Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017
The real answer to Monastery Mentor is winning the game. I think other people have already expressed a similar thought using different words.
Is Mentor a great card? Yes. Is it insurmountable? No. I am sympathetic to arguments that Mentor reduces deck diversity because it is such an efficient win condition, but some people take it's "awesome powers" too far.
Gush and cheap cantrips are what matters. One reason why Shops is so strong is in part because it is effective against Gush decks while the rest of the meta has to contend with Gush and Shops and then save a few slots for Dredge.
The fact of the matter is that unless a deck becomes one full third of the meta, I don't think we can even begin to claim that it is overpowered. Monastery Mentor doesn't fit.
What DOES fit (arguably) is Preordain, Gitaxian Probe and Gush. Three unrestricted nonland cards that are in more than 1/3 of the decks in the meta (not named Force, Misstep or Flusterstorm). They are a common "engine" across many blue decks, particularly Preordain and Gush.
If Gush was restricted again, my perspective is that Shops would be a little less impressive because blue decks would start playing more lands again and rollover to tax effects less frequently. Some decks would go for heavy artifact draw spells (Thoughtcast, Thirst, PO), which would just make main-deck artifact hate MORE effective against two Tier 1 matchups.
What does this even mean?
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.
This. 100% agree with this.
This is the reason why mentor is so oppresive for blue on blue matchups, but also the reason why Shops has been posting up such solid results against gush/mentor decks. With that said, I also feel that the best way to answer Shop decks is to take a similar approach, and not attack revoker/ballista/fleetwheel cruiser, but to attack Workshops, the deck. It just so happens that as long as Gush is around, you'll be punished for building a deck with a responsible mana base by decks with a greedier one.
I know there are a lot of people here that are advocating for restricting workshops, but I feel it is wrong to advocate for a Workshop restriction simply because it is the deck that beats the best deck in the format.
Lastly, I have mixed feelings about changes to this format. I have played both drain decks and shop decks extensively in my Vintage "career", having played vintage since pre-Mirroden, but only diving into my regional vintage tournament scene in late 2006. I've seen Gush come and go multiple times, and have very strong feeling abiut the format from multiple angles. I'm going to share my main concerns, and just hope that I'm not sounding crazy.
- Monastery Mentor may be the best card in Vintage right now; better than Gush, Better than force. I feel this way because it makes the most recent best cards in Vintage (Gush, Dig, Cruise) even better, while having just as much upside and game impact as those other cards, while having less than half the drawbacks (ala opportunity cost for playing it).
I also feel that Mentor is the best "tinker target" in the format for two reasons:
(A) it costs 3, but takes way fewer resources to get online and is a lot harder to answer
(B) It is more cooperative with the best card advantage engine (gush+cantrips) in the format right now, as opposed to using said engine, then "jamming in" cards like vault/key back in some 2007 grow decks to force an actual tinker to be playable. Much like in 2003, when Format defining interactions vecome unplayable or irrelevant in Vintage(like abyss/ morphling fell off once the infusion of Mirroden's card pool into Vintage really began to take hold) some of the nostalgia is lost and it makes for bad feels, and definitely contributes to flared tempers and attitudes.
- I feel it is restriction worthy, but restricting it would continue us down a bad precident and road that I dont agree Vintage (not other formats, just Vintage) should be travelling down.
To me, Vintage is the format where you get to play the best cards, and just because something is powerful shouldn't make it restrictable (if restrictable is even a word). Other formats get to ban cards. Vintage really doesn't (and I'm not talking about C/E, dexterity cards, ante, etc... just hear me out). Everything gets to be played, and not being able to regulate the format with a "all or nothing" approach to individual cards really changes the way we should look at adding and removing cards from the format. Much like Time vault, lotus, and Yawg Will over the years and Library of Alexandria at Champs this year, people can see that even the presence of 1x card in a list can be fomat defining.
With that said, I feel that not all restrictions are the same, and this is especially true in Vintage. It is true that Blue cards have always suffered the majority of restrictions, and to debate that restrictions should be levied tit for tat because one color, class or super type of cards has been levied more restrictions than another as justification for or against restriction of opposing archetypes is just not applicable here. Strategies with better access to colors, tutoring, card filtering, and/or stack interactions are going to function and utilize cards very differently than those that don't. There's a reason why Mox opal is broken in a paradoxical outcome deck, but unplayable in MUD aggro.
