Posts made by Smmenen
posted in TheManaDrain Metadiscussion read more

@ajfirecracker said in Deck Taxonomy on TheManaDrain:

I don't think Xerox control is a thing

It is/ has been. East Coast Wins and Empty Gush, to give just two examples, are definitely a Xerox decks, and also control decks.

See pages 65-68 in Understanding Gush, 3rd edition, hardcover version for an elaboration.

@ajfirecracker said in Deck Taxonomy on TheManaDrain:

My own mental model of the format is a pillars approach, where each pillar is a package of synergies which allows you to play some chunk of the card pool that would otherwise be unplayable (or simply much worse), and then a catch-all for like the 1/3rd to half the format that's made up of "good stuff in a pile" decks (which are typically not built around particularly strong synergies).

Bazaar of Baghdad (enables Dredge and Survival)
Dark Ritual (enables traditional Storm decks)
Mox Opal (enables PO & Belcher)
Mishra's Workshop
Cavern of Souls
Oath of Druids (enables uncastable giant creatures)

The "synergy" that the rest of the format is built around is fetchland + dual land, which tends to encourage 3-5 color decks full of random good stuff.

If you wanted to translate that into a meaningful categorization, I would try something like:
Graveyard/Self-Discard Decks
Spell-based Combo
Oath of Druids
Mishra's Workshop
Cavern of Souls Aggro (including aggro-control that is heavily built around Cavern)
Fetchland aggro-control
Fetchland control
Misc. (catch-all for weird fish decks and monored prison and whatever)

Brian Kelly style Oath lists are the deck that is functionally most equivalent in modern years to Weissman's The Deck, all the way down to the 5c mana base, except with Orchard instead of City of Brass.

My preferred Vintage Taxonomy is as follows:

  1. The Weissman School - the Big Blue Control deck.
    These decks run a spectrum, but they have a few core features:
  • few win conditions
  • a big mana base (25-29 mana sources)
  • lots of card draw
  • a decent, but not necessarily overwhelming density of permission

Historical Examples: The Deck, Keeper, AK/Intuition Psychatog, Control Slaver, Gifts, Landstill

Modern examples: Kelly Oath, non-storm PO decks, Grixis Thieves

  1. The Comer School
  • Smaller mana base (usually 17-23)
  • cantrips
  • heavy blue/ lots of free countermagic

Historical examples: GroAtog

Modern Example: RUG Pyromancer

  1. O'Brien School
  • Taxing effects
  • Generally features Sol Lands/Workshops
  • heavy mana denial
  • Dual prison and tempo elements

Historical examples: The Nether Void deck circa 1995-6, Stacker circa 2002, Stax 2003, TriniStax 2004, Aggro MUD 2007, Lodestone MUD 2010-2016.

Modern Examples: Ravager MUD, Tribal Eldrazi, White Eldrazi

  1. Reanimator (Chalice) School
  • Discard outlets
  • animate dead spells
  • larger reanimation targets
  • often self-reanimating creatures
  • often discard spells

Historical examples: Mark Chalice's 1994 "The Machine," Alan Comer's 1997 The Re-animator, Worldgorger Dragon Combo circa 2003-4,

Modern examples: Every Dredge Deck.

  1. Restricted List Combo School (or "Long" School)
    Core features:
  • Very few win conditions
  • Large mana base, with lots of mana acceleration, usually artifact, but sometimes rituals as well
  • Maximum use of the Vintage restricted list, but especially tutors and Draw7s.

Historical examples: 1997 Prosperity Combo, 1998 Doomsday (essentially a recursion combo deck), 1999 Academy, 2003 Burning Long, 2004 TPS, 2006 Pitch Long, 2012 Burning Oath

Modern example: Dark Petition Storm, PO Storm

  1. The Lestree School
  • Base in Green, and secondary either white or red
  • Disruptive Creatures and tempo threats
  • lots of win conditions
  • Utility effects

Historical Examples: 1996 Zoo, "MOnkey, May I?", "Djinn and Juice" circa 1997, 2009 Noble Fish, 2010 G/W HateBears, 2015 5c Humans

Modern Example: 2018 Survival

This taxonomy works very well, as I've tried to demonstrate in the History of Vintage series. There are some decks that don't fall into a School, and that's OK. Not everything has to fall into a "School." The decks that don't fall into a "School" are those that are anchored by an idiosyncratic card that has no analog in the format, and does not fit into a recognizable shell. Like MaskNaught, many mid-1990s Necro decks, or 2 Card Monte combo. Some cards, like Oath or PO, can be used by multiple Schools.

