B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020

Breach combo has effectively pushed Dredge out of the metagame as the premier graveyard-based combo strategy (in the same way that Dredge displaced other, clunkier decks like Hermit Druid combo).

Playing against Lurrus Breach is slightly more interactive than playing against Dredge, so in some sense it’s an improvement, but I feel like it’s a bit sad we’ve lost so much metagame diversity. Lurrus Breach combo doesn’t feel as different from Lurrus PO or Lurrus Control as Dredge did.

I’ve also given up on playing Oath, since there’s no reason to jump through hoops to set up the Titan+Breach combo when could just remove all of the clunky Oath cards and just play Lurrus.

There's of lot of worthwhile discussion in this thread.

@desolutionist said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

Since Lurrus operates out of the graveyard and is a 3/2, it can be attacked from multiple angles. I really enjoyed that aspect of the games. It can be slightly frustrating if your opponent has a Lotus, since he automatically has a turn one play through Lurrus, but even more frustrating was facing a Paradoxical Outcome opponent. Seeing that deck makes me not want to play more than anything, so I hope they target that before Lurrus.

This is a good observation. In my two weeks playing the Lurrus format, what stood out to me most was how much it illuminated how degenerate Paradoxical Outcome and to a lesser extent Underworld Breach are.

I don't mind the grindy Lurrus decks so much. Often the most explosive (and seemingly problematic) plays are not the best ones, as rushing him out prematurely where this environment is so prepared to remove or neutralize him is a recipe for disaster. Testing is showing me that patience is rewarded.

Although I've been enjoying Vintage recently, this seems to be a minority view and the intensity of dislike fueling abandonment is severe. Banning Lurrus as a Companion seems to be the most narrowly tailored solution. I'd be happy with action on PO as well. It's never a bad time to clean up the few remaining blights that escaped the more urgently needed restrictions in the past year.

Stephen raises a good point about the difference in relative adaptation velocity between more frequent players and players who enjoy Vintage as an occasional pastime. It was not necessary to truncate one of Matt's threads to misrepresent him as inconsistent, but the point remains valid. I've been listening to a lot of players who are primarily paper Magicians and recognize that contingent has legitimate concerns that deserve a voice. I'd propose we all recognize that the speed of format change isn't necessarily rooted in B&R but by the admitted power creep in design and saturated release schedule. The format is going to change rapidly irrespective of whether or not corrective measures are taken so constant change doesn't need to be an argument against corrective measures since there's little chance of achieving stability under this design philosophy anyway.

@protoaddict said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

@pilsburydohboy42 said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

@protoaddict said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

The format NEEDS a restricted list and NEEDS to not have power level bans.

Is there a reason that you are so adamant about this?

What is the draw to the format if not for the restricted cards and the small subset that are not restricted here but banned in legacy? Remove those from the equation and the format is very close to just being legacy. You can't not have a restricted list and still have lotus, moxen, ancestral, etc not be banned, and if you ban them here they are officially unplayable everywhere. The whole point of the format is to be able to play cards you cannot play elsewhere.

It's an open question what constitutes the core identity of Vintage and ultimately, it means different things to different people. That means the "whole point of the format" for one person may be an afterthought for another or even a frustration. The best direct information from Wizards we have now is that its maintenance tenet is to keep the current player base happy. That doesn't tell us much, but it's something.

There's been a myth about "no power level bans" in Vintage for a long time that's been put to rest definitively by some recent tweets by Mark Rosewater. Yes, Vintage has a banned list and it's still available as corrective action for cards that warp gameplay. Channel and Mind Twist were unbanned because those cards no longer met the criteria for banning. It was not because Wizards decided to abolish the ban list itself. Though as time passed without any subsequent bans, that interpretation became prematurely ingrained and inadequately challenged, even while Time Vault itself was stealth banned via power-level errata until 2008. For history fans, the four other cards most frequently assessed for the full axe were Tinker, Yawgmoth's Will, Library of Alexandria, and Mirror Universe. Banning the Delve spells also had a brief window of open support in the mid 2010's.

