Best posts made by Brass Man
posted in Vintage Community read more

Your life is short.

Too short to spend it doing something that brings you suffering.

There are many games and many hobbies and many communities.

People use Magic cards to play many different formats. Some people create their own formats. Many people prefer other formats to Vintage, or have no interest in Magic at all.

Playing Vintage is optional. Participating in the Vintage community is optional. Posting on TMD is optional.

You can disagree with someone without making fun of them. Or antagonizing them. Or invalidating their subjective experience.

You can make a good faith effort to understand why someone may not come to the same conclusions as you, and you can decide to engage them on those terms or decide not to engage them at all.

There are places on the internet where you can talk to people who are actually involved in the vintage banned and restricted process.

There are places on the internet where your well thought-out arguments and clever retorts won't get deleted.

Please try and have a nice day. You only get so many of them.

posted in Vintage Community read more

The year is 2003 and I'm piloting Dragon Combo, a graveyard-based combo deck based on the glitchy things that happen when you cast Animate Dead on a Worldgorger Dragon. Dragon Combo grinds through 4-color control decks, like the one my opponent is on, using Bazaar of Baghdad and Squee, Goblin Nabob as a powerful, uncounterable card-advantage engine. My opening hand has multiple Bazaars and multiple Squees, which leaves me confident in my ability to win a long game.

On the end of my third turn, turn my opponent casts a Vampiric tutor, untaps, and drops a completely unexpected Blood Moon. I have no basics, and Blood Moon completely cuts off my draw engine. We fight over it emptying our hands, and he wins. My beautiful board is now 4 Nonbasic Mountains and a Mana Crypt.

I sigh, untap, and draw
Worldgorger Dragon
The combo plan behind me, I tap out to play the Dragon, which exiles all of my mana and gives me a 7/7.

Two turns later, I've drawn blanks, but my opponent is at 1 life. I pass, and he has one turn to find an answer.

He draws his card and casts a Cunning Wish. Wish resolves, and he goes to his sideboard to pull out:

Hero's Reunion

I look confused for a moment, until he smiles and announces:

Isochron Scepter

With Hero's Reunion on a stick, he goes up to 8 life each turn, leaving my Dragon (still the only permanent on my side of the board) one power short of killing him.

...
...
...

Unless, of course, the top card of my library is

Black Lotus

which I immediately use to cast

Squee, Goblin Nabob

which attacks for 1 and wins the game.

posted in TheManaDrain Metadiscussion read more

Hiya!

Your humble site admin and friendly neighborhood Brass Man is in between jobs at the moment. I've decided not to jump right back into muggle work and use this opportunity to take a little time off to refocus on the things that really matter in life.

Like The Mana Drain.

There's a whole stack of features I've been wanting to implement and bugs I've been wanting to fix, as well as some development quality-of-life improvements that you guys won't notice, but will make it much easier for me maintain and build more in the future.

Beyond that, I've wanted to branch out into other channels for the "TMD Brand" to make that Patreon a legitimate deal. A regular podcast, blog, and other content. (The first episode of the podcast was recorded last night! though there's a bit of work to be done before it's published)

Because transparency is awesome I've made a public Trello board with what I'm working on. Items in the "To Do" column are the pieces slated to be worked on next.

https://trello.com/b/xyvw3uHx/the-mana-drain

If there's anything that you want in the backlog that you don't see, feel free to reach out to me here, or on Twitter @tmdBrassMan. I also plan on using the "Official" TMD Twitter more for announcements, etc. so feel free to follow @TheManaDrain for updates.

posted in TheManaDrain Metadiscussion read more

http://www.archive.themanadrain.com/ - the old site, is now back up. I'll be disabling new posts, but you should be able to log into your old accounts, read old PMs, view old threads, etc.

Let me know if you have issues accessing the site - but any support issues regarding the archive site are much lower priority than TMD-proper.

posted in Vintage Community read more

I deleted a few posts in this thread. I wanted to delete a lot more.

Protip: If you're starting a post with "I wasn't going to resort to personal attacks but .." or "I was going to be civil, but ...", it's not a good post

Protip: Succinct arguments are more persuasive and understandable.

Protip: Winning arguments on TMD is likely not an efficient path to policy change, especially compared to "talking with someone who actually has influence over policy"

I mostly deleted posts involving clear personal attacks, and those directly replying to them (which weren't necessarily bad posts, but would make no sense with the missing context).

Frankly this thread shouldn't have existed in the first place, as the conversation is exactly the same as the other two B&R threads, despite the fact that each thread has a distinct opening post - people can't seem to stop from discussing their pet policy issues in every thread where someone mentions any policy issue, no matter how related they are.

It's clear that there is another issue in these threads. Too much rhetoric, not enough dialectic. Too many people are trying to win arguments and not enough people are trying to figure things out.

Did you know that different people enjoy different games?

Did you know that different people use similar terms to mean the different things?

Have you noticed how rarely people make an effort to understand how their goals and preferences might differ before emphatically stating that their policy for the format is unimpeachably better?

posted in Vintage News read more

Making a mistake as a newer player running a 7 year old deck for the first time feels like a more plausible explanation than producing an entire 3-video match just to troll 3 people on TMD.

If you want people to decide that making vintage content isn't worth it, just keep making posts like that πŸ˜›

posted in TheManaDrain Metadiscussion read more

We're going to be trying something new on monday when the B&R announcement drops.

All discussion of B&R is going to be limited to a single thread in community. Any existing threads at that time will be locked, and any new threads will be deleted. The initial post will contain only a link to the announcement and the summary of the changes, if any (no editorialization). This includes discussions about cards to restrict, unrestrict, ban, etc. This will be the only thread for B&R until the next announcement.

As always, the site is a living experiment, and if it doesn't work we can reverse the policy and try something else.

posted in TheManaDrain Metadiscussion read more

Carried over from a discussion in another thread, this is a request to let a user block an individual other user, which would prevent them from PM'ing you, and hide their posts.

posted in Workshops read more

How about that Walking Ballista, huh?

I shouldn't need to tell you by now that Ballista is the real deal, but if you haven't been paying attention, it defined the January Power 9 event, and I strongly suspect it will define the meta until something new is printed or we see a B&R change.

I don't think it makes a lot of sense to write up a play-by-play, I streamed the event, and the entire video can still be watched on my Twitch highlights. Instead I thought I would write-up a little mini-primer on the deck, and why it looks the way it looks.

Genesis

The day Aether Revolt became legal, I played in a local 20-person vintage event. I was positive to I wanted to play Workshops with 4 Walking Ballista, but I wasn't sure on the build. There are/were three primary Workshop Aggro builds coming into Aether Revolt, Cars, Thought-Knot Shops, and Inspector/Chief of the Foundry.

I decided to build off of an Inspector / Chief list I saw Montolio and i_b_true playing in vintage dailies. All three versions have merit, but I went with Inspector/Chief for the following reasons:

  • Inspectors and Chiefs have more synergy with Walking Ballista than Fleetwheel and Thought-Knot, so I figured it would give me more useful testing data.

