Is Old School killing paper Vintage?

I think it's pretty hard to reconcile the idea that vintage is dying with the huge tournament attendance at eternal weekend each year. Surely local metagames die off, mine did a few years back, but are we losing players overall? Saying that SCGCon had 120 players doesn't really mean much ... the last SCGCon ... didn't exist. There's nothing to compare it to. Last year there was no large sanctioned vintage SCG event, and this year they had one with 120 players, that sounds like growth to me? The overall size of the online vintage community feels massive to me now compared to even a few years ago, but I really don't know how to objectively measure this sort of thing.

It really looks to me like objectively, vintage is growing, while at the same time I'll admit that I'm personally very impacted by the aging playerbase, like nedleeds referenced.

For what it's worth, if Old School nabs some vintage players, I'm totally cool with that. I don't want more people to play vintage ... I want more people to have a good time playing magic in a community that enriches their life. If Old School does that better for some people, that benefits everyone involved. I've tried both and I'm still a Vintage player at heart.

@brass-man I don't think Vintage is dying at this point. I am seeing a lot of my friends and my playgroup more interested in Old School than Vintage. None of my friends play online and they all have power. The aging is real, I'm well over 40 and I think of my collection as my kids inheritance.

My larger point was that I had to choose which events to go to this year and I went to one Vintage event and one Old School event. A lot of players with power are making this decision and it is not cause for concern - yet. But if these players with the paper cards do not attend Vintage events then the paper format will die.

Not to reference the B&R list too much and turn this into another discussion about it, but the constant fear of things being restricted away has turned me off paper Vintage almost entirely. I like to work on a deck over a longer period of time, but at the moment I'm simply of the mind "why bother, stuff is going to be restricted eventually due to community outcry anyway".

Now I realize we haven't actually had any major changes in the last few cycles, but the constantly changing nature of restrictions last year and so on really killed my interest, and turned me more into Old School, which fulfills everything I wanted from paper Vintage anyway. I've worked on an Old School deck for the past 6 months, making changes slowly and picking up cards whenever possible, with no fear that it's going to change due to B&R policy.

MODO has accelerated Vintage for sure, but this is incompatible with how I like to slowly build a deck on paper, working on it over an extended period of time. I'd be much happier if the rate of restricting decks away were to slow down. Just my 2 cents, not sure if anybody shares my experiences here.

last edited by Hrishi

@moorebrother1 Usually the big events have both, so it's cool that way. EW is a good example - I can't attend this year (Dia de Los Muertos, guys, come on) but I'd totally go to play both Old School and Vintage.

@fsecco is it foreshadowing then that Dredge will win EW because of this holiday? It would be fitting.

Old school takes the competiveness out of going to a tourney in my opinion. So that helps A LOT of people and may draw more people into playing Old School. Vintage paper tourneys are great. But to me there still competition that makes me want to win. When I play Old School, the want to win is diminished. The EV of Old School is qualitative. The EV for Vintage is... incredibly low and should not be your end goal.

I like both Old School and Vintage equally. At EW, I plan on playing both as much as I can.

@fsecco I was able to do that in 2016 but because of Dad duties I can usually only make to a single day maybe an overnight trip. In about 3 or 4 years I'll be able to do a 3 day trip again.

I have no interest in playing old school, and have had no interest to date. There are plenty of people that enjoy it, and I am happy for them and their enjoyment.

My solution this year for EW is to bring my family with me and turn it into a family holiday. My son's interest in MTG is growing, so it is possible that in a couple of years there will be a child playing (and trolling) at EW. He's starting to learn to read now, so there is still plenty of time...

I love Vintage but I currently have more fun playing Old School. I'd prefer to play both over the span of a trip.

Vintage is almost impossible to play in paper if you don't live in one of a handful of places that actually have enough players to support the game. I don't live in one of those areas so I play MTGO. For me it's good enough but I would much rather play IRL. There are some Old School events in the Midwest so I can actually attend paper events.

