The Downside to Vintage on Magic Online and GroupThink


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    @Will said in The Downside to Vintage on Magic Online and GroupThink:

    [...] people need to stop complaining about Vintage being so awful. I agree with the ideas that Monastery Mentor is very good and Gush/Probe getting restricted did not do enough to slow down the Delve engine, but complaining about it just turns people off from wanting to play. The Vintage community by and large has spent significantly more effort complaining about the format and squabbling over who thought Gush getting restricted would "fix" the format than it has in trying to address the problem at hand.
    .
    If instead of focusing on whether Mentor should get restricted, the Vintage community instead worked to build a good Leovold or Paradoxical Outcome deck then Vintage would be a much better and more inviting format.

    Now THIS ... THIS I agree with 100%.

    I get that people are disappointed in the format right now, and I get that there are people out there who don't play, and would play if it was changed. A lot of people think the format isn't worth playing now, and want to change it. I'm not one of those people, but I have been in the past, and I get how frustrating it is.

    I understand that people want to voice those concerns to WotC. While I think that, say, Twitter (which WotC reads a lot more than TMD) makes a lot more sense as a way to voice those concerns, I'm reluctant to take TMD away as a platform for that. (Though I'm SO tempted ... and more tempted by the day).

    ...

    But there are also a lot of people who just want to play vintage. I know this because there are a lot of people out there who are still playing vintage. There are people working on ways to beat Shops and Mentor decks, and there are people working on ways to improve Shops and Mentor decks to counter them.

    The amount of people who are actively playing, building, and innovating in vintage right now exceeds the amount that were doing it when I started in 2002. MTGO has exploded, there are pockets of players all around the world, the VSL has a gigantic audience, and Vintage Champs has an attendance higher than GPs were when I was starting out.

    But if you just looked at TMD, you'd think the format has shrunk. These players aren't posting on TMD. If you were a new player who just watched the VSL and you wanted to get into the format, you'd go to Facebook or Reddit or TMD and you'd ask about Vintage and you'd see nothing but complaints and you'd assume the format is dead and you wouldn't even start.

    There are people who complain and also push the format forward, but it's rare. Disappointment with the format tends to act as a short-circuit where people accept the fact that a format is "wrong" or "unbalanced" and completely give up on the beautiful challenge of trying to win in an unbalanced format. The people trying to solve that challenge win more, they play more, they're frankly a lot more interesting, but they don't post on TMD.

    I ask people I know who play vintage but don't post online, "Why not?". I get a lot of answers, and some are solvable and some aren't ... but a recurring theme is that nobody wants to deal with the negativity. That isn't limited to threads about the format, but it often starts there and spreads elsewhere

    I want people with legitimate complaints to have a platform to be heard - but I also want a vintage strategy website. TMD is the first but it's not currently the second. Given that there are tons of public platforms for complaining and no large public english-speaking vintage strategy sites, it's hard to reconcile the two.


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    @Will,

    The problem with your post is that it arrives in the middle of a fairly intense debate over the handling and management of the format, positions itself as if it is neutral or even orthogonal to that debate, while it actually drives a stake through one side.

    Firstly, the subject line and the predicate for the post is that there is some kind of group think occurring that is most acute on MTGO that is actually misrepresenting the consolidation of the format - making it seem worse than it actually is. Out of context, this would seem neutral, but right now we are undertaking an evaluation of the impact of the April restrictions, a little more than 3 months out. The results from the MTGO challenges shows that Shops and Mentor are 70% of the 11 Top 8s since April 24th compared to under 50% for the previous 10 events.

    If the explanation for those consolidation of the metagame is simply " group think" rather than actual metagame market dynamics, then the criticisms of the DCI are undermined: the results aren't a result of DCI action so much as it is "group think." This a wrong factually, IMO, but more importantly, it's wrong as an ideological position that serves the defenders of the April decision.

    I am sympathetic to the anxieties and concerns raised by MTGO. After all, in January, I wrote a longish article that integrated some of the points you suggest. There I said, for example:

    The third perspective is a relatively new one for Vintage, and it is a way that Magic Online has changed Vintage. Preparing for daily tournaments is a very different effort than preparing for one of a few very large tournaments per year, as was the case in the heyday of the Waterbury tournament. Although there are still players who plan and prepare months before the Vintage Championship, the dynamic in the Magic Online environment is quite different.

