Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor


I think you are not fully giving credit to the size of the type one community compared to other formats.

There have probably been more hours put into testing standard in the past 24 hours than have gone into vintage in the past 5 months. The vintage community is really small, maybe 10,000 players tops, probably much fewer and it tends to be older players with jobs and other commitments. Standard or modern are played by millions of people and many of them are kids or college students who can easily test 4 plus hours a day. Some of them are literally professional gamers who can test 12 hours a day leading up to big events.

To compound the huge gap in hours spent, vintage is also a much harder problem; so many more cards, so many more possible decks. The fact that we as a community haven't found a deck building solution to the current meta is only very weak evidence that it doesn't exist.

Note that I don't think that means people should do nothing and wait for a new deck to be found. At some point looking at a puzzle you have to acknowledge that if you haven't solved it yet you're probably not going to. But I also wouldn't be totally shocked if someone built something that beat current builds of mentor and shops forcing those decks to change somewhat.

last edited by walking.dude

@walking.dude said in Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor:


I think you are not fully giving credit to the size of the type one community compared to other formats.

I love the fact that you call the format Type 1 🙂

Aside from that, I acknowledge the undeniable fact that more minds working on a problem means more possibilities to surface solutions.

But by the same token, people are dramatically overestimating how many people it takes to break a metagame paradigm. A single person winning a tournament with a novel strategy, especially twice in a row, is really all that is needed for people to follow along, and join the band wagon.

It's the whole monkeys on typewriters/shakespeare thing. There are enough people working on the format, in dailies, in challenges, on kitchen tables, in small shops and large halls, that people are continuously experimenting. We don't hear about those failures, because the only thing we see is what's winning, generally. After all, this metagame has been like this for a while now.

While having more people focused on the problem increases the odds that a solution will emerge, if there was a solution, I feel pretty confident that someone would have found it by now. Maybe that's an article of faith, but I don't think so. After all, this was the argument advanced by the pro-restriction-of-gush crowd.

The most vigorous proponents of the restriction of Gush implicitly conceded this point, as one of the most oft repeated arguments of people like Chubby Rain were Gush and Shops were the Scylla and Charbydis of the format. According to him, you couldn't design a deck that had a good matchup against both decks, and therefore they throttled the metagame. If it were possible to navigate around them, then Gush wouldn't have needed restriction.

So, that version of the "herd mentality" defense for the current metagame concedes too much: it undermines the grounds for the restriction of Gush in the first place.

last edited by Smmenen

@gkraigher i understand you said that making zodiac dragon back to its original text would help dredge, how exactly would it help dredge, and also why would it need restricted in vintage and banned in legacy, is there some interaction im not aware of?


It would allow them to discard 2 cards instead of 3 each turn with bazaar. So they wouldn't lose card advantage if they didn't want to. It would help them make more land drops, and cast spells with mana costs. Also, since it's a may ability, the card could be a dread return target if you wanted it to be.

Whenever you dredge it to the yard, it's +1 card advantage at a minimum.

Wild mongrel (or noose constrictor or lotleth troll) + Zodiac Dragon is probably too good for legacy. Especially in a world where you can have force of will, misdirection, pact of negation backup. Worldly tutor and sylvan tutor also exist. There are no two card combos in Legacy that aren't instenly mana costed. That's the way Legacy should stay.

Think about 4 Zodiac Dragons in Legacy dredge. It would be insane card advantage.

last edited by gkraigher

Rich, an excellent post, as always. Very well constructed, and considered.

Before addressing things, I'd like to just point out that I believe there was a fundamental change in philosophy back in January 2015, when we saw the restriction of Treasure Cruise. Treasure Cruise was exceptionally powerful as a four-of, but this was the first major domino to fall in this chain that continues on today. First Treasure Cruise, then Dig Through Time, then Chalice of the Void, then Lodestone Golem, then Gush and Probe were restricted, and I don't think any of us think we're done.

