Best posts made by brianpk80
posted in Oath read more

One of the great mysteries of 2018 is why so many successful Oath of Druids decks are running a copy of this unusual werewolf who, until recently, seemed to have passed by like an unremarkable breeze along with the rest of her low-impact set, Shadows over Innistrad.

Like most novelties, her initial reception was jeered by long-time aficionados. Her presence in the format was uncharitably described as an embarrassment and a "fiasco." But as of June, she is officially the fourth most played proper planeswalker in Vintage of 2018, only a few appearances shy of longtime staple Tezzeret the Seeker, and vastly far ahead of Chandra the Rules-Neutered, Nahiri of the Yesterdays, and Teferi, the Fashionable who does a pretty good Dark Confidant impression for only five mana. Ms. Kord has appeared in several winning lists both online and has seen significant play in paper. Her range extends primarily to Oath of Druids though she has also appeared in RUG Planeswalker Control and the RUG Paradoxical Outcome list floating around that runs Titania, Protector of Argroth. For the purposes of this discussion, we will focus on her utility in Oath of Druids.

We'll begin with a poignant anecdote. In April of this year at Waterbury, witnesses gathered around an Oath match-up with an unknown pilot. Arlinn Kord was on the battlefield and the Oath player won. Afterwards, the pilot was asked politely (though with typical incredulity), "Why is Arlinn Kord in your deck?" He responded, "I don't know. Brian Kelly plays it." They both laughed.

It is admittedly humorous that in a format of such astronomical threshold and caliber this seemingly ridiculous card would see unabated persistent play. How did we get to this point?

It starts with recognizing that despite all of the cantripping, Planeswalkers, Delving, and even Pyroblasting, Oath of Druids is a very different beast from its blue stew brethren. Unlike Jeskai, BUG, or Landstill, and to an even greater degree than Paradoxical Outcome, Oath of Druids is a special needs deck. The triumvirate of known paramount necessities are 1) safeguards against self-milling, 2) safeguards against dying to Spirit tokens, and 3) mitigating the virtual card disadvantage of drawing into fantastical beasts who might not be ready for their stage debut until the curtains have already closed.

Another differentiating factor is less overt but just as critical in today's metagame. That is its relationship to Planeswalkers. Unlike other blue decks, Oath of Druids cannot pressure opposing Planeswalkers with garden variety creatures and cannot protect its own. We will never flash in a Snapcaster Mage at the end of your turn. Sometimes we even give our opponents the very 1/1 tokens that attack our planeswalking allies.

A final consideration is the notion that, in theory, Oath of Druids can win by activating Jace's ultimate. This was historically accurate but over time, it's become increasingly infeasible, with Snapcasters, tokens, Containment Priests, Pyroblasts, and Mishra's hyperaggression flying at him every second. So if the Oath and hardcast plans fail, the pilot is generally disabled.

Those things considered, we turn to Arlinn Kord.

These are the main reasons she slots into Oath of Druids:

-Significant independent threat and viable alt-win
-Heavily threatens opposing Planeswalkers
-Defends our own Planeswalkers
-Cannot be Pyroblasted or Abrupt Decayed
-Neutralizes Containment Priest
-Diminishes risk of dying to Spirit Tokens
-Enables victory after Oath activation where passing the turn is hazardous (similar to Dragon's Breath)
-Allows Griselbrand to kill Jace immediately, rather than being bounced by him
-MVP in the dreaded Oath mirror
-Strong in matches that are most difficult for Oath (BUG Fish, UW Landstill)
-Helps stabilize against Workshops

Arlinn Kord gives us the longtime staple of Dragon's Breath on a planeswalker instead of an otherwise dead card, which happens to address many of the weak spots endemic to the archetype. She may not have a home in the more combo-centric builds like Burning or Paradoxical Oath but she's a very reasonable and powerful inclusion in the more mainstream Inferno Titan/Griselbrand decks. Below, I'll discuss her role in various match-ups. She is rarely boarded out.

Dredge: Game 1, her general job is to use the +1 on the Oath creature which is usually the difference between life and death. I've had several games where Griselbrand is not enough, but using the Arlinn on him enabled him to generate more life, resources, and ability to find Time Walk.

Post board, her use more commonly involves Wolf creation and Zombie burning, since you will be more disposed to keep hands that stop the Dredge plan rather those that advance our Oath plan, which is a bit slower and easier to disrupt. She will prevent dying to that lone annoying Bloodghast and the residual Zombie that snuck in before the Tormod's Crypt. Less commonly, she will just function as the win-con, as a temporarily neutralized opponent is floundering around looking for colored mana or a Nature's Claim while all you're drawing is counterspells or redundant Dredge hate.

