Vintage 101: Cat Scratch Fever

"I'd rather play a horrible format of coin flipping with every card than an enjoyable format with even a single card banned for power-level reasons."

God, this sums exactly my thoughts on the strong opposition to banning. People are so hung up on this that they would rather adhere to this ethos than try to address the issue in the simplest way and preserve the health of the format. If it came down to if the format needed to be corrected via a ban to keep it healthy (something that has been on my mind a long time before this set) I'd absolutely want them to put the health of the format first.

@Protoaddict I think you missed my point. If you print lots of Companions, then you will have lots of different possible deck building restrictions. The more possibilities there are, the greater the chance that you can find some companion that requires no or very little change in how you build your deck. Look at what we see today: Lurrus and Zidra in particular are practically free to run. They require very little change to existing good decks.

The upshot is that the more Companions you print, the lower the opportunity cost becomes to run some companion. It gets more and more like your choice is a 15 card sideboard or an 8 card hand, and the hand is going to win out every time.

@volrathxp This is exactly the tension, isn't it? Too much variance and the game is coin-flippy. Not enough variance and we're playing Chess. There is a sweet spot somewhere in the middle where skill does matter in the long run, but in the short term exciting and unexpected things can happen. Where is that balance?

last edited by MaximumCDawg

I loath to advocate the middle road, but for the moment I think that there is merit to waiting. People are still building and playing with new toys, even if they may be sub-optimal. Lists and archetypes are changing often enough that power is more important than tuning.

Many of us have played in iteration of the Vintage format where the margin is how many copies of Pyroblast you registered, wether you played Spell Pierce or Flusterstorm as your 9th piece of countermagic. I think that we are coming into the release of IKA after a period where tuning was the premium skill and moving into a place where people are building new things with new cards and those skills we were honing are less important.

I feel like we have yet to reach the point where the meta will not adapt and open up without direct action being taking. I, from a place of no particular authority, believe we can already see the seeds of this happening; BUG lists running a Reanimate to rebuy a spent Lurrus or yoink one from their opponent. People like Iamactuallylvl1 reminding us that Tinker for Citadel beats a 3/2 lifelinker in PO. An uptick in bolts and people leveraging Sprite Dragon in more classic Xerox shells. To me all of these things look like the first steps in preying upon the assumption that it's Lurrus or nothing.

Perhaps I am wrong, and in a few weeks the biggest topics of discussion will be the correct number of Baubles and Remoras to pair with your new cat friend, and if that is the case then I will defer to those who have the tenure with Vintage as a whole to address companions both efficiently and in the right spirit. My only argument is that I don't believe we are there yet and in the oldest eternal format we can afford to take the time to get it right.

All of that said, the fundamental problem of the 8th card, no matter how many restrictions you attach to it is one that I don't have an answer for. If companions become as ubiquitous and varied as walkers have perhaps we will be looking at a game that is almost unrecognizable from the one we know now.

Karakas has arrived.

How long would be appropriate to wait?

Challenge attendance has declined this week and barely hit 7 rounds (66), which is a rarity for the Saturday challenge. Last week, we had over 81. Preliminaries are apparently not firing as much as they used to. Win-trading has picked up again and typically thrives when league queue time is low (win-traders need an empty queue to math into their accounts). I try not read too much into fluctuations in tournament attendance, but the pattern is concerning.

As for adapting, Lurrus was played in 50/66 (76%) of decks this week. The adaption is typically playing Lurrus. While some players are trying different things, the shear monotony of the format makes the experience unbelievably repetitive.

@maximumcdawg said in Vintage 101: Cat Scratch Fever:

@Protoaddict I think you missed my point. If you print lots of Companions, then you will have lots of different possible deck building restrictions. The more possibilities there are, the greater the chance that you can find some companion that requires no or very little change in how you build your deck. Look at what we see today: Lurrus and Zidra in particular are practically free to run. They require very little change to existing good decks.

This is precisely my point. What if it's not a matter of "if" but "which". Companions become ubiquitous and there are enough of them that powerlevel is fairly flat and there is a variety in selections to consider.

No one has issues with every deck having 15 sideboard cards, and that has no deck building costs. It just is part of the game. What if this just becomes part of the standard, base level game?

last edited by Protoaddict

My question at this point is if Lurrus is problematic or is the cat just showing up because there is little to no drawback running him as a companion?
Kind of like yawgwill if you’re running black, FoW if you run blue etc, etc.
Maybe it’s just the flavor of this season?