I'm pretty bored with the competitive viable vintage decks right now. I think vintage is balanced, I'm just not as interested as I have been in other metagames.

I'm skipping Eternal Weekend this year. I would love to go but life made it complicated and having it over Halloween again was the nail in the coffin for me.

I think there is plenty of room for both. Old School offers another way for me to play with my favorite cards.

There's quite a bit of overlap in card pool between Old School and Vintage, when it comes to the more expensive cards. Price is one of the main prohibiting factors for entering either format, so if a player already has these select expensive cards that are largely responsible for making entry to either format so costly, they can usually play both Vintage and Old School without really having to choose one over the other. Other cards that are exclusive to either format would be easily affordable compared to the price of the moxen, for example. A match is on average 20-30 minutes (from personal experience), and people usually have enough time to play multiple Vintage and Old School matches in their free time.

There are players that have a clear cut budget, and need to choose between having a good Old School deck and a good Vintage deck, but I doubt that this is an issue with most players.

Of course, there must be players that dislike having to play against newer cards, like planeswalkers, uncounterable/hexproof shenanigans, etc. that play old school exclusively, but I think most of these players would have left Vintage anyway, with or without Old School.

last edited by Nower1990

I played Vintage from 98 to 2003 competitively, then sold out, mainly to Trinisphere. Came back in 2010, and was like first thing first, time to buy duals, what $40-$50, nope, $100-$300. Well, can't do that. So alternatives? I was going to proxy events, but even winning, it felt odd. Can't afford it? Shouldn't play. Wtf is up with those 4th edition factory? Why you proxying duals but got foil fetches? I just got tired of being "that guy". But with old school? I can build an entire rg beats deck with no Taiga or power for under $20 and be competitive and have fun. Prodigal Sorcerer's, Air Elemental, Boomerang and Counterspell? Done and done. It's actually easier to get into a revised old school deck than any Vintage deck, and I don't have to worry so much about elitism. It's more fun, cheaper, and def more nostalgic now. Outside of Duals, power, and FoW, what is even used from old school in Vintage? Moat, Abyss, and even Mana drain have fell to the wayside. With power creep, it was essentially Khan's block with p9 and fows and duals for awhile.

Families, age, money, and nostalgia are why Vintage, in paper anyways, is slowly losing ppl to old school imo.

@nedleeds said in Is Old School killing paper Vintage?:

The second is a player base that is aging into responsibility and not being replaced by 20 somethings because of cost. I get far more "man I wish I could go to Eternal Weekend but my (spouse, kid, work) ...".
Cost of cards is absolutely a factor, but I'm surrounded by a dozen people with power (or double power) who won't make Eternal Weekend because they used their vacation up on weddings.

As an example of this, I'm looking at going to a GP that won't have Vintage sides to hang out with Magic friends rather than spending multiple days of time off in a more expensive city at Eternal Weekend.

@serracollector You used an interesting word in your post - elitism. I have heard players in Vintage and in Old School use that word to describe the format and the community.

I felt a certain amount of elitism from the MTGO crowd.

I sometimes wonder if there is some type of elitism in Vintage. It can feel that way sometimes.

Let me start off my long post here by stating that I have for a very long time felt that Old School killed Vintage, at least in my area. In 2015, we used to get 20 for Vintage at Extreme Games in Gurnee, IL - which is about an hour from Chicago, IL and Milwaukee, WI, and about an hour and a half from Madison, WI. And 20 was down from almost always hitting 30 or 40 back in 2009/2010. Unfortunately, @JACO is part of the Chicago Group, and during their weekly play sessions, they eventually realized they didn't want to drive an hour to play the same people in Vintage, and they just played at their Home Store. This eventually converted to just Old School. So, they killed vintage locally.

