Best posts made by Smmenen
posted in Vintage Community read more

@13nova said in October 17, 2017 Banned & Restricted announcement:

@bobbyvictory said in October 17, 2017 Banned & Restricted announcement:

Restricting misstep definitely would bring diversity.

Bobby, this is not meant to be hostile, but to emhpasize something important.

ANYONE who thinks restricting Misstep will stop the blue circle jerk is FUCKING DILLUSIONAL. Blue matchups are 50%+ of the metagame, blue mages will replace those missteps with more flusterstorms, spell pierces, etc. Nothing relevant to shops will occur by restricting Misstep.

While I would not put the matter quite in those terms, Soly is essentially right.

Bobby, you've been railing for some time against the predominance of "blue" in the format. I think you misunderstand the reason this is, and something fundamental about the nature of the game. The problem is not innovation or creativity or even the power level of blue per se.

The fundamental problem is the design of the game. In a game that is composed of only 5 colors, with ABU(R) dual lands and Onslaught fetchlands it is too easy to build a resilient and reliable 3 color deck that can find a basic land on turn 1.

As a result, every single "colored" deck is likely to be at least 3 colors. Given that cards like Ancestral Recall and Time Walk exist, how often is blue going to NOT be at least a secondary or tertiary splash, if not the primary color? Put another way, how often is Blue going to be one of the two worst options for splashing? Very rarely.

Before Onslaught, there were many more mono-color and two color decks. 3-5 color decks often needed cards like City of Brass for reliability. But once the Onslaught fetchlands were introduced, the entire game changed. Ever since, 3-4 color decks could be built with basic lands found on turn 1.

So, your railing against "blue" is really misplaced. Blue isn't ubiquitous because people just want to play blue, or are lazy and not creative. Blue is everywhere because Onslaught fetchlands make it easy to play 60-80% of the colors in the game at almost no cost.

Rationally speaking, the only decks that are unlikely to splash blue are going to be intentionally "colorless" decks, like Workshops/Eldrazi, or decks that are mono-color and don't play fetchlands or splash second or third colors at all. Everything else is just going to have blue for the reasons I just mentioned. If you really want to see more decks that aren't colorless or blue, then you'd have to ban Fetchlands.

If Magic were a game of 7 or more colors, and if the Onslaught fetchlands had never seen print, you would see much less blue. Before Onslaught, blue was not quite as ubiquitous. I think the institutional memory of pre-Onslaught Magic masks how fundamental that change wrought.

posted in Official Tournament Results read more

Ryan & Matt,

I have NO idea how you produced this gargantuan spreadsheet within literally 24 hours after EW.

Massive congratulations and appreciation are in order.



posted in Vintage Community read more

Since so many people have been opining recently, here are my full thoughts on the Vintage Banned & Restricted List at this moment.

First Principles:

While I do not agree with the premise that Vintage should be treated differently because it is a "more casual" format, the Vintage format is unique from other formats in a few ways that are relevant to Vintage Restricted List management.

First and foremost, a major part of the appeal of the format is the sense of continuity and stabilty within the format over it's multi-decade existence. Part of this is the simple fact that as an eternal format, Vintage doesn't rotate. But part of it is also the fact that players learn, master and develop expertise and acquire the card pool for certain strategies - a vision that is not altogether dissimilar from what Rob Hahn described so many years ago.

All of these features tend to mean that, whenever restrictions might be justified, but aren't strictly warranted, then the average Vintage player - myself included - prefers "no action." That is to say, when exercising Banned and Restricted List management, there will be times that restrictions are essentially warranted (as when Thirst dominated the format in 2009 or Treasure Cruise dominated in 2014). But there will also be times that restrictions are justifiable, but not necessarily strictly warranted. We might quibble over this distinction, but many restricted List policy decisions - like most major policy decisions in the real world (see the cover story in the Atlantic this month) are fraught with complexities and ambiguities.

More often than not, a policy decision can be justified, but isn't strictly necessary. In the case of such close calls, Vintage players prefer abstention rather than action.

Another major difference between Vintage and other formats is the fact that, with very few categorical exceptions, you are permitted to play all of your cards, regardless of power level (hence why we have restrictions instead of bannings). This defining feature of the format, along with the general preference for continuity and stability, reinforces a libertarian/anti-interventionist ethos in the format. Whereas professional players, I think, tend to prefer more active/aggressive management practices for other formats, I think Vintage players, in general, much prefer a more hands off approach.

I strongly believe that history and experience in the format - especially with incessant calls for restrictions through the years - ultimately supports the anti-interventionist wing of the format. Countless cards through the years have been demanded for restriction, with notable examples including Academy Rector, Goblin Welder, Dark Ritual, Illusionary Mask, Oath of Druids, Bazaar of Baghdad, among many others (see, for example, this chart: - you can see everyone in 2003 who voted for or against the restriction of any of those).

