Counterspells



  • I played during the Trinisphere era and I remember being locked of the game on turn 1 unless you had a Force of Will but you had to have a Force of Will, not a Mental Misstep or a Flusterstorm or a Pyroblast but a Force of Will plus a blue card.

    We are not anywhere close to those days but the response so far as been that we need a bunch counters to stop from losing on turn 1 when the only tried and true answer is Force of Will to that scenario.

    But, you still lose to Dredge on turn 2 or 3 even with Force of Will. Again, I play counterspells - a lot of them. My current deck choice is Blue Moon running 12 main plus 2 on the board.

    Is this really the best way to play magic in Vintage? What is the effect of this on the meta-game?



  • Decks that run a lot of counterspells already compromise a great deal to run those counterspells. To cast FoW without hardcasting it, you have to exile another blue card. To cast Mana Drain, you have to leave up two blue mana, with which you could cast ponder, brainstorm, whatever. Most counterspells are costed in such a way that, if the caster is not very discriminating in what to counter, they run out of resources very quickly. Aggro and combo players have many ways to outmaneuver, and many occasions to out-luck these control players even without uncounterable cards.

    With the introduction of uncounterable spells, lands even (not even 'legendary'), players can cast stuff with one less thing to consider about what the opponent might have in their hand. With things like Cavern of Souls, you don't really have to consider counterspells, so there's one less axis around which strategies can be made. If you're playing against blue, you'll win more often, but by having these cards in play, the game has been simplified. Turn 2 Extirpating Life from the Loam against a Lands player entails no suspense or strategy. Turn 1 drop Cavern of Souls, dump a bunch of moxen, play Glowrider/Thalia, Reality Smasher, etc., you might as well be playing solitaire if the opponent is playing combo or control.

    As a game involving chance, Magic needs to consistently sustain the feeling of 'if I had drawn this, I could've beaten that,' to make you want to shuffle your deck and play another match. With all these extreme cards without possible outs, that feeling does not take place. Instead of playing rock, paper, scissors, playing with these uncounterable spells feels like I can only play rock, and the opponent can only play scissors for the entirety of the game.



  • @moorebrother1 , @xXHazardXx

    @xxhazardxx said in Counterspells:

    @moorebrother1

    Scenario 1
    Player A casts a spell (did something), Player B counters the spell (did something)

    In this case, both players did something. There was an interaction.

    Scenario 2
    Player A casts a can't be countered spell (did something), Player B... (did nothing)

    In this case, only one player did something. There wasn't an interaction.*

    Now that doesn't mean interaction can't come later, I was just responding to your comment that counter spells are "uninteractive".

    @moorebrother1 said in Counterspells:

    This type of play is often called "interactive", but if you are playing against a deck that does not have counterspells it feels one sided and often dumb.

    @moorebrother1 said in Counterspells:

    @xxhazardxx Why is interaction defined as "response", you can remove things. I was one of those people that got super annoyed with someone would say mono-black control and I would say that it's not control if you cannot say no.

    Is countering a spell interactive? I can assure you that the person who had their spell countered does not feel like it was an interaction especially if they have no way to counter back.

    I'm not saying that I disagree you, I just want both sides of the argument here.

    So I would just like to flush that out that in a deck like "Forbidian" where you literally counter every single spell (or a similar prison deck) counterspells are probably not very interactive and more like a jace fateseal.

    I'd like to add that I think there are times when Abrupt Decay can be interactive. Say you are targeting a chalice and the workshop player eats it with a ravager (etc).

    (I hope my analysis benefits your discussion.👍 )



  • @moorebrother1 said in Counterspells:

    I played during the Trinisphere era and I remember being locked of the game on turn 1 unless you had a Force of Will but you had to have a Force of Will, not a Mental Misstep or a Flusterstorm or a Pyroblast but a Force of Will plus a blue card.

    We not anywhere close to those days but the response so far as been that we need a bunch counters to stop from losing on turn 1 when the only tried and true answer is Force of Will to that scenario.

    But, you still lose to Dredge on turn 2 or 3 even with Force of Will. Again, I play counterspells - a lot of them. My current deck of Blue Moon running 12 main plus 2 on the board.

    Is this really the best way to play magic in Vintage? What is the effect of this on the meta-game?

