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posted in Vintage Community read more

This era is exactly when I started playing competitive vintage so there's a lot of nostalgia here for me. Back then metagames were a lot more regional, and the best decks in Ritual-heavy Italy might not have fared well in Workshop-heavy Virginia. I bet @Smmenen 's History of Vintage has all the details you could imagine. I'll try and give my own perspective, as a newbie player in New England.

@thecravenone said in Premodern Vintage:

@aelien said in Premodern Vintage:

-Do you think it is a good idea to start with the historic B&R List?

What was the list back then?

I walked through the B&R timeline to put together the list as it was on the day before 8th edition came out:

Obviously a lot of these cards would be safe to remove, and players at the time knew it. As little attention as the format gets now, Vintage players were used to WotC making B&R decisions based on games they had played five years earlier. Black Vise was restricted until 2007 despite never having been part of a relevant Vintage deck for over a decade.

Just before 8th edition was an interesting crossroads in the format. Less than a month before 8th edition was the first restriction of Gush. I see Gro-a-Tog as the first modern Vintage deck ... or the first deck of its era, until a decade later, a third-time-unrestricted Gush created the first deck of our current era, Delver. I suspect GAT was far better against the field than its results showed. Back then the metagame didn't move as quickly. This was before the rise of proxy-tournaments and many metagames were defined by the preferences of a few skilled powered players. The gulf between GAT and the next-best deck is probably the largest of the entire time I've played Vintage, but it wasn't even a particularly popular deck.

This moment in time also marks the printing of the Storm mechanic, and the deck Burning Long. In December, Lion's Eye Diamond and Burning Wish were restricted (along with Chrome Mox. While this technically happened after 8th Edition and Mirrodin were released, Long is fully-functional without those sets, and I think it would be reasonable to keep those cards out of the format. Don't worry, you can still Tendrils without it.

The peak-fun in this era for me was probably a few months later, after Mirrodin, before Darksteel. The addition of Mirrodin gives you the epoch-defining Control Slaver, the first Goblin Charbelcher decks, and some very cool now-forgotten archetypes like Meandeck/Workshop Slaver, Scepter Control, Broodstar Runner, and Chalice Keeper

Keeping in mind how regional metagames were very different, here's the metagame pre-Mirrodin, in New England, as I remember it:

Workshops

TNT Listed first because it was my first ever Vintage deck. Workshop to power out "big threats" like Juggernaut and Su-Chi (boy times have changed), with a Survival of the Fittest+Goblin Welder value engine

Stax The "good" Shop deck. Lock pieces, five colors, tons of restricted cards. Would cast Meditate to skip turns with Smokestack and Tangle Wire in play. Card draw, tutors, very few threats, often won with 20 swings of a Goblin Welder

MUD Colorless cards weren't nearly as deep as they are now. The main reason you'd give up on colored mana was to make Metalworker better. Grafted Skullcap was a card people actually played in a metagame where Hurkyl's Recall was even more popular than it is now. Better stick that Null Brooch early.

Combo

Burning Long/TPS, the two Dark Ritual/Tendrils of Agony decks. Long was more popular in America and five colors, cramming maximum brokenness. The Perfect Storm was more popular in Europe and stuck to blue/black, running more disruption (like Force of Will) to try and defend one big spell.

Dragon, there really isn't another deck like Dragon. A Bazaar of Baghdad deck, but nothing like the Bazaar decks you see today - it was pretty common to win without drawing it. The combo, while fairly straightforward to execute, involves one of the most convoluted chain of rules interactions in competitive deck history. It's a graveyard-based deck, but it's important to remember that before Dredge came along, people weren't running 7 graveyard-hate spells, so these matchups were very different. Dragon would try to outdraw control decks and race combo decks.

Aggro

Null Rod Aggro In the time-before-proxies, budget aggro strategies were fairly common, players would specialize in Suicide Black decks (with Phyrexian Negator!) or Sligh. Slightly better were the R/G Beats decks or the R/W The Mountain Wins Again. Goblins decks would appear as well. None of these archetypes had a particularly big market share of players or tournament wins, but a few specialists would put up consistent finishes with them.

Oshowa Stompy Basically just a green Null-Rod Aggro deck, but a little stronger thanks to the addition of Bazaar of Bagdad. This is the great-grandfather of today's Survival decks

RUG Madness This was maybe the great-grandfather of today's Vengevine decks. Traded some of the disruption for splashier cards like Wheel of Fortune. Anger was what made the deck maybe two turns faster than all other aggro. It didn't have a huge following (though I played it and enjoyed it). This was probably the fastest aggro deck, but aggro decks were all really slow then.

