Best posts made by ajfirecracker
posted in Vintage News read more

The legal standard of "narrow tailoring" is simply inapplicable. When you insist on narrow tailoring, and you also insist that the target of that narrow tailoring is anything other than Gush, you make it artificially easy to preserve Gush. More problematically, any time you insist on narrow tailoring, the remedy will be incredibly sensitive to how you define the problem to be solved. Narrowly targeting Gush Mentor and narrowly targeting Gush tokens decks as a class will produce wildly different policies despite being virtually synonymous in the current metagame. Narrow tailoring produces a tortured "reading" of the metagame (because you have to define a narrow target), and the logical alternative is not sloppy tailoring or broad tailoring but reasonable tailoring. When you insist that "the problem" be defined a single narrow way, you are insisting that all players have the same preferences in order to produce a restriction. This is obviously absurd. Instead, you should be willing to look at different points of view. If almost everyone wants Gush restricted for different reasons, it should probably be restricted even if no single reason is convincing to you personally. In that framework, the belief that you have to identify a single underlying problem (which is separate from the expressed wishes of players) and address it using the best mechanism you individually devise is clearly misplaced.

I think the fundamental element that people are trying to object to (and which is obviously an expression of preferences like all B&R criteria including metagame dominance) is that the format has become Gush-polar. Even though Gush is not a majority of finishes, and even though it is not performing dominantly by itself, it creates a metagame in which everything ultimately revolves around Gush. It is the eye of the storm.

You have the Gush decks, then you have the transparently anti-Gush decks utilizing Sphere of Resistance-style effects. In combination, they represent well over half the metagame. In this episode, you said that White Eldrazi was a good deck precisely because it is the best at attacking Mentor Gush. That should be enough to sound the alarm in the back of your mind.

Obviously, there are always going to be some set of decks that the format "revolves around". That is synonymous with saying a metagame exists. The thing to hope for in restricting Gush is not that the metagame doesn't exist or doesn't feature some decks more centrally than others. The thing to hope for is that 1) a larger number of decks are "central" to the format and 2) players enjoy the ultimate dynamic that emerges more than they enjoy the Gush dynamic.

You cannot escape subjectivity. The whole reason different formats exist is because different players want to experience different ways of playing Magic. Fundamentally, Vintage is a device for satisfying player preferences, like all formats. If the DCI listens to a select minority and is cavalier with B&R policy, this is not bad because it violates some Commandment Of The Universe, but because such a decision would contradict the preferences of most players.

As the famous saying goes, "democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." So too with Vintage.

posted in Vintage News read more

When a player says "ban a card" without reference to dexterity or ante and with reference to tournament balance, they clearly mean the normal DCI action that addresses balance concerns.

We should try to adopt a principle of charity - interpreting the statements of those we disagree with as attempts to communicate the clearest and most thoughtful version of their argument.

posted in Vintage Strategy read more

Hi folks!

I started incorporating Force of Will, Mindbreak Trap, and Mental Misstep into dredge lists in 2014 and created the Dredge variant we now know as Pitch Dredge.

Here's my initial article introducing the concept:

I think a lot of anti-Dredge strategy that is seeing play these days is misguided, and want to offer some constructive criticism. In no particular order:

  1. Ravenous Trap

Before you put this in your deck, you should know that a Dredge player who is in a winning position has the option to stop dredging, pass the turn, and on the following turn draw rather than dredge and finally use a Cabal Therapy to strip Ravenous Trap from your hand without your being able to pay the alternate cost of {0}. You may not see Dredge players make this play frequently, but I do whenever I am far enough ahead that I feel I can afford it, and when you face skilled Dredge pilots in the late rounds of a large event they will be thinking about cards like Ravenous Trap.

Ravenous Trap is one of the only cards that can be beaten purely with Cabal Therapy, and thus is front-of-mind for a skilled Dredge pilot in thinking about how to use their Therapies. See for example this 2016 article in which I highlight it as one of the most frequent cards I would name with Therapy:

In order for Ravenous Trap to be maximally effective, you should be playing a deck that consistently presents a fast kill like DPS or Paradoxical Outcome, and not merely a deck that can sometimes kill quickly such as Oath. This minimizes the likelihood that the Dredge player can afford to take a turn off to Therapy the Trap. I would recommend blue decks that cannot race Dredge find another option for their hate.

  1. Grafdigger's Cage

Grafdigger's Cage is ubiquitous in the format as an anti-Dredge, anti-Oath, anti-Tinker, and anti-Yawgmoth's Will tactic. However, the Dredge component has some glaring drawbacks. The Dredge player is able to continue filling their graveyard, and some important graveyard effects like Bridge from Below and Vengeful Pharaoh operate just fine through a Cage. It is more vulnerable to countermagic than most hate cards due to the 1-mana casting cost and the fact that it utilizes the stack, unlike Leyline of the Void. Finally Cage does not exile or shuffle graveyard cards, so if the Cage is removed successfully the Dredge player may be set to finish the game immediately.

