Got the score back yesterday. I really needed a 160 or better. Got a 162 (85th percentile.) I just wanted to let you folks know and thank everyone who pitched in on this thread and in some private conversations on this site. I honestly believe that correspondence was worth a few points, or put a different way, I really doubt I would have cleared the score without the people on this site. I vaguely recall a debate in search of an operative definition of "Vintage Community" a while back, and whatever that may be, I am sure at least, that it includes some of the most kind and interesting and intelligent people around. Thanks everyone for all your help.
Other things Steve F-ed up today. At 8:49 am he attempted to underpay for a coffee and bagel by 15 cents. Then he had several impure thoughts over the next three and a half hours, culminating in him accidentally imagining what it would happen if there weren't enough bolts to do the standard maintenance on the Golden Gate Bridge. During that moment of agape wonderment, he also made a grammar error in his head, when he used the phrase "less bolts" rather than "fewer bolts", because bolt is, of course, a count noun (which Steve would probably have known if he played more mono-red burn.). He then, slowly, ever so slowly ate an egg salad sandwich during the long lunch, which he spent absently staring at the sea (perhaps waiting for sudden, vertical surge of water which never came). After what seemed like a long time, he plodded back down the hallway toward the drudgery of his workaday existence. The sandwich was high in cholesterol. Mistakes were made.
Seriously @ajfirecracker , is there a larger point here, or are we just misunderstanding-on-purpose as an argument tactic? We are talking about a man in mourning after all.
Pump the breaks please. We need to walk this discussion way back. Firstly. OG Tezz does not "win you the game." It lets you search for and put into play Time Vault. It also lets you untap Time Vault. A lot of the time that is game winning, sometimes its not. But OG Tezz absolutely does not say "win the game" on the card, so we should stop evaluating the comparison as if it does.
Instead, lets look at this card for what it is. It is a 5 mana planeswalker with some pretty strong abilities. Certainly these abilities are at least strong enough to take a look at where it might fit in vintage. On it's face, I think we can limit this thing's potential to play in a big mana blue deck. It's casting cost is way to big to go in Xerox, and way to blue to go in much else. Oath? Mayyyybeeee. I'm lookin' at you Brian Kelly. But I personally doubt it. I mean, is it really better than, I can't believe I'm saying this, Arlin Kord? It for sure isn't better than Jace in Oath, since Jace can put back creatures on the top of your deck from your hand.
So within the big-blue shell, what does it do? It basically draws a ton of cards. It potentially draws more cards than Jace, which is saying something. But I personally don't think it is better than either of Jace, Dack, or Teferi. That last one being what I think might be the best comparison, and the card that squeezes this guy out of that deck. Essentially, the question is whether you win more in big blue by playing this guy over Teferi. That is what I doubt.
Teferi's "defend himself" ability is far stronger than making a thopter. And I'm not convinced that his draw ability is worse. Teferi always draws 1 card and always untaps 2 lands. This guy always draws 1 and sometimes draws a second card... To me that is a coin flip. If Teferi gets going, you win. If this Tezz gets going, you win. So I suppose the question turns on which one gets going more often. That has got to be Teferi… right? Because he essentially costs 3 and because he can remove permanents from the board, as opposed to making thopters.
I doubt it's better than Jace, because... come on. And I doubt he's better than Dack for the same reason. 3 mana vs 5 mana is a mile's difference.
So unless I'm missing something, this Tezz is limited to big blue style control, where he gets squished out by preexisting and superior walkers. I can't really reckon that one wouldn't just win more often by cutting this guy for an extra Dack, Jace, Teferi… or some utility card.
Ok, let's make some content. All content is good content.... Right? (About to find out.)
As I've mentioned several times on this site, Kari (my wife) and I hate doing the dishes. Yet we keep getting them dirty. About once each night in fact. Our solution is to play a Vintage magic match to decide who washes. We've been doing this for a while, but I thought why not keep a record of it. My plan is to just make a thread here and update it with a brief description of the meal, the mess it made, and the ensuing match... (Vintage Supper League?)
Well, dinner just got made. Here goes...
KARI 6 (aprox 17 dishes)
BILL 8 (aprox. 26 dishes)
MOST RECENT MATCH
Kari wins 2-0, Black Mentor beats White Eldrazi
Wow I had a good MtG time at my first ever tourney this weekend. What follows is my rambling account. (Fair warning, it’s long… if too long, don’t read it?)
My wife Kari and I play Vintage all the time. No, really. We play every single evening after dinner. (Loser washes dishes.) It’s probably been more than a month since we haven’t played at least one match in any 48 hour period. We see decks that look interesting online - we sleeve up some laserjet special editions and go to work. (Not to brag, but I’ve probably played more Vintage decks badly, than anyone around. In fact, since anyone else who’s playing this many decks is probably a good player… I’d be willing to put money on it.)
So Kari’s been on me to play in a tourney. I’ve been playing kitchen table vintage for well over a decade now. I’ve followed the game, read a ton of articles, played a fair amount on Cockatrice and the like, but I’ve never been able to summon the guts to play for real. Basically, I got a domestic ultimatum to get my butt to an actual tourney. So when the Team Serious open was announced on the MD, we decided to drive over. Three hours.