On the bright side for more preservative views, that means if Lurrus or the Companions are banned or banned as Companions in Vintage it won't signify a grand rupture of the format's foundation. It's just an exercise of a reserved power that hasn't been used in many years. Starting the game with a functional +1 hand size is a very drastic change whose magnitude can justify a weighty response. Debating whether that benefit is 11% or 12% or 11.12% is an exercise in diminishing returns. It's a significant advantage and the 11% was reasonable for the purposes of analysis.

We'll find out soon enough.

last edited by brianpk80

@smmenen said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

I don't think Companions are a fatally flawed concept any more than storm. It's the expressions that are potentially problematic.

I think this is right, though I worry that tying Companion to any card that serves as a value engine is extremely dangerous, in the same way as tying Storm to any spell that deals damage or draws cards is extremely dangerous.

There are three aspects to Lurrus's power level:

  • the fact that you begin the game with an effective extra card in hand;
  • the fact that you can effectively tutor up Lurrus exactly when you need him;
  • the power of Lurrus's static ability once in play.

Most people seem focused on the first facet, but I think that's a red herring. If I offer you the option to shuffle your Lurrus into your library in exchange for +1 starting hand size, would you take me up on that offer? I didn't think so.

If I remember right, you once picked Demonic Tutor as the most broken restricted card in Vintage. Lurrus turns Black Lotus into a free Demonic Tutor in addition to its normal ability to generate fast mana. This extremely potent ability to tutor up your value engine at will, for free, is something I badly underestimated when Lurrus was first spoiled. Any other value engine in Companion form (such as Companion Deathrite Shaman, say) sounds very scary to me for the same reason: the consistency and variance-reduction from being able to tutor up your engine at will is hard to counterbalance with the deck-building restriction.

I'm much less worried about reactive Companions (Companion Qasali Pridemage?) or those that require significant support (e.g. Karakas) in order to consistently generate value (e.g. Lutri)

last edited by evouga

@protoaddict said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

@pilsburydohboy42 said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

@protoaddict said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

The format NEEDS a restricted list and NEEDS to not have power level bans, because it is bluntly critical to the nature of the format, it just needs a better method and no matter what it's going to create a shake up to the format as we know it.

Is there a reason that you are so adamant about this?

What is the draw to the format if not for the restricted cards and the small subset that are not restricted here but banned in legacy? Remove those from the equation and the format is very close to just being legacy. You can't not have a restricted list and still have lotus, moxen, ancestral, etc not be banned, and if you ban them here they are officially unplayable everywhere. The whole point of the format is to be able to play cards you cannot play elsewhere.

I mean, I'm not sure if WOTC has any sort of official mission statement about what the format is supposed to do and how it is supposed to be different from legacy written down anywhere, but up until this point that has been the whole reason for it. Once you start doing power level bans it puts the whole reason for the format into question.

Look at the legacy Banned list. The vast majority of cards on that list see heavy play in Vintage, most are staples. If Lurris is banned in Legacy and Vintage (likely going to be the case) we will have a card banned purely for power level that cannot be played in any eternal format. That sets really bad precedent.

But even furthermore to that, the Restricted list in its current form is an imperfect way to control the format while still enabling players to play every card in the game with the exception of the very few that are ante, etc. Lurris is a great example of that, as is Karn and Lattice. As they keep making cards that try to do something new we will no doubt see more and more cards fall into this category either because of their interactions with other cards or entirely of their own merit.