Storm Combo: In game 1, her primary relevance is being able to get material value out of the Inferno Titan who doesn't actually do anything immediate to impede the opponent's game plan. 3 damage is negligible, but 12+ damage is not, particularly if the opponent intends to use Yawgmoth's Bargain. It's tempting to think that she gets boarded out, but she doesn't. The reason for this is that you should be boarding out at least 1-2 Oath of Druids and the third creature here, since you're in the control role. The match will be all about counterspells, draw spells, Planeswalkers and specific anti-Storm hate pieces. While you're expending resources to stop their main plan, you may find that it's become necessary to give them an uncomfortable abundance of Spirit tokens, especially if you've Null Rodded or Chaliced out the artifact mana. Arlinn is a godsend there. Additionally, it may not be wise to expend resources assembling both Oath of Druids and Forbidden Orchard when you need to devote your attention entirely to stopping their more exigent game plan. You may have had to discard Oath creatures to Dack Fayden in order to responsibly control your volatile and dangerous opponent. Even removing one creature dramatically increases the risk of losing by self-mill so you'll want a win condition that isn't being cannibalized by your deck's need to withstand the Storm threat. In one instance, I was able to refrain from countering Sadistic Sacrament and simply let a Ritual opponent take out every beast in my deck because I knew I would be better off saving my countermeasures for things that can actually kill me and then inevitably just winning with Arlinn. (*Similar things have happened with Jester's Cap.) Overall, this is not a showcase match-up for her, but she doesn't get boarded out since she smooths out rough edges that subtly become problematic after sideboarding.

BUG Fish: Hmm, costs 4, populates the board and kills any of their creatures or Jaces. Very good.

Landstill: This is another match where she is very strong, since the Wolves block Factories, Snapcasters, and Containment Priests and Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon can directly Bolt Jace without triggering an uphill stack war like Pyroblast. They may Swords a Wolf, but that puts them down a card leaving you with a dangerous and difficult-to-interact-with Planeswalker on the table. If they are splashing red, the Pyroblasts will be futile. They may eventually deal with the Arlinn, but doing so creates a major headache that demands their full attention, potentially becoming a diversion which can create an opening for your other threats to resolve. It's ordinarily very easy for Landstill to abuse and beat down an Oath mage so having this ability to create actual board presence without Plowable 6+drops is huge and in many ways unprecedented. It also goes without saying that you can't play Standstill over an Arlinn Kord.

Workshops: This is another match where she's going to be doing more Bolting and Wolf creation instead of haste-giving. Wolves can block Foundry Inspector, Phyrexian Revoker, and Mishra's Factory and Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon can remove creatures up to and including Lodestone Golem. She's not going to win the game by herself but she will play an important role in effectuating a path to victory. Post-board, she's even stronger as opponents are lighter on aggression and forced by Oath of Druids into running cards that don't directly advance their aggro-tempo plan. When they keep hands with one lock piece, Foundry Inspector, and 2 Grafdigger's Cages for instance, they will find themselves woefully unprepared to deal with a Wolf Planeswalker and likely lose when it resolves. She's much better at surviving than Dack Fayden or Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

Jeskai: She's better post-sideboard here due to the Containment Priests. A rule of thumb is that you should never attack with the first Wolf. If you do, they will probably flash in a Snapcaster or Containment Priest and exploit her vulnerability. If they are tapped out, you still likely shouldn't attack because these cantrips-as-heroin sleazebags always have Time Walk and of course they'll Snap it back and kill your Arlinn. The Wolf is your guardian here, not an attack dog. Arlinn is usually outclassed by Monastery Mentor but lines up well against most of their other threats.

Paradoxical: This is one match-up I might be inclined to board her out, but again, since I have to lean away from the Oath plan so much post board, it's good to have an actual win condition and she can remove Kambal, Consul of Allocation.

Oath Mirror: She does a great amount of work here, especially post sideboard. Most good Oath players board out copies of Oath of Druids so she presents a very uncomfortable clock given that a mere 2 Spirit tokens and Wolf on your side will be doing 7 damage per turn. Her aggression also disincentivizes and punishes gorging on the mirror-busting Sylvan Library and makes it difficult to extract significant value from the Jaces and Dacks that play outsized roles in post-sideboard games.

Thalia/Hate Bears: Block this hate bear, then Bolt that one. Heaven on earth. I'd run 4 if I could.

Now below are three additional notes on using Arlinn Kord that may be helpful.

