The Curious Case of Mishra's Workshop



  • @chubbyrain That is... Sir, that is a really good argument. I happen to be on the other side of that choice. I wish Dark Ritual saw more play (though I'm not a storm player). I wish Dark Confident and Deathrite saw more play. (Though I'm not a BUG player, generally.)... but arguing that Misstep is more interactive (in a way it is, and in a way it isn't, I'd say), and that interactivity is preferred to deck diversity... well, Sir. I applaud you. That's a totally legitimate and good argument that I just happen to disagree with.

    (I will say that I think interactivity is a longstanding, but kind of meaningless term, which would greatly benefit us all if it were replaced by the term "skill-testing"... but again, that's just me.)



  • @chubbyrain said in The Curious Case of Mishra's Workshop:

    A balanced metagame is one in which no deck maintains a greater than 50% match win rate over a sustained period of time.

    Hum, this is interesting because I've been thinking about this lately. Do you really think a deck over 50% is a problem? Who would choose a deck with known less than 50% against the field to play with? I guess this is why we read Shops data differently. You think Shops being over 50% is a problem; I think it being 60% is OK and healthy. Care to say more on why more than 50% is an issue?

    PS:
    @chubbyrain said in The Curious Case of Mishra's Workshop:

    We talk about how Vintage isn't the insane, broken format that people often cite as a reason to not play it. How much is due to that 22% chance that the opponent has Misstep in their hand? Interactivity vs diversity...I'd pick interactivity here. That's just me though.

    I made the same comment as you without reading your comment first. Guess we don't disagree on everything then :)



  • @chubbyrain I really appreciate your effort to define a term here. Balanced Metagame = no deck maintains more than a 50% win rate over a sustained period.

    Now let me say, I think that's not a good definition. It's way, way too low a threshold of "brokenness" (Here I'm using brokenness as just, the opposite of balance.) Just apply it to other games to see why -

    In the past 10 years the Boston Red Sox have won more than 53% of its games. In that time it's logged 7 winning seasons and 3 losing seasons. Can we extend your definition, and look at that data and necessarily say that the AL east is "imbalanced"? (Taking that to mean, unfair or something like that?)

    In 2016 Magnus Carlsen entered and won the Tata Steel (winning every game), Norway Chess Championship (4 wins, one draw), Bilbao Masters (losing only 1 game), Chess.com's Grandmaster Blitz Battle Championship, and the World Chess Title. His wins to losses during the year easily exceeded a 3:1 ratio. Can we extend your definition, and look at that data and necessarily say that grandmaster level chess is "imbalanced"? (Taking that to mean, unfair or something like that?)

    Between 1940 and 1965, Sugar Ray Robinson won 173 or 200 boxing matches, 108 of those by knockout. Can we extend your definition, and look at that data and necessarily say that light/middleweight boxing was "imbalanced"? (I mean, I think it was rigged... but not because of these numbers. I also don't think these numbers are a function of the rigging.)

    By your rule, we are trying to make a statistical argument infering "unfairness" from win loss outputs. (essentially unfairness is what we mean when we say a metagame is imbalanced, I think.) That's always going to be problematic, because as we can see, sometimes some entities within a metagame are just better, even though the game itself is still essentially fair. These kind of necessarily X given the statistics are always going to be trouble...

    And even then, 50% is way to low a threshold. A good standard here has got to make some effort to tease out a difference between actual systemic "imbalance" and just a case of one entity being honestly better.

    Of course, a way better method to do this is to simply playtest cards and see if one meets some other standard of creating imbalance... ironically, we (the largest possible scope of the word we here) are basically bending over backward not to just playtest at this point.



  • @Topical_Island the sports analogy isn't totally applicable IMO because, for instance, the other baseball teams couldn't just decide to become the Boston Red Sox (time for a little game theory etc) the same way that players can choose to switch decks.