Even going back to day 1 of the format, I often use the moxen as an example as something that was resistant to restriction. Most cards when you restrict you can only have 1, but moxen overlap so much that every deck still has the option to have 5, maybe slightly worse for being off color, but still moxen. Fast forward a few years and now we get a new moxen every so many sets. Opal is very much a 6-9th moxen for many lists, and even if they restricted it you just change it to just the 6th and not the 9th. Restriction make them less powerful, but it has far less of an impact than it did on something like Mind's Desire. There was a time where realistically every deck could have 0-1 card that was U draw 3, but with the printing Treasure cruise the number of effects has doubled and there is no fixing that with just restriction.

I actually think the idea of modifying the definition of the restricted list is interesting way to balance power level and yet allow maximum play range of the cards available.

So for example one of the new rules is that you can only play up to 5 cards from the restricted list. That would challenge most of the decks in vintage at the moment, and more than that it is a lever to force players to only play a certain number of "broken" cards.

I agree that the restricted list as is, loses its potency with time due to essentially redundent effects, treasure cruise + ancestral = you can play 2 draw 3 for instance. So I like the idea of modifications to how the restricted list is used/interpreted to balance power levels

@evouga said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

What’s the alternative? A “sudoku system” of restrictions where you can play card X or card Y but not both? Or where you can only run up to Z different moxen?

There’s a certain appeal to the flexibility of this system for reigning in specific synergies like Karn + Lattice. But asking players to run a SAT solver to decide if their deck is legal might be a bit much.

I do think this will solve alot of problems with "broken" but interesting cards

last edited by arcane7828

@evouga said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

What’s the alternative? A “sudoku system” of restrictions where you can play card X or card Y but not both? Or where you can only run up to Z different moxen?
There’s a certain appeal to the flexibility of this system for reigning in specific synergies like Karn + Lattice. But asking players to run a SAT solver to decide if their deck is legal might be a bit much.

It scarcely needs to be this complex. Just keep the restricted list as is, add the problem cards to it, then say any given deck can only have X reserve cards in total. They are still limit one copy in total.

I mean let's say we were generous and we set the limit at 10. The consequence is that you see decks making decisions where they are forced to ask themselves if they want to cut Lotus for Tinker, Can I play mox opal over the 5th true mox in shops, is Lurris worth it if I have to run him without some other restricted toys like balance. Competitive deck building does not always start with with players looking at what power cards that lead to the same play patterns they have to start as the core of the deck.

Having a point based system would also be possible ala Canadian Highlander rules, but honestly I think it may be overkill.

Just my opinion, but I personally don't think a 5-10 only restricted cards rule would be much different tbh. Dredge still does dredge. BuG still does BuG. Oath can easily play all 75. Shops loses a Mana Crypt or Mana Vault? The only deck it would truly effect is a 4 FOW, restricted list, X kill cards blue deck, and Lurrus, I guess. But would we really change how the restricted list has worked since the beginning because of 1 card? I'd rather ban it than have to give up any number of other cards on the restricted list, even with me believing it wouldn't have that huge of an effect.

What time does wotc typically post updates?

I find that one paragraph addressing the new precedent is at the best lacking. To call this rare is in my opinion an understatement and when we inevitably have to go back to this discussion in 3 months when Zidra rises to prominence now that Lurrus is gone just feels like a little dutch boy sticking his finger in the dam.

Also, the fact that PO and Breach are still unrestricted is baffling to me. I can't help but feel that the noise and volume of discussion around Lurrus made it so they could not address the other items that needed to be addressed to hep balance out the format.

@protoaddict said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

I find that one paragraph addressing the new precedent is at the best lacking. To call this rare is in my opinion an understatement and when we inevitably have to go back to this discussion in 3 months when Zidra rises to prominence now that Lurrus is gone just feels like a little dutch boy sticking his finger in the dam.

Also, the fact that PO and Breach are still unrestricted is baffling to me. I can't help but feel that the noise and volume of discussion around Lurrus made it so they could not address the other items that needed to be addressed to hep balance out the format.

Brass Man is smart to have removed the downvote button.