Great dialogue in here. I personally never understood the aversion to banning a card people have only had a few weeks to play with.

Are your emotional ties to that card so strong in such a short time? Is one card (that was not designed with vintage in mind) being banned really that devastating? I’m guessing it’s more of a fundamental/principals argument, which I really don’t agree with. Up until a few years ago we hadn’t had a creature restricted in vintage since the beginning of vintage. Now we have a few. B&R rules have to change to avoid critical mass.

Regardless, I’m enjoying the dialogue and theory-crafting on the potential for a format with tons of companions. This could harken back to the days of each deck having some personality. It could also be the first time Wizards actually is able to introduce metadeck design and hate, without it backfiring.

That said, 25yrs of light vintage experience tells me that no matter how many companions there are, Vintage will likely quickly settle on the top 2-3 quickly.

Hope we’re all wrong!

last edited by joshuabrooks

New companions can be printed to mitigate Lurrus domination without introducing power creep. To see this, imagine they print a companion that is a Relic of Progenitus or Nihil Spellbomb on a beating stick. Now running Lurrus and all those baubles (instead of Mentor or Tinker) might become a bit of a glass cannon gambit.

Or the companion could be a bear with an ETB “gain control of target legendary permanent” effect, or a “moon” bear with a static effect like “all legendary permanents are Mountains”.

With enough hatebear companions, I could envision an interesting meta where a highly defensive deck with multiple companions in the sideboard (anti-blue companion, anti-graveyard companion, anti-workshops companion) becomes viable. This could open up the deck building design space, and increase the pool of vintage viable cards (just like Lurrus brought back previously unused cards like baubles and Dead Weight).

@dshin make for a healthy format, it does not.
Making narrow hatebear companions would be worse than just banning Lurrus as a companion. Dont forget, Companions are pretty much an extra card in hand from the start and you dont lose it in mulligans; OP.

I've never seen a deck be this dominant in any format and then later had the format stabilise on its own. Maybe someone else with a better memory for constructed magic has an example of that?

These early Lurrus numbers seem to be around 75% of the meta, which considering the number of people who won't have the dime to drop on a Lurrus compatible deck is a terrifying percentage. If Lurrus has a 60% winrate against non Lurrus and also composes three quarters of the meta then taking anything but Lurrus into competition would be like flushing money down the drain.

Due to the very nature of the card and the format I find it hard to see how to build to beat it. You have to compromise deck composition a truly absurd amount to compete with a card they have 100% of the time. In other less streamlined lower power level formats like Modern Lurrus is just a strong 3 drop they always have access to. In vintage Lurrus's power level is much higher and he costs much less.

I do however think there might be another option than banning, and one I personally would prefer. As an aside though I think Companions are a huge mistake and fun only in limited formats. Why not try unrestricting an number of cards? Shops pieces in particular, but also maybe other cards that won't fit into a Lurrus shell like Flash, Dredge pieces, Ironworks, Mentor, Narset (lol), Necro, Karn? Seems a lot more fun than the banhammer and to some maybe more in the "spirit of vintage."

What's wrong with hatebear companions? If they wanted to reign in Lurrus they could print a "default" companion that hates the others, e.g.

Tabo the Interdictor - 1W
Companion -- No other cards in your starting deck or sideboard have the Companion ability.
When Tabo the Interdictor enters the battlefield, you may choose another target creature with Companion. If you do, exile Tabo and the chosen creature.

@gako I like the idea of unrestricting Necro, as even setting aside Lurrus it's not clear to me why its power level is all that much higher than Bargain or Citadel.

@evouga Well let's look at the possible cases. Either a) the hatebear companions suck compared to the actual do stuff companions, b) the hatebear companions end up far more powerful than the do stuff companions or c) the hatebears end up perfectly balanced with the do stuff companions.

In case a) and b) clearly the problem is not solved. Case c) seems to be what you're focusing on but I'm afraid wizards' record of printing cards to deal with problem cards is very poor. They either push way too hard or not hard enough, so I think case c) is incredibly unlikely. Combine that with the fact that vintage would just be lurrus dominated until wizards got around to printing more companions, I think the idea is kind of fun to theory craft about, but practically speaking a total nightmare for vintage.