    When decklists are published on a daily basis, the rewards for taking risks and investing time and energy in novel strategies are greatly diminished. Instead, there is a much greater reward from playing low risk decks and a premium on consistency. After all, the spoils for 4-0ing a daily aren’t sufficient to incentivize the development of new decks over tuning up existing ones and tightening up your play.

    This is a fundamental difference between paper Magic and Magic Online. If you examine the metagame breakdowns of larger paper tournaments and the larger Magic Online Vintage tournaments, paper tournaments are more diverse, with more players playing marginal strategies, and even doing well. In contrast, Magic Online events are more homogeneous, with fewer fringe decks.

    This is one of the sources of anxiety. The production of daily decklists changes the perception of the format, especially from the quarterly or even annual perspectives. Even two weeks of similar daily results can now result in complaints about the format being monotonous, despite the fact that this would be perfectly normal from a paper Vintage perspective, where events unspool at a slower clip. But, critically, this perception is generated among both Magic Online players and paper Vintage players from simply reading tournament reports.

    BUT...the argument that the results on MTGO are groupthink is a pretty silly position. In the extreme, if what people played were primarily or even largely a function of network effects and group think rather than a desire to win and expected match wins, then the DCI's use of the restriction tool to curb dominant decks would be relatively ineffective. People would continue to play the same deck regardless.

    As I said, this is an extreme version of that position. At the other extreme, I don't think metagames, like markets, are perfectly efficient, either. There are always people who don't play the best deck, or play for other reasons than winning. But they are relatively efficient. The best decks, over time, tend to become a larger part of the metagame and a greater % of Top 8s. This is an empirical reality. Moreover, the "group think" model dramatically underestimates how much it takes for a metagame to be completely transformed.

    A single player winning a tournament twice in a row will have players join that bandwagon. It's happened countless times in Vintage history from Robert Vroman to Eric Becker. It only takes 1 player in tournament to win a tournament. So even if 50% of the field is just following a group-think, it takes very, very little to change the composition of a Top 8. Remember, a single player is 12.5% of a Top 8. That's a huge percentage.

    No, the current metagame is not a result of group think. Magic Online may be accelerating the Vintage metagame by quickly determining what the best decks are. But that's because they truly are the best decks. Not because of a herd mentality.

    1. My biggest complaint is that the decklists for Vintage Dailies are posted for 4-0 and 3-1 decks. While there are players who take these events as a point of pride and want to see their name and deck posted as much as possible, it cuts down on innovation.

    Again, completely wrong, as a factual matter: Have you looked through the dailies carefully in the last few months? Kevin and I just recently compiled every single daily since April. There are TONS Of experimental decks in the 3-1 and 4-0 results.

    In July alone, there were BUG decks with Fastbond, Excavator and Zuran Orb, Splinter Twin Control, Teen Titans (a Welder Reanimator deck), WBG Eldrazi, Gifts Control, PO Oath Combo, and tons of other experimental and innovative decks. Going to June, you have decks like Illusory Angel Control, and much more.

    If anything, the dailies are the place for experimentation, and it's evident. Your "biggest complaint" appears to be poorly founded or unfounded.

    I look at a Daily as a testing session, but why would I test with my list for Vintage Champs or another big tournament in an event where my list will be posted for public consumption if I do well?

    This is a solipsism error. Just because you don't, doesn't mean people don't either.

    1. This critique pertains solely to TMD and Facebook, but people need to stop complaining about Vintage being so awful.

    Tell that to the people who complained, ceaselessly, about Gush before it was restricted. Having waged an unrelenting campaign against Gush, and having won, you are now asking the losers to go home, and have the winners roll up their mat behind them, when the manifest errors of that decision and it's illogic are becoming more obvious by the day.

    No thanks.

    Complaining is the primary mechanism by which those who are unhappy with the April restrictions (which according to polls, is a majority of Vintage players) are able to convey the depth and breadth of their anger. That, and voting with their feet. When Brainstorm was restricted, a large contingent of the Vintage player base, according to some, quit Vintage.

