Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017



  • The Shops results on TC decks are pretty outstanding. The last time I like it was at 39, more than triple the next archetype. Major complaints from players in the past were normally geared at cards that have since been restricted. I can't really see restricting Mishra's Workshop when they could choose Sphere of Resistance or Tanglewire. One more lock piece restriction would certainly have some effect on the deck. Hopefully players can adjust to Shops in the near future. I think some of the results do come from the same people on MTGO, and it is possible that they might choose a different archetype for larger tournaments. I wouldn't place to much emphasis on tournaments with 12 participants.

    I have been playing Oath with good results. Today I think I am going to look into optimizing Paradoxical Storm. The deck is very explosive, but I think it is lacking in certain areas. Another goal is to test other cards in different decks such as Cabal Therapy.


  • TMD Supporter

    @joshuabrooks said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    I think the article glossed over the impact of MTGO a little too thinly. > @Smmenen Do you think an article is warranted in the future regarding the massive impact MTGO has had on vintage. I can't think of anything else in the last 20yrs that has the power to pull the format in two directions as successfully.

    That's interesting to me because a large bulk (perhaps even more than half) of this article was a description of how MTGO has shaped the Vintage experience. And not just that, but I felt as if I was offering novel or at least somewhat original observations about the impact of MTGO on vintage. For example, my entire discussion of the "three levels" or perspectives on change in Vintage in terms of different time scales specifically described how the third time scale or change scale is specifically a consequence of MTGO.

    I'd love to hear thoughts on some of the following issues:
    Fast moving Meta (we have new archtypes almost every other set)
    Much higher data frequency than ever before
    Elite vs casual
    "Solving" the format
    Vintage fatigue

    I think this article touches on nearly all of those. One of the fundamental tensions I highlight is the idea of Vintage as a format that is supposed to change slowly, and the imperatives of a dynamic (read: non-stagnant) MTGO player base.

    Can vintage survive the increased scrutiny of a fast moving format that isn't watched by Wizards.
    How paper prices vs. digital prices affect their respective format (ie: MTGO might deem Workshop over-powered, but paper wants to keep it viable). Or extrapolated into how a restricted list in MTGO could theoretically be different than one created for paper.
    ...and I think the most interesting issue, how Vintage will handle the paper vs. digital schism that is less prominent than for other formats.

    I know a lot of these issues are pretty familiar to other formats, but that hasn't been the case with Vintage. It's always functioned on the side by its own rules. I'm not saying one way is better than the other, but we have to admit that Vintage is steeped in a lot of tradition, and people play it for many more reasons than simply to win.

    I think MTGO was previously a nice way to jam in some extra Vintage practice now and then, but in the last year or so, (along with VSL) there are monthly tournaments and a much larger following. Some of these issues can't be ignored.

    Agreed. They can't be ignored. But I do think a shift in perspective can help serve as a valve to release some of the pressure that's been building in some player segments.

    If, for example, MTGO players can better appreciate the role that Vintage plays as an Eternal format that serves paper players who may only compete a few times a year, then some concerns they may have may seem less pressing or urgent. Similarly, if long-time player players can better appreciate the role that new printings have had in shaping the current metagame - not just B&R list policy - and how the rewards infrastructure of MTGO shapes the online metagame - then their concerns about the format might similarly be regarded as less urgent.



  • @Prospero said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    Why innovate when you can restrict whole pillars out of existence? Then we can just enjoy a blue circle jerk until the end of time.

    What a joke this is.



  • @Prospero Preach.



  • More random thoughts.

    Does ballista make Wrokshop variants "too good?" I've heard it said that ballista makes workshop the current best deck- but there will always be a best deck. Is this best deck more than what can be handled, or has the meta not had time to react?

    Again, I tend to be very conservative when it comes to restricting cards, if only because once a card is restricted it takes years for it to come off the list. I do think this year will be slightly less impactful on Vintage than last year, if only because of the lack of a product like conspiracy 2.

    Vintage players are creative. I'm curious to see how this shakes out.



