October 17, 2017 Banned & Restricted announcement


  • TMD Supporter

    This post is deleted!

  • TMD Supporter

    Given the constellation of opinion on what should happen in January, and the arguments made by specific individuals in support or opposition to one view or another, perhaps it would be useful, instead of looking forward, to try to look backward.

    We spend so much time and energy debating what should happen next, that we don't spend nearly enough time looking back to evaluate the arguments made in the past. This is an important task. If a person or group of people make arguments regarding a restriction that, with the benefit of hindsight, appear weaker than when initially presented or mistaken about some fundamental relationship, then it is necessary, as a feedback loop if nothing else, to call that out.

    After last year's presidential election, there was much handwringing and retrospective analysis among the nation's pundit class about polling, modeling, and prognostications. No less should individuals who espoused, developed or articulated specific arguments about restrictions reconsider their positions at the time. Hindsight is 20/20.

    Without purporting to comprehensively or systematically evaluate the spectrum of opinions developed over the course of the last few years, I will examine a few specific cases.

    The pattern of restrictions over the last few years has provided a number of "natural" experiments with which to evaluate the various competing claims that arose in that time. That is to say, we can look at the proponents or opponents of specific restrictions, such as Golem, Chalice, Probe, Gush, Thorn and Mentor, with a good deal of evidence about what effect those specific restrictions had - or failed to have - in relation to what those advocates claimed. This includes the DCI.

    The case of Gitaxian Probe is probably the easiest case. Here is what the DCI said about Probe:

    In Vintage, the metagame has come to a bit of a standstill as Monastery Mentor decks face down their main predator, Workshop decks. The primary issue seems to revolve around the prevalence of free draw spells for the Mentor deck that let it churn through its library for no mana while creating an abundance of tokens. We believe by removing these free draw spells—and the perfect information that comes with Gitaxian Probe—we will significantly weaken Monastery Mentor–based strategies. Hopefully the move away from "free" spells in the Mentor decks will lessen the impact of the Workshop deck's various Sphere of Resistance effects, opening up the metagame.

    We now know, with the benefit of hindsight, that both predictions were wrong. Restricting Probe neither weakened Monastery Mentor decks nor "lessened the impact of Workshop deck's various sphere effects, opening up the metagame."

    In a contemporaneous podcast recorded that day, I specifically claimed that both predictions would prove to be wrong. Specifically, I claimed that it was "more likely that the restriction of Gush would either keep Mentor at the same level or increase it than it would decrease the prevalance of Mentor." Empirically, I have been proven correct. I will not recite the data here, since it's been so well documented elsewhere.

    More revealingly, you can see the full spectrum of opinions - and specific people - who supported that restriction (and the restriction of Gush): http://www.themanadrain.com/topic/1147/april-24th-2017-banned-and-restricted-update-gush-and-probe-top-in-legacy

    To call out a few specific comments, @boxian correctly called out the problem with their logic. In contrast, @KingLeovold notably expressed his happiness that Mentor was not restricted.

    There are many other empirically testable comments in that thread.

    One was whether "restricting Gush opened up "other blue draw engines."

    We can look back at the data and test this claims.

    The % of Big Blue & Blue Control decks in the January P9 Challenge were 5.4% and 10.7% respectively, 19% and 3.2% respectively in Feb., and 3.2 and 6.5% in March. That's an average of 9.2% and 6.8% respectively.

    In the compiled May metagame report, however, the % of Big Blue and Blue Control was, by averaging all of the Challenges, was 7.5% and 3.8%. In other words, Big Blue and Blue Control, was actually less than the average of the three preceding months. Far from opening up the metagame, the restriction of Gush appeared to result in fewer, not more, blue decks in the metagame. If looking at the "May-July" report, the metagame representation average for Big Blue and Blue Control was 5.7% each. Again, below the Jan-March average.

    Quite the contrary, these restrictions consolidated the metagame.

    In 2016, there were a number of debates in various threads about whether Mentor, Gush or both cards should be restricted. I argued that Mentor should be restricted before Gush, because it was the card that was driving the metagame more than Gush. Matt Murray, felt that both Gush and Mentor should be restricted because they impacted the metagame in different ways. Regarding Gush, here is quote from last year that is representative of the argument that Matt repeated many times in 2016:

    @chubbyrain said in Discussing Gush Mentor (beating it, restriction discussion, anything):

    @letseeker said:

    @ChubbyRain how good is thing in the ice? is it a metagame card or is it an actual threat that could stay?