Kidforce games is off the hook if you’ve never been there. The staff is knowlegable, and the look of the store is just amazing. Stacks of dual lands, thinker than a hamburger. Stacks of Jaces. Stacks of Forces... The walls are lined with vintage comics, to say nothing of the dozen or so pinball tables in multiple rooms. This place is a real comic shop. I highly recommend it.
So Kari is playing a Sylvan Gush Mentor list with some small tweaks, and I’m on Oath/Standstill hybrid. (The decklists are on the tourney results so I’ll save space here.) We sign up, and while filling out my sideboard (which I was honestly still unsure about) I right away do the first of several stupid things.
There are very few players in the store when noon start time rolls around, and I’m an overthinker by my nature anyway. So I start thinking. I’ve watched one of the players buy some Sudden Shocks from the counter. (I later learn that was Max Gibbson, who ended up splitting first place.) Another guy is obviously on Storm Combo from how he’s talking (not sure his name, but I’m sure someone does… easily the best dressed Vintage player I’ve ever seen… tie pin? Are you serious? Well done Sir.) I already know what Kari’s on… so I’m thinking, really, with about half the apparent field accounted for, what are the odds I actually see dredge… and I start cutting dredge hate from my board.
CHAPT. 1. IN WHICH I LOSE TO DREDGE
Eventually 17 players show up (which was awesome), the pairings come up and I draw Frank Singel in round 1. He mulls once, keeps, and drops Bazaar of Baghdad on the draw. Blerg. This isn’t even a match. He mows me in 2 games like I’m a lawn.
It turned out to be a blessing though, because Frank is a super nice guy. It’s actually good that I didn’t have any interaction for match 1 because the adrenaline was insane. I felt calm, and at one point I look down at my worthless hand and see that I’m shaking uncontrollably. (I’ve played a ton of poker, so this isn’t new for me… but that doesn’t make one immune.) It’s lucky there weren’t any real decisions to be made in Match 1.
We finish the match and chat and I casually watch Kevin Cron at the next table (who I’ve been reading for years) piloting Cronastary Mentor. Awesome. It’s like watching Arnold Palmer drinking and actual Arnold Palmer.
Then I remember! Kari!
CHAPT. 2. I WHICH MY WIFE LOSES AND IS AWESOME
By the time I get over to her table, a crowd of kibitzers is standing around watching game 3 between Nam Tran on 5 color Shops and her Mentor Build which I happen to know is pretty well set up to handle Shops. It’s got mainboard Dack and Ancient Grudge, plus several Chewers and Claims in the board. Nam gets up to over thirty life via Wormcoil. Kari is very low on life, but even as the match goes to time, she’s insanely attacking in with hoards of Monks. She could get a draw if she wanted one, and I’m trying to will her to just strip Nam’s Tolarian and play defense… but that’s not happening. She gets him down to about 10, but on the last turn he tutors for Triskelion and unloads the counters for direct damage and kills her exacta. Too bad…
CHAPT. 3. I WHICH I GET SCHOOLED BY THE MASTER
Then Round 2 I draw Kevin Cron. Oh boy, I’m thinking to myself. Game one I mulligan, stupidly tutor for a card not named Oath of Druids, then die to Mentor very fast. Game 2 I have a great Standstill hand minus Standstill, I tutor for it, then he drops Meddling Mage and names Oath. I take an ill advised risk at this point, probably influenced by who I’m playing, which is a bad excuse for playing badly… I play Standstill anyway.
In my defense, while this looks totally stupid, it’s probably only a little stupid. I play the Standstill at 17 life, so that’s 8 turns to do something against a 2/2 creature. Any of 4 Mishra’s Factories solves this problem. With 50 cards left in my deck, each draw is an 8% chance of hitting, with the odds getting slightly better as I go. So the odds are better than 50/50 I hit before I die. Add to that that I could run into Library of Alexandria that would help a lot… and, believe it or not, I’m holding Decree of Pain and three mana sources one of which is black. (Tech against Mentor and Landstill). So another out is just drawing two other lands, one of which is a black source so I can cycle under the Standstill. So if in eight cards I can also find a black land and any other land, I can force him to crack my Standstill. (I have 9 total black lands in deck, so 8 left.)... I draw nothing but Counters and Abrupt Decays, end up having to shoot the Mage at three life, then I’m way behind and end up dead to Mentor again, a few Crony Crony turns later. (I mean, he goes off on me… Remoras, Tops, Tokens… the works. So that was cool to watch.)
I sit there talking to him about magic for a bit, which is just great. Worth the entry fee alone.... Wait! Kari!
CHAPT. 4. I WHICH KARI WINS HER FIRST EVER GAME OF FOR REAL MAGIC
By the time I get up, she’s already finished polishing off the well dressed Storm player I mentioned earlier. Apparently she lost game one, but she’s got this book we made up of what to board in given the archetype she’s facing. So she’s very organized. DPS she brings in Eidolon of Rhetoric, Aegis of the Gods, and importantly, Rest in Peace to shut off Yawg Will and to neuter Dark Petition. She wins game 2 on Mentor speed, then game 3 by landing Rest in Peace then Jace and fate-sealing the opponent to ultimate. So good, we won a match… well she won a match at least. (We stepped outside for a minute so she could jump up and down she was so excited.)