  • @Winterstar Rather than VSL commentators complaining about cards/decks and whining for restrictions, it would be nice if they would lobby for answer cards instead. There have been some really great answer cards printed (such as Cage and Containment Priest) that see plenty of play in Vintage; I don't see why Wizard's couldn't print some things that would enable a player to reasonably interact with the shops decks without completely killing it.

    I agree that the shops decks are very powerful, but I disagree with those that assert that some form of blue-backed deck must always necessarily be the best deck in the format.



  • @themonadnomad Would be nice to have some cards that actually beat Mentor too. R&D is extremely unreliable for improving eternal formats though.

    I hear Serenity is pretty insane against Shops.



  • Honestly not buying into shops needing any restrictions. To be honest shops have been better positioned in the meta ever since golem was restricted and the reason is simple enough: before you had to play 7-8 anti shops hate in your sideboard if you even wanted to compete, and almost immediately after golem getting the hammer people drastically cut on sideboard hate. So basically people kept the same shops matchups except they could get away with running a lot less hate...
    When people start respecting the deck again and go back to real sideboard plans I doubt this will be an issue. Remember there is no insane golem tempo or cutting you off of efficient answers with chalice anymore, so the deck will no longer be able to maintain dtb status if it's being gunned for.



  • @vaughnbros said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    @themonadnomad Would be nice to have some cards that actually beat Mentor too. R&D is extremely unreliable for improving eternal formats though.

    I hear Serenity is pretty insane against Shops.

    Can you clarify what you mean by "beat[ing] Mentor?" There's tons of cards that handle the masses of tokens.

    • White: Wrath effects, Moat
    • Blue: Mass bounce eg Echoing Truth
    • Red: Direct damage the mentor, damage based sweepers like Pyroclasm and Elecktrickery
    • Black: */-x effects, both Permanent (eg Night of Soul's Betrayal) and stack-based (eg Toxic Deluge)
    • Green: Okay, I actually can't think of one here
    • Colorless: Tabernacle

    I've been playing Illness in the Ranks in my BUG deck with some success. It's primarily for Mentor and Pyromancer but it also splash-hates Oath and Dredge (especially if you can get two out!)

    Illness' primary weakness is that it gets hit by Mental Misstep, which Mentor and Pyromancer decks are likely to run 3+ of. To combat this, I upped my sideboard Illness count to 3, cutting a piece of Dredge hate since Illness splash-hates it.



  • @thecravenone

    the simple fact it that there are barely any cards capable of handling the mentor and his monks that are tempo efficient (IE where you dont spend more ressources answering the mentor than your opponent did deploying it).
    There basically only is Virtue's Ruin, a card so niche that people play Toxic deluge instead which has serious shortcomings against prowess.

    Illness in the ranks type effects are extremely unreliable against mentor, as wasting a card to make your opponents mentor into a Monastery swiftspear is not a winning strategy and will only buy you a turn or two if you dont have some other removal. (all the while getting hit by misstep and fragmentize).



  • @thecravenone

    Those are all extremely inefficient. When even the best answer costs more mana / resources than the threat itself there is an imbalance.

    Echoing Truth, Pyroclasm, ect. don't actually kill the Mentor just the tokens. That's not really an answer. You are playing a tailored specific hate piece, and all it does is reduce its power level.



  • [Hereafter, "Workshops" and "Mentor" refer to those decks rather then those cards. When referring to those cards, I use the full name of the card]

    I continually find that I must not understand Vintage or Magic as a whole, at least as others do.

    @vaughnbros said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    @thecravenone

    Those are all extremely inefficient. When even the best answer costs more mana / resources than the threat itself there is an imbalance.

    Echoing Truth, Pyroclasm, ect. don't actually kill the Mentor just the tokens. That's not really an answer. You are playing a tailored specific hate piece, and all it does is reduce its power level.

    @Macdeath said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    Illness in the ranks type effects are extremely unreliable against mentor, as wasting a card to make your opponents mentor into a Monastery swiftspear is not a winning strategy and will only buy you a turn or two if you dont have some other removal. (all the while getting hit by misstep and fragmentize).