I'm wrong and I was an idiot to think that way. Old School caters to a significantly different segment of the population, that ties into what @nedleeds was saying about the player base. As we get married, have children, and have more intense careers, our free time is valued differently. I am skipping Eternal Weekend this year because I am going to be buying a house where I live in Madison, WI which is going to be a $250,000 commitment. I convinced my wife to allow me to go to one major travel-event this year, and that was SCG Con for me. However, while I enjoyed myself in that tournament, I find that I've started to really enjoy playing smaller magic events. Going to FNM and playing 4 rounds of modern, and then being home to my wife by 10:00 PM is great. Dedicating a full Saturday, or a full weekend even, to magic is not really feasible. IF I am going to dedicate that time, I want to make sure I enjoy the people I am with, and enjoy the game I am playing.

That's what Old School is. There's HUGE benefits to Old School, outside the nostalgia.

Pro's of Old School

  • Extremely chill environment. Everyone is imbibing, laughing, talking about bad beats, and just hanging out.
  • No pressure on 'winning'. You go into the event knowing you're not playing for EV.
  • Chaos Orb flips. Seriously, have you ever flipped this card?
  • Fun plays. Losing in Vintage on Turn 1 is like "seriously, what the fuck, nice "Mox Mox Mox Crypt Outcome Force Blue card hand, moron". Losing in Old School on Turn 1 is like "wow, that was sweet.". The most broken plays I encountered on Turn 1 are: Turn 1 Abyss. Turn 1 play a bunch of moxes and then Timetwister. Turn 1 Mind Twist for > 2. Turn 1 Serendib. And I have been turn 1 Fireball'ed for 20 ONCE in the times I've played.
  • Overall, the games feel much more balanced. You get to play old cards that are extremely powerful, but many of those cards aren't blowouts, so the game feels more like Magic.

Cons of Old School

  • There is no 'EV', so travelling to the event, you're not going to win money. (this is actually a pro, as you go with no expectations but to hang out and have a blast.)

And seriously, have you ever hung out with @Mith , @JACO , Ben Perry (The Librarian of Leng), @thepowernine , or any of the other guys at these events? Hell... the Chicago Lords of the Pit mostly HATE me, but they're a fucking blast for the most part. There's a dude I met from Tennessee that came to Madison in the winter for the Madison Offensive, and he was an awesome dude. There's a guy named Gus that moved to Madison recently, and is hugely interested in old school.

*** all this, and I haven't even mentioned the obvious that Vintage is somewhat a miserable format right now ***.

@13nova said in Is Old School killing paper Vintage?:

There is no 'EV', so travelling to the event, you're not going to win money. (this is actually a pro, as you go with no expectations but to hang out and have a blast.)

I'm going to exactly Eternal Weekend this year with the attitude of "I'm here to win." And given the state of Vintage, I think I'm likely not to do that even there--I'm there to have a good time, play a few good matches, and hang out with a fun crew.

I have no nostalgia for the format, so I don't love Old School (and there's an element of elitism about "only this version is allowed" in the format I don't love), but I would 100% agree I show up to events for the community, and a 5 round goof off win box is probably going to be a lot more fun for me than an entire weekend of Magic. I 100% see where you're coming from. I've dropped from tournaments after winning a match for top 8 because a football game is on, and I felt like I made the +EV play for my life, though not necessarily for my wallet.

The real hurdle you have to jump with Old School is getting used to everyone incessantly saying how special Old School is.

I play a variety of formats (mostly Vintage, 94, 95, and Middle School these days, with Modern and Legacy lagging far behind the past year or two). I enjoy playing different formats because they all offer different interactions, some overlap of cards used, and different things to enjoy. Rotating what you play and focus on helps ensure you never really tire of any of them, if you appreciate the differences between them. I have started organizing events based on this principle, and will continue to do so in the short term while it continues to interest me. Hopefully that mentality spreads.