CHAPT. 5. I WHICH I TECHNICALLY WIN AND KARI REALLY WINS
I get a bye next round, which is a win I suppose. (It doesn’t feel like one though.) And Kari draws, guess who, Kevin Cron. And she wins. (Part of me still can’t believe this happened… Now I don’t want to turn this into bragfest at all about Kari beating a famous player. That has got to be the absolute worst part about being someone like Kevin. There’s probably this tacit expectation to be awesome all the time, so I really don’t mean to be putting the rub-ins at all. Exactly the opposite. Plus as I said, Kevin was just incredibly gracious winning and losing the entire day. I know he knew he could have played sharper, but he never once got salty with anyone. He answered questions and just generally looked and behaved like Gandolf’s friendly nephew. This guy is pure class.
I am really proud of Kari though. She is a three time state champion runner, and has huge guts. This reminded me of that.) Long story long, after some little mistakes by each player, game 3 saw Kari’s Mentor and Jace face down Kevin’s Mentor and Remora. Kari’s idea was to play right into the teeth of Remora and make as many Monks as possible despite all the cards Kevin was drawing. She didn’t even brainstorm with Jace. She bounced Mentor making him replay it. I asked her about this later and she basically said three things: She figures that Monk Tokens are cards too, and in a battle like that, they are probably pretty good ones anyway. Plus Kevin was a little pinched on mana paying for Remora, so she figured he would have a hard time making use of all those cards while under a clock, which I think turned out to be true. A lastly, she figured against a really good player she didn’t want to be in a long game. “Just go right at his face and put the pressure on,” She said. I was some real Admiral Nelson stuff. It was pretty cool.
As he’s packing up his deck after the loss, I say to Kevin, “Looks like my wife’s better at magic than me,” which I didn’t mean to sound nearly as dumb as it probably did. Kevin shrugs and smooth as you like says, “What are you gonna do?” Classy guy.
CHAPT. 6. IN WHICH I ACTUALLY WIN
She was pretty much in the top 8 at this point, and ended up drawing her way in pretty easily. I on the other hand, just wanted to actually beat a real player. I got Gilberto River next, who was on Eldrazi Shops. Shops tends to be one of my better matchups, so I was pretty happy when he rolled out turn one Thorn against me. I didn’t even force it. I played mana. He Thoughknotted my Ancestral, but I resolved Oath and found Emrakul and blew up his world. Game two was tighter but the same. He plays lock pieces, I find Oath and hit Emrakul again. He drops a Metamorph copying my Cthulu, but I have just enough. I swing in, he has to sac everything but his Emrakul copy, which includes his lock pieces, then I drop Jace and bounce the Metamorph back to his hand for the win.
CHAPT. 7. IN WHICH I ACTUALLY SORT OF PLAY WELL
Turns out by mostly good luck I’m 2-2 with a bye, (which somehow is a good tie-breaker they tell me… It isn’t in volleyball, but I take their word for it) and I find myself sitting down across from (medium)Steve for a match that will put one of us in the top 8. (I ask him if there are larger or smaller versions of Steve, but he is in the zone and dosen’t seem to want to mess around.)
He’s playing a cool sort of Neo-Delver deck with Pyromancer, (actual) Delver, and Scab-Clan Berserker, and I am just an idiot. I tutor again for something else not named Oath and lose game 1 again… why am I doing that? He likely has no Oath hate on game 1… dumb. Then I’m even more stupid. I fear he might be on creature heavy Humans since I’ve seen a Cavern of Souls, and I board out Jace, Mana Drain, Channel, and 1 Oath. Not good choices. Thank goodness I do board in some things, Dragonlord Ojitai, Balance, Pernicious Deed, and Decree of Pain. I get the drop on him in the early game, countering some key spells, and it feels like he’s out of stuff. The last cards in my hand are Time Walk and Dig and Land, plus I know Land is on top of the library. I have it all worked out so that I can fetch, walk, play more land and then Dig… and I am super surprised and sad when he Flusterstorms it. Now we are both at the mercy of our decks and I feel like I’m going to lose to something small like a Delver.
We draw what feels like junk forever. I am bluffing having disruption for a while, but really just holding mana, and cursing myself for removing Jace and the Channel (I draw Emrakul and have plenty of life.) Finally I draw Dragonlord. I wait until he taps his red to play around Pyroblast (which he has alter-arted and is gorgeous) then stick Ojutai on the board. I also already have Decree of Pain, and I can begin to see the path to the win. Steve carefully reads the Ojutai, then does basically nothing on his turn. I’m pretty sure he’s hoping I’ll attack so that he can aim Pyroblast at my it, so I just play a Standstill and get it countered and pass without attacking, signalling I’m fine with the long long game. I have Library of Alexandria going now and that would almost certainly go well for me. So on his next turn he’s all but forced to try to go wide and kill me. He drops his whole hand on the table, uncounterable via Caverns - a second Pyromancer, a Delver, and makes some tokens. Then on the end of his turn I give him 2 more tokens off Orchards and Cycle Decree of Pain. He reads the card and says very calmly, “So that’s a thing that happened.” Then scoops em up declaring like a gangster, “Ties don’t get either of us into the top 8.”