When the DCI has intervened aggressively, it's often led to massive backlash, with the wave of 5 restrictions in 2008 being the most recent example. In contrast, consider the fact that from September 2009 until Treasure Cruise, a 5 year period, there hadn't been a single restriction in Vintage.

I think everyone realizes that B&R list policy is designed to maximize fun, but one of the main ways that Vintage players define "fun" is strategic diversity. Vintage players are pretty well settled in that, if there is a tension between "interactivity" and "diversity," we prefer the latter. Workshop or Dredge, for example, may not be the most interactive at times, but Vintage players greatly value the unique dimensions of play that it brings to the format, and the enjoyment and excitement that strategic diversity brings.

The good news is that strategic diversity can be measured. We can look at tournament results, and see if a wide enough range of decks are appearing in top 8s. We can also measure dominance. Typically, if a strategy or a tactic gets above 35% of Top 8s, like Treasure Cruise was doing and Thirst for that, restrictions aren't merely justifiable, but usually warranted.

Some people object that tournament performance shouldn't be given that much weight in Vintage B&R policy, but I think that objection misses the mark entirely. Suppose a deck arose that some felt merited restrictions, yet never appeared in a Top 8. Would anyone seriously consider that deck needing a restriction? I would hope not.

In that light, I have made public a spreadsheet that Kevin and I co-created with tons of Q1 metagame data that I believe should inform this discussion:

Let me just say, though, as a final first principle, that I believe that the most important regular data point is the MTGO P9 Challenge, because of the quality and quantity of players involved. I would give that event more weight in this discussion than other events.

Now, let me turn to specific cards that have arisen recently in discussions:

  1. Lodestone Golem

I have long believed - and said in many fora (podcasts, internet posts, and multiple times on the VSL), that I thought Wizards should have restricted Golem instead of Chalice. I felt they hit the wrong card for many reasons which I think are increasingly obvious. In an ideal world, I would switch the positions of those cards, and see how things played out.

Chalice of the Void may well prove too broken even with Golem restricted, but aside from some grumblings when it was initially printed, Chalice was not seriously considered for restriction for over 11 years until the printing of Golem. Golem is and has been the problem.

Given the data in the spreadsheet I posted, with Shops about 30% of MTGO results, I think restricting Golem even with Chalice is a defensible decision. I'm not sure that I would do it, as the data doesn't suggest it's strictly necessary, but I wouldn't have serious objection if they were.

  1. Dark Petition

Look at the table matrix. Dark Petition only 7% of paper top 8s, and 3% of daily 3-1 or better decks in 2016, with exactly one 4-0. That's not only far from dominance, but the exact opposite. Dark Petition has made Storm a viable strategy and broadened the strategic diversity of the format.

I believe restricting Dark Petition would be a serious, and egregious, mistake. Restriction Dark Petition goes against every principle I believe in about this format's management in terms of data and diversity.

To those who say that Dark Petition should dominate in the hands of the right pilot, I say: that may be right, but if it's not dominating or creating problems in real Vintage tournaments, then that's merely a theoretical concern that can be addressed if that reality manifests.

  1. Gush

Gush has been unrestricted since 2011, but has benefited greatly from a number of recent printings, including Mentor and the Delve spells.

As much as I hate to say it (and would lament to no end such a decision), re-restricting Gush again is not entirely indefensible (certainly not as egregious as restricting Dark Petition), but I do think it would be unwise.

First of all, Gush decks bring a strategic diversity to the format. COnsider what it does for not just token strategies, but also strategies like Doomsday.

To those who say that Gush has driven other blue decks out of the format, I would remind people to look at last year's Vintage Champs top 8, where you had multiple Mana Drain style decks in the top 8. Moreover, from 2011 when Gush was re-unrestricted, to roughly 2013, Gush decks were only a modest player in the format.

Relatedly, and like the Dark Petition decks, I think Gush is a highly skill intensive card that rewards format knowledge and quality play. I would only re-restrict Gush if strictly necessary.

Final point:

I have serious concerns with ever restricting more than one card at a time in Vintage. Based upon what I've said so far, I tend to only support restrictions when strictly warranted, not just when justifiably taken. That tends to mean that a deck is really dominating.

Vintage players tend to prefer really tailored and targeted interventions when they do occur. In the history of the format, every single time from 2013 and earlier, with only one exception, that Wizards has restricted more than one card, it has later gone back to unrestrict at least one of those cards.

When restricting multiple cards to deal with the same strategy, it becomes impossible to know the impact of any given restriction on the power level of the archetype as a result. When restricting cards from different strategies, it's impossible to know exactly how the restriction will affect the relative positions of the remaining metagame players. Thus, as a policy lever, I strongly prefer spacing out restrictions to more carefully observe their individual effects.


