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Samantha: “Matt, the deck lost to Merfolk.”
Matt: “I don’t build decks to beat Merfolk. In any format.”

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@protoaddct said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

@brianpk80 said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

And to be clear, Hollow One would not need to be restricted were it not for Bazaar of Baghdad, which has zero mitigation unlike Mishra's Workshop, which has four instances (Chalice, Lodestone, Thorn, Trinisphere).

I'm not sure that is true. Bazaar is so powerful that we have not seen people try other options in vintage because why bother. But if you look at any other format where it sees play, it gets play with faithless looting, street wraith, and a number of other strategies. Survival plays some number of hollow ones along with vengevine and Rootwalla and god knows what else. If Tortured existence ever got a list, and it is truly powerful enough an effect to do so one day, Hollow One would see play there too.

It might still be a very popular and played card without Bazaar, but in all the cases I can think of, investing something (greater than {0}) to get Hollow One into play is fine; after all we can cheat all sorts of things into play at relatively low cost. Bazaar of Baghdad is the problem, and would be easily restrictable if not for its iconic status implied by the Forsythe tweet, it would be removable. Since it isn't, all we have left are mitigating measures.

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@trius said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

I really appreciate this article because it is looking to modernize and improve upon a game we love.

If you are reading this thread, I’m sure you love Vintage. As such, you should always be open to opportunities for improvement. If you are not open, you may be overlooking the change that takes the game to the next level.

Thank you Trius. That was a great analogy, very persuasive.

@aeonsovarius said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

We both know what compare means and that anything in the world can be compared.

You're right. I read your question as asking whether the two could even be compared in the first place. I did not mean to imply that either of us didn't know the meaning of the word and regret that it could have been read that that way.

@aeonsovarius said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

One of the major commonalities between the 2 is the creature type but i know which i'd rather my opponent have 4 of in their deck. (and to be clear, i don't necessarily believe Lodestone should be restricted, just that one is better on average and the deck it belongs to performs better on average).

Lodestone is stronger in play but it actually costs mana to play. Given Workshop (the reason it's restricted) shaves two off its cost, we can say that "in context with Workshop" it functionally costs {2} mana. That's a huge steal but a comparable but a somewhat better creature for {2} is sill a long way off in terms of efficiency from one that costs {0}.

Being a 4/4 creature is not a problem. Being a 4/4 creature for {0} is radical efficiency indicating an extreme power level imbalance. And to be clear, Hollow One would not need to be restricted were it not for Bazaar of Baghdad, which has zero mitigation unlike Mishra's Workshop, which has four instances (Chalice, Lodestone, Thorn, Trinisphere).

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"Fair" isn't useful as a precise metric since adding a Mox Pearl to a Standard deck makes it inherently "unfair."

It's useful though as a broad generic term to differentiate loosely between decks that can win swiftly, degenerately, and with negation of the opponent's existence contrasted with ones that thrive on "value" and grinding out opponents.

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@reb said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

@brianpk80

100% agree with everything in the OP (including bannings) and it's refreshing that some of the iconic humans of vintage have thoughts that align with mine, coming from the little guy. The only reason I still play vintage despite heavy disdain for the format is that I play my own brew and get to play FB: a clearly more egregious card than PO 😉 . If I didn't have that passion, I'd have left a long time ago due to - like you mentioned - player agency being at an all time low.

Thank you, reb.

One other thing that I think you slightly imply but don't state explicitly is that, at least imo, vintage would be a better format overall if the power of the format came from effect uniqueness rather than just rather than just sheer cost:reward reductions. For example, cards such as Gush, Standstill, Tezzeret, Doomsday, etc promote agency and decision making that is not present anywhere else in magic while still making you feel as though you're doing something incredibly powerful.

I hadn't thought of a uniqueness angle per se, though cards with more sophistication like Standstill, Ravager, Forgemaster, Trinket Mage and so forth are certainly more interesting than vomiting a bunch of 4/4's on the table for {0}.

@aeonsovarius said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

Lodestone has 1 more power and makes your opponent cast less spells.
Windfall draws 6 or 7 cards but they can be anything instead of requiring a deck of moxes.
Are all of these truly comparable?

They're comparable. Comparisons are made between two subjects that share attributes but are not identical. Golem/Hollow One and Windfall/PO share many attributes without being identical. Hence the comparison.

@aeonsovarius said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

If bazaar is arguably more overpowered, what do you think accounts for the meta share and win rates/Top8's of Shops vs Dredge?

Bazaar generates more value with less investment than Mishra's Workshop, regardless of what players subjectively decide to play on any given weekend. There's an example above illustrating how much it yields contrasted with the trivial investment of tapping a land. Regarding tournaments, if a dozen players randomly decided to play Sky Diamond instead of Mox Sapphire and those players outperformed the ones running the Sapphire, it wouldn't make Sky Diamond a better card. This notion of players' subjective deck/card choices influencing results further makes relying on that data inherently suspect.

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@joshuabrooks said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

@brianpk80

Brian,

I made a post a year or two ago that attempted to discuss whether certain cards should become sacred cows or not (at the time saying, "should the printing of a new card like Hangarback, be able to precipitate the restriction of an iconic card like Workshop").

I remember that.

One of my favorite things about Vintage is the ability to form long term relationships with certain cards.

I think this is why you, personally, can justify banning a card like Dig Through Time, but not Demonic Tutor or Force of Will. Our memories of Dig Through Time are short. Our memories of Demonic are infinite (just like Workshop vs. Foundry Inspector). I don't think too many people would bemoan the loss of a "newer" card in favor of preserving an old one.

Yes, exactly. Nothing from Khans has the kind of legacy as the pre-2000 defining cards in Vintage. Arguably a few things from last decade are close, like Crucible of Worlds, Dark Confidant, certainly fetchlands, Sensei's Top and so forth. And Mentor/Dig/Cruise/Ballista are light years away from even those, let alone Demonic Tutor as you mentioned.