First if you have Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon when there are two Wolves in play, it's tempting to keep flipping her back and forth every turn to generate more "value" but in this case, you should use the +1 and give them Trample. Consider an opponent at 13 life. If you attack with the 2 Wolves and use the Bolting ability targeting your opponent, you will deal 7 damage this turn with 4 potential damage on the next turn via attacks for a total of 11. This leaves your opponent at 2 life and you with an additional untapped Wolf in play. By contrast, if you use the Trample ability, the opponent will suffer 6 damage this turn, and then 7 the following turn, for a total of 13. You won't have the extra Wolf, but since 13 damage is lethal, the Wolf would be superfluous. Always bear in mind that using the +1 on Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon leaves the Lightning Bolt ability loaded and ready to fire while switching back to Arlinn Kord can give a window for an opposing threat to survive.

Secondly, looking ahead is also important if you want to use the haste ability. It may be correct to play Arlinn, and use the +1 with no target in order to preserve her haste ability for a forthcoming Oath creature.

Finally, there's the question of whether creating a Wolf on your side of the battlefield is at odds with the concept of forcing Oath of Druids activations by giving creatures to your opponent. In theory, yes, but in practice you should be able to determine how to sequence your plays and adjust accordingly. If it's imperative that your opponent not be able to use Oath, simply refrain from creating the Wolf. In other cases, you may actually want them to use your Oath. Consider playing against a Pyromancer deck where you have Oath of Druids in play but no Forbidden Orchard. If you sit around doing nothing, they will put a planeswalker on the board and get so far ahead that anything you Oath up will immediately become their property via Dack Emblem->Pyroblast. In this case, it's wise to use Arlinn Kord and force action. Generating the Wolf will tempt them to activate Oath and then having a Pyromancer in play will prevent them from casting any instants or sorceries without enabling you to trigger Oath on your following upkeep and obtain a much greater advantage. This is vastly preferable to remaining stationary while they begin their litany of cascading advantages and eventually win despite the Oath in play. I might also do this against Workshops, since many of their creatures are lackluster to Oath up on an empty board (Hangarback and Ballista are 0, Steel Overseer is a 1/1 with summoning sickness, Metamorph on a Wolf is unimpressive). Workshop pilots prey on Orchardless Oath mages by beating them down with Mishra's Factories, and in some cases Fleetwheel Cruiser. Arlinn's presence will entice them to play more creatures and you'll probably end up activating your Oath even despite lacking an Orchard. In sum, Arlinn Kord doesn't frustrate the gameplan of giving Spirit tokens to activate Oath of Druids and can even end up helping you activate it. You will know when it's a bad idea to give yourself a Wolf and it will never accidentally harm your Oath plan because it's an optional ability.

Hopefully this helps to demystify the confusion surrounding Arlinn Kord's popularity and recent success and provides some insight on how to utilize her optimally. Best to everyone,

-Brian Kelly

posted in Vintage Community read more

On a lighter note, if Mentor is restricted, it will be a huge relief for players on MTGO. Those triggers clutter up the screen like mosquitoes. I want to swat them away even though they indicate the game is going well.

I noticed an assumption stated above that Chalice on turn 1, presumably Chalice @ 0, was not so much of a problem. But IIRC, that was exactly why it was restricted.

I think the series of restrictions was the inevitable result of high level attention suddenly being paid to a format that had been allowed to go so far off the deep end due to neglect. As soon as Wizards moved forward with plans to monetize Vintage (VSL/MTGO, Eternal Masters, Vintage Masters), they began reining in its excesses. Unfortunately, due to the neglect, those excesses were numerous and subsumed into a temporarily skewed vision of what is "normal" or "acceptable" in a competitive but aspirationally vibrant format like Vintage. The tragic 2008 "re-interpretation" (to put it charitably) of Time Vault was the biggest affront that began the era of treating Vintage like an abandoned train wreck beyond repair. It took years for the format to become fun again. During that time disaster upon disaster accumulated; "horrible" and "beyond the pale" became the norm and now the antiseptic process is more painful that it would have been had there been timely intervention (including proper printings to address taxing).

The reason a handful of restrictions has not led to utopia is not because those restrictions were incorrect but because the amount of offensive cards exceeding historical norms of Vintage was allowed to reach saturation levels. It will take more than a little nip and tuck to get that face ready for prime time. I'm glad they're attempting to clean the format again but the attention comes much later than it should have. It's also discouraging to think of how much could have been avoided by effective printings, particularly when they began releasing sets that would never be Standard and Modern legal (thus throwing out the only justifiable excuse for not doing so).

Just about every card in the Jeskai Mentor deck was/is inappropriate as a 4x: Gush, Probe, Cruise, Dig, Mentor, Misstep, Preordain, and then even JVP + Dack Fayden are comparable to JTMS whose legality was a subject of off and on debate for years. If more of the deck needs to be discarded and whole thing is relegated to the history books, so be it. It might be the most universally despised deck the format has known.