From the June 2009 restriction of Thirst for Knowledge through the January 2015 restriction of Treasure Cruise, we had a format that was defined by new printings and unrestrictions, not restrictions. It is my personal opinion that the metagame probably reached its apex around 2012, when Martello Shops, Grixis Control, Oath of Druids, Dredge, Delver, and several other decks were all serious players capable of adjusting for, and winning, any given event. I know that this was probably around the last time that I had a lot of fun playing the format.

Was Treasure Cruise too good? It was clearly very powerful, but this is a format of powerful cards. I was not one of the voices campaigning for restriction, because I was concerned for two reasons:

  1. The axe that cut down Treasure Cruise could certainly come back to hit my pillar.

  2. While the stated desire was clear, it was impossible to know the actual effect of the restriction.

I am a peacenik in general, and this bleeds into other areas of my life. What I define as fun is not necessarily something that others may enjoy, and I both respect that and understand that they should not be coerced to live in a world where they must conform to my standards of fun. I thoroughly hated Blightsteel Colossus, I didn't enjoy being Vault/Key'd, I loathed how little I could do against Dredge (while operating within Mishra's confines), and I had a deep-seated loathing specifically for Oath of Druids.

I had difficult problems thrown at me, and I adjusted. I worked with Forino a lot, and we worked together in building decks that addressed those problems as best we could. Having something new thrown at you, reacting, and throwing something back at them was much of the fun in playing the game.

The philosophy change, in believing that restrictions are the path towards a healthier metagame, has robbed me of much of this enjoyment. I did not celebrate when Cruise, or Dig, got hit because I knew that my time would come. As we reflect on the metagame now, I believe that we're coming back to that point again. Will Mentor be restricted? Will Misstep? Will Thorn? Will Workshop? Who knows?

The point is, before we start thinking about what's going to happen next, shouldn't we be asking ourselves if we're even using the right tools to get us to the balance that we claim to be looking for? Is the metagame better now for having had all the restrictions we've had in the last two and a half years? To reiterate, I don't think any of us think we're done here. I think we all think that more restrictions are coming.

There are many things that factor into attendance at an event. I have more than 15 years worth of experience as a tournament organizer for this format to know that.

I swear I'm not puffing my chest here, but the N.Y.S.E. Open is a lot of work, and a lot of risk. There were several salient issues with N.Y.S.E. Open IV, most notably the interminable heat at the venue. I know that I lost some number of players for the event this year because of that issue last year. The number of players who travel long distances to the event is considerable. I know that many of the attendees leave very early in the morning, play all day, have dinner with friends afterward, and then have a long drive home ahead of them. Sometimes it's a bridge too far for those who would otherwise have been interested. The entry fee for the event is considerable, even if the prize support, giveaways, staffing, and venue all warranted it (and, sadly, should have warranted more) this year.

I sincerely believe that a major factor in us having lost 27 players, going from 157 to 130 (all while having eight players make the trip from Spain - which effectively means we lost 35 players from last year before we start accounting for other first timers who make up for those who decided not to play this year) players from one year to the next is the state of the format. I'd rather not speak of my own personal disenchantment with the state of things. It should be noted that the state of the format has very real effects on tournament organizers, vendors, judges, staff, et al in addition to showing distorted top eights. This is how you drive players away from the format, and how you hurt the format in deeper ways.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that "my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins". My definition of joy in this format is not yours, as yours is not mine. But weren't we supposed to live and let live? Are we in a better place now than we were just a few years ago? When does this end?

If we're operating under the paradigm that we fully know what restrictions are going to do to the format (which is foolish, because none of us can say with authority that we do; we can watch, and wait, and see), then yes, Monastery Mentor and Mental Misstep should be restricted. But what happens then? If Workshops continue doing what they're doing, they will be hit again. Then what? Thorn? Sphere? Shop itself? And what does the format look like when a combo deck like Paradoxical Outcome has seen its most serious enemies nerf'd? Will we have hit the point where we took a balanced metagame, and turned it into the coin flip format that we should never want to see?