I think this is why looking at B&R strictly through empirical data is difficult (as you seem to agree), as the presence of Sacred Cows dilutes much of that value. If we were being honest, half the B&R is probably being propped up by our affinity to certain cards.

I think there's a lot that keeps a few cards unrestricted including price factor, which is not an unreasonable concern as far as paper goes. I care about Vintage players who collect and are invested in the hobby and it would extremely cruel to dictate a loss in the four or five (or even six) figures as well as counterproductive to the goal of sustaining and broadening the format.

Most of the cards that receive great affinity are at least restricted however.

I know in the past you have supported Sacred Cows. How do you recommend we do that and by what criteria? For many years, Bazaar was synonymous with Dredge. Nowadays, you could hit 2-3 varied archetypes.

I would put it up for a vote. Bazaar and Workshop are the two most obvious auto-includes but it's not for me alone to say whether this definitively extends to Mana Drain, Force of Will, Dark Ritual, Null Rod (once called a "pillar"), or others.

How do you reconcile empirical data with "feel" data and what would be the best way to do that aside from committee? Right now, it just comes down to decibels (frequency and volume). Do you preserve cards or decks? And how?

That is an excellent question. The fear with elevating too much "subjectivity" is a spree of aimless and irrational decisions. I think two methods can alleviate this and another point I'll raise helps put more perspective on that concern.

First, there's always the democratic route. If the purpose of the format is to make the player base happy, some method of assessing player desires which is as maximally inclusive/representative as possible can be coordinated and executed.

Secondly, we could trust in a body of humans, in this case the DCI, to make judgment calls openly taking into consideration things that are difficult to quantify mathematically. We don't need a dissertation with 5,000 graphs, Venn diagrams, statistical regressions, and a quantum physics proof to know that Trinisphere is not fun.

And on that note, trying to use the current pretentious faux-math based approach has in fact led to results that are just as irrational and aimless, arguably even more so, than openly considering non-quantitative factors. We have a restricted list with Ponder but not the arguably superior Preordain. Lodestone Golem is restricted for its efficiency with Workshop while Hollow One is not for its efficiency with Bazaar. Windfall is restricted but Paradoxical Outcome is not. Four cards are restricted specifically to mitigate Mishra's Workshop and zero are restricted to mitigate the arguably even more overpowered Bazaar of Baghdad. Lotus Petal is restricted but Mox Opal isn't.

Given the above, it looks like we'd actually end up with a more coherent and "rational" result using an approach that openly acknowledges the qualitative and subjective factors that go into gameplay rather than the absurdities that result from relying on metagame %'s and "balance," regardless of how diseased each part of that balance is.

@khahan said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

The only argument ever presented against this that I have seen is that it could be too confusing for new players. What new players?

🙂 I wouldn't oppose that change.

@macdeath said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

I would like to see some changes, can't lie that I felt a little disappointed when I saw "no changes" in the latest B&R announcement (and I'm sure I'm not the only one).
But I think some of the solutions listed in this thread are a little too drastic. On one hand, some people are advocating to restrict everything that is deemed "unfair" (even advocating for Banning cards) and on the other hand, people want to massively unrestrict.

This was an excellent post from top to bottom. Though I'm a bit more gunshy on Flash, all of your recommendations accomplish the goal of improving the quality of Vintage matches, very efficiently.

@moorebrother1 said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

@brianpk80 I really respect your analysis and points. I have danced around some of these points myself. There is a very big challenge here there you are not addressing and that is the player base itself.

Thank you, moorebrother.

To be clear, the suggested changes are much less important than what precedes them. I wouldn't expect universal agreement on every suggestion I made, nor would I want to shove them down the throats of an unwilling player base. However, I believed and still do that there should be more written on the school of thought that elevates play experience and game quality, subjective as they may be, to the height of importance that they should occupy being that this is a game played for fun. The stagnant math-only approach is riddled with its own subjective biases, hasn't worked and isn't working.

@moorebrother1 said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

I like your premise and I like several of your points but I do disagree with the recommended actions.

I'm glad to hear that. It's better to have shared goals and disagree on the means of achieving them than it is to have widely divergent goals. IE, I don't subscribe to unrestriction fetishism, where "A small restricted list helps someone sleep better at night, gameplay be damned."

@moorebrother1 said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

I have found that most people like Vintage the way that it is.

I have had different experiences. I hear constantly about malaise with the certain aspects of the format from current and ex-players. However, it's not apocalyptic. Vintage is still the best format by far, IMO, but almost everyone I know wants to see at least some thing(s) change. I know people that bitterly loathe Paradoxical Outcome (the card, not the deck), same for Mental Misstep, etc. And our VSL audience of course hates Workshop.

@nedleeds said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

Well thought out article and I agree with much of your diagnosis. I don't agree with all of your prescriptions but I'm not off by much. The best thing that can happen for Vintage at this point is to create a Vintage B&R for however many more years MTGO lasts and a Type 1 B&R for paper.
Also, always, always restrict Misstep in all formats.

Thank you, Sean. Whether to split paper/MTGO would make a good unscientific poll inquiry to get a rough assessment of how popular it would be. Appreciate the suggestion.

@protoaddct said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

Part of the allure of the game is that it is ever changing, and anyone who dislikes change at that level should consider another game in my opinion because it was always the promise of Magic that it would be ever evolving.

Well stated.

@protoaddct said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

I do not believe any card should be sacrosanct enough not to be considered for restriction.

A lot of people share that view, which is not unreasonable. For now, it does appear that the Forsythe tweet simplified things by foreclosing that debate entirely for all current practical purposes.

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@chubbyrain said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

At what point do you start looking at creating a player run format instead of violating the core principles of Vintage? If you feel the only way to save Vintage is to ban cards based on power level, or if you feel the only way to save Vintage is to unrestrict almost every card, why can't you create those formats and try to gather interest there? If you feel 3 cards is a better maximum than 4, if you feel WotC is taking Magic in the wrong direction and want to limit the card pool, why not create that format.