As a systematic and technical classification system, the Schools of Magic is the best approach. But as a communications approach or organizational scheme for The Mana Drain, I would use something more intuitive. I think: Control, Aggro Control, Reanimation, Combo, Prison/Taxing, and "Other" is probably the best.

posted in TheManaDrain Metadiscussion read more


I'm fairly certain that no one has spent as much time thinking about this question as I have.

My personal preference for this taxonomy is "Comer School" decks, much like "Weissman School" decks ala "[Schools of Magic](link url)."

But, for a broader public, not versed in that schema, I think either Grow or Xerox is fine, and I wouldn't lose sleep trying to get it right.

Grow is fine because it describes any deck employing vertical or horizontally growing win conditions, including, but not limited to, Delver of Secrets, Monastery Mentor, Young Pyromancer, Managorger Hydra, Myth Realized, Thing in the Ice, Tarmogoyf, or Kiln Fiend.

But Xerox is also fine, as it refers to a discrete, but recognizable set of deign princples: namely, a lower-than-usual overall mana base, a lower, and bent down mana curve, and a high density of cantrips.

All Grow decks are Xerox and Comer School decks, but not every Xerox deck is a Grow deck. Comer School decks, designed on Xerox principles, can support Control, Combo Control (Doomsday), Aggro-Control, and Aggro-Control-Combo, as detailed in Chapter 4 of my book, Understanding Gush.

And, in case it matters, Tempo finishers, which are mentioned in this thread, is a useful analogue for Grow threats, but not all Tempo threats are Grow finishers. Vendillion Clique is an example that often appears in Grow or Aggro-Control Xerox strategies. Clique is not a growing creature, but it is a tempo threat.

In short, don't sweat this too much, Grow or Xerox are fine, and it's OK to try to ask the audience to learn something in the process, as these terms have historical meaning that convey important design and deck construction & play principles, rather than make it universally and automatically accessible.

posted in Vintage News read more

Thanks for the feedback. In a way, this article serves as a perfect introduction for the format, condensing 25 years of history into a single piece.

Does it make you wish you could have played Vintage at a different period? And if so, which one?

posted in Vintage News read more

The vast majority of the PO decks that have appeared in Top 8s of the Vintage Challenges in recent months look like I described.

Also, regarding what's performing well now, the breakdown of Vintage Challenge top 8s for January is as follows:

31% Shops
25% Xerox (almost entirely RUG, but 1 Jeskai)
9% PO
9% Dredge
9% Eldrazi
9% BUG
3% Survival
3% Oath

That's 100% of the decks that Top 8ed Challenges in January.

Pretty remarkable that PO goes from 35% of Top 8s in December to 9% in January.

posted in Vintage Community read more

What would you have done if PO was just outright restricted??

posted in Dredge read more

@vaughnbros said in An Introduction to Dredge:


I'm definitely very interested in hearing more about some of the historic Dredge lists.

I know Stephen had a list like this back in 2006:

So now my initial question of "how do we define dredge?" comes up as his list runs almost none of the above "core", and doesn't even run the Serum Powder mulligan strategy.

Well, if the core is

4 Bazaar of Baghdad
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Stinkweed Imp
2 Golgari Thug

4 Cabal Therapy

Then, yes, the core is there.

I mean, Bazaar + 8-10 dredgers + 4 Therapy strikes me as the 'core'

In my History of Vintage chapters, I basically explain how every new set created new possibilities.

The reason Serum Powder wasn't incorporated earlier was because Dread Return didn't exist yet.