I'd much rather see us start peeling back some of the restrictions, and seeing what could be done to get us back to where we were. Maybe Gush never should have come off the restricted list. In a world where Chalice of the Void and Lodestone Golem are restricted, using the paradigm that restrictions can be used with foreknowledge as to what will happen, I see no reason why Gush should be unrestricted.

Some iteration of this fight has been going on for a long, long, long time. I know the world I live in, I think I have a pretty good handle on the landscape ahead. I don't like what I see. I believe that a misguided, albeit well-meaning, few are taking us down a path we would have done best to never trod.

With work being what it is for me, and everything else in my life up in the air right now, I have no idea when I'll play again, or if I've played my final match. Vroman was a hero from afar for me, and I remember how he just kind of disappeared. I top eight'd the last event I played in, back in April, and, like every event I've played in of recent memory, I remember wanting to go home nearly the entire time. This was an uncommon rejoinder from me back in 2012.

I sold my Moxen a few weeks ago, I sold my Lotus last weekend, I'm selling my Shops soon. I'll keep the core of my collection, so that I can power up again and play when I want to, but when is that going to be? I feel like others have been pushed away from the format because of the decisions that have been made regarding the B&R list. While work constraints certainly preclude me from playing as often as I could, I've had the option to buy into MODO and play more often, and I haven't felt like it. I would like to think that I'm going to come back to playing at some point in the next few years, perhaps in some limited fashion, and that I'll feel the draw to compete at a high level, and not just show up at events and occasionally embarrass myself with bad plays. If I'm going to come back and play like I did at Champs last year, or Waterbury this year, there's really no reason to come back and play at all.

To try and get back on point, and wrap this up, I'd just ask that people really think deeply about when Vintage really was balanced in the last few years. Maybe we could start taking steps back towards a metagame where players could play with more of their cards, and we weren't looking to just hit everything that ran well for a while, but looked to develop new strategies to combat new problems. Everything in life isn't a nail, and we have more tools at our disposal than a hammer. Terra Nova was built as a rebuke to a comment that no new innovations were possible in Shops until new cards were printed, or new restrictions/unrestrictions took place. Maybe before we take away someone's right to play their cards we can go to the drawing board and work towards addressing the problems at hand in new, unseen ways. This current philosophy is exhausting, and awful for the long-term health of the format.

last edited by Prospero

@gkraigher then why not play squee? i know its not quite as good as dragon with bazaar but from my experience vintage dredge usually only has one bazaar any way, i know its not a dread return target but it would do almost the same thing as dragon.

@Prospero ive only been playing vintage for around 3, maybe 4, years (all on cockatrice as i dont have the money to play it irl) and in my short time in vintage, i would have to say my favorite time was right after the chalice restriction, before that, to me it felt like either shops or some type of tezzeret deck, this could have been my lack of experience at that point in time so please correct me if im wrong, i played vintage for about six months and went to legacy, to often i would get chaliced for 0 and not be able to do anything for the rest of the game and i stopped because of that, but then chalice got restricted and thats what has brought me back in, and in my opinion that was when vintage was extremly healthy, shops was still a good deck, but it wasnt as taxing as it had been with the chalice restriction, and at the time i was playing a young pyromancer deck and actually beating shops where as before i could never win a game aginst the deck, this could be for many reasons, gaining experience, learning the format beter, so on and so forth, but for me, that was my favorite time in vintage. im not sure if you were looking for responses such as this, and if you werent i do apoligize, as it is i dont like the way vintage is heading, im my opinion it started with the lodestone restriction, when it got restricted i feel like thats when vintage started to go down this path, i could be wrong about this though, im not a seasoned player like much of the other people on this site, this is only my experience so again, please correct me if im wrong.


Vintage is, by its very nature, a high variance format. That's a feature, not a bug.


I think I'm with you on Workshop (even though I think the odds of that happening are approximately zero), but I disagree about "foolish argument". Fewer Missteps in blue decks WILL lead to better Workshop matchups, even if just upping the win % by 1 or 2. It may not be as much as you want, but it would be, pretty much by definition, better than nothing.