I'm guessing this is directed at anyone who suggested a change since I didn't suggest things like reducing the maximum # of cards from 4 to 3 or unrestricting everything. I also never said Vintage desperately needed to be "save[d]." It's not atrocious and unplayable; there's just a lot of room for improvement, a statement that garners much agreement even while the particulars may diverge.

Drastic change risks alienating the people who do play the format, with unpredictable returns.

And that's why they've never restricted Mishra's Workshop or Bazaar of Baghdad. But they've mitigated Workshop without the sky falling and there's no reason to believe some mitigation of Bazaar would cause the sky to fall.

Restricting the obviously restriction-worthy Paradoxical Outcome is not an earth shattering or unforeseeable change, nor is putting Preordain in the same box as Brainstorm and Ponder. And Mental Misstep going sounds like it would be regarded as a cause for celebration, not anxiety and flight.

The bans would be the most ambitious change, but likely enjoyed in retrospect for years to come. Restriction hasn't sufficiently contained the damage from printing two more Alpha-level restricted cards in Cruise + Dig. Land, Trinisphere, good game, is unacceptable in the era of digital spectators. And frankly, the world is a better place without Monastery Mentor. There's no way to quantify obscenity; as the Court once said, you know it when you see it. 🙂

If you are the DCI, why would you do such a thing when you look at the hard data and you see the format is balanced, events are firing, and tournament attendance on MTGO is actually increasing?

You realize it's possibly to enjoy Vintage and play it often while still wanting to see it improve. Supermajorities wanted Mental Misstep and Paradoxical Outcome restricted last time the question was polled, many respondents being active players.

If I had to imagine the DCI's approach to Vintage, it begins with a sigh like an obligatory chore. "Do the numbers still look good on paper, great, moving right along, let's talk about Modern."

@hrishi said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

Very well-written piece and I enjoyed reading it, even though I disagree with most of it.

Thank you, Hrishi. I'm glad you asked insightful tough questions and will attempt to meet the stress test.

@hrishi said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

I find it interesting that Rich proposes a major spring cleaning of Vintage when he's talked about how disastrous the restrictions of 2008 were to Vintage many times before. What makes him think the same thing won't happen again?

Although I can't speak on his behalf directly, my understanding is that he believes it was simply the restriction of Brainstorm that was negative for the format, not the quantity of cards axed or even the identities of the others.

Personally, I don't think the 2008 restrictions were bad for Vintage. I was happy to see them. I think Vintage festered afterwards because the event was immediately followed by the horrible errata change to Time Vault coupled with the printing of Tezzeret the Seeker. Magic never had an inherent "defense" against "infinite turns" the way it has built in answers to losing life, being decks, discard, counterspells, anything and the abrupt out of nowhere ends to games without even a "storm" preceding it was demoralizing.

@hrishi said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

As far as I've seen, I understand attendance in the Vintage challenges is fairly high.

With respect, this confuses actively playing Vintage with unqualified support for every attribute of its current form. I play Vintage frequently, as does Rich, as do many people who would like to see some quantity of changes occur. One can even host and produce an entire show or podcast devoted to Vintage while still desiring some form of change.

@hrishi said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

if a company tells me that I can no longer play something I currently enjoy, but substitutes it with something else, I'm probably not going to want to play that something else.

Two points. First, one may enjoy playing Magic without enjoying a metagame with 4 Monastery Mentors. Second, changing the experience is exactly what happens with every change restriction, ban, unban, and unrestriction. Unrestricting Regrowth "substitute[d]" something that may have been enjoyed with "something else." So did printing Memoirs of Ravnica Part VII and Theros, which we both agree was terrible.

@hrishi said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

The DCI does indeed care about the size of the restricted list and endeavors to make it as small as possible.

There's a difference between wanting players to have great freedom and unrestriction fetishism, which is the belief that unrestriction is good for its own sake, without regard to its impact on the quality of gameplay. The DCI is not blithely unconcerned about game quality unlike a diehard unrestriction fetishist.

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@vaughnbros said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

We are all well aware that some of these cards are absolutely broken, yet there is always a huge backlash from conservatives about restricting cards.

Mental Misstep, this card was banned in every other format over 5 years ago now and has been a consistent 4-of in half of the decklists for that time period now.

Why is this format so slow to respond?

Well stated, Lance. Ironically, this approach is probably the most conservative of all; respect for Vintage's original foundation of sanity. We can see how 15 years of "anything goes and if you don't like it go home" mentality propaganda has warped the paradigm. Fortunately, fear of change is increasingly becoming fringe as Vintage grows into the digital & E-sports age. I hope the regulation starts reflecting this more accurately.

@mediumsteve said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

Are you sure that you even enjoy this format? Why not play something else?

Of course I love Vintage. This shouldn't even be in doubt. It's the only format where you can play my favorite cards, Library of Alexandria, the Moxen, Dromoka, Memory Jar, Balance, etc. I don't play any other format.

@protoaddct said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

DDT and TC would be silly to ban when ancestral is still a card.

Ancestral Recall is an iconic part of Vintage with a long legacy, like Mishra's Workshop, Moxen, Black Lotus and so forth while Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time are not.

@stuart said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

Working from the assumption that Vintage is in a bad place, I find all of @brianpk80's proposed restrictions to be completely reasonable. Not sure about the bannings, though I see where he's coming from. Now, as someone who enjoys contemporary Vintage I'm less sure about all this, but I still think this was a well-reasoned piece.

Thank you, Stuart. It's fine for anyone to disagree with the specific suggestions which might not be 100% optimal; I'm not omniscient (except for that one time with the Rector...). I wanted to put a better statement of the reasoning out there.

@13nova said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

The biggest problem with Restrictions in my opinion is that there are so many cards that were restricted, and stay restricted, with no real regards for how they interact with cards printed since their restriction.

