Best posts made by wappla
posted in Vintage News read more

Decisions - via

I looked at blue draw spells, decisions in Magic, and cognitive biases involved in Vintage players' perception of their format.

People like drawing cards. We get excited when we get to draw cards. We don’t get excited when we exile a creature. We don’t get excited when we counter a spell. Because we really like drawing cards, we form emotional attachments to draw spells that don’t necessarily exist with most other types of cards.
People love getting more options. And they should. More options correlate closely with winning the game.

posted in Vintage News read more

Full article: Fair and Broken - (Pure MTGO)

I wrote a bit about the Gush-Workshop metagame, Oath of Druids, the restricted list, tempo, card advantage, and fair and broken cards.


I get why people talk about it. The format is regulated by people who know nothing about it and never cite evidence for their decisions. For all we know, our sound and fury actually does affect the DCI’s process. By refusing to explain their decisions, the arbiters of the format encourage a belief that our arguments help determine its future. This is really quite awful. So, while I don’t partake in the discussions, I don’t blame those who do. For all we know, a well enough argued forum post could land Elspeth, Sun’s Champion on the restricted list. A pithy enough tweet about Lodestone Golem could send the card straight to the banned list, to begin its eternal sleep beside Shahrazad. Furthermore, if we agree that it is plausible that public discussion of restrictions influences DCI policy, then it becomes difficult to ignore arguments we find dangerously unsound.

posted in Vintage News read more

thanks for the feedback, all.

glad there is still an audience for Magic articles that don't end with decklists or sideboarding guides.

posted in Vintage Strategy read more

Wow! I wonder if it has anything to do with everyone playing Paradoxical Outcome and Esper?

Top 32
53 Thorn of Amethyst
56 Ancient Tomb
11 Ingot Chewer
2 Lightning Bolt
0 Young Pyromancers

Gush decks can be favored against Thorn decks whenever they want, they just sacrifice win percentage against other opponents. That's what happens in a real metagame. To improve some matchups, you get worse in others. EE had 1 Thorn deck in the top 8. In P9 Gush won a majority of its matches against Shops and shops had 45% win rate on the day. This is distinctly not a problem.

posted in Official Tournament Results read more

@Topical_Island What you and many people seem to be missing in all this is that this isn't a fight over what the metagame looks like. It's a fight over the fundamental principles of the format. As I said last week, many Vintage players believe Vintage is the least restrictive format. Vintage is a place to play Mishra's Workshop, moxen, Time Walk, and Bazaar of Baghdad. Other people believe Vintage is a place where Mana Drain is good.

The first group are and will continue to be so upset by the Gush and Gitaxian Probe restriction because these cards are obviously acceptable in a format where you can play Mishra's Workshop, moxen, Time Walk and Bazaar of Baghdad. We don't just object to Gush and Probe being restricted, we object to the idea of restricting cards simply to adjust the metagame and in the absence of dominance or power level concerns.

The second group argues that it's fine to restrict cards to tailor the metagame to meet their arbitrary tastes. They can't present an argument against Gush other than their preference of Thirst and Drain to it. They also believe that preferring Thirst of Knowledge and Mana Drain to Gush is reason enough to restrict a card in Vintage. The specifics of this last restriction are important, but it's the DCI's validation of this belief that is so alarming and worth combatting at every turn.

The proper remedy is the immediate unrestriction of Gush, Lodestone Golem, Dig Through Time, and Gitaxian Probe. None of these cards performed well enough to deserve restriction. Golem, Gush, and Probe were all VSL-complaint restrictions, while Dig was randomly restricted for being "comparable to other restricted card drawers", a profoundly dumb reason.

posted in Vintage News read more

I wrote about Monastery Mentor (as always), Orwell, bad cards, mana curves, and Brian Kelly.

