When Underworld Breach was spoiled, it was a "decidedly" Vintage printing in the opinion of most players - a modern attempt at fixing Yawgmoth's Will and imbuing it with the Escape mechanic. Legacy and Vintage players were already wondering if it might be banned or restricted before the card was released. So far, that reality has manifested in Legacy but it is a bit less certain in Vintage. For one, Vintage has a much larger degree of graveyard hate that can be leveraged due to the power of the Dredge deck. Two, the format in general has a higher power level and Breach is not necessarily superior to Paradoxical Outcome, Doomsday, or Dark Petition Storm. In order to be successful, a Breach deck needs to find its niche in the format and exploit it. So while the initial Breach strategies were build along the lines of traditional broken decks in Vintage with Draw 7's like Wheel of Fortune , a full set of Breach, and many restricted cards, these types of decks didn't put up results. The first decks that really did well were Sun Titan Oath of Druid strategies that looked to mill over and bring back Underworld Breach, then recast Time Walk repeatedly to win. An example is Notmi's Breach Oath deck from the Vintage Challenge. A couple of weeks later, I won a Vintage Challenge playing a Breach deck that essentially grafted the Breach combo into a Mentor shell that played more of a combo-control game plan enabled by the format's Cantrip-Delve draw engine. This approach is largely what has persisted in the metagame and what this primer is about.
Legacy players will know this combo well, short-lived as it was. The gist of it in Vintage is using the ability of Underworld Breach to repeatedly cast Brain Freeze from the graveyard, first to mill yourself and fuel Breach, then to mill out your opponent, while recasting either Lotus Petal, Lion's Eye Diamond, or, in Vintage, Black Lotus to produce enough mana to execute the combo. The combo can be protected from the graveyard by using Flusterstorm, Spell Pierce, or Pyroblast and players should keep this in mind while executing the combo as Mindbreak Trap is seeing more play. A reminder that Underworld Breach does not allow you to pay alternate costs for spells and so Force of Will, Daze, and Gush have to be hardcast from the graveyard. Some specific circumstances to keep in mind:
- Ancestral Recall can target your opponent and can be used to win the game on your turn rather than passing the turn back to your opponent.
- If the opponent is running something like Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn or Gaea's Blessing that prevents decking, which is most common in Oath of Druids decks, you can navigate this situation by casting Nihil Spellbomb prior to Brain Freezing the opponent. Exile the opponent's graveyard with the shuffle ability on the stack.
- Alternatively, you can counter your original Brain Freeze (not one of the storm copies) and recast it from the graveyard to mill the rest of the opponent's deck. Cast Ancestral Recall targeting them to win the game before the shuffle ability resolves.
- If the opponent casts Veil of Summer and gives themselves Hexproof from your Brain Freeze, your options are to Time Walk so that the Hexproof expires and use Lurrus/Teferi, Time Raveler/Chain of Vapor to recombo, or repeatedly use Lightning Bolt or Seal of Fire to win. Or keep recasting Breach and Time Walk from the yard while attacking for 3 each turn with your Cat. You don't have to make it easy on the opponent if you don't want to...
Four-Color Breach Combo
Grixis Breach Combo
Jeskai Breach Combo
To Be Continued....
This will be something I contribute to piece-by-piece as I have time, but someone had requested primers and I wanted to start producing some. Let me know if there are specific topics or questions to be addressed.
Have put a couple of leagues into developing this, most recently picking up a trophy with the UG version here:
I have been experimenting with Mystic Sanctuary since its release, first by just throwing it into Arcanist shells that release weekend on MTGO (wasn't very hard to find on MTGO then), and later building around it more with the RUG Walker list that used Wrenn and Six. A key synergy is Gush and two Mystic Sanctuaries lets you recur the instant or sorcery of choice from your graveyard, whether Time Walk, Ancestral Recall, or something more boring. However, you are limited by the number of lands you can play in a turn.
Fast-forward a bit...In fooling around with Vintage Unleashed, I started with a Gush-Fastbond deck and was incredibly impressed how powerful that engine has become with the addition of Mystic Sanctuary. Sanctuary means you keep Gushing for as long as you have life points and you can recur whatever you want - you don't need to make use of the format's unrestricted Yawgmoth's Wills. I was winning with Hedron Crabs, Lurrus, and infinite Time Walks at that point but the shell is malleable. With the change in the companion rule, I was consider Uro - the life gain from Lurrus was helpful as it made up for the Fastbond life loss and allowed you to go infinite.