  • Some of the lists were running Steel Overseer in the sideboard, which is a pet card of mine and also felt strong with Ballista.

  • The deck looked more resilient to Null Rods, which I knew would be present, and I assumed adding 4 Walking Ballista to a deck would make it weaker to Null Rod. More on this later.

  • You can't go wrong betting on Montolio

I cut 1 each of Inspector, Chief, Tangle Wire, and Sphere of Resistance to fit the 4 Walking Ballistae. Generally that kind of move is a bad idea when it comes to tuning a deck or sideboarding, but it can be useful if you're testing multiple new cards and don't know which interactions are strongest.

Basically everything in the deck impressed me. I won the tournament, and had a post-mortem on the ride home with Brian Schlossberg, who played a different 4x Walker shops build in the event. As we talked about the cards that over and underperformed for use, the pieces began to come together.

General Deck Philosophy

Tempo, Tempo

I'll dig a bit into this later, but this list has a strong focus on running cheaper spells to make early game tempo plays. This goes hand in hand with added consistency. All workshop decks are fairly redundant, but this list has the highest range of "lock piece + threat + enough mana to cast both" hands of any Shops list I've played.

The Null Rod Dilemma

Null Rod is a huge factor for deckbuilders right now, and predicting the amount of Null Rod in the metagame is going to be key for making decisions in the coming months. It would be fair to guess that adding Ballistae to every shops deck would make the archetype as a whole weaker against Null Rod, but so far results haven't borne that out. While Ballista can't throw counters around under a Null Rod, an X/X for XX is not dead against Null Rod, and most of the time ends up better than Triskelion was.

In my experience the weakest Workshop Aggro deck against Null Rod are Car shops lists, with high cost threats that can't be crewed through Null Rod (though sometimes the one Null Rod-proof attack with Fleetwheel Crusier can be pivotal). On the other end of the spectrum, the newer Chief of the Foundry/Foundry Inspector lists are quite strong against Null Rods, even ones running 4 Arcbound Ravager and 4 Walking Ballista. This list is somewhere in the middle.

I've yet to lose to a game with a 4x Ballista deck where my opponent played a Null Rod, though this is a pretty small sample of about 5 tournament matches. The pattern is pretty consistent though. The player with Null Rod, often facing down lock pieces of mine, spends a lot of time and mana playing the card - which either shuts off their own artifacts as well, or precludes them running artifact mana at all, which is otherwise generally strong against Workshop strategies. In response to the Rod, a Ravager or Ballista on my side of the table responds by getting large or picking off a key blocker, and the Workshop deck is able to get there with vanilla creatures in the extra time it stole. In practice Phyrexian Revoker has been a bigger problem than Null Rod has. In particular, Null Rods out of Mentor decks usually aren't coming down until turn 3 or 4 through Spheres, and by then even a Steel Overseer can do something relevant. A turn one Null Rod out of Eldrazi can be much scarier, but if you can follow up with Spheres or Wastelands of your own, you can buy a lot of time for your cheaper creatures to get in there. The Foundry Inspectors out of the sideboard go a long way in games like this.

Of course, there are hands (particularly those with Overseer), that are weak to Null Rod. I have absolutely played games that I would probably have lost if my opponent had Null Rod at just the right time, but didn't.

Due to the adoption of anti-Null Rod Chief/Foundry shops, and the increased presence of Shops in general making Paradoxical Outcome worse, I expect Null Rod to hold steady or drop a bit, even though it hits Walking Ballista. This deck feels to me in a sweet spot between Null Rod counterstrategies, and powerful anti-aggro activated abilities - exactly where I want a shops list to be right now

If that prediction doesn't hold, and Null Rod continues to rise in popularity, it would make sense to alter the deck to be more resilient against the card, probably approaching the Chief/Inspector lists. If Null Rod became entirely ubiquitous, it would probably make more sense to drop the list entirely for Mentor, or to play a far more specialized Workshop build. On the other hand if Null Rod dropped out of the metagame entirely, I still like the deck, but it does make cards like Fleetwheel Cruiser a lot less risky, and therefore tempting. In the unlikely event that people continue to move to decks that are weaker and weaker against Rod, without Rod itself becoming more popular, there's probably a case for a Chief/Inspector list with its own maindeck Null Rods ... which opens itself up to slower Mentor decks, and the great wheel of the metagame keeps spinning!

Tradeoffs

Consistency basically always comes as a trade for power or explosiveness. An early Fleetwheel Cruiser puts a lot of pressure on quickly, and the trample can reduce your opponents options for good blocks dramatically. A Thought-Knot Seer disrupts the opponent on a non-mana axis, and is naturally immune to Hurkyl's Recall and Dack Fayden, and a quick Reality Smasher gives an opponent almost no time to react. These draws don't happen as often as a turn 1 Steel Overseer, but they're not exactly rare, and when they hit, they hit harder. Still, with most blue decks packing huge numbers of Swords to Plowshares these days, the expensive haymaker cards really aren't much scarier than a Ravager, and going wide with a few 1/1 Servos can actually be harder to answer than a 5/5 Reality Smasher. Still, you lose the opportunity for putting on heavy early life-total pressure with a single card - your Lotus is probably worse than theirs is.

While under the right circumstances, the threats in this list can be quite fast together (I managed to attack for 20 on turn 3 in a vintage daily), on their own they're definitely slower than Cruisers and Smashers. If the metagame shifted in a way where reach became a lot less important than life-total pressure (e.g. if shops and Eldrazi dropped in popularity), cards like Animation Module make a lot less sense.

In non-blue matchups, higher cost threats can be even more devastating, and they're less likely to be removed. Ideally, your cheap threats come out underneath a back-and-forth flurry of mana denial, and over a few turns become strong enough to handle your opponent's 6-drop threats. But if you don't get a few turns, a topdecked Steel Overseer might not be fast enough to answer a Wurmcoil Engine - doubly so if your opponent lands some well-timed Revokers. Basically, if your haymaker-driven opponent has 2 more Mishra's Workshops than you have Wastelands, you're going to be in a lot of trouble. Being on the play with a Mana Crypt or Black Lotus really rewards you for running more expensive cards - and while you can capitalize on those draws with a large Hangarback Walker, a 3/3 Walker on turn 1 or 2 is really not as good as a Skysovereign or Precursor Golem.

So far in my experience, not enough games open that way to be concerned, and even when they do, a well-timed Dismember can save you. If you can hold off just a few turns, sometimes that unexciting Walking Ballista teams up with a Ravager or an Overseer and ends up being able to handle those 6-drops just fine.

Card Breakdown

Creatures and Mana Curves

Walking Ballista is an upgrade over Triskelion, but it's more than that. The 6 CMC on Triskelion had always prevented me from wanting to run more than 2, especially in competition with cards like Wurmcoil Engine and Duplicant, but Walking Ballista is an easy 4-of for me.