At the end of the day, I think Vintage B&R list policy is best managed when targeted, tightly tailored, necessary, and not just when defensible or justified. That said, I have no serious quarrel with restrictions that are borderline or close cases.

I strongly and vehemently oppose the restriction of Dark Petition, oppose the restriction of Gush, and think Golem should have been restricted over Chalice. With Chalice restricted, I would probably not restrict Golem at this point - at least, not yet - but that is not an indefensible decision, imo.

posted in Vintage Community read more


I've found a record of Brian Kelly lobbying for it's unrestriction in 1996 and 1997.

Check it out:

Post 1:

Post 2:


@ Brian: You thought you could hide this from us, but even after twenty years, my sleuthing skills uncovered your misdeeds 🙂

I kid, but it is funny to think that you might have actually swayed DCI opinion in this ancient era, with long term unintended consequences that could hardly have been fully appreciated.

posted in Vintage Community read more

@phazonmutant said in Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor:

Awesome post, Rich! I don't often post here but had to speak up in agreement.

@Smmenen said in Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor:

I was simply highlighting the incongruity of a post that frames the issue in terms of Turbo-Xerox (TX), asserts that TX is dominant in the format, and then opposes the restriction of Preordain.

If TX is dominant, you attack the cantrips, which is why Ponder and Brainstorm are restricted, not win conditions. Because if it's TX that is dominant, and not the win condition, then restricting Mentor should have no bearing on the dominance of TX, according to the logic Rich set out. The analysis as presented and conclusions of the OP are logically inconsistent.

Steven, you're using your lawyer powers for evil here - you strawmanned Rich's argument. He doesn't argue that it's bad that TX is dominant. If he were to have argued that, then I agree the correct approach is to kill the cantrips.

However, Rich actually advocated for diversity. I can't imagine anyone arguing against diversity as a hallmark of a good metagame. His proposed policy for achieving that was to weaken TX decks without killing them - a fine line to walk. The point of banning Mentor is that it (1) allows for greater diversity of TX shells, and (2) reduces the overall power level for them (because Mentor is so ahead of the curve). This allows the rest of the metagame dilate to target different sets of decks.

It's fair to question if TX will still be dominant and if so to what extent with the restriction of mentor, but I'd guess that it would open the format up considerably more than banning Preordain would.

My point about restricting Preordain was slightly disingenuous, as I'm not really advocating, at this point in time, for the restriction of Preordain. I developed that argument to highlight the limits of over-emphasizing TX as an explanation for the ills of this metagame.

I think everyone agrees that the format is in bad shape. The disagreement is over 1) what to do about it, and 2) how we got here (the theory as to why the metagame looks the way it does).

Rich's solutions are not unreasonable. There is broad support for restricting Mentor already. I would have restricted Mentor, not Gush, in April. And there is certainly plenty of support for restricting Misstep (although I disagree with that).

The problem is with his theory of the case.

His theory, at bottom, is that TX strategies are propping up Workshops. The solution, therefore, is to weaken TX strategies, by restricting the two cards just mentioned, upon the belief that Workshops will decline.

But we just tried that, and it didn't work. We restricted Gush, which most people recognized as one of the core cards in the TX shell, as well as Probe, which was widely used by TX decks. Not only did it not work, but it actually led to a 2.5 times increase in Workshop decks in Vintage Challenges (if you compare July, 2016-March, 2017 with the 10 Challenges since April 24th).

As I said before: Rich already suggested, on the VSL broadcast, that restricting Gush would lead to a reduction of Shops upon the exact same theory. But this didn't happen. And, in that same broadcast, he explicitly opposed the restriction of Mentor. So something is wrong with the theory. Science is based upon falsifiability. Not only did it fail to predict what would happen, but it fails (without supplementary reasoning) to furnish an explanation for why Mentor deserves restriction now, but didn't in April.

And this is the problem. To understand why this is a problem, a little more context: There was a running debate in Vintage running for year prior to the Gush restriction about whether Gush or Mentor should be restricted, if either or both. The terms of that debate were simple: which restriction would have a greater effect on the other?

The pro-restriction of Gush crowd believed that restricting Gush would render Mentor less of a problem, and this is the position that Rich apparently took in the VSL interview, and why he opposed Mentor's restriction, but called for Gush to go. Critically, people, like Chubby Rain, who propounded this view repeatedly also argued that the win condition was not the issue. Chubby Rain repeatedly said that if Gush were allowed to continue to exist unrestricted, but Mentor were restricted, then the Gush decks would just run other win conditions, with roughly the same effect.

