So Many Insane Plays – Episode 73 – Eternal Weekend in Review



  • @smmenen I think in the end we place different value on the "interactivity" aspect of the game. Which is fine - it's just how it is and I think we are fine simply disagreeing on it. Thank you for the discussion.

    @Will This is interesting. I would point to the waning of Prison shops prior to the restriction of Chalice of the Void as evidence that it wouldn't have the desired effect. The structural factors that led to a decline in Martello, Espresso, and Terra Nova aren't addressed by the restriction. Moreover, the vast majority of the Magic community outside of these forums places a high emphasis on interactivity. If the prison decks persisted in the metagame, I doubt they would survive the scrutiny of MTGO and the VSL.



  • @chubbyrain

    Going into Vintage Champs 2015 I knew that my Martello Shops list couldn’t reliably beat Ravager Shops, but I thought I was favored against everything else, including the Delve decks. I went 8-2 that year, losing at 8-1 to Brian Kelly, with my other loss being to a weird Ravager Shops Deck with Null Rods. The N.Y.S.E. guys had several strong finishes that year as well, piloting a Terra Nouveau list that played Tabernacles, Tangle Wires, Null Rods and Darksteel Juggernauts. I don’t think that Workshop prison would have faded out if Chalice hadn’t gone.

    All I have to say about interactivity is that it can be interpreted in more than one way, but I agree with you in general about the VSL and MTGO.


  • TMD Supporter

    @chubbyrain said in So Many Insane Plays – Episode 73 – Eternal Weekend in Review:

    @smmenen I think in the end we place different value on the "interactivity" aspect of the game. Which is fine - it's just how it is and I think we are fine simply disagreeing on it. Thank you for the discussion.

    Sharp disagreement on a small number of issues can obscure broad agreement on a larger number, which I suspect is the case between us.

    Over the years, there have been plenty of vintage players who have complained about the lack of "interactivity" in the format or in certain matchups. I can recall intense debates from the early 2000s. So, you aren't the first player to raise this as a concern.

    That said, I would like to clarify my position here based upon what you said above. The issue isn't whether I personally value interactivity or not in Magic game play; it's whether and to what extent I believe interactivity should be used as a consideration in managing the B&R list. While I do think that the concept of 'interactivity' is inherently biased, and contains a subtle preference for control decks, and especially slower control decks, it is not the case that I think that some concept of "interactivity" is an irrelevant consideration in managing the B&R list. It is a factor, but I would not consider it central, either as a matter of historical or normative practice. Much like extracurricular activities or a strong personal statement are relevant considerations in evaluating a college applicant, GPA/SAT and coursework is of much greater significance, traditionally.

    In a similar manner, for me, performance in Vintage tournaments (as measured by % of Top 8s, or other similar measures) is the primary factor in determining whether a card merits restriction, not abstract and unquantifiable concerns like "power" or "interactivity." You could literally substitute the word "interactivity" for "power" in my retort to Bobby Victory in this post, and the post would lose none of it's force of meaning.

    A 4 quadrant matrix of possibilities of performance by interactivity illustrates this well: if a card is 0% of Top 8s, no matter how non-interactive the game play is it fosters, there is no chance that it would be or should be restricted in Vintage. At the other end of the matrix, a card that is dominating tournaments will not be spared restriction no matter how interactive the game play it fosters proves to be.

    The thought experiment/hypothetical I raised in my previous post brings this into focus: If we could rewind Vintage to the December, 2009 card pool, before Worldwake, and keep it there like an Old School format, but otherwise provide the same visibility and attention as Vintage now gets on MTGO and the VSL, what are the chances that Chalice would be restricted? I'd put it south of 5%.

    In short, changes to the card pool (such as the printing of Lodestone Golem) and thereby the performance of Shop decks - not changes in attitudes or attention (or any of the other concerns you cite, by themselves) - explain the restriction of Chalice.



  • I haven't played in more than six months, but I have been following tournament results. I was basically waiting for all of the restrictions to take place that seemed inevitable. Anyway, I decided to start playing again because enough the cards had been restricted. However, it is apparent that something needs to be done again. In MUD's defense, it adds stability and predictability to the format. In doing so, it also limits what everyone can play successfully. One example (which is no longer relevant) is what Walking Ballista did to Gush Bond decks. It became a very consistent way to lose because the combo often required the player to go below five life. In my opinion, Walking Ballista is the card to restrict because it adds an incredible amount of win conditions to the deck. It can do an incredible amount of damage, or it can eliminate all types of problems. If this type of utility is to remain, I would have to insist on restricting Mishra's Workshop. We all know what this card is. A free dark ritual for a deck that is not limited by color restraints.