@ten-ten I don’t think this is necessarily so. Imagine hatebears that strongly counter Lurrus are printed, but come with deck building restrictions like no blue cards, or no artifacts, or no spells with odd CMC, or color with maximum devotion is red. You could have a wide palette of available hatebears, perhaps one against every major archetype of the format in your sideboard, but doing so might require thinking outside the box of existing archetypes. This could lead to format diversity.

last edited by dshin

Hatebear companions would be more effective if they were the original companions. As it is, it will almost always be better to play the busted companion and just focus on destroying the Hatebear if your opponent actually decides to run it.

An unrestricted Necro is much more powerful than an unrestricted Bargain by virtue of being a consistent turn 1 play. The comparison to Citadel is wrong - the actual comparison is to Tinker. I hope Tinker isn't being considered for unrestriction. Those who want an unrestricted Necro haven't played Vintage recently. Or want to burn the entire format to the ground. The current version of Doomsday runs Necro and has replaced DPS as the go to ritual strategy. An unrestriced Necro would slot into most, if not all of the doomsday slots, and would create pretty abysmal gameplay in which a turn 1 Necro is supported by Daze, Force of Will, and other counterspells and discard. The deck draws back up to 7 cards, uses countermagic to untap, and either wins the game or does it again the next turn with multiple Tendrils to recoup the life. The london mulligan would provide further consistency.

Most of the cards restricted are due to interactivity reasons and unless you have a compelling reason why Flash et al. won't lead to lopsided games in which one players is a passive observer, I don't think these suggestions are really helping anything.

There are probably only 2 cards on the restricted list that are

  • "Potentially" safe to unrestrict
  • do anything to make you not want to use Lurrus

Monastery Mentor and Narset. Even if unrestricted, I'm not sure that a deck with 4 mentors and 4 Narsets will be the format we want to live in.

There are other unrestrictions that I think could happen, but I think it is mostly a separate discussion.

@chubbyrain1 I don't know that I agree with Tinker being an apt comparison. There are similar elements, if you're using Tinker to power out Blightsteel Colossus: you present a threat and give the opponent essentially a single turn to answer it. But that's not the common use of Tinker these days; instead it fetches Time Vault or Memory Jar and wins the game on the spot.

I can't speak for the power of 4x Necropotence in a Doomsday shell. If you think it would be absurd, I have no reasons to doubt it. I do remember playing against storm combo during the heyday of Dark Petition, and resolving Necropotence was by far the least-threatening thing my opponent would do after generating BBB. At a bare minimum you get one extra turn (and often 2+ turns) to fight back and I won a nontrivial minority of those games.

@protoaddict What about Chalice of the Void? Or would all decks run Lurrus + Chalice and hope to be on the play?

@evouga said in Vintage 101: Cat Scratch Fever:

@protoaddict What about Chalice of the Void? Or would all decks run Lurrus + Chalice and hope to be on the play?

Unrestricted COTV has very little effect on if Lurrus is played or not, so much as it just affects what shells he would go in. There is no tension between running Lurris or COTV because you don't have to pick one, Lurrus does not prevent you from running any number of them. More COTV may prevent the PO shell from rising to the top (or strengthen it, who knows) but some other deck that could just run Lurris and not rely on recurring 0 drops would take its place.

With Mentor and Narset, you actually need to make a choice as to which you want, because you literally cannot have them and the cat as Lurrus' deck building restriction kicks in.

I've heard people say Lurrus.dec could just play removal to kill opposing hatebear companions. So why can't we just run removal to kill Lurrus in the first place? I know running bolts and plows is not as fun as running PO and necropotence, but does that mean it shouldn't be an option? People are talking about grave hate to nerf Lurrus....just kill the f'n cat! It's not like creature removal, especially bolt, are dead cards. Bolt knocks off PWs and is at the least 3 to the face. Why is everyone so averse to running removal instead of searching for niche fixes to stopping the Lurrus ability - just axe the source!

The only reason mentor was restricted was because he's grow wide AND large (and his tokens grow large) so you couldn't solve the problem by offing mentor. Wide alone (pyromancer) or large alone (hydra) are clearly not problematic enough to be restrictable. Lurrus is at worst a 2-for-1 recurring a bauble/remora if you respond to the casting from the grave with a bolt/plow. At best, it's a 3-mana do nothing that you 1-for-1 immediately. If you can't answer the cat because you run a miser's plow (or not even that much), then that seems to be user-error more than a cat problem.

last edited by Thewhitedragon69
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