Full article (via PureMTGO)

You don’t have to work too hard to hate that monk. Monastery Mentor is such a fantastic expression of what the color white looks like when it’s overpowered. Mentor is white weenie in the nuclear age. He’s the perfect white version of Ancestral Recall. For many Vintage players, a format with so much creature combat is unnerving. Something just seems off. When everything is too perfect, you get this nausea. Complaints pruned the format of all the unpleasant cards, Golem and Chalice. Everything is great now! You can play Sylvan Mentor or you can play Jeskai Mentor. Freedom is Slavery. What's more white than dystopia?

posted in Vintage Community read more

The decision is intellectually dishonest but crystal clear.

posted in Eldrazi read more

I've been playing this archetype a lot over the past two weeks, and it has potential as an anti-Shops weapon at least until Workshop, Ballista, Tangle Wire, or Sphere gets restricted in a few months. I went 3-2 in non-mirrors in the P9, but have also cashed my last six daily events. The deck has very good matchups across the format. Being pre-boarded for Oath and Dredge, the two decks people most like to play to try to pick on Shops, is just ridiculous.

Some advice:

  • Play 4 Thalia, Heretic Cathar. She is great in every single matchup. She creates free wins against Shops and Eldrazi if you have her early enough. I have beaten Dredge with her, the smaller Thalia (Smalia), a Wasteland and no other hate. She is great against Paradoxical Outcome because often their only out is topdecking Tolarian Academy. If I had a dime for every Mentor pilot who has wasted their turn trying to flash in a Containment Priest to ambush something I'd have enough to buy a fifth Thalia, and she's like a $4 card! Steve's dismissal of her is ignorant; she's probably the best creature in the deck. I don't trust the judgment of pilots playing fewer than 3.

  • Play 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. This is obvious but for some reason people keep playing 3. I like that not everyone plays 4 because it makes it really quick to figure whose lists to ignore.

  • Play 0 Thought-Knot Seer. The card is weak in your close matchups and unnecessary in your good ones. Cutting this improves every other card in your deck. Your Wastelands get better. Your Thalias get better when you can actually use your Wastelands. Your Reality Smashers get better when you cast them instead of letting them sit in hand. Your Displacers get better because less often does activating them mean a TKS is rotting in your hand. Your mulligans get better. You get to cut some temples for Flagstones, which makes your sideboard options a lot better. Crutching on Temples to cast your mediocre Thought-Knots ripples through your sideboard. By cutting this vanilla 4/4, you improve like 30 cards in your 75.

  • Play 0 Vryn Wingmare. Three mana for an X/1 is embarrassing against Ballista. This card isn't garbage but usually people who play it are replacing some number of Thalias, which is incorrect. Your worst matchup is Shops. If you build with that in mind, it's at least 50/50, so build with that in mind.

  • Play 0 Lodestone Golem. This card probably shouldn't even be played in Shops right now.

  • Play 2-3 Mental Missteps in the board. You don't need redundant Thorns affects. They are marginal against combo because you don't have time to play them all. Misstep is actually good on the draw. It's a blowout against anyone trying to play Swords to Plowshares. This was the lone suggestion of mine Steve actually took, and his matches in VSL illustrated how great a sideboard tactic Misstep is against Gush decks.

  • Mulligan aggressively. Very rarely keep hands that don't have a turn one play. Use the scry rule.

  • Eldrazi Displacer is good (and probably correct right now) but not an automatic include. I have played lots of similar, reasonable board-affecting cards. Stoneforge Mystic, Smuggler's Copter, Fairgrounds Warden, Gisela, the Broken Blade, Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Archangel Avacyn, Toolcraft Exemplar, Ranger of Eos, Walking Ballista, Hero of Bladehold… there are a lot of rares and mythics you could play.
    I turned off the Copter after Ballista came online because of how much removal rational blue players should have for their Shops matchup. Additionally, having an empty vehicle in the face of Ballista isn't a great feeling either.

The core of the deck is so strong it's hard to tell which auxiliary cards are better or worse. It's easy to play the deck, even get good results with it, and have no clue about where your wins are coming from. You have to be pretty honest with yourself and detail-oriented to evaluate what is actually good. You can't be results oriented because even good results are misleading. This is what leads people to continue playing 3 Thalia or Wingmare or Thought-Knot Seer. I've played:

4 Copter, 4 TKS (gave it a second chance to rule it out definitively)
4 Fairgrounds Warden, 2 Gisela, 0 TKS
2 Fairgrounds, 2 Gisela, 4 Copter, 0 TKS
4 Displacer, 4 Copter, 0 TKS
4 Displacer, 2 Fairgrounds, 2 Gisela, 0 TKS
4 Displacer, 2 Fairgrounds, 2 Linvala, 0 TKS
4 Displacer, 1 Fairgrounds, 1 Gisela, 2 Linvala, 0 TKS

What you should take away from that sample is that the core of the deck is so strong that a lot of your other creatures end up being marginal. Displacer is probably correct at the moment because of Shops, but even then, playing 4 Fairgrounds Warden and Linvala/Gisela also seems fine in that matchup.