    One could argue that Arcbound ravager is the issue, but I think the card is good for the format. It promotes an aggro strategy that sets the bar for others. As for the cards that have already been restricted, I would say they do not need to come off the list. Why repeat the past. This archetype has caused so much commotion for so many years that is should not be given back tools that help it dominate. I think that restricting Workshop would probably open the format to many new archetypes. However, I don't know how many vintage enthusiasts want a brand new format.

    If Walking Ballista were restricted I would not be opposed to Thorn of Amethyst being unrestricted. I never thought I would be advocating anything positive for sphere effects, but I do appreciate the Eldrazi deck. Without Ballista, these to archetypes would probably be more evenly positioned against one another, while seemingly returning to the format to a previous state minus Ballista. To me, this a good an acceptable outcome, but we will have to see what happens.


  • TMD Supporter

    Apropos my exchange with @ChubbyRain above on Chalice of the Void, in doing a final edit on my HoV: 2007 article, including some clean-up research, I encountered this article, which I have no memory of every reading before. (Here is the full TMD thread regarding it).

    Written in 2008, the author argues, that something in the Dredge deck should be restricted, as it defies common principles of interactivity and fairness.

    When the author interviewed me regarding my opinion, he quoted me at length. I will share the entire exchange here - my opinion, and his reply, as I think it illustrates the fundamental point of disagreement:

    Steven Menendian (Smmenen) seemed to be in a similar position as Bert Kyle. As the first person to top 8 with Ichorid in a major event (beating me in the last round of swiss at an SCG Power 9 event to get there) and a long-time advocate of the deck, this was also expected. Steve explained that "I don't consider the Ichorid deck to be particularly healthy as it is not a very interactive deck. That said, I think it is not unhealthy for the format as a whole as it provides another deck option for people. Ichorid will never, in my view, dominate Vintage in terms of tournament wins or top 8s %. It will probably never reach more than 15% of top 8s."

    However, Steve’s analysis is large chunk of the reason I feel the deck needs to go. The fact is that it’s not played that much, it doesn’t win that many tournaments and it probably won’t be flooding a top eight near you. Yet its influence is so great. It is hardly played and rarely wins, but if you don’t pack at the bare minimum four Leyline of the Void, there’s a good chance you can get knocked out of contention for first place.

    Here is another similar exchange over Flash between @JACO and @Shock-Wave in the old forums, here.

    Shockwave wrote an entire article on why he felt Flash should be restricted: https://web.archive.org/web/20090228004008/http://magiceternal.com/vintage/flash.html

    Here is what Jaco said in response:

    I examine all tournament results I can find, and I have never seen Flash demonstrate any kind of consistent domination of tournament play. Perhaps you can show me these results that would lead to a legitimate reason for it's restriction, based on the data you mentioned you collected.

    Here was Rich M's reply:

    I think you're misunderstanding my position about why Flash deserved restriction. Again, it was never based upon format dominance, but a unique combination of factors which made it very bad for the format.

    And, again, Jaco's response:

    I don't think I misunderstood. I read your article and thought it was well written, even though I disagreed with the the content. I believe in objective measurements when restricting cards, and I don't believe your "unique combination of factors" provide a compelling and objective reason for restriction.

    The main crux of your argument seems to be interactivity, and that Flash limits interactivity because of the potential speed of the combo. To me, it is not any different than a deck like Charbelcher, which seeks to use it's leverage (speed) to attempt to win the match. In your eyes, it seems that speed is an attempt to limit interactivity, while in mine it is using the advantages of the deck's design. Another observer could say that your own creation (Landstill) seeks to limit interactivity by discouraging the opponent from playing spells, or risk losing to an avalanche of card advantage created by the card Standstill. Should we restrict that card too? I don't think so, because there is no prolonged period of tournament dominance of the card, and no objective reason to restrict it, just as there has been no historical data to support the contention that Flash has demonstrated any tournament dominance for an extended period of time.

    The exchange here is essentially the same as the exchange I just had over Chalice.
    Round and round we go. Nothing new under the sun :)



  • @smmenen I think there is a substantial difference between people's opinions on interactivity when taken independently and when taken as a collective. An individual's opinion is subjective while group's "opinion" is objective. Take for instance presidential approval ratings. If I ask you "Do you approve of the job President X is doing?", that response doesn't have a verifiably right or wrong answer, which makes it subjective. I can disagree with your opinion, but it is your opinion and I can't tell you what your opinion is. However, if I ask "Do Americans approve of the job President X is doing?", that response does have a verifiably right or wrong answer. I can look up polling data on Gallup from when Truman was president and give you the answer. While you may disagree with that answer, it is a discussion of the methodology and the strength of the results - the same type of discussion scientists have every day. So while individual opinions on interactivity might be subjective, collective opinions on interactivity are objective, with the usual epistemological limitations.

