[Free Article] Understanding Gush: The Final Chapter?


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    A retrospective look at the last Gush era, and a look forward for Gush, Gush decks, and Vintage.

    It's written for everyone, but serves as a special addendum for Understanding Gush readers.

    Enjoy!

    http://www.eternalcentral.com/understanding-gush-the-final-chapter/



  • One thing that really confounds me about Mentor is why it took so long to become optimized to the point it currently seems to be. Was the metagame stronger against Mentor 2 years ago? Did it take a year before anyone could configure an optimized list?

    Another point of confusion that I have is the relationship of Gush and Shops. The conventional wisdom which I think you (Stephen) originated is that Shops preys on the light mana-base of Turbo Xerox and the need to play frequent cheap cantrips. Mentor decks seem to be eschew these principles, and to have relatively high success against Workshops, so I wonder how much of Gush's success is due to metagame dynamics involving Shops.

    All that said, between your analysis and the unfolding metagame since restriction I think you were right that Mentor would be a more appropriate target than Gush. I was leaning towards a Gush restriction, and while I think it's possible that we would eventually end up with both restricted my short-term predictions have proved inaccurate.



  • @ajfirecracker said in [Free Article] Understanding Gush: The Final Chapter?:

    One thing that really confounds me about Mentor is why it took so long to become optimized to the point it currently seems to be. Was the metagame stronger against Mentor 2 years ago? Did it take a year before anyone could configure an optimized list?

    No, I don't believe so. If you look at the winning EE3 list, the first major event following the restriction of Chalice of the Void and Dig through Time, you see a lot of similarities with subsequent lists. The core elements of Mentor emerged rather quickly. However, Vintage in particular has a lot of inertia and players are very slow to abandon decks and preconceived notions about the format. I remember at one point Oath was viewed as the foil for Mentor. It took time for players to realize that this wasn't the case, that Mentor is in fact a huge favorite in the match up. It took 2 years for the Vintage format to change into it's current form, despite the pieces being in place over that time. It's why I keep saying that three months is a relatively short time in which to gauge the effect of any restriction, including this most recent one.


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    @ajfirecracker said in [Free Article] Understanding Gush: The Final Chapter?:

    One thing that really confounds me about Mentor is why it took so long to become optimized to the point it currently seems to be. Was the metagame stronger against Mentor 2 years ago? Did it take a year before anyone could configure an optimized list?

    What an excellent question. I didn't go into this much in the article, since I was constructing a tight, historical narrative, and avoided tangents where I could resist. But let's dive into a little bit.

    Take a look at the Mentor deck I played in season 2 of the VSL, which I published in this article: http://magic.wizards.com/en/MTGO/articles/archive/vintage-super-league-season-2-decklists-2015-02-25#steve_menendians_mentor_control

    This was immediately after Mentor was printed, and I was first person in the VSL to play Mentor (I worked with David Williams, who played my deck), and therefore one of the first highly visible Mentor decks in Vintage. Yet, David and I went something like 0-6 or 1-5 with that deck that trimester.

    But look at it more carefully. It's almost identical to the deck I played at the NYSE V to a 2nd place finish a few months ago, save for the 4 Gush and 4 Dig. It even has the 1 Stony Silence, 3 Plow, and Mystical!

    Yet, I got crushed. It wasn't until I added Pyromancers, at my local store, that I was able to win or top 4 split (I can't remember which) with Mentor. But when I played it at the NYSE III, using Delver instead of Pyromancer as the secondary threat, I got crushed, and went 4-4.

    So, in the immediate aftermath of my failure with what I thought was the most insane Gush yet (Mentor), my immediate conclusion was that the problem was that Mentor needed help. That as a four-of, Mentor was insufficient to anchor a deck, and needed either Pyromancer or Delver for consistent threat density.

    Over time, I discovered that there was a second problem, which I've never fully untangled from the first: that Mentor couldn't be built just like Delver or Pyromancer, but actually needed at least 4 Moxen, including at least one off color Moxen for reliable casting.

    So, it's possible I just didn't have enough acceleration. In time, however, it's been proven that Mentor doesn't need Delver or Pyromancer help, but can anchor the deck all by itself.

