[Free Podcast] So Many Insane Plays # 52: Shadows Over Innistrad Set Review & B&R Update

  • @MaximumCDawg said:

    The point is that Gush was a safe unrestriction only because of the power of Workshops. Once you snip off some of the thorns of the format's best control deck, now suddenly we see why Gush was restricted in the first place.

    I think this is significant, though, as it represents the 'choice' the DCI is exercising. Do we (a) allow powerful decks and strategies so that more cards/strategies are viable or (b) restrict cards to maintain (or try to maintain) an arbitrarily 'safe' power level? As more cards are printed, it seems like the power creep at any given time of an individual deck is inevitable. It becomes vague as to how 'over-powered' a deck can be allowed to become and for how long it can be be allowed to 'dominate' before intervention (no assumption on what this may be) is required.

    I still think the timeline is one of the largest question marks. How long does it take for a solution to evolve in Vintage? It seems like 3 or even 6 months is a very short period of time and, if you compound it by only making 1 change at a time, the format really needs to be slow-moving. This is aggravated by cost/availability issues within paper and a small player base online. @joshuabrooks raises an interesting point. MTGO may push towards a shorter timeline. It's certainly faster evolving as it's much easier (and less expensive) to shift between Shops, DPS, and Gush decks, but what effect will the small player base have? 60 players in the P9 Challenge (the Vintage Premier Event) isn't going to make Vintage an automatic 'money-maker' for Wizards when you compare it to the 100s of players who show up for a Standard, Modern, or Limited event.

    I think it's an interesting discussion point that @Topical_Island makes, too - if the DCI is willing to step in to stop 'over-representation' through restriction, what is the reward for working towards a solution? Shops (pre-restriction) was arguably being solved within the metagame. It was still being played in the 20-25% range, but it may have continued to lose ground without a restriction (regardless of its inherent power level). Without Shops, Gush/Mentor has spiraled. There are a ton of threads here talking about how to 'solve' it, but I've read just as many opinions that (to paraphrase) 'it's not worth worrying about it, since it won't be around by eternal weekend'. To me, that's not indicative of a healthy format. [I'm also not suggesting that it's the 'only' opinion.]

  • @joshuabrooks It may be time to sell Shops then.. I doubt it will remain immune to the attention over time. It probably sounds crazy to some but the card is quite obviously better than most already restricted cards and it's only a matter of time before something gets printed to put it over the top again. Alternatively, it could be that someone is going to come up with a configuration that is strongly favored in spite of recent restrictions. If Gush gets restricted then I'd say that's the direction we're headed.

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    @Fred_Bear said:

    is willing to step in to stop 'over-representation' through restriction, what is the reward for working towards a solution?

    I think this the crux of why these discussions always eventually fade into the ether. The DCI doesn't seem to have rules/guidelines for Vintage restrictions. Right now, the reason was over-representation. Last time it was to preserve the ability to play moxes (Cotv) and to increase "card diversity" (DTT). Treasure cruise was "hurting diversity in the format." Trinisphere caused games to be "unfun." These are all very different ways of saying similar things. Allowing people to play moxes is a nod to the nostalgia of Vintage. DTT was to get people to play other cards. Treasure Cruise was to increase deck diversity. Lodestone's restriction was claiming to increase deck diversity, but I would argue was more of an "unfun" restriction.

    Magic is a game. Games need to be fun and challenging or else people stop playing them. If the format become 80% Gush and people are still having fun, the DCI might not act. If Belcher becomes 20% and people start quitting, they will act. At the end of the day, I don't think the cryptic messages from the DCI really mean anything. All that matters is if people are enjoying/playing Magic.

    MTGO (and to a smaller extent VSL) will test that question more frequently than in the past. And "untouchables" like Bazaar, Workshop, FoW might find themselves on a watchlist someday. MTGO has less ties to the past.

  • @Aaron-Patten said:

    @joshuabrooks It may be time to sell Shops then.. I doubt it will remain immune to the attention over time. It probably sounds crazy to some but the card is quite obviously better than most already restricted cards and it's only a matter of time before something gets printed to put it over the top again. Alternatively, it could be that someone is going to come up with a configuration that is strongly favored in spite of recent restrictions. If Gush gets restricted then I'd say that's the direction we're headed.