Dread Return was printed in Time Spiral in the fall of 2006. So it wasn't until Dread Return was printed that you could go 'mana less,' and then people started building with Serum Powder.

Every new set offered new cards. Future Sight gave Bridge and Narcomoeba, and so on and on.

So every year or so, the deck got new tools.

posted in Vintage News read more

There are no time draggers restricted in vintage any more. That’s not the necessarily true of other formats.

posted in Off-Topic read more

I watched 30 minutes of Roma and gave up. I have a pretty high tolerance for slowly plotted films, but not for overly indulgent films. I may try and finish the film if I can do it while multitasking.

I’ll check out eighth grade thanks for the tip.

posted in Off-Topic read more

It's that time of year again! Or past it, actually.

It's an annual tradition with @Klep and I. Last year's thread:

To begin, here is a list of 2018 releases:

Here are the 2018 releases I've seen, in order of release date:

The Commuter
Black Panther
A Wrinkle in Time
Ready One Player
A Quiet Place
Avengers: Infinity War
Deadpool 2
Jurassic World 2
Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Three Identical Strangers
Ant Man and the Wasp
Sorry to Bothering You
Mission Impossible: Fallout
The Predator
The House with a Clock in its Walls
A Star is Born
The Hate U Give
First Man
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Green Book
Bohemian Rhapsody
Creed II
Mary Queen of Scots
If Beale Street Could Talk

Movies I still want to see:

Minding the Gap
At eternity’s gate

Wow! I saw quite a few films released in 2018! It was a pretty good year for film, but my tastes this year veered more 'popular' than the Academy.

The documentaries of 2018 were absurdly good, and if I included them, they would swamp my top 5 or even top 10. Won't you Be My Neighbor was probably the best thing I saw all year, so I'm going to stick to the non-Doc films.

My top 5 films of the year, from 5th to 1st:

  1. Creed II

I had Creed I in my list before, and I liked this one even more.

  1. The Hate U Give

This was the best narrative on race I saw in 2018, and there were a number of good ones, including Blindspotting, which was better than the strange twist Sorry to Bother You.

  1. A Star is Born

I really dug this film. The performances were outstanding. The music was great, and I loved it from start to finish.

  1. First Man

Damien Chazelle made one of my favorite movies of all time, Whiplash, and this film was unbelievable. Must see film. Completely profound too.

  1. A Quiet Place

The best film of the year. I have never seen anything like it, and I loved every moment. It was so quiet in the theater that someone near the front literally got out of their seat to close the theater door. I'll never forget that.

RBG and Won't you Be My Neighbor would be basically tied for the top couple of slots if I included them.

Your turn!

posted in Vintage News read more

@evouga said in [Free Article] Happy Birthday, Vintage! An Alternative History of the B&R List:

It's interesting that you put Mind Twist and Braingeyser on the "What They Should Have Done" list. Can you comment a bit more? These cards are considered underpowered in the modern Vintage metagame; what was different about early Vintage that warrants their restriction? Was it the lack of powerful countermagic like Mana Drain and Force of Will?

I thought I answered that pretty well, actually. If you look at basically all of the published tournament results before August of 1994, pretty much every tournament was won by a U/B Mind Twist deck. I mentioned Matt Wallace, Bin Chen, and Bo Bell's decks from ManaFest Destiny, Dragon Con, and US Nationals. In the updated version of the 1994 chapter, all three decks are posted (Jaco should have it up this week).

The Mind Twist deck was basically the best deck in the format until it's restriction. Bo Bell's deck is probably the best of the bunch, except he had to remove expansion set cards at the last minute and added a handful of janky cards, like Phantom Monster, when the TO told him he couldn't play with expansion cards.

When I publish the "best deck by year" freeby, I will talk about this more.

If you are asking "why," it's the best deck, that's harder to answer. If you play Old School 93/94, you can see how good MInd Twist is. It's probably the 2nd or 3rd best card in the format (after LoA).

With Mana Vault and Dark Ritual unrestricted, it's not that difficult to just wipe an opponent out of the game with a quick threat and a big Mind Twist.

posted in Vintage News read more

Thanks for all the feedback. I"m glad folks enjoyed this so much, and hope everyone can find some time to read this.