And that brings us to the current approach. Growth Spiral was being talked about as in the context of the Arena PTs as both something player's thought was busted (it's the internet and I have no opinion really on formats I don't collect data or play in) and were sick of since it's been in Standard for nearly two years and good the entire time along with Wilderness Reclamation (that one makes more sense to me...). And for better or worse, if cards are great in Standard, they are generally powerful enough to be fringe playable or better in Vintage. That's just the state of power creep in recent sets.
Growth Spiral fulfills the function of being able to play additional lands in the Sanctuary recursion engine (as does Uro for that matter). It does that while pitching to all three Forces in the deck, ramping up to 4 Islands, and cycling. As a card, I was very impressed by it. There are also fun things you can do like Daze back a Sanctuary, Growth Spiral it into play at instant speed to put a Mental Misstep or Misdirection on top of your library, then Gush into it or otherwise draw it at instant speed. The main
consideration though is these additional land drops mean you just get to take a bunch of consecutive turns and win the game. I took 8-9 turns on stream last night during which my Landstill opponent killed my first Brazen Borrower, but I was able to find, play, and attack for lethal with the second Borrower. Both Uros had already been pathed.
By no means is this a finished product. There are other color combinations - I typical start minimalist to identify certain needs and then add colors that I think will help plug in the gaps. For instance, I started with a Bant version for Swords and Mentor, because I thought I would want Swords to deal with threats like Sprite Dragon and Mentor to win the game. After a 3-2 league, Mentor wasn't necessary since you take so many turns that you can literally attack with a 3/1 flier, and Swords was mostly clunkly in my hand without Dack Fayden to filter. I figured a bounce spell was enough to buy time against Sprite Dragon and Brazen Borrower could condense the slot while allowing me to cut White. I didn't get to play against Hatebears or Eldrazi, which would have presented more of a challenge for a deck without Swords.
Oh, and you need a bunch of lands to maximize your explore effects and the odds of having three Islands for Mystic Sanctuary. I cut Black Lotus to help find the slots, but I recognize that not everyone will be interested in this, regardless of the reasons behind it. Just keep in mind that deck design involves balancing competing elements so if you trim lands, that has an associated cost. I actually went from 20 lands to 21 after the first league because I thought it was too few.
The format is changing, set after set. Decks look different than they did a year ago, different than they did 5 years ago, different than they did 10 years ago. What kills formats is when they become homogenized or consolidate around very few strategies - Affinity, Caw-Blade, Oko, etc... When players have few competitive options, a significant percentage will not enjoy those options or will get bored of them quickly.
Vintage has undergone considerable selection bias so that the current player base either tolerates or likes Force of Will, the Power 9, Shops, and Bazaar. Legacy has a similar issue with Brainstorm, LED, and Chalice. Wizards has said they maintain the B&R for Legacy and Vintage for the current players in those formats and that's why they don't hit those cards. They've essentially been grandpersoned in. It doesn't make it right, but bringing this up every friggin time there is a B&R discussion changes nothing when it's clear WotC isn't going to change their stance and there's not a really compelling reason for them to do so.
New cards don't get the same consideration. They are untested in the context of Eternal formats, and untested cards don't deserve a certain period of time to breath when it comes to a game, especially since B&R is the mechanism Wizards has proposed for fixing these problems. Some cards just have interactions that after a few actual reps in the format are clearly problematic, and MTGO can generate considerable data very quickly. We already have 1387 matches from the weekend Challenges over the past 3 weeks and we missed one of the challenges. This ignores how quickly cards and decks get iterated in between challenges during the leagues.
I would also add that Wizards can't hope to match the Hive Mind when it comes to testing. Play design is 9 members split across Standard, Draft, and Sealed? Who knows what other obligations they have as well. Even if other teams are responsible for testing, they are still having to ban cards in Standard, like Oko, Veil, Field, and Once upon a Time. These are cards that emerged pretty quickly as overpowered, the critical flaw in Oko being that the teams underestimated the power of Oko's +1 ability (Melissa DeTora metioned that on stream). Similarly, the Companion mechanic was a missed attempt to balance the deckbuilding restrictions with the benefit- you can comb Maro's tweets for that. It's hard to balance for three formats, let alone all formats, especially with the current approach to card design.
