[Free Article] Happy Birthday, Vintage! An Alternative History of the B&R List

25 years ago today, the format that would become known as Vintage was created with the first mandatory Banned and Restricted List, midwifed by Beth Moursand.

To commemorate this special anniversary, I wrote a 10K word article in tribute, which I hope you enjoy!

http://www.eternalcentral.com/history-of-vintage-schools-of-magic-an-alternative-history-of-the-banned-and-restricted-list/

PS, B&R List Facts from the end of the article:

Vintage Banned and Restricted List Facts:
• The current Vintage Banned and Restricted List is 46 cards. The smallest ever Restricted List was 16 cards. Not counting the initial restriction of Legends, the largest ever Restricted List was 54 cards, on January 1, 2004.
• There have been 96 restrictions, and 50 unrestrictions.
• There have been 39 changes to the Vintage Banned and Restricted List, not counting it’s initial formulation.
• The most cards ever restricted at a single time is a tie: 18, on October 1, 1999 and the inception of the list, January 25, 1994.
• The most cards ever unrestricted at a time is a tie: 5, on October 1, 1997, and September 20, 2008.

last edited by Smmenen

@Smmenen Holy crap 10k words! I will have to block off an afternoon in my schedule to just sit down, read and enjoy this thing. You are a true inspiration and godsend to the vintage community. Thank you for everything you do!

Thank you! That is very kind!

This was an incredibly fascinating article. Really enjoyed reading, thank you for sharing!

Great retrospective and some fair and balanced postulating! For old people like me it's a good memory refresher. An interesting follow up might be the 5 most important moments in Type I's history (assuming Type I starts from January 1994).

in no particular order

*Removal of power level errata from Time Vault
As you pointed out, exacerbated by Tezz win conditions could now be condensed down to less than The Deck levels.

*The Creation of Planeswalkers
Paradigm shifting card type that in a sense obsoleted the big midrange creature end game. Jace and Tezz in particular being wincons and engines all in one card.

*Black Monday (June 20, 2008)
Rather than some of the surgical restrictions the DCI takes a machete to the stock 4x playsets found in many blue strategies. This is the last time they take such a howitzer to any format really.

*The bifurcation of Type I and II's B&R lists
A key change that would make future decisions far more sensible. This obviously had to happen at some point but when it did it was pretty earth shaking. Vise Age was dominating Type II but the Vise was holding Necro and the Deck somewhat in check in Type I.

Phyrexian Mana & Delve
I tossed these two together as 2 of the bigger design "mistakes" that not only mule fucked Type I but also made Legacy miserable for almost 2 years in aggregate. Phyrexian "Free" and Delve "Free" went together like peanut butter and jelly, with Dack and Token Spammers as the bread. IMO a few cards died for the sins of these design errors.

The printing of Force of Will
90% of the people playing type I now don't know what a world is like without this card or it's cousins. Maybe more than 90%. But it's printing fundamentally changed how type I was played. How decks were built. It forever changed the bluffing and going for it subgame in Magic.

Anyway, just some ideas for a top 5.

Wow!

This might be one of my favorite articles you have ever written @Smmenen , and I am not even 1/3 of the way through it. What an incredible retrospective and researched piece.

I think this one is most fascinating to me because I have the fondest memories of the early days of Magic. I used to treasure every Duelist or Inquest magazine and read them cover to cover. Even to this day I can still quote half of the Zak Dolan vs Bertrand Lestree match. I wasn't on usenet (or even the internet for that matter) back then, so our local meta moved at a much slower pace. You played the cards you had. You slowly realized that Library of Alexandria or Swords to Plowshares were good. Having the occasional article pop up that talked about deck construction of even [gasp] tournaments decks was a treat!

I love the amount of effort you put into researching why cards such as Sword of the Ages of Dingus Egg were restricted. Many of these I could guess at, but never knew for sure (for instance, in our meta Spectral Cloaked Ali from Cairo was a thing, not Jade Monolith) which led me to playing Wrath of God maindeck.

Regardless, I loved this article. Can't wait to finish it (I personally played through a lot of the early Urza Type 1 days, no need to relive that. Too soon!). Amazing achievement. I appreciate the effort.

Would also love to see some annotations for what casting costs some of these cards might have needed to be deemed broken in your eyes. Interesting thought exercise (e.g. What casting cost, if any, makes Sword of Ages restrictable).

Thank you for this effort!

last edited by joshuabrooks

@Smmenen I just finished reading the article, and it is beautiful. Very well written and explained. Thank you.