You really want a spring cleaning? Wizards should come out and say, basically, **We are doing a grand experiment with regards to vintage. We are unrestricting every card that is not incredibly obviously detrimental to the game as it relates to the Vintage Format.

Although that goes in the diametric opposite direction of what I'd prefer, it would be fun to brew in that environment. It might even be a better time than the status quo. TY for sharing, Mike.

@protoaddct said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

I am against power level bannings but pro restrictions for the most part. I think a feature of the format and even the game is that sometimes, there are just powerful cards that you win with.

TY for the contribution, protoaddict. I expect not everyone would agree with all of the (in some cases admittedly imperfect) suggestions I had, but wanted to at least explain the thought process behind them.

@protoaddct said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

I actually do wonder if part of what you are trying to do to freshen up the format wouldn't be accomplished by making every cards a maximum of 3 copies instead of 4.

That's definitely a more radical change but I wouldn't challenge it if it became popular and implemented.

@kyler said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

Do cards that must be built around (like Paradoxical Outcome) have to achieve a higher power level to become unbalanced?

I don't think this actually changes the conclusion of restricting PO. I do believe there is a hesitancy to restricting a card when it would no longer be worth building around a single copy. When a card is in this category, you have essentially banned it without banning it. This situation creates the feeling that you are taking a more extreme action than was intended and creates the feeling that you are "killing an archetype" rather than weakening it.

Good questions, Kyler. I don't think there needs to be a firm rule that a "build around" card requires a higher power level to become restricted. Often there's a reason people would build around something (obscenely imbalanced power level) and that reason usually leads to restriction--Gush decks, Flash, and the Balance deck, for instance. As far as Paradoxical Outcome goes, it's not so much an archetype itself but the latest incarnation of the "Big Blue" archetype; one with an expansive mana base and the most brutal win conditions in the format. It has much in common with the Gifts decks of old, Tezzeret decks, and with a sprinkling of Steel City Vault.

@kyler said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

Why not just ban Serum Powder?

I made this same comment on Frank Karsten's recent article on the London Mulligan. In my opinion, cards that interact with the way players mulligan should go the way of cards that interact with ante. It is antiquated and only support decks that are looking to abuse the ability to mulligan rather than help reduce non-games.

Well stated. I suggested restricting it, but you raise a good point that Serum Powder is a special type of card that has attributes in common with other pre-game banned cards like Ante cards and Conspiracies.

@chubbyrain said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

Only TMD is capable of a thread that starts with "we need sanity and we need to restrict/ban all these cards" to "Vintage: The Purge" in less than one page...

Can we please focus on Brian's actual content?

Thanks, Matt. It's alright if people want to discuss things here other than the content of the original post. I'm not much of a "sanctity of the thread" type of guy, though of course if The Purge is attractive enough, it deserves its own thread.

@mediumsteve said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

Just because BK's post is long does not mean it is high effort. In fact, it is rather low effort.

It sounds like you're trying to throw daggers for no reason. This isn't a hostile discussion.

@mediumsteve said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

"Let's restrict or ban cards from every major archetype, except the one that I conveniently play" (Oath).

Before responding directly to this, I have to quote the section above on the Conspiratorial Miscomprehension Fallacy:

Many of us afford very important space for Vintage in our lives and are invested in the hobby as a labor of love. People who do so should be encouraged to critique the format constructively towards improving its overall quality. It is both inaccurate and insulting to dismiss complaints about specific cards or interactions as veiled attempts to prop up one's own win rate or pet archetype. Many of us play a wide variety of decks and certainly are not looking for affirmative action to edify some perceived fumbling Vintage Magic performance. That would be ridiculous.

Nevertheless, comments persist that miss the mark entirely. A prime example is, "If you can't beat X, then you need to do Y. And stop whining." The issue here is that winning or losing it not the root of the grievance and the comment smears the person raising the grievance as an idiot who doesn't understand how to engage a given strategy/tactic. In reality, the hypothetical person making the comment above is the one who is dim and confused. By failing to differentiate between "enjoyment of the game" and "winning the game," a fundamental miscomprehension is evinced. This is a fallacy based on misunderstanding key premises. Taking a step further, it becomes the Conspiratorial Miscomprehension Fallacy (or CMF for short) when coupled with a belief that B&R arguments are a pretext for some vaguely defined cabal ("blue mages!") to advance their own position. Rather than falling into this trap, we should give other players enough credit not to be so underhanded or pathetic and avoid using the CMF as much as possible.

First of all, I play many more decks than Oath of Druids, which I've only picked up sporadically in the past year. I haven't played it on VSL in years. Secondly, I wouldn't promote policies that serve only to make Magic easier for me to win. That would be shady, I like the challenge of Vintage, and to be frank, I don't need or want a helping hand.

Finally, I suggested a lot of bans and restrictions that would take cards out of most Oath decks. Dig Through Time is crucial for instance not only as a busted spell but to prevent self-milling before Oath activations. I think many Oath decks also play Preordain, Mental Misstep, and Treasure Cruise. If you think the quality of Vintage would improve by restricting Forbidden Orchard (the better candidate, IMO), I'm all ears.

@vaughnbros said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

Brian could've just put a poll in the initial post.

It would be a good idea to poll generally how popular an extensive clean-up of the format would be. It doesn't necessarily have to be in this thread, though if people would prefer, I could try to add it.