    Look at combo decks. If not for the need to work around counterspells combo decks just got all-in on their combo and whoever wins the die roll probably wins. I'm a big fan of bomberman. I've won on t1 occasionally. Without the need for counterspells, those extra slots (4 fow, 3 mana drain, 2 flusterstorms) probably become 2-3 more salvagers, more fast mana and another walking ballista or two along with rounding out my trinket mages. Possibly add in a lion's eye diamond for once salvagers is in play. I've now increased my chances of a t1 kill by an extremely high percentage. And its still probably too slow to beat dps or doomsday etc if they could pack their deck and not worry about counter magic. Shops is still a thing, but they mulligan hardcore for sphere effects to slow down combo.



  • The benefit of interactivity on the format cannot be found by merely analyzing the mechanics of the sequence, “player A casts spell”, “player B counters”.

    The benefits come from what lies beneath the surface of that. Before playing that spell, player A must ask herself, “Does player B have a counterspell or not?” A’s optimal line might differ based on the answer. She must compute the probability of winning with line 1 if B has a counterspell vs if he does not, and similarly for line 2, and then combine the computations into a decision. This requires skill. Hence counterspells increase the skill level of the format. And that is a good thing.

    The more dependent my optimal line is on information that is hidden from me - information which can be probabilistically deduced from data and logic - the higher the quality of gameplay.



  • @dshin I think the idea of playing around counterspells helps tremendously with a bluff mechanic.

    Spot removal use to be decent, but as most of the playable creatures today have etb/ltb effects the damage is already lasting even though the threat is removed. Countering on the stack is the only way to deal with these in favorable way (not even favorable if it's force of will).



  • I think counterspells are interactive in that both players act/react, but interactivity is NOT what most anti-blue players gripe about. What they really mean when they say "Counterspells are uninteractive" is "When my opponent plays counterspells, I don't feel like I'm even in the game." There are many games vs control that go like so:
    Player A - plays land, mox, 1cmc spell
    Player B - missteps
    Player B - plays land, ponder
    Player A - plays land, spell
    Player B - FoWs
    Player B - plays land, mox, ancestral self
    Player A - plays land, plays bigger spell
    Player B - mana drain
    Player B - plays land, Jace TMS, brainstorms
    Player A - plays land, casts spell (not a threat with Jace), resolves, casts real threat
    Player B - Gush, FoW
    Player B - mox, tinker for BSC, brainstorms with Jace, time walk.

    In that game, Player A hangs around a few turns and there's plenty of interaction. In reality, Player B was solitairing and Player A was basically draw/land/pass for all intents and purposes. Player A may well have never sat down at the table and would have been as much "in the game."



  • It is possible that Vintage suffers a little from the lack of nuances in the category of good counter/destroy spells making the strategies a little stale.

    I think one of the card with the most nuances & subtilities (ie: interactive) in that category might be Mindbreak Trap:

    • Its free-to-cast condition means it challenges both players playskills & deckbuilding
    • It exiles rather than counter, introducing another layer in a universe full of counterwars, recurring spells, delving, ...
    • It is still playable mid & late game under its full casting cost
    • It can be easily interacted with (no storm, no spilt second, ...)

    So the counterargument is probably to say that if a card has too many nuances/conditions then it has been too balanced by R&D so probably not Vintage/Powerful enough. I’m more to say that R&D doesn’t like printing too many of these cards because it makes the game complicated/hard for new players. For us, not having access to such cards make the game stale & the strategies limited



  • I had a set of very intense games last night and I was not the best sportsman while playing through several counter wars. I was playing Blue Moon and he was playing Jeskai. The game starts as usual with Mental Misstep and there were just countless counter battles from there.

    There are a lot of counters flying back and forth and he sticks a Dack and a Jace but I stick a Pyromancer and Snapcaster. The games can be called interactive but I became very irritated with pace and the flow of the game.

    Post side board we were both way over the top with counterspells and some removal, and the pace of the counter war intensified and we go to game 3.

    In game 3, I force myself to stay focused and I we are both just drawing a ton of cards to build critical mass and I resolve a Pyromancer and again I will have lethal in a turn. We have a counter battle that went about 12 deep on the stack.