On the other hand, the opponents of the restriction of Gush, like myself, argued that, at root, Mentor was the issue, not Gush, and argued that restricting Gush would have little to no effect on Mentor's prevalence. In other words, I argued that the restriction of Gush would have little effect on reducing Mentor, but restricting Mentor would have a greater effect in reducing Gush. In fact, there were detailed numerical forecasts developed by myself and VaughBros, where we actually predicted ranges of either Gush or Mentor resulting from the restriction of the other.

Now that the evidence is in. As we can see, restricting Gush had zero % reduction on Mentor. And since Rich is calling for the restriction of Mentor, that suggests the possibility that it was Mentor, rather than Gush, that should have been restricted in April. To minimize the number of restrictions, it's advisable to begin with the most targeted restriction to the problem. Depending on whether you thought Mentor or Gush needed restricted reveals how you understand the problem.

It is of course possible to argue, as Chubby Rain has consistently, that both Mentor and Gush should be restricted, because they do different things to the metagame. But this was not Rich's position, as he articulated it on the VSL or wrote elsewhere. And even if you believe that Gush and Mentor do have different effects on the metagame, there remains at least a decent possibility of over-inclusion or over-restriction because they are often played together. (And yes, the DCI has said that the goal is to keep the Vintage B&R list as short as possible). This possibilty - of over-restriction - was implied by the numerical ranges that were debated by Vaughbros and myself. I was right about the effect of the restriction of Gush on Mentor, and it's not unlikely I would have been right about the effect of a restriction of Mentor on Gush. I predicted a meaningful decline in Gush decks if Mentor was restricted. Specifically, I predicted 33-50%, while VaughBros predicted 22%, of Gush players would have switched to non-Gush decks.

Rich's position, now advocating for the restriction of Mentor, suggests the logical possibility that Gush's restriction was unnecessary, in that the restriction of Mentor in April may have reduced the % of Gush to an acceptable range, and opened up the metagame somewhat. But his opposition to the restriction of Mentor in April and insistence on Gush instead, suggests an inconsistency that is not explained by his theory: If he believes that restricting Mentor will tamp down TX decks, why did he not believe this in April?

And if, upon reflection, Rich's current position, backward casting, suggests Mentor was a legitimate target for restriction in April, then again, it suggests the possibility that Gush's restriction was unnecessary. That's because it's virtually untenable to believe, based upon what we know now, that Mentor's restriction would have had less of an impact on Gush than the restriction of Gush did on Mentor.

This is the most important critique of Rich's position(s). The opposition to Mentor's restriction in April cannot be squared with support for it today without conceding the possibilty that either one of the positions were wrong or that one of the restrictions may be unnecessary.

With the benefit of hindsight, it's patently obvious that the restriction of Mentor in April instead of Gush would not have produced a worse metagame than the converse has.

The blind spot appears to be that Rich is overly focused on TX theory (which occupies a large part of my Gush book - and has since it's first edition in 2010, so I don't underestimate the power of TX principles), while I place the blame for metagame problems much more squarely and directly on Mentor itself.

Reiterating here the position I took in early April, and adopted last year: Mentor is simply the best win condition in the format, with or without TX shells. As I said on April 8th:

Monastery Mentor is the best win condition in the format. It's easy to resolve, protect, fast, and difficult to remove, answer or address.

That's true with or without TX shells. Suppose for the moment that none of the decks in this format were built on TX principles. Mentor would still, I believe, be predominant. Not because it's the best win condition in Turbo Xerox decks, because, in this thought experiment, there are none. But because it's just the best win condition in Vintage, period. It's incredibly productive and hard to remove, and wins very quickly. PO Mentor, which no one could say is built on TX precepts, illustrates this (like the version that Top 8ed the NYSE).

And I also believe that Workshops would also be dominant, as they are now. Again, not because of TX decks (because there are none in this hypothetical), but because Shops are simply so fast, efficient, synergistic, and disruptive to the entire format, and there are now more tools at their disposal than ever before thanks to printings in the last 5-7 years, cards like Revoker, Hangarback Walker, Ballista, etc. I believe that non-TX decks are weaker against Shops than non-TX decks were before the last unrestriction of Gush in 2010, and it this fact which, in part, generates the illusion that TX decks are propping up Shops. Shops are just much more powerful, flexible and adaptable than they have ever been.

Restricting cards in blue decks isn't going to weaken Workshops. That may have been true ages ago, but is fallacy today.

You want a litmus test, in case Rich's proposed restrictions occur? I'll offer one: if the restrictions he recommends happen, I predict Workshop will not decline below their average baseline from the last 12 months. Then, we can see, again, who turns out to be right.

