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.

    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.



  • @jaco The measure of a successful deck in Vintage is sustained performance over multiple events. This is Vintage...I could win every die roll and draw Ancestral Recall and Black Lotus in every hand. If I do that, the rest of my deck doesn't matter very much.

    Also, you are framing the issue poorly. The Vintage metagame is a system and you are trying to apply your ethics, ignoring that system. "If they are unwilling to accede even an inch in their Blue matchups"....Did you take the time to process what Ryan wrote? He said he built his deck based on his testing and expectations of the metagame. That's not just his prerogative. That's rational deck design. That's what anyone with half a brain should be doing. It just so happened, this meant he was running 4 Missteps and 0 Grudges. You are basically faulting people for being rational. And that is much more asinine.



  • Man the logic of this thread. Just to be clear, calling workshops lotus-like is a bridge to far, because it is somehow inaccurate, but a blue deck having counterspells that can be pitched to FOW and still sometimes have targets are "dead cards"? I mean most of those "dead cards" are more akin to drawing extra lands than a free mulligan for your opponent, and having a blue card in your hand you don't need and a force of will is literally one of the best setups most blue decks can hope for against shops.



  • I think the idea here is that if that "blue card in your hand you don't need" was just a Spell Pierce / Snare / Sabotage / Removal you'd be better off. 2-for-1 ing yourself to counter your opponents Brassclaw Orc is not sustainable. But those counters / removal have been cast upon the scrap heap over the years because they aren't free and all get smoked by Misstep.

    You may not see it that way but Force of Will isn't the solution to a 27 creature aggro deck.

    Edit: 1 for 1's typically aren't solutions either against swarm. The history of Magic shows us X for 1's are the way to beat aggro. Not 2 for 1'ing yourself.



  • @nedleeds 1 for 1s are a solution if your deck has a bunch of draw cards and you can do it consistently, which is what many blue decks do. Force of will is also not an answer for things like hangarback or ravager swarms, but it is an answer for spheres, and for foundry inspector turn 1 that would enable your opponent to dump hand.

    No one is contesting that a Sabotage is better in hand against shops than a spell pierce. All i'm saying is that to say those cards are "dead" is more hyperbolic than to say repeatable black lotus about shops.


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