Obviously a 2 cost card is easier to cast than a 3 cost card, but the differences aren't linear. Decks have their own sweet spots, and it's important to look at what kind of spells you want at different points in the game. There's a game-state pattern that comes up a lot in Workshop Aggro. In most matchups you want to keep mana pressure on the entire game, and that usually means playing a Sphere on turn 1, and follow it quickly with Strip-effects, Tangle Wires or additional Spheres. That means there's often a window early where have an extra 2 mana on turn 1 or 2 (Workshop+Mox being the most common), but won't have an extra 3+ mana until turn 5 or 6. Making a 3 drop a lot more costly than a 2 drop.

Consider a pretty average opening hand with Workshop, Wasteland, Sphere of Resistance, "Threat". In a matchup against an unknown opponent, it's safest to lead with the Sphere, and in many cases you're going to want to follow that up with a Wasteland on turn 2. At this point you can play your threat if it costs 2 or less, but not if it costs 3 or more. If your draws include more Wastelands or Spheres or Tangle Wires, there's a chance you're not playing a 3 drop for a little while. If your draws DON'T include Ancient Tombs or Workshops, there's a chance you wouldn't be able to play a 4 drop (especially the Thorn-sensitive Fleetwheel Cruiser or the Workshop-sensitive Thought-Knot Seer) for a long while. If your opponent has their own Wastelands, you might never get that chance.

So two-drops are important in Shops. But they're not so important that it's worth running a bad card over a good one. Porcelain Legionnaire was solid in some metagames, but loses some of its lustre when Triskelions roam the earth, and Thought-Knot is more common than Lodestone Golem. Steel Overseer is an aggro-mirror sideboard card, that's a little too slow to justify running in large numbers. While there were certainly players that liked to run 4x Arcbound Ravager, I was always uncomfortable running more than 3, if that, I tend to see the card as a game-two anti-removal/Dack Fayden card than a true threat in it's own right.

Four Ballistae suddenly changes the value of all of these cards. The 4th Ravager is an easy sell, and it didn't take many games to figure out that the Overseer/Walker synergy I thought would be "cute" was actually just strong. Legionnaire goes from medium to unplayable, but the count of quality 2 drop threats still rose drastically, from 7-8 to 16. This, of course, has other repercussions, which we'll talk about later.

Lock Pieces

There's nothing notable about the cards in this list, every Workshop deck is running some combination of these cards, and plenty max out on them like I have. Some of my recent workshops lists haven't run all 14 though, (usually only running 1-2 Sphere of Resistance), and even in lists that run them all, it's usually a tradeoff.

Running such a low curve makes it a lot less painful to run as many Spheres as you can. Between Ballista, Walker, and Module, you have a lot of things to do with mana that aren't affected by Spheres or Wires, which is an added bonus. Overseer gives you something relevant to do in a turn where you're spending all of your mana playing another Lock piece, and Module or Hangarback Walker are great at using up the odd mana you have left over at the end of turn. Workshop decks in general are "a pile of cards that are synergistic with Sphere of Resistance", but this list is even MORE synergistic, for whatever that's worth.

Manabase

All Workshop decks share a lot in common, and building one isn't terribly complex.

4 Mishra's Workshop
3-4 Ancient Tomb
5 Strip effects
6-8 Artifact Mana

If you're not starting with that, there's a good chance you're doing something wrong. I also suspect that the addition of Walking Ballista to the format adds Tolarian Academy to this list.

For this list I wanted the full set of accelerants - all the Tombs and all the artifacts mana. Basically every Workshop deck wants to guarantee they can play a 2 drop on turn 1, but this deck has so many 2s that hitting 4 mana early is very relevant as well. I've had Ancient Tomb deal massive damage to me before, but I don't think it outweighs how good the card is.

If you've decided to max out on all the accelerants, you're basically left with 4 lands in a 26 source deck. Thought-Knot lists can use this to run Eldrazi Temple, or you can fit in powerful utility cards like or Karakas, Ghost Quarter, or Inventor's Fair. My choice to run Mishra's Factory here isn't exactly groundbreaking, Factory is probably the most common card in this slot. It's common for a reason though, and the added synergy with Ravagers and Overseers was too good for me to pass up.

Perhaps notable, perhaps not, while I tend to think of 26 sources as the standard count for a Workshop deck, my lower-than-average curve made me feel comfortable only running 25, hence the 3 Mishra's Factory, rather than 4. Obviously this isn't a dramatic difference, but I think a similar list could get away with even less.

Notable Cards

Animation Module

The deck's namesake, alongside Ravager's modular mechanic. No doubt, this looks like a gimmicky card and when I first started playing with it, I expected it to be. My original goal was to build a Servo-centric deck to play on stream in between tournament matches. I quickly realized it was a lot stronger than I had predicted.

Cards that look like this are usually bad. Consider Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek, a pretty reasonable analog. Neither card is dead on it's own, but you're not excited to draw one without the other. When you assemble them both you get a neat interaction, something that gives you a big edge, but doesn't necessarily operate at Vintage scale - Thopter tokens will win a game where both players have average hands, but they won't beat a good hand that has Paradoxical Outcome or Monastery Mentor. Compare it to Time Vault/Voltaic Key and it comes up short, you need a really good effect to justify running cards that are sometimes dead, and Vault/Key doesn't even see the play it used to.

Animation Module is definitely a Thopter-quality effect, and not a Time Vault-quality effect. The reason it works out is that you're not filling your deck with Swords of the Meek. Every card that works well with Animation Module is a card I wanted to be running anyway. You're not sad to draw Ravager if you don't have a Module, but the deck has so many cards that interact with Module, you're not sad draw it without a Ravager, either! Multiple Modules are not dead, but not exciting, either - but I've definitley kept lock-heavy hands with Module and no creatures and been happy with it ... you're going to draw a card that works with Module before the game ends, and you're going to have a little more reach because of it.

Even given the sheer volume of synergy, I don't think I'd be running Module if it didn't cost 1. Remember everything I said about 2 drops earlier? This applies far more to 1 drops, it's just that there aren't a lot of good 1 drops for Workshop decks. It is so common to have 1 mana floating on the first turn, that Animation Module is almost always a freeroll. A Workshop, or an Ancient Tomb with a Mox give you a very pleasing curve of "Turn 1: Module+Sphere, Turn 2: Threat + Servo + (Wasteland or Land + Threat). With nine 2-drops that come into play with counters, this isn't particularly hard to pull off.

When the deck is working, you get out threats that get scarier over time, you get them in play before opposing Wastelands can do any real damage, and you free up your mana for lock pieces and activated abilities. If and when your opponent manages to cast anything scary of their own, Animation Module gives your team the reach to beat it.

Hangarback Walker

There's nothing particularly special about the 1x Hangarback Walker here, I wanted another Ravager/Overseer/Module synergy card and Hangarback was the next best card I wasn't running. If another slot freed up somehow, I'd add another. If I had to cut a card, it would be the first to go.

Sideboard: Foundry Inspector

In a vintage-timescale Foundry Inspector is a fairly new card to show up in Workshop decks. There's a good chance you've seen it around by now though. There are different use-cases for the card, but in my experience I've found it strongest in matchups where my opponent has Wastelands and/or Null Rods.

