Deck Taxonomy on TheManaDrain

Deck Taxonomy on TheManaDrain

Xerox vs Grow and Mentor vs Delver

This is a thread both about the names I give to subcategories/archetypes on the site, but also how they are organized and displayed.

It only recently occurred to me that almost every deck I've bucketed as Xerox just happen to include all the elements that make a Grow deck a Grow deck. Is this just a better name? I've really hated the term Xerox for a while but have been unable to come up with anything better.

Note that while there are many ways to split decks up, for many different reasons, the way we split decks up on TMD has specific goals.

  • If a player comes in looking for information on a specific deck, they should be able to immediately tell which subcategory that information is in —to make the site easier to Navigate.

  • The information of most interest to the same players should be put in the same category — to make content on the site more Discoverable (e.g. if you liked this list, you'll love this one.)

  • A new player should able to get a feel for what these categories mean with a minimal amount of friction — to make the site more Informative and Understandable. ("Xerox" is particularly bad on this front)

  • And whenever possible, I'd prefer categories to be Future-resistant (future-proof is impossible) and Descriptive rather than Prescriptive. The old Mana Drain website had categories like "Mana Drain Control" and "Workshop Based Prison" which were displayed in a way that kind of implied that blue tempo decks and workshop aggro decks couldn't exist. I've long felt that this led new players down bad paths and bad ways of thinking.

So the name Xerox fails here on several counts, though Grow is by no means perfect. I think how categories are presented and organized are more important than the naming, but both conversations are worth having. The Xerox/Grow categories have always had some fuzzy edges, but they're where I'd expect them. A Delver deck might have no Young Pyromancer, but those lists almost feel like genuinely different archetypes. I could easily imagine a deck that feels like Xerox with no "Grow" cards, but in practice we never really see them - and drawing the line at 4 Preordain just seems obviously wrong ... Paradoxical Outcome and Jeskai Mentor don't belong in the same subcategory, and any too-strict definition is going to have trouble with that.

Discussion Points

  • What's your favorite name for the broad category of decks that includes Delver and Jeskai Mentor and Rug Pyromancer and Snapcaster Control?

  • Are there any other subcategories that you think are mis-named? (Remember that the goal of TMD's names might not be the same as the goals you use for yourself)

  • Do you think the way the lines are drawn between archetypes now makes sense? Do Delver and Jeskai Mentor belong in different categories? Outcome and Storm? Should any categories be combined, like Landstill and Big Blue?

  • What sort of user interface changes could be made to promote those stated four goals, regardless of what the categories are named. Feel free to think outside the box and suggest features the site does not currently support.

What's your favorite name for the broad category of decks that includes Delver and Jeskai Mentor and Rug Pyromancer and Snapcaster Control?

While i think its fine to put Delver, Jeskai Mentor and Rug Pyromancer together in one category, the outlyer seems to be Snapcaster Control, or any Deck that is a control deck, but is currently classified as Xerox just because it uses Restricted draw spells and a number or preordains. I would make a distinction between Tempo Decks and Control decks. This is a strategy that works quite well in other formats, and currently iam not aware of a reason why it shouldnt work in Vintage.
In legacy there exist a bunch of Tempo decks (using delver, shadow, pyro or mander as threats) and seperate from that there exist decks like Grixis Control, UWr Control and Miracles. They all have in common that they use a similiar cantrip suite in 4x Brainstorm, 4x Ponder and then some preordains or even other cantrips. This doesnt make them all Xerox decks in the eyes of the legacy players. It just makes them blue decks, using cantrips but following very different strategies.

Do you think the way the lines are drawn between archetypes now makes sense? Do Delver and Jeskai Mentor belong in different categories? Outcome and Storm? Should any categories be combined, like Landstill and Big Blue?

I would advocate for a naming convention that consists of a unmistakable combination of keywords

  • Main categories of : Combo, Control, Tempo, Aggro, Midrange, Prison
  • Specific cards or mechanics: Storm, PO, Dredge, Survival, Landstill, Delver, Stax...
  • Color idedification: UW, monobrown, UWR, Grixis...
  • Conventions, localisation, credit: Long.dec, trix, european style...

