I've heard @Smmenen mention many times on the SMIP podcast that one of his major tenants of Vintage "is keeping the B&R list as small as possible." This comment doesn't seem to be debated much on this forum, so I was curious if most other Vintage players feel the same way? I only ask because I personally have never cared on the length of the B&R list.
I know this type of belief sounds great in concept, but the corollary statement is often "people should be able to play as many of their cards as possible," and I've often thought this to be a little bit of a fantasy in Vintage. Realistically, the average Vintage player will play with <200? 500? 1000? cards. Due to so many cards being absolutely, strictly better, there are "soft caps" on the playability of the average Vintage card. Then factor in that most decks already have 15-20 of their 75 cards fixed before deckbuilding even begins and the available card pool quickly shrinks.
I know this isn't a higher-level debate, but I'm curious if the interest in a B&R "as small as possible" is an abstract concept or a fixed principle (and not necessarily to Steve, but anyone else who agrees)? There are plenty of players that would like to see the B&R cut down much further, so the spectrum on this seems pretty broad. I personally would prefer to see a much larger B&R list if it meant dozens of more decks were viable (but I might be alone in placing a premium on vast meta diversity)
Players who agree with a B&R "as small as possible:"
How steadfast are you in this principle (what's your threshold for un/restriction)?
What are your parameters or your end goal? (where on the scale of B&R brevity vs deck variety do you reside?)
Is B&R brevity even contradictory to deck variety?
Or is it much more simple than this, in that you just think Magic players are horrible at metagame crafting and you'd just prefer a higher standard for restriction and only limit the truly broken cards?
I largely addressed this issue in another thread, so I will simply recapitulate my key points here:
The reason that the difference between a 40 and 50 card Restricted List is not mere fetishism is because those 10 cards, could, in theory, mean 10 more possible viable decks.
I think the most important goal for the DCI is not to maximize a perception or feeling of interactivity, but to maximize the quantity of possible viable decks and promote metagame diversity. That is the prime directive, and anything else, should be subsidiary in my opinion, including complaints about game play. I would prefer to have players make meaningful deck choices than meaningful in-game choices, if confronted with a Hobson's/Sophie's choice like that.
To put it in extreme terms to illustrate the point, as between a Vintage format with one viable deck that is deeply interactive and engaging (a format of Keeper mirrors, say), or a format with many decks, but many of which are largely non-interactive or "outrageous" according to your standards, I would prefer the latter to the former. Meaningful deck choice is the most important choice in the Vintage format.
I prefer a format with outragenous decks like Dredge and Prison and Oath and Show and Tell and Storm to a format where such outrageous decks are excised in the interest of "interactivity."
It follows from those starting principles that desiring a 40 instead of 50 card restricted list isn't fetishism. It's a logical conclusion derived derived from first principles, which seeks more viable deck options for each player.
Now obviously not every restriction renders a deck unviable, but restricting cards like Doomsday or Oath of Druids plucks decks out of the environment that give Vintage flavor and make it interesting. Those strategies rely on 4-ofs, and can't function with a single Oath or Doomsday, since so much of the deck is constructed around it. Restricting those cards renders those decks effectively non-viable.
In summary, a smaller restricted list creates more potential deck design and selection options in the format that is the last home for Magic cards. In addition, I believe that using restriction to stop a dominant deck is the only truly legitimate basis for restriction. Any other ground for restriction is 1) too subjective and subject to bias or, more importantly, 2) has the potential to undermine the more important goal of promoting diversity. That's because if a restriction occurs because of grounds other than stopping a dominant deck, it risks reducing format diversity.
I don't mind considering other factors, such as interactivity, but only in conjunction with dominance/metagame prevalance. I would only use other factors as tie-breaker, and never justify a restriction of a card that wasn't heavily played.
The only thing I didn't say, but wish to add, is the violence and harm done to players when restriction occurs. While most players breathe relief at restriction, we must never forget that someone, somewhere is upset by any given restriction. From a purely utilitarian perspective, this is acceptable - we want to maximize happiness, and that sometimes means making some people unhappy.
But the problem in Vintage is that the player base is organized into factions that are largely, but not entirely, discrete and insular. That is, you have cohorts of Workshop players, cohorts of TX players, cohorts of Dredge players, and so on.