I think we have to accept these limitations and recognize that, in the absence of large beta testing like other games have, cards will get restricted or banned (hopefully in other formats and not Vintage again - Companion is a rather unique example). The goal should be to expedite the process and promote transparency (would love to see Wizards data and design process for the cards).
I enjoyed playing this on stream and hope to continue doing so.
I know I have a reputation as a pro-restriction voice, but I actually think the Vintage Unleashed restriction list could be further reduced. The tutors haven't been as powerful in my experience since most of the key cards are unrestricted. The cantrips provide a similar level of consistency but also enable Forces and fuel Delve spells. It might be something to consider as the format develops.
I actually recreated my account to try and focus on article-type posts and primers, but to answer some of the questions in this thread, Lurrus actually is probably as good or better than all of the restricted cards in the format.
A consideration is decks will always have Lurrus as an additional card. Period. That's a boost to every game played. They will rarely have a particular restricted card. They will have a 4-of 40% of the time per 7 card hand. The metagame data we have from the format shows that Lurrus decks have an estimated 61% win rate against non-Lurrus decks (when adjusted for expected mirror matches). The odds of having a restricted card in your opening hand approach that 11% differential, though it can be higher with mulligans, and is obviously mitigated by just considering that having a restricted card doesn't necessarily translate into a win (it won't necessarily resolve or might not win the game). Prior to Ikoria, I was making the argument that Black Lotus was actually detrimental to the control game plan, which was more built on attrition, and was cutting it from Jeskai and other decks. I even won a couple Vintage challenges, which prompted comments like "Uro/Oko is better than Black Lotus, confirmed" from people outside the format. Having something powerful to do with zero risk of putting yourself down a card, has made Lotus much better, so don't worry, not cutting Black Lotus any more.
Furthermore, if you compare the decks, Shops and Bazaar decks are really struggling in this metagame. Shops has a 42% win rate. Dredge has a 36% win rate. You can argue that if these decks were to replace Workshops and Bazaar with Darksteel Ingot, they would have worse win rates, but that's a pretty uncompelling theoretical argument that ignores how decks are actually constructed. Cards don't exists in isolation. Force of Will has risen in importance and prevalence but honestly, a huge part of this is due to Lurrus. Lurrus is essentially a 2-for-1, no matter how you slice it up, and Force of Will is arguably one of the better ways to 2-for-1 yourself. MBT is also decent as is Force of Negation and STP because of the exile effect, and this is evidence of metagame warping.
Restricting the Baubles and other pieces makes little sense, due to the redundancy of effects. Breach decks are very functional at one copy, Urza and Mishra's Bauble are very close in efficiency, restricting Remora really doesn't have much of a structural effect on the metagame, are you really going to restrict value-based Dredge hate like Nihil Spellbomb and Soul-Guide Lantern? There are many ways to derive value from recurring permanents <=2 mana, decks are even running [Unbridled Growth].
People have tried to combat or ignore Lurrus but you are just sacrificing too much utility and there is just too much versatility in how Lurrus can be used that make targeted approaches difficult. Hatebears strategies fall victim to a huge increase in creature removal as a response to Lurrus being prevalent, not to mention more Karakas, and the fact that most decks have a 3/2 lifelinker to recoup life loss as an 8th card every game. Reality Smasher is much less impressive when the 5 life attack is negated by Lurrus + a Deathrite Shaman. Similarly, attacking the graveyard or artifacts, trades at a card disadvantage since the floor of Lurrus is still a 3/2 lifelinker. It's similar to Illness of Ranking or Dread of Nighting Mentor in that you are going down a card to mitigate the effects of your opponent's card, except this card was cast from outside the game. Graveyard hate and null rod effects are only great when they attack the opponent's core strategies such as Breach combo or PO.
The main approaches now are to accept that Vintage is the Lurrus format and diversity exists in the confines of Lurrus Combo vs Lurrus Value, or eliminate Lurrus as companion. People can play what they want and will play what they want, and indeed, the power of restricted cards can be pretty good at obscuring a decks flaws. However, Lurrus has been absurdly dominant immediately, taking 16/16 top 8 slots in both Vintage Challenges on MTGO, as well as winning both Paper Online events held in this weekend. As noted above, it doesn't appear from the data that other strategies are on par with Lurrus or that there is an emergence of viable countermeasures that exist outside of Lurrus decks.