TL;DR: Rich places far too much explanatory power for Mentor and Workshops dominance on TX theory, and that's why I believe his recommendations will fail to achieve his hoped-for outcomes, just as they did in April. IMO, Workshops and Mentor are dominant for much simpler and more fundamental reasons: Mentor and Workshop are too damn good, and it has much less to do with TX than he believes.

posted in Vintage Community read more

I agree with the decision.

Here are the criticisms I've heard:

  1. The format is stale, and needs to be 'shaken' up.

  2. PO is non-interactive, and the format's game play is overall poor.

I don't think either criticism has merit.

First of all, this is Vintage - we don't support restrictions just to "shake up" the format. We play this format because it evolves slowly.

I like stale formats, and so do other players, otherwise Old School wouldn't be so popular right now.

As for the second criticism, I think it's empirically unwarranted. Shops v. PO is probably the only non-interactive match in the format (game 1s against Dredge are not a "match," but are also non-interactive). Every other match right now is loaded to bear with interactivity and intense decision making.

This was the correct decision, despite the incessant complaining. Just looking at the last few years, people have never stopped complaining about something. First it was Chalice, then it was Lodestone, then it was Gush, then it was Mentor, now it's PO/Misstep, and possibly Shops. People just love to complain, but the format is objectively miles better than its been in years.

posted in Vintage Community read more

Since the current TMD archive is down, I found the cache so folks can read all of the metagame reports that have ever been generated.

For ease of use, I've compiled them all here:






Q4 Report:

2010-05-03 So Many Insane Plays – The Q1 2010 Vintage Earnings and Market Report
2010-02-22 So Many Insane Plays – The Vintage Market Report


2009-09-21 So Many Insane Plays – Vintage/Legacy Split Article
2009-08-04 May/June 2009 LARGE-scale Metagame Report
2009-07-28 May/June Small-scale Metagame Report
2009-05-11 So Many Insane Plays – The Most Dominant Engine in Vintage History: The March/April Vintage Metagame Report
2009-03-16 So Many Insane Plays – Reflections on Chicago / The Jan-Feb Vintage Metagame Report
2009-01-19 So Many Insane Plays - Restrict Mana Drain? The November-December Metagame Report


2008-11-10 So Many Insane Plays – What’s Winning in Vintage? The September/October Vintage Metagame Report
2008-09-22 So Many Insane Plays – Walking Through the Ruins of the Vintage Apocalypse
2008-07-21 So Many Insane Plays –The May/June Vintage Metagame Report
2008-06-16 So Many Insane Plays – The March/April Vintage Metagame Report
2008-03-17 So Many Insane Plays - The Jan-Feb Vintage Metagame Report
2008-01-02 So Many Insane Plays – Rounding Out The Vintage Year


2007-11-07 So Many Insane Plays - Vintage By The Numbers
2007-08-15 So Many Insane Plays - Figures Don’t Lie, But Liars Figure: A Vintage Metagame Report


2005-06-30 May-June Type One Metagame Breakdown
2005-06-01 April Type One Metagame Breakdown
2005-05-02 Vintage Metagame Breakdown: March
2005-03-14 As Much Info As You Can Handle - The Jan-Feb Vintage Metagame Report
2005-03-04 Functional Breakdown of Vintage Cards From Dec-Jan
2005-02-14 The December and January Vintage Metagame Report


2004-12-10 Oct-Nov Vintage Metagame Summary
2004-12-02 Examining the Vintage Metagame - Analysis of The Ultimate Table, Part Deux
2004-11-08 Examining the Vintage Metagame - Analysis of The Ultimate Table
2004-10-12 The September Vintage Metagame Breakdown
2004-09-13 The August Vintage Metagame Breakdown
2004-08-20 The July Metagame Update and The Crucible Effect
2004-07-26 The June Vintage Metagame Breakdown
2004-07-02 April-May Type 1 Potpourri
2004-06-23 May Metagame Breakdown
2004-06-15 September to April, Part 2
2004-05-28 September to April: There and Back Again for Type One
2004-05-06 The April Type One Metagame Breakdown
2004-04-14 March Type One Potpourri
2004-04-06 March Metagame Breakdown for Type I
2004-03-25 All Request Live For Type One
2004-03-15 February Type One Potpourri
2004-03-08 February Type One Metagame Breakdown
2004-03-03 All The Little People - Metagames for Small Vintage Tournaments
2004-01-21 Designing Cards For Vintage, Part 2: And Most Popular Cards In Type I Are...
2004-01-13 Number Crunching Type I: Designing Cards For Vintage
2004-01-02 Number-Crunching Type 1 for 2003

The data is quite rich, and I have even more data I've accumulated over time in my personal files.

If you can't find any of those articles, they are all hyperlinked on the cache.

posted in Vintage News read more

This is a massive, long-form essay on the History of The Deck.

