Article: Vintage Champs 2017 and the State of Vintage



  • @chubbyrain said in Article: Vintage Champs 2017 and the State of Vintage:

    From @Jaco's article:

    To put it more simply, in the current state of Vintage the small incremental advantages you gain by having 4-9 cards in your main deck that are only relevant against blue decks, and blanks against Workshop decks, are often outweighed by the fact that you are such an underdog against Workshop decks that they often don’t even sideboard anything against you in post-sideboard games.

    It amazes how often this argument keeps popping up. Why does the Workshop deck not have anything to SB in against the Blue decks? It's because the deck is trying to beat the same metagame that the Blue pilots are trying to beat. Shops players are building their main decks to beat Blue. Why should Blue pilots build their decks differently than Shops pilots? There is no prize split at the end. We don't have a secret Blue Cabal where we play board games with Randy and use our winnings on coffee and donuts. This is classic game theory and it's being ignored.

    The answer to the Vintage metagame (at least previously) was not that Blue pilots should play more maindeck cards against Shops. It's that more Blue pilots should play Shops. And that is an unfeasible reality because of player preference and card availability. The only way you can reach equilibrium is if players who are unwilling or unable to play Shops leave the format so that Shops becomes the appropriate percentage of the Vintage metagame. Compared to that, restrictions are much preferrable.

    To borrow from the article, "Can we officially stop with this nonsense?"

    The problem with this analysis is MTGO.

    Workshops are much more widely available online and have been as high as 50% of top finishes in the past (this is almost certainly one of the major data points leading to the restriction of Workshop cards in the past couple of years)

    It makes no sense to say "Shops is only 30% because they should be 50% but people just can't/won't play them" when we have evidence of people playing them at a higher rate in the not-so-distant past



  • @JACO Let me ask this point-blank: Do you think Vintage players are idiots? People have been repeating your argument since before Chalice was restricted. 2 years later and several restrictions, you and others are making the same argument. Why? Are Vintage players too stupid to do what you suggested or is perhaps what you suggested is flawed?



  • @ajfirecracker MTGO has a balanced metagame. Shops did spike on MTGO even before Champs. This last challenge had 10/32 Oath decks and no Shop pilot was in the top 16. The problem isn't MTGO - the problem is paper Vintage where you have a $1000 card creating a barrier to metagame dynamics.



  • @chubbyrain I'm not sure why you would think that. I think most of them are poor deck builders and metagamers though, or are unwilling to adapt. Perhaps what they've been try to do for the past year will work if WotC restricts Workshops and they achieve their desired 90+% blue metagame.



  • @jaco Most people netdeck based on what does well, so if you could make a Blue deck that eschewed main deck Mental Missteps and Pyroblasts and was winning tournaments, you would see people play that. It hasn't happened in 2+ years. Look at the Oath decks that did well - they are running 5 of your dead cards against Shops. Aldridge ran 6. It doesn't work. Believe it or not, I've tried it. I've tried cutting Missteps and Pyroblasts from noncombo Blue decks. My results were terrible. Not definitive, but I would like some of these people saying "Blue mages need to cut these cards" to actually practice what they preach.

    As far as people desiring a 90%+ Blue metagame, this is a strawman. People want a balanced metagame where Shops is not consistently outperforming the rest of the field. Let me be clear: I agree with your conclusions that we need to give the metagame more time following the most recent restrictions. That acting based on the results of a Champs Top 8 without considering other data would be errant. However, I am tired of these bullshit arguments. You are undermining your position and failing to persuade people that would otherwise be inclined to your position. For example, the DCI...



  • This whole article is rife with tropes I think are wrong. Its late though so here are 2.

    1 - On comparing Black lotus and Workshop. “Mishra’s Workshop is a reusable Black Lotus that you can tap every turn!” Can we officially stop with this nonsense? - I will stop saying this when you come up with a better shorthand metaphor for it. Like what is the next nearest comprable? No one is saying they are identical, but even you have to admit there are parallels. Shops are closer to Lotus than they are Ancient Tomb. The saying would be really cumbersome if I has to say "Workshops are like a better ancient Tomb but you get an extra mana and also don't take damage and it cannot be spent on dismember and eldrazi."