    It may just be wishful thinking on my behalf, but I don't think Workshop is getting a hard "going to have to restrict" look anytime soon, if for no other reason than the non-blue options in vintage are pretty much limited to Workshops and Dredge. I don't think they want to kill off diversity.

  • @joshuabrooks I agree totally. There should be at least some known rubrics concerning the decision making process for restrictions. I think that would probably help the DCI as well, who I do think made a bad decision... but I doubt are actually bad people. They want to get it right as much as anyone I'd wager.

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    @Topical_Island said:

    @joshuabrooks I agree totally. There should be at least some known rubrics concerning the decision making process for restrictions. I think that would probably help the DCI as well, who I do think made a bad decision... but I doubt are actually bad people. They want to get it right as much as anyone I'd wager.

    What I'm saying is that I don't think there will ever be a metric. At least not one that makes computative sense and applies to all archtypes. It's not a math problem, or at least not one that applies equally to all decks.

    In my opinion, the only metric that matters is:

    Does "X card" cause (in a significantly distorting amount) people to play/enjoy more magic or less magic.

  • I agree that fun is one of the most important things that a format definition is trying to achieve (if not the most). One thing to keep in mind is that different formats try to achieve that in different ways. Vintage needs to have some semblance of balance and of diversity, but I think the fun in Vintage comes significantly from nostalgia (including a kind of mythos or lore that induces nostalgia even in those who did not play in the early days of Magic), a kind of freedom to play cards banned in other formats (like Oath or Mental Misstep), and a high power level in general. Bans or restrictions that are made to promote diversity, interactivity, and balance may be unwise if they significantly harm nostalgia, card choice, or the perception that Vintage is a "higher power" format than Modern, Legacy and Pauper.

    To take one example, I think a Time Vault ban would be incredibly bad for the format even if it were necessary to preserve diversity and balance. This is because it would hurt the other ways in which Vintage is fun, and so would be likely to be a net loss of fun compared to large-scale restrictions or unrestrictions (if those were the two alternatives that were necessary to deal with overwhelming metagame imbalance).

  • @joshuabrooks I really don't agree. (I mean, I agree that I want people to have fun and play the game. I totally want that to.) I think if you tend the underlying quality of the game, the game is fun and people play it. Approached the other way, games turn into the XFL... or rather, they turn into Pokemon and Yugioh (Not trying to dis on them really, if people here like them). Why aren't we all flocking to Pokemon? It's so fun right? The cards are all so bright and shiny... its got a cartoon that I can get up early in the morning in my footy pajamas and eat coco-puffs and watch... Those games are designed for fun. And nothing but fun. Those games are designed for fun the same way as Mountain Dew and M and M's... and Cocaine! They are pure fun!

    And they're worse. There's something a little finer in Mtg than those other games. Instead of flocking to the whims of what is fun, design and cultivate the game soundly, and people will find quality. I believe that anyway.

    I think the rubric should be, can the card be fought against effectively, with other strategies? Or is the card so powerful, or does its presence put so much pressure on the meta as to force other decks to fill themselves with hate for that one card, or by simply playing the card in question.

    If something like that was done, and it was in print and clear... that would be enough, I think. (Pro tip... when offered the choice between Steak and Cocaine... chose Steak!)

  • I want to discuss this "Of course - and we know what those are. The DCI seeks to promote "Fun," which is variously defined as 1) competitive balance, 2) diversity and 3) interactivity."

    I think in retrospect the LSg ban:

    1. reduced competitive balance (that is the balance among the top strategies)
    2. had an unclear effect on diversity of viable strategies
    3. very heavily increased interactivity (The gush decks are mostly very interactive. Shops is not).

  • Shops are highly interactive, just not on the stack

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    @ajfirecracker said:

    Shops are highly interactive, just not on the stack

    Trinisphere is not an interactive card, unless you define interactively very broadly.

  • @Smmenen on the other side of things... (insert goofy smile) if we define it narrowly enough the word can have no utility at all!

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    Both Workshop Prison decks and Mono Blue Control decks (say, like BBS or Forbiddian circa 1999)) seek to prevent their opponent's from achieving their strategic objectives.

