I have been wondering lately about the terms we use to describe decks and how these decks play. Some terms you hear often is fair deck or interactive deck.

I really dislike these terms. In my opinion, there are no fair decks in Vintage. The concept of interaction is really in the eye of the beholder. I do not find counterspells to be interactive.

The idea that a deck is fair because it’s plan for winning is to control the game and take over is not fair. The term fair should be reserved for Standard in my opinion.

Do you think having the concept of a fair deck helps Vintage? If we define every deck as broken does that hurt Vintage?

"Interactive" has a pretty clear meaning. Interactive means does the deck function inherently differently against a goldfish than against an actual opponent. There are decks that range from being no different at all to dramatically different. Most Vintage decks seem to fall somewhere towards the left side of this spectrum as in they have some interactivity, but also have no problem beating up a goldfish.

"Fair" is more vague, but seems to align itself with how many turns the deck takes to win the game. Decks that take roughly 4+ turns are considered "fair". Decks that take less are not. The DCI uses this to decide on bannings so its a very real thing. If you want to argue semantics about their definition of "fair", I guess that's fine though.

I always think of "fairness" (regardless of format) as a measure of how closely a deck sticks to core Magic gameplay: advance your mana by approximately one per turn, play a small number of spells per turn, answer your opponent's threats, attack with creatures, gradually lower your opponent's life total. On that scale a deck is "unfair" to the extent that it seeks to bypass that gameplay and play a different way. So for example, Shops is an unfair deck because it advances its mana way too quickly, Storm is a more unfair deck than that because it completely refuses to even engage with what its opponent is doing beyond answering their disruptive plays, and Dredge is the least fair of all because it sidesteps the basic rules about how cards are drawn and played.

This a relative term, though. In the grand scheme of all things Magic, I don't think there is a viable Vintage deck that is truly fair... decks that are commonly described as fair do still have game-breaking cards like moxes and lotus and stuff like Monastery Mentor or whatever, and I would also say that while countering spells is generally considered a fair tactic, playing a card that just stops your opponent from playing most of their spells (i.e. Lavinia) is probably not. I would still say that it's a useful term even if it isn't perfectly descriptive though, since it does refer to a class of decks that is sometimes worth talking about as a group, and I think people generally know what you mean when you say it, barring a few edge cases.

"Fair" isn't useful as a precise metric since adding a Mox Pearl to a Standard deck makes it inherently "unfair."

It's useful though as a broad generic term to differentiate loosely between decks that can win swiftly, degenerately, and with negation of the opponent's existence contrasted with ones that thrive on "value" and grinding out opponents.

"fair" and "interactive" are superficially neutral concepts, but actually deeply biased. At core, they favor decks that are slower on the strategy wheel, and require many turns to win, rather than strategies that tend to be faster than average. That's why they are concepts that should be viewed quite skeptically by policymakers. "Fairness" and "interactivity" would place decks like Landstill on the safest part of a continuum or spectrum, regardless of how such decks actually perform. That's one reason why such concepts should never be given too much credit in terms of B&R policymaking. They are hopelessly biased in favor of control decks. That's why decks like The Deck got a pass in the mid-1990s, when they shouldn't have. Applying an empirical analysis would have revealed how dominant the deck was, and in need of regulation, as Old School communities realized.

last edited by Smmenen

@moorebrother1 said in Is any deck fair?:

The concept of interaction is really in the eye of the beholder. I do not find counterspells to be interactive.

The idea that a deck is fair because it’s plan for winning is to control the game and take over is not fair. The term fair should be reserved for Standard in my opinion.

What makes counterspell not interactive? I think there are exciting and unexciting things about counterspells, but it seems whether i like them or not, they are literally 'interaction'.

What does fair mean in the context of Standard then?

@aeonsovarius Wizards has made a concerted effort over the past ~decade to stamp out any possibility of "unfair" strategies existing in Standard. They're all fair decks.

@craw_advantage

Mostly that's because they actually test Standard as a format. Occasionally they do print a combo that they have to ban though.

@craw_advantage said in Is any deck fair?:

@aeonsovarius Wizards has made a concerted effort over the past ~decade to stamp out any possibility of "unfair" strategies existing in Standard. They're all fair decks.

They restricted Aetherworks Marvel because they thought casting a turn 4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger was unfair. They printed Saheeli - Feldar Guardian (accidentally) and Paradoxical Outcome - Sai (intentionally), which enabled combo decks in standard. I'd argue that Experimental Frenzy and Runaway Steamkin is a pretty unfair interaction in the current standard. I think they've definitely taken chances with potentially unfair strategies recently. Which is a positive for the game, IMO.

@chubbyrain I should elaborate a little. They do (and always will) make mistakes sometimes and allow broken stuff through that then gets banned, but that's not really what I'm talking about. What I mean is the kind of combo or otherwise "unfair" play that sits alongside more "fair" strategies in a balanced format. The few times that I've dipped back into Standard since I stopped playing it regularly haven't really featured that kind of action. However if Outcome/Sai and Frenzy/Steamkin constitute(d) viable unfair tactics, I withdraw my previous assertion in the face of superior knowledge.

@aeonsovarius said in Is any deck fair?:

What does fair mean in the context of Standard then?

You have a bunch of dudes and they have a bunch of dudes and nothing happens and then they topdeck Hydroid Krasis and you lose.

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