    That's all I got :-)



  • If you start by saying "I just don't expect one" when it comes to having a rational discussion....you've already given away your position and contradicted yourself. But ok let's try anway. I'll try to refrain from using the same "silly" little jabs you use, but don't think they aren't noticed ;)

    How much do we really care about your concept of a "balanced" metagame? If someone holds a tournament and 100 players show up and literally all of them are playing Blue variants, what does that mean? Do players need to be forced to play certain decks to entertain your concept of balance? That's obviously rhetorical but it's point was to illustrate that people play what they want to play. Maybe it's because it wins, maybe it's because they have the cards, maybe it's what they consider sleeving up on that particular day of that particular month of that particular year. Do you see? How arbitrary and idealist it is to achieve your sense of balance.

    @chubbyrain said in The Curious Case of Mishra's Workshop:

    @madmanmike25 To the contrary, I welcome a rational discussion. I just don't expect one.

    It's that since we've started collecting data, it's been clear that Shops decks have outperformed other decks.

    Oh really? Ok, since when have you been collecting this data? Since before Lodestone Golem? Please link (or just tell me and confirm) when you started this process of compiling data.

    And supposed I go along with your cherry picked statistics, do you have Workshop decks broken down into Combo, Control, Aggro categories.....or just by decks containing 4 copies of Mishra's Workshop? And yes, please confirm this or I'll just assume your data is "bullcrap". So if they are broken down into those basic three categories, which Shop deck in particular makes up more than 50% of the field? And for how long? Do tell.

    That being the case, do you have the various Blue decks lumped together? I doubt that, since it might show (shudder!) that Blue decks have long had a history of dominating tournaments.....let alone Top 8's.

    As for Magic Online statistics, what can one derive from that? I'd rather be focused on actual players at actual events with actual cards. But then again, you are choosing what metrics you desire. Oh wait, that would make your reply a "crap post".

    I'm ready for you to start the rational discussion now please.



  • You're clearly frustrated but taking a stance that pretty much says "any opinion other than my opinion is wrong" isn't helping your argument at all. Top that off with thinly veiled condescending comments and you do NOT have the makings of a rational discussion.



  • @madmanmike25 said in The Curious Case of Mishra's Workshop:

    You're clearly frustrated but taking a stance that pretty much says "any opinion other than my opinion is wrong" isn't helping your argument at all. Top that off with thinly veiled condescending comments and you do NOT have the makings of a rational discussion.

    No, I'm not taking a stance that any other opinions are wrong. I am calling out specifically your argument and similar ones as irrational and wrong. Believe it or not, this argument - that people are biased against Shops by lumping all or most decks with Shops into one archetype - has been made for years. The frustration is rooted in the fact that Ryan and I are often the target of this stupid argument because we are the ones collecting the data. We actually go to considerable lengths, with archetypes, subarchetypes, tags, and search pages, to accurately portray the metagame. Moreover, we provide all of our data to the community so if someone disagrees with our classifications, they can easily download our spreadsheets, alter the archetypes in accordance with their own classification scheme, and publish their own metagame breakdowns. You know how many people have done so? None.

    As for our data, it's all here on TMD. Just go to the Tournaments Report section. And yes, we have data extending back to Lodestone Golem, both online data from the Power Nine and paper data from the large tournaments Ryan and I were able to attend. I don't care what you consider to be "real" data from "real" Vintage - it's there and meant to be used to construct rational and substantiated arguments about metagame health, as well to help brewers prepare for events.



  • @ribby Fair point about how hard it is to become the Red Sox... oh, by the way, what's the price of a playset of workshops these days? $3,800 or so?...

    Who was it before who wanted to make the price of Workshops material to this argument?... I think we just got there.

    (I think the point about how problematic it is making necessarily "imbalanced" due to win loss rate arguments, still stands by the way.)



  • Ok then go over this because this is the most recent thing you posted in the tournament results page:

    0_1510789106062_20633d30-14d1-4d33-9f34-1ebc33e92981-image.png

    I see "Shops" lumped together and not Shop combo, Shop Aggro, Shop Control etc.

    Now I see quite a few blue decks....not lumped together but given their own fun names/categories so as to make it appear like "diversity" of the format.