UR Fish Except we didn't call it UR Fish, we called it something else that we really shouldn't have. This is the great-grandfather of Delver, but in a time where your best threats were two mana 1/1s instead of one mana 3/2s. You'd follow a Cloud of Fairies with a Standstill and sit on tempo-disrupting cards in a hodgepodge that was tough to pay around. I didn't respect the deck much in 2003, but in a lot of ways it was ahead of its time. Perhaps a bit too far ahead. Still, there was something beautiful about a fully-powered player being brought to their knees by a Spiketail Hatchling

Control

Keeper/Four-Color-ControlAn elegant weapon for a more civilized age. Keeper has maybe always been more popular than powerful, but there's something special about it. Oskar Tan's epic multi-part love-letter to Keeper ("The Control Player's Bible") got more than a few people into Vintage, myself among them. Basically Vintage Good Stuff+Mana Drain, the Keeper mantra was that it had an answer to everything, you just had to play perfectly to find it. A Keeper deck was highly personalized, and players could have 6-page threads debating a single card slot. Steve O'Connell, the original founder of TheManaDrain, was a Keeper pilot, and it's almost certainly where the site got its name from. I don't have to sell you on Keeper: if you're a Keeper player, you already know it.

Landstill. It's been around forever. It's basically always been exactly the same.

Hulk Smash/Psychatog In the wake of Gush's restriction, The combo-control Gro-A-Tog deck gave way to the more purely control Hulk Smash. Basically just a pile of draw spells and counters, Tog wasn't as powerful as Long or flexible as Keeper, but it could outdraw anything. Tog wasn't the first deck I played, but it was the first deck I played well. Tog won the very first Vintage Champs, and there's no question if I were trying to win a tournament in this era, this is what I'd play.

There's a lot of fun options in this era, certainly more than I mentioned. My personal picks to play would be Psychatog ... Dragon ... Madness ... TPS ... Stax ... okay I guess I like a lot of these decks.

posted in Vintage Strategy read more

I wonder if the premise should be questioned. I think if you take it as a given that you're definitely playing Preordain and Duress this turn, most of the time leading with Duress makes sense. This is probably true for ordering Duress and any card. The key factor is that opening with Duress reduces your opponent's ability to make the right choice. If they have a response like a Mental Misstep or a Brainstorm, Duress forces them to use it when you choose, where Preordain gives them the option of using it when they think is best.

This is probably more important than the information advantage. To evaluate the information advantage, you'd ask:

  • what kind of information might Duress reveal that would change how I resolve Preordain?
  • what kind of information might Preordain reveal that would change how I resolve Duress?

After asking those questions you should see the trap in the original question. The most likely way for Preordain to change how you would play Duress isn't that you might have them discard a different card, it's that's drawing a particular card might make you not want to play Duress at all. If this is turn one or two and you haven't seen your opponents hand yet, Duress is high value and it's PROBABLY being cast right away. But in many mid-game or later situations, you want to be careful you don't Duress away some medium-quality draw spell and pass the turn, just to have them draw a counterspell later. You want to cast your Duress as close as possible to the turn you try to win (which is probably not this turn if you're worried about a Preordain getting Misstep'd). So I think another question to ask is:

  • If I led with Preordain, what could I find that would make me not want to play Duress this turn at all?

If there's a pretty reasonable chance you'll find one of those cards, leading with Preordain is probably best. The other scenario I haven't heard mentioned in the thread is if you want your Preordain countered. If your hand isn't particularly reliant on Preordain then you may not care if it gets Misstep'd. An obvious example is if you have an Ancestral Recall as well, but it could just be the relatively common case of "your hand is totally fine, you're not missing anything critical, Preordain would just make it better". If you lead with Preordain and they Misstep it, then follow with Duress, you may be able to answer two key cards instead of one, which could be significantly better than whatever Preordain would have gotten you.

In some hands that line is particularly strong. If this is turn one and I'm talking about this line with a hand of Preordain, Duress, Underground Sea, Mox Sapphire - I'll hem and haw over my hand for a while, sigh and reluctantly keep, drop the artifact mana without playing the land, and sheepishly run out the cantrip. A lot of players will be extremely tempted to "get you" from this game state. If you can sink your turn one Preordain into their Force of Will and follow THAT with a Duress? The game is usually over.