Most people are familiar with the 1995-6 versions of The Deck. But, for the first time, I unveil a number of versions of The Deck that have never been published, including the April, 1994 list and the 2016 list by Brian Weissman for Old School Magic.

The changes to the list also serve as a history of the evolution of the Type I & Vintage formats. For that reason, there is much hear to learn and apply to modern Vintage and for Vintage history.

There is much more to say, but there are over 10K words in this article, so have at it!



posted in Vintage News read more

Hi Vintage lovers 🙂

For such a prominent part of the metagame, Gush is one of the most misunderstood and poorly played cards in the format. More often than not (and this is not hyperbole), Gush is played incorrectly, even on the VSL.

This is not surprising, from a simple mechanics perspective. Gush involves many simultaneous decisions: 1) what lands to return, 2) what colors of mana to float, 3) what turn to play Gush, 4) how to sequence Gush with other spells, and much more.

In case you hadn't seen it, I recently published the first edition of my "Gush book" in five and half years. It hasn't been updated since January/February 2011, and a helluva lot has happened in Vintage in that time.

Completely re-written and dramatically expanded (it's 350+ pages, 2nd edition was only 150 pages), the book is much more expansive in scope and coverage, not to mention virtually a complete re-write and reorganized.

It takes a short time to write a lousy book, and a long time to write a not-lousy book. As a labor of love, I spent an enormous amount making sure that all of my guidance here was more accurate, precise, and clear. I tackled gnarly concepts and hard theory with a clarity that was not present in the original versions. I hope that my precision here will withstand critical scrutiny as well as history.

For the non-Gush player, there is much here to learn from, including detailed explanations and usage tips for a range of tactics, from countermagic to tutors. In addition, there are dense specialty topics, like an entire Appendix devoted to Doomsday piles, and a "Gush Hall of Fame" - the best Gush decks of all time.

I hope you enjoy, but more importantly, learn as much as you can from this book. It's also organized in a way that you can take notes, with chapter summaries to jog your memory.

Anywhere, here's the EC blurb:

For the first time in over five years, Stephen Menendian’s expert guide and master class on Gush strategies in Vintage has been revised, updated, and expanded. At a time when Gush decks have never been more central to the Vintage metagame, this book is a timely and essential primer to one of the most sophisticated and challenging strategies in the Vintage format. Persistently misunderstood and generally misplayed, Gush requires many simultaneously decisions and precise timing. Maximizing all of the advantages offered by Gush demands deep understanding and strategic insight. This book presents a comprehensive theory of Gush, all of the advantages derivable from Gush, and a complete range of strategies and tactics.

With hundreds of pages of new content, Stephen has provided a dramatic and comprehensive re-write of this classic. As the Vintage metagame and card pool changes, so too does the understanding and prescriptive guidance of playing Gush strategies. Reorganized and expanded, this 350+ page book widens its scope, and has been carefully re-written from the ground up to provide better guidance, more precise analysis, and clearer explanations. No stone is left unturned, as every aspect of Gush play, design, and theory is covered, including a special appendix on Doomsday strategies, with more detailed descriptions of Doomsday piles than ever before, and an archive of the greatest Gush decks of all time. Beyond the specificity, detail, and practical guidance, this book delves deeper into the theory of Gush, with lessons for any Vintage player – whether they wish to learn Gush decks, learn how to defeat them, or simply to deepen their understanding of the format.

Thanks again,


posted in Eldrazi read more

I played this archetype in the VSL prelim event (my decklist here), based upon the assumption that White Eldrazi was probably the best positioned achetype to attack 1) Mentor strategies and 2) PO strategies. The two people who played this archetype in the last P9 event, I think, came to a similar conclusion.

Without assessing the position of this archetype in the post-AER metagame, and whether or not it gains or loses more from cards like Walking Ballista, I would like to offer a brief comments on this archetype.

  1. I've noticed that many White Eldrazi players play cards like Swords to Plowshares, Disenchant, Rest in Peace, Stony Silence or other white non-creature spells in the sideboard, and sometimes even maindeck. In my experience, and based upon simple math alone, I don't think this deck is capable of reliably playing white non-creature spells, simply because there aren't enough white non-cavern mana sources to reliably cast such spells. 6 white producing lands and Pearl and Lotus is not reliable enough. I think this archetypes colored spell complement has to be strictly delimited to creature spells.

  2. I read Jaco's excellent Eldrazi book before building my list, and one of the things that comes up throughout is the challenge of playing a mana heavy deck. In my experience in the recent metagame, however, I actually found that running a deck with 30 mana sources is an asset. Gush Mentor decks not only run Null Rod effects, but many now run multiple Wasteland effects. I think there is a good case to be made to run 31 or even 32 mana sources post-board in some matchups. In other words, I think that the large mana base, normally a cause of variance and a drawback in most vintage environments, is actually a big upside in the current metagame.

