The Curious Case of Mishra's Workshop

@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.

last edited by Guest

@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.

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@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.

last edited by madmanmike25

@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. 😛

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

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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.

@chubbyrain

Yes, but this entire line of play could have been avoided if your opponent had just freaking forced the Inspector. Players NEVER seem to make that judgement call and it costs them. I blame blue pilot’s incompetence for shops dominance more than any sort of structural defects from blue decks.

-Storm

Is that really any different from someone playing Dredge and getting 7 zombies with Dragonlord Kolaghan on turn 2? That requires some awesome dredging but happens at fair percentage.

@stormanimagus That wouldn't have been the correct call because the opponent's hand had plenty of mana. His follow up would have been Sphere of Resistance, Ballista for 3 on turn 2, Ravager + Pump Ballista (4/4) + Sac 5 artifacts and Modulate onto Ballista (10/10) on turn 3. The opponent would have been delayed a turn by the Sphere and had to tap out on turn 3 to cast Oath. Granted, we don't know all of the available information such as the top card of the opponent's library, but you can hardly fault Backbreaker for playing the way he did. I can fault you though for calling him incompetent, though, and not puzzling out alternative lines. Seems pretty lazy and judgemental.

@moorebrother1 This is one of those crappy arguments I've been railing against... It's not a matter of how broken a deck's best draws are, it's a matter of how often those decks are winning. Dredge is around 50% based on our available data - it's perfectly balanced within the metagame. Paradoxical, which has similarly busted draws, is below 50%. While people can certainly try to argue that these decks are not interactive and should be restricted on those grounds (I wouldn't find them compelling honestly). However, that isn't the argument most people are making with regards to Shops. Could you stop misrepresenting the other side's argument? Please?

I do not believe this "discussion" has a side. I am with @jaco on this since I also own all of the cards and I try to play everything. I think the discussion around Mental Misstep is very interesting since I do see valid points on either side.

Being honest, I traded my workshops away back in 2004 and I just bought a new playset this year. The reason I traded them is that once Trinisphere was restricted Shop became a very boring deck and I need a Lotus so I traded for the Lotus.

I look at Shop now and it looks fun. The difference is the transition from Prison/Control over the years into an Aggo deck. I play at RIW Hobbies and for the past year 2 Card Monte has been heavily played and that is a Shop combo deck.

I do not see an issue with meta game but I do see something interesting with players and their choices, especially when it comes to Mental Misstep.

@moorebrother1 Fair enough. Could you stop misrepresenting the most common argument for Shop's restriction? Play sequences like the one above are being used to 1) emphasize the aggressive nature of current Shops builds and 2) explain how this doesn't imply a weakening of the archetype. No one is (or very few people are) arguing that Shops is doing something more broken than other decks. I am certainly not.

Based on your background, you are an example of Vintage trying to serve different masters. You play in monthly small events with metagames that diverge from broader, more competitive metagames. This isn't meant to invalidate your opinion, but I would counter that it's going to lead you to different conclusions than those who play more regularly in larger events.

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

Yeah, this was an insane start

Thanks for the screenshot.

Dear lord, that's crazy. He get's to play his entire opening hand of 7 cards plus the one he drew.....and then topdecks the Ravager?

Situations like these are definitely outliers. It's fun when it happens (unless you are the opponent), but that's such an anomaly.

Statistically, a turn 2 Oath should win with a higher frequency. While it definitely shows the potential explosiveness for Shop Aggro, I'm not sure how much this situation matters for the big picture.

@madmanmike25 That's why we collect the data and why they are the most important part (or should be the most important part) of any argument. Again, the point is not that Shops is doing anything inherently unfair in a format that has Power. It's that it's winning way more than other decks. I only mentioned it because you expressed disbelief that the deck was still winning despite the restrictions of Lodestone and Chalice. Shops as it's built right now asks "do you have the right answers", "did you draw enough mana to cast them" and "can you assemble them before you die?" It's the advantage of playing an aggro/tempo deck of considerable power.

@chubbyrain

It’s possible that in that particular game it almost doesn’t matter WHAT he forces he maybe still just loses. My point is that if I’m on the oath side of the table there I easily force the inspector in vacuum cause that usually slows my opponent’s win by at least a turn and likely 2. Players not understanding the simple math of inspector and how busted it is is what irritates me when they complain about losing to it. Again, this situation may have been one where the hand was too broken to fight through with a single fow but many will not be and the play pattern of letting inspector resolve is almost always incorrect in my experience.

last edited by Stormanimagus

@stormanimagus You Force the Inspector when you have turn 2 Oath of Druids? Noah, I'm pretty sure you're shouldn't be the judge of which Blue players are competent or not....

@chubbyrain

Blind? Sure. There’s no guarantees that they have a sphere at all and certainly not on turn 1 if inspector didn’t resolve. You are missing the forest for the trees. The forest is their clock, which is dangerously fast with mr. inspector. Without it one can trust an oath deck to get to 3 lands by the time it matters. With it in play all bets are off and insane speed is no a possibility. Remember that sphere hampers their speed as well with no inspector in play and their ability to lethal you. I have the same problem with players who don’t force Lotus vs blue only to get blown out by multiple threats the following turn. Again, do not conflate my comments with this particular scenario where the shop player kinda had it all and also topdecked like a champ. Understand that I’m playin the numbers and making the play that wins me the majority of games.

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