I think every deck can be described by just a few of these keywords.

For example if we take a list that is currenly might just be called "UR Xerox" you have no idea weather this is a Tempo Deck or a Control Deck, it might play delver, it might play Pyro, it might not play any of these and pack a bunch of snapcasters.
Here i would advocate for naming something: UR Delver, UR Control, UR SnapPyro ...
Just dont bunch of all these decks together with "Xerox", rather split them up and bunch them together with the other big categories like Tempo or Control.

What sort of user interface changes could be made to promote those stated four goals, regardless of what the categories are named. Feel free to think outside the box and suggest features the site does not currently support.

Change the "Decks to Beat" section on the Front Page with "Vintage Metagame" and have the big Categories presented there: Combo, Control, Tempo, Aggro, Midrange, Prison. Each of them offer a short discription of the archetpye and a primer to the most common Decks in this archetype as well as all threads about decks in this category. Keep in mind some of them might fit into multiples like Ravager Shops, which in my opinion is Aggro and Prison and should be displayed in both those categories.
There is a problem here ofcourse, how do we get all these primers up, and how can you make sure that each thread lands in its category? I still believe that a tag system is the key to categorisation. I know it didnt work in the past, because way to few people used the system, but i think making it mandatory to choose at least one of the huge archetypes as a tag before beeing able to submit a "Decks" thread would take care of that.

The other problem is ofcourse who writes these primers? We could just hope that the glory that comes with beeing the big primer everybody sees when looking for a deck is incentive enough. Maybe you could give poople the "TMD Supporter" or another batch to give them something in return for writing and maintaining a primer. For these primer threads i would like to see that the original post is updated to adjust for reasonable meta changes to always display a current decklist and strategy. A possibility to choose which primer is selected to be the face of a decktype you could maybe automatically display the post (tagged with primer) that has the most upvotes currently, making it kind of peer reviewed (hopefully not making it a popularity contest) A Problem with such a system could be that older primers could amass a ton of upvotes compared to newer primers, not representing the "best" primer neccesarily. To combat this there could be a "must have been updated in the last x month" clause to be considered as the primer of choice.

Please kill the term Xerox with fire. I wanted a label the want encompass the former Gush decks, so we could monitor the impact that the Gush restriction had on the archetype in terms of win rate and metagame share. We also couldn't find better names and others weren't particularly helpful: "blue stew", "derpstep circlejerk", etc... We just rolled with Rich's suggestion of Xerox. The term is not useful to new players when it comes to finding decks or describing how decks function. Grow or Tokens could be more intuitive to new players, even though those terms aren't perfect. Another option is Blue Aggro-Control as I feel you can put Mentor, Delver, Pyromancer, Goyf, and Hydra decks all into that category and have people who are familiar with Magic, but not necessarily familiar with Vintage, be able to find it.

@chubbyrain

Blue Aggro-Control

you mean...tempo?

Yeah, I always used the terms interchangeably.

Then I saw the definition on MTG Wiki and "'Tempo decks' are named as such because they attack the opponent's tempo, forcing them to use their mana inefficiently by bouncing the creatures they play or Remanding their spells." That's really not an accurate description of some Xerox decks in my experience (though I admit, I play a much wider range of decks than most players). Delver, sure, but other decks skew much further in a controlling direction while still running Young Pyromancer as a finisher.

It brings up the point of why use a potential ambiguous term that might mean something different to newer players.

My own mental model of the format is a pillars approach, where each pillar is a package of synergies which allows you to play some chunk of the card pool that would otherwise be unplayable (or simply much worse), and then a catch-all for like the 1/3rd to half the format that's made up of "good stuff in a pile" decks (which are typically not built around particularly strong synergies).

Bazaar of Baghdad (enables Dredge and Survival)
Dark Ritual (enables traditional Storm decks)
Mox Opal (enables PO & Belcher)
Mishra's Workshop
Cavern of Souls
Oath of Druids (enables uncastable giant creatures)

The "synergy" that the rest of the format is built around is fetchland + dual land, which tends to encourage 3-5 color decks full of random good stuff.