Great article. Very interesting and educative read. I have to disagree on your analysis of the restrictions that targeted Ravager shops and Gush Mentor that started in April 2016 with the restriction of Lodestone golem. While Lodestone golem probably have been restricted for a long time at that point, I think wizards restricted the right cards for us to get to where we are today.
Gitaxian probe was ubiquitous in blue decks and combo decks and was a great riddance for the sake of gameplay.
Gush would still be dominant in Xerox if unrestricted today.
Chalice of the void is a back-breaking card in a workshop deck, overemphasizes the importance of being on the play or the draw and just too good in aggro shops.
Thorn of amethyst definitely deserves restriction before sphere when the best workshop decks are aggro decks.

It’s not so much about whether they restricted the right cards, as much as if they restricted them in the right sequence or at the correct time.

Restricting Probe & Gush before Mentor was a mistake. Similarly, restricting Chalice before lodestone golem made no sense.

History shows of those were bad judgments as initial restrictions, given the full context and circumstances.

If Chalice was so backbreaking, then why was an allowed to be unrestricted for 10 years?

Similarly Gush was fine for four years from 2010 until Kahns. Gush may well have needed restriction but it would’ve been nice to have seen that play out with Mentor, Dig, and Cruise restricted.

last edited by Smmenen

This was indeed a nice stroll down memory lane. I would like to sit down and look at the timelines with the rise and fall of the SCG Power Nine events and also look at the rise of MTGO with the restriction decisions.

Part of the reason for how they did things back then was access to information. I mostly played at game stores until 2011 and I remember the SCG events giving Vintage a platform back in 2002 where people could actually see decks and see the meta-game. Not sure if it changes anything but the overlay of that data would be interesting.

Great job! Thanks for this.

Thanks for all the feedback. I"m glad folks enjoyed this so much, and hope everyone can find some time to read this.

Unsurprisingly in retrospect, I guess, this really struck a cord with Old School players, even more than Vintage, on the facebook groups.

In case it wasn't clear or obvious, I've spun out the History of Vintage series into a few "free" articles, including this one, the history of the SCG series, and one in the works, which I will launch when the book launches. That one will be a year by year look at the 'best deck' of the year, from 1993 to the present, with one deck selected to highlight be per year. Look for that when the book launches.

A few specific replies:

@moorebrother1 said in [Free Article] Happy Birthday, Vintage! An Alternative History of the B&R List:

This was indeed a nice stroll down memory lane. I would like to sit down and look at the timelines with the rise and fall of the SCG Power Nine events and also look at the rise of MTGO with the restriction decisions.

The HoV chapters do this really well. They integrate a complete narrative, of events, B&R changes, controversies and debates.

Part of the reason for how they did things back then was access to information. I mostly played at game stores until 2011 and I remember the SCG events giving Vintage a platform back in 2002 where people could actually see decks and see the meta-game. Not sure if it changes anything but the overlay of that data would be interesting.

I do try to provide data relevant to the restrictions debated, but much more data is provided in the HoV chapters.

@nedleeds said in [Free Article] Happy Birthday, Vintage! An Alternative History of the B&R List:

Great retrospective and some fair and balanced postulating! For old people like me it's a good memory refresher. An interesting follow up might be the 5 most important moments in Type I's history (assuming Type I starts from January 1994).

Onslaught's Fetchlands is absolutely in the Top 5 of any story you could tell. I will consider such an article.

I'm open to other "spin off" ideas for free articles complementing the chapters/books.

It's interesting that you put Mind Twist and Braingeyser on the "What They Should Have Done" list. Can you comment a bit more? These cards are considered underpowered in the modern Vintage metagame; what was different about early Vintage that warrants their restriction? Was it the lack of powerful countermagic like Mana Drain and Force of Will?

@evouga said in [Free Article] Happy Birthday, Vintage! An Alternative History of the B&R List:

It's interesting that you put Mind Twist and Braingeyser on the "What They Should Have Done" list. Can you comment a bit more? These cards are considered underpowered in the modern Vintage metagame; what was different about early Vintage that warrants their restriction? Was it the lack of powerful countermagic like Mana Drain and Force of Will?

I thought I answered that pretty well, actually. If you look at basically all of the published tournament results before August of 1994, pretty much every tournament was won by a U/B Mind Twist deck. I mentioned Matt Wallace, Bin Chen, and Bo Bell's decks from ManaFest Destiny, Dragon Con, and US Nationals. In the updated version of the 1994 chapter, all three decks are posted (Jaco should have it up this week).