    My opinion has been that the actual win conditions in Gush decks are interchangeable and should be based on what you feel the metagame will be like. Mentor is arguably the most powerful in a vacuum, but people start running Sudden Shocks, Sulfur Elementals, Dread of Nights, etc. Thing in the Ice is a very powerful alternative. Shops becomes very popular...look to Delver/Young Pyromancer. Shops becomes nonexistent...look to Doomsday. People start cutting Dack Faydens and loading up on Supreme Verdicts...Tinker becomes viable. The format is actually very dynamic and open...so long as you are willing to run 3-4 Gush in your Blue decks. That's the one card I feel is metagame proof.

    Although we lack data on the counter-factual of a contemporary metagame with Mentor Restricted, and Gush unrestricted, the argument quoted here has been, I believe, refuted or at least strongly undermined. That is to say, the argument that 'win conditions in Gush decks are interchangeable' is strongly undermined by the evidence following the restriction of Mentor. The evidence is overwhelming that restricting Mentor led to statistically large observed decline in Turbo Xerox (formerly Gush) strategies, but Gush did not.

    Of course, it is possible that it took the combined restrictions of Gush and Mentor to produce this result, but I spoke with many people after Vintage Champs who agreed with me that unrestricted Gush would not have made a difference in the Top 8 result. The fact that TX strategies saw no decline after the restriction of Gush, but saw a large decline after the restriction of Mentor, strongly, but not irrefutably, supports the view that Matt's argument above was incorrect.

    That is not to say that Gush 1) should not have been restricted or 2) would not have eventually been restricted. But, more narrowly, it is to say that the argument for why Gush had to be restricted presented here appears to be empirically false, based upon available evidence.

    As the restriction of Mentor shows, the win condition really does matter. Young Pyromancer, Thing in the Ice, Hydra, etc. -- those cards are leagues behind Mentor in power level, especially in dealing with Workshops.

    In summary, the performance of the "Gush" deck (or TX) after the restriction of Gush in April but before the restriction of Mentor in August, in comparison to it's performance since the restriction of Mentor is pretty strong evidence underming the argument developed in the quote above. Granted, Matt had other arguments regarding Gush, such as whether Gush suppresses other blue decks, but the performance of Mentor post-Gush restriction and the performance of tokens decks post-Mentor restriction really does underscore the power level of Mentor vis-a-vis the other win conditions. It certainly appears that Mentor was really anchoring those decks. And it's printing just a few months after Cruise/Dig created a huge boost to that archetype.

    Regarding the argument that Gush suppresses other blue decks, given what we know now, I think the evidence is surprisingly (even to me) weak that it, and not simply Mentor, did that as well. After all, there does not appear to be a fundamental composition shift in the blue portion of the metagame through these restrictions that was not observable before them.

    Similarly, re-consider Rich's theory about how Turbo Xerox decks "propped up" Shops. Specifically, in his conclusion in the OP, Rich argued against the restriction of anything from Shops, on this basis:

    Workshop decks are looking like a dominant deck. However, as I've described above, I believe that this is because Workshops is one of the few viable ways to attack the Turbo Xerox Mentor deck. If anything is hit from the Workhsop deck right now, the only result would be to collapse and condense the metagame further. In other words, the strength of Turbo Xerox Mentor decks is causing Ravager Shops to occupy an outsized portion of the Vintage metagame.This is because Ravager Shops is the best response to Turbo Xerox Mentor.

    Yet, empirically, this, too, has been proven false. The DCI ended up following his advice of restriction Mentor, but restricted Thorn contrary to his advice, and as the September aggregate MTGO data showed and the Vintage Championship results show, Shops were the strongest deck in the metagame terms of both prevalence and win %.

    Although the theory that TX was propping up Shops was not unreasonable, it is another example, in my view, of a pre-restriction theory that has been empirically refuted by post-restriction evidence in several respects. Although the metagame did condense further, it was not in the manner that Rich warned, but rather towards more Workshops.

    Regarding the general theory, every single restriction to the TX deck in the last few years has resulted in more Shops and better Shop performance, not less. After Gush's restriction, Shops surged to 40% of Top 8s on MTGO. Then Mentor was restricted, and we have Shops giving it's best ever performance at Vintage Champs.

