I'm still quite new to Vintage/ Type 1 (playing Magic for nearly 20 years now, but mostly Extended, Standard, Legacy, Modern and Draft - now Vintage as well, but I took a couple of breaks in between) and while being drawn to the format because of Ancestral and Time Walk at first, the absurd percentages of Shops as of late wanted me to get more familiar with the archetype as well so I practiced it a bit in the last few weeks.
First, thanks @Brass Man for all the work he is doing to keep a place alive where people can talk about the real way to play Magic, and for maintaining a lot of different sub forums and topics.
A little bit of critique from my side: as a new player, this primer could be compared to an iceberg: the surface explains quite nicely to people not familiar with the format what the deck is about, but it lacks any in depth discussion for people who are new to the deck and look for edges to get better.
Anyway, back to the topic. As I explained, I'm mainly a blue mage throughout various formats, so playing Shops now feels both weird and interesting. It feels like the average opening hand has so much more variance than in a blue deck. Lands, counterspells, cantrips? Keep. Often you can exchange the counterspell for a removal and it works as well; the same could be true for 2 counterspell, 2 cantrip, 2 removal etc, the slots are kind of interchangeable, blue decks often don't even need a threat in their opening hand but can just evade long enough until they find one. Shops on the other hand is a deck where I often feel like you need to have Exodia in your opening hand to stand a chance. Like, all the pieces must fit together or you easily fall behind or fail to do anything at all. What makes it even worse is that a good hand against a blue deck is often terrible in the mirror. And mana always seems to be a problem - either too much or too few.
I'm sure I come off as a total scrub, but since mulligans are an important skill to the deck I think I may be lacking there. Are there any general advice? Like... is a hand with a mox and 1 mana land, but not that much to do with them - let's say a Sphere and a Ravager, + some stuff costing 3 or more - a keep? A hand with just spheres and mana but no threat? A hand with 3 Shops, 2 Foundry Inspector 2 Revoker? A hand that does nothing on turn 1 but can be explosive once it gets down an Inspector?
There are many more options, so so many. I mull a lot of hands and don't seem to get rewarded - like often when I mull a mediocre hand my next one is really bad, so I'm kind of afraid of refusing the mediocrity.
Phyrexian Revoker has to be the most skill intense card of the deck because I hate it the most. I hate hands where it is my only threat (same for Ravager, do I just mull these hands? They are so slow) and I hate being on the play with them. Naming cards in the dark always feels bad, as cards that you want to name are usually 1 or 2 offs, so it mainly turns off a mox, which is ok but not impressive. I mean just beating for 2 gives blue opponents too many windows. In the mirror it is an interesting and complex card, as it can often mean the difference between winning or losing, or it just sucks as a 2 mana 2/1 against a barrage of 3/3 golems.
I'd also like to hear some sideboard plans from other players. How often do you board out Trinisphere on the draw? Is there any reason to bring in Cage against Big Blue decks (so far I think no)? How do you board against the different blue archetypes? Is there any reason to leave in Sphere in the mirror?
Also, I don't share the sentiment that creatures in Shops are large Ravager/ Ballista/ Revoker and also Inspector are all kind of small, even though the first 2 can grow they will rarely attack for more than 1 or 2 on their first occasion. In general, after watching some videos on Youtube before Lodestone and Chalice were restricted, the deck looks more fair and way slower these days than it used to be.