The problem with your post is that it arrives in the middle of a fairly intense debate over the handling and management of the format, positions itself as if it is neutral or even orthogonal to that debate, while it actually drives a stake through one side.
Firstly, the subject line and the predicate for the post is that there is some kind of group think occurring that is most acute on MTGO that is actually misrepresenting the consolidation of the format - making it seem worse than it actually is. Out of context, this would seem neutral, but right now we are undertaking an evaluation of the impact of the April restrictions, a little more than 3 months out. The results from the MTGO challenges shows that Shops and Mentor are 70% of the 11 Top 8s since April 24th compared to under 50% for the previous 10 events.
If the explanation for those consolidation of the metagame is simply " group think" rather than actual metagame market dynamics, then the criticisms of the DCI are undermined: the results aren't a result of DCI action so much as it is "group think." This a wrong factually, IMO, but more importantly, it's wrong as an ideological position that serves the defenders of the April decision.
I am sympathetic to the anxieties and concerns raised by MTGO. After all, in January, I wrote a longish article that integrated some of the points you suggest. There I said, for example:
The third perspective is a relatively new one for Vintage, and it is a way that Magic Online has changed Vintage. Preparing for daily tournaments is a very different effort than preparing for one of a few very large tournaments per year, as was the case in the heyday of the Waterbury tournament. Although there are still players who plan and prepare months before the Vintage Championship, the dynamic in the Magic Online environment is quite different.
When decklists are published on a daily basis, the rewards for taking risks and investing time and energy in novel strategies are greatly diminished. Instead, there is a much greater reward from playing low risk decks and a premium on consistency. After all, the spoils for 4-0ing a daily aren’t sufficient to incentivize the development of new decks over tuning up existing ones and tightening up your play.
This is a fundamental difference between paper Magic and Magic Online. If you examine the metagame breakdowns of larger paper tournaments and the larger Magic Online Vintage tournaments, paper tournaments are more diverse, with more players playing marginal strategies, and even doing well. In contrast, Magic Online events are more homogeneous, with fewer fringe decks.
This is one of the sources of anxiety. The production of daily decklists changes the perception of the format, especially from the quarterly or even annual perspectives. Even two weeks of similar daily results can now result in complaints about the format being monotonous, despite the fact that this would be perfectly normal from a paper Vintage perspective, where events unspool at a slower clip. But, critically, this perception is generated among both Magic Online players and paper Vintage players from simply reading tournament reports.
BUT...the argument that the results on MTGO are groupthink is a pretty silly position. In the extreme, if what people played were primarily or even largely a function of network effects and group think rather than a desire to win and expected match wins, then the DCI's use of the restriction tool to curb dominant decks would be relatively ineffective. People would continue to play the same deck regardless.
As I said, this is an extreme version of that position. At the other extreme, I don't think metagames, like markets, are perfectly efficient, either. There are always people who don't play the best deck, or play for other reasons than winning. But they are relatively efficient. The best decks, over time, tend to become a larger part of the metagame and a greater % of Top 8s. This is an empirical reality. Moreover, the "group think" model dramatically underestimates how much it takes for a metagame to be completely transformed.
A single player winning a tournament twice in a row will have players join that bandwagon. It's happened countless times in Vintage history from Robert Vroman to Eric Becker. It only takes 1 player in tournament to win a tournament. So even if 50% of the field is just following a group-think, it takes very, very little to change the composition of a Top 8. Remember, a single player is 12.5% of a Top 8. That's a huge percentage.
No, the current metagame is not a result of group think. Magic Online may be accelerating the Vintage metagame by quickly determining what the best decks are. But that's because they truly are the best decks. Not because of a herd mentality.
- My biggest complaint is that the decklists for Vintage Dailies are posted for 4-0 and 3-1 decks. While there are players who take these events as a point of pride and want to see their name and deck posted as much as possible, it cuts down on innovation.
Again, completely wrong, as a factual matter: Have you looked through the dailies carefully in the last few months? Kevin and I just recently compiled every single daily since April. There are TONS Of experimental decks in the 3-1 and 4-0 results.
In July alone, there were BUG decks with Fastbond, Excavator and Zuran Orb, Splinter Twin Control, Teen Titans (a Welder Reanimator deck), WBG Eldrazi, Gifts Control, PO Oath Combo, and tons of other experimental and innovative decks. Going to June, you have decks like Illusory Angel Control, and much more.
If anything, the dailies are the place for experimentation, and it's evident. Your "biggest complaint" appears to be poorly founded or unfounded.
I look at a Daily as a testing session, but why would I test with my list for Vintage Champs or another big tournament in an event where my list will be posted for public consumption if I do well?
This is a solipsism error. Just because you don't, doesn't mean people don't either.
- This critique pertains solely to TMD and Facebook, but people need to stop complaining about Vintage being so awful.
Tell that to the people who complained, ceaselessly, about Gush before it was restricted. Having waged an unrelenting campaign against Gush, and having won, you are now asking the losers to go home, and have the winners roll up their mat behind them, when the manifest errors of that decision and it's illogic are becoming more obvious by the day.
Complaining is the primary mechanism by which those who are unhappy with the April restrictions (which according to polls, is a majority of Vintage players) are able to convey the depth and breadth of their anger. That, and voting with their feet. When Brainstorm was restricted, a large contingent of the Vintage player base, according to some, quit Vintage.
It would be completely unjustified and unfair to ask people who are unhappy to silence themselves when earlier complainers had unlimited scope for complaining about Gush.
Quite the opposite of you, if people are unhappy with the restrictions, I encourage them to speak up, not be silent, and voice their outrage and their concerns about the direction of the format. They should publish articles, write to Wizards, and post messages here and beyond.
Asking people who are unhappy with the restriction is silence themselves tantamount to asking them to muffle themselves. Yet, no one asked the Gush complainers to muffle their unhappiness with Gush. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
I agree with the ideas that Monastery Mentor is very good and Gush/Probe getting restricted did not do enough to slow down the Delve engine, but complaining about it just turns people off from wanting to play. The Vintage community by and large has spent significantly more effort complaining about the format and squabbling over who thought Gush getting restricted would "fix" the format than it has in trying to address the problem at hand.
I could not disagree more: short term pain in the interest of a better long term format is always worth it. We need to get the ship righted, and that means criticizing what happened in April and the current state of the metagame, loudly and proudly. Not silencing our discontent to serve the interests of those who are responsible for bringing about our current wicked state of affairs.