    It would be completely unjustified and unfair to ask people who are unhappy to silence themselves when earlier complainers had unlimited scope for complaining about Gush.

    Quite the opposite of you, if people are unhappy with the restrictions, I encourage them to speak up, not be silent, and voice their outrage and their concerns about the direction of the format. They should publish articles, write to Wizards, and post messages here and beyond.

    Asking people who are unhappy with the restriction is silence themselves tantamount to asking them to muffle themselves. Yet, no one asked the Gush complainers to muffle their unhappiness with Gush. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

    I agree with the ideas that Monastery Mentor is very good and Gush/Probe getting restricted did not do enough to slow down the Delve engine, but complaining about it just turns people off from wanting to play. The Vintage community by and large has spent significantly more effort complaining about the format and squabbling over who thought Gush getting restricted would "fix" the format than it has in trying to address the problem at hand.

    I could not disagree more: short term pain in the interest of a better long term format is always worth it. We need to get the ship righted, and that means criticizing what happened in April and the current state of the metagame, loudly and proudly. Not silencing our discontent to serve the interests of those who are responsible for bringing about our current wicked state of affairs.



  • @Smmenen said in The Downside to Vintage on Magic Online and GroupThink:

    No, the current metagame is not a result of group think. Magic Online may be accelerating the Vintage metagame by quickly determining what the best decks are. But that's because they truly are the best decks. Not because of a herd mentality.

    I'd add in the caveat of "the best decks playable on the online platform in the metagame defined by that platform."

    I'm not certain if the best version of dredge is the one that is played online, because the Undiscovered Paradise bug means that it is certainly sub-optimal to try to run that build in an event.

    Likewise, decks with click-intensive-yet-deterministic loops are likewise not part of the meta. Because Bomberman/Worldgorger is fun, but not when you time out trying to win. It's completely possible those decks are not optimal in the real world over the decks that have been refined through many iterations on mtgo, but the limitations of the platform are still the limitations of the platofrm.

    Issues with targeting for flusterstorm and mindbreak trap also spring to mind.



  • @Winterstar said in The Downside to Vintage on Magic Online and GroupThink:

    @Smmenen said in The Downside to Vintage on Magic Online and GroupThink:

    No, the current metagame is not a result of group think. Magic Online may be accelerating the Vintage metagame by quickly determining what the best decks are. But that's because they truly are the best decks. Not because of a herd mentality.

    I'd add in the caveat of "the best decks playable on the online platform in the metagame defined by that platform."

    I'm not certain if the best version of dredge is the one that is played online, because the Undiscovered Paradise bug means that it is certainly sub-optimal to try to run that build in an event.

    Likewise, decks with click-intensive-yet-deterministic loops are likewise not part of the meta. Because Bomberman/Worldgorger is fun, but not when you time out trying to win. It's completely possible those decks are not optimal in the real world over the decks that have been refined through many iterations on mtgo, but the limitations of the platform are still the limitations of the platofrm.

    Issues with targeting for flusterstorm and mindbreak trap also spring to mind.

    I can't help but think this is a major part of the perceived problem in vintage right now. A LOT of our compiled tournament data comes from MTGO. And while I definitely applaud the efforts of those who take time to compile and present the data - it is very much one sided. We may have individual tournaments with decklists for paper magic. But we have nothing, data-wise, like the compilation of data for mtgo tournaments. And the mtgo tournaments ARE a different animal.

    This may just be confirmation bias as well, but I've noticed that a large majority of the complaints, both before and after the restriction of gush/probe came from people who are primarily on mtgo. Again, I have no hard and fast set of data to say X number of people are mtgo player, Y are paper players and Z are cross-overs. Just going by the eyeball test of the people on both sides of the debate who are most vociferous in keeping the debate going.


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    @Khahan said in The Downside to Vintage on Magic Online and GroupThink:

    @Winterstar said in The Downside to Vintage on Magic Online and GroupThink:

    @Smmenen said in The Downside to Vintage on Magic Online and GroupThink:

    No, the current metagame is not a result of group think. Magic Online may be accelerating the Vintage metagame by quickly determining what the best decks are. But that's because they truly are the best decks. Not because of a herd mentality.