This deck has an absurd number of matchups that are just close to byes, and it's lone "bad" matchup isn't even that bad. It's the best deck I've played since Rally the Ancestors was in Standard. Contrary to Steve, I think it's a pretty easy deck to play, and I don't doubt its pilots get an edge from lack of mental fatigue.

posted in Vintage Strategy read more

@Smmenen Additionally, the DCI's decision to so obviously ignore available data and heed complaints increases the likelihood people will complain in the future.

The vocal complaints this last cycle were motivated by the perception that the DCI is inappropriately influenced by anyone willing to promote MTGO on Twitch each night.

The practice of privileging of vocal celebrity opinion over both popular views and match data is deeply troubling.

posted in Tournament Reports read more

@p3temangus Stsung said the big points. A) Delver is built to win along any resource axis: Life, Mana, Cards, even library size with JVP emblems. B) Delver is built to maximize the quality of the good cards in this format. The necessary conditions for this are the following:

  1. lowest reasonable mana curve
  2. most generic possible cards
  3. casting the good cards multiple times

1. lowest reasonable mana curve
When the average casting cost of your deck is low, you have granularity in spending mana, meaning you spend all of your mana every turn but also can cast most of your cards even with very little mana. Tapping out every turn means Misstep and Force of Will are better. Misstep only generates a mana advantage when you pay life instead of mana for it. Force of Will generates more mana if you are tapped out. Having a low curve means you can Preordain and loot away mana sources much more aggressively. Low mana curves also mean your draw spells are better since you can use the cards you are drawing with them sooner. My build of the deck has the lowest curve in the format outside of Dredge. More mana granularity means more decisions, which means more flexibility. JVP is the paragon of decisions, flexibility, and mana optimization.

2. most generic possible cards
You want all your cards to have as many functions as possible so that they are never dead. Lightning Bolt kills creatures and planeswalkers and opponents. Path to Exile only kills creatures. Lightning Bolt ends games. Sometimes it's Time Walk. That's generic. I don't like playing Dack Fayden or Wear/Tear because they are too expensive and too specific. Dack loots and steals artifacts and is a slow alternate win condition. Jace does much more than that. He loots, flashes things back, and gains life, and is a slow alternate win condition.

3. casting the good cards multiple times
JVP also casts the good cards multiple times. Time Walk and JVP is usually just as good as Voltaic Key and Time Vault. Taking three turns in a row in an aggro-control deck is usually exactly the same as taking all the turns, because the game ends on or immediately after the third turn. JVP turns the deck into a combo deck because any game you draw Ancestral or Time Walk early enough you have a decent chance of casting them twice.

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, is exceptional in this deck because our ability to race Thorn decks means we get a lot of value out of his +1 ability. I started playing 4 shortly after Dig was restricted, cut Dack, and haven't looked back. Jace has been better over the past year than Dig Through Time was when Dig was unrestricted. JVP can create advantages in every resource.

posted in Eldrazi read more

Two intelligent souls played White Eldrazi in the P9 yesterday, and neither of us lost outside the mirror until the semifinals. Our win-rate against the field was 85.7%. In the swiss we went 10-0 in matches, 20-4 in games. I went 6-1 against Gush, and 5-1 against Mentor.

White Eldrazi was also the best deck at NA champs. The 15 non-budget White Eldrazi players had a win rate against the field of 62.3%. This was obscured by the archetype being lumped in with the awful Jacodrazi, which 41 players registered, winning just 35.7% of their matches against the field. My 6-1 record against Gush yesterday isn't anomaly. At Champs, the deck was 76% against Gush in 25 total matches.

posted in Vintage News read more

While I basically agree with @ChubbyRain's assertion of polarity, I find it absurd that people complain about the fairest deck in the format. If you're not playing against Gush decks, you are probably playing against:

  • a graveyard deck that kills you on turn 2.5 without casting any spells
  • a deck with four lands better than Black Lotus that prevents you from casting any of the cards in your deck
  • decks that aspire to kill you on the first turn with the Storm mechanic

While it's certainly true that Gush sits on a bunch of worse decks such that most matchups are against things much worse to play against than Gush, the idea that those things go away if you get rid of Gush is lunacy. Workshops, Dredge, and Combo will not magically get worse if you weaken the Gush deck. The idea that there are a bunch of blue decks sitting out there that can compete with strategies as divergent and fundamentally broken as those but somehow can't beat Monastery Mentor is pretty silly. Furthermore, if that good-against-everything-but-Gush deck does exist, getting rid of the Gush deck will just lead to another, more oppressive blue overlord.

