? I doubt they are going to restrict the namesake card and pillar of the format. Restricting a Sphere seems really dull though.

Referring to Mental Misstep, I think it is just plain wrong to advocate its restriction. Misstep takes both variance and speed out of the format and that is a good thing.

I was moved by @Prospero post, but in a silent tears kind of way. It is always a tragedy for me whenever I hear someone is selling off their power. I've been hearing it for decades, but these days, there is a really, really high bar to buying back in. It's hard to drop $10,000 to want to play in Vintage champs.

I do think some of these posts are missing the mark. Everyone is complaining about B&R management policy, but we have some of the smartest minds in Magic, and yet many of them are diametrically opposed as to what the solution should be. Everyone longs for the "nostalgic Magic period" of the past (myself included), but back then, people were constantly complaning about "never getting any Vintage level cards." So then what happened:

Blue gets:
Monastery Mentor
Treasure Cruise
Dig Through Time
Dack Fayden
Jace Vrynn's Prodigy
Baral Chief
Stony Silence
Containment Priest
...to name a few. I mean, just look at that for a second. TIER 1 CARDS THAT QUICKLY HIT THE MAINDECK- some of which can make Ancestral seem like a weak topdeck. Think about that. Cards that might be be more powerful than an Alpha restricted card.

Shops gets:
Walking Ballista
Hangarback Walker
Foundry Inspector
Fleetwheel Cruiser
Relic of Progenitus.
...I don't think these are as "bombish," but they end up pushing Shops into a "perfected" version of the deck, and it's as tight of a deck as you can get.

This is probably the biggest quality infusion since Urza's Saga block (though spead out over more time).

Not only do these cards make the maindeck/sideboard, but many of them shore up the weaknesses each deck faced in the meta. Mentor and Shops became stronger, AND more resilient.

Anytime you drop 10-20 new cards, high power cards, into a format in a 2-3 year period, it's going to be chaos.

I don't think this is necessarily a B&R problem (though I certainly don't agree with their handling of it). I think it's an over-abundance of new powerful cards, unleashed on a semi-solved, high variance format. Vintage players moaned for decades about not getting enough toys. Well, we got them, and it shows how quickly Vintage can abuse a design mistake.

Sad to see you selling power @Prospero , I hope you find a way to someday justify buying them back. It's not easy to replace a dedicated paper Vintage player.

last edited by joshuabrooks

@Wintage i think you hit the nail on the head, in that power creep hits vintage hardest and at this point, in my opinion, there is no amount of restrictions that will mitigate this, only outright bannings or new card printings.

Perhaps an anti-metalcraft artifact like ( during each players upkeep, if they have metalcraft, that player must sacrifice artifacts until they dont)The excessive restrictions add too much chaotic variance, but what i will say, is that if mentor is banned, shops can lose its namesake to a restriction.

So then what do they do? Maybe 1 Shop - 3 Cities ? Maybe 1 shop + 2 cities and a Mana Vault or Grim Monolith? Are they legitimately going to be too hamstrung to compete, after a petal is plucked from their 'lotus' land?

I highly doubt it, but again, this seems to only be the case if mentor goes as well, because it has the same level of degeneracy but...maybe...

maybe...you kill mentor and errata Workshop to 'Legendary', similar to the time vault errata business of yesteryear.

Just some thoughts.

Well, if the B&R policy is really an issue (I honestly have no idea if it is, or isn't), at what point do we (paper players, at least) just decide to go the EDH route and come up with our own list?

Just what, besides one or two actually sanctioned events, are we stubbornly sticking to a (plausibly) flawed list? We aren't bound to Wizards in any real way. Most events aren't sanctioned already anyway, what would the harm be in trying?

At what point do we "put our money where our mouth is" and actually run real tournaments and gain real results to test our theories?

Of course, it's easy for me to say, because living in the middle of nowhere and with next to no free time I literally can't do anything. And with that, probably best to just set my status back to lurker...

It really seems like we are at a spot where nobody really "knows" what to do.

Many of us have ideas, I for example think that we should think about restriction of overly powerful hoser cards like containment priest and see if that boosts the prevalence of previously common strategies like oath or makes dredge more of a contender. I don't see a lot of other people on this line, but I think it would help.

But, and this is the key, I don't know it would help. The whole thing is so complex that I don't know if I'm even 50% confident a change would do what I think it would.

Zooming out from vintage and just thinking about how knowledge works, the right thing to do when you don't know what will happen is to some experiments.

We could try local events with different restricted lists. We could try coordinating local events with different lists, so NY, Texas, and St. Louis could all hold events back to back or the same weekend running the same experiment. We could petition Wizards to try a year of experiments and make major changes to the online restricted list every month for a year. Someone could hold weekly events in their living room. There is a lot of scope to test things. If MTGO supports player run events that's an avenue also.

What lists to try?
I'd say start with extreme changes to see what the boundary conditions are, then back of a little and test smaller changes.

  • everything is restricted
  • everything is restricted but Fow
  • everything post reserved list is unrestricted
  • everything legal in modern is unrestricted
    And then test specific theories from there. By this point we would have learned quite a bit so it makes sense to wait to have that knowledge before designing further tests.

This is a path that we as a community could really go down. We could run these tests and then at the end we could make a recommendation to wotc with some real facts behind it.

@Wintage said in Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor:

Referring to Mental Misstep, I think it is just plain wrong to advocate its restriction. Misstep takes both variance and speed out of the format and that is a good thing.

But it doesn't. The variance is simply displaced into who has more. Or the variance of your pairings I guess. As for speed, that's all from the eye of the beholder. People are myopic and think of Dark Rituals exploding all over. Rituals have a natural predator and have for decades, prison. Even discounting Derpstep U based control has more tools than ever to fight aggregate combo both on the stack (Fluster, Trap, Pierce, Surgical) and in play (Canonist, Aegis, Mage, Cage, Kambal). If you look at large events pre the Dack/Pyro/Delve mess that pushed decks into 14-16 free spells Storm wasn't even close to dominating.

If by variance you mean Go. Upkeep. Ancestral. Or just Ancestral. I mean I guess Misstep makes that less likely to resolve. But again we played for 15 years and accepted that resolving power 9 can result in getting 'Vintaged'. The same goes for Black Lotus and many other cards that if resolved early probably mean you lose.

Mental Misstep costing no mana, no opportunity cost short of trading a card slows the format down if you are counting it's complete obsoleting of mana dorks. DRS, Hierarch were key cards in keeping Thorn decks in check for years. Even 4 x Chalice, 4 x LG shops was a dog to BUG Fish decks with Shamans.

And again the reason it's banned everywhere else is because of it's incestuous impact on deck construction. There's also a reason nobody is talking about Spell Snare being miserable. Because it costs mana. No mana is always better than mana. If Misstep cost U, it would also be fine.

The argument that you can jump the curve with moxes is fine but again less mana is always better than more. I've played decks that dodge Misstep as best as possible but you are still just handicapping yourself by playing higher cost spells. That deck building paradigm catches up to you when you don't draw your moxes.

Barring a complete rehaul of the list which as many people have opined about here Misstep needs to go. If only so that we can stop saying 'it just gets Misstepped', 'if it weren't for Misstep', 'if you can Misstep their Misstep that Misstepped your Misstep'.

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