Unsurprisingly in retrospect, I guess, this really struck a cord with Old School players, even more than Vintage, on the facebook groups.

In case it wasn't clear or obvious, I've spun out the History of Vintage series into a few "free" articles, including this one, the history of the SCG series, and one in the works, which I will launch when the book launches. That one will be a year by year look at the 'best deck' of the year, from 1993 to the present, with one deck selected to highlight be per year. Look for that when the book launches.

A few specific replies:

@moorebrother1 said in [Free Article] Happy Birthday, Vintage! An Alternative History of the B&R List:

This was indeed a nice stroll down memory lane. I would like to sit down and look at the timelines with the rise and fall of the SCG Power Nine events and also look at the rise of MTGO with the restriction decisions.

The HoV chapters do this really well. They integrate a complete narrative, of events, B&R changes, controversies and debates.

Part of the reason for how they did things back then was access to information. I mostly played at game stores until 2011 and I remember the SCG events giving Vintage a platform back in 2002 where people could actually see decks and see the meta-game. Not sure if it changes anything but the overlay of that data would be interesting.

I do try to provide data relevant to the restrictions debated, but much more data is provided in the HoV chapters.

@nedleeds said in [Free Article] Happy Birthday, Vintage! An Alternative History of the B&R List:

Great retrospective and some fair and balanced postulating! For old people like me it's a good memory refresher. An interesting follow up might be the 5 most important moments in Type I's history (assuming Type I starts from January 1994).

Onslaught's Fetchlands is absolutely in the Top 5 of any story you could tell. I will consider such an article.

I'm open to other "spin off" ideas for free articles complementing the chapters/books.

posted in Vintage News read more

It’s not so much about whether they restricted the right cards, as much as if they restricted them in the right sequence or at the correct time.

Restricting Probe & Gush before Mentor was a mistake. Similarly, restricting Chalice before lodestone golem made no sense.

History shows of those were bad judgments as initial restrictions, given the full context and circumstances.

If Chalice was so backbreaking, then why was an allowed to be unrestricted for 10 years?

Similarly Gush was fine for four years from 2010 until Kahns. Gush may well have needed restriction but it would’ve been nice to have seen that play out with Mentor, Dig, and Cruise restricted.

posted in Vintage News read more

Thank you! That is very kind!

posted in Vintage News read more

25 years ago today, the format that would become known as Vintage was created with the first mandatory Banned and Restricted List, midwifed by Beth Moursand.

To commemorate this special anniversary, I wrote a 10K word article in tribute, which I hope you enjoy!

PS, B&R List Facts from the end of the article:

Vintage Banned and Restricted List Facts:
• The current Vintage Banned and Restricted List is 46 cards. The smallest ever Restricted List was 16 cards. Not counting the initial restriction of Legends, the largest ever Restricted List was 54 cards, on January 1, 2004.
• There have been 96 restrictions, and 50 unrestrictions.
• There have been 39 changes to the Vintage Banned and Restricted List, not counting it’s initial formulation.
• The most cards ever restricted at a single time is a tie: 18, on October 1, 1999 and the inception of the list, January 25, 1994.
• The most cards ever unrestricted at a time is a tie: 5, on October 1, 1997, and September 20, 2008.

posted in Vintage Tournaments read more

It's rare that we get a new VSL episode that features cards from a new set before they are actually legal in paper vintage tournaments. And then to have that card featured in three different strategies, so that viewers get to examine it's impact from multiple perspectives - that's virtually unheard of.

Tonight should be super entertaining.

posted in Vintage News read more

@moorebrother1 said in SMIP Podcast # 86: The 2018 Vintage Year in Review & Moxies Award Show:

@smmenen This is where a thread forum does not help conversation. I think we are closer to agreement than discord. My stance is that TurboTez is not a combo deck.

I look at PO as similar to the Gifts Ungiven decks that were restricted out of existence and around the same time period Time Vault was changed back to original text and Tezzeret was printed. The style of TurboTez was never similar to PO which has a focus combo finish. PO decks are not even running Vault/Key anymore.

