[Free Article] Fair and Broken

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.

last edited by wappla

@wappla Fantastic article. I think there is a lot of value in trying to describe and reason about the theory behind the metagame in this way.

As usual an amazing article wappla. As stsung mentioned on puremtgo, I believe you set up a framework to describe what many people felt but were not articulating clearly.

Also thank you for the kind words. Unfortunately in 2014 Champs Top 8 I was one of those inexperienced gush players who did not know how to play against Oath. As you said, experience matters, especially in that matchup. As an addendum to our initial data for the P9 challenge, we published the matchup breakdowns. Oath did not lose a match against shops, but was only 60% against gush, which supports your point that the experienced gush pilot can move the matchup closer to even.

last edited by diophan

I don't agree with the characterization of Oath as low velocity. Both of its combo pieces are unrestricted and Oath can sometimes come down turn 1 with a critter already on your opponent's side of the table. Certainly Dragonlord Dromoka shines in low velocity games, but it's not exactly awful during high velocity games either.

So what you are saying is Wizards hates synergy?

@AmbivalentDuck Velocity, at least the way I am using the term, does not relate to how fast a deck kills. It is a measure of the rate at which cards in a deck change zones. Some Oath decks might become high velocity once Griselbrand enters play, but the deck spends the majority of the time in a low velocity state.

last edited by wappla

I'm sympathetic to grouping all the non-Oath combo together but I think it's misleading. The main point I would raise is that Dredge has such a tactically different orientation from Storm that it results in a strategically different orientation. Tactically, Dredge requires few if any spell resolutions, relatively little initial resources (arguably the least real resources of any deck in Vintage to get started), and by virtue of being creature-based almost all the fundamental interactions are repeatable. In contrast, in Storm large numbers of spell resolutions are required, the deck tends to require a large amount of initial resources (card in hand, lands in play, or both), and very few of the internal interactions are repeatable.

How do those overwhelming tactical differences fall out strategically? Well, Dredge is unperturbed by Sphere of Resistance effects. Dredge tends to have 50/50 or better matchup against Shops (in part because virtually all modern lists run 4 Petrified Field). In contrast, Storm struggles against Workshops - it is almost certainly the worst matchup for the deck.

If we accept that Workshops is one of the very few meta-archetypes in the format, then decks which have hugely different results against it should probably not be grouped together. They should probably not be considered a single archetype.

Similar arguments can be made for Oath (I believe Dredge is somewhat favored but Storm is very strongly favored), and for low-mana Gush decks (I think Dredge is more strongly favored than Storm against Delveresque decks and both are about even against big-mana Gush decks like Mentor).

@ajfirecracker Nothing you said is incorrect, but Dredge and Storm are still both aggro-combo decks that get better in specific, if different, versions of the Gush-Workshop metagame. I don't group them together for any reason beyond that. It's a very top-level classification. Oath, with which I group Grixis Control, Bomberman, UR Control, etc, is a combo-control deck that gets better in another specific version of the Gush-Workshop metagame. My overall point is that we have four supertypes: Workshops (1), Gush (2)– the long term best decks which wax and wane and may not actually be the best in a given moment– aggro-combo (3), and combo-control (4). I labeled aggro-combo Dredge/Storm because those are the two most important examples of the supertype. Likewise for Oath and combo-control.

Dredge and Storm's grouping is not an argument that they have similar interactions with the metagame. Rather, it is just an argument that they are fundamentally alike: high velocity, high synergy. And I don't think there is a contradiction here. Two decks can share fundamental principles, but, as you point out, by virtue of different tactical considerations, interact with the metagame in different ways.

last edited by wappla

On this discussion in general: there are many axes upon which decks can be judged. Obviously a projection onto any 2 axes will lose information and group decks which are different in some ways near each other. I suppose it's reasonable to argue that a different set should have been used, but that depends on the point one is trying to make.

last edited by diophan

@wappla I'm pretty sure Oath rivals Dredge in terms of its ability to move cards from the library to the grave. It doesn't make especially bold use of those cards, but it definitely moves them.