In any case, I don't think anything the Vintage community does will necessarily influence WotC's decision on what they end up doing. Like Dig through Time and Treasure Cruise, Lurrus is creating similar patterns of dominance across other formats. WotC restricted Cruise and Dig at the same time it banned those cards in Legacy and if they too action on Lurrus, the would likely do the same in Vintage. What that will be, I don't know. I'm just representing my view as someone that plays the format and collects the data. My preference as a brewer would be for Lurrus to exist as playable as a non-companion rather than an overt ban of either Lurrus or the companion mechanic. In that respect, I am not as much of a philosophical purist as others in this thread.
Narset was not a brake card. It was a broken aspect of PO decks and enabled a secondary combo of Narset + Timetwister/Wheel.
Did people ever stop and consider why PO got worse in the format once Narset was restricted? I highly recommend challenging preconceptions about the format and relying on data to form your opinions of the format. It will make you a better player.
Well, something is happening next week and it affects Vintage, Legacy and Brawl. As for the actual steps they will take, I feel that is less clear.
@Illig719 I have not played Legacy with Companions, since I would normally play in paper. However, my understanding is that Lurrus is the new Brainstorm: a powerful tool being shoved into lots of different shells. Is that really a big problem?
If Brainstorm was printed today, wouldn't it be banned? DRS, Wrenn, and Top were powerful tools that were shoved into different shells and they all got hit. Astrolabe and Veil are cards that people have mentioned as possible bannings (along with Oko).
Lurrus is only on par with Brainstorm on power level. It's more comparable to DRS, Wrenn, and Astrolabe in other regards (Like, it's a 3/2 B/W likelinking value engine - how many unique decks can it generate?). Also, you'd be ignoring that Delver is winning pretty much every event and represent the majority of all these "different" Lurrus strategies.
How much is an extra card worth in MTG?
The concept is messy because Wizards knows the cost is high and that's why they keep trying to mitigate the effect with the mulligan rules, but going off the data collected from 17lands.com Resources on MTGA, it's about 12% after the London mulligan. It was previously 16% with the Vancouver mulligan. For context, the best players tend to be in the 60% for win rates, the best decks tend to be in the mid 50% range. So without mitigating the card disadvantage, you are basically turning an average player on an average deck into one of the best players on one of the best decks.
Now please don't waste people's time pointing out irrelevant details like the difference between limited and Vintage. That's not the point. The point is an extra card has a huge effect on a deck's win percentage and the Companions were trying to mitigate that advantage solely by their deck building restrictions. Or they could have made the cards week, like a basically vanilla 5/5 or 4/5 (and those still see competitive play). Lurrus's deckbulding restriction is not very significant in the context of Vintage and the card is pushed relative to other three drops if you've ever tried to play it maindeck in any format. Lurrus compounds the advantages of the extra card by being a strong card in it's own right. The 11% advantage that we calculated from our data set is likely an accurate representation of the cards power despite the fact that the format is completely warping around itself with up to 75% of decks running it.
I don't know how to spell it out any clearer.
...The Commander Rule Committee isn't a democratic body.
And you can't have every Vintage player vote or have a voice for a myriad of practical reasons. You want a "vote", write an article on why Vintage would actually be better off with Force of Will restricted. No one is stopping you from making your case.
Based on every B&R ever, what makes you think Vintage players would have enough consensus for a mission statement? Consensus on members? Consensus on anything, really? Commander isn't bound by its rule council. It's a largely casual format whose banned list and "mission" is enforced by individual play groups, producing a flexible format that appeals to a wide player base. Attributing the Commander format's success to its rule council is absurd. And expecting the Vintage equivalent of a rules council to be effective would be absurd. A lesson here is that since events are unsanctioned, people can possibly agree on modified B&R lists or other custom rules similar to how players run events in Commander. I know Legacy players have started pre-Innastrad Legacy games on MTGO.
I agree with Brian. It had been a confluence of life factors that has impacted my ability to play paper Magic (school, health, etc), rather than a flaw in paper events. When I used to go to events, it was a 1.5 to 2 hour drive each way. I also think there are going to be challenges going forward with COVID-19 - for instance, my school strongly discourages nonessential travel at the moment and the policy is evolving with regards to screening and quarantine. The situation is complex ethically, and likely outside the scope of this thread. But as it is now, paper events aren't really on the table for me.
@evouga PO literally draws cards, Yawgmoth's Will "draws" the cards in your graveyard. They generate considerable value when cast. This doesn't. You have to resolve some other spell or some other ability to derive value from it. The concept of a "do nothing" card is frequently used in card evaluation to describe cards like these and would not describe Yawgmoth's Will or PO.
