Why do you think we have a restricted list?

  • I believe there's a third facet, related but distinct from Steve's point about promoting sufficient counter-play: variance-reduction.

    Consider for a minute the repercussions of a completely unrestricted format: it would be easy to construct a deck that goldfishes a first-turn win a very high (>95%) percentage of the time. The obvious avenue that comes to mind is a storm kill, but in truth in a format with access to 4 Black Lotus, 20 Moxen, 4 Demonic Tutors, 4 Ancestral Recalls, etc. there are a plethora of valid strategies that consistently win on the first turn.

    Of course, Vintage is not a single-player game, and the metagame would adapt to the need to disrupt the opponent when on the draw. And Vintage has access to a surprisingly large amount of tools for doing so, many currently underused: free counterspells are one option, but we also have Gemstone Caverns, Leyline of Anticipation, Chancellor of the Annex, etc.

    The result would not, I believe, be a format that lacks deck diversity. Nor would it necessarily be an uninteresting format. It would be very different, and very high-variance. Like in poker, mulligan decisions and the die roll would be critical (even moreso than in Vintage, and that's saying something.) I don't think a best-of-3 match structure would make any sense in such a format: to be skill-testing a match would need to be best-of-N for larger N, and don't believe the claims that a tournament so structured would be skill-less or unfun (just as you shouldn't believe claims that poker is skill-less or unfun.)

    Put differently, I've always held that the concept of "fundamental turn," often used to analyze Standard and other slow formats, is not fully applicable to Vintage, where the turn by which a game is strategically decided can vary tremendously depending on matchup, and decks can surge to victory after falling behind for dozens of turns. Still, as a rule of thumb, the fewer cards that are restricted, the earlier the fundamental turn. A key function of the restricted list, especially when it comes to archetype-agnostic cards like the Moxen, is to delay the fundamental turn, prolonging games and reducing variance.

  • @joshuabrooks for an up to date B&R Timeline, also with unrestrictions and other Formats see https://mtg.gamepedia.com/Banned_and_restricted_cards/Timeline

  • Just an off question, but why we're Rukh Egg and Orcish Oriflame restricted on the first list ever?

  • @serracollector They were errata'ed from their original text. Much more damning a sentence than simply being restricted.

  • TMD Supporter

    @stormanimagus said in Why do you think we have a restricted list?:

    @smmenen Thank you, I changed it to the "DCI" in my initial post. I sorta knew that and had a brain fart.

    Question: do you think their principles for restriction extend all the way back to cards like Ancestral and Time Walk? Was there ever a time when they would have said "these cards are not automatically restricted we have to evaluate the format?" What were the competitive balance reasons that any of the moxen should be restricted? What degenerate things did they enable that could not be enjoyed by many many different deck? I have my own theories as to why they got restricted in the first place, but I'd also like to hear from the community.

    I preemptively answered these questions in my post you replied to:

    "I ... found that the DCI's bases for restriction have evolved over the decades of Type I and Vintage play, and is not entirely consistent or internally coherent. They have evolved just as the game has."

    It wasn't until 1995 that the concept of "card advantage" came into parlance. It makes sense that the regulatory body who manages Constructed Magic would also evolve their rationale and bases.

    As I demonstrate in my History of Vintage, many of the restrictions that occurred in 1994 were done without the benefit of tournament data. Rather a handful of cards were immediately restricted after Antiquities and Legends were released. For example, 3 cards were immediately restricted after the release of Antiquities: Ivory Tower, Feldon's Cane, and Candleabra - but curiously - Workshop wasn't restricted until more than a month after that - suggesting that it was evidence, not just a preemptive design act, that precipitated it.

    Similarly, Library of Alexandria was restricted more than 5 months after Arabian Nights was released, and well after other Arabian cards like Rukh Egg had been restricted. Again, this suggests that data or tournament experience/results played a role. And again, Mind Twist was restricted immediate after Bo Bell's victory at US Nationals. And, yet again, Balance and Fork were restricted after decks appeared abusing those cards in tournaments in early 1995.

    After Legends, the DCI moved away from the idea of pre-emptive restrictions. The only card preemptively restricted - or restricted nearly immediately - after the release of a set, from 1995 until the present - is Mind's Desire. The soonest card's get restricted in that period is at least 2-3 months after set releases, compared to the virtually coterminous restrictions that occurred with the release of Antiquities and Legends.

    If you follow the pattern of restriction from 1995 through April 1999, it's very clear that the DCI only restricted cards in Type I that were proven problematic, and was generally narrowly tailored in doing so. The main exception to narrow tailoring, of course, was the mass wave of October, 1999, when the DCI restricted 18 cards. But that occurred only after two prior attempts to deal with the problem proved futile.

    Then, if you look at the restriction regime from late 1999 until roughly 2006 or so, it's clear that part of the rationale that the DCI uses for restricting cards is "function," like "fast mana" or tutors. Yet, it's very clear that by 2008 through the present, that rationale is jettisoned. And thus, cards like Chrome Mox, Mox Diamond, Grim Monolith, Burning Wish and Gifts Ungiven are unrestricted despite being "fast mana" or "tutors."

