@bazaarofbaghdad said in Possibly Misguided Vintage Card Design Theory!:
So no, any legitimate contender to what you're looking for can't use the stack, otherwise FOW or Spheres will deny hoser status, however subtle it may have been crafted to be.
So I'm very much trying to avoid cards with hoser status, that's the general idea - those cards pretty often aren't very good. The best anti-shops card that currently exists is Oath of Druids, which doesn't say "converted mana cost" or "artifact" anywhere on it. (I'm defining anti-shops card as the highest correlation between having the card in your deck and winning the match ... and honestly we don't have data on this, it's just an educated guess and I could be wrong.)
So if I were a wotc designer tasked with this (and boy I'm glad that I'm not), I would have to test the hell out of everything, but obviously none of us have put in the work so I'm sure my off-the-cuff designs are going to be problematic I would LIKE to push archetype-proping cards like Delver and Oath but those are significantly harder to come up with.
Another approach though is having cards that impact the strategy directly but cost a player less to run.
The card Pulverize already exists and basically says "Destroy all artifacts, you can't stop this with Spheres." This is already one of the most powerful hosers I can imagine but basically has no impact on shops in the metagame.
Note that I'm not at ALL considering how these cards would impact other formats, or what rules contortions would be necessary (I'm not sure the game rules can actually handle the 'can't modify this cost' designs, but for hypothetical sake assume wotc is willing to figure something out to put cards in vintage)
reducing opportunity cost:
consider the two cards:
Better Energy Flux - 2U
Enchantment - it's just energy flux but the cost can't be increased.
Better Smelt - R
Instant or Sorcery, whatever - Destroy an artifact, draw a card.
"Better Energy Flux" is a more precisely anti-workshop card, but "Better Smelt" would have a bigger impact on the format as a whole, because people would maindeck it. Any deck can run it, but it's especially good in any deck that can take advantage of a mox-killing tempo swing.
Related to this, consider that the only way to improve a deck's matchup against another is to improve the quality of your [anti-deck] cards, or the quantity of them. Hoser design tries to push the quality of that hard higher and higher ... and at some point it will always work (0 mana, indestructible, artifacts have no abilities and cant' attack or block), but hitting that point doesn't always make things better. Cards that have a less dramatic effect but a lower opportunity cost can get people to increase the quantity of relevant cards. 8 Tormod's Crypt is more effective than 1 Leyline of the Void, if you have the space to run them.
Taking any small effect and leaving you with SOMETHING if your opponent has an answer to it is going to strengthen the position of decks not vulnerable to that card, making something cantrip is a pretty straightforward way to do that, but there are probably others. Making nonblue cards replace themselves is an example of something that wouldn't make sense in standard design, but I believe makes sense in vintage design. I really don't think the traditional view of the color pie makes ANY sense in this format. It's not how things work, and designing as if that's how things work isn't going to make it work.
I've thought that aggro could really get a push from just a cheap cantripping attacker more than a hate bear. A one mana 2/1 cantripping merfolk (or goblin? human? wizard?) that can't block would do a real number on more traditional blue control decks. Obviously that card couldn't be printed in standard but I think it could only improve (or have no noticeable impact on) vintage strategic diversity.
Another approach to reducing the opportunity cost of a card is tacking on the hate ability as a side effect to something people can use anyway.
Tiny Ob Nixilis - 2B
Planeswalker - 3 Loyalty
+1: target player loses 2 life and you gain 2 life
-0: exile target player's graveyard
-2: lose 2 life and draw 2 cards
There could be more cohesion between these abilities, but I don't think it's awful (fix it in flavor text). Something like this is the anti-dredge Dack Fayden. You wouldn't run this card in your sideboard over something like a Yixlid Jailer, it's just not as effective a hoser - but you could run it maindeck, and maindeck hate completely changes Dredge's metagame dynamics. You can probably do something similar against any problem archetype, have a reasonable value-generating engine, tack on a relevant but not backbreaking hate effect.
using mirror-cards to weaken a deck's position in the metagame
I mentioned this in the first post. These are probably tough to get right. A quick pass at one:
Uktabi Construct - 4
Artifact Creature - 2/2 - Destroy an artifact on ETB.
The contention is that a Workshop deck running this card is more likely to win against a Workshop deck that isn't. I'm not completely sure if that's true. Assuming it is, this card is not dead against non-shops decks, but it's not particularly great against them either. That's important because it's not so obviously bad against blue that a Workshop player can't afford to run them. If some people try the card, the arms race begins, and Workshop players have a split incentive to run cards that are good in different matchups. While there are differences between an optimal anti-mirror Workshop list and an optimal anti-blue Workshop list, those differences are very small. They're MORE than small enough to give Workshop decks a ton of sideboard space to work with, and in fact the more lock pieces we restrict, the smaller that gap gets. By increasing the distance between good anti-shop cards and good anti-blue cards, you create tension in how the deck needs to be built, and at some point the Workshop pilot has to choose a deck to have suboptimal matchups against. Design has to be pretty careful to build a card that's both costly to run and still worth running, but I think it can be done.