Also, it would be helpful if you kept reading...
It is not the sole reason it is unplayable - again, it's more you drop this for 4 mana and it does nothing that is the issue. But proper card evaluation requires you to account for the summation of circumstances in which you draw the card in a deck in which you would play the card. Which will include those times you go nuts and the times it gets Pyroblasted or shut down by Narset.
I go back and forth on whether or not it's beneficial to participate in these single card discussions because it's rarely productive. People never critically evaluate their ideas, they never learn from mistakes, they never seem to play with the cards they are actually discussing, and all meaningful discussion evaporates once cards are released. The result is a repetitious forum of bad evaluations after bad evaluations. People lost their minds with Damping Sphere and then they lost their minds with Deafening Silence, even though the cards had similar limitations. Shenanigans was panned as the best artifact removal spell while people were crapping on Force of Vigor.
So here we go again. One of the only players who has actually played with the "Double the amount of cards you would draw" effect in a Vintage event (I think Dan Miller and Brian Kelly were the others of course) chimes in and players are making loose and often irrelevant comparisons like "But Jace. But Yawgmoth Will. But PO."Comparisons that are not functionally equivalent should be banned. They lead to horrible card evaluation and discussion.
This card isn't JTMS. It's Thassa's Bident. Worse. Thassa's Bident you can atleast play off of Mishra's Workshop. So I guess Coastal Piracy. It's Thopter Spy Network, but you don't get the 1/1. It's Kefnet (Both Kefnets). And both Thassas. It's Jace's Sanctum. It's the Jeskai Enchantment from the old new set that draws cards whenever you cast a noncreature spell. Not Song of Creation but the one that's much worse. The problem with crappy comparisons based on superficial characteristics is they just tell you nothing, absolutely nothing about a card.
Hatebear companions would be more effective if they were the original companions. As it is, it will almost always be better to play the busted companion and just focus on destroying the Hatebear if your opponent actually decides to run it.
An unrestricted Necro is much more powerful than an unrestricted Bargain by virtue of being a consistent turn 1 play. The comparison to Citadel is wrong - the actual comparison is to Tinker. I hope Tinker isn't being considered for unrestriction. Those who want an unrestricted Necro haven't played Vintage recently. Or want to burn the entire format to the ground. The current version of Doomsday runs Necro and has replaced DPS as the go to ritual strategy. An unrestriced Necro would slot into most, if not all of the doomsday slots, and would create pretty abysmal gameplay in which a turn 1 Necro is supported by Daze, Force of Will, and other counterspells and discard. The deck draws back up to 7 cards, uses countermagic to untap, and either wins the game or does it again the next turn with multiple Tendrils to recoup the life. The london mulligan would provide further consistency.
Most of the cards restricted are due to interactivity reasons and unless you have a compelling reason why Flash et al. won't lead to lopsided games in which one players is a passive observer, I don't think these suggestions are really helping anything.
@thewhitedragon69 Are you really trying the "dies to Doom Blade" argument in 2020 on a creature that starts outside the game and lets you recast something immediately from your graveyard?
Edit: The Cat has 9 lives.
Edit 2: That's not how math works. You need to add 1 to each of those. Bolt on a Lurrus from the Companion zone is a 2-for-1. Bolt on a Lurrus with a Bauble is a 3-for-1. Every. Game. A good player won't cast it for less than a 3-for-1. Ideally, the won't cast it if they can't protect it.
@smmenen You cherrypicked a 9-tweet post on the first one that basically was trying to give players time to adapt to them. It became clear that that adapting meant playing Lurrus and the only outcome was the dominance of one companion. In the span of 10 days, Lurrus rose from 40% to 60% of the metagame and it's win rate stayed at 60%. It swept an entire weekend of top 8's. With that said, the card is still being banned after 1 month of play. It wasn't banned immediately.
You are also acting like this wasn't a unique circumstance brought on by the COVID epidemic. This entire circumstance is incredibly usual and failing to point that out is very disingenuous.
Edit: Almost like when you look at this post in context, it has a different meaning than you suggest.
Cards do not exist in a vacuum - they interact with each other in the context of a deck and metagame. The failure to grasp this is often one of the greatest hurdles in card evaluation and deck design and it's one of the reasons most players and not very good at both.
I would categorically object to rules-based approach like this.