Vintage Restricted List Discussion

@Macdeath said in Vintage Restricted List Discussion:

Question is what? unrestricting broken cards will not help combo decks solve their structural issues and improve their matchups to create diversity.

That's not necessarily true. It depends on what is unrestricted, and how that/those unrestrictions change the underlying structures.

It's easily conceivable, as a matter of simple mathmatical logic, that unrestricting some cards to boost combo would increase the representation of combo in the format (from it's exceptionally tiny numbers right now), and thereby reduce the %ages of both Mentor and Shops in Top 8s. But that's a debate for the unrestriction thread.

last edited by Smmenen

@Smmenen said in Vintage Restricted List Discussion:

It's easily conceivable, as a matter of simple mathmatical logic, that unrestricting some cards to boost combo would increase the representation of combo in the format

I think a concern here is the worrying trend of combo decks also including Mentor as a win condition.

Separately, do the more marginalized decks have a better game than Mentor against shop decks? I remember painful experiences against RUG, Oath, Tinker, BUG, etc. that I haven't seen in a while. Have they all been choked out by Mentor or are they unable to keep up with modern Workshop decks as well?

A significant part of @Smmenen's argument for the past three months has been that bad restrictions in the past will lead to more bad restrictions in the future. The dynamics underneath that argument deserve to be fully appreciated, and I'm not sure they have.

When you start warping a format to conform to personal tastes, as was done with the restriction of Gush and Gitaxian Probe, you invariably make the format less healthy. Format health is partly about what the metagame and the gameplay looks like, but it's also about the structure of the format. That structure gets weaker whenever you make invalid restrictions, and makes the occurrence of all types of undesirable things-- new cards come in and break something, more cards need to be restricted, or one deck being dominant-- more likely.

A format is like a vaulted arch ceiling.

alt text

You can't take a block away without compromising the structure, but some blocks matter more than others. There's no real point taking away the less important blocks (Gitaxian Probe, Dig Through Time) but there's also not a huge problem with doing so either. There's no upside but limited downside. You can move these more ornamental pieces around to change how things look without risking the larger structure's integrity.

Then there are the serious structural pieces (Gush, Mishra's Workshop). You can't take these away without consequence. Maybe the building doesn't crash immediately, but it's weaker. Sometimes the building isn't working in the first place (one deck's dominance being the normal and best reason), and you need to take a piece away.

What happened in this last case was that people were speaking out both sides of their mouth. I called them hypocrites then and I'll do it now. We were being told that Gush was integral to the format's structure– its restriction will significantly change the format (I still can't believe people earnestly claimed its restriction would weaken Workshops)– but mostly ornamental– the format won't be weaker, it will just look different. They had to make these contradictory arguments because they couldn't show that the format needed structural change in the first place. Gush wasn't too good, no matter how many times they said so.

My argument is both valid and simple: don't restrict cards needlessly. It doesn't matter how much you hate them. Gush was an important block in a healthy format. I made this argument at length last summer in an article called Decisions. When you take a block like this away, the format gets worse. When you take a good block away, the negative forces in the structure grow in influence.

Although Gush and Mentor were in the same deck, they exert opposite forces in the format's structure. Gush lessens the inherent variance created by the format's most powerful cards: Moxen, Lotus, and Ancestral Recall. Mentor exaggerates it. When Gush was legal, some people played Mentor completely without it. Nonetheless, they were so good in the same deck in part because their combination allowed you to capitalize on either type of draw. You had broken draws with two or more pieces of power in your opening eight cards and fair draws where you didn't but then just Gushed on turn three. Even still, it was not too good. The idiocy is that in an attempt to make a deck that wasn't too good worse, people got rid of the card that rewarded fair draws. Even if Gush Mentor was better than Mentor without Gush, it was also a more positive force in the metagame than Thoughtcast or Paradoxical Mentor decks. (This is another argument Menendian has had to make repeatedly)

I didn't hear Rich Shay complaining about Gush when Menendian was playing Trygon Predator alongside it; I heard him proselytizing about Restoration Angel and Fact or Fiction.

alt text

You don't like this one block in the building, but you can't remove it without collapsing the structure, and there's no reason to collapse the structure. You can make up all sorts of arguments about the block and say all sorts of things about it, but you can't change the fact that the block is important and removing it makes the building weaker. But you really don't like the block.