Shops has the issue of containing several 4x cards that are interdependently problematic because of 4x Mishra's Workshops. It has the "Academy" problem, where a host of cards end up needing to be restrained due to the problems created by one. However, the case here differs as it would be tangibly cruel to so many community members to restrict the Workshop. It's preferable to restrict other cards that allow the Workshop to stay in the format.

On a final note, I don't believe there's a serious chance the DCI is going to roll the dice on unrestricted Gush for the fourth time at any point in near future. Stare decisis. ๐Ÿ˜„

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

posted in Vintage Community read more

An enjoyable fun format is essential to its sustenance. In the past few months, I've seen the constant lamentations of the format translate into real departures that are discouraging. Justin Kohler for instance who used to be a mainstay at nearly every event in a 300 mile radius of Eastern Pennsylvania hates Gush tokens so much, he sold his MTGO collection and has skipped every event save last hurrah Waterbury. The dailies on MTGO are not firing and the P9 event sizes appear to be trending sharply downwards. The format is generally not as fun as it has been in the past. Many of us disagree on what the causes or solutions are, but there is a palpable malaise and distaste for current Vintage coming from multiple varied perspectives.

While Steve, who I generally enjoy and admire, may write off these losses as meaningless plebeians who don't truly understand what is good for the game or good for their own lives, I have a responsibility to take the more audience-friendly approach as the format's paper Champion. In my (strong) opinion, the concerns, engagement, and enjoyment of the players at all skill levels matter. "[Well then quit, the format doesn't need you]" is an asinine approach to leadership. In my (strong) opinion, the secondary market matters as well because I find it callous and nefarious to inflict economic hardship on community members who are like family to us merely to have a theoretically more "diverse" metagame by some arbitrary standard. I will never support the restriction of Mishra's Workshop or Bazaar of Baghdad because too many individuals have sacrificed or worked hard to acquire playsets and I can't even imagine what that would do to stores (who are likewise our TO's and friends) that are heavily invested in either. Never will go there. By the same token, I'll never support unrestricting Library of Alexandria because this will create an additional chaos and result that disproportionately favors the affluent. Finally, I don't want to restrict Gush right now because I do care about the incredible effort Stephen invested in his extremely well realized new Gush book and I'd find it disheartening to see such a triumphant accomplishment neutered at its onset. Maybe that's too "subjective" a reason for some, but because restricting Gush is a very 50/50 proposition (and since life will be fine overall regardless of whether we have Gush for another 6 months, a year, etc.), what makes it an easy call for me is that fact that restricting it will bring about tangible harm to an important member of our community and there is no compelling reason to do that. I'm also persuaded by stories people have told about spending months preparing for Champs and restricting it now is like pulling the rug. Those concerns matter and they -should- matter. The detached faux-scientific strictly mathematical approach to restricting cards in our hobby of enjoyment is not only entirely misplaced, but it is also comically pretentious and mismatched to the actual goals of a format voluntarily played more for fun than for stark competition. I believe the Gush question should be revisited next year.

That said, since we have problems with the format, a reasonable inclination is to wait for Wizards to fix them with printings. They have demonstrated an inability to understand why a gazillion mana sorcery is not a competitive answer to a 2W army of Monks. Bear in mind, most of us who found Shops to be problematic several years ago wanted to hold off on calls for restrictions until Wizards had the chance to rectify things themselves. Rich Shay famously suggested a card with Kamigawa's "channel" mechanic that could destroy a single artifact irrespective of Sphere tax. When a year or two went by and nothing happened, we were dismayed. Three to four years was worse. "Well they can't really let themselves harm Standard with Vintage specific cards.," we may have reasoned. When Wizards began releasing eternal only sets and still didn't address the [censored] problem, that's when the calls to action began in earnest. But many prominent blue mages were not trigger happy in calling for restrictions. I waited a while,. I supported restricting Chalice and opposed restricting Lodestone Golem. This is a pretty measured non-radical perspective, IMO.

Since Wizards is demonstrating the same ineptitude in understanding how to craft a check/balance for Monastery Mentor and likewise never really provided an adequate inherent game balance to 1-mana discard spells (since anything that's not free will itself simply be forced via discard, Leyline of Sanctity is horrible since it's -CA even if oppo does not draw the discard, and here in Vintage we're not getting much mileage out of a vanilla 4/4 like Loxodon Smiter), we have a problem with token generators and Probe/Therapy and the obnoxious "misstep your misstep of my misstep on your misstep." It's time to say goodbye to New Phyrexia.

