February 12, 2018 Banned and Restricted Announcement

The idea that all decks which 1) draw cards and 2) use permission spells are strategically the same is a major taxonomic error. Decks like Jeskai Xerox, Oath, Landstill and Paradoxical decks all draw cards. But the manner in which they draw cards is wildly diverse, and their strategic objectives are equally varied, with very different strengths and vulnerabilities. Sweeping them all into a super umbrella category "blue" reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the format and the game.

The better way to understand a decks strategy is the approach I use in my Gush book: which is to break a deck's components into: 1) ultimate strategic objectives, 2) intermediate strategic objectives, 3) tactics, and 4) mana resources.

From this perspective, every deck seeks to achieve it's ultimate strategic objectives, which are the cards that satisfy the conditions under the rules that win the game. To achieve those ultimate strategic objectives, most decks pursue intermediate strategic objectives. An example of an intermediate strategic objective would be to resolve and trigger Oath of Druids, and the ultimate strategic objective of the Oath pilot might be to get Griselbrand into play and attack with it 3 times.

Tactics are cards that are either used to a) defend one's own strategic objective or b) disrupt an opponent's achievement of their own. Force of Will does both effectively. Pact of Negation generally only does the former effectively.

Anyway, this is laid out in much more detail in my Gush book. But sweeping all decks with wildly different strategic objectives into a super category of 'blue' is a tremendous mistake. Not simply because those strategic objectives are superficially different. But because they all have different strengths and weaknesses in the metagame. For example, Paradoxical Outcome strategies are weak to Null Rod but Standstill strategies are not. Same with Oath relative Landstill vis-a-vis Cage. Lumping them together masks these critical differences.

Blue is a color; not a strategy. Just because a deck is blue confuses one thing for another. Blue decks use non-blue cards in strategically important ways (Dark Confidant, Oath of Druids, etc.). Moreover, the color pie is radically inconsistent over decades, and there is nothing essential to blue that does not exist in other colors, and vice versa. So, blue is a superficial characteristic at best, with no deep value or quality.

last edited by Smmenen

@smmenen said in February 12, 2018 Banned and Restricted Announcement:

The idea that all decks which 1) draw cards and 2) use permission spells are strategically the same is a major taxonomic error. Decks like Jeskai Xerox, Oath, Landstill and Paradoxical decks all draw cards. But the manner in which they draw cards is wildly diverse, and their strategic objectives are equally varied, with very different strengths and vulnerabilities. Sweeping them all into a super umbrella category "blue" reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the format and the game.

The better way to understand a decks strategy is the approach I use in my Gush book: which is to break a deck's components into: 1) ultimate strategic objectives, 2) intermediate strategic objectives, 3) tactics, and 4) mana resources.

Just because that's your method for taxonomy doesn't mean that its everyone else's, and in practice this method of taxonomy would have very few decks lumped together if at all... You should be fighting back on this concept that all Oath of Druids decks and all Shops decks are the same.

@smmenen said in February 12, 2018 Banned and Restricted Announcement:

Blue is a color; not a strategy. Just because a deck is blue confuses one thing for another. Blue decks use non-blue cards in strategically important ways (Dark Confidant, Oath of Druids, etc.). Moreover, the color pie is radically inconsistent over decades, and there is nothing essential to blue that does not exist in other colors, and vice versa. So, blue is a superficial characteristic at best, with no deep value or quality.

Except that nearly every great draw spell, and nearly every great counterspell comes from Blue still. You still can't really get bounce spells in other colors either. Red still has pretty much all the burn spells. Black still has pretty much all the discard. White/Green have shifted/shared abilities quite a bit, but if you are looking for say Enchantment hate they are still the only real colors. The color pie is still very strong. They've just shifted some of the abilities around.

If you go up to a new player and say "I have a blue deck" or you are drafting a blue deck in limited. Its pretty likely that they understand the core concepts of what Blue is about... Its actually kind of shocking to me that someone as well versed as you doesn't.

last edited by vaughnbros

@smmenen said in February 12, 2018 Banned and Restricted Announcement:

The idea that all decks which 1) draw cards and 2) use permission spells are strategically the same is a major taxonomic error

There's a problem with this mindset when it bleeds into B&R discussion. I completely agree with what you're saying when it comes to the way that I categorize decks. I especially agree that if you have a different mindset (all blue decks are the same) you're going to build really awful sideboards, and it doesn't benefit you to think this way if your goal is winning matches.

The problem comes in when people have non-strategic motivations for grouping decks. Let's say you're not trying to build a sideboard, but rather, you're just a player who doesn't enjoy games when your one drops get countered. If that's the case and you're evaluating the format, "The whole metagame is MentalMisstep.dec" is a completely valid way to organize things.

@vaughnbros said in February 12, 2018 Banned and Restricted Announcement:

@smmenen said in February 12, 2018 Banned and Restricted Announcement:

The idea that all decks which 1) draw cards and 2) use permission spells are strategically the same is a major taxonomic error. Decks like Jeskai Xerox, Oath, Landstill and Paradoxical decks all draw cards. But the manner in which they draw cards is wildly diverse, and their strategic objectives are equally varied, with very different strengths and vulnerabilities. Sweeping them all into a super umbrella category "blue" reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the format and the game.