In other words, either whatever replaces Gush is better against non-blue archetypes and thereby produces a more oppressively blue format than we have currently or whatever replaces Gush is worse against non-blue archetypes and Vintage will feature more non-games delivered by Workshop, Dredge, and Mox Opal. If Wizards took the common sense approach and restricted Mishra's Workshop and Bazaar of Baghdad, the format would have far fewer non-games, and you would actually have space in your deck to combat a 3-mana 2/2 and a turn three Divination.

posted in Vintage Community read more

You know, I bet this format would be better if WoTC didn't let a few Twitch streamers make the restriction decisions for the past 3 years.

posted in Vintage Community read more

In addition to expanding access to the rest of the planet, Leagues might also help save MTGO Vintage from the hopelessly inbred and narcissistic meta it has become.

Who cares about preserving dailies? A 12 player event on a digital platform is pathetic, hardly worth saving at all. There's nothing to lose here.

posted in Vintage News read more

@vaughnbros Wizards will see six distinct decks in the top 8. It doesn't matter what you think.

Diversity in Magic formats is incredibly overrated. Diversity is just what happens when enough cards are of similar enough power level that people can’t decide what’s optimal. Diversity is almost always an illusion. There are twenty linear aggro decks in Modern. Having twenty doesn't really make the format more diverse than having two. If you want that type of false diversity, go play Modern! Go play Commander.

In-game decisions often come at the expense of deckbuilding decisions. That's how Magic works. You can play any card you want in Vintage, but if you play Siege Rhino, your in-game options will be substantially reduced because the card isn't good enough. In Modern, there's a ton of playable cards, but your in-game decisions are reduced because you get paired against Burn or Tron or Affinity or Storm and you're decisions don't matter. You can't have it both ways precisely because the more deckbuilding options you have the higher variance your games will be and the less decisions you will have. At the other extreme, you could have a format with a card pool no larger than Manta Ray, Dandân, Goblin Guide, Mental Misstep, Preordain, Repeal, Lightning Bolt, and Volcanic Island and have a great playing experience.

You can't have both it ways. Restricting Gush or Mental Misstep decreases in-game decisions and increases variance of the format. I don't mind if people still want to hit those cards, I just wish they would stop pretending luck wouldn't become more important as a result.

posted in Vintage Strategy read more


The nice thing about the restriction is that you can do this: prove your case that our was incorrect using actual data.

I hope people realize how backward this is. Actual data is what should be used to restrict cards, but in this format, it's used to show the restriction decisions are ridiculous.

posted in Official Tournament Results read more

Efficient spells are what make less efficient spells less efficient. Should we keep restricting cards until you can play Cancel and Doom Blade? Force of Will and Swords to Plowshares cast a shadow over the entire meta.

You should explain why you apply this bizarre efficiency test to some cards and not others.

You should explain why turn three Gush is "too good" for a format where turn one Oath of Druids, Monastery Mentor, Paradoxical Outcome, and Trinisphere are all plausible plays.

Both your despised Gush and beloved Mana Drain are banned in Legacy. Mana Drain helps make spells free, while Gush is free. You can cast Mana Drain on turn two and have your mana on turn three, the same turn you would've been Gushing. They are different cards but good for the same reason, and no one plays Counterspell or Divination in Vintage. Why do you valorize one and demonize the other?

posted in Official Tournament Results read more

@wappla This is a straw man at best, projection at the worst...
There are legitimate reasons to want a Gush restriction and/or a Mentor restriction based on diversity, your slippery slope notwithstanding. You dismissing that as a goal of the format does not matter much when Wizards has repeatedly cited it as the basis for multiple restrictions and the B&R website literally mentions it in the first sentence.