    This data really helps illustrate my point, so how the heck are you interpreting this in your favor?

    If you are going to lump decks together why not just do it right and lump the FORCE OF WILL's together then do the same for the MISHRA'S WORKSHOP's and then do the comparison of your supposed healthy and balanced meta.

    Regardless that you don't appear to be correct, the effort you put into doing this is appreciated by some I'm sure. That being said....."There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."


  • TMD Supporter

    @madmanmike25 said in The Curious Case of Mishra's Workshop:

    I see "Shops" lumped together and not Shop combo, Shop Aggro, Shop Control etc.
    If you are going to lump decks together why not just do it right and lump the FORCE OF WILL's together then do the same for the MISHRA'S WORKSHOP's

    While I can accept your premise, I think your criticism of @diophan and @ChubbyRain is completely unfounded and unnecessarily harsh. If we were in the 2014 or earlier meta, I might agree with you, but I'll be honest, I can't think of one "Workshop" deck in the last year (or two?) that has had any week-to-week success that wasn't a base Ravager deck.

    You can accuse them of editorializing the data, but I don't think the Shops decks are nearly as varied over the last few years as you think. There's many of us waiting for the day that Stax can rise again :)



  • @madmanmike25 This was a combination of individual reports and those reports have much more detail. I also work with @diophan on these and we split the work of writing them up. Look at the recent Champs report that Ryan posted. We break down the Shops archetype into Ravager and Non-Ravager Shops, which is essentially splitting them into your "Aggro" and "Control" shells as the majority of non-Ravager Shops decks are Stax variants or things like red Shops. As are as what you call Combo Shops, that goes in the "Combo" archetype because frankly they are almost nonexistent in the current metagame and those decks play out incredibly differently. Those are broken down by variant and you can see that 4 out of 400+ players played 2CM, which was pretty much it for your Shops Combo. All that information is there - there is no attempt to obfuscate it.

    I do have to ask, have you played the format recently? And in what context? Do you play on MTGO or attend monthly competitive local tournaments? If so, how large are they and what decks do people typically play? The reason is that I am getting the sense that you underestimate the degree of homogeneity within the current decks that run Workshops. Honestly, it seems like you are an old player returning to the format after a bit of a hiatus. If so, welcome back. Btw, things have change...

    I will use the data set you provided from the September Challenges...Of those 41 out of 49 decks ran Ravager in an aggressive style of deck. From the 3 Combo decks, you have one 2CM so that's a total of 50 decks running 4 Workshops. Breaking that down, you have 82% Aggro Shops, 16% Control Shops, and 2% Combo Shops. Or in terms of the current metagame, 18.7% Ravager Shops, 3.7% Non-Ravager Shops, and 0.5% Two Card Monte. Like, it's hard to justify even going through the effort that we to derive those numbers. We put a ton of work into avoiding accusations of bias and giving the community as much information as possible. The simple truth is that Shops has become much less diverse in the past three years. There is no Martello, there's very little Espresso, no Metalworker, no Terra Nova, and when people break from Ravager Shops, they really don't seem to do well as a group.



  • @topical_island I love baseball and welcome the chance to talk about it. :)

    The thing is that Major League Baseball actually has done much to promote balance. They just typically call it "parity". In fact, almost all sports leagues try to varying degrees to create parity. They impose a luxury tax on teams that exceed a certain payroll. Or they enact a salary cap. Most teams use a draft system that awards the highest picks to those with lowest records (so bad teams get better players). The NFL and MLB award compensatory picks to teams who lose top free agents, while MLB actually takes picks from teams that sign those free agents (called type A free agents). The NFL skews the schedule so that the 1st place team in a division plays 1st place teams in other divisions the next year, giving those teams a more difficult strength of schedule in theory. That the Boston Red Sox, one of the most successful franchises in recent sports history, with one of the largest payrolls in the game, have only won 53% of their games over the past decade is a testament to those efforts.