Ultimately I think my heuristic is:

  • Do I want my opponent to interact with the Preordain? (probably fairly common, easy to notice)
  • Will the results of this Preordain make me choose not to Duress? (rare, but easy to notice if you're looking)
  • If no to both, just Duress first

Those aren't the only factors to consider, but for me those are things that I can reasonably figure out in the middle of a tournament game

posted in Vintage News read more

@blindtherapy yeah I think that's probably the best approach. So far I haven't felt like spambots show up frequently enough to justify figuring out how to implement that on the site, but if the volume keeps rising then it'll become worth it

posted in Vintage News read more

@thecravenone maybe not BETTER things, but yeah. It's a manual process and I don't always catch the bots right away. Honestly people have been so well-behaved from a moderation standpoint lately that I've been comfortable going longer and longer between checking in.

There are steps I can take to reduce bot signups (like adding extra friction to registration), but so far I've felt like it's been infrequent enough for me not to worry about it. If the general TMD community thinks it's getting out of hand, I can try and take some action toward preventing it.

If it looks like I haven't noticed a spam post for a while, or something needs to go down RIGHT NOW, I might be more likely to notice a Tweet @tmdBrassMan , unfortunately the site's emailer has been broken for a while so I only see reported posts when I actually log in, I won't get an email or notification on my phone or anything.

posted in Single-Card Discussion read more

@lienielsen I'd say it's not good to treat "must answer a creature" as a hard rule, but it is true that most good planeswalkers have the ability to do that.

A more nuanced way of thinking might be ... if the metagame has a reasonable amount of creatures, a planeswalker without the ability to defend itself isn't likely to last very long. That means if the rest of your deck is very good at stopping things from attacking, you have a lot more room to play with. As a counterexample, one of the most successful planeswalkers in Vintage history was Tezzeret, the Seeker, which was used with Time Vault to take infinite turns. Tezzeret can't defend itself, but A) in many cases you didn't NEED it to survive more than a turn, and B) it was successful in a time when there were fewer creatures in the metagame.

I wouldn't say self-defense is a hard-and-fast rule, but I think what your friend was getting at makes sense in this case. If your opponent has a 2/2 in play, this card when un-kicked is probably going to draw 1 card before dying, and with kicker it'll probably draw 3. Considering it ONLY draws cards, it's fair to compare it to other draw spells, and in most situations you can do better for 1UU or 3UU mana. If your opponent doesn't have any creatures then you might draw 4 or 5 cards off of this, but a Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Dack Fayden would get you much much further in that situation.

posted in Vintage Strategy read more

This is one of those questions where the answer is going to end up being dependent on your deck and on the metagame. Because those things shift around over time, it might be helpful to try and think in terms of heuristics, e.g. not "which is better" but "what might make one better." I'm not up to date on the metagame enough to give a great answer, but here are maybe some factors you can think about:

Does your deck have any cards that are hosed by Rest in Peace but not by Grafdigger's Cage? (perhaps delve spells).

Are there other matchups you care about where those cards are relevant? A lot of people choose to run Grafdigger's Cage because it doubles as a disruptive spell against Tinker, Oath of Druids, Bolas Citadel. You might be able to fit more Cages in your list than Rest In Peaces if you're already dedicating space to beat those other decks. This might be a good reason to run a mix of Cage/RiP as well.

Seems like you're already accounting for the popular counter-answer cards in the current metagame (Force of Vigor) but keep in mind that kind of stuff changes all the time. Tabernacle of the Pendrell Vale was very good against graveyard strategies last year, but it looks like those decks have adapted by running more Strip Mine effects. Against Dredge decks with Force of Vigor I tend to share your instinct for running cards that generate some value even when they get removed, but I'm not sure how the latest crop of Hogaak lists changes the equation.

Like white dragon I'm also a big fan of Containment Priest, but I think you aren't wrong to be concerned about your ability to play 2 drops in a deck with only two moxes.

Tormod's Crypt and Ravenous Trap are cards that works really well alongside other hate cards. Crypt just buys time ... you won't win if you just draw Crypts in a slow deck ... but because they're free and create value through Force of Vigor, they can shore up the weaknesses of other hate cards (or make you more likely to win with a card like Tinker).