I wish we could sit down discuss this over a beer but for now I'll have to leave it where it is. Thanks for the chat.

My entire History of Vintage book is on this subject 🙂 So this isn't a beer topic for me; it's more of an academic pursuit.

While there are some hybrid lists out there, like Brian Coval's, most of the PO decks are not combo decks in the sense of a Restricted List Combo School deck.

The hallmarks of those decks are Draw7s like Wheel, Twister, Jar, Mind's Desire and Tendrils as a win condition. Reid Duke's PO Storm deck IS such a combo deck, but the vast majority of the PO decks in the Vintage Challenge top 8s don't play those cards.

That doesn't mean that PO doesn't feel like a combo deck, but so did Turbo Tezzeret. It's just archetypally distinct from the Prosperity/Academy decks, and their progeny.

posted in Vintage News read more

@moorebrother1 said in SMIP Podcast # 86: The 2018 Vintage Year in Review & Moxies Award Show:

@smmenen said in SMIP Podcast # 86: The 2018 Vintage Year in Review & Moxies Award Show:

Turbo Tezzeret ran 2-4 Opals, 2-3 Sensei's Tops, and 0-4 Grim Monoliths. That's almost exactly the configuration for PO decks. I don't see how you think Turbo Tez is a precursor for Thieves, and not PO. The only real functional difference between PO and Turbo Tez is 4 PO instead of 3-4 Tez.

I was trying to let this go but this bugs me a bit. PO decks look very similar to Xerox decks with the exception of less counter magic plus Mox Opal and PO.

The Tezzeret decks were really just mana drain decks that played the same strategy we see in Grixis just without the Red.

Xerox decks run 18-22 mana sources. Big blue mana drain type decks like Slaver, Gifts, Tez, and PO run 24-28.

Xerox decks run tempo finishers like Mentor, Pyromancer, Dryad, and Delver. Historically they run 4-8 such creatures. Big blue decks, and contrast run 1-3 late game win conditions, like Serra Angel, Morphling, Tezzeret, Tog, Tinker Bots, etc.

PO is not - and has never been - a Xerox deck. Just because it uses preordain does not make it a xerox deck any more than when DPS does.

If you line up the TurboTez deck it’s almost identical in form and function to PO decks.

Grixis thieves is just the latest version of the Bob /Jace big blue deck, which came into existence when thirst was restricted, The Tez players replaced thirst with dark confidant.

posted in Vintage News read more

@moorebrother1 said in SMIP Podcast # 86: The 2018 Vintage Year in Review & Moxies Award Show:

@smmenen I did not do a very good job making a point there. I was trying to say that the deck really developed into it's own this year. Your point that there were highs and lows is very valid but for a deck like PO winning EW is it's pinnacle. If the deck would ever be a deck of the year it would be this year.

The decklist that you provided is more of a precursor for Thieves not PO, but I do not want to get into deck discussion.

Turbo Tezzeret ran 2-4 Opals, 2-3 Sensei's Tops, and 0-4 Grim Monoliths. That's almost exactly the configuration for PO decks. I don't see how you think Turbo Tez is a precursor for Thieves, and not PO. The only real functional difference between PO and Turbo Tez is 4 PO instead of 3-4 Tez.

As for Grixis Thieves, Marc Lanigra's Grixis deck from the 2012 Championship is much more of a genealogical ancestor to Grixis Thieves.

posted in Vintage News read more

@john-cox said in SMIP Podcast # 86: The 2018 Vintage Year in Review & Moxies Award Show:

I think people don't like to acknowledge shops. If they did they would probably play it and be less biased against the archetype.


I also think that it's also about salience. When PO wins a tournament, it's a more salient and prominent accomplishment. When Shops wins a tournament, I suppose that is "as expected," and fades into the background, narratively speaking.

I try to keep myself honest when evaluating what is actually the 'best deck,' by hewing to the facts. True, those facts can be arranged in different configurations depending on criteria, but I think a holistic POV shows that Shops, not PO, was really the best deck of 2018.