    @fsecco As for why competitive balance is important, I think we can continue the baseball metaphor. The reason MLB and other leagues try to promote parity is that it's in their best interests for teams to be competitive. I'm an Orioles fan - we had 13 losing seasons in a row in which attendance tanked. However, several years ago, the team started winning and attendance spiked but not back to where it was. The team is still trying to rebuild the fan base after their historic losing streak. Fans want to support teams that are competitive. They buy more merchandise, watch more games on TV, and attend more games in person.

    A lot of Vintage's current issues and debate in the community arise from trying to serve two masters, as Sam Black put it. There are players who've had cards since 1993 that play solely for the experience of playing those cards. They trot out their Cerebral Assassin deck at Waterbury and don't give a damn if they win or lose. And there's nothing wrong with that. But there are players who attend local tournaments regularly or play frequently on Magic Online, who do so for the competitive aspect of the game. They want the ability to play skill intensive matches for prizes with several different strategies. They don't want to play at a disadvantage because the decks they build or enjoy playing are much worse than Shops, or Faeries, or Affinity, or Eldrazi, or any of the numerous decks that have taken over formats and resulting in bannings or restrictions. It's those players that will ultimately be driven from an unbalanced format, just like Orioles fans after 10 years of awful baseball.

    There isn't anything intrinsically wrong with either mindset. However, if you are Wizards and your obligations are to generate profit from Magic, which side do you chose? The people that play twice a year casually, or those that play competitively frequently? The proof is in the B&R pudding: Wizards of the Coast emphasizes balance in formats it considers competitive and they've cited it repeatedly in various banned and restriction announcements.



  • @chubbyrain I don't remember saying anything against competitive balance, though. So I agree with everything you say. Multiplayer Commander should be managed towards fun and casual play. Vintage should be balanced towards competitive play.
    What I disagree, and probably always will, is that we should manage the format so a few fringe strategies can be played. I stated this before (in this topic or another) on how Duel Commander (a competitive format) tried to do this and failed miserably. I mean, they got what they wanted (they made non-disruptive aggro a thing in the format) but that drove away most players that liked the format exactly because of the way it played.
    For me, there's a reason Vintage is so cool and that's because it's very different from the midrange grindfest Magic has become everywhere else. So I strongly disagree with opinions from people that play Vintage and think it's "busted" because they correlate it to other formats and notice a discrepancy in play style. It's supposed to be like that. So I disagree with banning/restricting anything to follow that project.

    We disagree on the reading on Workshop data, which I think would be more relevant to deal talk about, for sure. I don't think a 60% winrate is that bad.

    Anyway, I'm drunk because my team just won the local soccer championship so sorry if I'm not talking reasonably enough.



  • @chubbyrain True, Ravager is prevalent from what I'm seeing. If a deck does decently and puts up numbers, the more people will want to play that same deck. Maybe they change 1-4 cards, but it's essentially the same deck. I've seen enough tourney results on TMD back in the day to know that's been the case for ages. I get why they do it. Why reinvent the wheel?

    So let's take that same logic and apply it to Blue decks. How many cards different should basic blue decks contain to be labeled as something else and not just be classified as "Blue". My contention is that Blue decks have been Top 8'ing since.....well forever pretty much. It would be very difficult to argue against blue having the best cards in the game.

    Do we really want fewer Workshop decks? Because that's what will happen if you indeed axe Workshop. Ancient Tomb will just not cut it alone. It seems a lot of people just want more diversity among blue decks and that's what they consider "balanced" and "healthy" in regards to the meta. I get the sense that they want a typical T8 to consist of 6 blue decks (one being a 'fish' variant maybe to give them hope), a Dredge deck, and a Workshop deck. Yay diversity.

    I'm pretty old here on TMD, and while I haven't posted, that doesn't mean I haven't been secretly lurking. Yes I took a hiatus and I won't lie, it was mainly due to the restriction of Lodestone Golem. Then I come back and find Chalice was axed too? Am I truly to believe that Workshop decks have gotten BETTER since the restriction of those two cards? If you want to convince me of that, I'm going to be a hard sell.