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@bibendum said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

I haven't posted here in quite some time, but after reading this felt I needed to dust off just to say the same thing Dutchess did. Great read, I agree on almost everything and really think you hit the nail on the head. People tend to forget while fun is subjective there are things that are just objectively not a fun experience. On the BnR topic, is there any card you want off the list that you feel would have an impact that is reasonable and not just be for show and ultimately end up a non factor (Crop Rotation / Thirst come to mind)

Thank you for taking the time to post this. Unrestricted Fastbond without unrestricted Gush probably would not break the format in half while making interesting appearances. It's actually less threatening in practice than Manabond in Lands. Fastbond was originally restricted because of Storm Cauldron and that's not a dangerous combo anymore; it still needs an outlet unlike Painter/Grindstone or RiP/Helm and the component cards are not as useful as Rest in Peace or some of the Auriok combo cards. Windfall is certainly not the most transgressive play in a world of 4x Paradoxical Outcome, but then we have to wonder if that's the world we want in the first place.

@joshuabrooks said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

Great article Brian. Thanks for taking the time to construct it.

I’m curious as to your thoughts on whether (apparent?) malaise with the format is a B&R problem or possibly also a MTGO problem (in other words: can Vintage as a format handle the scrutiny and frequency that 24/7 online gameplay bring?)

People often fondly reflect back on pre-Khans as a golden age, but I often wonder if that’s also a concurrent effect of Vintage transitioning from a weekly/monthly paper format to a hourly digital format as MTGO had a popularity spike.

Just a thought.

Great work! Well articulated. Hard to disagree with.

Thank you, Josh!

Magic has been playable online for almost 20 years through various programs (though admittedly without the promotion of MTGO specific things like VSL) so I don't think being able to play it online is what deflated interest in the format, since we were always able to access it. I think it is a B&R problem. They haven't gone far enough in breaking up the despised Cantrip/Dack/Delve + tokens engine or for many people the Workshop vice grip. Paradoxical Outcome looked refreshing for about two weeks until most of the community ended up on the same page that it's far out of bounds as a Magic card. And now Dredge plays more free counterspells than Landstill and can kill you quickly without ever using its graveyard. People were reluctantly willing to give Dredge a pass on account of the fact that you would be rewarded for running a high volume of hate; with that no longer being the case, it's indefensible.

@chronatog said in Quality of Experience - An Alternate Take on B&R:

Very good article. I may disagree with you about Dredge, but I agree with your overall assessment.

I would mourn a loss of Golgari Grave-Troll, but it is ok if the entire format is getting more civilized. Just right now it is some kind of an arms race that ruins all the fun.

On a separate note, I would suggest Force of Will as a candidate for restriction. Playing Magic is all about casting and resolving spells. Force of Will is definitely unfun card to play against. Not broken, though.

Mindbreak Trap is fine as it allows to cast and resolve spells. Specifically the first two. So if you are greedy and want to cast more spells, an opponent may have an answer for you.

And finally, two word - fetch lands. And I talk about Onslaught and Zendikar fetch lands and their reprints. Mirage fetch lands are cool and pretty balanced (not to mention beautiful artwork).

Thank you, Chronatog. An "arms race that ruins all the fun" is an apt description. I think Force of Will is a card that meets most restriction metrics, but I also think it qualifies as one of the sacred cows. I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest restricting it at all. And I would only have to cut two, while everyone else cuts three. 😛

I don't know if restriction can accomplish much with regards to fetch lands, since there are seven fetch lands than can grab a Volcanic, seven that can grab a Bayou, and so forth. They would have to be banned, and Wasteland might then require restriction (and a ban in Legacy without fetchlands there).

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@duchess said in An Alternate Take on B&R:

Brian, I’ve been saying and thinking things exactly like this for over a year now, I can’t say enough how much I appreciate your post. You’ve made it much more clear and understandable than I’m ever able to. Well done.

Thank you so much, duchess.

posted in Vintage Community read more

Hi everyone,

I'm writing to more thoroughly define an alternative approach to Vintage's ban and restriction policy. Taken out of context, some of the conclusions I've shared may have sounded radical because I hadn't taken the time to comprehensively flesh out the reasoning behind them. I will attempt to do so here. A few months ago, I promised I would elaborate more at some point in the future, but refrained from doing so then because there was a controversial debate brewing and I didn't want to trivialize a clearer statement as a mere response to a petty online argument. It's not necessary that anyone or everyone agrees (though some do) with the arguments raised below but I think it is important that we have a better view of the perspective, rather than the vacuum that currently exists.

The core principle is that the most important attribute in Vintage (and all Magic by extension) is fun. Enjoyment of the game. This should be self-evident, though over a decade of muddied waters has misled many into believing canards like "metagame diversity," "% of top 8's," and "less restrictions" are paramount when, while relevant, they are ancillary to the prime objective of an enjoyable experience.

We begin by acknowledging that fun is not a zero sum game. Magic is not a simplistic "winning is fun, losing is unfun" binary. We've all lost countless games that have been engaging, rewarding and even at times mesmerizing. And by contrast, most have us of won our fair share of "non-games" that were better left unplayed. Increasing the former while decreasing the latter has been a DCI principle in all formats since the dawn of regulation and should remain so.

Secondly, the fact that "fun" is perceived differently by different players is not a legitimate excuse to pretend it does not exist. Doing so would be a casebook example of the McNamara fallacy (aka the quantitative fallacy), a line of thinking that ignores full reality in favor of specious numbers that is seen far too often in the era of big data. One cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that whatever any data says on metgame %'s, a card like Trinisphere is a bad time. The DCI explicitly acknowledged the (obvious) importance of game enjoyment when they restricted it.

To that end, several criteria are universally embraced as promoting positive gaming experiences: agency/interactivity, diversity of options, (relative) game balance, novelty, reward of skill & knowledge, diminution of luck and die-roll, and game length.

Agency

Agency here refers to some degree of control over how the game plays out, drawing from deck building choices, format knowledge, knowledge of rules, familiarity with Vintage's interactions, mulligan decisions, sequencing, and interaction choices. The antithesis of agency is embodied in the "non-game."

