Schools of Magic Taxonomy Question for Vintage


  • TMD Supporter

    Hola,

    I'm in the process of reviewing the chapters from my "History of Vintage" series, and some issues have arisen (or more precisely, have always been present, but never fully resolved), that I thought I'd present to you to weigh in on.

    First of all, if you aren't familiar with the concept, here you go:

    http://classicdojo.org/school/schooldex.html

    The most important link is the April '96 link (the 7th link down), which is the version 5.4 of Robert Hahn's Schools of Magic. In it, he identifies 6 Schools: Weissman, Kim, Handelman, Chang, O'Brien, and Maysonet.

    If you've followed my History of Vintage series then you know that I borrow a great deal from his attempt to delineate different strategic concepts as a trope for the history of Vintage. With the benefit of hindsight, we see that some of the "schools" he identified as such are less schools than broadly used fundamental principles. Thus, of his original "6" (or 4 depending on which version of his SoM you are reading), I argue that only two are really "schools" as such: The Weissman and O'Brien Schools.

    Now here's where things get interesting. I argue, throughout the series, that there are 6 Schools of Type I/Vintage Magic, in the sense that Hahn defined them (I'm not going to get into a debate over his definition - just read it for yourself): 1) Weissman, 2) O'Brien, but also: 3) The Reanimator School, best represented by Dredge today, 4) A Combo School (represented by decks like DPS today, but used to show up as Prosperity Vice, the first Doomsday deck, Recursion Twister, etc.), 5) a Turbo Xerox /Comer School (represented by decks Jeskai Mentor or Delver before Gush was restricted again), and 6) the Lestree School (which was represented by Bertrand Lestree's proto Zoo deck, and later by the mid-1990s Zoo decks, Monkey, May I, etc.

    These Schools do not encompass the entirety of Type I or Vintage. His metaphor or analogy breaks down, as you can see, with the onset of Necro summer (if you look at the original link above). I don't think he fully realized why at the time (although I have). The main reason is that the Schools Analogy doesn't really work with you have a singular, unique and idiosyncratic card that does really powerful thinks. Thus, cards like Necro - cards that can power up a variety of strategies, but produce unique functions in Magic, can't generate schools in the same way that the other Schools can.

    Thus, there are always strategies that lay outside of these schools, because they are singular/idiosyncratic, like Painter Combo, etc. I don't want to debate this point, either.

    The question I want to pose is this: Do you feel it is important that each school, following the convention of Robert Hahn, be associated with a "name" of a player, like "Weissman," "O'Brien", etc.? Or, would you rather have the name follow the strategic classifications more familiar to the format? Like "Reanimator", etc.

    I ask because it is difficult to identify the 'founder' of, for example, the Reanimator School. Mark Chalice created the first Reanimator deck on record, but Alan Comer created the first modern version of it, structured around 4 Bazaar, 4 tutors to find etc, etc. But Alan Comer also created the Turbo Xerox concept. So, the School could be called the "Comer School" or the "Turbo Xerox" School or something else entirely.

    It is especially difficult to peg the "Combo" School to a particular name. There isn't really a single person who really focused their energies on this school for a long period of time during the formative years of the game. Maybe Chapin to some degree. But he played many decks.

    Let me know your thoughts.



  • I think your "schools" approach feels a bit... shoehorn-y at times (in that Rob Hahn might not translate that well to today). Having said that, I REALLY want it to be true. There's something magical, forgive the pun, about early M:tG that, Old School aside is only really present in Vintage.

    The "name" schools give a very intimate feel to the game that's very much lacking in modern-day sanitized M:tG. I suspect that's why a lot of us play the format, it feels sort of Wild West-ish to this day.

    Having said that, as a combo player combo decks by their very nature are very disparate in a way control and aggro really aren't. Decks like ProsBloom, Metalworker, Doomsday, Dredge, etc. function so differently it's hard to categorize them together. Speaking of which, was there a Type I combo deck before Type II ProsBloom hit the scene? If not, maybe that's a good place to start.

    Personally, I like the "name" approach because it has a certain romanticism to it, but I feel like there are functionally infinitely many ways to approach this and I'm not sure that taxonomy matters as much.

    I would posit that the key is looking at how a deck wants to win - what does an ideal game of Magic look like for Xerox, for Outcome, for Oath, etc. That I think will give you the best grouping mechanism for decks; the exact cards themselves are subservient to the goal they're trying to achieve.



  • I personally like the name association, but that does not necessarily mean you need to fit everything to a name? If I were you, I'd fit in names wherever I could, but just use generic names for ones that don't have them (like the Combo school). Regarding the Reanimator question you had, I'd have difficulty associating the "Comer School" with anything other than Xerox, so even if Comer did come up with the modern version of Reanimator, is it a problem to simply refer to it as the "Reanimator School"?

    Anyway, just my 2 cents regarding the topic. Good luck with your reviews!



  • @smmenen In chess, some openings are named after individuals (Alekhine’s Defense, the Ruy Lopez), some are named after multiple individuals (Caro Kann), some are named by strategic concepts (Queen’s Gambit, Four Knights game), some are named by geography (French Defense, the Sicilian).