@Aaron-Patten said in Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor:

They are forced into that position because all strategies must reduce their curve to be competitive against mana denial strategies such as those used in Mishra's Workshop based decks.

This is not true at all. Both Modern and Legacy have a "Race to the bottom" mentality when it comes to mana costs and the closest to Shops you see there is DnT. It has nothing to do with Sphere and everything to do with Tempo. It's a rule in competition decks, you don't pay more than you have to. A 3 mana Goyf is not suddenly going to be more loved than its two mana counterpart in Modern while a 1 mana one would.

If Shops vanished MM would not suddenly become a godsend to Vintage but more of a curse.

A better example of my point would be with Cantrips. You don't play Omen in place of Preordain. Sure, you have gained built in MM protection but the Tempo loss is too great to make that a benefit overall. If you play a Mentor mirror, the 1 extra mana is far far more harmful than the risk of a Counterspell.

last edited by Dice_Box


The best interaction that I know of is Wild Mongrel - 1 Mongrel & 1 Zodiac Dragon (ZD) is one infinitely large attacker. Two ZDs & 1 Zombie Infestation is infinitely many 2/2 Black Zombie tokens as well. I'm sure there are other ways to break it but these are two off the top of my head.

@Prospero You honestly believe the restriction of Treasure Cruise represented a change in philosophy? It dominated every eternal format in the 6 months it remained legal and likely would have reached unparalleled levels of dominance in Vintage if given an extended stay in the format. The Banned List exists to correct such mistakes and always has. I would argue the spree of restrictions since then were A) attempts to undo the damage that the Delve spells brought on the format or B) existing problems in the case of Lodestone and Chalice that could not survive the scrutiny of Modern Magic from the VSL.

If you think the current format is miserable, I'm pretty sure giving Mentor back Cruise and Dig, and Shops back Golem and Chalice is not the way to make a "two-deck" format better.

@Prospero said in Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor:

To try and get back on point, and wrap this up, I'd just ask that people really think deeply about when Vintage really was balanced in the last few years. Maybe we could start taking steps back towards a metagame where players could play with more of their cards, and we weren't looking to just hit everything that ran well for a while, but looked to develop new strategies to combat new problems. Everything in life isn't a nail, and we have more tools at our disposal than a hammer. Terra Nova was built as a rebuke to a comment that no new innovations were possible in Shops until new cards were printed, or new restrictions/unrestrictions took place. Maybe before we take away someone's right to play their cards we can go to the drawing board and work towards addressing the problems at hand in new, unseen ways. This current philosophy is exhausting, and awful for the long-term health of the format.

I'll offer my 2 cents on this, in particular:

The best Vintage format I've played in was at NYSE 2 (or thereabouts).

This format included 4x Golem and 4x Chalice, and I still felt actively favored against Shops.

What I think was a defining feature of format was that the threats didn't match up with the draw engines all that well. Tinker for Blightsteel was the best thing in the format, followed by a lot of other clunkier two card combos (Salvagers, Vault/Key, Oath)--all of which want you to tutor chain, rather than go up cards. The best draw engines weren't in the same deck--and didn't synergize with--the best threats. The best draw engines lived in Delver (with Gush being as dumb as ever--and this was probably secretly the best deck), and Standstill. And there was space in between the two extremes--e.g. Blue Angels or BUG Fish, which had worse than gush/better than Vampiric Tutor draw engines, but better threats and answers than Delver of Secrets and Mishra's Factory.

Note that I haven't mentioned Shops here. That's because Shops decks were, by and large, a boogeyman, but very beatable. You had to show respect, play your 2 drops and EEs and Chewers, but you could win. The small shops creatures were prisony but, outside of Ravager, actively sucked when getting into the red zone (remember--you didn't have Ballista, HBW, or Foundry Inspector!), and the large shops creatures were necessarily clunky and occasionally uncastable.

That--at least how I remember it--was the best format I've played.