There are times it acts as an accelerant - with a 4 mana hand it's a psuedo-2-drop, you can play it, and then a Sphere, and then your second turn play out more than you would otherwise. In a deck with more 3s and 4s, like the Chief/Inspector lists, this might be worth a maindeck by itself, but with the overall low curve in this list, that's less important for me - I can play 2 cards on turn 1 and 2 without using an Inspector.

The ability to counteract a Wasteland, Null Rod, or Sphere without spending a turn ignoring my board presence, however, is very attractive in the matchups that revolve around those cards.

Sideboard: Null Rod

Obviously this deck has a lot of cards that get turned off by Null Rod. Still, there are popular matchups right now, notably Car Shops and Paradoxical Outcome, that get hurt enough by Null Rod that you end up ahead by bringing them in. Don't just swap these in without thought. If you're bringing in Null Rod, you're probably bringing in Foundry Inspector as well, and you're cutting some artifacts with activated abilities. Don't cut everything out of desperation though - Null Rod won't be in play every game, every turn, and Walking Ballista still scales based on your mana. Arcbound Ravager can be surprisingly effective if it comes out before Null Rod hits, it still has Modular, and you get to eat up those soon-to-be-dead Moxes in response.

Even if the metagame became weaker to Null Rod, I wouldn't add more to the sideboard or maindeck of this list without changing some of the other cards around.

Mulligans and early game considerations

None of this should be surprising to a Workshops player. What you're looking for against an unknown opponent is 2-3 lock pieces (at least one of which is not a Wasteland), 2 threats, 2-3 mana, and that mana has to be enough to play a lock piece on turn 1, and a lock piece or threat on turn 2.

Against a known aggro opponent (Workshops / Eldrazi), you want 3-ish threats and the mana to cast them, lock pieces are nice but not critical. Against a known non-aggro opponent (Mentor / Outcome) you want 3-ish lock pieces and at least 1 threat.

If you don't have a turn one play and you still have 6 or 7 cards in your hand, mulligan. Once you hit five, I honestly don't know.

Notable Interactions

Walking Ballista + Arcbound Ravager
Sacrifice some artifacts to Ravager, sacrifice the Ravager and modular those +1/+1 counters over to Ballista, and throw them at whatever you want. If you can attack unblocked (or move the counters from ravager to an unblocked Ballista mid-combat, hint hint), you'll hit them for that damage twice. 10 artifacts in play? Take 20.

People have been doing this with Triskelion for years, but now you can do it for a lot less mana.

Animation Module + Arcbound Ravager

Sacrifice any artifact to Ravager, pay 1 to make a Servo token. Sacrifice the Servo token to Ravager, pay 1 to make a Servo token. Repeat as often as you want to give Ravager a +1/+1 counter for each mana you pay. Terrifying for your opponent whether or not you've drawn a Ballista yet.

Animation Module + Steel Overseer

Module triggers once for every creature that gets a counter, so with Steel Overseer you'll double the number of creatures you have each turn, up to the amount of colorless mana you have.

Animation Module + Ballista, Hangarback

Less exciting, but still good over time. Activate Animation Module for 3+1 to add a counter and get a Servo. With a Hangarback you can get 2 counters and 2 Servos each turn. Walking Ballista + Animation Module won't get out of hand under normal circumstances, but if you happen to have an Academy, things get ugly fast

Animation Module + Tangle Wire

This hasn't come up for me, and I suspect it's rare that you'd want to, but Module can be used to keep a Tangle Wire alive forever. You can respond to the trigger on your own upkeep to add counters before your mana is tapped down. I suspect this could be strong if you had something else to do on your upkeep before tapping your board down, like activating an Overseer or Hangarback Walker.

The fact that Animation Module is a 1-drop permanent that works while it's tapped can be pretty handy with a Tangle Wire out, too.

Animation Module + Null Rod

Not exactly synergy, but an interaction worth knowing. The Servo-generating ability on Animation Module is triggered, which means it works under a Null Rod. Null Rod turns off most of your ways of adding counters to things, but you can still get one Servo every time you play a Ravager, Walking Ballista, or Hangarback Walker.

I haven't tested this yet, but Metallic Mimic + Animation Module combos off entirely under Null Rod - Cast a Ravager or Walker to start things off, then pay X mana to get X 2/2 Servos. Not backbreaking, but possibly worth keeping in mind.

Mishra's Factory + Ravager, Overseer

Not new to this deck but often overlooked. Ravager and Overseer can both put counters on Mishra's Factory which don't go away when it turns back into a land. Where this can give you a big edge is matchups where the opponent wants to do something powerfully anti-creature or anti-artifact on their turn. Factory and +1/+1 counters, if timed correctly, can turn certain defeat into a victory against a Serenity, Pulverize, or Oath of Druids.

Sideboard Guide

Mentor

-2x Steel Overseer
-1x Animation Module

+2 Dismember
+1 Spatial Contortion

I've tried a lot of anti-mentor stuff, but Dismember is consistently "alright" and everything else I've tried have been consistently "bad". Mentor being sideboard-resistant is one of the reasons the deck is so strong - so it's best not to hurt your maindeck trying to get too clever. Spatial Contortion acts as a 3rd Dismember here, because casting 3 Dismember in the same game will kill you. I would consider fitting a 2nd Contortion in the board, but there's definitely a diminishing return on removal against Mentor decks.

If you see or strongly suspect Stony Silence/Null Rod, you can also:
-1x Animation Module
-2x Steel Overseer
+3 Foundry Inspector

Most Mentor+Rod lists these days have 2ish Stony Silence and run the Swords to Plowshares/Fragmentize+Snapcaster/JVP plan. The presence of Dack Fayden could make Hangarback worse than Overseer/Module, and if my opponent had 4+ Null Rod effects it could make sense to drop some artifact mana over a creature or two. Opposing Wastelands probably make Crucible better than the last Animation Module.

Workshops, Eldrazi

-4 Thorn of Amethyst
-3 Tangle Wire
on the draw:
-1 Trinisphere
-1 Chalice of the Void
on the play:
-1 Tangle Wire
-1 Sphere of Resistance

+3 Crucible of Worlds
+3 Foundry Inspector
+2 Dismember
+1 Spatial Contortion

I like keeping Spheres around because the mana curve is so low to the ground. Your aggro-mirror cards all cost 1 and 2 rather than the 5s and 6s you often see in Workshop mirrors. Foundry Inspector plays into this plan, by providing an extra threat, but also smoothing out your mana in games where either player is heavy on Wastelands or lock pieces.

Your activated abilities are so good here that I don't think I would board them out even if the Eldrazi player was on Null Rods. You could drop a piece of artifact mana to fit in another Sphere/Wire if you wanted, but I'd be cautious about doing any more than that.

Paradoxical Outcome

+2 Null Rods
+3 Foundry Inspector
-3 Animation Module
-1 Hangarback Walker
-1 Steel Overseer

Module/Overseer is just way too slow here, and obviously bringing in Null Rods isn't doing them any favors. Inspector isn't particularly good in this matchup, but it's better than what you're taking out. Your goal here is just to throw down lock pieces and never let up, sometimes Inspector lets you get a threat on the table without slowing down the mana pressure, and this is matchup where a 3/2 now is better than a 5/5 later.