    Maybe taking lock pieces away from Shop players is what decreased the diversity. Imagine that.

    And thank you, it's good to be back.

    @joshuabrooks I wasn't attempting to be harsh, just point out flaws in an opinion (yes, an opinion) that seemed clad in steel. If you can't scrutinize something, there is no new knowledge to be gained.



  • @fsecco I agree that restrictions shouldn't be made so that fringe strategies are playable. I think restrictions have 3 reasons - they promote interactivity, diversity, or balance. This isn't just my personal belief because Wizards has said as much in their announcements. You are discussing diversity here, but that doesn't mean that Merfolk or other archetypes should always be viable. That doesn't mean Shops and Mana Drain have to be viable. It means that there should be multiple competitive archetypes for people to chose from. Honestly, this doesn't mean just Blue decks. Or even Gush/Mentor, Shops, and Dredge like previous metagames. We had 6 distinct archetypes at Champs which were 6% of the field or more and I think that's great.

    As or the reason Vintage is cool, I get that people like playing broken strategies in the format. The idea isn't to drive out broken strategies but to make sure they can coexist and as many people can enjoy the format competitively with different styles of decks as possible. Again, I actually don't think anything needs to be restricted from Shops right now, let alone Workshops itself. I just hate the knee jerk reactions and fallacies that get thrown out every time the discussion arises. And yes, these happen on both sides of the debate. It's ironic - we actually started collecting data in the hopes of injecting rationality into the debate. In hindsight, that ended up a bit naive. :P

    Congrats on your team's victory!



  • @madmanmike25 My opinion isn't clad in steel, but my training is in science (physics and biochemistry), so I expect quite a bit from arguments. I also didn't consider it to be harsh - if anything, I'm probably the harsh one here...

    As for Blue decks, all classification schemes are somewhat arbitrary. I think a major part of the current scheme is utility. Basically, the data we generate on metagames should be useful to people. And no, not for everyone's favorite topic of discussion, banned and restricted decisions... It makes sense to put decks like Oath into its own archetype because that deck is combated uniquely with enchantment removal and things like Containment Priest or Cage. It makes sense to have decks with Paradoxical Outcome in the same category because they play out similarly and are best attacked with Null Rods. Ravager Shops and other Shops decks are a different beast and you really want spot removal and Hurkyl's and/or Oath. There is reasoning behind these classifications, but they aren't perfect. That's why we break them down further into archetypes, or label them with tags so that people know how many decks are trying to "tax" their spells (ie. aggro/control shops and white eldrazi).

    If you look at it this way, lumping all Blue decks together isn't incredibly useful. We could do it and actually have done it by tagging such decks with Force of Will (I think that was basically what you considered to be blue), but I feel most people want to see breakdowns with more detail. We are open to constructive feedback if you can think of some use for more indepth Shops classifications.

    As for wanting fewer Workshop decks, I'm actually not in the camp of we need to restrict Workshops now. I want people to be accepting of the possibility and honest in their discourse. Workshops is a classic enabler - each set that gets printed might contain one or more insane artifacts that pushes the deck beyond the rest of the format. And unlike other formats, there is no realistic way to remove cards completely from the format.

    I'm pretty old here on TMD, and while I haven't posted, that doesn't mean I haven't been secretly lurking. Yes I took a hiatus and I won't lie, it was mainly due to the restriction of Lodestone Golem. Then I come back and find Chalice was axed too? Am I truly to believe that Workshop decks have gotten BETTER since the restriction of those two cards? If you want to convince me of that, I'm going to be a hard sell.