Beyond the limitations of the graveyard hate effect, another issue is that due to the omnipresence of Grafdigger's Cage, every Dredge variant of the past several years has been designed specifically to beat Cage.

  1. Leyline of the Void

Leyline remains one of the premiere hate options available to you. Because it denies any use of the graveyard until it is removed, it may inhibit strategies intended to circumvent hate, such as Molderhulk. It may also somewhat slow down transformational plans such as Dark Depths by restricting graveyard synergies such as Petrified Field.

You should be hesitant to use Leyline in decks that require a critical mass of cards to operate, such as Paradoxical Outcome, as this will interfere with your ability to mulligan for the card. Additionally, Leyline is more attractive in decks that can protect it with countermagic like Flusterstorm or cost increasers like Sphere of Resistance.

  1. Containment Priest

Like Grafdigger's Cage, Containment Priest interferes with a wide selection of Vintage strategies such as Dredge, Oath, and Tinker. Again, like Grafdigger's Cage, this comes at the cost of less effectiveness against Dredge, primarily due to the 2-mana casting cost. Without a Mox, this cost exposes Priest to Cabal Therapy. There is also the possibility that the Dredge player is able to build a dominant board before the hate becomes active, such as by sacrificing Narcomoebas for a few zombie tokens. 3-4 tokens is not entirely rare on Turn 2, and this is often enough to pose a serious threat and force Containment Priest to eventually block and trade.

I would recommend avoiding Containment Priest unless white is one of your base colors and you are heavy on Moxen.

  1. Rest in Peace

Like Containment Priest, RIP is 2 mana which is 1 too many to reliably combat Dredge. It does have a sweeper effect when it comes into play, which helps to mitigate the slowness of the card, but generally speaking there are more attractive options.

  1. Bojuka Bog

I think this card is somewhat overlooked as a hate option. It can be brought in to serve as additional land against Workshops, which gives a little bit of the multi-matchup impact that draws people to Cage and Priest. It's true that Bojuka Bog only operates at sorcery speed, but on the other hand current Dredge decks have only Leyline of Sanctity (which is rarely run) to interact with the card.

Ideally Bog would be included in a deck that can take win the game in the 1-2 turns bought by the effect, presumably a blue-based deck heavy on restricted cards which would lean on something like Tinker to close out the game. Such decks are not prominent currently, but have been well-represented throughout the history of Vintage.

  1. Scavenger Grounds

I'm much more skeptical of this card, but felt I should mention it as an alternative to Bojuka Bog for Ancient Tomb decks. In particular, Scavenger Grounds can pay for artifacts like Grafdigger's Cage and Relic of Progenitus, which may increase consistency as compared to simply running more hate artifacts in that slot.

  1. Relic of Progenitus

Since I mentioned Relic, I just thought I would point out that even in Ancient Tomb decks there is often 1 turn where the Dredge player has a free hand because the mana for Relic is not available. Additionally, Relic is vulnerable to Misstep and Unmask. For decks with colored mana, Nihil Spellbomb is likely a better choice.

  1. Nihil Spellbomb

This avoids the 1 turn of vulnerability due to mana restriction, but worth noting Spellbomb is also vulnerable to Mental Misstep and Unmask.

  1. Tormod's Crypt

A skilled Dredge pilot will commit just enough to the graveyard to demand a Crypt activation, then go off again after it is used. Crypt is most attractive in decks that can utilize the time it buys to win the game or are capable of recurring the Crypt with effects like Goblin Welder. Crypt should not be relied on to address Dredge for an indefinite number of turns.

  1. Yixlid Jailer

One of the less frequently-seen hate cards, Jailer is fairly powerful. It shuts off all of Dredge's graveyard effects, and drastically reduces the ability of the Dredge player to fill the graveyard further by disabling the Dredge mechanic directly. It doesn't exile or shuffle graveyard cards, so there is a potential weakness if the Jailer is removed.

Jailer is generally seen only in creature-based black decks like BUG, but sometimes sees interesting play as a tech option, for example as an Oath of Druids target.

  1. Strip Mine / Wasteland / Ghost Quarter

In many post-board games the Dredge player is able to use Bazaar as a draw engine to find Nature's Claim or other anti-hate tactics. For this reason, removing the Bazaar not only slows down the graveyard plan, it also reinforces the ability of other hate cards to operate.

  1. Pithing Needle / Sorcerous Spyglass

Needle is vulnerable to removal and countermagic, but it can shut off any number of Bazaars and has value against some supplemental plans such as Dark Depths.