    Workshop Prison decks do this by preventing the opponent from casting spells. Mono Blue Control decks do this by preventing the opponent from resolving spells.

    While this may seem like a difference without a distinction, being prevented from ever casting spells is a far more dispiriting experience of non-interactivity.

    Moreover, it is generally easier to find ways to break through counterwalls (like Cavern or Leyline of the Lifeforce) than to break through Trinisphere/Nether Void walls.

    People would rather have their spells countered or removed with removal spells (which multi-color control decks use to supplement countermagic) than prevented from playing any spells whatsoever in the first place. We call the former interactive, and the latter non-interactive.

    I actually think the whole concept of interactivity in Magic is somewhat BS at the sub atomic level, so to speak, but that's the conventional thinking, anyway.

  • @Smmenen Yes... yes.

    I'm leery to even take this seriously at all, but badly defined terms make me itch. I think I understand what someone was trying to say when they cooked up this term. Imagining say... a play environment where 90% of decks were Long.dec, running zero Forces and zero Duress type effects... that would be pretty dumb. That would be a boring environment... to me anyway. I suppose some people are into watching late night ESPN reruns of Karate tourneys where every fight lasts 15 seconds and ends with one guy punching the other guy in the throat... Heck, I'd tune in and watch that I guess, for awhile. But it would get old. So, I understand what people might be going for when they talk about interactivity. Getting to tangle and mix it up with your opponent over a protracted game is fun. Flipping coins to determine winners is dumb, and just about all games fall somewhere on that continuum I suppose. So fair enough.

    But yeah, effectively this word is just BS. There is, I'm going to say, no real consensus whatsoever on what the word even means, and my impression is that the main function of the term is to use it to gripe, while obfuscating the fact that one is griping... (no no, its not that I don't like losing to that deck... It's that the deck just isn't interactive... Huh? Translation, they played turn 1 and 2 Spheres and then ran that guy over with a Ravager or something.) Interactive just means, in a technical sense, that one thing influences another. It's hard to say that Sphere of Resistance doesn't influence things. It makes every spell cost more... It changes the value of lands that tap for mana... It pretty much interacts with every card in the game except for lands that have non-mana abilities and... what... cycling cards? Most of the time people talk about interactivity, they just mean they didn't get to do what they wanted to do. THEY weren't interactive... which, hey, welcome to vintage.

    (Honorable mention to "fair" and "unfair" as woefully terrible yet commonly used vocabulary terms.)

  • @diophan Ok. I read those now. My first thought is... dang, way to summon up pertinent articles from the aether of the internet on a moment's notice. I'm genuinely impressed.

    I don't know those writers to be honest. I've read the Flores article before... the famous one, since it's essentially cannon. My own, very humble opinion... I just don't see the game that way. When I read that article years ago, I remember thinking something like... well...how to describe this?

    I have some really old chess strategy books, pre-Nimzowitch stuff from the 1910s. My father got them for me when I was a kid and got into chess, so I keep them around because, well to be honest I just never throw away books, but these I would never throw away anyway because I love them because... my dad.

    They're completely goofy right? They're a century old, and at this point are more than anything, monuments to how much better people can get at things over time. The logic in that book is based on all sorts of outmoded metaphoric thinking and dividing choices into truly odd categories. On of the book gets really hung up on military metaphors for everything, comparing moves to various actions in different battles, then saying why one move is good or bad because its seemingly like or unlike something that happened on a Grecian battlefield 2 millennia ago... reading early Magic theory is like that.

    Later Nimzowitsch waltzed in, and blew the lid off the whole Thermopylae theory of chess. His vision, which is basically still used today, since its basically just correct, was to see the game in terms of critical actions and the control of key squares. There are some squares, where if you own them better than the opponent... you just win. There are others that just don't matter at all. The game can be broken down into a mathematical, tactical analysis of competing values of material and squares and the lines of play that change those values... and that's it. (which is essentially how computers now do it, and why, since they're computational power is far greater than humans... they just beat the best humans.) Sorry to anyone who already knew all that, I just think it's interesting, at the risk of making me look didactic.