Some decks naturally lend themselves to run cards that are relevant in a match, but might not be something specialized. I've found cards that interact with the board to be reasonable (e.g. stuff like Tarmogoyf and Swords to Plowshares) as long as they're part of a larger strategy. I've had success with Scavenging Ooze+Deathrite Shaman+Tormod's Crypt, which are all cards that aren't particularly powerful enough on their own. When you're already running some number of those cards, that changes the value of other options. I don't like Surgical Extraction but I admit that it gets better in a deck with 4 Snapcaster Mage. Other cards to pay attention to are Wasteland, anti Hollow One cards like Dack Fayden, and creatures that sacrifice themselves to kill Bridge from Below. I suspect that your deck doesn't have any of these? Which might mean you have to dedicate more space than another list would.

The details of your deck are important here. My assumption from the name blue white BTB is that you're going to be too slow to rely on just Crypts/Traps/Leylines ... and I'm guessing you don't have enough creatures to make Containment Priest affect your clock, but you do have enough counters to try and fight off Force of Vigors. My instinct here is that you need a way to interact consistently on turn one. I would say if you're only able to dedicate 4ish slots to the matchup then Cage is the only thing that's going to get you there. If you're willing to dedicate more space (and I suspect you should), then you can run a mix of (Crypt or Trap or Cage for turn one interaction) with (Rest in Peace or Containment Priest to seal the deal).

It looks like the dredgey decks are pretty popular right now. As an "advanced excercise" you might want to look at a metagame and identify if there are any of those "relevant-but-not-dedicated" cards that happen to be good against several of the top decks. Skimming mtgGoldfish right now I see Golos stax, HogaakVine, and Outcome, and I notice that Dack is relevant against Golos/Hollow One/Mox Opal; Wasteland is relevant against Dark Depths/Bazaar/Academy; Null Rod/Collector Ouphe is relevant against Mirage Mirror/Mox Opal. If you were to play a RUG deck with those cards you'd already be down a path that pushes your sideboard in a strong direction. None of those cards replace your sideboard, but they act as force-multipliers to make your sideboard cards more effective, and inform which cards you should use. This won't help you tune a deck you already have built, but I find myself building decks sideboard-first quite a bit, and those lists have been pretty effective for me.

posted in Vintage Community read more

@botvinik said in MTGO 2020:

P.S. Mabye get aversion of dredge with less than 4 grave trolls for the front page.

Okay, fair point.

posted in Vintage Community read more

@80percentbuffoon said in MTGO 2020:

Unfortunately this forum caters primarily to paper players so the above paper bias in the responses is expected.

Obviously obviously I have to respond to this, though I hope I don't sound bratty or defensive.

TMD does not explicitly cater to paper players in the sense that I have taken zero active steps to provide anything specifically for paper players. I genuinely have no idea what part of the site could be considered paper-centric, maybe the Tournament Announcement forum that nobody's posted in for months?

I think you'll find that paper players don't really use TMD either. There aren't many living paper communities out there any more, and there tends to be a pretty big overlap between people who don't like playing online and people who don't like internet forums, for obvious reasons. If I try to pin down what I see as "the paper community", I think of places like the New York metagame that until recently ran regular large events. Players who play at an astounding level and just have no interest in an online forum. I don't think Joe Brennan even has a TMD account. I think the majority of active TMD posters (myself included) are _ex_paper players. People who used to go to tournaments regularly and for whatever reason no longer can, who drop by now and then to brainstorm some new spoiled card just to exercise their Vintage muscles. Then we recede back into our neighborhoods where there just aren't any paper Vintage tournaments to go to anymore.

I've tried catering to paper players. I've also tried catering to MTGO players. I ask people what it would take for them to use TMD more. I ask people that a lot. I'm guessing a lot of people I know are sick of me asking them. I almost never get an answer beyond "ban ____, I don't like them" and "I don't go there because no one goes there".

The fact is, people don't want to talk about Vintage on a forum. I keep it running out of a sense of obligation, and because I can afford to, but it's just not something people are passionate about enough to contribute to.

If could think of a way to cater to paper players, I'd do it in a heartbeat. If I could think of a way to cater to MTGO players, I'd do that instead.

I know this all sounds kind of defensive, and maybe it is, somewhat ... I do feel bad when people dislike the site ... but more than that, I don't think you would have said that if you didn't feel like you were somehow being excluded ... and I don't want people to feel like they're being pushed out of the site when I've been so desperately trying to make people feel like they can participate (a fact that some people have told me is the biggest problem with TMD).