    It should be noted that Flash was ultimately restricted, despite (I am assuming the accuracy of this) an empirical lack of dominance. Chalice was restricted only partially due to "dominance":

    Workshop decks have become more and more popular. However, too many games are effectively decided by the first player's first turn. A major problem is that a turn-one Chalice of the Void for 0 deprives the opponent an opportunity to put Moxen on the battlefield. While players can adapt by not playing Moxen, the point of the format is to provide a place to play those cards. Chalice of the Void is restricted.

    In fact, balance and dominance aren't mentioned at all here. Popularity is, which could be construed as dominance, but the bulk of the explanation centers on interactivity. Now I agree that interactivity is not the sole determinant. However, I think there is considerable evidence that the DCI looks at the collective opinions on interactivity and uses them as rationale for restriction. It makes sense for them to do so. The DCI is not a court of law, but instead the governing body of a game. Their mandate is profit driven and while I'm sure they try to be fair in their decisions, at the same time they are trying to maximize profits for their game and "fun" in the collective sense is more important.


  • TMD Supporter

    I've heard @Smmenen mention many times on the SMIP podcast that one of his major tenants of Vintage "is keeping the B&R list as small as possible." This comment doesn't seem to be debated much on this forum, so I was curious if most other Vintage players feel the same way? I only ask because I personally have never cared on the length of the B&R list.

    I know this type of belief sounds great in concept, but the corollary statement is often "people should be able to play as many of their cards as possible," and I've often thought this to be a little bit of a fantasy in Vintage. Realistically, the average Vintage player will play with <200? 500? 1000? cards. Due to so many cards being absolutely, strictly better, there are "soft caps" on the playability of the average Vintage card. Then factor in that most decks already have 15-20 of their 75 cards fixed before deckbuilding even begins and the available card pool quickly shrinks.

    I know this isn't a higher-level debate, but I'm curious if the interest in a B&R "as small as possible" is an abstract concept or a fixed principle (and not necessarily to Steve, but anyone else who agrees)? There are plenty of players that would like to see the B&R cut down much further, so the spectrum on this seems pretty broad. I personally would prefer to see a much larger B&R list if it meant dozens of more decks were viable (but I might be alone in placing a premium on vast meta diversity)

    Players who agree with a B&R "as small as possible:"
    How steadfast are you in this principle (what's your threshold for un/restriction)?
    What are your parameters or your end goal? (where on the scale of B&R brevity vs deck variety do you reside?)
    Is B&R brevity even contradictory to deck variety?

    Or is it much more simple than this, in that you just think Magic players are horrible at metagame crafting and you'd just prefer a higher standard for restriction and only limit the truly broken cards?



  • @joshuabrooks The smaller the banlist, the better, mainly because a big Restricted List falls in either 2 categories: it's either restricting cards that shouldn't be restricted (because no one's using them in good decks anyway); or it moves the format towards 60-card Highlander, which is bad for playability.

    I think that even if we discuss DCI's restriction policy over the last years, their UNrestriction policy has been top notch. For example, why would you keep Gifts restricted when it does nothing to the meta other than allowing us to play the awesome card it is?



  • @joshuabrooks I agree with you. I think it's a meaningless position. Yeah, the DCI shouldn't be restricting cards left and right, but if a card is worth restricting based on the criteria of balance, interactivity, and diversity, then shouldn't it be restricted? I think everyone feels that only cards worthy of restriction should be restricted, so we all feel the restricted list should be as small as possible. So the argument should be whether or not card X should be restrict or card Y should be unrestricted. The size of the list is not relevant to that discussion.


  • TMD Supporter

    @joshuabrooks said in So Many Insane Plays – Episode 73 – Eternal Weekend in Review:

    I've heard @Smmenen mention many times on the SMIP podcast that one of his major tenants of Vintage "is keeping the B&R list as small as possible." This comment doesn't seem to be debated much on this forum, so I was curious if most other Vintage players feel the same way? I only ask because I personally have never cared on the length of the B&R list.

    I know this type of belief sounds great in concept, but the corollary statement is often "people should be able to play as many of their cards as possible," and I've often thought this to be a little bit of a fantasy in Vintage. Realistically, the average Vintage player will play with <200? 500? 1000? cards. Due to so many cards being absolutely, strictly better, there are "soft caps" on the playability of the average Vintage card. Then factor in that most decks already have 15-20 of their 75 cards fixed before deckbuilding even begins and the available card pool quickly shrinks.