Mental misstep cannot be restricted, ever, simply because cantrips exist. It's a necessary evil as FoW is, in blue decks. Not only that, but having mental misstep as a 4 of, allows future printings of absurd cards at 1 cmc.

Very well put. I couldn't agree more.

My current take (which is very subject to change):

Someone noted that the Vintage metagame moves slower than others. I think that’s true. However, it moves a lot faster these days because of MTGO.

It’s also true that older players can’t always devote time to playing. I haven’t played Vintage online since March or so: which I believe had the effect of removing Saheeli Oath from the front of the Vintage metagame page of MTGGoldfish. So that’s a piece of evidence for how one player can on MTGO can impact the makeup of the perceived metagame, albeit modestly. And I'm not saying others weren’t on Saheeli Oath, far from it, but I put up a consistent showing with it for a couple of months in the face of Gush Mentor.

I think any Shops problem is solved by a removal spell for colorless permanents that ignores tax effects (like through cycling, but also is not Blue or White). NEW cards can solve old card problems, especially for Shops. And I apologize now for making this a theme in almost every post I write.

For "Cantrip" Mentor, however, I think you have to unrestricted Chalice. Let’s be clear, Misstep and Chalice only really hurt creature decks that don’t play Cavern of Souls. How common is that in Vintage these days? I also strongly agree with someone's comments that Misstep helps keep combo in check (even if it doesn't do as much against PO decks, which is why we need Chalice back).

I would love to see a format where Turbo Xerox and PO decks have to contend with CotV, while Shops decks have to contend with artifact removal that can’t be inhibited by tax effects. I will openly speculate that such a change could allow for other cards to be unrestricted, including Gush, Probe and even Lodestone.

Although, if TMD speculation on a restriction's impact was consistently correct, we wouldn't be in the current mess right now.

last edited by jhport12

@ChubbyRain said in Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor:

If you think the current format is miserable, I'm pretty sure giving Mentor back Cruise and Dig, and Shops back Golem and Chalice is not the way to make a "two-deck" format better.

Perhaps not, but I thought it was a brilliant post. More than that, a voice of wisdom. I did not agree with every statement, but I agreed with the vast majority of it.

Prospero offered some much needed perspective. By drawing back the lens, he put this specific debate in the context of a larger arc of recent Vintage history.

The trajectory we are on has not worked. We've restricted four blue cards and two artifacts from the same two decks in the last 3 years. And what do we have to show for it? When does the madness stop? And, most importantly, where is this really leading?

I completely agree with him that the B&R policy management was much better under the previous regime, the period between the restrictions of Thirst and Cruise. While the alternative, of doing nothing, may seem like a poor choice, Prospero raises a serious question: from all of these restrictions, what have we really gained? What's changed? At the end of the day, the two decks that were the target of all of these restrictions are still the best decks, and after each restriction, the targeted deck leaps back into roughly the same position it held before. All of the doomdaying after the restrictions of Chalice and Golem proved wrong. Shops has never, ever, had a stronger hold on the metagame, in terms of % of Top 8s. Not even in the Trinisphere era.

This raises serious concerns: perhaps these were the wrong restrictions, or, perhaps, as he suggests, our entire approach to management of the format needs a complete rethink or an overhaul.

Maybe we need to break free of old assumptions, old habits, and old patterns.

While I disagree with Rich's theory of the metagame, and further, disagree that the restrictions he proposes will solve the problems with it, I confess I don't really have solutions myself or see a clear path forward. Restricting Mentor sounds reasonable (and it's what I preferred instead of Gush), but I think Prospero raises a larger question: if it doesn't work, what then?

I've said this before, but Prospero echoes it: the route we are on leads to more restrictions, not less. That much should be obvious. That's why I'm inclined to agree with his point that, perhaps, we need put more energy into looking into unrestrictions instead.

The way out of this mess is unclear. I do not believe that restricting Mentor and/or Misstep will reduce the dominance of Shops, and I think it's foolish to believe so, just as I thought it was folly to believe that restricting Gush would weaken Shops. But I'm not sure where the restrictions stop. If Mentor doesn't bring down Shops, then something in Shops is next. And if that doesn't work - and I doubt it will (unless it's Mishra itself), then what?