    2 - "to enjoy the benefits of playing a Mishra’s Workshop + Ancient Tomb deck, you have to play a bunch of pretty weak cards in a vacuum, compared to what the rest of the format offers." - I honestly don't think this is the case at all for 2 reasons. 1 is that no card actually exists in a void. Ever. You have to judge cards based on synergies and how they intersect with the field. No one is bashing golgari grave troll because it only fits in dredge, but suddenly Lodesone is not a powerful card?

    The other point here is that most cards with a few exceptions derive their relative power level from effect when compared to cost. Ancestral is good because it costs 1 and not 5, timewalk because it costs 2. But casing costs are only ever relative to mana sources. Even weaker green cards would be much better if every forest by default tapped for GG. Blue cards might be much worse or even unplayable even with the huge effects they have if there were no blue duals or fetches for islands.

    It is a chicken or egg conversation honestly, Are cards powerful because of the mana available or is the mana powerful because of the cards it can cast. I do not think you can discount the 2 because you really cannot disentangle them. Artifacts that shops use are good because workshop casts them easy, and workshops plays them because they are good. If oath of druids is objectively better than Sphere, that is only because your deck can make green mana to play it, and more directly because Green has access to forbidden orchard to empower it.



  • @chubbyrain said in Article: Vintage Champs 2017 and the State of Vintage:

    @jaco Most people netdeck based on what does well, so if you could make a Blue deck that eschewed main deck Mental Missteps and Pyroblasts and was winning tournaments, you would see people play that. It hasn't happened in 2+ years. Look at the Oath decks that did well - they are running 5 of your dead cards against Shops. Aldridge ran 6. It doesn't work. Believe it or not, I've tried it. I've tried cutting Missteps and Pyroblasts from noncombo Blue decks. My results were terrible. Not definitive, but I would like some of these people saying "Blue mages need to cut these cards" to actually practice what they preach.

    Roughly: You can't build to fight Shops successfully, and if you ever did everyone would copy it

    @chubbyrain said in Article: Vintage Champs 2017 and the State of Vintage:

    MTGO has a balanced metagame. Shops did spike on MTGO even before Champs. This last challenge had 10/32 Oath decks and no Shop pilot was in the top 16.

    Roughly: You can build to fight Shops successfully and effectively lock them out of high finishes

    I don't think you're quiiiite contradicting yourself but it's mighty subtle



  • @ajfirecracker God...

    Roughly: Building your deck to beat Shops main deck by cutting anti-Blue cards does not translate to winning tournaments. If it did, we would know as people would adopt that tech.

    Roughly: Beating Shops in the short term is feasible. Over the long term, it depends on the metagame equilibrium constants. Once Shops is no longer targeted (i.e. after the post Champs bump) where do decks settle?

    It's not subtle - it's basic reading comprehension.



  • @chubbyrain said in Article: Vintage Champs 2017 and the State of Vintage:

    @jaco Most people netdeck based on what does well, so if you could make a Blue deck that eschewed main deck Mental Missteps and Pyroblasts and was winning tournaments, you would see people play that. It hasn't happened in 2+ years. Look at the Oath decks that did well - they are running 5 of your dead cards against Shops. Aldridge ran 6. It doesn't work. Believe it or not, I've tried it. I've tried cutting Missteps and Pyroblasts from noncombo Blue decks. My results were terrible. Not definitive, but I would like some of these people saying "Blue mages need to cut these cards" to actually practice what they preach.