    So who's the Beatdown? Who cares?... I mean, some people care I guess, so I don't mean to be a jerk about it. I just think its possible to see the game in terms of winning chances, and to evaluate, if only roughly, how each decision would potentially change the odds, and to estimate the odds of those things working out... and that's it. If some artificial rubric like "who's the beatdown?" or the concept of "interactivity" helps to make those choices better... great. But they aren't real things. They are of course just invented human concepts.

    Interactive cards?... Cards either increase your odds to win, or they don't. They are all interactive... with winning chances. And that's it. That is what is really happening... that and a lot of mistakes, because the game is difficult. That's my view.

  • Re: Who's the beatdown? and Which deck needs to interact--I agree that this is a shortcut for what gives you the best chance to win the game. However, I can't even roughly compute any of this stuff. The way I decide to play a preordain or a delver is to assess what my role is in a matchup and what my opponent's fundamental turn is relative to my own. I'm not using this as a metaphor; it is actually what I think when I play a game of magic. I'd be interested to hear how common this is.

    Is there a Nimzowitsch for Magic? I don't think there is. Rereading these articles makes me sad that there's almost no theoretical magic content anymore.

  • @diophan Well we are in the dark-age of big data, where any hypothesis not immediately and readily supported by at least three figures of data points is basically treated like witchcraft... but that being said, you and I are having a theoretical conversation right now... I'm loving it.

    There isn't a Nimzowitsch of magic... yet.

    Brian Kelly might be close though. I mean, he's at least gotta be Tartakower right? My own opinion is that magic theory is moving forward now, in a way as that's as interesting as I can remember. Way more than the early days when we were all figuring out that you kinda wanted to put cards that worked together in the same deck... I guess you could say that was the golden age of magic theory, since it was all theory, but for me, the level of sophistication and the tactics now are just so routinely beautiful, I just can't get enough. I'm all for the discovery of fire, but using it to build a rocket is a different story entirely. Deck hybridization, Metagame tuning, and just plain access to more cards gives a fluidity to what players can do inside a play environment, that just didn't exist even 5 years ago.

    So hey, if you want more theory... lets talk theory. I can't promise brilliance, of even competence really, but I do generally have the skill being interested and (often) not a d-bag about theoretical things...

  • Great writing here, Bill. It does not mean I agree completely with you, but I can see your points.

    Magic cannot be seen with the same parameters as chess. Chess would be similar to magic if there were 6 different cards, you could stack your library, and both players played the same deck. With thousands of available cards, different colors, different approaches, the random drawing... trying to go deep in theory is hard. I can imagine building a IA for a non-interactive deck, but trying to build a good IA for most decks would be a nightmare.

    Who is the beatdown? is one of my favorite articles of all time. I have to admit that first time I read it i didn't understand it. Yes, I understood that there are aggressive decks and more aggressive decks. But I really didn't learnt what it was really talking about (and when playing I often realize I still don't know that). Who is the beatdown is about understanding that your deck is one on a vacuum, but it's much more in a field with different opponents. When I play bomberman, am I an aggro deck? Combo? Control? It depends on the opponent, and probably I often don't choose the optimum role, but I'm aware that I cannot play the same.

    Most decks are good because they are good in the current environment. One person can tune a decklist to dominate an scenario, but change percentages of aggro or combo, or introduce cards that change the metagame, and that deck could not be as successful from that point. Strategies have more resilience to changes, but they are not immune. There are great writers in this forum, but all articles could be disagreed and we see on a daily basis.

  • @xouman Well I agree with just about everything you just said... So maybe I'm just wrong?

    (This is the MD folks! If you aren't in a heated argument and effectively belittling your opponent, you are just about certainly wrong... right?... the theme of this sesame street episode is quickly becoming - revisiting past assumptions)

    As I was writing the above (thanks for the compliment by the way), I'm thinking in the back of my head... oh boy, folks are gonna hate this one, because...heck, categorical thinking in general is just the foundation of human thought. Truisms are good... especially good truisms!

    "A knight on the rim is dim...", "Winning a pawn in the opening is a very dangerous thing..." "First try to sacrifice your opponent's pieces..." Heck, in volleyball I am telling hitters never to tip across their nose (It's bad... don't do it!) Or an all time favorite from Go... "Even idiots close their gaps." (So if someone peeps at your gap, just close it and move on.)