Too true. We have 5 mins to get this done. I make my first sound decision of the day and board back in as much business as I can. Two quick mulligans find a hand with Oath, Tutor, and Orchard. I play land and say go. He’s hitting me with things. I tutor, which he might think is for Oath, but is actually for Abrupt Decay. He drops the Containment Priest I expected. I Drop Oath. He has me down under 10 life. I put Oath on the stack and shoot his Priestess in the face, then find Emrakul. (I swear I also run Grisselbrand in this deck). He attacks and I’m at 6. (I screw up blocking with a Factory) I hit him and blow up his whole board, then go in the tank about weather to crack a fetch to play Standstill. Times up now so I just have 1 turn to kill him. I decide I should play Standstill. I have a Misstep that I can pay 2 life for against a Bolt, but the cost of cracking the fetch to go to 5 is that my hand then loses to him having exactly Black Lotus + Blue Land + Misstep + Sudden Shock + Lightning Bolt. (He’s at 2 life and can’t pay life to Misstep back so needs the blue land.) But Standstill gives me a fair chance of finding Force, (3 still in my deck with about 30 cards left. So I find it about ⅓ of the time?) and that would help against anything involving a Snapcaster Mage for the Timewalk in his yard. I’m not even sure if he runs Snapcaster, but even that possibility seems more likely than the exact 5 cards I calc he needs to beat my play. He’s holding 4 cards so with the draw step the perfect winning hand becomes possible. I crack the fetch and I’m sure I hear Kevin Cron roll his eyes behind me. (This is the sort of thing you can actually hear at tourneys I guess).
But none of this matters. He draws and concedes. He even gives me his left-over pizza even though I can tell he hates losing. ‘Cause… classy.
SO THAT WAS A THING THAT HAPPENED
I slink into the top 8, rediculously. I draw, of course, Frank on Dredge again and get housed yet again. But I have a lot of fun chatting with him while his zombies devour my brains (BTW I get Oath on the table in every single game that I lose against him both matches, but he deftly plays around it and kills me all on a single turn each game… that turn being turn 3.)
Kari loses two grindy games to Max on U/R Landstill, and is pissed-off for exactly 90 seconds. Then we are too tired and happy to be anything else. We return our islands too our hands and stand around in a daze for a few minutes chewing on (medium sized)hand-me-down pizza. I collect some contact info, and we decide to leave and go get real food.
The takeaway for me was two-fold. Firstly, My wife is awesome. In the hotel the morning of the tourney, she said her goal was to win a single game. She ended up literally making top 8 having never played vintage against anyone but me in her entire life… wow. In the end I got nervous and played pretty badly at times. She was steady and played great. I am really really proud of her.
Secondly, I remember reading a Kevin Cron interview where he replied that the best thing about Vintage was the Vintage community. I completely get what you’re saying Kevin. To a man, everyone we met was generous and kind and just really great to be around. I am competitive to a point approaching psychosis. I could get involved in something like who can eat the most mustard packets and still in it for blood, so I really know that I love a game when I can lose and still enjoy it. Losing to Kevin and Frank… I enjoyed every minute of it. Nam and Gilberto and (medium)Steve, Max and Aaron… it was a great experience just being in the same tourney with you guys. Very very classy folks.
That was really a blast everyone, let’s do it again sometime.
It's VLS season yet again. I love VSL for so many reasons, but at this point, the top of that list has to be the shared experience of everyone that I talk to about vintage, watching and seeing the same things. Given that opportunity, I want to look at a fundamental aspect of the game that I have come to believe to be overlooked, or at least, vastly under mentioned in discussions about Vintage.
Simply put... these guys are really really good. For the purposes of this post, I will describe my own skill level simply by stating that I would like to think that I'm better than 50% of the players I see play vintage... would like to believe. SO, when I watch VSL, I am in heaven watching not only the sick plays, but the steady tight play turn after turn. Which brings me to my point, quality of play seems to me to be way way underrated when evaluating deck performance in the meta.
We recently had eternal weekend data dropped on us... which was sweet. People went through and tried to tease out what decks were good, bad, otherwise based on those win rates and head to head matchups. I think that's great, and a worthy pursuit... but as one of the people who spent a good deal of time doing that, I've also become convinced that there is a big problem. The main determiner of what wins, in my opinion, is the player rather than the deck. (Do this experiment, if I was playing really hateful Shops against Reid Duke on Storm... would you bet 5 dollars on me because of the match-up, or would you take the Duke of Storms?... I would not bet on me... now what if it was Montolio or Roland Chang on the Shops... you get the point.)
As I watch the play in, I'm reminded yet again, just how good these players are... and that the player pool is small enough that if a handful of the top players move from one deck to another, that would be enough to shift the win rates that show up in these data sets we see. Heck, Rich Shay moving online from Landstill to Mentor represents a tectonic shift in Landstill win rates alone. Reid Duke put up a sizable portion of the total combo wins at champs by himself, if you include Steve Menendian and Kevin Cron on that, those three players accounted for 16% of combo wins in the tourney, while accounting for only about 10% of combo games played... simply put, the one biggest factor influencing the success of a vintage deck is the player piloting it. Yet discussion almost never centers on particular plays that get made, but rather cards that get included or not, and very general win/loss trends between archetypes.