Restriction is a very grave action. Every restriction harms one segment to the benefit of another. If Bazaar were restricted, the Dredge players would cry foul. If Workshop were restricted, the Workshop players would be upset. And so on.
Think of it like a government program or benefit. Restriction is like taking away some resource from one group for the benefit of other groups. When the government does it, people complain that the government is favoring one group or another.
I think there are far too many people who are cavalier about weighing these harms. These are real harms. There are people who literally quit Vintage when their favorite cards are restricted, no matter how necessary those restrictions may be. Someone posted here on these boards that he quit when Lodestone was restricted. There are many reports of people quitting due to the '08 wave restrictions.
If the Vintage player base were organized uniformly, and deck choices weren't formed by years of experience in "Schools of Magic," restriction would look less like one group lobby the DCI to harm another group. But that's what it looks like.
Historically, I have typically been an opponent of most restrictions. I led the movement to stop restricting cards in the early 2000s, when restriction was far too prevalent, and when Keeper players regularly called for restrictions in a way that had the appearance of favoritism, if not the actual reality. Because of my long history with the format, and that community memory, I'm especially sensitive to how different groups feel or regard various restrictions, and the legitimate claims of bias that seep into so many of these debates.
Every call for restriction should not only be evaluated on it's merits, but through a lens of how it divides the player base.
That's one reason that I feel that only the most objectively defensible criteria should be used to support restrictions, and that restrictions should only be used as an absolute last resort. It follows that I feel that the restricted list should be as small as possible in pursuit of the goal of maintaining format diversity. And the DCI agrees, as I quoted above.
On the unrestriction side, I would consider unrestricting any card that has a low risk of generating a dominant deck. Once under consideration, factors such as interactivity may be weighed, but I wouldn't consider them a complete bar.
This is partly why I think that Gush should not have been restricted. With Mentor restricted, the truth is that we simply don't know how prevalant Gush would be. Matt thinks it would be dominant; I'm more much more skeptical. If the restriction of Mentor brought Gush decks to an acceptable level or % of the metagame, then Gush should not also be restricted. But, there may be disagreements exactly what is considered "acceptable." I think that Gush decks, with Mentor restricted, are very unlikely to be more than 30% of Top 8s. If Gush were unrestricted this past Eternal Weekend, I don't believe it would have made a bit of difference to that Top 8.
The restriction of Probe is a complete farce, and unnecessarily wounded already weak decks like DPS.
That's a bit off of what I'd play today, but I think it's pretty important to have at least 2 basics main. Both mine and Tom's list from the challenge had 2 basics, and not having 2 definitely cost you in the M1G2 last night against Dave. Not being able to fetch another basic to play through Wasteland + Thorn left you in a pretty rough spot (unable to cast Ponder and/or Ancestral without problem). Still, I was excited to see you play Rector in VSL, especially in light of what was supposed to be the "Brewer's Challenge" be pretty uninspiring outside of yours and a couple other decks. Rector Omniscience has been one of my favorite decks the past few years, and is still the most fun Vintage deck I've played since TNT. I also enjoyed you playing Ad Nauseam Tendrils, which was a throwback to the ANT lists of 2008/2009. Very nice, and different from what the other players were doing.
@ydl It's funny to think about now, but the reason I moved on to Legacy and then Vintage was initially because they banned birthing pod. I used to write a weekly article about Modern. I was slowly getting into legacy on mtgo but had kept some modern stuff. One day before the B&R announcement I decided that they'd probably be banning Pod next and sold off Kiki Pod (my last modern deck). From then on I just wanted to play the real eternal formats.
I like Vintage because for the most part you can't have your deck completely taken away. You still get one of your restricted cards to play with. I know people who were sitting on a Pod deck when pod was banned and they lost hundreds of dollars in an afternoon. That never sat well with me.
Hi everyone. Ryan "Greg" Maddux here. Sean - always a pleasure to play. I lost, but I learned a lot from our match, which is always a huge win. Great show, as always. This is my favorite podcast by a long shot. I did want to comment though because, God, Listening to Mike and Sean discuss testing for their quarterfinals against ibrahim (on oath) brought back some painful memories.
For those who want more context, Ibrahim, myself, and a few others play together in the Bay Area and roomed together for the weekend. For those who know ibrahim, you know that oath is life to him. We're not talking about brian Kelly oath. Ibrahim plays broken oath. He's a madman. He loves doing vintage things. Well, ibrahim made top 8 as you all know and I dropped out of legacy to help him test.