So what do you do? You do this.

last edited by wappla


Arguing that cards shouldn't be restricted unless necessary sounds great but you arrive at the same levels of favoritism and subjectivism as other arguments for and against restriction. Every person has a different definition of what constitutes a necessary restriction, often ignoring the principles of interactivity and diversity Wizards itself established. Look at the Cards to Unrestrict topic, where you have Steve advocating the unrestriction of Flash (and even Balance) so that he can have Gush back, while maintaining that Dig through Time would be an absurd unrestriction because it "practically destroyed Vintage".

Moving on to you other points, Mishra's Workshop is Gush's antithesis. If you believe that Gush is essential because it lessens the variance of Moxen and Lotus, can you really agree with Mishra's Workshops current legality in the format? The card generates a comparable burst of mana to Black Lotus while powering out Sphere effects. The Sphere effects in particular incentivize the use of Moxen - Ravager Shops is arguably the most powerful Tempo deck ever largely due to Sphere effects putting their opponent's one or more turns behind on mana. This disadvantage is overcome by the acceleration Moxen provide. A house divided against itself cannot stand - rather than talk about individual bricks, I would focus on this core polarization in the current format.

@wappla said in Vintage Restricted List Discussion:

I didn't hear Rich Shay complaining about Gush when Menendian was playing Trygon Predator alongside it; I heard him proselytizing about Restoration Angel and Fact or Fiction.

This is pure bullshit. Rich wrote about a metagame deck, where he talked about using Restoration Angel as an answer to Jace and BUG fish. It's not proselytizing. That's what you are doing with your pictures of ceilings and metaphors about bricks...

The only hypocrite here is you, Wappla.

@ChubbyRain said in Vintage Restricted List Discussion:

you have Steve advocating the unrestriction of Flash (and even Balance)

Uh, that's not true.

The only two cards I said I would unrestrict are Windfall and Bargain. I specifically, and repeatedly said that Flash would be a "serious consideration," but never said I would unrestrict it. And I never said Balance should be unrestricted.

Please try to keep your facts straight when referencing my positions.

@wappla well said.


What card would you suggest as a way to make combo (more) relevant? We already have more than enough enablers and tutors to make combo very consistent. Even cards like Yawgmoth's will, mind's desire, wheel of fortune, Necropotence, Demonic consultation, Vampiric tutor, Windfall, Memory jar or Yawgmoth's bargain as a 4 of wouldn't change the structural weakness combo has against shops and would do little (if anything) to improve that match-up. So all you would be doing is making combo even better against control which is arguably already a favorable match-up for combo.

Unrestricting fast mana is very risky. Even a card like lotus petal, It wouldn't boost the t 2/3 more resilient combo decks but rather help glass canon built for speed decks like undercity informer and belcher.

What combo needs to be truly viable is a new printing that helps it shore it's weaknesses against shops and eldrazi.

So as far as B&R policy goes there is not much that can be done outside of a new wave of restrictions sadly.

I wouldn't blame the DCI for the impass we are currently in, each time they restricted something from shops or gush/mentor, a new favorable printing for those archetypes immediately followed or preceded, making those changes barely noticeable.
Treasure cruise got restricted to keep gush in check and Monastery mentor became legal.
They restricted Chalice just as Hangarback walker was starting to make its impact felt and thereby consolidated Ravager shops as the only viable shops deck (goodbye Martello, terra nueva).
Dig through time was quickly replaced by Jace VP, barely affecting Gush mentor's power level.
Lodestone golem was restricted only to have players realize the potential of Thought knot seer and later Fleetwheel cruiser, Walking ballista, foundry inspector.


If, at some later date, outcome was restricted then I think consult would be a way to add a lot of power to 2 card combo without buffing pure storm excessively (1 of combo can't safely run consult)

The basic problem with combonis you don't want turn one kills. Tutors are a good way to buff combo because the fastest combo kills don't spend cards or mana on tutors, they are natural draws. Tutors are set up cards which make combo more consistent and faster "on average" without speeding up their fastest draws.

last edited by walking.dude

Consistent tutoring definitely leads to more turn one kills for storm combo decks. You rarely win off of a naturally drawn tendrils on turn one or any other turn for that matter there is almost always at least one tutor involved. As far as Demonic Consultation in storm combo, we already have more than enough very good unrestricted tutors with cards like Dark Petition, Burning wish or even Gifts Ungiven.
If outcome was restricted, storm would fall back on Dark petition and Gifts Ungiven.
Consult is tough to play in storm combo even with burning wish or Ad nauseam, because it can really punish you if you try to get restricted cards and you don't necessarily want to consult for any of the 4 ofs in the deck.