  • @smmenen said in Schools of Magic Taxonomy Question for Vintage:

    Do you feel it is important that each school, following the convention of Robert Hahn, be associated with a "name" of a player, like "Weissman," "O'Brien", etc.? Or, would you rather have the name follow the strategic classifications more familiar to the format?

    That depends on how inclusive/exclusive you want to be. I've played Magic since the 90's and I know of Weissman, Chapin, and Comer. Never heard of the other guys and, frankly, I wonder if they really matter other than as a way to delineate your audience. The knows, and the know-nothings if you will. I would approach this sort of like a history of Silicon Valley or something. A few names matter to the average reader, but most don't. The way to get them reading is to tell stories. How did thing X come to be? Why is it important? What did it do and what did it inspire? Not "So&So built thing X. It did this new thing. So&So is now very rich." That's technical, boring, and inaccessible- unless I already know about So&So and am very interested in how thing X works. When I teach Civics I've found I can't focus on the esoteric bits that I find interesting (like the philosophical underpinnings) but instead must focus on telling stories that also deliver practical facts. For example, when I start teaching Civil Rights laws, I begin with Brown v. Board. I tell them the story of Linda Brown. I tell them what happened after the decision, how black people, not white people, bore the weight of that change- how they suffered every negative consequence of something designed to right wrongs done to them, while those who oppressed and demonized them were coddled, cajoled, and made to feel comfortable at great expense. That being said- in your position, I'd focus on the decks. Tell us when new, interesting things happened that changed the way we think about and play Vintage (or even Magic as a whole). Tell us those stories. Weave together the fabric of the format by showing us the world as it was when it changed greatly. What was it like when Comer figured out how to Xerox? How did it change the landscape? Which darlings did it kill? Which did it foster? How does it influence what we're doing today? The same for Shops (the more control variants, the ones today are really just Zoo decks imo) and Dredge and Oath and Control (the Deck, of course, comes to mind!). The schools can be your invisible scaffolding, that which guides you in delivering the stories, but they need not be the exoskeleton that binds the body from the outside and is all that's visible to the onlooker.

    TLDR; focus on the decks. Tell us their stories as a vehicle for delivering the wisdom.


  • TMD Supporter

    @t1darkrit said in Schools of Magic Taxonomy Question for Vintage:

    I think your "schools" approach feels a bit... shoehorn-y at times (in that Rob Hahn might not translate that well to

    Having said that, as a combo player combo decks by their very nature are very disparate in a way control and aggro really aren't. Decks like ProsBloom, Metalworker, Doomsday, Dredge, etc. function so differently it's hard to categorize them together. Speaking of which, was there a Type I combo deck before Type II ProsBloom hit the scene? If not, maybe that's a good place to start.

    To be clear: that's not how I classify decks within the "Combo School." The combo decks that are included in the "Restricted List Combo School" follow a very specific play pattern that includes: lots of mana acceleration, a high density of restricted cards, and a number of tutors (often unrestricted), and either a big mana or storm finisher (e.g. Fireball, Kaeverk's Torch, Tendrils of Agony), or recursive elements (like Twister loops or a bigYawg Will). Thus, decks in this school include: Pre-DCI Lotus/Twister decks, 1997 Prosperity Vice, 1997/8 Doomsday (recursion deck with Timetwister), 1998-2002 Academy, 2002 Burning Long, 2003-2008 TPS, 2005-6 Grim Long, Burning Oath, Dark Petition Storm, etc.

    These are decks that follow the basic play pattern of: 1) generate lots of mana -> 2) draw or otherwise see lots of cards -> 3) play a critical mass finisher. They feature as high density of mana, and very few finishers (a single Fireball or Tendrils often). And they very often use disruption to protect this plan, like Duress, Defense Grid, Abeyance, City of Solitude, Xantid Swarm, Force of Will, etc. But if you map 2002 Burning Long and 2015 DPS, it's basically the same scaffolding, just different cards in that slot. No different with other Schools, like comparing 1994 The Deck with 2002 Keeper, except that the win conditions change (i.e. Morphling over Serra Angel, etc.)

    Combo decks that are focused on assembling two random cards don't fall into this school.

    ProsBloom was never a tournament level Type I deck because you didn't need Cadaverous Bloom.

    That being said- in your position, I'd focus on the decks. Tell us when new, interesting things happened that changed the way we think about and play Vintage (or even Magic as a whole). Tell us those stories. Weave together the fabric of the format by showing us the world as it was when it changed greatly. What was it like when Comer figured out how to Xerox? How did it change the landscape? Which darlings did it kill? Which did it foster? How does it influence what we're doing today? The same for Shops (the more control variants, the ones today are really just Zoo decks imo) and Dredge and Oath and Control (the Deck, of course, comes to mind!). The schools can be your invisible scaffolding, that which guides you in delivering the stories, but they need not be the exoskeleton that binds the body from the outside and is all that's visible to the onlooker.

    In any case, I do all of these things, but the Aggro Shops decks are still very obviously Aggro O'Brien School decks, which played with 4 Juggernaut and 4 Juzam in some cases.

    Thanks to everyone who replied: it affirmed my inclination, which is to take a hybrid approach rather than trying to insist upon a player name for each school.


 

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