  1. Sentinel Totem / City in a Bottle / Wheel of Sun and Moon / Insert Crazy Card Here

The sky is the limit. Find cards that you think might have an impact, reason through their strengths and weaknesses, and if they seem good playtest them. The pool of potential tech extends well beyond the few cards covered here.

Closing Thoughts

In addition to familiarizing yourself with the hate cards available to you, and choosing ones which best suit your strategy, you should also learn about the mechanics and cards you expect to face. Bridge from Below has built-in interaction. Mindbreak Trap can be largely avoided. Experienced pilots will learn to maximize the drawbacks of the Dredge player's cards in order to win games.

The choices made by Dredge players often leave some avenue of attack vulnerable. For example, the deck Andy Markiton played in the VSL yesterday has only 2 cards capable of dealing with Yixlid Jailer, in the form of 2 Chain of Vapor. Look at what your opponents are playing and try to find hate cards they are not already able to deal with.

Good luck!

posted in Vintage News read more

I haven't had the chance to play much Vintage lately, so I tried to get my money's worth

Deck is Pitch Dredge, with some minor tweaks for the Eldrazi meta

2 Vengeful Pharoah
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Flame-Kin Zealot
3 Dread Return
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Bridge From Below
4 Ichorid
4 Narcomoeba
4 Force of Will
4 Mental Misstep
4 Mindbreak Trap
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Srinkweed Imp
4 Golgari Thug
4 Bazaar of Baghdad
4 Petrified Field
1 Library of Alexandria
4 Serum Powder

4 Dark Depths
2 Vampire Hexmage
4 Thespian's Stage
4 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Riftstone Portal

posted in Vintage News read more

New article up, by popular demand.

One thing I would add is that according to @deibler the top Dredge result from Bazaar of Moxen in October was a Pitch Dredge variant, making it 6/6 in recent large events (in terms of out-placing anti-hate Dredge)

posted in Vintage Community read more

I think it's time to stop feeding the troll. Bobby's made his feelings clear, and as long as he simply repeats himself I suggest ignoring him.

posted in Vintage News read more

I've created a few videos laying out the absolute basics of the Dredge archetype. I cover what the deck is trying to do overall, how to operate the mulligan process, how to play the card Cabal Therapy, and how to fight graveyard hate.

Video series is here:

posted in Vintage News read more

I look at the meaning of Lodestone Golem's's restriction both in terms of Vintage policy and metagame

posted in Single-Card Discussion read more

1BB: Destroy target Mana Crypt you control

posted in Vintage Community read more

I'm afraid to say we've reached the point where we have to restrict Sudden Shock. An uncounterable spell that can potentially end the game for 2 mana has no place in Vintage.

posted in Official Tournament Results read more

Giving this its own post.

Re-Sampling Link

We can simulate the results of the event from a single-elimination perspective (i.e. the statistically likely 1-0s, 2-0s, 3-0s etc) by calculating win-rates conditional on the actual metagame of decks remaining in a given round and decks remaining in each round based on past win-rates. Given a starting proportion of decks, and matchup win-rates (i.e. Shops beats Gush 60% of the time or whatever), we can calculate a round-by-round evolution of a metagame. That is what the linked spreadsheet does.

Choosing 5-0 (round 6 representation) as a cutoff, we get a predicted metagame of:
18.85% Shops
21.45% Gush
26.78% Dredge
8.76% Big Blue
1.93% Blue Control
11.99% Combo
5.07% Oath
4.70% Eldrazi
0.47% Other

This would predict a Top 8 of something like
2 Dredge
1-2 Shops
1-2 Gush
1 Combo
0-1 Big Blue
0-1 Oath or Eldrazi

Note that this is not supposed to be a "solved" metagame. This is the expectation if we ran the same tournament again with the same decks and the same matchup-vs-matchup winrates.

I think this is a pretty good facsimile of the 5-2 or better results.
The actual 5-2 or better results by archetype:
20% Shops (3)
13.33% Dredge (2)
26.67% Gush (4)
20% Combo (3)
6.67% Big Blue (1)
6.67% Blue Control (1)
6.67% Eldrazi (1)

The deviation between the actual 5-2 results and the predicted 5-0 share can largely be attributed to pairings. There is some methodological weakness (i.e. single elimination as opposed to roughly triple elimination with brackets based on current record) but this is likely overshadowed by the effect of pairings. Dredge, based on this, got extremely poor pairings. (i.e. average pairings with exactly the same matchup performance would have resulted in an even stronger Dredge showing) Oath also appears to have unfavorable pairings. Combo decks were the biggest winners in the pairings with a 5-2+ share that far exceeds their predicted 5-0 share. Gush somewhat over-performed their expected result.