Consult is more broken in a 2 piece combo deck with 4 copies of each piece like Two card monte and such. Or a deck trying to abuse Lab Maniac.

@Smmenen said in Vintage Restricted List Discussion:

We now 10 Vintage Challenges since the restriction.

And here are the decks that have Top 8ed:

31 Shops
25 Mentor

And the next best performing deck?
3 PO Drain Tendrils
3 White Eldrazi
3 Gifts
2 PO Tezz
2 Oath
2 UW Stoneblade
2 Dredge
1 Monored Hate
1 Grixis Thieves
1 Landstill
1 Jeskai Delver
1 Academy Combo
1 Merfolk

There isn't even an archetype with 4 copies, let alone 15, 20 or 24.

The point: It's not as if 8 fantastic innovators in a single tournament would have made a dent in this. This isn't about one tournament. It's about the aggregate metagame.

I have never, ever seen a metagame this consolidated. Shops and Mentor are literally 70% of possible Top 8 slots in the Vintage Challenges (56/80).

FYI, as a point of comparison, I went back and looked at the 10 Vintage Challenge Top 8s (July, 2016- March, 2017) before the restriction of Gush and Probe for direct comparison, and here are the results:

25 Mentor decks

13 Shops

9 Dredge

6 White Eldrazi

4 Grixis Control (Thieves, Time Vault Control, etc)
4 Grixis Pyromancer

3 Oath

2 Landstill
2 Doomsday
2 PO Combo
2 Delver

1 Merfolk
1 Nahiri Control
1 UW Stoneblade
1 Leovald BUG

The metagame snapshot in these 10 challenges is mathmatically more diverse and, I think, subjectively interesting than the metagame since the restrictions. Much more Dredge, Oath, and pretty much everything.

Moreover, Mentor and Shops add up to a much smaller % of the metagame. Even if you add all of the Gush decks together with Shops, you still get only 58%, which is substantially lower than the 70% since.

The restrictions of Probe and Gush destroyed decks like DPS and Doomsday, which at least appeared from time to time.

The restriction of Gush and Probe had 0% impact on the % of Mentor, in either direction. Mentor was the exact same proportion before and after. But Shops dramatically increased since the restriction.

The idea that restricting card from blue decks will reduce the prevalence of Shops is the Vintage Magic equivalent of trickle-down economic theory. It's a disproven theory that needs to be discarded.

last edited by Smmenen


Maybe I'm slow, but when I look at those results, I don't see a meta that was much better than our current one. Yes, Dredge and White Eldrazi put up better results, which in one way made it more diverse. However, by those numbers Mentor was clearly the best deck (twice the metagame share of its next closest competitor, Shops, almost triple that of Dredge, and quadruple of Eldrazi's). Is a two-deck meta actually less diverse than a meta with one clear-cut best deck and a handful that are a step down from it?

(Note: I'm not saying the current meta is good, that the Gush restriction was correct, etc. Just not sure those numbers look good to me.)


So I'd need to run the number to be sure, but the field of economics actualy has an objective metric to measure the concentration of various industries called the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index which I imagine could be applied to meta game concentration profitability. You could condense the two meta games tot hat index and compare to see which is actualy more diverse.

@ChubbyRain your determination to defend an indefensible position is failing you.

To your first paragraph, I would simply say that a deck needs to be dominant before a card should be restricted from it. Your data helps remove the subjectivism when it comes to defining dominance, and you know better than most Workshops and Mentor's win percentages over the past however many months.

To your second, I called Gush and Mishra's Workshop significant blocks in the format's structure. I didn't say anything about what role they played in that structure. For someone always on guard for straw man arguments, you're quick to commit the fallacy yourself.

I have basically agreed with your identification of polarization for many months despite your insistence that I didn't. Your conclusion that Gush was the problematic card was obviously incorrect, but your initial diagnosis was basically correct. You do a good job identifying how Gush and Workshop are opposite forces in the format in your paragraph above. I would suggest you continue that line of thinking.

A house divided against itself cannot stand - rather than talk about individual bricks, I would focus on this core polarization in the current format.

your pictures of ceilings and metaphors about bricks...