    So when some yaywho comes in and starts tromping around on a time tested truism, well... that guys probably an idiot right?

    I take your meaning that Chess and Magic can't exactly be seen within the same parameters. I mean, a good question I keep expecting to hear asked of me is, "If you like chess so much why don't you cram it and go play chess...?" Because Magic is so much BETTER. It's so much richer in complexity, unknown information, flavor, and my favorite part of the game (aside from the culture of the game, and the people I meet playing it) is the incomprehensible sea of causality that is the metagame... or that I like to call the play environment.

    It's that last part that has me slapping my head about words like interactivity... Trinisphere isn't interactive? Are you kidding me? A dude plays a Trinisphere in Dallas on turn 1 and wins a Game in which his opponents cast no spells, and in Michigan the value of the Mishra's Factories in my Standstill deck go up a little bit. Lodestone gets restricted and the value of that card goes down again. Cavern of Souls sees more play, making Force worse, making Swords better, making Channel slightly better because Emrakul is better now, since people are relying on Swords and Containment Priests against Oath... in part because of something that happened in Spain. This whole game just IS interactivity! I mean, how cool is that stuff? Talk about a world game! The pedestrian analysis of... Trinisphere stops spells from being played ergo it's non-interactive... well, to me that misses the point, the whole point... Of what this game is and why I'm spending so much time playing it. (I do think that card should be restricted by the way... I'm not trying to advocate for Trinisphere here or anything. I hate that card. But I love how it interacts! It's like the 1 off bomb for Shops... The brown ancestral! as it were... which is perfect because bull crap is brown.)

    So you're right about the chess comparison. The value of the queen is the value of the queen. It's static. The values of pieces don't fluctuate in the play environment the way they do in MTG. I suppose you can argue that as new opening tech comes into chess, the value of the pieces shifts ever so slightly... as in magic but to a much smaller degree (Capablanca improved what people thought of pawns for example) but those variations are so small, that nobody would even see chess that way, if they hadn't played a game like Magic first.

    You said that most decks are good because they're good in the current environment. So true. I'll even nudge that statement a little further. Most good decks are good because they contain a lot of cards that are good in the current environment. My main critiques of the "Who's the beatdown?" rubric, aren't that it's wrong at all necessarily. Its just very course, and more importantly, I just don't see the best players using that rubric that often. I just think people could be asking a much better question most of the time. Asking who the beatdown is, is a little like asking if a chess opening is consistent with the tactics of Robert E. Lee... a little bit. In that there's probably a better question to be asking. (Remember people... I'm not making up the Lee thing. Serious players did used to think about chess that way.)

    I see the best players thinking in terms of specific interactions. LSV, for example, is always thinking about specific lines of play through specific unknown potential cards. I'm pretty sure I've never heard him do something based on who he thinks the beatdown is. (Maybe he thinks it all the time... but I doubt it. He certainly doesn't talk about it much if at all when he steams.)

    On the other hand, I've heard him ask himself things like, what are ways I lose..? What are ways I win? What's the best draw or the worst? What are his likely good cards? What cards are good in this match up? And my favorite, how do I win this...? He's pretty famous at this point for spiking lucky cards and winning games from being way behind. (As Efro puts it, he's a know lucky player... which is a hilarious idea that I love.)

    But of course what it really means to be a "known lucky player", is that he plays in a way as to preserve winning chances, even when they are slim, while other people who don't see the game that way aren't seeing those exceedingly slim line to get out of tight places at the end of games. (Luck... a Noun. The emotion produced in humans when something that was anticipated not to happen actually happens.)

    I can totally see how people could convince themselves that what he's doing is luck if it happened to them a couple of times. That's why he's become a "known lucky player", luck being of course, yet another human fiction that describes the actual universe not at all, and describes our human perception of it very well. Heck, if I hadn't listened to him stream so much, I'd probably be in that camp too, with all the other people scratching their heads as he wins hitting some carefully preserved 5% out that we didn't see... We were all thinking about something, but it was LSV (and other very good players) thinking about those specific interactions that could cause winning. Presumably some of us in the peanut gallery were busy trying to figure out who the beatdown was.