    In short, the DCI's rationale has evolved over time as the game has evolved, in both our collective understanding and the emergence of better and more refined data sources and data sets. The MTGO era gives the DCI more and better data than ever before. And it's clear from a number of recent DCI announcements, written mostly by Ian Duke, that they are using that data.

    Beth Moursand wrote an Duelist article that explained the rationale of every restricted card in Type I from 1994 through 1996. And the DCI has offered public explanations since roughly 1999, so we aren't entirely in the dark on what their rationale is. Your post seems to suggest we are completely in the dark. We aren't. That doesn't mean that their explanations are entirely comprehensive, but this isn't entirely guesswork either.

  • I'd say the purpose is to prevent any one strategy from becoming overbearing in a way that it is so hard to beat reliably without significantly warping your deck to gun for that one build and thus discourages innovation and diversity by making it THE deck to play/target.

    The criteria I think DCI uses is # representation over several high profile tourney top 8s to guage if it is overly performing repeatedly or oppressing all other builds from having a chance. Cards that also consistently go turn 1, GG (i.e. workshop -> trinisphere) with such regularity as to make games uninteractive from start to finish are also hit. One could argue this first reason also applies to trinisphere - a turn 1 shop/trini would undeniably make shops THE deck to play/beat (where as now, PO, token control, oath, dredge are at least considerations).

    I'd LIKE the DCI to also look at cards in the abstract that are degenerate and too fast - i.e. Workshop (bazaar to a lesser degree) {Bear with me, this isn't a "restrict shop" rant.}. Such cards are brokenly powerful and can be deployed turn 1 where the opponent has no response to stop it. Black lotus is restricted for the fact it is brokenly degenerate and fast - 3 mana (beyond the land drop) on turn 1 is a HUGE tempo advantage to an opponent playing a land a turn. All the moxen, crypt, and ring are restricted on that same basis. By that logic, a 3-mana producing land that doesn't sacrifice with use is on equal broken/fast footing, which just goes to show that it is currently NOT uniformly a criteria/approach to restriction. That criteria is used enough though, (i.e. Solomoxcrypt) that it IS a consideration in some cases. Channel falls in this category as well. GG for 19 mana is really fast and broken...but can't reliably be cast turn 1...so it might dodge the concept of "too fast."

  • Sometimes I wonder if its not to promote speculation and discussion about the format(s).

  • I like this question. Vintage is the only format with a restricted list, and this never made any sense to me. Back in 1995, Standard had a restricted list because some over powered cards were in 4th Edition (Strip mine, Balance, Ivory Tower, Zuran Orb). I think all formats should have a restricted to open up play to the preferences of the players.

    I am saying that all formats should have a restricted list because cutting a cards availability from 4 to 1 produces a great deal of variance. In Vintage, an opening hand with Ancestral Recall, Time Walk and Black Lotus is incredible but very rare since you are only allowed one of each of these cards in your deck.

    When a player decides to play only singletons they are accepting a great deal of variance from a statical standpoint relying on a single card is often a gamble. This is why the Xerox strategy works so well in Vintage because it reduces the variance.

    The reason Shops and Dredge standout in the format is because they rely very heavily on having 3 - 4 of the same card in a 60 card deck and Storm decks on the other hand really need a sequence of restricted cards to be competitive and rely very heavily on tutors and card draw.

    The restricted list allows over powered cards to be played with the tradeoff of accepting variance over a statical curve that would offer a much more stable line of play.

    The tradeoff is up to the player and players should be allowed to chose how they wish to enjoy the game.

  • @moorebrother1 Actually I believe most players dislike high variance formats, which is one of the reasons Vintage is not that popular (in MTGO for example, where it's cheap)

  • @fsecco said in Why do you think we have a restricted list?:

    @moorebrother1 Actually I believe most players dislike high variance formats, which is one of the reasons Vintage is not that popular (in MTGO for example, where it's cheap)

    I've certainly heard that sentiment from pros, good players, and from the guys who think of themselves as good players. I'm the opposite, FWIW; I'm pretty burnt out on Legacy because the low variance means most games give me deja vu. The high variance of the restricted list has made Vintage a really nice change of pace for me.

  • @stuart I play Vintage and loved playing Duel Commander (and thinking about Brawl) so I guess we know where I stand on this one :P

  • The simple answer: Wizards is a business. Their job is to sell cards, and the game as a whole. So just like new sets, different formats, and other things produced by Wizards, the restricted list functions towards these goals. More specifically, Vintage has a restricted list because there was demand for a format in which all cards could be played that was also somewhat enjoy-able to actually play (instead of just allowing all cards to be unrestricted).

  • TMD Supporter

    Vintage is the format where, within reason, you get to play any card. That's the official WotC reason [citation needed].