    As far as people desiring a 90%+ Blue metagame, this is a strawman. People want a balanced metagame where Shops is not consistently outperforming the rest of the field. Let me be clear: I agree with your conclusions that we need to give the metagame more time following the most recent restrictions. That acting based on the results of a Champs Top 8 without considering other data would be errant. However, I am tired of these bullshit arguments. You are undermining your position and failing to persuade people that would otherwise be inclined to your position. For example, the DCI...

    1. Oath is historically great against Workshop strategies, and that has proven to be part of the allure of it, even if it may be inconsistent from time to time. Most of the Oath decks that did well in the trial and Champs have heavily adjusted to account for Workshops. Sure they may still play 2-4 Missteps and a Flusterstorm or REB. But they have totally changed their creature selection and many were running multiple Ancient Grudges main, and some had like 3 Grudge + 3 Energy Flux + other stuff after sideboard (Fehling for example had 2 Grudge, 1 Repeal, 1 Slice and Dice, and 2 Dack main, and had 7 more cards out of the sideboard). They have chosen to play a strategy that wastes no time, and is naturally advantaged against Workshops. On top of that, they have supplemented this with a lot of very effective countertactics (not simply a few one for one hate cards). Aldridge's main deck config was not as great in the matchup, but he could bring in 9 additional cards for the matchup out of his sideboard, and also had access to the Key-Vault plan.

    2. If Workshop is restricted there will be little incentive to play anything other than blue decks that play the most powerful cards. I'm not sure how you consider that more "balanced." If there are fewer natural or designed predators to the most powerful strategies/cards, there will just be more of those decks being played. That is not a strawman - that is the reality of how powerful those cards are compared to nearly everything else in the Vintage. Dredge will certainly be a presence, as will the occasional hatebears deck. You can say it's bullshit, but it is pretty foolhardy to think otherwise, and ignores the history of the format.



  • @jaco said in Article: Vintage Champs 2017 and the State of Vintage:

    1. Oath is historically great against Workshop strategies, and that has proven to be part of the allure of it, even if it may be inconsistent from time to time. Most of the Oath decks that did well in the trial and Champs have heavily adjusted to account for Workshops. Sure they may still play 2-4 Missteps and a Flusterstorm or REB. But they have totally changed their creature selection and many were running multiple Ancient Grudges main, and some had like 3 Grudge + 3 Energy Flux + other stuff after sideboard (Fehling for example had 2 Grudge, 1 Repeal, 1 Slice and Dice, and 2 Dack main, and had 7 more cards out of the sideboard). They have chosen to play a strategy that wastes no time, and is naturally advantaged against Workshops. On top of that, they have supplemented this with a lot of very effective countertactics (not simply a few one for one hate cards). Aldridge's main deck config was not as great in the matchup, but he could bring in 9 additional cards for the matchup out of his sideboard, and also had access to the Key-Vault plan.

    This is missing the entire point. Running 5-7 "dead cards" (Missteps/Flusters/Pyros) is a constraint the current metagame.Yes players can opt to run Oath to beat Shops, but you cannot cut those "dead cards" and expect of have prolonged success in the Vintage metagame. At least not in Blue. My entire argument has nothing to do with beating Shops and everything to do with why cutting Missteps/Flusters/Pyros is not feasible in the current metagame. It would be the same argument if Dredge was dominating at a small share of the metagame.

    1. If Workshop is restricted there will be little incentive to play anything other than blue decks that play the most powerful cards. I'm not sure how you consider that more "balanced." If there are fewer natural or designed predators to the most powerful strategies/cards, there will just be more of those decks being played. That is not a strawman - that is the reality of how powerful those cards are compared to nearly everything else in the Vintage. Dredge will certainly be a presence, as will the occasional hatebears deck. You can say it's bullshit, but it is pretty foolhardy to think otherwise, and ignores the history of the format.

    "Balanced" means over the long term, the MWP of decks in the field will trend to 50%. Blue is and was actually balanced in the metagame...Gush at 35% of the field still was around 50% win rate. What you are actually arguing is not balance but diversity. About that...