In my opinion, restricting Workshop to curb a workshop deck is strategically most closely equivelant to restricting Cavern of Souls out of hatebears deck, merfolk deck, or the 5C humans deck that took down BOM last year. Yes those decks can function on 1x Cavern, and yes they may even take down a 4 or 5 round tournament with good draws, but the power in cavern in these decks is not solely in its ability to skirt force of will, its also in its ability to consistently see one via mulligans in decks that do not utilize a draw engine.
The restriction of Chalice was the first strategically multi-layered restriction I have ever remember seeing in my lifetime. Chalice's stregnth didnt just come from it's flexible cost; it also came from being able to draw multiple chalices and have them set at different numbers while in play simultaneously. Restricting Chalice took that last option completely off the table without needing card errata to change how it was functionally and strategically played for years. That's a lot of the reason the restriction received the response it did.
- I feel Gush is being played at format warping levels, and has been for some time. In my area, the restrictions of Dig and Cruise did little if anything to curb the percentage of players playing Gush around here. If gush gets restricted, it will become unplayable and certain decks will most likely not exist without it in multiples (UR delver comes to mind). While I think it is restriction worthy, I am actually nervous to see it restricted because of Mentor's positioning (the card, not the deck).
I feel that, in theory, the gush matchup vs workshops should be almost as poor as the workshop matchup vs DPS... very cantrip heavy, land light decks should be strategically disadvantaged when the deck they're facing has more lock pieces than they have lands. In my experience, the Gush matchup is far better when the gush deck runs mentor. This scares me because I honestly think the card holding back Mentor from restriction is actually Gush. Let me explain...
Mentor plays well with Moxes. Gush doesn't. If Gush got the axe, history has dictated that it will not see play as a 1-of when alternatives exist. We currently have Thirst, FoF, Thoughtcast and Gifts all currently unrestricted, with Paradoxical Outcome and Painful Truths also having been infuses into Vintage. I also feel that we also have the greatest number of efficient 1 mana card filtering spells since the restriction of Brainstorm and Ponder, and even with their restriction, have arguably achieved a critical mass of them such that further restriction of such cards (like Pre-Ordain) could no longer be effective for stunting these effects in decks. I forsee, much like in the past, that such effects would continue to complememt these draw engines and help keep them competitive and consistently powerful. The main strategy keeping all these powerful draw engines from being playable is gush.
If Gush goes, the flood gates open. Decks will, in theory, now play more lands and moxes as the biggest disincentive is now gone, which I forsee making Shops significantly weaker. The most likely effect of this in turn would shift the balance of power amongst the vintage pillars back to mana drain. I have no problem, with this specifically, as vintage has its ebbs and flows.
My fear is that mentor becomes too good, and these draw engines then begin to compete for which can "mentor harder". If this happens and these varying draw engines continue to break mentor harder than gush has (and I forsee that the can), I fear the format does not sufficiently have the tools it needs to provide an appropriate check to respond to respond to the growing imbalance.
Shops, and more recently White Eldrazi and hatebears, have been relegated to the daunting task of keeping the format from becoming a blue vs. blue format. More specifically, while Workshop and White eldrazi use prison elements in their lists, prison elements have historically been the best countermeasuer to preventing Blue decks from becoming streamlined enough to make all other archetypes strategically unplayable. The cards Thorn of Amethyst and Sphere of Resistance in and of themselves are very weak in a vacuum when compared to Ancestral Recall, Yawgmoth's will, Dig Through Time and Monastery Mentor. What makes these cards powerful is the ability to use Sol Lands like workshop and Ancient Tomb to jump the curve, which makes These prison effects playable. When employing prison effects are strategically poor countermeasure to attacking the format, Blue becomes much better, because the best measure is strategically powerful enough to police blue decks winds up being other blue decks.
This becomes the point where I call into question the effects of the Shop restrictions: In a Gush format, Chalice is really oppressive; in Thirst/Gifts format, I find Chalice to be necessary. In a Thirst, Gifts/Paradoxical/Painful Truths/ Bob/ Thoughtcast format, I am of the opinion Chalice would not be enough to police the barrage of Draw engines competing for mentor dominance: they're too many darts to target on the dartboard. Shops is the strategic predator of decks that want to play multiple spells a turn, Which is what the best Mentor decks zeek to do, but in this scenario, if Shops cant do its job, we have a broken format.