    I'm confused by your post because Lodestone was restricted after Chalice. Chalice went with Dig after Champs 2015 while Lodestone went 6 months later. As for Workshop decks getting better, we just have the statistics and they show that Workshops wasn't worse after Lodestone Golem was restricted. The deck has gotten to be very aggressive - it can dump it's hand on turn 2 with Foundry Inspector. It's gotten much more resilient to artifact removal with Arcbound Ravager and Walking Ballista. It has a higher threat density with cards like Chief of the Foundry and Steel Overseer that synergize with other cards. And it still has a decent amount of disruption. Compared to previous Shops decks, it's less dependent on Lodestone Golem to close out the game, which is a significant improvement. I'm not going to say that unrestricting Golem and Chalice wouldn't make Shops better. Shops would actually be insane with both of those cards in an aggressive shell. But it's really still pretty good. Someone posted a screenshot of it winning on turn 2 through a Force of Will on Sphere a couple of days ago.



  • @chubbyrain I agree with everything you said. I'd also like to point out that Magic has done a lot to promote balance/parity as well. But let's remember that the Red Sox analogy was to point out that one can't make a claim that a play environment/metagame (metagame being slightly misused as a term at this point) necesarily lacks balance because a 50/50 win rate isn't being achieved. In fact, when we apply that standard to other games... baseball, chess, boxing, as I was doing, I think it's readily apparent how that sort of "necessarily imbalanced" argument is a bit absurd. That was the point.

    While I agree with everything you said about the Red Sox, including how cool baseball is, I don't see how any of it actually changes the point about how problematic that "necessarily imbalanced" argument is...

    I disagree that Wizard's primary obligation is to generate profits. But I have heard that argument a lot, and understand that it's widely accepted. That is going to turn into an econ/philosophy argument pretty quick, and we can get into that on another thread I suppose, but I don't agree with the statement of, profit = goal, goal = profit... it's certainly more complicated than that.



  • Are you M. Night Shyamalan? Workshop article, WHAT A TWIST!, complaint about Mental Misstep.



  • @chubbyrain That is correct. I consider a deck to be blue if it can easily support Force of Will. It's good that you brought up Oath because the recent list I saw from brianpk80(I remember him from this site) has twenty two (22!) blue cards. While I totally appreciate the subtleties involving sub-classifications, I don't think it's entirely unreasonable for me to be willing to lump that in as a "Blue" deck. Could you agree to that? That deck, and others, support my claim that it's fair to say Blue decks are doing good in the field, and always have been. Maybe I should phrase it like this: What is your major concern with the current state of Workshop in the format? Anything specific that I missed?

    And I know B&R discussions get heated. Jesus, I remember the fury that was unleashed when they restricted Brainstorm. So I'm sure you've been met with plenty of "Don't restrict my Workshop!" without anything following after it. I get it, that's annoying.

    And it probably isn't that problematic to lump Shop decks since they are mostly the same currently. I just wanted to point out that for years they have in fact done that. And they have never done that with Blue to the same extent. I've seen a variety of decks simply labeled as "Shop" when compiling the data in the past. I believe that history has caused some to view Mishra's Workshop as being too dominant, when DIRECTLY compared to Blue decks (or Force of Will, if you rather), that's simply not the case.

    Yes, I accidentally cast Juxtapose on the restriction timings of those two cards! Or perhaps someone used Mindslaver on me...Either way, those restrictions turned my MUD heart to stone.

    Could you direct me to the screenshot post of that turn 2 win?



  • @madmanmike25

    alt text

    Sequence:

    Turn 1: Mishra's Workshop > Foundry Inspector > Sol Ring > Mox x 3 > Sphere (Forced) > Ballista on 2

    Turn 2: Ravager off Workshops > Pump Ballista with Moxen + Ring > Sac Moxen + Ring to Ravager (Ravager now 5/5) > Sac Ravager to own ability > Modulate counters onto Ballista (Ballista is now an 8/8) > Attack for 11 and Shoot for 8.

    Yeah, this was an insane start, but I think it demonstrates two important aspects of the current Shops deck. One is the explosiveness that's enabled by Foundry Inspector. The other is the reach and combo kill enabled by Ravager + Ballista. While many wins feel closer with the deck (as opposed to just Sphering the opponent out), it can still get there and that's why it's been quite strong over the past several years despite losing two and now three lock pieces.


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