    From our Champs data, Workshops was one of, if not the most, punishing archetypes against other non-blue decks. 80-20 against both versions of Eldrazi, 5-1 against Hatebears, 65-35 against Mono Red. As you said in your article, beating Shops right now entails playing unfair strategies. That generally means blue decks with full sets of moxen. This is another fallacy left over from previous metagames - Shops doesn't punish greed anymore. It punishes the fair decks in the format.



  • @chubbyrain said in Article: Vintage Champs 2017 and the State of Vintage:

    Running 5-7 "dead cards" (Missteps/Flusters/Pyros) is a constraint the current metagame.Yes players can opt to run Oath to beat Shops, but you cannot cut those "dead cards" and expect of have prolonged success in the Vintage metagame. At least not in Blue.

    I would go further: Many of the actual blue decks (especially the ones based on Preordain) do run even more "dead" cards like Swords to Plowshares, Fragmentize, Lightning Bolt, Abrade in the maindeck, which are useful against Shops but more less bricks in the hand against other matchups like Storm, Paradoxical, Dredge, Landstill ... But I don't see all of them as dead anymore as the filtering ability of blue decks has improved a lot. There is almost no blue deck out there, which doesn't run Mindsculptor, Dack or Baby Jace - beside Brainstorm. So, don't you have to run the most efficient tools in certain matchups preboard when you can easily exchange them against others?



  • When I test for Champs, I do a ton of playtesting. Most of my testing goes into swapping around cards that improve one matchup at the expense of another. I played as few as 2 missteps, balance, ancient grudges in the main, and a huge variety of creatures. When I test I keep track of my winrate against various archetypes and look at my prediction for the expected metagame.

    The deck I played at Champs had 4 missteps and 0 grudges in the maindeck. The reason was that I could not consistently beat delver, which both had a high metagame representation online and I expected to be well represented at Champs. Sitting on the pulpit and telling blue players how they should be building decks strikes me as assuming that the deck that one arrives at was without proper testing.

    In my 10 rounds at Champs I played 1 dredge, 1 shops, 1 mono red deck, and 7 blue decks. Perhaps a more expected result would be 2 shops decks, but I can't understand how anyone thinks I am going to improve my 8-2 record (losing to dredge with 8 sideboard cards and mono red) by cutting missteps and switching my abrade for an ancient grudge in the maindeck.

    We don't get to engineer the metagame for a tournament. I can't force 50% of room to be on shops. I can't, as Matt also alluded to, make a pact with the other blue players not to play misstep. If you want to play blue and want to maximize your overall winrate you need to construct your deck in a certain way. If misstep gets restricted I am not replacing them with 3 grudges; likely they become flusterstorms, mindbreak traps, or pyroblasts. If someone can build a blue deck that has a decent winrate against the 70% of the meta that is blue and consistently beats shops, then sign me up. If such a deck exists, however, it would have an incredible winrate and unbalanced.

    Just to be clear I do agree with several points in the article. I think we should give the metagame some time to sort itself out (look at the crazy metagame online right now). The "reusable black lotus" line doesn't hold water when you can't use your lotus to cast ancestral recall. The constant complaining about B&R is incredibly annoying and frankly toxic to the community when every conversation devolves into that.


  • TMD Supporter

    @nedleeds @JACO

    I love this article so far, and in particular this quote makes me happy.

    Mana Bases
    Mana bases also have to adapt. We are no longer in the 4 Gush era, where every land should be an Island to be able to return with Gush on queue on turns 3 and beyond. You don’t need 4 Underground Seas in your Storm combo deck. You need 2, and at least 2 basic Islands and 1 basic Swamp. You don’t need 4 Volcanic Islands (unless you’re playing Pulverize), you need more basic Islands, and that basic Mountain that you’re wasting a sideboard slot with should probably just go in to the main deck. Workshop and BUG decks are more than happy to capitalize on your greed. They are elated in fact.