  • Vintage is basically at all time highs the past couple of years. Compared to other formats, it is always going to be viewed as on life support, because of the ever increasing cost of the cards. This will not change, even with so much new lifeblood being injected by MTGO and the VSL the past few years. Some people will shift in, while others age out or focus on family (or sell off collections for a final time to buy a house).
  • Old School (and other similar retro formats) are growing in popularity for some of the same reasons that EDH/Commander is popular. Players don't have to pay attention to any real metagame to have fun, and they can jump in an out without much knowledge lost. The type of players that tend to gravitate towards these are also older, and enjoy their limited free time playing something they want to play, rather than just grind and compete. This is the difference between mature adults deriving enjoyment from beyond the more narrow scope of what the young grinder does.

There is almost zero chance of positive expected value (EV) of playing any type of Magic long term if you are focused on dollars and cashing checks. Opportunity cost/time, travel, food, and cards assure that it will always be costly beyond monetary return. The value comes in fun and enjoyment of playing, and casual formats translate to that much more directly than competitive formats for most people.

Its most certainly a contributing factor. As a TO we pray for 25 people, hope for 20 and expect 15. And this is at a very popular store in the heart of the NE meta. With that said, 2 things kill us more than anything else. Legacy is not one of them. Double booking a vintage event within a 3 hour radius or booking an old school event. When you are talking 20 people, losing even just 3 people is a 15% reduction. Show me another format or another game that can consistently take a 15% drop off and I'll show you a game that people are in a panic about having it fail.

Is it the only reason? No. Card prices, losing interest for players after 10-20 years of play prize support (related to card prices) all contribute. But we can directly measure old school's effect.

I feel that some of the biggest factors driving people away from vintage are WotC's departure from its old design philosophy. Recent cards tend to have banal art, titles and flavor texts compared to many of the older cards. Too many of the recent cards refer to some planeswalker. Too many titles are Jace's this, Liliana's that. Too many flavor texts are just: 'I'm planeswalker x, and I feel this way!' (e.g. Act on Impulse) Too many artworks are bad computer generated art depicting a planeswalker with smoke and sparks coming out of their orifices. How many Jace cards should there be? How many cards should refer to how 'badass' Liliana is? How many more planeswalkers are going to be bad parodies of comic book superheroes and villains? Corny pop culture stereotypes are replacing the cryptic intrigue and mystique of older cards. One of the aspects that I like about Magic's premise is imagining that my cards are my spells, and that I'm the one casting them. Ganging up on my opponent with imitation superhero buddies isn't appealing.

More importantly, many of the recent cards have boring mechanics that reduce player interaction. Look at Cavern of Souls: there are very few strategies that can interact with what is being 'summoned'. It's a dead end in terms of player interaction. If you use it to summon Thalia, Gaddock Teeg, Ethersworn Canonist, etc. turn 1, continue to pump out your taxing creatures and artifacts turn 2 and 3, you've locked your opponent out of the game.

Planeswalkers are another example: planeswalker abilities cannot be easily interacted with in a nuanced way when they are in play. You either attack them with your creatures, cast the select few removal/counter-trigger spells that apply to planeswalkers, or shut them down completely with Pithing Needle and the like. So many of the awesome old artifacts, counterspells, and removals need to be sidelined if you want to beat them consistently.

It's completely understandable that many people don't want to pit their cherished Magic cards against what are effectively Pokemon and Yugioh cards (not to disparage them). Playing 93/94 is not the most inclusive way to do this, but it's one way to get rid of bad design decisions that have been tacking onto Magic over the years. I personally would love to see a format that limits itself to all pre-modern sets.

last edited by Nower1990

@nower1990 said in Is Old School killing paper Vintage?:

Too many flavor texts are just: 'I'm planeswalker x, and I feel this way!' (e.g. Act on Impulse) Too many artworks are bad computer generated art depicting a planeswalker with smoke and sparks coming out of their orifices.

This was an incredibly amusing description.

To your post's conclusion, I remember a little while ago I was hoping this format would take off, because it's essentially what you're asking for!

last edited by Hrishi
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