    I admit that I was complaining in the chat, the game was intense and I guess interactive. I absolutely hated playing it. I won in the end because of timing and sequencing and a little luck but I hated it.

    I owe that guy an apology for complaining but this match proved to me that there are just too many counters in Vintage.



  • @thewhitedragon69 said in Counterspells:

    In reality, Player B was solitairing and Player A was basically draw/land/pass for all intents and purposes. Player A may well have never sat down at the table and would have been as much "in the game."

    I think the issue is not so much "Interactivity" which feels like a very squishy concept, as it is that players, especially people who enjoy the other eternal formats, (at least in my experience, please feel free to flame me out on this) have a distaste for playing against Unfair, Linear strategies which tend to crop up in Vintage. This is true, despite the fact that being able to execute/thwart degenerate combos is one of the things that brings us to the format in the first place. This in turn, I think in general requires a discussion of Vintage hedonics vis a vis learning to stop worrying and love Misstep '-)

    For me, it's a matter of being able to find a certain amount of (perverse?) enjoyment in seeing my opponents execute insane, game winning plays, or chain together pitch perfect responses to my threats, even if they make me want to roll my eyes and puke sometimes.

    Enjoying the match against Blue Control, just like any other archetype that is trying to lock you out or just outrace you, also requires a certain enjoyment of the cat and mouse game played in game two as you aggressively mulligan for a sphere, or a null rod, or a cage, or hand disruption, or your own suite of counter tech in the mirror.

    For every game on Blue that I've actually had the perfect answer to every threat (because, ahem, sure, happens all the time 🙄 ), I've had an equally frustrating one where I've been sphered out, wasted/rodded into oblivion, overrun by zombies or simply brutally outplayed by a control opponent who correctly sequences and times counters to win incremental advantage.

    But I still work to enjoy even THAT game. It sounds more than a little silly/esoteric, but in some sense developing what some might call a "healthy outlook" on counterspells is about loving ALL of the parts of the format, even the ones that you don't like very much.



  • In my opinion, meaningful decisions beyond the mulligan step for both players is what is important, not necessarily interactivity.



  • I don't think counterspells are the real issue, but the end result of the underlying issue with deck manipulation. If you look at "counterspell" decks prior to all of the 1 mana brainstorm/ponder/preordain/dig (and sometimes snapcaster to do it again), they really needed regularly dedicated a lot more slots to counterspells in order to ensure they could always have a counter ready. Randy Buehler's old Draw-Go list had 21 counterspells. The typical vintage landstill (my take for the current most traditional counterspell deck) has 11-13 depending on if they run pyroblast. With all the extra deck manipulation, the blue mage can consistently have countermagic with fewer actual slots taken up

    This is in my opinion part of the reason for the "uncounterable" cards we have gotten. These cards come with their own cost. Cavern is great as long as you can use the colored mana to cast your creature. Often, it is on "Human" because you needed to cast that Thalia but then your Eldrazi no longer have that fail safe (for example). Abrupt decay is great but is fairly limited both by color and by targeting restrictions. No one really cares about any of the other uncounterable spells.

    I feel these uncounterable cards were in part plays to force interaction other than countering spells.



  • Now here's the real question.

    How do you fellas feel about cutting FoW in blue mirrors? Do you gain enough of an advantage to justify losing to a turn one play (eg. Mentor)?



  • @dunnydee Are there enough threats to pull that off? If you are playing Xerox you do not have enough threats to ditch the FOWs, and you'll just be drowned by counter magic.



  • @moorebrother1 I'm not sure about threats but I can definitely see the case for boarding in more spells like removal and more efficient counterspells like flusterstorm. Don't get me wrong FoW is fantastic in the mirror but I don't know how much I'd like to 2 for 1 myself against a blue player.

    Disclaimer I have very little experience on xerox and other blue decks.



  • @dunnydee I you have a deck with more threats or disruption that is a good strategy. The issue with Xerox v Xerox is not just card advantage but tempo and card draw. If someone can get a Jace or Dack through and you cannot answer it, they you will lose in 2 turns to their tempo.

    If you are on Oath or PO then losing a FOW is not the worst idea depending on how you manage the board. If I'm on Oath and board in 2 uncounterable creatures then I may drop an FOW. If I'm on PO and I bring in 3 defense grid then I may drop an FOW, but that is very situational.


 

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