    When Lodestone got restricted, the week afterwards was full of decks that cut basic lands from the main deck and sideboard. Also a lot of four-color Mentor decks, just to splash one or two broken but off-color cards. Granted, not every deck builder is foolhardy when it comes to making their card choices, but I do see a lot of these bad mana base decisions being made.

    On the topic of sideboarded lands: I still think that sideboarding lands has merit in some situations. Frankly I'd rather see someone sideboard an extra basic instead of just not running it at all. But I get your point.


  • TMD Supporter

    @chubbyrain said in Article: Vintage Champs 2017 and the State of Vintage:

    This is missing the entire point. Running 5-7 "dead cards" (Missteps/Flusters/Pyros) is a constraint the current metagame.

    And this thought process is why Shops will keep winning. If Shops are overperforming their metagame percentage, then the argument of "build for the 70%" doesn't make any sense to me. Obviously then Shops decks are going to populate the top tables and the top8: how are you planning on winning a tournament by not being prepped for them? What does smacking down the other blue decks mean if you can't beat your predator?

    Thanks for this insightful article @JACO , though I'm not sure how well it will be received going against the current groupthink.



  • @cutlex said in Article: Vintage Champs 2017 and the State of Vintage:

    @chubbyrain said in Article: Vintage Champs 2017 and the State of Vintage:

    This is missing the entire point. Running 5-7 "dead cards" (Missteps/Flusters/Pyros) is a constraint the current metagame.

    And this thought process is why Shops will keep winning. If Shops are overperforming their metagame percentage, then the argument of "build for the 70%" doesn't make any sense to me. Obviously then Shops decks are going to populate the top tables and the top8: how are you planning on winning a tournament by not being prepped for them? What does smacking down the other blue decks mean if you can't beat your predator?

    A top 8? A X-2 finish at Champs? Like, seriously...this is stupid. What good is beating your predator at the top tables if you never get to the top tables? Even then, Shops is normally ~30% of the field. I am still almost twice as likely to play a Blue deck in that situation. So instead of running 6 anti blue cards and a Shop hate card, the numbers say I run 5 anti-blue cards and 2 anti-Shops cards? Can we please official retire this stupid argument once and for all? It's embarrassing and portrays Vintage players as a bunch of casuals unwilling to articulate reasonable positions. And you wonder why the DCI ignores this crap...



  • I loved this article. I have been playing Magic since 1995 and I personally watched Vintage morph and shift over the years.

    I mainly play to have fun and diversity is key to the format being fun. I played Legacy over Eternal Weekend and the utter lack of deck diversity is astounding (I know someone will try to prove me wrong, but that's my opinion).

    I think people loose site of the fact that this is a game and go into their corners to support whatever they like to play.

    I played this past weekend and over-compensated for Shops then lost to Blue decks.

    It goes to show that you must play your deck and play it well. I always to keep in mind that this is a game and I play to have fun.


  • TMD Supporter

    @chubbyrain said in Article: Vintage Champs 2017 and the State of Vintage:

    @cutlex said in Article: Vintage Champs 2017 and the State of Vintage:

    @chubbyrain said in Article: Vintage Champs 2017 and the State of Vintage:

    This is missing the entire point. Running 5-7 "dead cards" (Missteps/Flusters/Pyros) is a constraint the current metagame.

    And this thought process is why Shops will keep winning. If Shops are overperforming their metagame percentage, then the argument of "build for the 70%" doesn't make any sense to me. Obviously then Shops decks are going to populate the top tables and the top8: how are you planning on winning a tournament by not being prepped for them? What does smacking down the other blue decks mean if you can't beat your predator?

    A top 8? A X-2 finish at Champs? Like, seriously...this is stupid. What good is beating your predator at the top tables if you never get to the top tables? Even then, Shops is normally ~30% of the field. I am still almost twice as likely to play a Blue deck in that situation. So instead of running 6 anti blue cards and a Shop hate card, the numbers say I run 5 anti-blue cards and 2 anti-Shops cards? Smart. Really ***ing smart... Again, can we please official retire this stupid argument once and for all? It's embarrassing and portrays Vintage players as a bunch of casuals unwilling to articulate reasonable positions. And you wonder why the DCI ignores this crap...