@ChubbyRain Show me where the case against Gush has been articulated, because I haven't seen it.

Quoting myself

Efficient spells are what make less efficient spells less efficient. Should we keep restricting cards until you can play Cancel and Doom Blade? Force of Will and Swords to Plowshares cast a shadow over the entire meta.
You should explain why you apply this bizarre efficiency test to some cards and not others.
You should explain why turn three Gush is "too good" for a format where turn one Oath of Druids, Monastery Mentor, Paradoxical Outcome, and Trinisphere are all plausible plays.
[Drain and Gush] are different cards but good for the same reason [mana generation added to an otherwise desirable effect]. Why do you valorize one and demonize the other?

Quoting Rich Shay, or anyone else

Crickets chirping

Quoting myself, two weeks ago

It also seems to encourage playing lots of free artifact mana, Time Vault and Voltaic Key, Paradoxical Outcome, a bunch of tutors, and Tinker and Blightsteel Colossus. How do those things create a better format than Young Pyromancer and Monastery Mentor?
I also don't understand how you have come to attach a personality trait like "greed" to the Gush mana base. Why is the Gush mana base "greedy?" People play the amount of mana they believe their deck needs to win games of Magic. That's as true in Gush decks as it is in Standstill or Thirst decks. There's nothing greedy about it.
Can you explain how a Gush metagame leads to a "race-to-the-bottom" and a Thirst-Paradoxical metagame doesn't?
Additionally, if paying mana for draw spells is what you celebrate about Thirst and distinguishes it from the evil Gush, shouldn't you be upset that the Thirst decks now lean so heavily on Paradoxical Outcome?
Edit: In yesterdays event, Paradoxical/Thirst decks played fewer lands than Gush decks did before restriction. Could you clarify your definition of "greed?"

Quoting Rich Shay, or anyone else

crickets, once more

As far as I have seen, the only substantive thinking on Gush's restriction has been presented to make a case for the card, while the anti-Gush side has said very little besides Gush decks being too good-- which we know is false-- and Gush being too good-- which is irrelevant the same way Force of Will (poor Cancel!) and Volcanic Island (makes other UR duals unplayable!) being too good is irrelevant.

I wrote a very long article in defense of Gush an entire year ago and my argumentation has been consistent ever since.

Your counterpoint about diversity would be relevant if the same proponents for Gush's restriction, namely Mr Shay, haven't been celebrating the results of the tournaments since, which thanks to Ryan and your consistent efforts we know haven't been any more diverse. The diversity argument fails (@Smmenen has been putting your data to better use than anyone else) yet the anti-Gush crowd celebrates the current format. It's dishonest for them to cite diversity as a reason for Gush's restriction. Consistently substantive points have been made each week on the basis of your tournament data, they just have been against the restriction rather than for it. Of course, data-backed arguments before the announcement were also against restriction. Evidence has always been on one side of this thing.

The reason these threads go long every week is partly because a lot of people chime in to say nothing constructive, but also because the only material counterargument those in favor of Gush have been facing is "Wait and see, metagame evolution takes time." When that is the strongest argument the anti-Gush side can muster, it should be obvious why each week's data merits discussion.

Rich Shay says over and over again that Gush is bad. He never explains why. He says it doesn't cost mana but refuses explain why that is bad. In the absence of a clear explanation for why Gush is bad, in the absence of increased diversity, in the presence of weekly reminders of both of these absences, there isn't an argument against Gush other than "Well I once enjoyed Control Slaver."

Now, it's no one's obligation to make a real argument. Maybe I don't deserve responses to my questions, but it then becomes bizarre for you to criticize me for projection. We can sit here and accept the DCI's bullshit, chalk up Gush's and Gitaxian Probe pruning as loudly expressed personal preference, and continue on our way with no expectation that restrictions have rhyme or reason. As @diophan said the day of, "complain and ye shall receive." That is what Vintage is. As I wrote a few posts up, the reason this is contentious is because many of us believe it should be otherwise.

It's dishonest for people to both claim Gush deserved restriction and that Vintage isn't an arbitrarily governed format without resolving that contradiction. You can believe Gush and Gitaxian Probe deserved restriction or you can believe the restricted list should have a higher standard than arbitrary taste, but nothing I've seen or read suggests you can believe both without being a hypocrite.