Wow... I'm just catching up on the anti-shops fall out post Eternal Weekend.
Vintage is fast assuming aspects of that highest stakes version of the Mesoamerican Ball game, the one where the winner get's sacrificed after the tourney so as to ensure that the sun will come up the next day. What is the compulsion to restrict the best deck all the time...? Clearly the problem isn't the cards at this point; it's the decision making process. We've finally cut out the analysis process altogether and are overtly using winning at all, as evidence for restriction... which if you think about it for about 70 seconds, you start to realize how perverse that is.
@kingleovold Exactly. And that is my point. People now are essentially just leading with the statement that Shops is the "best deck" as evidence toward the conclusion that it needs to be restricted... In your case, if you are advocating for restriction (which you didn't actually do in your post - I'm really trying to not put words in your mouth here, so sorry if you feel like I am at any point), the argument goes, "it has been the best deck for 3 years, therefore it needs restriction." Again, if you aren't saying that exactly, I'm sorry, but more generally, I would say that's a pretty standard example of the sort of argument that gets made...
And that is a crazy standard. Imagine if that process actually played out for a moment, and we bought the logic that "its the best deck, therefore restriction." Presumably the restriction would work, in that Shops would no longer be the "best deck" and then there would be another "best deck"... then what? I think we all can see where this is going. Mesoamerican ball game with human sacrifice to the winner... (Sidenote: Mesoamerican ball game is deeply cool. First sport ever to use a rubber ball.)
So, let's try this logic instead. Shops is the best deck...
No, That's it. Just shops is the best deck... big deal. It should be the best deck. Why wouldn't it be? They printed Trinesphere, Chalice, Ravager, Lodestone, Revoker, Metamorph, Ballista... and Cage (a really key card). Before those cards, they printed Hurkyl's and Energy Flux and... what Null Rod I guess. During the time of printing those pro Shops cards I mentioned, they gave anti-shops players... what? Dack? Stoney Silence which is probably worse than the already very medium Null Rod. Abrade? Ancient Grudge? So yeah, no kidding guys, the Shops deck is great...
So what? It should be. It should be the best deck, but it's still hardly unbeatable. You can for sure find a deck that is good against it (see the Oath decks from Champs). But people generally don't... The meta right now is like entering a paper rock scissors tourney where 50% of the field just insists on throwing Scissors almost all of the time, and then complaining that Rock is the best throw... Right. Rock is the best throw. Stop the presses.
So what should happen? Well over time, they should just print better answers to a deck that plays only artifacts... (Really Wizards, there isn't a better way to punish that? Come on...and don't gimme that, they don't print cards for Vintage. I know they say that because they want to be bound to no responsibility at all... but what was Cage? So fine. Don't "print cards for vintage", just do more of whatever you want to call Cage. Do that. Call it what you want wizards.) And secondly, people should wake up to the fact that Shops is the "best deck", but also realize that there isn't anything inherently wrong with that, and just adjust. Mainboard more Grudge and fewer Missteps? Run Oath more? Mainboard more Explosives. Sudden Shock? (Surprisingly good against Aggro Shops, and known to be decent against tempo blue.)
As blue players, we should be trying to cut the corner on Shops more, and instead of just focusing on the mirror, we should be trying to find more cards that are great against Shops, and still workable against blue, instead of playing cards that are very good against blue and have no writing against Shops... then being aghast at how strong this deck is. If one really thought Shops was that strong... why run those 4 Missteps?
But sure. Shops' position in the meta is great. Its recent printings are great. It's win % recently is great... though not unbeatably great. So what?
Seriously though, the standard of, this deck is the best, therefore restriction... wow. Not a good standard for obvious reasons.
@DeaTh-ShiNoBi It would be nice if there were informal, or even formal agreements that even at proxy tournaments, those proxies that could just as easily be called fakes, shouldn't be allowed. I would think that all proxies need to be clearly labeled as a proxy. It would make the line between proxy and counterfeit much clearer, and fund the efforts of artists over forgers. The hand painted stuff is clearly much better anyway... in every way.
@Smmenen Well said as always. I agree with everything you said. I agree that with Gush and Mentor are so intertwined that restricting both, or even restricting Gush (the greater of the two cards in terms of history and archetype) without trying a less invasive fix, would be downright irresponsible.
I think there's even another argument in favor of doing nothing at all (at least for awhile). That argument is basically, Fish Decks. (For the purposes of this conversation, I'll just define my use of Fish as being a fuzzy category of deck involving small creatures aimed at tempo advantage, by means of delaying the opponent's deck, combined with suite of hate cards to round out the strategy. This almost always involves Null Rod, but not always, and may or may not involve actual marine creatures. I know there are a lot of different definitions of the term Fish, but this is what I mean by it... I actually wish they were called Kikashi decks, from the game of go, since they seek to win through a sequence of precicely targeted moves, that stall the opponent just long enough to be fatal. Kikashi... anyway.)