Oath

-1 Hangarback Walker
-3 Steel Overseer
+4 Grafdigger's Cage

Steel Overseer and Hangarback Walkers are the only creatures in the deck don't either count as a lock piece themselves, or sacrifice themselves at a moment's notice if an Oath comes down. This matchup needs more testing, as Oath isn't very popular online.

Dredge

-4 Phyrexian Revoker
+4 Grafdigger's Cage

Four cards is pretty small for an anti-dredge package, and I would consider running more in a different metagame. The maindeck here is pretty strong game 1 though, with 5 Strip effects, all the Spheres, and 9 Bridge-Busters. If you drop a Sphere to hold off Dread Return, your creatures should be able to handle quite a few Zombies, Prized Amalgams, and Ichorids.

Big Blue/Landstill

These decks vary a bit much to have a hard and fast rule, you have to try and get a feel for what they might be running in game one. If Crucible looks like it would be good for them, it's good for you. If they have Null Rods, you want Inspectors. If there are creatures that you can't beat without Dismember, run Dismember.

Post-Event Updates and Conclusions

This feels sacrilegious to type but I have mixed feelings about Crucible of Worlds. Historically Crucible is a huge asset in Shops vs Shops and Shops vs Eldrazi. Unexpectedly, in the games I've played where a Crucible came into play (on either side of the table), it was just too slow to matter. I suspect that Workshops matches are become increasingly about tempo, and that one turn spent playing Crucible, not affecting the board, is getting more and more costly. Crucible has such a strong history that I don't want to be too hasty, but I'm definitely planning on trying other anti-aggro cards in that slot.

I'm very curious about running Metallic Mimic alongside the Animation Module as a further hedge against Null Rod, but I would guess there are some serious consistency issues there, and little space to fit it.

It's hard to predict where the meta will go from here. The recent trend of 4-8 Swords to Plowshares effects makes Thought Knot Seer and Fleetwheel Cruiser a less exciting bargain, but Fragmentize, which is also gaining popular, is less great against either. I expect increased presence of Workshop aggro, and I like this list's position against those decks. Of course, more Workshops means more decks built with resilient manabases and answers to large artifacts, which changes the value of everything in one direction or the other. In the near-term, I think the adoption or falling-off of Null Rod is going to have the biggest impact on how people build Workshop decks.

posted in Vintage Community read more

I'm not trying to be combative, but I find this thread incredibly frustrating.

The idea that Yawgmoth's Will or Flash could be unrestricted lacks so much historical context that it makes me retroactively question things the suggester has said before. This is not unique to this thread.

The idea that it "was known" that flash wasn't resilient and didn't need a restriction is genuinely confusing to me. In my experience it was the most consistently fast and resilient combo deck the format has ever seen. It had an upsettingly good Shops matchup, and the only thing that kept it in check was 4 Gush 4 Brainstorm 4 Scroll 4 Ponder Combo-Control decks.

I try very hard to stay neutral on TMD about B&R issues, because I feel like my position as site admin is an unfair power imbalance. Still, in the wake of the recent restriction, when I see threads like this, I can't help but wonder. Is the fact that Wizards is paying more attention to vintage now a net negative for the format?

posted in Vintage Strategy read more

One way of looking at a swiss tournament is that X players play magic, and eventually the 8 best records make it in. That model for a tournament leaves you with the baseline strategy "maximize match wins."

On the other hand, you could also say a swiss tournament is one in which X players play magic, and if you end the day with 1 or fewer losses, you make top 8. (This is true for most, though not all player counts). This model of a swiss tournament suggests an entirely different strategy. You get to have one loss. If you don't take it, you'll finish higher in the standings and get to play first in the top 8 ... but you have the OPTION of "spending" that loss. It sounds crazy to throw away a game on purpose, but that's not quite what I'm saying. Your loss is a resource you can spend for an upside.

A classic example here is "The Dredge Gambit": opting to run zero anti-dredge cards in your sideboard in a field where you expect a dredge opponent. Assume for argument's sake that you're playing a deck that is very unlikely to win the match without a sideboard. Essentially you're gambling your swiss loss against extra sideboard cards for other matchups. In some cases, this is the right move - even if you DO get paired against Dredge and lose to it.

More subtly, you can spend your swiss loss on playing a less consistent deck. You can afford to take one manascrew loss in a tournament, or one "drew all my Grindstones and no Painters" loss. People are basically making this gamble all the time without realizing it. Deciding not to run free counters means you're spending part of your swiss loss on

Of course none of this is discrete. you're not literally taking a loss to run a more powerful deck, but you ARE changing your odds of taking a loss in particular situations, and you're getting a benefit or penalty for making that choice. This isn't new to magic strategy, we think of cards and in-game decisions in probabilistic terms all the time.

Consider how all of this changes with other tournament structures:

  • Would you run the Dredge Gambit in a round-robin tournament where it's impossible to dodge any dredge players who show up?

  • Would you run the Dredge Gambit in a single-elimination tournament where you would HAVE to dodge dredge entirely or be eliminated?

  • Would you run a transformational sideboard in a tournament where decklists were given to each player before the match? How about Cabal Therapy?

  • How many rounds does a tournament have to be before you start worrying about fatigue from playing a decision-heavy deck. Are you less worried about that if the tournament has a lunch break?

  • If you were playing in an event entirely composed of players you knew pretty well, would you metagame specifically for those players rather than global/online metagame?

Now realize that your typical vintage tournament isn't really a swiss tournament at all. It's two tournaments stacked on top of each other.

One of those tournaments is swiss. You get to take a loss safely, the tournament is probably a mix of strangers and familiar faces - with larger events consisting mostly of players you've never met before, and have no information about. It's multiple rounds, and if you don't play anything too slow, you can expect at least one of those rounds to have a reasonable break between them.

The other tournament is 3 rounds, single elimination. If you've been doing your job you know what the other 7 players are playing, and you have a pretty good idea of which of those 7 players you'll have to beat. Chances are pretty good that some number of people in the top 8 are people who frequently in your region - people who you could have predicted doing well before you chose your deck, sometimes people who don't mix up their strategies very often. Usually it's held at the end of a long day, with lots of spectators, right in your opponent's eye line, making very little effort to hide their reactions to cards they see you draw.

There are different strategies to optimize you chances in either of these events - but you have to pick the same deck for both of them. It is absolutely possible to make a decision to maximize your performance in the swiss at the expense of your top 8 chances, and vice versa.

And this is just one aspect of tournament-specific strategy as separate from magic playskill. Proper mindset and avoiding tilt is a lot harder for most people in a tournament situation than it is during testing ... tiebreaker math can be VERY complicated ... the ability to talk to judges and call them when appropriate is MASSIVELY important and underrated ... bad logistics can undo months of testing ... mind games are overrated, but definitely real ... rapport with unknown opponents, even just generally being a nice/classy player can be pretty critical when the top 8 is talking about a prize split, or you're paired down against a player who isn't in contention for prizes anymore. All of these things are real edges, and magic players love talking about edges.