I wish I could lay out some action plan I have for fixing any issues you have with the site, but I think I'm all tapped out.

posted in Vintage Community read more

I think people might be talking over each other a bit here. Here's my take on what's going on in this thread, and I hope I can be helpful to @marcb and anyone else wandering in looking for info

There's no doubt that Magic Online is a flawed program, but it gets the job done, and it's by far the most active spot for Vintage games online, especially if you're not already part of any smaller group of players. You won't find league games as readily as you can find standard matches on Arena, but as someone who played vintage for a decade when paper was your only option, it's night-and-day how accessible and easy it is to find a Vintage game on MTGO.

If you want to play against the best players, with prizes on the line, and you want to do this remotely (surely a bigger concern these days), MTGO is going to give you that opportunity like no other platform can.

I'll follow up on @AeonSovarius 's desire to play a few games before buying a collection though - the MTGO UI is a bit awkward, it takes some getting used to, and some people will never get used to it. The first league you play in, you will lose games because of a misclick, or because your turn-stops aren't set correctly, or because you don't know how to put something on the stack without passing priority, or because you played Mindbreak Trap and counter your own spells because you didn't know that the UI for playing Mindbreak Trap is fundamentally broken.

Beyond that, it's a different experience than paper in general. Everyone will be affected by this on different levels, but playing on MTGO is emotionally a different experience than playing in paper. Your opponents are meaner to you, the losses and wins hit you differently. Personally I find myself conceding Magic Online games MUCH more often than I concede games in paper. Situations that in person I might feel tension or excitement can feel like a slog on MTGO. I find myself asking the question "Do I really care if I win this game?" a lot more online. Some people don't feel any difference at all, and some people just cannot enjoy MTGO. There's really no way to know if this applies to you without playing yourself.

@80PercentBuffoon is absolutely right that a subset of MTGO players have formed an active and passionate community on the discord server he linked to. If you want to find people to chat with about Vintage and you don't have a group you're already doing that with, the Vintage Streaming Community discord is an awesome place to check out.

All that said, cockatrice and webcam matches are other great ways to enjoy vintage as a hobby from home. Of course the price is right (it's free). I own a set of power, but I prefer to play with (easily distinguishable) proxies, even over webcam.

If you're comparing Vintage Magic Online to other online games, the pricing model is pretty awful in terms of value-per-dollar, but if you compare it to other ways of playing magic, you're basically going to be able to play any number of Vintage decks forever, for the price of a single mid-tier paper Standard deck that won't be legal in three months. Obviously it's completely a personal decision whether the value is worth it for anyone. I own a Vintage MTGO collection and a Vintage cardboard collection but I don't have a ton of other financial priorities and I'm lucky enough that my career path happens to be a lucrative one.

Playing with voice chat over a video call gets me much closer to the feeling of actually being at a tournament than I had expected. There's no reason you couldn't set up a match over MTGO and use a voice call too, and you'd probably get about the same experience. Personally I prefer the usability of cockatrice over MTGO, though MTGO looks nicer. When you're talking with your opponent over voice chat via Cockatrice, you can shortcut all the things you shortcut in paper, you can move through phases without incessantly clicking pass-priority, you can't really misclick because you can just roll back mistakes. Compared to Cockatrice, MTGO can feel glacial. To be fair, neither is very usable and neither looks very good. I also suspect Cockatrice against an unknown opponent with no voice chat is the worst of both worlds, but I haven't done that.

Obviously there are massive limitations here that aren't true of MTGO. In theory you can find someone in a server looking for a Vintage game on Cockatrice but I don't think it happens that often. Basically you're going to have to find someone who wants to play with you some other way, and then arrange to meet online. Practically speaking, if you're not already part of a community that does this, it's not very likely to happen. There might be a public Discord server where people try to find opponents, but I don't know about it. I would love for people to use TMD to coordinate games, but no one does.

You're never going to see a "large, official" tournament run this way. WotC can't officially promote Cockatrice (though I suspect they don't really have a problem with it), and it's more or less impossible to stop people from cheating in a webcam match. Basically you need to treat a webcam match the same way you treat playtesting at a card shop - you play with people you don't think are going to cheat, and you don't cheat because if you do, what's the point? This is very maintainable when it comes to one-off matches or small tournaments among friends, but it's going to fall apart if there are big prizes on the line. Basically if you want to play in serious, large, official tournaments online, it's MTGO only. For me that isn't a deterrent, because the best matches of Vintage I've ever played weren't in serious, large, official tournaments. For me Vintage has always been a format about small, player run events with no WotC support. But I totally understand the draw of a Vintage Challenge.