@wappla yeah. I've tried ways to fix the card velocity issue in oath but gush won't work and TfK is kind of not where I wanted to be either.
I even ran a painful thruths before. It's tough. You need space for counters, early card manipulation, but oath itself and the creatures take up around seven slots, not counting show and tell.

As far as weaknesses goes, I have found that Oath is phenomenal against a tapped out opponent and much less so against people with one or two Mana up. Tapped out opponents have trouble beating oath force and flusterstorm combined, which is the trifecta I built my deck to assemble as much as possible.
I've tried using thoughtseize as a probe of sorts to make the first attack at my opponent's defenses and its been pretty Good.

Nice work, this was an interesting article.

@AmbivalentDuck that's after oath has been activated which is really an entirely different point of the game.
As someone who plays oath quite a bit, and someone who has written about the card velocity in oath, I have to say that Wappla is accurate here.
Gush and TfK are tools oath can't really use in its current state, and I usually only play dig through time and no treasure cruise because the deck can't run as many fetch lands thanks to forbidden orchard
Some oath builds with Dack fayden, sylvan library, and maybe gitaxian probe can have faster card celerity, but many lists do not have that.

@wappla I certainly agree that decks with some similarities can hold very different metagame roles if they also have key differences. What is the point of the synergy/velocity grid if it doesn't reflect strategic, tactical, or metagame similarity?

Aggro-combo is a pretty good way to describe Dredge. Most of the tactics you use to interact with Dredge are useless against the "stack battle" matchups which is usually what aggro does in a control heavy field.

Not sure I'd ever classify Storm as aggro-anything though, for the same reasons as above.

Whatever. These classifications are just tools to help us understand the game better.

Good article Wappla, you got me thinking about matchups and tactics.

I don't think I can get behind this top level classification and the conclusions you draw from it. Too much information is lost by grouping decks into only 4 catagories, and while it might sort of conveniently work for this current metagame, such a classification would fail to apply to a different metagame.

In particular, I take issue with your evaluation of how "fair or broken" cards fit into certain decks based on their alignment on the axis. You opined that Delver was 'improved' by taking out broken cards and making the deck more fair, which isn't necessarily untrue, but also misses the mark.

In reality, making a Delver deck more fair just makes it a different deck. It was better positioned in the metagame and printings like Young Pyromancer and Treasure Cruise helped it take off, and now it's something entirely different than the more broken versions, but it's important to realize that that doesn't mean that it's better. To illustrate this point, let's look at the "original Delver deck," that is, Gro-A-Tog. Throughout its long history as a Tier 1 Vintage deck, Gro-A-Tog had always been fundamentally a Gush-Bond engine deck and Yawgmoth's Will was central to the deck. Back then, it would have made little to no sense to cut the "broken" cards because they had access to 4 copies of Merchant Scroll, 4 copies of Brainstorm, and 4 copies of Ponder, such that the broken cards in their deck were much, much better than they are today. Yet your grouping on the axis would still suggest they should cut those cards. It doesn't apply.

I would say similar things about the Ravager Shops that are strong right now; they aren't stronger than Forgemasters because of its "placement on the axis." I won't take objection if you want to attempt to group certain decks together, which I think can have some value, but your conclusions took things too far, in my view.

@DeaTh-ShiNoBi Yeah, I had the same gut reaction as you - why is it beneficial to reduce decks to these specific axes? I felt like they're both asking how tempo-oriented a deck is, using slightly different language.

But, like Ribby said, I think the value here is just having the discussion about the general concepts Wappla discusses. I wouldn't metagame based on his chart, but I do think it's a nice additional way to think about what cards work together and what cards do not.

And -- I think this was the point of the artlcle -- Wappla is proposing that this chart helps you decide whether you're a control deck or an aggro deck in a particular matchup. That's worthwhile all by itself.

@wappla Great article, as always. I'm not sure if you haven't written for a while or if I just kept missing your articles but either way, I'm happy to read them again.

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