If this topic is at all interesting to you, I strongly recommend reading Theory Games . I don't hear people talk about this one, but I rate this in my top 2 or 3 favorite magic articles of all time. The high-level summary is that since magic prizes are not evenly distributed, a strategy that optimizes for winning MATCHES is not as good as one that optimizes for winning TOURNAMENTS/PRIZES. You'd rather go 8-0 to win one event and 0-8 in four events, than 5-3 in five tournaments, getting no prize each time, despite winning twice as many matches. It's truly brilliant stuff, Karsten is playing this game on an entirely different level.

Of course, every single thing I've said in this post is absolutely DWARFED by the edge you get from learning to play just a little bit tighter. It's fun to talk about this stuff, but I wouldn't worry too much about it if it isn't your strong suit.

posted in Vintage Strategy read more

@nedleeds every time you post the word "derpstep" I find myself uncontrollably yawning.

posted in Single-Card Discussion read more

I think it's pretty clear that people are talking over each other in this thread. Despite ironically dubious references to it threads past, the principle of charity is a good one, and I think this thread could use a little more of it.

Could wfain have used less extreme language in his opening post? yeah, sure.

As a player who likes Containment Priest, I felt attacked by the title "Containment Priest isn't good"... is wfain saying I'm an idiot? But even upon brief reflection I realized that no, no he wasn't saying that. He was just saying that he expects the meta to shift a little, and make Priest worse. Which is pretty reasonable and could, in theory lead to a good discussion.

When wfain says "[Cabal Pit is going to be more popular] thanks to LSV" I understand why a player who ran Cabal Pit a few weeks ago might feel attacked or jealous. But was it wfain's intent to say "no one before LSV matters" ? No. Of course not. But I think it's completely reasonable to say that when a well-liked and respsected player does well with a particular card in a very public setting, that card may get more popular.

Now if it was worded differently perhaps drama wouldn't have cropped up. But the fact that it was worded in a provocative way doesn't mean we have to assume the worst. It's possible to just assume that you're not under attack, or to ask clarifying questions until we figure things out.

I'm thinking more and more that real problems on TMD tend to spring from people personally identifying themselves with a topic, argument, idea, card, or most often, a deck, and interpreting any statement about that subject as a serious threat.

In particular, once deck attribution starts sneaking it's way into the conversation, things feel like they get personal very quickly, and it's almost impossible to recover a thread from that point. Note the point in the thread where, unprompted, Stormanimagus says people give Mike Noble credit for creating Noble Fish. Mike (heirarchnoble) responds:

Much love, Noah. I'm the 100% originator of a deck myself, but it too was much more successful in the hands of a better pilot. ❀

"originator of a deck." I don't believe he's even talking about noble fish here, he's bringing a third deck into the discussion. But since we're talking about deck attribution, things get entirely personal, and Stormanimagus felt the need to respond defensively, giving proof for creating the deck that nobody in this thread has claimed he didn't make.

Another classic source of trouble is the word "tier", which, once used, will invariably make someone upset. I'm willing to bet that vaughbros and stormanimagus have the exact same opinion about how good Containment Priest is, but since vaunbros used the term "tier 3" to describe that opinion, and Stormanimagus uses the term "tier 3" differently, a micro-argument popped up there as well.

On the subject of provocative language and making it hard to recover a thread ... once you start making an analogy to racism (or any other politically charged topic), it gets incredibly difficult not to take things the wrong way. Even if it's a perfect analogy, it's pretty hard not to read that in a post and think "wait, now this guy is saying I'm a racist, too?" Once someone feels like they themselves are under attack, they're never going to agree with you ... even if they agree with you.

I could have just deleted this thread (and maybe I should have) but I didn't want to just get rid of it and have everyone think "oh, BrassMan killed this because the other guy got out of hand". A lot of people got out of hand. A thread doesn't go bad when one person is an asshole, a thread goes bad when multiple people take the worst possible interpretation of each other's posts and play off of each other.

Here are some super boring arguments in this thread that nobody actually brought up, and people got defensive over anyway:

  • Was LSV the first person to play Cabal Pit in a Dredge deck?
  • Are you a bad player if you've run Containment Priest before? (this one was my fault)
  • Is LSV a "tech thief"?
  • Did Mike Noble invent Noble Fish?
  • Did Mike Noble invent (other deck he didn't name)?
  • What does the word tier 3 hate mean?

In contrast, here are some genuinely interesting questions that have been raised in this thread:

  • How much impact does the appearance of a card on the VSL/a stream have on the metagame?
  • If we see an increase in the amount of Cabal Pit in the metagame, how does that affect the card Containment Priest?
  • If you're running Containment Priest as part of an anti-Dredge plan, what other cards (if any) are necessary or helpful to run alongside it?
  • In a Dredge deck, is Cabal Pit or Barbarian Ring a better anti-Containment Priest card?

Any and all of the second group of questions still have merit, and I'm willing to be that everyone in this thread still has interesting things to say about all four of them .

Let's please make an effort to detatch ourselves a little from our decks and ideas, and to not assume the worst from every post.

posted in Vintage Community read more

(as usual, and as expected) I'm far more concerned about the reasoning than the announcement itself.

If Wizards had just said "we don't like shops, so we're restricting Lodestone" I wouldn't have been thrilled but I would have understood. Instead we got an argument about "significant overrepresentation", despite the fact that Shops is neither the most played, nor the best performing deck right now.

If they're basing decisions on data they think is real but is easy to verify as false, where are they getting this information from? What could be restricted next time? Will someone tell them that a totally unplayed card is winning everything, and they won't bother to check?

I don't think missing Lodestone will kill the format, but I feel very powerless right now as a member of the Vintage community, and I'm not sure what, if anything, we can do in the future.

posted in TheManaDrain Metadiscussion read more

Just added two little features to make your posts a little prettier.

Card Links

Surround the name of a card with double-square-brackets to turn
[Brass Man]] into Brass Man .

Decklist Formatting

Surround a list of cards with triple-backticks (```)to
auto-format a decklist.

```
# The Perfect Deck
## Andy Probasco
creatures (4)
4 Brass Man
lands (54)
54 Island
Sideboard (14)
14 Forest
```

Becomes:

The Perfect Deck

Andy Probasco

Creatures (4)

Lands (54)

54 Island

Sideboard (14)

14 Forest

'#' and '##' markdown tags turn a line into a heading, lines starting with numbers are translated into cardnames and other lines are considered subsection headings.

Have fun!

posted in Oath read more

Oath

aka: Oath Control

Overview

Oath of Druids has an effect too powerful even for Legacy, and the Oath deck is uniquely vintage, with no real analog in other formats.

By playing a deck with only a handful of extremely strong creatures, Oath of Druids combined with Forbidden Orchard can put cards into play that have no business costing two mana. Against aggressive decks that need to get creatures into play, Oath of Druids can single-handedly decide the game.

Oath decks allow for tons of personalization, and throughout vintage history have ranged from pure combo, to fish-like tempo, to their most common iteration today, a controlling list that plays defensively with a big finish.

Why Play Oath

Mox. Orchard. Oath.
Got a Force of Will? So do I.