Fish decks have, (or had, until last night), all but disappeared from the collective consciousness of the vintage metagame. I don't think that's a good thing. For the record, I don't think that Fish will ever be a "top deck". I actually think, by definition, that it cannot be a "top deck", by which I mean that Fish strategy only works if there are other bigger decks to prey on. Almost by definition, Fish decks are populated by "lower power level" cards. (Loved your Christmas Beatings deck by the way.) These cards can never be as good in ether, as the Ancestrals and the Loti of the world... I mean, Null Rod doesn't even do nothing... right? But these cards have one big advantage, they are many, and power cards are few.
There are only a few of the very very best cards every made. Moxen, Ancestral, Lotus... they are way out at the edge of the bell curve graph of card power. Which is the only weakness they really have, they are predictable... And leads us to exactly what a Fish (Kikashi) Deck really is. It's a pure metagame prediction. That's why the definition of Fish itself is so nebulous to begin with. The cards that get included or not, the incarnations (ranging everywhere from Merfolk to Hatebear, even to Sullivan Solution perhaps) are all over the map. But the overall strategy is the same. Psych out the meta and bring the precise cards required to stall the best decks in the world just long enough to beat them to death with little guys. (It's like a guy who beats Usain Bolt in a footrace, but tripping him at just the right moment.)
These aren't predators in the traditional sense. They're parasites. They feed on the most populous decks in the format. And just like parasites in nature, they check and stabilize the numbers within the meta game. Playing Fish is hard, when the metagame is diverse and unpredictable. But when one deck gets overpopulated, playing Fish becomes much much easier, and being in the overpopulated group becomes dangerous.
Fish can certainly win in its own right, but even in not winning, I'd say its one of the most important archetypes in the format, because it promotes health. I'd also say that something that stands in the way of Fish, is too much restriction too often.
I play Oath, but I really want to play Humans right now. I think Thalia, Magus of the Moon, Cavern of Souls, Containment Priest and Chains of Mephistopheles are all such interesting cards right now. I'm seeing numbers that add up to things like 48% of decks played in the last 2 months are either Gush, Oath, or Dredge... are you kidding me? With those numbers, I would just build this thing, have Magus and red for Shops... Thalia and Glowrider in the board for Storm and take my chances.
But I don't dare. I don't own Cavern, Magus, or Chains... (I do have them in my cart right now on a website though...) but I don't dare buy them. Given the behavior of the DCI, I have to assume that Gush is getting restricted soon. So I don't dare put the money down... Restricting too often doesn't promote diversity. It slows diversification. Gush will get restricted and everyone will rush to the other side of the boat again, to play the next easy deck with power cards they already own. They'll tweak their existing shells again. Too often restriction dissuades ingenuity, and causes the very spikes in archetype population that the people making the decisions think they are fighting against.
@kistrand I feel like sociologists could study this and really get something out of it. It's not at all my field of expertise, but its got me thinking. I happened to stop by the Toledo Zoo last weekend, and spent a lot of time watching the Gibbons. They are fascinating in their interactions. I feel like there's something there.
Dinner a bit on the salty side tonight.
I've been a volleyball coach for a long time now... 12 years? Dang, yeah... 12. It's just now on the cusp of becoming a long time in fact, which is an odd feeling. And not to brag on a personal level, but our teams are good. I coach at one of the best sports schools in the entire state in fact, so many of our teams are good. And those kids, I will brag about. We have fewer than 900 humans in our entire town, zero stoplights, two police officers, and 36 graduating seniors this year.
Our school has 25 state titles. In the last 30 years. We've won 10 football titles, 3 volleyball (not me), 2 girls cross country, 2 wrestling, 2 girls track, 2 boys track... and a softball runner up for good measure. And the only way for that to happen is for the students to work incredibly hard. I've gone up town for coffee during blizzards that closed school, and seen kids running, out of season. I have certainly seen kids play and win, while hiding the fact that they've broken bones (which is a real problem as a coach I can tell you.)
I went to school with a two time individual state champion cross country runner, who simply ran every day of the year, every year she was in high school. So basically 1,400 straight days. When we pointed out she could probably go faster if she took days off when... you know... she had the flu or something, she said that the way she did it, she knew she'd win, because at the end of the race when nobody had anything left, if anyone tried to pass her or if she had to pass the leader, she knew that she deserved it more because nobody worked harder than her... I mean, it worked...
So, a collective psychology just barely approaching the psychotic... In an environment like that there's really one goal for serious athletes and teams at our school. Win the whole thing, or bust. In my time as a coach, we have never finished the season with a win. In that time, I have gotten used to the rise and fall of the season. And every single year it ends with crying in the hallway of some school, an arena in years when we've gotten really close.. but crying. A lot of sweat, then crying... Salt.
Kari is a three time state champion runner (and an excellent cook), so she understands salt of all kinds, better than most. At least as well as me. She's my wife, and she's gorgeous, but there's not anything remarkable about her in an athletic sense. You wouldn't know it to look at her. She's just a stone cold killer when it comes to games. She knows all about getting an advantage and just mercilessly applying pressure. Most of all she hates to lose.
And I hate to lose. Like the line from Moneyball... "I hate losing... I hate losing even more than I like winning... and there's a difference." (Cause sometimes when you lose, you have to watch a bunch of kids who work really hard, cry in a hallway somewhere...)
I won a tough, grubby match in three tonight, but ended up helping with the dishes anyways because it got pointed, and I didn't play well.