On Saturday, we decided to chill, eat breakfast, and try to find people to help us test. This turned out to be really hard. It turns out that people out there really like Rich, Andy, and the like. No one really felt comfortable helping some weirdos from Cali try to beat people they know pretty well. Soly and Keith seals wouldn't help us test, but they flagged down Andy (brassman) and Jake (I don't know his last name), who graciously agreed to help us test. Thank you both for playing a bunch of game ones with shops :-) We grabbed a couple of Bay Area oath players and started to do some testing (I had brought an extra shops deck to champs for shits and giggles).
Testing was weird. I know that Mike thought that he was really advantaged in game 1. We actually thought that game 1 was a real toss up. Ibrahim's deck does vintage things and has a lot of moxen (and other fast mana). We were able to get a lot of busted starts that really made us feel kind of hopeful. Across about 50 game 1s, I think we won 23 of them. I did have some hilarious moments that seemed to have been reflected in Mike's testing. I remember during one game, opening on fetch, consultation, grissleape, lotus. I looked at ibrahim (who played very few matches and really just tried to study the lines and talk through things. We were really focused on not burning ibrahim out.) and asked "I should consult for show and tell here, right?", thinking that there were 2 copies in the maindeck. He looked at me like I was an idiot and said "obviously" or something similar. So, I do it, get down to about 20 cards left, and then basically win. We scoop the game and I look through the rest of the deck. I then realize that there's only 1 show and tell maindeck. This is when I learned that it was going to be hard to mimic Ibrahim's aggression and insanity :-)
What was actually demoralizing was playing our game 2s. Andy (brass man) hypothesized that mike would board out precursor golems and hangerbacks to bring in cages and an orb. This is what we did. It didn't matter that we were on the play. We just lost a ton. We'd turn one oath and then get beat to crap by a car or a mishra's factory while we looked for an orchard. We'd get fireballed. There were games we lost when we cast energy flux. The cages provided just enough of a road bump that shops was able to either go wide enough to not care about a grissleape or they bought the deck so much time to beat us to death with factories and cars that we'd put counters on with ravagers. The matchup was so tough. We really pushed the sideboard and I felt like we really maxed out percentages and it didn't help. That deck is just so agro and we didn't find that our solutions matched up well. We did learn that mindbreak trap is a hell of a card vs the new shops deck, but it was very, very hard.
Congrats to Mike and their team for their top 4. You all brought a great deck. The cars may have been last year's tech, but they beat the shit out of us in testing. My only question was why only 3 factories. It seems like a great card against oath.
Well played. Great episode. Thank you for putting out great content. Maddux out.
@nedleeds 1 for 1s are a solution if your deck has a bunch of draw cards and you can do it consistently, which is what many blue decks do. Force of will is also not an answer for things like hangarback or ravager swarms, but it is an answer for spheres, and for foundry inspector turn 1 that would enable your opponent to dump hand.
No one is contesting that a Sabotage is better in hand against shops than a spell pierce. All i'm saying is that to say those cards are "dead" is more hyperbolic than to say repeatable black lotus about shops.
Great write-up as usual. I feel the ability to attack from different angles from the sideboard has allowed dredge to return to the fold. You can't just count on going all in on graveyard hate and winning games 2 and 3. It makes for interesting matches. I've found myself wanting to keep in things I used to board out (such as artifact hate to deal with Hollow One). I could board in my graveyard hate and get hit with a 20/20 flyer instead. I used to dislike dredge. Dredge is interesting now.
@chubbyrain Thanks for finding and sharing this! Those are all pretty spicy lists, especally the Geier Reach Sanitarium and Spirit of the Labyrinth soft lock in Oscar's list. Cavern of Souls is my favorite pillar, and I'm glad it hasn't crumbled.
Canopy would see a ton of play if it was fetch-able. I'd like to think that it should be considered a staple for Dredge. Its getting a very badly needed reprint, and I think you should see an uptick in how often the card is played with that.
Back when Massacre was more of a staple I played Plains-less W/g hate. They've printed enough faux savannahs that you can reliably play those colors without it (Razorverge, Canopy, Brush, Cavern).
Mike, I do have plans to update the book, once there is enough that has changed in Vintage to provide a necessary update for metagame context, Banned and Restricted movement, or playable printings. I don't feel that is the case quite yet.