    I'd add in the caveat of "the best decks playable on the online platform in the metagame defined by that platform."

    I'm not certain if the best version of dredge is the one that is played online, because the Undiscovered Paradise bug means that it is certainly sub-optimal to try to run that build in an event.

    Likewise, decks with click-intensive-yet-deterministic loops are likewise not part of the meta. Because Bomberman/Worldgorger is fun, but not when you time out trying to win. It's completely possible those decks are not optimal in the real world over the decks that have been refined through many iterations on mtgo, but the limitations of the platform are still the limitations of the platofrm.

    Issues with targeting for flusterstorm and mindbreak trap also spring to mind.

    I can't help but think this is a major part of the perceived problem in vintage right now. A LOT of our compiled tournament data comes from MTGO. And while I definitely applaud the efforts of those who take time to compile and present the data - it is very much one sided. We may have individual tournaments with decklists for paper magic. But we have nothing, data-wise, like the compilation of data for mtgo tournaments. And the mtgo tournaments ARE a different animal.

    This may just be confirmation bias as well, but I've noticed that a large majority of the complaints, both before and after the restriction of gush/probe came from people who are primarily on mtgo. Again, I have no hard and fast set of data to say X number of people are mtgo player, Y are paper players and Z are cross-overs. Just going by the eyeball test of the people on both sides of the debate who are most vociferous in keeping the debate going.

    While I certainly agree with Winterstar's point, I also think that experienced Vintage players are capable of assimilating multiple and different data sets into a coherent framework. Implicitly, I tend to weight larger paper tournaments more than smaller, local events. While many paper events diverge a bit from MTGO, there is a surprising amount of convergence. Kevin and I compiled all of the results since April 24th, and the dailies are further from the Challenges than paper is from the challenges. Think about that.

    Moreover, as the paper tournament sizes get larger, the results tend to match MTGO more and more, at least in my observation. Take a look at the NYSE Top 8 as an example. It was 100% Shops and Mentor.



  • @Smmenen said in The Downside to Vintage on Magic Online and GroupThink:

    @Khahan said in The Downside to Vintage on Magic Online and GroupThink:

    @Winterstar said in The Downside to Vintage on Magic Online and GroupThink:

    @Smmenen said in The Downside to Vintage on Magic Online and GroupThink:

    No, the current metagame is not a result of group think. Magic Online may be accelerating the Vintage metagame by quickly determining what the best decks are. But that's because they truly are the best decks. Not because of a herd mentality.

    I'd add in the caveat of "the best decks playable on the online platform in the metagame defined by that platform."

    I'm not certain if the best version of dredge is the one that is played online, because the Undiscovered Paradise bug means that it is certainly sub-optimal to try to run that build in an event.

    Likewise, decks with click-intensive-yet-deterministic loops are likewise not part of the meta. Because Bomberman/Worldgorger is fun, but not when you time out trying to win. It's completely possible those decks are not optimal in the real world over the decks that have been refined through many iterations on mtgo, but the limitations of the platform are still the limitations of the platofrm.

    Issues with targeting for flusterstorm and mindbreak trap also spring to mind.

    I can't help but think this is a major part of the perceived problem in vintage right now. A LOT of our compiled tournament data comes from MTGO. And while I definitely applaud the efforts of those who take time to compile and present the data - it is very much one sided. We may have individual tournaments with decklists for paper magic. But we have nothing, data-wise, like the compilation of data for mtgo tournaments. And the mtgo tournaments ARE a different animal.

    This may just be confirmation bias as well, but I've noticed that a large majority of the complaints, both before and after the restriction of gush/probe came from people who are primarily on mtgo. Again, I have no hard and fast set of data to say X number of people are mtgo player, Y are paper players and Z are cross-overs. Just going by the eyeball test of the people on both sides of the debate who are most vociferous in keeping the debate going.

    While I certainly agree with Winterstar's point, I also think that experienced Vintage players are capable of assimilating multiple and different data sets into a coherent framework. Implicitly, I tend to weight larger paper tournaments more than smaller, local events. While many paper events diverge a bit from MTGO, there is a surprising amount of convergence. Kevin and I compiled all of the results since April 24th, and the dailies are further from the Challenges than paper is from the challenges. Think about that.