It has been said before that Magic is a zero sum game in terms of fun. I disagree. There are some games that are richly engaging and enjoyable for both parties regardless of who wins. And there are those that are miserable both for the loser and for the winner. Monastery Mentor is a net negative. My experience with the card matches what I hear from others. I don't like losing to it. I don't like winning with it (and heaven knows, I have won a lot of crap with it). I don't like winning after removing an opponent's Mentor. I don't like losing with Mentor in hand or in play. Anyway it's sliced, Mentor is negative. It's functionally a strictly superior Tinker that adorably does not require you to play an uncastable robot and then a self-help card like Thirst for Knowledge to shuffle the robot back. If there's any reason for Tinker to still be restricted (is there?), Monatery similarly should be restricted. But I would go further and Ban it as an incontrovertible statement that we don't espouse cards that Wizards fails to address with proper answers. The other card I would consider banning is Mental Misstep. It's banned in every format, universally recognized as toxic, not simply because it makes players win more or lose more, but because it leads to empirically low quality games.

I would keep the list as it currently is for Champs and then in January:

Ban Monastery Mentor
Ban Mental Misstep
Restrict Gitaxian Probe
Unrestrict Windfall (trial basis)

--Urge Wizards to print something that actually makes Thoughtseize/Duress/Therapy a risky proposition as Teferi's Response did for Wasteland/Rishadan Port. A trap with Rayne, Academy Chancellor's effect would be ideal.

And the watchlist would be:

Preordain, Gush, Show and Tell (this card is always going to be a headache from now until 2030 and beyond, even though our designers have not fully exploited it yet), Thought-Knot Seer, Windfall, Wasteland, Oath of Druids.

posted in Official Tournament Results read more

As the data points to an objective problem with Gush Mentor, I also want to add that subjectively I am really tired of seeing that deck. I have a friend who's a long time tournament mainstay in the Northeast that stopped playing Vintage specifically because of it; he just hated it. I suspect the feeling is widespread. Even as someone that's won a lot with it, I think it's time to put that blight out of its misery.

posted in Oath read more

Good questions.

I think there can be a successful Oath deck out there right now, but it needs a lot of focus and testing to generate the optimal configuration of creature package, counter package, draw suite, removal suite, planeswalkers, Dredge plan, PO plan, Null Rod choices (run it, ignore it, fight it), TV/Key choice, Karakas plan, and managing the triumvirate of intrinsic self-inflicted wounds: automilling, useless cards in hand, and death by Spirit token.

Punishing Oath Emrakul/Griselbrand is formidable overall, and can run Null Rod/SS but is slightly soft to combo and soft to Karakas.

Saheeli Oath transfers the issue of useless draws away from the creatures but then moves that onto a combo piece that is generally horrible by Vintage standards. We call her the "blue Bridge from Below."

Gush Oath was smooth and consistent but now Gush is restricted.

Auriok Oath is likely good right now with the right supplements but can't be tested on MTGO where many of us get some portion of our testing experience.

Landstill/Oath decks seem as fine as ever, attacking on two distinct axes. Still, it has the "Treetop Village, go" thing going on.

Evil Oath decks might offer a lot. By Evil Oath, I refer to prison-esque strategies that can use Sun Titan, Trinisphere, Rod, and land destruction to help combat a natural predator which is combo. I've started looking into a preliminary build but am not sure whether it will be ready in time for something like the NYSE.

Overall, it takes a long time to get Oath "right" and there is a lot of analysis and balancing that must occur. The end result can pay off spectacularly but a lot of the format's mental energy is being poured into neo-Mentor, Big Blue, Paradox, Shops/Eldrazi, and Dredge atm.

posted in Vintage News read more

I enjoyed recording the podcast and was honored to be invited. Thank you to Andy and everyone who left positive comments. ๐Ÿ™‚

posted in Vintage Community read more

Thanks, Topical Island. There's no conflict w. me and Paul; he's a great addition to the league and his journey into exploring Vintage as a master player in other formats is something many people are loving, as it combines both the excitement of discovery with high aptitude for play. With the Chalice question, I meant to reference some of the more notorious episodes of foul play we've seen in Vintage as the basis for why I don't even begin to crack the jar on that can of worms with things like testing opponents' awareness of Chalice of the Void. Afterwards, someone who watching said for a moment it sounded dismissive of him and I was surprised because that wasn't what was going through my head at the time. So when I watched it, I totally saw how it could have come across that way for a moment which was not my intent at all.