Maybe Vintage, after 25 years, has hit a wall. Maybe there is no way out. Maybe this is the endgame of a format that has 25 years of accumulated printings without bannings. If the Dack-Delve draw engine is really what's powering the Mentor deck, then restricting Mentor isn't going to solve that problem, and, as you've said before in the arguments over Gush, we will just substitute cards like Pyromancer instead. Frankly, I've already begun testing what to replace 3 Mentors with in my deck for EW (a far more interesting endeavor than playing the current format).

This might be hyperbole, but it's not entirely implausible to think that you could restrict Mentor, Preordain, Misstep, JVP, and perhaps a few more cards, and the "blue stew" with the Dack-Delve/Gush draw engine would still probably be a tier 1 deck; perhaps even the best blue deck, still. Similarly, I don't see what you can restrict from Workshops at this point that would make it not at least 25%+ of the field. I don't think restricting Sphere or Thorn alone would make much difference.

Given that the path that we are on leads to either 1) restrictions that won't solve the problem, 2) many, many more restrictions to solve the problem, or, perhaps, 3) a scenario where restrictions don't actually matter - where the restriction policy device has actually lost it's power because a critical mass of restricted cards can support a deck, then perhaps it is better to try something else instead or rethink this flawed approach.

This is the moment to try to think this through very carefully before continuing down this road any further.

last edited by Smmenen


Square is much worse because it triggers at the beginning of your upkeep. So if you dredge during your upkeep or draw steep, you'd have to wait a full turn to discard it. And it's not a dread return target.

@Prospero great opinion. Thank you for taking the time to voice it.

last edited by gkraigher

@Smmenen I think it's very reasonable to debate whether or not the restricted list has reached the limit of its utility, and what to do then. However, it is equivalent to proving a negative. How does one know that subsequent restrictions will not have an effect if, as Nick said, the outcome of restrictions is difficult or impossible to predict? One would have to try out those restrictions before throwing in the towel.

People have a nostalgia for before this recent arc of history, but you cannot roll back the clock and ignore the printings of Cruise, Dig, and Monastery Mentor. You cannot ignore the printings of Walking Ballista, Foundry Inspector, Fleetwheel Cruiser, and others. Focusing the blame on a "philosophy of restriction" is frankly wrong, and the major gripe I have concerning @Prospero's argument. I do not see a more balanced and diverse metagame with Treasure Cruise and Lodestone Golem unrestricted. It would certainly not lead to a more interactive and skill-intensive format. To think otherwise is a textbook example of recollection bias.

@p3temangus said in Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor:

@Chronatog said in Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor:

So any prognostication about metagame changes should take into account all Magic-unrelated factors. Otherwise, such discussions will remain only theoretical discussion quite disconnected from the reality.

Except now, with MTGO, Players do have cheap access to all cards, and can react immediately to the changes. Hell, anyone trying to test hypothetical restrictions can EASILY do so on MTGO.

This is a good point, @p3temangus. Since I am not familiar with MTGO, and to avoid representativeness bias, perhaps you can help me here. Where I can find number of unique monthly MTGO player? And similar data but with unique players who play more than once per month? And unique players who play a few times per year. And then we can compare these numbers with number of players attending some big vintage paper events in the past and decide if MTGO stats are representative.

In general, I agree with you that with MTGO players have cheaper access to cards (though some cards are more expensive on-line, e.g. Wasteland and Rishadan Port), but I disagree that everyone can (and want to) react immediately.

Using my limited experience and some anecdotal evidence, I suspect that MTGO does not represent all players well enough to serve as a yardstick. At least for Vintage. And any decisions about restricting cards in Vintage should be made based on a variety complimentary data sources. And common sense, of course.

And I like the reasoning @THE ATOG LORD used in his article and hope that we will have more balanced and objective posts here, supported by relevant data.

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