    Moreover, as the paper tournament sizes get larger, the results tend to match MTGO more and more, at least in my observation. Take a look at the NYSE Top 8 as an example. It was 100% Shops and Mentor.

    My point isn't that there is a divergence in the data between paper and online. My point (actually 2 points) are that 1) there is more robust data collection for online magic than paper magic 2) Regardless of what the reality of the data is, there is a generalized perception issue between the 2 formats.



  • @Smmenen

    I apologize for not fully articulating my point of view about group think by saying that I think that Shops and Mentor being perceived as the best decks helps to perpetuate the problem because they are the most played decks and unsurprisingly the most successful decks. If there was a larger sample size of players who had made the Top8 of Challenges then I think you could argue that the MTGO meta was efficient, but a large percentage of the Top8s are made up by a small percentage of the players per @p3temangus in the Turbo Xerox thread,
    "25% of the Top8s are made by 6 players
    50% of the Top8s are made by 16 players
    75% of the Top8s are made by 33 players
    53 individuals made Top8".

    It's impossible to say whether the Top 6 or 16 players would have Top8d the events that they did if they hadn't played the decks that they did, but success begets success.

    Because there is so much data available on MTGO I think people such as yourself have put too much stock in the data because there aren't even TO reports on TMD for events like the 53 player TDG Luau, while there is data ready for consumption every day on MTGO.

    My opinions about why I don't want to play in Daily events are truly just my opinions. I think that if Daily events did not post decklists or would let you choose whether your list was posted or not they would be improved. I don't want to give away my new technology for free just because there is an event to play in. One could say that this is pointless and to some degree they would be right, but the element of surprise is a real thing. It's not to say that one cannot succeed while playing what everyone knows they will be playing, because I am a testament to this not being the case. However, while people know 50 of my 75 before we sit down, the 25 they don't know can drastically change how the match goes.

    There are plenty of people who are playing in Daily events because this is their only avenue to playing Vintage on a daily basis and many of those people are more than happy to try out new and crazy ideas, but I can't be the only person who doesn't want to play their current Champs list in a daily event for fear that their list will catch on.

    You are certainly allowed to complain about the format, but the idea that you are excused in doing so because others did it is childish. You're right, I didn't make a post telling others to stop campaigning for Gush to get restricted; I didn't post at all because I was tired of hearing people complain. For someone who takes posting on this forum so seriously, I am somewhat surprised that you spend so much time and effort blaming others for what happened. My general point on the matter was that the current Vintage environment could be improved by people spending more time building, testing and discussing new decks than complaining about how overpowered Monastery Mentor and Workshop decks are.


  • TMD Supporter

    @Will said in The Downside to Vintage on Magic Online and GroupThink:

    @Smmenen

    I apologize for not fully articulating my point of view about group think by saying that I think that Shops and Mentor being perceived as the best decks helps to perpetuate the problem because they are the most played decks and unsurprisingly the most successful decks. If there was a larger sample size of players who had made the Top8 of Challenges then I think you could argue that the MTGO meta was efficient, but a large percentage of the Top8s are made up by a small percentage of the players per @p3temangus in the Turbo Xerox thread,
    "25% of the Top8s are made by 6 players
    50% of the Top8s are made by 16 players
    75% of the Top8s are made by 33 players
    53 individuals made Top8".

    It's impossible to say whether the Top 6 or 16 players would have Top8d the events that they did if they hadn't played the decks that they did, but success begets success.

    I understood what motivated your post. As I said, when presented with the fact that 70% of the MTGO Challenge Top 8s are Mentor or Shops, there has been one of two reactions, that appears to be shaped, in large part, by one's general opinion about whether the DCI made a mistake in April or not: 1) that the Vintage metagame is in really bad shape, and that there likely needs to be a B&R list change to fix it, either now or in the near future, if this persists. Or 2) the problems in the Vintage metagame are overstated by a small number of people driving the format and a larger herd-like behavior.

    I spent the bulk of my previous post refuting (2), so I'll let that stand on it's own, rather than repeat myself. I will, however, add a few subsidiary points directly responsive to the additional data you introduced. While it was true that 53 unique individuals made Top 8 in the 10 challenges I collected, there were 80 possible slots. That means 66% of the Top 8 players were unique players.