In Vintage, we accept that there will be over-the-top plays more than we'd see in any other format. However, we don't accept that these occur without restraint or routinely involve cards that remain unrestricted* (Bazaar and Workshop being avowed ad hoc exceptions). And we have a template for understanding what goes too far over the line because we already have a restricted list. We can see how clearly a card like Paradoxical Outcome falls far outside historical norms simply by acknowledging that less one-sided facile blowout cards like Wheel of Fortune, Timetwister, and Mind's Desire are already restricted. We can appreciate the perversion of 8-12 power worth of Hollow Ones for {0} by reference to the comparatively overpriced and impotent Tinker, a card so offensive to many that it was frequently raised for ban discussion last decade on the back of its Darksteel Colossus interaction alone.

We accept that blowouts will happen riding on the strength of restricted cards, but even these types of non-games are regarded as bugs rather than features of the format. We need look no further than the ubiquitous appeals to players in other formats that always begin with dispelling the myth that Vintage is a turn one irretrievably broken format. Why? Because no one would want to play so many low-quality games. This is a no-brainer. We all agree that better game quality leads to the greater appeal that will grow and sustain the format. We can only register amusement when a Vintage ambassador stresses its strategic depth and downplays the quantity of non-games without espousing policies that promote the former and reduce the latter. To this end, cards that consistently contribute to non-interactive non-games should be discouraged. Doing so also increases the value of skill & knowledge as well as generally increasing game length while decreasing dependence on the die roll. Hence, offensive cards like Ancestral Recall, Tolarian Academy, Chalice of the Void, and so forth can and should be regulated aggressively.

Game Balance

By game balance, I'm referring to the concept of relative and absolute "power level" of individual cards, both in context and as standalone entities. Balance of different decks relates to metagame diversity which will be discussed in different parts below. Here, I'm referring to the calibration of cards' power levels that makes a game like Magic functional.

Economy is key to discerning power level. If you're "getting" far more than you're "giving," we have an imbalance. For instance, we know from the history of Magic's printings that the going rate for drawing 3 cards is somewhere between 4 and 5 mana (consider cards like Harmonize, Blue Sun's Zenith and so forth). Drawing 3 cards at Instant speed for {U} gives the caster a benefit between 3x and 4x the investment and hence qualifies as one of the most broken cards ever printed. Tinker presents a similar ratio where a target like Blightsteel Colossus is obtained at approximately 25% cost, then factoring in the comparatively marginal cost of the sacrificed artifact and requirement that one of the mana had been blue.

Some cards are degenerately broken in absolute terms (ie Time Walk) while others demonstrate brokenness only in a given context. A good example of the latter is Golgari Grave-Troll which effectively reads "Draw 6" in conjunction with Bazaar of Baghdad. A card can be indefensibly broken even while not seeing much play, like Channel or Show and Tell. As I see it, cards like Tolarian Academy, Mana Crypt, and Monastery Mentor require regulation independently of any given metagame. Mox Sapphire would not become an unrestrictable card if it suddenly vanished from Top 8's for a few months because of its intrinsic imbalance. Whether alone or in specific context, imbalance occurs when something is being yielded far greater than what would be an expected return on investment, a phenomenon that must be limited to eschew an entropy-like degeneration of the game. Hence, for the sake of game balance, power level will always be a critical factor to examine, irrespective of what players happen to be playing at any given point in time.

Novelty

The first few spectacles of cards like Treasure Cruise and Paradoxical Outcome are exciting. Until they're not. Seeing the same play patterns repeat ad nauseam makes for both a drab game and viewing experience. While not a paramount factor, the notion that something is getting very old and very tiring should be considered with a predilection for change and refreshment. Boredom is a legitimate indicator of something being "un-fun." As Magic becomes more of a digital player and online spectator experience, years of "No Changes" becomes increasingly unacceptable. As far as paper goes, the pace of change will not place an unreasonable burden on players since Mishra's Workshop and Bazaar of Baghdad are immune from direct restriction. Acquiring 4 Steel Overseers after the restriction of Thorn of Amethyst for instance is a drop in the bucket contrasted with having to acquire those lands or recoup their losses.

Sanity

Sanity is not a new frontier. It is the foundation of Vintage. It's helpful to understand the historical context of Vintage to appreciate how far off the deep end the present is. Vintage at its most popular was a highly regulated format with cards like Feldon's Cane restricted simply because it could reuse other restricted cards. While we may concede the DCI was at times overly paternalistic, no long term harm was done since wrongly restricted cards were frequently unrestricted in subsequent updates. Hence there is no need for paranoia or unwarranted "caution" about adding cards on a more regular basis. What changes can change yet again. More dynamism in fact would be preferable than maintaining a neglect-ridden status quo.

In the 2000's, a toxic "anything goes" school of thought began to metastasize with leading influencers propagating the notion that a smaller restricted list was an end unto itself rather than a means to achieve a better game. This clearly ridiculous sentiment persisted without serious challenge and coincided with the DCI's increasing lack of interest in Vintage, leading to years of "No Changes" aside from an occasional irrelevant unrestriction. To illustrate, even at the nadir of Workshop misery, the 4x Chalice-Lodestone era, nothing at all was restricted from 2009 (Thirst for Knowledge) until 2015 (Treasure Cruise).

At long last, with increased interest in Vintage due to the Vintage Super League, Vintage Masters, and Eternal Masters, the company now able to monetize the format suddenly began taking responsibility for it. We had a slew of long overdue necessary (though insufficient) restrictions that came to an unfortunate abrupt halt in August of 2017, to the dismay of many. Despite dwindling paper attendance since then, increased malaise with the format's Tier decks, and an explosion of negative play patterns and non-games, the DCI retreated into silence, hiding behind the pretense of "metagame diversity" presumably obtained and supported by weekly Challenges. Granted, metagame diversity is important, but elevating it above enjoying the game puts the cart before the horse. What looks good on paper is often horrific in practice, and the DCI's neglect could move anyone to reasonably infer that they haven't actually watched a single game in over a year.

