Deck Taxonomy on TheManaDrain

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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