    So, your point about how "few" players actually Top8ed those 10 challenges is actually quite misleading. That's actually quite alot players given the size of those tournaments, contrary to the narrative you are propagating.

    As a point of comparison, in the 28 SCG Power Nine tournaments from 2004-2008, there were 138 unique players who top 8ed touranments in more than 7 cities, out of 216 possible slots (63.9%). So, the 10 MTGO challenges, in contrast, are actually populated at the top by more players, relatively speaking, than 28 tournaments held over 5 years in 5 or more different states.

    My opinions about why I don't want to play in Daily events are truly just my opinions.

    Except you were using your experience & interests to suggest that other people were following suit, and I presented a series of counter-examples to show that this is not the case.

    For someone who takes posting on this forum so seriously, I am somewhat surprised that you spend so much time and effort blaming others for what happened.

    Well, the DCI is to blame, isn't it? And the voices who persuaded the DCI.

    My general point on the matter was that the current Vintage environment could be improved by people spending more time building, testing and discussing new decks than complaining about how overpowered Monastery Mentor and Workshop decks are.

    Yes, I got your point. I disagree with you.

    From a strictly empirical perspective, the current Vintage metagame is literally the worst Vintage metagame I've ever seen. To take but one example, Workshops are the largest part of Top 8s I have ever seen. The current Vintage Challenges have more Workshop per Top 8 than Treasure Cruise decks when Treasure Cruise was unrestricted. It's a complete disaster. This isn't a metagame that is going to be corrected by innovation or it would have happened somewhere in the last three years.

    The Vintage metagame isn't a product of herd behavior. It's a product of deep structural forces, bad policy management and troubling printings. Diverting attention from the core, structural causes isn't going to make things better in the long run. Complaining might.



  • Has anyone considered looking outside Mentor and Workshops for solutions? If we assume most people devote 6 cards in there sideboard for dredge, thats some room that could be freed up to help hate out Workshops and Mentor.


  • Administrators

    @John-Cox said in The Downside to Vintage on Magic Online and GroupThink:

    Has anyone considered looking outside Mentor and Workshops for solutions?

    The short answer is yes.

    • Gunmaster7 who won the last MTGO Challenge with Dredge did
    • The winner of the 50 person GP Kyto side event with BUG Fish did
    • Kurato Yoshihiko who just won the 72 person Vintage God Challenger LCQ with Outcome did
    • Eduardo Medrano who just won LCV in Barcelona with Bant Fish did
    • Tim Everett who just won the Ruyard's Pub event in Texas with Merfolk did
    • James Vogul who just won the Knight Ware EW Trial with Outcome did
    • Mike rogers who just won the RIW Hobbies in Michigan with 2 Card Monte did (sort of, 2CM has Workshops but I think it's very fair to call it a different archetype)

    That all happened in July alone. I was only able to find 4 paper events in July that Mentor or Shops won (and one of them is a 2 Mentor Outcome deck which I think barely count) - Firenze, TopDeck Games, Vintage At Escape, and MKM Series.

    That's just looking at tournament wins. An Omni-Tell deck, a BUG Fish deck, 2 Punishing Oath decks, and a Hatebears deck running Rhonas the Indomitable just top 8'd a 72 person event in Japan. Rector Omniscience and Grixis Painter just top 8'd a 30 person tournament in Prague. U/B Outcome, Spell-Queller/Stoneblade, Dark Petition Storm, Magus of the Future Outcome, Emrakul/Remora/Stoneforge Control, and Baral+Gifts Ungiven Combo/Control have all top 8'd Vintage Challenges this month. That last Gifts deck may actually be the deck on MTGO with the highest match-win-% right now, but it has a much lower total set of wins because very few people are playing it. (The math is pretty tricky to figure out on that one). Again, this all happened in July alone.

    Yes, Workshops is the best performing deck in most metagames overall, and yes Mentor is likely second.

    Despite that, lots of players are choosing to play other decks and being rewarded for it. The kind of conversations that lead to those choices just don't seem to be happening on TMD.


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