A note on the:

Conspiratorial Miscomprehension Fallacy

Many of us afford very important space for Vintage in our lives and are invested in the hobby as a labor of love. People who do so should be encouraged to critique the format constructively towards improving its overall quality. It is both inaccurate and insulting to dismiss complaints about specific cards or interactions as veiled attempts to prop up one's own win rate or pet archetype. Many of us play a wide variety of decks and certainly are not looking for affirmative action to edify some perceived fumbling Vintage Magic performance. That would be ridiculous.

Nevertheless, comments persist that miss the mark entirely. A prime example is, "If you can't beat X, then you need to do Y. And stop whining." The issue here is that winning or losing it not the root of the grievance and the comment smears the person raising the grievance as an idiot who doesn't understand how to engage a given strategy/tactic. In reality, the hypothetical person making the comment above is the one who is dim and confused. By failing to differentiate between "enjoyment of the game" and "winning the game," a fundamental miscomprehension is evinced. This is a fallacy based on misunderstanding key premises. Taking a step further, it becomes the Conspiratorial Miscomprehension Fallacy (or CMF for short) when coupled with a belief that B&R arguments are a pretext for some vaguely defined cabal ("blue mages!") to advance their own position. Rather than falling into this trap, we should give other players enough credit not to be so underhanded or pathetic and avoid using the CMF as much as possible.

Spring Cleaning

Given the rot that has been allowed to accumulate despite Wizards insisting they would properly manage the fallout from not testing for Eternal formats, a major Spring Cleaning is the best place to start. Here we'll identify some changes.

First, the format needs a reset button because too many overpowered transgressions have gone unchecked, creating an abysmal "new normal" whose only redeeming factor is the fact that one group of cards that should be restricted is "balanced" by the fact that there's another set of cards that should also be restricted or banned.

Eternal guru Rich Shay recently publicized an initial statement of what I'll refer to here as the Spring Cleaning in his VSL interview by Hipsters of the Coast.

I agree with him, and whatever particulars I could slightly differ on pale in comparison to the enormous concurrence on the need for The Cleaning. Below, I'll outline some changes I would be happy to see implemented and why.

Suggested Changes

Restrict:
-Hollow One
-Serum Powder
-Golgari Grave-Troll

Bazaar of Baghdad is the most broken unrestricted card in Vintage right now by far. It would easily get the axe were it not for Aaron Forsthye's infamous tweet that put "pillars of the format" like Mishra's Workshop (and presumably Bazaar of Baghdad) off limits.

It is a crime that we've restricted four cards to mitigate Mishra's Workshop but zero for Bazaar of Baghdad when the latter is so much more broken than the former. This needs to change immediately.

Mishra's Workshop generates 3 mana, with constraints. Tapping a single Bazaar of Baghdad generates well over a doezn mana of value. How do we figure?

Let's look at a run of the mill Dredge opener. The Dredge player taps Bazaar, discarding Stinkweed Imp, Prized Amalgam, and Serum Powder, plays a Hollow One and passes with a hand of Force of Will, Mental Misstep, Bloodghast, and Narcomoeba. On the next upkeep, the Dredge player draws 5 cards into the graveyard via Stinkeed Imp, revealing another Stinkweek Imp, draws 5 more cards from that, discards them and the Bloodghast, and draws 5 more. 1 Narcomoeba enters play, 1 Bloodghast, and 2 Prized Amalgams scheduled to enter at end of turn, with an Ichorid following that. 2 Cabal Therapies and 1 Bridge from Below. The Narc and Ghast are sacrificed to Cabal Therapy.

What is the approximate going rate for 17 power spread across six creatures, 2 free Duresses, and a leyline of Dack Fayden, even setting aside the drawing of 15 cards? It's certainly a lot higher than a Foundry Inspector and some other artifact. The rate of return is even higher on Bazaar of Baghdad than it is on Ancestral Recall and Tinker.

We're talking about a deck with an over 80% game 1 win rate that demands half of the sideboard of the rest of the format. This was never acceptable, but the community meekly resigned without a fight since it arose during the period of extreme neglect; nothing was changing. The only saving grace Dredge had was that if you prepared responsibly, you would generally be rewarded for your choices. That has changed with the integration of more free countermagic than most Xerox and even Landstill decks and the fact that it can now just easily convert itself into Delver. Yes, Delver. An undercosted fast threat backed by a wall of countermagic and perpetual card selection. Except that Hollow One is bigger and cheaper than the posterchild for efficiency itself, Delver of Secrets, and the card selection engine also happens to cost {0}. This deck has become a total joke that makes a mockery out of Magic. It would be different if the deck was capable of broken plays requiring restricted cards, but the fact that none of its key components are restricted (not even its 0-mana 1-sided Draw 7) places it far over the line. It is long past time for Bazaar of Baghdad to pay a price like Mishra's Workshop for its continued existence as a 4x.

Hollow One is the easiest culprit to identify because it's so broken on its face. {0} is not the going rate for a 4/4 creature. Serum Powder is inherently suspicious as a one sided free Wheel of Fortune. Golgari-Grave Troll might not fully get the job done without Stinkweed Imp restricted but I'd be interested to see what results and adjust accordingly afterwards.

Restrict:
-Paradoxical Outcome

Where do we even begin with this monster... It's functionally superior to Timetwister and Wheel of Fortune, chains together more easily than Mind's Desire, and is extremely un-fun to witness from the other side of the table. In a recent unscientific poll, a cross section of the Vintage community wanted to see this restricted by a 2-1 margin, an outright reversal of the results from the same inquiry in 2017. Aaron Forsythe expressed that the purpose of the banned and restricted list is to keep current Vintage players happy. This one is a no-brainer.