Mentor will have to get the axe, and we now have a tried and established precident to restrict cards for being "too good", people turn to advocating restrictions instead of trying to brew solutions as no sleek and efficient win condition will be truly safe from restriction. Furthermore, I dont see the Lodestone and Chalice becoming unrestricted to aid in preventing the abundance of draw engines and their strategies from making Vintage a "blue only" format a year or two from now. It took all these years to get them restricted, and in my opinion, it was the complaining more than the top 8's that pushed those restrictions through after so many years. I'm pretty sure the voices would be even louder would the format be engaging in serious talks about removing them of the restricted list. Pair this with the historical trend of blue getting new toys to test just about every set while while newer prison effects (artifact or mana efficient permenants) getting printed over much, much longer intervals and we may have a recipe for Vintage to experience a "blue winter" for possibly a few years.
I like format diversity. I Like that a 15 card sideboard cant answer 100 percent of what youre going to face... if feel that makes Vintage healthy.
What i dont want to see is Vintage essentially wind up with a stagnant metagame where it is solved a month after each set release, leaving us with 8 months of stagnant Vintage and declining paper tournament attendance. I love this format too much to see it take such a hit in popularity moving forward.
Restricting Mental Misstep would hurt shops and make Blue mirrors more interesting again. It would also hurt Mentor, since you couldn't tap out and protect him as reliably. The card and phyrexian mana in general are cancerous.
@Smmenen Yet that doesnt necessarily make it explicitly true. Yes, Walking Ballista is a good card against Mentor, one of the best ever printed. Its the ever printed part though thats the real issue.
Ballista has to be combined with multiple spheres. Its the mana denial + the ballista. One is not sufficient. Every answer to Mentor costs more mana / resources. That multi level response to the mentor still falls under that class.
@nedleeds How does restricting Misstep hurt Shops exactly? They are built to have Sol Ring and what else?
@Griselbrother Winning is about having your own game plan--your own path to victory. You can beat Monastery Mentor the card by just winning the game.
For Shops that is with tax effects and creatures with disruptive or versatile powers. For Oath it is about Emrakul or infinite Sun Titans. Landstill decks with Mishra's do fine against Mentor, as well.
I think the real problem here is that Gush Mentors players are whining about Shops decks because it's the most popular deck that beats them and then other people are whining about Gush Mentor decks because it is seen as the best blue deck in the format (and the best blue deck is usually the best deck period).
Vintage just isn't stagnant. It has some very strong decks, but that will always be the case.
Fast mana, card draw or cantrips are backdoors to brokenness. Cards of such nature are the most frequently restricted. Accordingly, both Gush and Mishra's Workshop are reasonably eligible for a ban, but it just hasn't been proven necessary yet.
@nedleeds How does restricting Misstep hurt Shops exactly? They are built to have Sol Ring and what else?
Well the answer to that is relatively simple, at the moment most blue decks are playing around 11 counters of which only 4 can interact with workshop. If you restrict misstep you are going to see cards like spell pierce, spell snare and mana drain show up instead and those are much better at combating spheres and such.
@Macdeath I understand your position now, thank you. I think it is a valid statement that if blue decks replaced 1-2 Missteps with Pierce or Snare, they would do better against Shops.
On the issue of restricting Misstep (and I don't know who in this thread actually is making that argument):
I don't view the above as any kind of evidence that Misstep needs to be restricted. It IS, however, evidence that any blue mage who plays 4 Missteps and then complains about Shops is a moron (yeah, I said it). I wouldn't ban a card because people are playing 4 copies to their own detriment. I'll just beat those fools in the Daily Events and then count my Play Point stacks.
When PO decks were the rage (an ancient three weeks ago), my maindeck for Oath had a Stony Silence, two Mindbreaks, and (occasionally) Chalice and/or Trinisphere. Now that the fad has passed, I cut the Stony Silence and one Mindbreak and threw a Pyroblast and Swords in.
I frequently tinker with my maindeck and sideboard for the meta, as well as to try and understand which cards might be more superior in a general sense (the universal meta) as well as in terms of my personal play style.
People either need to just accept that they have bad matchups, or make adjustments so they aren't that bad.
That last sentence was great. Though, I think Mentor/Gush may have gone beyond that and deserve at least a discussion on restriction or not. However, there is a lot of truth to that sentence.
It's common in Magic, where the best deck is always talked about needing a restriction, no matter the format.
Standard = Saheeli / Goat thingy / Heart of Kiran
Modern = Mox Opal / Tron Lands / Become Immense
Legacy = Brainstorm / Sensei's Divining Top
Vintage = Mentor / Workshop / Gush / Mental Misstep
EDH = Iona / Dead Eye Navigator
Obviously that's not everything and that ebbs and flows, but that's the last I recall at least. I'm not saying some of those restrictions are or not warranted, just going by what I hear.