This is especially true with how effective Displacer is in the metagame. A single Displacer and a ton of mana can control a battlefield.

  1. Finally, based upon my experience with Workshop decks and hatebear/Beats deck, I was not prepared to understand how very difficult this deck is to play by comparison. Aside from the developed technical skills needed to pilot certain strategies, like timing Gush, or the experience needed to identify possible lines in the first place, as with Doomsday or other tutors, this may be one of the most difficult decks to play in the format, in terms of selecting the optimal line of play among multiple available options. Put another way: in some decks, the challenge is spotting the best line, with the best line hidden or less visible. Here, the challenge is evaluating lines, not spotting them. That's something I haven't really seen to this degree in modern Vintage.

One of the problems with Beats and Workshop decks is sequencing decisions based upon imperfect information. Yet, usually the sequencing decisions can be reasoned with a bit of logic and thought. There are probably more situations with this archetype than probably any other I can recall in recent memory where among multiple options, the optimal choice is extremely difficult to identify. Without purporting to definitely identify why, I think there are a couple of key factors behind this:

  • Almost every decision with the deck is also a role decision, whether to assume the beatdown or try to maintain a soft lock. Therefore, it's not simply a choice of plays, but a choice of roles. And this role framework is shaped not simply by the nature of the matchup, but the configuration of your hand, your opponent's board, and the overall situation (i.e. what turn, what stage of the game, etc.). Even attacking decisions have role implications. For example, whether to attack a player or a planeswalker.

  • Eldrazi Displacer. In most decks, the main decisions are what cards in hand to play, and whether to attack or not. But, with Displacer, you not only have to select among what spells to play, but whether to play a spell or leave mana up to displace, and if so, what to displace. Displace a TKS to snag a card, or keep up mana to protect your own cards, etc.

  • Your creatures give you lots of options, multiplying the potential for error. Cards like TKS and Phyrexian Revoker, which is commonly played in the archetype, present wide ranging and open decision making options.

  • Design challenges. There is a huge range of possible cards to include, but each have trade-offs in different metagame contexts. Some cards are so powerful that they are auto includes, but some are better or worse in different metagames. For example, whether and in what contexts you play Thalia 2.0 or Wingmare.

  • Land sequencing is challenging. Not only do you have to commit to a creature type with Cavern, but each land drop opens and forecloses potential future lines of play. So you not only have to interface cards in hand and potential lines of play with your mana production possibilities, but you have to develop your mana in such a way as to maximizes your capacity to pursue different routes of play. Workshop mana bases, by comparison, are much easier to play, despite having similar lans diversity.

posted in Vintage Community read more

I prefer a format that is essentially libertarian: live and let live.

I prefer a Vintage format that let's people play all of their cards to the maximal extent possible, as long as it doesn't totally dominate the format.

I prefer a Vintage format that allows players to enjoy the same cards and strategies for a lifetime.

I prefer a Vintage format where only the most oppressive or unfun strategies and tactics require restriction.

I prefer a Vintage restricted list that is as small as reasonably possible.

posted in Vintage Community read more

This a great question, and you've already got a good response.

But I'd file "deliberate practice" under the header of "good process." I've always been a believer that performance is a product of process and effort. Effort without a good process is a waste, as is a good process without effort.

I think a good process includes analysis and reflection. I used to write long SCG articles breaking down play-by-play from matches or tournament reports to illustrate different lines of play. But MTGO makes this so much easier.

Because you can go back and replay MTGO matches, I find MTGO to be the perfect testing medium for deliberate practice. I do a couple of steps. First, I'll rewatch the game in fast speed, to just get a sense for the overall flow and key decision points. Then, I'll replay the game a move at a time, to more carefully analyze my options, and to evaluate what I could have done differently. Taking notes is useful, as you can record key decision points and weigh options.

The other night, I lost a game 1 against a Workshop player after I made a big decision, and the line didn't pan out. Only after I watched the game twice, and really thought about it, did another line emerge to me that I hadn't even considered when I was playing it, because it was so counterintuitive. Upon careful analysis of what my opponent subsequently drew and what happened, I believe that counter-intuitive line would have led to victory (I won the match anyway).

But, at the same time, I try to ask and evaluate big questions like: 1) what matters in this game? 2) what is my strategic objective in this match? 3) What goal this tactic trying to serve? Those are questions that arise from the frameworks developed in my Gush book.

Too often, players play Magic and Vintage tactically. By that I mean that players simply try to make good plays in the situation, without really considering the bigger picture, and what they are driving towards. A firmer strategic understanding will help guide plays in ambiguous situations while also revealing the strengths of alternative lines.