The Mind Twist deck was basically the best deck in the format until it's restriction. Bo Bell's deck is probably the best of the bunch, except he had to remove expansion set cards at the last minute and added a handful of janky cards, like Phantom Monster, when the TO told him he couldn't play with expansion cards.

When I publish the "best deck by year" freeby, I will talk about this more.

If you are asking "why," it's the best deck, that's harder to answer. If you play Old School 93/94, you can see how good MInd Twist is. It's probably the 2nd or 3rd best card in the format (after LoA).

With Mana Vault and Dark Ritual unrestricted, it's not that difficult to just wipe an opponent out of the game with a quick threat and a big Mind Twist.

last edited by Smmenen

@nedleeds said in [Free Article] Happy Birthday, Vintage! An Alternative History of the B&R List:

Great retrospective and some fair and balanced postulating! For old people like me it's a good memory refresher. An interesting follow up might be the 5 most important moments in Type I's history (assuming Type I starts from January 1994).

I think this is a really cool idea and remember a while back personally debating posting a thread trying to collect these big moments. I think for me personally the most mind-blowing Type 1 moments were (some of these might seem pretty pedestrian, but in my small meta they were big deals or changed our understanding of magic.).

Ali from Cairo- "I can't beat it?"
Jester's Cap- "You mean an opponent can look inside and touch my deck??." This was a big deal then.
Force of Will- Two blue lands untapped would never be an ironclad signal again.
Free Spells (Urza Block)- We know how this story ends.
1st Turn kills (Urza's Saga)- Type 1 had always had the rumors of quick kills, but they weren't as frequent as the reputation. Urza's Saga changed all that. Type 1 kills were now reliable and deadly.
Fetchlands- Previous to this, getting a shuffle effect from Demonic Tutor with a Sylvan Library in play was cool. Imagine getting ANY color and also getting a shuffle effect. Everyone knew how big this was, right away.
Mind's Desire- Pre-emptive restriction!!
Lodestone Golem- I know most people didn't think it was a big deal, but I think having the first creature restricted since Ali from Cairo was kind of a big deal.

Biggest Letdowns:
Colorless Mana- "Magic's sixth color!" One of the longest folklore rumors of all time, barely came and went with a whimper.

Loving the article (in the middle of it yet) but just wanted to point out that when you say tournament time delays are not on par with today's banning standards, well...

https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/news/april-24-2017-banned-and-restricted-announcement-2017-04-24

In Legacy, Miracles—a deck that is focused on combining Counterbalance and Sensei's Divining Top to control what opponents can or (mostly) cannot resolve—has been the best deck in the format for some time. We were hopeful that this would change over time, but it has not. That alone is not necessarily enough to move to ban a card from the deck, but Sensei's Divining Top comes with its own host of issues that center around the timely conclusion of matches in a tournament setting. The necessity of repeated Top activations to play the card slows down match play and leads to tournament delays. Coupled with the power of the Miracles deck, this is reason enough for us to take action on Top. Therefore, Sensei's Divining Top is banned in Legacy.

There are no time draggers restricted in vintage any more. That’s not the necessarily true of other formats.

last edited by Smmenen

@smmenen said in [Free Article] Happy Birthday, Vintage! An Alternative History of the B&R List:

It’s not so much about whether they restricted the right cards, as much as if they restricted them in the right sequence or at the correct time.

Restricting Probe & Gush before Mentor was a mistake. Similarly, restricting Chalice before lodestone golem made no sense.

History shows of those were bad judgments as initial restrictions, given the full context and circumstances.

If Chalice was so backbreaking, then why was an allowed to be unrestricted for 10 years?

Similarly Gush was fine for four years from 2010 until Kahns. Gush may well have needed restriction but it would’ve been nice to have seen that play out with Mentor, Dig, and Cruise restricted.

That the order in which cards were restricted was weird makes more sense. Your article is a little ambiguous as to whether you believe chalice, gush and probe deserved to be restricted.
Great article though, thanks for putting your time and effort into this. Really enjoyed the read and insight.
Makes me wonder how the perception of Mind's desire might have been different if it had been given a chance initially or during the Trinistax era.

Thank you for writing this wonderful article. For someone like me, who is just dipping their toes into the vast Vintage format; an article like this gives me insight into why things are the way they are.

Respectfully,

Stephen

Thanks for the feedback. In a way, this article serves as a perfect introduction for the format, condensing 25 years of history into a single piece.

Does it make you wish you could have played Vintage at a different period? And if so, which one?

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