If you're going to ridicule the metaphor, I'd suggest you not borrow it in the very same post.

last edited by wappla

@ChubbyRain I don't think you'll see that on that thread. You will in fact see me playing around with the idea of unrestricting Balance and Flash. I wouldn't call that advocating, only because I don't have enough faith in the soundness of my own opinions here to really advocate anything of the sort... but that's me.

In fairness to Steve, we got into a side discussion of how degenerate Flash was in it's day. My experience was that it wasn't THAT bad. Other people thought it was literally the most degenerate thing since breakfast for dinner, and subtextually, we discussed what a moron I was, and whether my impression of Flash invalidated all my opinions.

At that point Steve just pointed out that Flash hadn't won that many tourneys or finished that high that often... anyway.

I don't agree that trying not to restrict unless deemed necessary, will have you arrive at the same levels of subjectivity. Practically speaking, my impression is that we are almost at maximum subjectivity as is. I'm not sure what Lincoln would say about it, but an objective standard, cleaved to even a little bit, has got to be better than this... hasn't it? It's discussions like this that continue to astound me at how opaque WOTC is on this stuff. If there is some standard, it's so closely guarded that what might be orderly, rule of law, can at least continue to seem like anarchy.

@Smmenen Gush has a pretty good argument for restriction to me from that data in that quad gush was in a meaningful percent of even the 'other' decks (certainly grixis, Tahiti, delver, probably some of the oath decks, doomsday). If cruise and/or dig needed to go, gush needed to go too. the true non-gush deck representation is actually quite small.

I can get behind "restricting probe was a mistake." It certainly hurt storm, and it made cabal therapy strategies a lot worse. It doesn't serve the same purpose in every deck, and that excuses it's ubiquity to an extent.

last edited by neo_altoid

@Topical_Island said in Vintage Restricted List Discussion:

It's discussions like this that continue to astound me at how opaque WOTC is on this stuff. If there is some standard, it's so closely guarded that what might be orderly, rule of law, can at least continue to seem like anarchy.

Well, as much as I hate to say it, as a company that reports results to Wall Street, the DCI's methodology might be as simple as asking: "what restrictions or unrestrictions will increase the play and consumption of Magic."

Anything more altruistic than that is merely our community's fantasy.

This is where @diophan 's belief that whomever shouts the loudest to the DCI, is heard. Player outrage + player attendance is all they really need (though I wish they would only consider the latter). Any metric more complex than [are people playing more or less] is likely overkill or overthought.

last edited by joshuabrooks

I am not by any means an authority on anything Vintage, but am a student of the game of magic and the Vintage meta. I have not played magic in paper or online since the Waterbury. While some considerations in my life may be factors, there is another issue at play. Reading the content on the Mana Drain, I tried to think critically about why that is the case. Here are my 2 cents:

The format seems to have consolidated around two decks, with Mentor pushing out other blue strategies as the best win condition and Shops being a natural predator, but playing fewer lock pieces than ever. Some of this could be traced back to the restriction of Chalice (which allowed for 1-drops to become more worth running en masse, which may have contributed to blue preying on itself in the form of Mental Misstep, though Mentor really brought that to the fore) and LSG (making Shop decks want to close faster) and even the printing of Dack.

However, I want to focus on those restrictions from another vantage point. There has been more outcry from the community and more discussion about potential or actual restrictions in Vintage than in my past memory of the format (circa 2009, maybe). Additional attention from the VSL and MODO may be contributing factors to this, and many have claimed that the format evolves and stagnates faster than before due to Magic Online. The recent swath of B&R changes have not have the desired effect generally: Chalice and LSG restrictions made Shops perform better, Gush did not (yet) reduce the prevalence of Spheres, etc. Managing the B&R list is surely difficult, and there have surely been missteps recently (from where I stand).

For me, though, this is not the factor that has pushed me out of the game recently. Rather, I think it is the flurry of B&R activity in the form of restrictions that makes me less likely to want to play. Wizards wants to sell a product and wants to make the format as healthy and fun as possible; good on them. However, if the format will constantly be changing through (mismanaged) restrictions, I have less incentive to play. As @Smmenen mentioned in his post here (, time is important. This is a contributing factor to people's stated beliefs that if you want to win, you should play Mentor or Shops and how that portends seeing those decks at the top tables.