    Time permitted, I will dig further into the TMD archives to find other arguments that may be suspectible either to direct falsifiability based upon recent data or indirect refutation or undermining. This is an important exercise, as the guidance upon which B&R policy is made is sometimes based upon theories or models of the metagame that appear to be faulty or incorrect, especially with the benefit of hindsight. Consequentially, this may lead to suboptimal restrictions.

    Without opining on specific cards that have yet to be restricted, I hold little doubt that we've suffered through a series of at least some mistakes where the DCI restricted the wrong card to address the target problem: Chalice instead of Golem, Gush & Probe instead of Mentor, and Thorn instead of Sphere. Even if we felt that Gush and/or Probe needed restriction, I think that everyone can agree that the DCI's logic proved faulty.

    In each of these cases (or, at least 2 of the 3 so far), the mistake has required further action. It's likely, given what we know now, that restricting Golem would not have prevented Chalice from also getting restricted (since Thorn was axed, and more cards are likely coming). But that doesn't mean that Golem wouldn't have been the better initial restriction in late 2015.

    Moreover, it's much less clear, and certainly plausible, that the restriction of Mentor could have forestalled or avoided the restriction of Gush and/or Probe. According the logic of the DCI in announcing the Gush & Probe restriction, that seems likely, since it focused entirely on Mentor, and the role that Probe and Gush played in amplifying Mentor.

    Empirically, the restriction of Mentor has apparently brought TX decks in line. If you just line up the graphs, the restriction of Gush did nothing - as I predicted - to diminish Mentor's prevalence (or the popularity/success of TX decks), while the restriction of Mentor has led to a drastic decline of TX decks, from roughly 30% to roughly half (13.5% on MTGO).

    It's possible that Gush would have still needed restriction, but the available evidence for that position is weaker than even I could have imagined.



  • @smmenen Too long to go through point by point, but I will say this. The most successful decks in the post-Mentor MTGO metagame have been Xerox decks (54.6% in September, 63.8% MWP in October). Xerox had three negative matchups at Champs (Shops, Oath, and Dredge, none worse than 40%) and it's very likely that with Gush unrestricted, the Oath matchup would flip back to favorable. Gush would certainly improve the Big Blue, and Paradox matchups which were already favorable for Gush. Blue control would move from about even (51%) to laughable for the competent Gush pilot.

    I have been calling for both the restriction of Mentor and Gush for years. The quote you found was partially hyperbole - I clearly felt that Mentor was above par compared to the other win cons and therefore recommended it's restriction. It was also context - there was a concerted effort in the metagame to hate out Mentor that was successful for a time. Decks like Blue Moon were loading up on Sudden Shocks and Sulfur Elementals, but were ultimately thwarted by switching to Walkers, Thing in the Ice, etc. That said, I stand by the position that Gush decks with 1 Mentor would continue to dominate the non-Shops metagame or even the entire metagame if you are talking about the post-Thorn format. They have done very well given the available information with 1 Mentor and 1 Gush...



  • What I get out of Stephen's post is that all of the restrictions that happened appear to be correct, but they may not have occurred in the correct order. Respectfully, there are also a few transparent examples of shade throwing at rival personalities under the guise of constructive retrospection. Unlike something like the cited post-mortem of a tragically inept political campaign that yields knowledge useful in future elections, I don't see a future analogue where we have multiple mutually problematic cards and the crux of an issue is the order in which they are restricted, rather than the identity of the cards themselves. Fortunately, there does seem to be consensus that further restrictions are likely and/or necessary. The more the merrier. :-)


  • TMD Supporter

    @brianpk80

    No shade throwing here: explicit critique of past statements & analysis from many quarters, including the DCI, with much more to come.

    I disagree both with your view that more restrictions are better, and with the claim that all the past restrictions we've endured were necessary. In particular, it's exceptionally difficult to justify the restriction of Gitaxian Probe, based upon the logic the DCI presented, with Mentor restricted.



  • @smmenen said in October 17, 2017 Banned & Restricted announcement:

    I disagree both with your view that more restrictions are better, and with the claim that all the past restrictions we've endured were necessary. In particular, it's exceptionally difficult to justify the restriction of Gitaxian Probe, based upon the logic the DCI presented, with Mentor restricted.