At paper events, I'm a pretty forgiving and accommodating opponent. I have let people take things back and vouched for opponents' good intentions, going on record that something was an honest mistake when for instance, an Undiscovered Paradise trigger is missed and a judge nearby issues a warning. Magic is a pleasant reprieve from academic, professional, family, and work life for the majority of Vintage players. Having learned the card pool and rules enclyclopedically in the 1990's then having seen that go entirely down the drain with the 6th Edition rules update, I'm partial to the view that it's not only impossible but also no longer pragmatic to be 100% versed in every interaction the game offers. Since I would never want to be in the position where I'm punished because, "You, sir, didn't see the obscure memo posted in July 2007 that changed the rule about the rule about the rule about the trigger that reversed the rule about the rule about the trigger," I afford opponents the same latitude. Overall, I don't think taking this more amicable approach to tournament play has hurt my performance. On the contrary, I think it promotes a more healthy state of mind to use for the other more important decisions that occur in matches (and we know them all, mulligan decisions, fetch decisions, what to counter, what to pitch, etc.). Hopefully that elaborates more clearly on how I'd approach play ethics at a live event.

-B

posted in Vintage Tournaments read more

@chubbyrain

Thank you for posting this. It's so refreshing to see 0 Eldrazi represented; finally some semblance of peace and harmony is achieved. Now if only we could do away with all the other creatures...

posted in Single-Card Discussion read more

First of all, this thread is loaded with beautiful quotes, so props to the below:

@cutlex said in [M19] Tezzeret, Artifice Master:

@evouga said in [M19] Tezzeret, Artifice Master:

I'm extremely hard-pressed to think of any situation where I'd rather draw two cards than win the game.

You might be in the minority of Vintage players.

and

@topical_island said in [M19] Tezzeret, Artifice Master:

I mean, is it really better than, I can't believe I'm saying this, Arlin Kord?

It's significantly worse than Arlinn Kord in Oath of Druids and probably in a vacuum as well. It's bad enough giving a Spirit token and paying 3 to have Dack Fayden Pyroblasted on the stack, but this unwieldy thing is just asking for too much of a blowout.

Tezzeret, Artifice Master has some serious problems that need to be called to light. First, it's not going to be drawing two cards a turn reliably. You probably can't Lotus it out early on and have three artifacts in play unless it's Christmas in Pittsburgh. Secondly, this seems abominable against Shops, especially compared to Arlinn Kord but also to Jace and Dack. The Thopter can't trade with most attackers while Arlinn's Wolf trades with around half of them. And it only takes one shoot from a Ballista to remove it.

I do think it's valuable to compare new cards to existing options, contrary to the stated position of ChubbyRain above. He is a good apprentice but notorious for insubordination. It's reasonable to compare and contrast Anticipate with Impulse, for instance.

This card is not unplayable; provided you get to 5 mana and are relatively unimpeded, it will do very cool things. There might even be a forthcoming idiosyncratic shell that can twist itself into design contortions that make this card "correct" in the slot. I would find it pretty exciting at 2UU. At 5 mana, we have to ask ourselves "why am I putting this into play instead of Future Sight?" It reminds me of Teferi in the sense, that sure, the card is powerful but there's a world of a difference between 4 and 5 mana. Winning with Teferi is eerily similar to the days where I piloted Sylvan Mentor with all of its unrestrcted Gushes, Probes, and so forth; the deck was so overpowered, I could choose whatever otherwise out-of-place win-cons I wanted to seal the deal and still win major events. Narset? Sure. Dragonlords Ojutai and Dromoka instead of Mentor #2 and #3? Why not. Those were fun times. I'm not sure we have such luxuries today.

I should also add that I'm a fan of enthusiastic posts discussing new cards. I don't share the sentiment that it's embarrassing to enjoy musing over novel possibilities and that such discussions are inherently ridiculous. The recent troll post I felt was lighthearted enough that I added a jubilant comment. Discussion of why cards are unplayable is just as useful as discussing why they are unplayable. Never stop learning.

posted in Vintage Community read more

@Arcranedenial said in Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor:

I know it's vintage and all, but am I the only one who thinks certain cards need to be removed completely from the format? I mean banned not just restricted. A restricted Mentor or Misstep is such a high variance thing to play against.

Banning cards in Vintage has come up from time to time as a topic of interest without either a firm resolution embracing it or rejecting it. The format has a history of banning cards purely for power level (Channel, Mind Twist, and certain interpretations of Time Vault) and the idea was flirted with in discussions of Tinker, Yawgmoth's Will, and again Time Vault after its disastrous re-re-re-re-re-wording in 2008. Banning Dig through Time and Treasure Cruise has been raised recently as one possible amelioration to the 1x-Gush Mentor deck's nuisance factor. I have no objection to bans in the abstract if they make the format more enjoyable. The banned list already has an absurdly high # of cards on it for many different reasons and power level bans are not without precedent.