I have no problem with either deck, or any deck really. I personally think that Mentor is too efficient of a win condition and the Chalice restriction made decks full of one-drops (or effective one drops; i.e. TX) too homogenized. Wizards decision to give B&R updates more frequently isn't a problem on its own, but making changes that frequently is. As there is no certainty that any deck that rises to the top won't have its legs cut out from under it by B&R policy, there will be less investment and less innovation, at least among a proportion of the player base.

last edited by Archae

@neo_altoid But that's not really argument for gush's restriction. Only because most blue decks run the same draw spells doesn't mean this draw spell needs to be restricted. For example, you could make the same argument about preordain. How many true non-preordain decks were there? this is the old "diversity in draw engines" argument that has been made over and over again. Put it to rest. Different Gush decks play very differently. Even Grixis pyromancer and mentor (two TX token strategies) play(ed) differently.

So, after the restriction, we can see that gush is not necessary for the TurboXerox engine to dominate. Even restricting every 1-mana cantrip wouldn't hurt it. I'd say the problem is that there is a finisher that is easier to cast than tinker (no artifact in play needed), requires less investment (sacrificing an artifact, running a dead card), is harder to deal with, and kills about as quickly. The only requirement said finisher has is "play lots of spells, doesn't matter what the effect says on the card."

On the other hand, some decks conceptually rely on 4 gush to work, such as doomsday for example, or any form of gushbond decks (which have been outclassed a long time ago). Not only have these decks been killed by the restriction of gush, the very POSSIBILITY of "innovating" with gush has been removed! that's what wappla means by removing bricks I think.

(Grixis pyromancer has been killed by the printing of walking ballista though, and then killed again by the restriction of probe; DPS also has been killed by restricting probe). The problem with probe is the same: the spell is only problematic when it summons a seeker of the way.

Long story short:

  1. restrict mentor. unrestrict gush OR fastbond. unrestrict probe. unrestrict memory jar. unrestrict yawgmoth's bargain.
    see what happens. if the main problem in the metagame continues to exist (I think it has been well defined that at the moment there is a two deck metagame with MUD and TX: mentor), try more things: One possibility:

  2. restrict misstep and sphere. unrestrict chalice of the void.

Restricting misstep would make real 1cc-counters better, like REB (opening up the possibility of painters), spell pierce + snare, as well as making hand disruption, rituals and 1cc-creatures better.

Restriction of sphere is not a very obvious one, but I think it has some merits, because sphere is unconditional (removes deckbuilding options to play around it) and is only usable for workshop decks. While creature decks don't have problems with thorn, they do with sphere.

Chalice on the other hand is a card that can be used in or even enables a variety of decks (MUD, Blue moon, some baral-2cc-mono-U-control, could make eldrazi and other critter decks stronger, a white deck with chalice and chalice man, etc.) and is very effective against the cantrip menace, (unlike misstep, which forces blue decks to run their own missteps to counter the opponents missteps that countered the misstep which add more dead draws against MUD). Also, chalice is nullified by cavern of souls. It would also give all the decks an option against PO decks, while being relatively easy to answer for these decks set on any number via engineered explosives (with the help of strip/library/sol ring/mana vault/monolith mana). I'd only unrestrict chalice if at the same time restricting sphere though!

Also: the workshop: Magic players tend to forget that mishra's workshop has a weakness: All permanents in a workshop deck have the artifact type. one hurkyl's (or anything else) to rule them all. Eldrazi are already harder to answer, because their card types vary (but is worse as a deck). And at the same time, the taxing deck is important to have in vintage, to prevent t1 glass cannons and TX strategies from totally dominating. The goal should be how to make shop decks a little worse against Non-greedy TX/combo decks.

All in all, I'd look for restrictions and unrestrictions which open up possibilities of deckbuilding and foster variety, without destroying archetypes like workshop or gush decks.

The DCI has a tough decision ahead of it, but I've concluded that the best course of action for August 28th would be:

+Restrict Mentor & Sphere of Resistance


-R (unrestrict) Yawgmoth's Bargain

If Shops continues to dominate after this, I'd probably have to restrict Shops next cycle, as damaging as that might be.

Restricting two cards at once violates my rule, but the problem with restricting Mentor, and not also Sphere this time, is that there is no way that restricting Mentor will not lead to an increase in the dominance of Shops. That's what happened when Cruise and Gush were restricted.

I'd keep Thorn unrestricted so that White Eldrazi and Tribal Eldrazi are unaffected by these restrictions. White Eldrazi will still have 4 Thalia and 4 Thorn.

My bigger fear is that we are close to a cascading restricted list, with PO next or in the foreseeable future.

last edited by Smmenen
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