In addition to that, whenever I'm playing one deck in preparation for a tournament, I usually keep a running list of "errors" I've made, and will review that list before matches. Examples might be: 1) Running into a Mindbreak Trap when I didn't have to, or 2) Strip Mining the wrong land, or 3) fetching the wrong basic, etc.) That list helps me discipline my play and reminds me what to avoid.

In life, I've found that I usually have to commit a mistake (like mispronouncing someone's name) up to 3 times before I remember to avoid it in the future. So creating the list helps me record and encode errors as a "deliberate practice."

posted in Vintage Community read more

@bobbyvictory said in October 17, 2017 Banned & Restricted announcement:

Actually, it's one of the main reasons for the restricted list. Cards that are way too powerful that warp the metagame are put on it.

I think the point that @fsecco is trying to make, which is valid, is that 'power level' alone, however you might measure or define it, is not usually a reason for restriction.

Rather, in Vintage, we look at performance, not some abstract measure of power. After all, it's how Yawgmoth's Bargain or Paradoxical Outcome can be unrestricted and Thorn of Amethyst restricted.

And, there is no more important precedent or well-established measure of performance than % of Top 8s. More than any other measure, that tends to be our benchmark for restricting cards. A card can be uber-powerful - but if it doesn't dominate Top 8s, it's very unlikely to be restricted.

Terms like "warp," "power," "distort," etc. are largely subjective heuristics or conventions that lack an objectively discernible meaning let alone an empirical measure. That's why B&R list policy has largely turned over, appropriately in my view, to data analysis, such as % of Top 8s. The DCI cited the % of Shops and Mentors in Top 8s in it's last restriction decision.

Simply being over-represented in Top 8s is not, by itself of course, a sufficient condition for restriction. After all, there are broadly used utility cards or tactics like Flooded Strand, basic Island, and Force of Will, that are not likely targets for restriction.

But if you look historically since 2004, there are almost no cases of restriction where those cards were less than 20% of Top 8s. And, once a deck, archetype or general strategy reaches around 40% of Top 8s, that's usually a trigger for restricting something that is viewed as central to it. Brainstorm, Merchant Scroll, Thorn, and Thirst For Knowledge were each cards that were around 40% or more of Top 8s when they were restricted (Brainstorm was much higher).

The kind of analogical reasoning you are using, and used to see in old B&R announcements, where the DCI would compare a card to another card that is restricted or a card type (such as "tutors" or "fast mana"), is a largely outmoded way of looking at the B&R list. This is true for many reasons.

To name a few, it turns out that analogical reasoning in Magic is a fairly poor form of logic. Minor differences in card design or contextual utility make a tremendous difference. Compare Chrome Mox with Mox Diamond. Both "fast mana." They used to simply restrict cards that had the word "mox" on them. Or, perhaps even better, compare Mystical Tutor and Personal Tutor. Personal Tutor was pre-emptively restricted on the basis of analogical reasoning. Unnecessarily, as it turned out.

Another problem with analogical reasoning is that it assumes that the analog deserves restriction. Half the time that these arguments are made, the comparison card is questioned whether it even should be restricted.

As a result, arguments that are framed in the form of "Workshop is a reusable Black Lotus" are no longer very persuasive, either to the Vintage community or Vintage policy makers. Whether a card is like another card that is restricted or not is viewed as far less important than a card's actual performance.

posted in Vintage Community read more

If people want to complain about things, this is a good place to start. A more Luddite attitude in the information age...

posted in TheManaDrain Metadiscussion read more

I think that the main issue is that direct, personal attacks, of the kind that were more strictly moderated on the previous iteration of the Mana Drain, are not really as curbed as they should be. I don't think there are any problems with people talking about Banned and Restricted List or Reserved List or any other sensitive topic. I think the problem is when people make angry personal attacks on people. That's when things can really spiral out of control. If the site could simply implement a rule prohibiting that, and then enforce it, I don't think the site would be as off-putting to some people.

posted in Vintage News read more

A retrospective look at the last Gush era, and a look forward for Gush, Gush decks, and Vintage.

It's written for everyone, but serves as a special addendum for Understanding Gush readers.


posted in Vintage Community read more

@13nova said in August 28, 2017 Banned & Restricted Announcement:

@maximumcdawg Anyone who thinks probe was good for the format I am convinced couldn't beat a 10 year old with a draft deck in a vintage tournament, because they crutch way too hard on perfect knowledge.

The issue isn't whether "Probe was good for the format." The issue is whether it needed to be restricted.

There are many cards that may not be "good for the format" but are unrestricted.

The restriction of Gitaxian Probe was utterly unnecessary. That's why only 12% of Vintage players surveyed felt it should be restricted.

posted in Off-Topic read more

The conclusion of my 12-part Old School series on

There are some old Type I decks in this article that have never been published online before.

Please let me know what you think!

  • Stephen