    But this isn't just about me. It's a broader question you raise about why other players couldn't make Mentor win for such a long time.

    I mean, look at the Top 8 of the NYSE III, just four months after Mentor was released: http://www.eternalcentral.com/nyse3results/

    ZERO Mentors in the top 8, despite being a huge part of the field.

    It wasn't really until after the Vintage Championship, as I describe in my narrative, that Mentor really picked up steam, and began to be recognized as the threat it would turn out to be.

    After initially regarding it as one of the most insane decks in Vintage history, I slowly became disillusioned with Mentor and didn't really pick it up again until after the Vintage Championship that fall.

    So, I don't really have the answer. Someone might say it just took time to find the right list, or tune the right list. But the corpus of Mentor, even as we know it today, was in my VSL S2 list way back in February, 2015. So the idea that the "right list" was eventually tuned isn't very persuasive. So, I don't really know the answer to your condundrum.

    Another point of confusion that I have is the relationship of Gush and Shops. The conventional wisdom which I think you (Stephen) originated is that Shops preys on the light mana-base of Turbo Xerox and the need to play frequent cheap cantrips. Mentor decks seem to be eschew these principles, and to have relatively high success against Workshops, so I wonder how much of Gush's success is due to metagame dynamics involving Shops.

    I think the tension is resolved this way: Workshops DO prey on Gush decks or TX decks, if you will. I don't think Mentor has really ever had a favorable Workshop matchup when you look at the aggregate data.

    The problem comes up when we assume that Mentor is "propping up" Gush or TX decks. That, I don't think is true. I think Workshop is dominant in the format because it's insane, and would be dominant with or without alot of TX decks. If TX decks didn't exist, Shop would adjust to more fully target PO decks, run Null Rods, and so on. I think Shops are just insane in the format in general.

    That said, the data shows that everytime a blue card is restricted, Workshops % of Top 8s goes up. This is true of Cruise and Gush. It's hard to disentangle for Dig, because Dig was restricted with Chalice.

    So, here's how I'd think about resolving the question you raise:

    Shops DO prey on TX decks, but Mentor is tactically strong against Shops. So, both statements are true, but at different levels. Shops attack TX decks at a strategic level, while Mentor is one of the best tactics for fighting Shops.

    All that said, between your analysis and the unfolding metagame since restriction I think you were right that Mentor would be a more appropriate target than Gush. I was leaning towards a Gush restriction, and while I think it's possible that we would eventually end up with both restricted my short-term predictions have proved inaccurate.

    Thanks! I hope you enjoyed the narrative, as I put quite some time digging up old Gush decks, combing through archives, and calculating metagame data to tell a complete story of the third Gush era.

    Thanks for the great observations and intriguing questions.


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    @chubbyrain said in [Free Article] Understanding Gush: The Final Chapter?:
    It's why I keep saying that three months is a relatively short time in which to gauge the effect of any restriction, including this most recent one.

    I have a general policy position that, as a matter of principle, cards/strategies need to prove their dominance over time to merit restriction. The reason is essentially implicit in your point here: that the metagame needs time to adapt, and to demonstrate that it is incapable of adapting, to warrant the extraordinary use of an external policy intervention to address it.

    As a practical matter, that means I oppose knee-jerk restrictions when new problems crop up. We need time to see whether dominant decks are truly dominant in a sustainable way, or whether they will fall back the earth.

    That framing should suggest why I don't believe 3+ months into this metagame is too little time to take another action. This isn't a "new" metagame in any meaningful sense. It's not like we entered a brave new world post April, and the problems we confront today are wholly novel.

    The pre-4/24 and post-4/24 metagames are extremely similar based upon MTGO Challenge Top 8s, except that the post-4/24 metagame is simply the more concentrated version. Neither of the problems that the DCI identified in it's 4/24 policy announcement - the strength of Mentor or the oppression of Workshops - have diminished since the restriction.

    Any new restriction would be a stronger prescription for the same ailment, not a Rx for a new one. If we were talking about a new problem, I'd agree with you here.


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