If you wanted to translate that into a meaningful categorization, I would try something like:
Graveyard/Self-Discard Decks
Spell-based Combo
Oath of Druids
Mishra's Workshop
Cavern of Souls Aggro (including aggro-control that is heavily built around Cavern)
Fetchland aggro-control
Fetchland control
Misc. (catch-all for weird fish decks and monored prison and whatever)

@ajfirecracker This is a fine categorisation, but replacing "Xerox (Control, Aggro, Tempo...)" with "Fetchland (Control, Aggro, Tempo...)" just replaces one non disciptive term with another.

I don't think Xerox control is a thing

@ajfirecracker Might be, doesnt really matter here. "Fetchland" is just even more of a vague term than "Xerox" and will have new or even experienced players asking: What makes this a "Fetchland" Deck and not all these other Decks that all clearly use fetchlands as one of the most important parts of their manabase?
This is basically the kind of question we want to get away from since people are confused why some decks are considered "Xerox" and others are not, while both use a ton of cantrips (and cantrips often beeing cited as a feature of Xerox Decks)

@brass-man

I'm fairly certain that no one has spent as much time thinking about this question as I have.

My personal preference for this taxonomy is "Comer School" decks, much like "Weissman School" decks ala "[Schools of Magic](link url)."

But, for a broader public, not versed in that schema, I think either Grow or Xerox is fine, and I wouldn't lose sleep trying to get it right.

Grow is fine because it describes any deck employing vertical or horizontally growing win conditions, including, but not limited to, Delver of Secrets, Monastery Mentor, Young Pyromancer, Managorger Hydra, Myth Realized, Thing in the Ice, Tarmogoyf, or Kiln Fiend.

But Xerox is also fine, as it refers to a discrete, but recognizable set of deign princples: namely, a lower-than-usual overall mana base, a lower, and bent down mana curve, and a high density of cantrips.

All Grow decks are Xerox and Comer School decks, but not every Xerox deck is a Grow deck. Comer School decks, designed on Xerox principles, can support Control, Combo Control (Doomsday), Aggro-Control, and Aggro-Control-Combo, as detailed in Chapter 4 of my book, Understanding Gush.

And, in case it matters, Tempo finishers, which are mentioned in this thread, is a useful analogue for Grow threats, but not all Tempo threats are Grow finishers. Vendillion Clique is an example that often appears in Grow or Aggro-Control Xerox strategies. Clique is not a growing creature, but it is a tempo threat.

In short, don't sweat this too much, Grow or Xerox are fine, and it's OK to try to ask the audience to learn something in the process, as these terms have historical meaning that convey important design and deck construction & play principles, rather than make it universally and automatically accessible.

@ajfirecracker said in Deck Taxonomy on TheManaDrain:

I don't think Xerox control is a thing

It is/ has been. East Coast Wins and Empty Gush, to give just two examples, are definitely a Xerox decks, and also control decks.

See pages 65-68 in Understanding Gush, 3rd edition, hardcover version for an elaboration.

@ajfirecracker said in Deck Taxonomy on TheManaDrain:

My own mental model of the format is a pillars approach, where each pillar is a package of synergies which allows you to play some chunk of the card pool that would otherwise be unplayable (or simply much worse), and then a catch-all for like the 1/3rd to half the format that's made up of "good stuff in a pile" decks (which are typically not built around particularly strong synergies).

Bazaar of Baghdad (enables Dredge and Survival)
Dark Ritual (enables traditional Storm decks)
Mox Opal (enables PO & Belcher)
Mishra's Workshop
Cavern of Souls
Oath of Druids (enables uncastable giant creatures)

The "synergy" that the rest of the format is built around is fetchland + dual land, which tends to encourage 3-5 color decks full of random good stuff.