One of the most feared openings in vintage, and you get to run four. Oath is a deadly, fast, compact combo that puts your opponent on the defensive from the first turn.

Vintage these days is more creature-centric than ever, which means even just the threat of an Oath of Druids in your deck can impact the way your opponent has to play the game.

Oath lists have tons of variety between them, and small changes in creature makeup can have a big impact on how games play out, making it a great deck for tinkerers.

Why WOULDN'T you play Oath?

As much as Oath can do with a few good cards, sometimes it has real trouble drawing a few bad ones. Oath decks run a lot of cards that can occasionally make you lose to yourself. A hand full of Forbidden Orchards might leave you dead before you draw an Oath of Druids. A hand full of seven-cost creatures might not do anything at all. Even a great Orchard/Oath opening could leave you stranded with no library if all of your creatures have to be on the bottom of your deck.

Experienced Oath players know how to minimize these problems, but variance will still bite you now and again.

The unique requirements of the card Oath of Druids mean you can't run any cheap utility creatures if you don't want to Oath them up by accident, and while Forbidden Orchard is one of the deck's strengths, it does put some tension on the way you build your manabase.

Notable Cards

The Combo

Maximum copies of Oath of Druids and Forbidden Orchard are what make an Oath deck in the first place. Some Oath decks will run Show and Tell for extra ways to get giant creatures into play.

Oath decks will often run cantrips and draw spells, similar to most blue control decks, to smooth out draws. Because of the high variance in cards an Oath deck wants to draw or avoid, filtering cards, like Dig Through Time and Brainstorm are even better than they usually are, and raw draw spells slightly worse.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor is particularly notable as a hand-fixer, while acting as a secondary win-condition that doesn't get in the way of Oath activations.

Creature Feature

Oath usually runs somewhere between 2 and 4 extremely threatening creatures, often a mix designed to handle different situations. A creature's raw power, their resistance to different answers, and their castability are all important considerations.

Griselbrand is the gold standard of Oath creatures, winning almost every game he comes into play. Inferno Titan is currently a popular choice as a card that's easier to cast if you happen to draw it.

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is hard to remove and usually kills in a single hit, Blightsteel Colossus or Sphinx of the Steel Wind can be brought into play with a Tinker if needed.

Some Oath players will run even more specialized creatures in their sideboard, the full list of options would be too large to list here.

Disruption and Defense

Oath runs Force of Will and specialized counterspells like Flusterstorm to slow their opponent down and force through their threats.

Because an Oath deck actively wants creatures in play, dedicated creature removal is less critical, though a postboard answer to a pesky Containment Priest is useful.

Grafdigger's Cage is by far the most common anti-Oath sideboard card, so any good Oath deck is prepared for it. Abrupt Decay is versatile removal for the manabases that support it, and Ancient Grudge is a nice answer which happens to be very useful against Workshop-style decks as well.

variants

Salvagers Oath, Kelly Oath: bant-colored with the Auriok Salvagers/Black Lotus combo, heavy on control elements
Griselbrand Oath, Fenton Oath: Aggressive Oath deck featuring Griselrbands, Show and Tells and the Time Vault/Voltaic Key combo
Punishing Oath: runs the Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows combo as board control and a secondary win condtion
Golden Gun Oath: runs Dragon's Breath to attack with a lethal Blightsteel Colossus or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn the turn Oath is activated

Click the banner above to find decklists, advanced guides, and additional discussion

posted in Vintage News read more

http://themanadrain.com/ew2017

This one's ... a bit different from the sort of stuff I usually post on TMD, so it felt like I should treat it a little differently than I would a more traditional tournament report.

There's not a ton of magic strategy in here, but I think there should be something for most vintage players. It took a little bit out of me to get this finished, I hope you like it.

posted in Vintage Strategy read more

I really love this question, it's something I've put a lot of thought into before. I like Protoaddict's advice, and I think your instincts about shocklands are correct. Here's some food for thought!

I ran two manabases through the card-pricer at mtgGoldfish, dunnno how accurate it is but it was easy to use πŸ™‚

not counting the price of the moxes or lotus, they clock in at $3100 vs $800. (Not that $862 is "budget" by any stretch, but it's for sure cheaper). But this isn't a simple swap of duals to shocklands ... here are some things I would consider when trying to keep the cost of the deck down.

mox count

The lower your curve, the less important moxes are. There are UR Delver lists so full of cards that cost {U} that they don't WANT more than 2 Mox in their deck. You can still play URW if you're considering only having 2 Mox in your deck, but be mindful of what that does to your curve. You don't want to be running the high-mana stuff. Things like Jace, the Mindsculpter get worse when you don't have off-color Moxes, and that's all the same to someone building a collection because Jace ain't cheap to begin with.

That doesn't mean your deck is worse though, it just means if you're sticking to cheap cards, embrace that. Your advantage is going to be tempo and consistency, not inevitability. Run more cards that push a tempo advantage, maybe more Young Pyromancers than you would have in another list. I would even consider running some number of Delver of Secrets even if you don't want to build a full-on delver deck. Any cheap maindeck creature where you might have had a spell contributes here. Mana denial like Stony Silence and Wasteland become your friend. Wasteland does budget double-duty, because even though it's not the cheapest land, it replaces more expensive cards. Speaking of which ...

Library of Alexandria

$1k of the pricey manabase came entirely from Library of Alexandria. Library is a great card but cutting it doesn't have to be all downside. The whole idea of Library is that it's complete bomb in grindy control mirrors ... but there are lots of approaches to playing a grindy control mirror. If your approach to the Mentor mirror is to put on pressure as fast as possible and force your opponent to react before they build up their resources, Library becomes a lot less useful to you. In contrast, cards like Wasteland become better. Cavern of Souls is also an awesome option for breaking mirrors open, especially if you're running more creatures than the other guy. At $70 Caverns isn't budget for most people, but it's a LOT cheaper than Library or a Dual land, and if you already have access to it, 1 or 2 of them could absolutely be part of a strong manabase.

Color choice

White is just cheaper to play than red. Tundra and Flooded Strand are cheaper than Volcanic Island and Scalding Tarn. Even Hallowed Fountain is cheaper than Steam Vents, and Polluted Delta is a lot cheaper than Scalding Tarn when you're looking for fetches #5+. This pushes you down a particular path. Many UWR Mentor decks run a basic Mountain, because even though they have a mix of colors, against Wasteland decks (Workshops) they need that red mana to function. Running 2 Moxes already makes your splash color worse, and the price difference means it's a lot cheaper to be Blue/White-splash Red, than it is to be Blue/Red-splash White.

This means you're going to want a Plains over a Mountain and forget the Tarns entirely. Starting from that, this affects some of the other cards you might run.

Cheap Red anti-artifact spells like By Force, Ingot Chewer, and Shattering Spree get a lot worse, but good cheap White removal gets even better, like Swords to Plowshares, Fragmentize, and Path to Exile.