Restrict:
-Mental Misstep
-Preordain

There's an argument to be made that as atrocious as Mental Misstep is, the things that it suppresses are even worse. That may be possible but I think it's now worth it to put that theory to the test. If the change fails, it can be unrestricted. That we can undo changes is again another reason to support more rather than finding them terrifying, since subsequent changes can remedy experiments gone awry. Mental Misstep is the most desired restriction in the format, even more than Paradoxical Outcome. It is loathed from sea to shining sea, a violation on all three levels of power level, un-fun factor, and saturation. Bye, Felicia.

Preordain enables too much consistency and acquisition of restricted cards just like Brainstorm and Ponder, but perhaps even more conveniently than the latter. Its presence as a 4x in almost every top blue deck gives it a saturation problem. It's not possible to reconcile Ponder's restriction with Preordain being unrestricted. Deferring to the current restricted list, Preordain must be included.

Restrict:
-Phyrexian Revoker
-Walking Ballista
*Foundry Inspector (Possibly)
*Sphere of Resistance (Possibly)

It's clear from the most cursory review of chatter that the player base is still dissatisfied with Mishra's Workshop even though its current mitigations are preferable to what existed previously. Many would like to see Workshop itself removed, and while it meets every metric for doing so, the fact that Aaron Forsythe so recently said it was off the table leaves us only with further mitigation to consider. I consider this a better path since restricting Mishra's Workshop is so drastic after players and theorists spent two decades relying on its presence as a 4x. It's the kind of move that should not be made until all other avenues are exhausted.

Like Thorn of Amethyst and Lodestone Golem, Phyrexian Revoker is not a broken card in a vacuum, but becomes broken contextually via the very broken Mishra's Workshop. Forgetting the "unless [they're] mana abilities" clause was a huge error for Vintage. "Revoker, Name Watery Grave" wouldn't be acceptable in most formats and the nature of Vintage puts it perilously close to this. We know from the statement upon the restriction of Chalice of the Void that the use of Moxen in Vintage is something to be celebrated, not unduly punished. The two mana Stone Rain/Sphere of Resistance that also chips away at the life total is currently the most offensive unrestricted card in Workshop. It is in fact more disruptive than currently restricted Thorn of Amethyst which has no aggro utility. Allowing players to use Moxen, Noble Hierarchs, Deathrite Shamans and so forth to counteract the broken Lotus Land + Taxing plan is something to be encouraged. Revoker contravenes this goal. It should go.

Walking Ballista was a terrible Vintage printing that unnecessarily upgraded an already busted Shops card, Triskelion. While it's simply very strong in other formats, the brokenness of Mishra's Workshop arguably pushes it over the line, as well as giving it reach and direct damage that shouldn't be so easily available. The fact that it deters so many small creature strategies is a net negative for the format. For those reasons, I believe axing Revoker and Ballista are the best next steps to mitigating Mishra's Workshop.

Some expert players have suggested Foundy Inspector and/or Sphere of Resistance as well. There are credible arguments to be made for either. Stephen Menendian suggested Arcbound Ravager, but I don't believe Mishra's Workshop breaks that card beyond the power level it sees in other formats (it always costs 2, whereas Workshop can regularly create 3/3 and 4/4 Ballistas). Further, as strong as Ravager is, it rewards skill and "Ravager math" games aren't the cause of the major public outcries about unrestricted Mishra's Workshop. It's the taxing. The taxing/mana denial cards are always the culprits (I include Chalice in this) and the current restricted list reflects this. Phyrexian Revoker qualifies as one where Arcbound Ravager does not.

On a final note, I would add that most of the problems the taxing presents has continued unabated because of the design team's absurd lack of relevant printings that address this problem. At first we heard "oh we can't pollute Standard with such cards," and now that they regularly produce Eternal only sets, what's the excuse? There is none. There are so many ways this could have been easily resolved but now the time has long past for counting on new printings to set it right. We'd only be disappointed.

Ban:
-Monastery Mentor
-Trinisphere
-Dig Through Time
-Treasure Cruise

Vintage has a very sprawling ban list, and the last cards added for power level reasons were removed when new printings and changes clarified that they were no longer terribly problematic as singletons (in the case of Channel and later Time Vault) or even as 4x (Mind Twist). Nothing prevents the DCI from banning cards in Vintage for any reason (or for no reason). The four cards above I have identified fill the criteria of having a "terrible warping effect on Vintage" that "has not been sufficiently reduced by restriction."

Monastery Mentor is an oxygen-swallowing atrocity wherever it shows up, whether it's as a 1x or a 4x. The ideal number is 0.

Trinisphere out of Workshop is some of the worst Magic known to anyone. As it becomes more of a spectator sport, this blight will need to go. It will also further loosen the taxing problem that has aggravated so many players.

Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time provide blue decks with two additional Alpha power-level restricted cards that begin to make a joke out of the concept of restriction. A few years ago, both Ryan Eberhart (diophan) and Stephen Menendian floated the idea of banning them to contain what Sean O'Brien refers to as the sprawling "blue stew." I join the assessment that eradicating them now will lead to a better format in the coming decade.

Closing

I hope that the thoughts above give more depth to the reasoning behind some of the conclusions reached by many Vintage players including me.

The key takeaways are:

Enjoyment of the game is paramount; metagame diversity is simply one component.

Dynamic change is welcome and it's acceptable that the pace quickens in tandem with the format being accessible to a wider playing and spectating audience. There is no value to unrestriction fetishism, the ill-guided belief that a shorter restricted list is a goal "for its own sake." That is incorrect. The whole point of the list is to enrich the gaming experience.

Historical perspective: the concept of better quality games is not a radical new concept but rather the foundation of Vintage at its height before its era of total neglect. We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that we are still in its aftermath. What we see allowed today is abnormal, not normal.

Blow-outs happen in Vintage, and cards that contribute to them are restricted. Cards like Paradoxical Outcome need to join their other haymaker friends on the appropriate list and unmitigated sacred cow Bazaar of Baghdad needs mitigation like the other sacred cow Mishra's Workshop.

Hopefully, now that it is March, we can pick up the brooms and start sweeping.

Best,

-Brian Kelly