Gush's win-rate: For the case where no one drops out of the event, the above figure of 46% is correct. If players drop out as they lose by the 5th round Gush will have experienced a win-rate of 45.73% (i.e. 5-0s and only 5-0s in contention) and by the 7th round a win-rate of 45.70% (i.e. pure single elimination). So the tournament environment definitely gets more hostile to Gush as the rounds progress, but not quite to the level of 43% overall win-rate (the actualized result). This means that Gush pilots got somewhat unlucky to experience their overall result this weekend. Nonetheless, I cannot construct a sampling method that gives Gush a >50% win-rate in the environment of this particular tournament.

One thing worth noting is that due to the nature of Swiss tournaments any given deck will experience the greatest number of live-for-Top-8 rounds at the beginning of the tournament. The pool shrinks exponentially, since every match has a winner and a loser each round eliminates on average half of the contenders from Top 8. To estimate the odds of winning the event or placing very highly you want something that weights the last few rounds as heavily as the early rounds. I don't really want to do more spreadsheet math right now but I would point out Gush's expected win-rate late in the tournament is down in the 43-44% range.

Given that Gush over-performed in the 5-2 region and under-performed overall I believe the only reasonable conclusion is that Gush had a higher variance tournament than other decks. The data support the conclusion that Gush pilots had a wider variety of player skill than the average deck overall.

posted in Vintage News read more

I wrote a short article on Pitch Dredge in the Power 9 Challenge and VSL Finals. It's available here:


posted in Vintage Community read more

@BazaarOfBaghdad said:

So you're suggesting that printing a mega-Tormod's Crypt with 2 use counters before saccing (instead of the current one-use version) rather than Containment Priest/Rest in Peace in order to heighten game state choices would be more fun/interactive? I mean, I grasp that idea of interactive choices, and to some extent I can agree, but that ship has rather sailed, hasn't it, and was intuited by the larger argument anyway (what to do about it now)? Priest/RIP are already in print, and the proper forum to complain is elsewhere really, not here.

This gets at the heart of it. If you accept my argument (which I think is a totally convincing argument, once you get past the gut reactions and straw-men) you might well conclude that Containment Priest was a mistake and more interactive hate (with other upsides to compensate and thereby make it more disruptive) would be preferable.

That ship has indeed sailed, but Dredge is far from the last narrow strategy we are going to face in this format. My ultimate argument is all about the original post (part of why I am so scornful of nitpicking that has no connection to the ultimate point under discussion). I think when we look to design new cards in the future, we should try to design more decision-intensive disruption rather than less decision-intensive disruption.

posted in Single-Card Discussion read more

@socialite said in [Aether Revamped] Paradox Engine:

Five mana, do nothing. You know your card is good when it makes Thing in the Ice look proactive.

I like how you're the guy telling us to stop running Mental Misstep in our decks because it's the reason why Thorn over performs. Please tell me this irony isn't lost on anyone else.

Wizards has really cranked the power level of doing nothing, though

posted in Vintage News read more

There were some obvious misplays. I called out a particularly bad one in chat - with Gush on the stack and Force+blue card in hand, his opponent Forced his Gush. This cleared the way for him to play Snapcaster Mage into Treasure Cruise and sit on his Force and overwhelming card advantage, but instead he threw away the Force/Blue card for 2 random cards off the top of his deck by protecting his Gush. He got lucky and hit a Mentor (which the Cruise would also have drawn) and his opponent (Reid? I don't remember who was in the last Mentor mirror) drew a Mentor to bring things back into virtual parity from what should have been an overwhelming advantage. Oliver (if I'm remembering the match right) immediately top-decked Ancestral to make up for his misplays and win anyway, but that's neither here nor there.

posted in Vintage Community read more

@enderfall No! Jump to conclusions NOW!

posted in Single-Card Discussion read more

Most optimistic interpretation: This is a Horn of Plenty stapled onto Vinelasher Kudzu (i.e. bonkers)

Realistic interpretation: This is a Horn of Plenty stapled onto a Vinelasher Kudzu in a really slow controlling game, and a 3/2 for 3 in a really short tempo-driven game

I think it's Vintage playable but unlikely to see play in the short term.

posted in Vintage News read more

Shops are highly interactive, just not on the stack

posted in Vintage News read more

I think people are underestimating the impact of the hive mind. I've seen instances from both Rich and Andy where they are mulling over a complicated board state and propose a play that would be an obvious blunder (playing into an opposing Chalice of the Void or whatever). Everyone in twitch chat immediately objects and the play doesn't get made and the caster moves on without really processing this as a distinct strategic event - because it is not strategic, it's informational.

If Magic is "supposed" to be 1v1, even online, then I think there's no question that receiving outside advice (even if it is low-quality) is outside the realm of fair play. It seems like that is the dividing line between people who claim it's wrong or troubling (even if desirable on other grounds) and people who claim it's not troubling (even if undesirable on other grounds)