    This post doesn't come from a place of logic. Increasing your chances against the best positioned deck in the metagame at the cost of match percentage points against blue is exactly the strategy that rewarded 3 Oath players at Champs with a chance at the title.

    The first rounds of a tournament are intensely chaotic and players of all skill levels with decks of all ranges of metagame preparation don't break through to the top tables for a nearly infinite set of reasons. My argument is that prepping for that possibility is more important than worrying about the specifics of your round one and two opponent.



  • @cutlex said in Article: Vintage Champs 2017 and the State of Vintage:

    This post doesn't come from a place of logic.

    Hence my frustration...



  • @diophan said in Article: Vintage Champs 2017 and the State of Vintage:

    When I test for Champs, I do a ton of playtesting. Most of my testing goes into swapping around cards that improve one matchup at the expense of another. I played as few as 2 missteps, balance, ancient grudges in the main, and a huge variety of creatures. When I test I keep track of my winrate against various archetypes and look at my prediction for the expected metagame.

    The deck I played at Champs had 4 missteps and 0 grudges in the maindeck. The reason was that I could not consistently beat delver, which both had a high metagame representation online and I expected to be well represented at Champs. Sitting on the pulpit and telling blue players how they should be building decks strikes me as assuming that the deck that one arrives at was without proper testing.

    In my 10 rounds at Champs I played 1 dredge, 1 shops, 1 mono red deck, and 7 blue decks. Perhaps a more expected result would be 2 shops decks, but I can't understand how anyone thinks I am going to improve my 8-2 record (losing to dredge with 8 sideboard cards and mono red) by cutting missteps and switching my abrade for an ancient grudge in the maindeck.

    Definitely, and I do the same. If you are rewarded with those choices by going X-0 against blue decks that was a good choice in that regard. There are conscientious decisions that go in to every card decision in that case. The issue is, I'm more willing to to play cards that are not aces against blue decks, but nines through queens, if they have value against everything else as well, rather than just drawing a textless card against Workshop decks, for example. In my case for most blue decks that meant trimming to 2-3 Missteps and ditching everything else in favor of cards like Thoughtseize and/or Mana Drain, which actually do something. That's the tradeoff of all deck building. But tons of other people unwilling to do so will continue to allow Workshop decks to flourish, and that's fine with me if that's their prerogative. The point is if people are unwilling to accede even an inch in their blue matchups, Workshops decks should not be punished just because they are also building to exploit the same metagame. This is precisely why the constant calls for restriction are so asinine.



  • @chubbyrain said in Article: Vintage Champs 2017 and the State of Vintage:

    This is missing the entire point. Running 5-7 "dead cards" (Missteps/Flusters/Pyros) is a constraint the current metagame.Yes players can opt to run Oath to beat Shops, but you cannot cut those "dead cards" and expect of have prolonged success in the Vintage metagame. At least not in Blue. My entire argument has nothing to do with beating Shops and everything to do with why cutting Missteps/Flusters/Pyros is not feasible in the current metagame. It would be the same argument if Dredge was dominating at a small share of the metagame.

    Not to beat this point in to the ground, but I don't agree that a necessity to run 5-7 "dead cards" is a constraint of the current metagame for blue decks. Here is a blue deck that Tom played to a 5-0 finish in a Vintage Challenge last month that plays 1 Misstep, 1 Flusterstorm, and...that's it. Robert Greene's Grixis Thieves list from 2015 Vintage Champs Top 8 ran 0 Misstep, 2 Flusterstorm, 1 Pyroblast, and...that's it. Sure it's preferred a lot of time if you're adopting the control or aggro-control stance and you load up on those, but let's not pretend there aren't other things that can be played to successful finishes, and that it's strictly necessary to play all of those to do well.


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