    I use a different metric than many which as you know is not primarily wedded to a given metagame at a given point in time. Gitaxian Probe fails the outrage test for me both in a vacuum and in context (particularly Storm). Some other cards that fail the outrage test entirely independently of the current metagame are Show and Tell and Pact of Negation. It's not worth the persuasive capital to campaign vocally against either right now, but restricting them at any time sounds reasonable to me.

    Regarding the size of the restricted list, I consider that a trivial aesthetic concern and always have. :-) We've gone over this before though so I'll just say I appreciate you sharing your dedicated thorough contributions and analysis. Regards! -B


  • TMD Supporter

    @brianpk80 Pact of Negation? I mean no offense by that, just made me curious. Where does the hatred for that card come from?



  • Vintage is attractive (to me at least) precisely because it contains outrageous cards and strategies.



  • @mdkubiak said in October 17, 2017 Banned & Restricted announcement:

    @brianpk80 Pact of Negation? I mean no offense by that, just made me curious. Where does the hatred for that card come from?

    I wouldn't say I "hate[]" the card, but there is no strategy that can utilize it that can be considered healthy for this format. The whole point of that card is to bypass the things that keep the most obnoxious Turn 1-2 kills in check.


  • TMD Supporter

    @brianpk80 Okay, I was more curious than anything on your view point. :)


  • TMD Supporter

    @brianpk80 said in October 17, 2017 Banned & Restricted announcement:

    @smmenen said in October 17, 2017 Banned & Restricted announcement:

    I disagree both with your view that more restrictions are better, and with the claim that all the past restrictions we've endured were necessary. In particular, it's exceptionally difficult to justify the restriction of Gitaxian Probe, based upon the logic the DCI presented, with Mentor restricted.

    I use a different metric than many which as you know is not primarily wedded to a given metagame at a given point in time. Gitaxian Probe fails the outrage test for me both in a vacuum and in context (particularly Storm). Some other cards that fail the outrage test entirely independently of the current metagame are Show and Tell and Pact of Negation. It's not worth the persuasive capital to campaign vocally against either right now, but restricting them at any time sounds reasonable to me.

    Wow. Out of curiosity, in addition to Pact of Negation and Show & Tell, what other cards would you like to see restricted? If you had command over the DCI to dictate B&R policy for Vintage, what would you Restrict &/or Ban?



  • @smmenen said in October 17, 2017 Banned & Restricted announcement:

    @brianpk80 said in October 17, 2017 Banned & Restricted announcement:

    @smmenen said in October 17, 2017 Banned & Restricted announcement:

    I disagree both with your view that more restrictions are better, and with the claim that all the past restrictions we've endured were necessary. In particular, it's exceptionally difficult to justify the restriction of Gitaxian Probe, based upon the logic the DCI presented, with Mentor restricted.

    I use a different metric than many which as you know is not primarily wedded to a given metagame at a given point in time. Gitaxian Probe fails the outrage test for me both in a vacuum and in context (particularly Storm). Some other cards that fail the outrage test entirely independently of the current metagame are Show and Tell and Pact of Negation. It's not worth the persuasive capital to campaign vocally against either right now, but restricting them at any time sounds reasonable to me.

    Wow. Out of curiosity, in addition to Pact of Negation and Show & Tell, what other cards would you like to see restricted? If you had command over the DCI to dictate B&R policy for Vintage, what would you Restrict &/or Ban?

    I find your argument about the critical mass of problematic restricted cards since Khans of Tarkir to be persuasive. I would ban Monastery Mentor, Trinisphere, Dig Through Time, and Treasure Cruise. I would restrict Phyrexian Revoker, Sphere of Resistance, Walking Ballista, Thought-Knot Seer, Cabal Therapy, Show and Tell, Wasteland, Preordain, Dack Fayden, Mox Opal, Paradoxical Outcome, Undercity Informer, Pact of Negation, and possibly Oath of Druids and Dark Depths. If Mental Misstep were restricted, Voltaic Key and Dark Ritual would be reasonable restrictions. I don't really need to or care to see many of them restricted right now, but I don't think any would be unreasonable by most metrics that aren't solely focused on a given metagame at a given point in time (ie power level, imbalance, degenerate play patterns, un-fun quotient, "health" of the game).



  • @brianpk80 I don't agree with you, Brian, but I love you. You are my favorite radical outlier in Vintage.