    I know this isn't a higher-level debate, but I'm curious if the interest in a B&R "as small as possible" is an abstract concept or a fixed principle (and not necessarily to Steve, but anyone else who agrees)? There are plenty of players that would like to see the B&R cut down much further, so the spectrum on this seems pretty broad. I personally would prefer to see a much larger B&R list if it meant dozens of more decks were viable (but I might be alone in placing a premium on vast meta diversity)

    Players who agree with a B&R "as small as possible:"
    How steadfast are you in this principle (what's your threshold for un/restriction)?
    What are your parameters or your end goal? (where on the scale of B&R brevity vs deck variety do you reside?)
    Is B&R brevity even contradictory to deck variety?

    Or is it much more simple than this, in that you just think Magic players are horrible at metagame crafting and you'd just prefer a higher standard for restriction and only limit the truly broken cards?

    I largely addressed this issue in another thread, so I will simply recapitulate my key points here:

    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.

    In summary, a smaller restricted list creates more potential deck design and selection options in the format that is the last home for Magic cards. In addition, I believe that using restriction to stop a dominant deck is the only truly legitimate basis for restriction. Any other ground for restriction is 1) too subjective and subject to bias or, more importantly, 2) has the potential to undermine the more important goal of promoting diversity. That's because if a restriction occurs because of grounds other than stopping a dominant deck, it risks reducing format diversity.

    I don't mind considering other factors, such as interactivity, but only in conjunction with dominance/metagame prevalance. I would only use other factors as tie-breaker, and never justify a restriction of a card that wasn't heavily played.

    The only thing I didn't say, but wish to add, is the violence and harm done to players when restriction occurs. While most players breathe relief at restriction, we must never forget that someone, somewhere is upset by any given restriction. From a purely utilitarian perspective, this is acceptable - we want to maximize happiness, and that sometimes means making some people unhappy.

    But the problem in Vintage is that the player base is organized into factions that are largely, but not entirely, discrete and insular. That is, you have cohorts of Workshop players, cohorts of TX players, cohorts of Dredge players, and so on.

    Restriction is a very grave action. Every restriction harms one segment to the benefit of another. If Bazaar were restricted, the Dredge players would cry foul. If Workshop were restricted, the Workshop players would be upset. And so on.

    Think of it like a government program or benefit. Restriction is like taking away some resource from one group for the benefit of other groups. When the government does it, people complain that the government is favoring one group or another.

    I think there are far too many people who are cavalier about weighing these harms. These are real harms. There are people who literally quit Vintage when their favorite cards are restricted, no matter how necessary those restrictions may be. Someone posted here on these boards that he quit when Lodestone was restricted. There are many reports of people quitting due to the '08 wave restrictions.

    If the Vintage player base were organized uniformly, and deck choices weren't formed by years of experience in "Schools of Magic," restriction would look less like one group lobby the DCI to harm another group. But that's what it looks like.

    Historically, I have typically been an opponent of most restrictions. I led the movement to stop restricting cards in the early 2000s, when restriction was far too prevalent, and when Keeper players regularly called for restrictions in a way that had the appearance of favoritism, if not the actual reality. Because of my long history with the format, and that community memory, I'm especially sensitive to how different groups feel or regard various restrictions, and the legitimate claims of bias that seep into so many of these debates.

    Every call for restriction should not only be evaluated on it's merits, but through a lens of how it divides the player base.

    That's one reason that I feel that only the most objectively defensible criteria should be used to support restrictions, and that restrictions should only be used as an absolute last resort. It follows that I feel that the restricted list should be as small as possible in pursuit of the goal of maintaining format diversity. And the DCI agrees, as I quoted above.

    On the unrestriction side, I would consider unrestricting any card that has a low risk of generating a dominant deck. Once under consideration, factors such as interactivity may be weighed, but I wouldn't consider them a complete bar.

    This is partly why I think that Gush should not have been restricted. With Mentor restricted, the truth is that we simply don't know how prevalant Gush would be. Matt thinks it would be dominant; I'm more much more skeptical. If the restriction of Mentor brought Gush decks to an acceptable level or % of the metagame, then Gush should not also be restricted. But, there may be disagreements exactly what is considered "acceptable." I think that Gush decks, with Mentor restricted, are very unlikely to be more than 30% of Top 8s. If Gush were unrestricted this past Eternal Weekend, I don't believe it would have made a bit of difference to that Top 8.

    The restriction of Probe is a complete farce, and unnecessarily wounded already weak decks like DPS.


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