If you wanted to translate that into a meaningful categorization, I would try something like:
Graveyard/Self-Discard Decks
Spell-based Combo
Oath of Druids
Mishra's Workshop
Cavern of Souls Aggro (including aggro-control that is heavily built around Cavern)
Fetchland aggro-control
Fetchland control
Misc. (catch-all for weird fish decks and monored prison and whatever)

Brian Kelly style Oath lists are the deck that is functionally most equivalent in modern years to Weissman's The Deck, all the way down to the 5c mana base, except with Orchard instead of City of Brass.

My preferred Vintage Taxonomy is as follows:

  1. The Weissman School - the Big Blue Control deck.
    These decks run a spectrum, but they have a few core features:
  • few win conditions
  • a big mana base (25-29 mana sources)
  • lots of card draw
  • a decent, but not necessarily overwhelming density of permission

Historical Examples: The Deck, Keeper, AK/Intuition Psychatog, Control Slaver, Gifts, Landstill

Modern examples: Kelly Oath, non-storm PO decks, Grixis Thieves

  1. The Comer School
  • Smaller mana base (usually 17-23)
  • cantrips
  • heavy blue/ lots of free countermagic

Historical examples: GroAtog

Modern Example: RUG Pyromancer

  1. O'Brien School
  • Taxing effects
  • Generally features Sol Lands/Workshops
  • heavy mana denial
  • Dual prison and tempo elements

Historical examples: The Nether Void deck circa 1995-6, Stacker circa 2002, Stax 2003, TriniStax 2004, Aggro MUD 2007, Lodestone MUD 2010-2016.

Modern Examples: Ravager MUD, Tribal Eldrazi, White Eldrazi

  1. Reanimator (Chalice) School
  • Discard outlets
  • animate dead spells
  • larger reanimation targets
  • often self-reanimating creatures
  • often discard spells

Historical examples: Mark Chalice's 1994 "The Machine," Alan Comer's 1997 The Re-animator, Worldgorger Dragon Combo circa 2003-4,

Modern examples: Every Dredge Deck.

  1. Restricted List Combo School (or "Long" School)
    Core features:
  • Very few win conditions
  • Large mana base, with lots of mana acceleration, usually artifact, but sometimes rituals as well
  • Maximum use of the Vintage restricted list, but especially tutors and Draw7s.

Historical examples: 1997 Prosperity Combo, 1998 Doomsday (essentially a recursion combo deck), 1999 Academy, 2003 Burning Long, 2004 TPS, 2006 Pitch Long, 2012 Burning Oath

Modern example: Dark Petition Storm, PO Storm

  1. The Lestree School
  • Base in Green, and secondary either white or red
  • Disruptive Creatures and tempo threats
  • lots of win conditions
  • Utility effects

Historical Examples: 1996 Zoo, "MOnkey, May I?", "Djinn and Juice" circa 1997, 2009 Noble Fish, 2010 G/W HateBears, 2015 5c Humans

Modern Example: 2018 Survival

This taxonomy works very well, as I've tried to demonstrate in the History of Vintage series. There are some decks that don't fall into a School, and that's OK. Not everything has to fall into a "School." The decks that don't fall into a "School" are those that are anchored by an idiosyncratic card that has no analog in the format, and does not fit into a recognizable shell. Like MaskNaught, many mid-1990s Necro decks, or 2 Card Monte combo. Some cards, like Oath or PO, can be used by multiple Schools.

As a systematic and technical classification system, the Schools of Magic is the best approach. But as a communications approach or organizational scheme for The Mana Drain, I would use something more intuitive. I think: Control, Aggro Control, Reanimation, Combo, Prison/Taxing, and "Other" is probably the best.

last edited by Smmenen

Very simplified and my own accord, but I always grouped decks by thier lands.

Workshops
Bazzaar ( dredge, survival, or Welder/Reanimator/Dragon)
Forbidden Orchard (oath)
Cavern of Souls ( lions and tigers and bears)
Tolarian Academy (combo)
Library of Alexandria (control)
Islands (tempo)

In general if I look at a list, and it has these lands,in the appropriate shell of, that is what it is. I'm honestly surprised no one else groups this way. The lands you run are the key deciding factor to what deck you are playing, not the win con or draw engine.

last edited by Serracollector
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