  • Cool that I'm not the only one who favors a Wasteland restriction.



  • @brianpk80 Although I disagree with the great majority of those restrictions, I find it interesting that someone is giving thought to a different approach to the banlist. I'm still (and probably will always be) on the "restrict only if it's dominant" camp, but I wonder how the format would be if what you say was implemented.

    The only thing I agree is that every set that gets released gets us closer to having a banned list in the format again.



  • Undercity Informer but not Balustrade Spy or the other no-land full-mill cards?



  • How much of a stretch would it be to call your ideal format Legacy with Moxen?



  • @ajfirecracker About as much of stretch as that stupid diversity argument...


  • TMD Supporter

    @brianpk80 said in October 17, 2017 Banned & Restricted announcement:

    @smmenen said in October 17, 2017 Banned & Restricted announcement:

    @brianpk80 said in October 17, 2017 Banned & Restricted announcement:

    @smmenen said in October 17, 2017 Banned & Restricted announcement:

    I disagree both with your view that more restrictions are better, and with the claim that all the past restrictions we've endured were necessary. In particular, it's exceptionally difficult to justify the restriction of Gitaxian Probe, based upon the logic the DCI presented, with Mentor restricted.

    I use a different metric than many which as you know is not primarily wedded to a given metagame at a given point in time. Gitaxian Probe fails the outrage test for me both in a vacuum and in context (particularly Storm). Some other cards that fail the outrage test entirely independently of the current metagame are Show and Tell and Pact of Negation. It's not worth the persuasive capital to campaign vocally against either right now, but restricting them at any time sounds reasonable to me.

    Wow. Out of curiosity, in addition to Pact of Negation and Show & Tell, what other cards would you like to see restricted? If you had command over the DCI to dictate B&R policy for Vintage, what would you Restrict &/or Ban?

    I would ban Monastery Mentor, Trinisphere, Dig Through Time, and Treasure Cruise. I would restrict Phyrexian Revoker, Sphere of Resistance, Walking Ballista, Thought-Knot Seer, Cabal Therapy, Show and Tell, Wasteland, Preordain, Dack Fayden, Mox Opal, Paradoxical Outcome, Undercity Informer, Pact of Negation, and possibly Oath of Druids and Dark Depths. If Mental Misstep were restricted, Voltaic Key and Dark Ritual would be reasonable restrictions. I don't really need to or care to see many of them restricted right now, but I don't think any would be unreasonable by most metrics that aren't solely focused on a given metagame at a given point in time (ie power level, imbalance, degenerate play patterns, un-fun quotient, "health" of the game).

    I appreciate and respect your candor. I have no doubt that you are aware that putting your full and honest opinions out there, especially regarding the scope and strangeness of some of your desired restrictions (like Undercity Informer), will be perceived as eccentric at best. That takes courage.

    That said, while you, like myself, have been participating in forum debates about what should be restricted or not for more than a decade, I do feel it is worthwhile to offer at least one response that, while not entirely original, is sufficiently so to merit mention. But to make it, I first want to quote a few zinger's you've made in the past to sharpen both your perspective and my retort.

    In 2013, you wrote, in response to me and an episode of SMIP the following:

    What appears to be driving your position is not good stewardship of the format, but unrestriction fetishism, the abnormal belief that reducing the percentage of cards restricted or banned even by a few hundredths of a decimal point is a source of joy in and of itself, more than playing the game,

    Then, more pointedly, that same year, you wrote:

    I don't buy into the myth that a small restricted list makes a better format. There are well over 10,000 Magic cards; the difference between having 0.032% and 0.031% of them restricted isn't going to make anyone lose any sleep. If someone overheard a guy saying: "We were getting so close. There were only 42 cards restricted after years of effort and now... in the blink of an eye, it's all gone. Back up to 47! All that work... all in vain."

    That's a damn good point. And it sounds persuasive. Except for one thing.

    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.

    Your policy preferences, if implemented, would lead to much more format homogenization, I believe, and it would be a much less ferocious, but less high-intensity format, and have a bias towards control decks, which are less likely to exhibit the "outrageousness" you decry.


  • TMD Supporter

    @brianpk80 And here I thought your list would include everything with the word discard. :)


Log in to reply
 

WAF/WHF

Looks like your connection to The Mana Drain was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.