Kudos to Rich for a very substantive high-caliber post. I'm agnostic on whether Preordain is restriction worthy. I do think it's generally better than Ponder as Stephen suggested and there strong arguments for either case.

For all of the problems Mental Misstep creates, I'm hesitant to unleash the ones it abates. E/V/M Tutor, triple Voltaic Key.dec is disgusting and I would prefer Wizards printed something to adequately address the Thoughtseize/Duress conundrum before taking the blue Phyrexian lid off the trash heap.

posted in Oath read more

Very nice and detailed set of posts.

I agree that Griselbrand is by far the worst card in the deck. He is almost entirely uncastable and more frequently than ever, late to the party, whether that is an overpopulated Shops board or some combination of Jace across the table, low life, or alternative situations of opponents' overdevelopment. I cringe every time I draw him and feel like I want to cut him forever. His main roles are:

  1. Being the general purpose "best creature" across the board g1 after activating your Oath, which is something more likely to happen in a g1 than any other game in the match.

  2. Being relevant against Dredge and Combo, which are the two match-ups where Inferno Titan most often falls short.

However, he is not indespensible. In 2016, I played Dromoka/Auriok Gush Oath at Champs without Griselbrand and placed in 17th and IIRC it was the highest placing Oath deck that year. I don't think I ever missed him and I probably benefited from never drawing that horrendously dead card. Side note: has anyone noticed that MTGO seems to put Griselbrand in your hand far more often than it should? There's no such thing as a pure 100% randomizer, though some experts can come close, but it would not surprise me if MTGO's falls very far from optimal benchmarks or even contains some metrics to influence the game-play experience that they believe would somehow increase the program's profitability.

Other general thoughts:

Griselbrand is slightly more feasible in builds that are maindecking Underground Sea but running black may or may not be desirable at that given point in time.

Boarding out a lot of Oath material is indeed a proper strategy in post-sideboard games, particularly against Landstill where Forbidden Orchard is outright dreadful.

Arlinn is very strong in multiple contexts including UW Landstill which you mention. Dack Fayden is the best planeswalker in the list and then it's a toss-up between Jace and Arlinn. I've gone down to 1 Jace before several times without issues. It's often not worth slithering around Pyroblast (or failing to do so) to put an imperiled planeswalker on a board with Spirit tokens and Oath is not like the hard-control decks that really abuse Jace. Chandra is a good planeswalker in general though she's also not good at protecting herself from Spirits and access to RR is a big barrier, since the fetch protocol for Oath wants you to have at least one green and at least one red before trying to double up on one of the secondary colors (if that's even possible, with disgusting Wastelands being so rampant). I would rate Xenagos and Nahiri (if you have white) right behind Jace as preferable planeswalkers to Chandra in modern Oath builds. For those reasons, having a second Arlinn or additional non-blue planeswalker is not a bad call.

Finally, the Punishing Fire take on Oath of Druids has its charms though the lists I've seen have suffered from only being able to support a few Moxen (weakening Thorn matches) and they are much softer to RItual, Dredge, Paradoxical combo, and Karakas than Inferno lists.

Good luck with your refining, -B

posted in Rules QnA read more

The ideal layout for Dredge is nothing in play and everything in exile. ๐Ÿ˜‰

posted in Vintage Community read more

The "Evil Oath" deck was a metagame call for this season as my opponents were David Ochoa (who I pegged as either Shops/Eldrazi or Storm), Shuhei (who I suspected would re-run Oath though was open to other possibilities) and Randy (who had been torturing me in the practice room with Storm and Shops/Eldrazi).

Oath of Druids is the boss against Thorn of Amethyst pillar decks even though we now might have to Sudden Shock a Containment Priest or two to get the party started. However, Oath is sometimes prey to Storm and fast combo, while Sphere effects and Canonist + counters are strong against it so I wanted to combine the Oath with tools to fortify it against its most natural predator. Oath of Druids is also a reasonable call if one of your opponents will be on Oath, because you have 4 Forbidden Orchards of your own in addition to other tactics to stop their most broken play.

While I wasn't active in paper Vintage from 1999-2013, I did follow and play it online from 2005-2012 and mostly played AEther Vial decks in addition to Tyrant Oath and Sun Titan Oath, both of which I played more as prison than combo decks (even using Root Maze, so I was surprised that right after I played this deck, they spoiled the new Thalia who is akin to a one-sided Root Maze, which is grotesque).