I drew a great opener in the first, turn one Oath, Orchard, Mox, into turn 2 Factory, Standstill. The Standstill resolved, but the Oath did not. She broke Standstill to play a Pyromancer, which got a bullet in the form of Abrupt Decay (4 of mainboard is a great idea from Josh Potucek), but she dropped Mentor a turn later. I had all three of my monsters in hand an nothing else... crappy luck, I die.
Game 2 I have turn 2 Jace, so I risk playing a turn 1, no backup Ancestral. I figure that I'll risk a Misstep, and if it gets Forced, then so much the better. It sails right through, I hit my own Misstep just in time to pick off her Ancestral on her first turn, I follow up with Jace that lands, and then just trade everything I can. She gets to have 20 turns (she never concedes...) but no fun at all, before I Channel into Emrakul and end it.
At that point we're both half pissed off... because Vintage. And I win game three the worst way. I play out a ton of threats, all of them get countered. I finally stick an Oath, I know my top card is Griselbrand, so the risk is low and I put Oath on the stack, but she drops a Priest on it at instant speed and exiles the man in black. I have a Factory in play so she can't attack, so we're in a topdeck war, that she seemingly wins, by a series of Preordains into Ponder into Ancestral. She reloads her hand and drops a Mentor... at that point I'm basically dead. Then I spike Ancestral off the top... play it and am very surprised to see it resolve. I hit a Decay and a Tinker with it. I shoot the Priest and Tinker and am now even more surprised to see myself putting Sphinx of the Steel Wind into play. I'm still sure she's winning this. I'm completely F6 now, and she's drawing to 3 Swords and 2 Jace to remove Sphinx and just win. She draws about a dozen cards on the next turn, then passes the turn. I draw one off the top, and its Misstep. She draws maybe 5 more (at this point Sphinx is holding back a veritable ocean of monks) on the next turn, finally finds a Swords, which I just tap an Island to Misstep... I am now flabbergasted that the Misstep resolves. Then I hit a Timewalk and just kill her. The bottom of her deck is all Jaces, Swords, Missteps, Forces, Flusterstorms... really dumb.
I'm not sure what the etymology of salt is, as it's used in relation to grudging losses, but it sure fits. We had Gnocchi tonight, with homemade Pesto and Pork Loin... high in sodium.
We had an enjoyable, if blunderific Saturday at the magic tourney, the ole' Oathstill and I.
Kari and I drove over to BC Comix in Battle Creek. We made it in 35 min. from our house, which was a baffling experience. Keep in mind that I live in a town without a stoplight, in an apartment under a funeral home garage, beside a neighbor who keeps hounds for coon hunting which howl inexplicably at any hour of the day or night. So to be able to escape from the daily Eudora Welty story in which I live and be sitting at a vintage magic tourney in half an hour is a pretty exciting addition to my life.
I met @mourningpalace as I walked in to the place. (Odd, since as I've told you, I rent from a mourning palace.) He is a really nice guy. We talked Vintage as I watched the usual cast of characters wander in, plus a couple young fellows who turned out to be strong players.
I played mourningpalace, aka Dave Cheeseman, round 1. I went 2-0. He was on Thieves as predicted. I was able to control both games well enough and eventually Oath out and kill him in a few turns. There were however, certainly turns where my guard was down and a well timed Tinker or Yawg would have been the end of me and he just didn't hit. So I felt a bit lucky to get through this one.
Round 2 - I played against Paradoxical Storm with Vault Key. I went 1-2. I lost game one pretty quickly. I played an Oath, didn't find the Orchard, and my death was "deterministic" when he dropped a main board Defense Grid and destroyed me. In game 2 I found what I thought was an interesting line to win. I allowed a mid-game Paradoxical, but blew up a single artifact with Abrupt Decay such that he only drew two cards. Still holding a Force, I Extirpated his Paradoxical in response to the first Mox being replayed, and he scooped. In game 3, I got destroyed. He went for it on turn three, only to walk a Tinker into Mindbreak Trap. I untapped and Wasted both his lands leaving him with a lonesome Mox. He untapped, dropped Lotus, Tutored for half of of Vault/Key and took all the turns.
In round three I played Charlie Krug on Shops. I've been a thorn in Charlie's side lately and the retribution is coming... but not today Charlie! Not today. He got me in game 1. Which makes me mad. I feel like I should be 2-0 in this matchup more than I do, if I could just find Oath... but alas. It hid from me all game. But the sb experiment for Shops is to board in 2 Wastes and 4 Energy Flux. That feels... mighty. I won the two boarded games. I've been arguing with folks about how good Flux is against Shops. And I can now actually see their point. Flux can be had to cast, no doubt. But after boarding the OathStill deck has 20 lands, and 4 Moxen a Sol Ring and the Lotus... that kind of mana base coupled with 4 Flux gives even Walking Ballista Shops all kinds of trouble. Something else about that, is that Shops almost has to keep Cage on the table against Oath, and Flux really makes that hard. I have also become convinced that Engineered Explosives is great! I have 1 mainboard, and should probably have another, or at least one in the side. I can't think of a single match-up where it's dead. It is phenomenal against the taxing decks. Being able to set it at two for actual two mana, through a couple of taxing effects is amazing. This busted me out of prison in game three and I went on to win. Only 5% of decks run this card... which is insane. Serum Powder is more popular. As is Blightsteel Collosus, Wheel of Fortune, and Lightning Bolt. I think EE is great.