That statement is way too short. Also they absolutely never acknowleged a mistake designing the mechanic and instead chose to blame "the power level of the other cards in the format" instead.
Just banning Lurrus for power level reasons is also the worst way to handle this situation in my oppinion.
Either banning all companions since the mechanic is at fault here, or errataing the cards so they dont have the keyword anymore (banning as companion) would have been way better...but then they had to acknowledge that the mechanic is the problem.

@aelien said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

That statement is way too short. Also they absolutely never acknowleged a mistake designing the mechanic and instead chose to blame "the power level of the other cards in the format" instead.
Just banning Lurrus for power level reasons is also the worst way to handle this situation in my oppinion.
Either banning all companions since the mechanic is at fault here, or errataing the cards so they dont have the keyword anymore (banning as companion) would have been way better...but then they had to acknowledge that the mechanic is the problem.

What were you expecting? Something like:

As Hasbro's most profitable franchise brand, we are under immense pressure to push out as many cards as possible to as many potential customers as possible. Our "Play Design" teams are incapable of keeping up, so we've basically just given up. Moreover, our concern about balance of the Vintage format, a bottom-barrel priority even in the best of circumstances, is almost non-existent now that we have to focus our very limited Development efforts on profit-driving formats such as Standard, Commander, and anything on Magic: Arena.
So we've reduced our Vintage Banned and Restricted List curation efforts to periodically correcting trends that are blatant even to us, from a cursory glance over MTGO data. Pray we don't reduce it further.

last edited by evouga

@evouga Where is this quote from?

@aelien said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

@evouga Where is this quote from?

Ah sorry, it's not a quote, just satire (WotC would never say any of that!).

Ouch, swing and a miss in my eyes. I was looking forward to playing Lurrus without companion, really cool card.

I don't think the statement is too short, but I think a lot of Vintage players will be annoyed it didn't reference two things:

1. The Gravitas of the Moment.

It took Vintage about, what, 26 years to finally have to ban a card for power level reasons? It took awhile. Congratulations, WotC. you did it! Anyway, the fact that this is so unprecedented probably means players would have expected something in the banned and restricted announcement acknowledging this. It's kind of like if Grandma dies and you just a get a quick text messages saying "Oh also Nana died."

  1. When Will Cards Get Banned in the Future?

What exactly was the philosophy behind the Lurrus ban, and when will the rule be applied again? I feel like I know why Lurrus was banned because I observed the format with it, but I don't know exactly what the criteria will be for bannings in the future.

@maximumcdawg said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

  1. When Will Cards Get Banned in the Future?

What exactly was the philosophy behind the Lurrus ban, and when will the rule be applied again? I feel like I know why Lurrus was banned because I observed the format with it, but I don't know exactly what the criteria will be for bannings in the future.

I guess the criteria was "we designed a card (mechanic) so sutpidly that restricting it does not adress the problem at all"

I would add:

  1. Some indication that more moderate action (such as banning Lurrus as a companion, rather than outright) was considered, and an explanation for why these were rejected in favor of a straight ban.

  2. Some indication that taking action against the most degenerate strategies that Lurrus enables (Paradoxical Outcome, Underworld Breach) was considered instead of banning Lurrus, and rationale for why such actions were rejected in favor of a ban of Lurrus.

B&R announcements in the (sadly, now very distant) past often had this greater level of detail and care.

@evouga said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

I would add:

Some indication that more moderate action (such as banning Lurrus as a companion, rather than outright) was considered, and an explanation for why these were rejected in favor of a straight ban.

Some indication that taking action against the most degenerate strategies that Lurrus enables (Paradoxical Outcome, Underworld Breach) was considered instead of banning Lurrus, and rationale for why such actions were rejected in favor of a ban of Lurrus.

B&R announcements in the (sadly, now very distant) past often had this greater level of detail and care.

  1. Maybe also touch upon how a preemptive ban is also exceedingly rare and for most people this is exactly what that is, a ban of a card before the physical cards are in peoples hands.
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