    Perhaps someone can clarify. My initial thought upon reading these posts was, "If your deck cannot answer a glorified Monastery Swiftspear, it is unfit for Legacy, much less Vintage." Hell, I played 4 Monastery Swiftspear in her best Legacy deck tonight and went 2-2, very thoroughly missing prizes.

    What, exactly, does it mean for a card to be an answer? I don't want example. I don't want emotions. I would like an academic answer for how one answers a problem in Vintage, or Magic as a whole.

    This seems a fitting answer:

    @Macdeath said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    where you dont spend more ressources answering the mentor than your opponent did deploying it

    While I think this is a good definition, I don't think that it's ultimately practical. Instead of an arms race of problems we now have an arms race of solutions. Perhaps that is what people prefer?

    Serenity was given as an example above. While I agree that it is an excellent answer to Workshops, it does not truly fit the given rubric. To Workshops, any artifact with mana cost <= 3 has a "cost" of one mana producer. Barring Lotus, Serenity, and similar cards such as Energy Flux, which I love, cost at least two mana producers, and frequently more if Workshops went first. Serenity certainly gets better and better as Workshops puts more artifacts on the Battlefield, especially if they are non-taxing artifacts, but until Serenity triggers and Workshops doesn't have, well just about anything useful in hand, it's still pretty slow.

    Additionally, what of partial "answers?" I suggested Illness in the Ranks above. A resolved Illness in the Ranks turns a Monastery Mentor into a 3-mana 2/2 with Prowess. This, in my opinion, should be enough to beat the deck. They have spent, at minimum 2 colorless and a colored. I have spent one colored. If, with my two mana virtual advantage, I cannot at least begin to overcome the Mentor player, I'm curious to ask, what better can I do? Does Monastery Mentor need to be answered for less than one mana? (Also, I've provided at least one Mentor answer for <1 mana above)

    Maybe I'm playing against bad players but I frequently find that playing UR Delver against Mentor, I'm able to beat them with a seven-times-reprinted [not including special sets and precons] common; Lightning Bolt. Too frequently, my opponent taps out on turn one or two for a Mentor and I hit it with a Bolt. Any singular response other than a counter is insufficient to stop me from killing the Mentor. At best, they are left with one or two 1/1 prowess creatures. Again, I ask, if I cannot deal with a Taylor Monastery Swiftspear in my Vintage deck, what the hell am I doing?



  • @thecravenone said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    Additionally, what of partial "answers?" I suggested Illness in the Ranks above. A resolved Illness in the Ranks turns a Monastery Mentor into a 3-mana 2/2 with Prowess. This, in my opinion, should be enough to beat the deck. They have spent, at minimum 2 colorless and a colored. I have spent one colored. If, with my two mana virtual advantage, I cannot at least begin to overcome the Mentor player, I'm curious to ask, what better can I do? Does Monastery Mentor need to be answered for less than one mana? (Also, I've provided at least one Mentor answer for <1 mana above)

    I think it's possible that the difference between the way others see the problem and the way you do is that most don't think Illness in the Ranks (or Dread of Night) actually answers Monastery Mentor. Illness in the Ranks or Dread of Night both answer Monastery Mentor's tokens - things that the Mentor deck gets for free. If you spend a card and a coloured mana to deal with the things the opponent got for free you are certainly still quite far behind. Sure, you could spend and additional mana and an additional card to kill the Monastery Mentor, but in that situation you have effectively traded down because the opponent got a 2 for 1.

    An answer like Supreme Verdict means that one trades down on mana (spending 4 to deal with a 3 mana threat whilst still trading 1 for 1). Virtue's Ruin is significantly better, but it can be countered and is pretty awful against the rest of the format.

    With respect to considering a good definition, I think something to the effect of "a favourable trade can be thought of as expending fewer resources answering a threat than the opponent invested in the threat" would be a good starting point.

    In this example, the opponent didn't spend any resources on the Monastery Mentor tokens, which you have now spent one mana and one card answering.