Round 4 - Now I'm 2-1 in matches and need another match win for the money... Bunglesville here I come. (French, so it's classy) I open up round 4 against one of the young fellows I mentioned earlier. I'm sure he's on blue, and he drops a Wasteland and says go... Ok. I look at a hand with a lot of options. I cycle Timewalk on turn 1 via a Mox. Then stare at Lotus + Tutor and a world of options. I decide to try for Jace, like an idiot. This is really a terrible play the more I think about it. There are so many better lines I can think of now. But I pull the trigger and resolve everything and brainstorm with the Mindsculptor. Then he drops Ancient Tomb into Ravager and Sphere... I am a fool. I should have scouted this. I should have gotten Oath. Long Long story short. I find Oath, but too late. Activate it an find the infinite mana combo with Salvagers and hardcast the Griselbrand. I also have EE in hand but can't find either the Emrakul or the Sensei's top to draw my deck. I die to Double Walking Ballistas the next turn, by a single point of damage... Then it got worse. I win game two quite easily on the strength of early, multiple Fluxen. Then game three goes long. I have locked out the opponent again on a Flux and countermagic. He can't keep anything relevant on the table. But I am sloppy, and again digging for Oath results in bricks. I finally Oath out as we run out of time, and I don't have enough turns to kill him. He drops a Karakas at the end, that he had the entire time. We draw, in a match that, with all due respect to my opponent, I feel like should go 2-0 in my favor. An interesting line was suggested by a kibitzer. He suggested playing a Ravager and sacing a bunch of things such that Mishra's Factory would receive 4 counters and be able to kill me. In hind sight that line would not have worked since I have a pair of factories myself, and could have double blocked, double pumped to kill off his factory in question. It was an interesting observation though.
Round 5 - I play against Landstill, which has been my worst matchup in testing. Game 1 goes 35 mins and I win. He plays a standstill on turn 1, I drop a factory. He has to break it a few turns later. I resolve Jace, he resolves Jace. Our lands dual for superiority and in the end I beat him to death with a man-land and only 5 life left on my dice. This one was an epic game. I wish I had this on tape. There is no way either of us played optimally, since there were just so so many choices.
Then in game 2, I need at least a draw for the money. This one was a lot like the first one. I have no sideboard at all for Landstill really. But I decide since he has more land abilities than me, I board out all my Standstills and an Abrupt Decay. I bring in 2 Extirpate, 2 Wasteland, and the Warping Wail I have around for the Thieves match-up, because what the heck. It counters sorceries and hits his Snapcaster and Baby Jace. The entire match actually turns on this card.
We are grinding away at each other. Again he's gotten himself into trouble playing a Standstill that he has to break himself. But we both have a ton of cards in hand. He plays Treasure Cruise, and I aim Warping Wail at it. He shrugs and says... ok. Then Forces the Wail. I play Ancestral, building the stack. He Missteps. I play Mindbreak Trap. He plays Flusterstorm and thinks for a moment. He aims 5 copies at my Trap, and 3 at my Wail. I play Flusterstorm. He has a lot of mana left untapped, and I'm a little worried about the other 3 Missteps in his deck plus paying. So I aim everything at the copies targeting my Trap, think that so long as the Trap resolves, I am blowing him out. He taps 5 and hardcasts a Force from his hand. It feels like I've just made a full house into 4 of a kind. He was playing Cruise with quadruple counter backup. I watch him draw three cards.
But I'm not out of it yet. I play a tutor and resolve it. Getting my own Dig. I resolve dig... and brick huge. I keep Salvagers and Top, sending back Emrakul and Land. EE is in my yard so if I can resolve everything all I need is the Lotus to combo him out. He resolves Sphinx of the Last Word and I have 2 turns. Time is called. I top, look, preordain, ponder, top... and find nothing and die on the second to last turn of the game. We draw the match. He takes second place. I take fifth and get nothing.
On the day. I played just well enough to finish in the highest place that doesn't get paid. I only lost 4 total games. I lost 1 match. But I drew twice in key situations. This deck is really interesting, there are some great things about it and a few problems. But the biggest problem today was me. I can think of at least 4 games I could have won but managed not to. Both draws. Game 1 against the second Shops deck being the real standouts. I need to play better or find a simpler deck.
FYI The top four decks were. 1st Cronastery Mentor, 2nd Landstill, 3rd Paradoxical Storm with Vault/Key, 4th Ravager Shops
My dream scenario is to see Steve threaten to quit vintage (an possibly a hunger strike), forcing the DCI, who prioritize "feedback" foremost, to unrestrict Gush. Then, I want to Rich threaten to quit vintage (and vow to never use the word "deterministic" until the issue goes in his favor), forcing a Gush re-re-re-reeeeeeeeestriction (ideally announced by Tony the Tiger, in a cross-promotional masterstroke, with Kellogg's Cereals).
And so on. We could set an unbeatable record for most times a card is removed from the list... and ultimately we might all come to realize what an unproductive and profoundly lame abandonment of responsibility it is to fall back on "feedback".