This list is not optimized or tuned for the metagame at large though it could be competitive in a general field filled with Shops/Eldrazi with some modifications to shore up the Gush matches.

Also, I was definitely aware of the Orchard/Leyline interaction when I discarded to Dack Fayden during Game 2 though I was still considering the possibility of bouncing/destroying his Leylines at some point and hedged against flooding the board with Orchard tokens after that contingency.

posted in Vintage Community read more

I feel JACO here. It's an idiosyncratic laid back style that varies enough on each instance to be unpredictable, underscored by a confident nonchalance that suggests a healthy attitude towards competitive Vintage.

There's much to be said about taking Magic seriously but not too seriously. Trying too hard to make sense of the senseless (competitive rules and MTGO failings being great examples) is futile. I've been told by judges both that my matches take too long on one hand and then in another instance that I don't spend enough time shuffling. I was actually given a verbal warning once for not shuffling "thoroughly" enough following a Polluted Delta fetch as my opponent was conceding. That was both embarrassing and absurd. The irony is that since it takes me forever to shuffle to a sufficiently random degree, my matches would take even longer if every Misty Rainforest became a 45 second time out, and since I have been known to play very complex "durdle" decks, that would make matches go to time longer and frustrate the other objective. The best response to that kind of double-bind is simply "whatever." No one is forcing me to play Magic and if it ever became something so twisted and unfriendly that I had to approach it with unhealthy or exhausting rigor, the solution would be self-evident.

The overarching lessons I glean are that competitive event rules are sprawling, inscrutable, and often contradictory, hence it's best to simply follow good instinct and common sense. At 36, I have too much draining life experience being in situations where every i must be dotted as pristinely as each t is crossed and that mentality is not something I want to employ when enjoying myself on a weekend. So I still take a more casual/friendly approach to competitive Vintage. While in theory, this should hurt performance by making one "[easy to take advantage of]," in practice, there doesn't seem to be a discernible negative effect. The more amicable approach suits my personality type better (this may not be true for all types) and being a hardass or rules lawyer would divert limited mental energy from areas that are more primary, assessing the game state, mulligan decisions, play decisions, and sideboarding. (Maybe I would have the energy and drive to both at 22,, but that's neither here nor there. ๐Ÿ™‚ ) There's a likely case to be made that being more accommodating and trusting (though not naive) leads to better results. And even if there weren't, I'd rather sacrifice a 0.000003% win rating than become someone I'd be embarrassed to become.

posted in Vintage Community read more

@The-Atog-Lord said in April 24th, 2017 Banned and Restricted update: GUSH AND PROBE/TOP in Legacy:

@ajfirecracker said in April 24th, 2017 Banned and Restricted update: GUSH AND PROBE/TOP in Legacy:

@ChubbyRain Then defend him on that basis, not because he's Rich Shay

Defend me from what? The grievous crime of playing a Workshop deck?

According to Dragonlord Ojutai, that actually is a capital offense. You will be receiving your indictment shortly...

posted in Vintage News read more

Nice article, JACO. This is my first post on the New Mana Drain. I believe that the popularity of the VSL has given rise to more reactionary stances than are necessary. The restriction of Chalice of the Void was satisfactory to temper the most egregious infractions of the Workshop archetype. Secondly, in doing so, Wizards made a philosophical declaration that the format would be welcoming to Moxen. Lodestone Golem promotes this goal in ways that Thorn of Amythest, Sphere of Resistance, Chalice of the Void, Trinisphere, and Phyrexian Revoker do not. I've been able to dispense with Workshop decks very handily and consistently by respecting the match-up and building responsibly. That was not possible with 4x Chalices, but it is now. That doesn't mean I always win of course as this is a game of chance in addition to a game of skill, I don;t find an urgent need for any restriction. If I did, it would be unfair to say that Lodestone Golem should be restricted while giving a free pass to Oath of Druids, Cabal Therapy, Force of Will, Show and Tell, Monastery Mentor, Young Pyromancer, Gush, Dark Ritual, Mental Misstep, and Preordain. It isn't even the most oppresive card in the Workshop deck, as I believe Sphere or Resistance, Thorn of Amythest, Wasteland, and Phyrexian Revoker are all more oppressive than LSG.

The idea that Mishra's Workshop itself should be restricted is nothing short of scandalous. We accepted the high power level of the card over a decade ago and that acceptance has been a cornerstone in the "real life" Vintage culture that has flourished since. It's easier to lobby for restricting the card when one only owns an ugly inexpensive .jpg of it. Doing so negates the years of work and investment in the format (including acquiring Workshops through prizes after achieving successive tournament success) that would qualify as a direct assault on the "in real life" Vintage community. This should not be blithely ignored.