Though Dack Fayden is a Red anti-artifact spell, it's not so bad. As a 3-drop that has big impact, you don't need to expose a red mana to Wasteland until the spell is on the stack. If you play a turn 3 Dack and your opponent Wastes your Volcanic? That's not so bad, you still have a Dack, and you don't have other things you need that mana for. Losing a Volcanic after a turn 1 Ingot Chewer is another story entirely. Young Pyromancer is somewhere in the middle, it's not fantastic when your opponent is Wasteland heavy, but it's not awful either.

{R}{R} cards like Chandra, Torch of Defiance are right out, but you didn't really want too many 4-drop planeswalkers anyway, and if you really wanted one (and didn't want Jace), some Gideons and Elspeths could be pretty effective for you.

Pyroblast is no issue because in the matchups where you want it, your mana is rarely under attack. 7 Fetches and 2 (Duals or Shocklands) is plenty there.

Duals/Shocks/Basics

Years back I moved to a place where they didn't have a vintage scene, and I got into Legacy while I lived there. I played in a weekly Legacy tournament, and I won store credit pretty regularly and used that to build up a Legacy collection. At one point I wanted to play a U/W/x deck, but I didn't own Tundras, and I wasn't sure if I should invest in them when I didn't know if I liked the deck. I won some store credit that week, and I made a deal with myself. I'd buy Hallowed Fountains instead, and if I ever lost even a single game to the damage, I would immediately buy Tundras. Two years later I had never stopped playing that deck, and I moved away without ever buying the Tundras. If you have on-color fetches and basics and you're careful and you think ahead, the damage very rarely matters. Honestly you could get away with 0 Duals for a while ... but if you run 1 Dual and X Shocklands, it is extremely unlikely that you're going to have serious problems.

Basically you just want to make sure that if you're ever in a situation where you know you aren't going to need the mana - it's at the end of your opponent's turn and you have no plays - fetch for the shockland tapped. Sure, there isn't always a good time for it, and those are the games you take 2 damage. But usually there's going to be an opportunity to get the card for no drawback if you're looking for those opportunities ... especially if your manabase and curve are built for it.

There's also the general subject of how many Duals to run in the first place. I think it's pretty rare that 4 of the same dual is correct in a vintage deck, even when ignoring budget entirely (the exception is extreme off-color mana requirements like Shattering Spree, Pulverize and Doomsday). If you focus more heavily on one or two colors, it makes it easier to operate on basics and makes the 3rd and 4th dual a lot less important. That doesn't just cost less, it can be a huge edge against decks running Wasteland. If you've decided to run a shockland/dual mix, it'll only save you the cost of a shockland, but if you're trying to stick with real Duals only, an extra basic could save you a lot.

what's in your binder?

All that applies if you're building from nothing, but most people getting into vintage have SOME collection to draw on. If you already happen to own Scalding Tarns that could open up an entirely different, red-centric approach (but you're still going to want to be more 2-color focused and lower-to-the-ground, the fewer moxes you have). If you already have any pricey vintage cards, consider taking advantage of them. If you're playing in an X-Playtest Card environment (e.g. 5 vs 10 vs 15), this thinking can help you build a pretty strong vintage deck with a very cheap collection, by arbitraging your 10 playtest slots with the most expensive stuff that supports your 65 other best value-for-dollar cards

putting it all together!

So I took a random list 5-0 list from a recent vintage league:

Then I threw together an (untested) list based on the stuff I've been talking about:

I like both of these lists. But the second list is (19,135.50-12,134.06) $7,000 cheaper than the first. I have to admit it feels very silly talking about a $12,000 deck as "budget", but these same principles apply when you already have a collection, or you're playing in a 10-playtest-card-meta, or you're playing on MTGO where the decks are dramatically cheaper.

Another way to look at it makes it more appealing. Assume you're trying to build the first deck eventually, but you want a cheaper deck to play in the meantime (like the original poster). There are 30 cards in the second deck that aren't in the first deck.

of these, Caverns is VERY optional, I'm pretty into it in this list as a Library replacement, but it could easily be a Wasteland or Karakas or another fetch or basic, whatever. The total price of those cards without Caverns is $144, and most of THAT is from ultra-staples like Polluted Delta, Wasteland and Grafdigger's Cage (I'm kind of surprised Cage isn't in the first list anyway).

Certainly if you have your heart set on the more controlly, big mana versions of Mentor, my more-aggro version may not appeal to you, but (without having tested it), I think it feels pretty cohesive and has an approach to each matchup and sacrifices very little by not having access to a limitless collection

posted in Vintage Community read more

@baishuu "active users" can mean a lot of different things. I can say that there were 549 posts in the past month. The numbers I have for "unique visitors" and "page views" are so high that I suspect my data doesn't properly differentiate between human lurkers and bots. I definitely can't provide user trend data because we just don't have historical data on this stuff for the site.

Anecdotally, I can say that I can never remember a time when people haven't been saying "TMD used to be more active", even 15 years ago when the site was brand new and people were saying "Beyond Dominia used to be more active."

I don't have hard data but I do have a working theory. It is extremely common to see people go through phases with this hobby (like any hobby, of course).

People start out excited and passionate and consume every bit of information they can find. At this point a player is fascinated just reading lists of archetypes and historical results. Maybe they feverishly hunt down fundamental general theory pieces like "Who's the Beatdown?" Maybe they buy a physical copy of "Playing to Win." Thinking about the game in a new way, each win is thrilling and motivates them to learn more, each loss is a challenge to find that piece of the puzzle they're missing.

At some point they find a set of strategies that work for them and they start specializing. They don't really need general information anymore, they get the fundamentals, they want to learn what successful players are doing and replicate that. These players hunt down tournament reports and sideboard guides and archetype megathreads.

Some players have a knack for the game or a lucky streak and start picking up wins and the minor notoriety that comes with it. Notoriety is fun (speaking from experience) and these players tend to get excited about putting their own mark on the metagame. They want to take a crack at writing their own primers and tournament reports. A player with a lot of hubris, like my younger self, might even try adding to the great canon of magic theory.

Whether they have tournament success or not, eventually a player hits a plateau in their results and their interest starts to wane. Maybe they still like talking about vintage, but at some point reading primers and sideboard guides stops making them any better. Maybe they think their own techniques are better, or maybe they just aren't getting results from what other people write. Either way isn't making them any better at the game, so motivation to read them is low. On the other hand, "vintage issues" topics like WotC announcements and restrictions don't suffer this problem (they were never supposed to make you better). Proportionately, more of their conversation will be about these subjects. Some may refocus their efforts on community building, maybe through TO'ing or Judging or facilitating content creators.

Interest waxes and wanes, and maybe not everyone hits all the notes in the same order, but I think most players do. Some of the excitement can't be recycled, either. New cards can be printed and new strategies learned, but you can only read "The Danger of Cool Things" for the first time once ... even though people keep writing it over and over again. When you ask someone about the historical health of the vintage community, it's probably not hard to listen to their answer and pinpoint exactly when they started playing.

I think "the downturn" in the hobby as a whole (which includes TMD but certainly Facebook and many other avenues as well), is a lot like an adult watching a child's cartoon and saying, "when I was a kid these were much more entertaining." The cartoons didn't change, you did.

posted in Vintage Community read more

I run a website for a niche hobby community.

(and full time software dev on the side)