What could be... and why not?
----I’ve been having a lot of thoughts about the recent restriction list update. At the risk of being that guy, I’ve written them down. I really apologize if this should be covered in another thread, or if it’s length or anything else violate any rules.
----Firstly, and this will sound pretty mundane but it’s important. Vintage isn't other formats. In a very important way, it’s not even like other formats. All other formats attain health by banning cards that are too powerful (or too old, which is essentially the same thing given the history of the game.) Vintage encloses the very top end of the power spectrum in terms of individual cards. This will necessarily produce some characteristics over time.
----It means that the population of archetypes and of individual cards that see play/competitive success in vintage will tend to be the most static of all the formats, because those most powerful cards and archetypes will necessarily function as lynch pins around which the format gets fleshed out. Said a different way, cards like the Moxen and the blue power, are never going away. So long as we assume that the most powerful cards ever printed have already seen print, we can also assume that, generally, the most powerful decks are going to center around the use of those cards. Vintage is not going to dynamically shift between archetypes the way other formats do. Vintage strategy will shift slowly over years, but we can expect that it will be tied to those power cards and archetypes, well… eternally.
----I question if the DCI really understands that. It feels at times as though the DCI restricts or unrestricts cards here and there to try to drum up the sort of archetypical dynamism they might be more used to in formats like Modern and Standard. That is only my opinion, perhaps my imagination, but to the extent it exists, I will say that I find that sort of “let’s shake things up” mentality to be counter to the entire natural flow of the format.
----SO… I would love to see two major changes. Firstly, that the DCI empower itself to restrict cards to numbers other than 1 per deck. This would allow the DCI to more accurately reflect the power level of problem cards. In a strict numerical sense, the DCI is currently claiming that Black Lotus and Lodestone Golem are the same power level. (Now I don’t think anyone would actually claim this, but in terms of the codified rules, each is restricted to an identical 1 per deck.) Why? Can anyone really offer a good explanation for why this should be? A foolish consistency is the Hearthstone Hobgoblin of little minds. Are we really just restricting all the problem cards to the same number for uniformity’s sake? We already play a game with a rules system verging on the complexity of the U.S. tax code. Don’t we think players could wrap their minds around only being able to play 1 of each kind of Mox, yet 2 Golems? This strikes me as at least a little odd. I think we are all capable of grasping that there is a gradation of power level across the population of cards, and that some cards simply must to be restricted to singletons, while others might be broken at 4, but fine at 2 or even 3.
----And some cards are broken at 4, but nearly unplayable when restricted to 1. Balance, I’m looking at you. A solid 1.1% of vintage decks run Balance according to mtgtop8, while Balance is included in any list of the most broken cards to ever see the light of day. More people are playing Noxious Revival than Balance. How can we explain this, other than to say that it’s been rendered useless by nothing more than the picadillos of a needlessly course restriction policy.
----Doomsday used to be like this (we suppose). Or at least we can say that when Doomsday was restricted to 1 card, it saw essentially no use. Now unrestricted, the Doomsday deck is a thing, and another archetype in a format the purportedly wants for diversity. Personally, I can’t stand playing Doomsday. But I love that people who enjoy it get to enjoy it. It adds variety and flavor to the format. Those are good things.
----There’s a fair chance that Balance could be a deck again tomorrow, yet not be overpowered. 2 copies? How about 2 copies of Flash? The larger point here is that if we want diversity of archetype in vintage, let’s get a policy in place that actually reflects that desire, and more precisely reflects the actual brokenness of the cards.
----Secondly. There are certain cards and decks that have grown into Vintage staples. Over time, they have become those lynchpins around which the Vintage metagame has been grown. That reality should be reflected on the banned and restricted list, by setting certain core cards as unrestrictable. Or at the very least, the DCI should disempower themselves from ever restricting these cards to less than 3 per deck. Off the top of my head, Gush, Oath, Mana Drain, Wasteland, Null Rod, Bazaar, and certainly Mishra’s Workshop should be like this.