  • @Jeb-Springfield said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    @thecravenone said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    Additionally, what of partial "answers?" I suggested Illness in the Ranks above. A resolved Illness in the Ranks turns a Monastery Mentor into a 3-mana 2/2 with Prowess. This, in my opinion, should be enough to beat the deck. They have spent, at minimum 2 colorless and a colored. I have spent one colored. If, with my two mana virtual advantage, I cannot at least begin to overcome the Mentor player, I'm curious to ask, what better can I do? Does Monastery Mentor need to be answered for less than one mana? (Also, I've provided at least one Mentor answer for <1 mana above)

    I think it's possible that the difference between the way others see the problem and the way you do is that most don't think Illness in the Ranks (or Dread of Night) actually answers Monastery Mentor. Illness in the Ranks or Dread of Night both answer Monastery Mentor's tokens - things that the Mentor deck gets for free. If you spend a card and a coloured mana to deal with the things the opponent got for free you are certainly still quite far behind. Sure, you could spend and additional mana and an additional card to kill the Monastery Mentor, but in that situation you have effectively traded down because the opponent got a 2 for 1.

    An answer like Supreme Verdict means that one trades down on mana (spending 4 to deal with a 3 mana threat whilst still trading 1 for 1). Virtue's Ruin is significantly better, but it can be countered and is pretty awful against the rest of the format.

    With respect to considering a good definition, I think something to the effect of "a favourable trade can be thought of as expending fewer resources answering a threat than the opponent invested in the threat" would be a good starting point.

    In this example, the opponent didn't spend any resources on the Monastery Mentor tokens, which you have now spent one mana and one card answering.

    I don't agree entirely with the bolded part. The "free" part is mostly what makes Mentor good. If you take that part away, the card isn't that good. Imagine if Mentor was a 3 CMC enchantment with the token generation trigger on it and nothing else. Would you still think that playing Dread of Night would put you "quite far behind"?

    That said, I do agree that these answers aren't optimal.



  • @Griselbrother Except Mentor isn't an enchantment, he's a 2/2 with Prowess himself. So if you answer the tokens, the Mentor player can still punch through with a 5/5 or something every turn.

    Also, @thecravenone , you probably are playing against bad players since even if you kill Mentor with a Bolt, if he produces 1 or 2 tokens in response, you're in big trouble playing with Pyromancer.



  • @fsecco said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    @Griselbrother Except Mentor isn't an enchantment, he's a 2/2 with Prowess himself. So if you answer the tokens, the Mentor player can still punch through with a 5/5 or something every turn.

    Also, @thecravenone , you probably are playing against bad players since even if you kill Mentor with a Bolt, if he produces 1 or 2 tokens in response, you're in big trouble playing with Pyromancer.

    As I said, these answers aren't optimal. I was responding to the theoretical part of the statement.



  • @thecravenone

    You are highlighting the crux of the problem with "answers" for Mentor. Dread of night is played almost specifically as an answer to Mentor, yet all it does is turns him into another playable card.

    Compare this to Tinker->Blightsteel that costs 2 cards, 3 mana and has 1 card, 1 mana answers like Steel Sabotage or Swords. Theres also Dack that just turns it into a straight loss. The difference between answers is not really even comparable.



  • Maybe we should all start playing Remove Soul...


  • TMD Supporter

    It seems attempting to counter Monastery Mentor the card isn't the approach to take, as poignantly demonstrated by Brassman's initial play-in for this season's VSL: playing anti-mentor.dec against a gauntlet of THREE mentor decks and going 1-2. I'm sure there are arguments to be made for variance and other factors, but it was tough for me to swallow a deck running maindeck Sulfur Elementals and massive amounts of removal to have so little of an effect.

    Right now, the most efficient answer to Monastery Mentor the card seems to be attacking Monastery Mentor the deck. That is, if you're comboing or using mana denial to marginalize their strategy, you can stay ahead of the card's raw efficiency. Currently "silver bullets" don't work.



  • @cutlex Hum... removal isn't countering though, unless you're using the word "counter" with another meaning. The best way to deal with Mentor is countering it. It's the only one that guarantees a 1 for 1 trade. Maybe Mana Drain or stuff like Spell Queller are good answers to it. Maybe even the Remove Soul I joked about.


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