----This rounds back to my original thoughts about what Vintage is, the most eternal, most static format. From a gaming standpoint, banning the queen because she’s OP in chess, or to “shake things up”, would be ludicrous. Likewise, these archetypes should be left alone in vintage, permanently. If someone’s looking for an eternal format without really broken cards, that format is Legacy or even Modern. If people are looking for a format that’s dynamic, where things are in a state of constant flux, no better place than Standard.
----Vintage has grown from the very beginning of the game. It’s the format that used to just be called Magic. The point here is that these cards have a larger cultural significance within Vintage game play. The tension between Blue and Shops is foundational. The tension between Oath and Fish/Hatebear/Delver/Mentor, is foundational. If any of these archetypes gets naturally forced off the main stage, then so be it (Dreadnaught, Dragon… we hardly knew ya). But to have an invisible hand reaching in to put a thumb on the scale just detracts from the beauty of the format.
----And most importantly, the DCI’s passing consideration at restricting one of the most important cornerstones, the Workshop itself, alarms me in that it suggests perhaps how much the DCI, who’s main focus is understandably Standard, may not comprehend the card relationships that make Vintage so wonderful. By which, of course, I mean to say the relationships that have to do with people. These pieces of cardboard (now digitized also, into so much online ephemera) do not only represent potential card interactions and lines of play. What they most importantly represent, is years of collective work by groups of Magic players. The most important way in which Vintage is not like other formats, is that here, more than all the others, people spend years working with each other on one type of deck. Here we can say things like, hey my name is Steve. I play Gush. And we really mean, that guy has spent a not insignificant portion of his life trying to push Gush forward as an archetype. The same is true of Oath, of Bazaar, of Null Rod Fishiness, and maybe most of all, of Workshops.
----Imagine what it’s like today, to have that same playset of Workshops you’ve had since 1997, you and your diligent buddies have been working since then to make this deck a powerhouse, all through the years when Blue Mages used to scoff at your deck as not even real, through seeing it win a Vintage Championship in 2005, up until today when, apparently, a governing body that may not even be playtesting the format, seems at least near enough to gutting the deck, to mention having considered it in passing in their Lodestone Golem explanation. What a sour reward for these players’ collective efforts. The suggestion that since they’ve popularized, and nursed their pet deck along, they might get to see it cut to pieces if it gets too popular. Should they play it in the daily today? Should they shelve it for a bit to drop the number of people playing it, lest they maybe lose it forever? That’s terrible. That’s just wrong.
----(And I hate shops. I hear you Randy Buehler. I get it. I hate losing to them too, and all you Shops players out there - if I see you or any of your schadenfreude-junky friends, I’ve got some Hurkyl’s and Energy Fluxs with your name on them. I promise you. But I really love this game, and Shops players are woven deeply into its fabric. Seemingly there is a type of person who likes taking candy from small children and keeping the rest of us from playing any fun spells at all, but they deserve their shot. We all do.)
----It’s true that the game is made by the good people at Wizards, but it’s the players who make it great. Wizards really should codify that by permanently unrestricting those essential elements of Magic’s oldest format - not essential in that they can’t be excised, though I deeply hope that none are, but in keeping with the oldest meaning of the word, that they account for the essence of what Vintage has come to be.
-The DCI statement for your convenience -
We continue to see an imbalanced metagame. In particular, Mishra’s Workshop–based decks continue to be significantly overrepresented, reducing the competitive metagame. While this issue could be solved by restricting the namesake card, if possible we would like to keep the deck at a competitive level, but played to an extent that the format is more diverse overall. Lodestone Golem leads to some of the less-interactive games. We are hopeful that limiting Workshop decks to one copy of the card leaves the deck at an appropriate strength. For that reason, Lodestone Golem is restricted.
@Topical_Island With the advent of Vintage Masters in MTGO and the VSL Vintage has become more visible to the DCI and as a result they're obliged to try to improve upon it if they see fit. I think this comes down to a choice between having Vintage be a "real" format that players can actually play on a regular basis and having a format that is largely ignored by the DCI. I, for one, was under the impression that the Vintage community wanted to expand to attract new players and that Vintage Masters on MTGO was a change welcomed by the majority. If they feel it's broken then they're not just going to sit back and do nothing about it. The goal is to generate revenue after all. I suspect the perception that the format is closed, or dominated by one archetype, is a hindrance to that.