The better way to understand a decks strategy is the approach I use in my Gush book: which is to break a deck's components into: 1) ultimate strategic objectives, 2) intermediate strategic objectives, 3) tactics, and 4) mana resources.

Just because that's your method for taxonomy doesn't mean that its everyone else's, and in practice this method of taxonomy would have very few decks lumped together if at all...

Except your approach is just worse. Sweeping Oath, Landstill, and PO decks into a single "blue" category, as I said, masks different tactical vulnerabilities and metagame niches. My approach is inherently sensitive to all of those. Therefore, it's better practically and theoretically.

In any case, your criticism is not really true. If a deck's ultimate strategic objective is Tendrils of Agony, we can begin to see how different decks arrive there. Some may use Ad Nauseam, others Dark Petition, and still others Burning Wish. Storm Combo is a super archetype. And there are sub archetypes within it.

So decks can begin to be lumped together under various complementary taxonomies. In the Gush Book, I state in Chapter 4 that Gush decks come in one of 5 strategic orientations: Control, Combo Control, Combo, Aggro Control, and Aggro-Control-Combo. And give examples of each.

But calling a group of decks "blue" for taxonomic purposes is extremely unhelpful and obfuscating. It could literally describe all 5 strategic orientations I just mentioned.

If you go up to a new player and say "I have a blue deck" or you are drafting a blue deck in limited. Its pretty likely that they understand the core concepts of what Blue is about... Its actually kind of shocking to me that someone as well versed as you doesn't.

Because I've been around long enough to see through how describing a deck by it's color obscures more than reveals, especially when combined with the fact that deck design in Vintage and Legacy is so unconstrained that pretty much every deck can splash blue if they want. It's an overly simplistic way to describe a deck that is little more than a folk taxonomy, and not well tailored for any significant purpose such as B&R policy OR strategic insight and metagame placement.

REB and Pyroblast have been one of the most powerful counterspells since the inception of the game, and they aren't blue. The color pie is close to useless for understanding or classifying Vintage decks.

last edited by Smmenen

@vaughnbros Lance, can you point to another format in which decks are grouped based on their reactive components? For instance, I am not aware of anyone in Standard classifying decks as Vraska's Contempt decks. Or Fatal Push decks. In Modern, I'm not aware of the Lightning Bolt vs. Path to Exile vs. Fatal Push match win percentages. Or Thoughtseize vs. Remand.

The point is that lumping decks together this way is basically a way of making a banned and restricted argument. That's it's only real purpose. Like @Brass-Man said, there is very little strategic value in categorizing decks in this fashion. Like @Smmenen said, reactive cards are a very small part of the deck design process.

@Smmenen

My approach is very similar to yours except that its just more generalized. For someone who primarily plays Dredge, it really doesn't make that much of a difference what type of blue deck you are playing. They are all mostly the same in the way that I am interacting with you. So it really depends on your personal viewpoint, and what deck you are playing such that a less generalizable classification (like yours), or a more generalized classification (like mine) works better.

The old school Combo, Combo Control, ect. are about as meaningless as you can get for classification purposes since most people don't even define Combo, Control, and Aggro the same. I can't even count the number of times that people have told me that Workshops is an Aggro deck, but historically (previous to all the restrictions) it was pretty much always a Control deck based on the true definition of Control. Decks within the same super archetypes also can span a multitude of these categories.

Me calling all these "blue" decks "control" wouldn't be much less accurate/precise than what I am calling them. Now if it makes you feel better, I can in fact concatenate the two together and start calling it "Blue Control". Is that better?

@chubbyrain

So your point is we only classify into Pillars so that we can discuss which card next needs to be restricted? I'm not quite sure that I follow this logic. That doesn't seem to be the case for Steve at least, and it doesn't seem to be the case for many Vintage writers or even the method for which you are collecting data (I assume you are not just collecting it for restricted list purposes?).

Some of the taxonomy in other formats does actually make sense. "Red Deck Wins" is not an individual card or even a series of cards, its an overall strategy to kill your opponent as fast as possible with direct damage and cheap creatures. It spans multiple formats (and card pools) because this is a general strategy. Just like counter all your spells and draw a bunch of cards is a general strategy that exists in multiple formats (and not just Vintage).

Some of it is the same as Vintage. Modern, for instance, has a Death's Shadow deck, a Hollow One deck, an UrzaTron deck, ect. I'm not well versed enough in that format, but I assume that any of these aren't mutually exclusive. Just like Paradoxical Outcome and Oath of Druids are most definitely not mutually exclusive.

I'm assuming by reactive cards you are referring to Misstep, Force, Brainstorm, Preordain, ect.? They are huge in deck building process! Unless you've of course already decided that you are going to play a "Blue Control" deck! Me deciding to play Misstep, Force, ect. is a major design decision when I'm building a Dredge deck or some other Combo deck because I haven't implicitly made the assumption that they are going to be the core of everything that I am playing.

@vaughnbros I missed a very important phrase:

@chubbyrain said in February 12, 2018 Banned and Restricted Announcement:

The point is that the way you're lumping decks together this way is basically a way of making a banned and restricted argument. That's it's only real purpose. Like @Brass-Man said, there is very little strategic value in categorizing decks in this fashion. Like @Smmenen said, reactive cards are a very small part of the deck design process.

@chubbyrain

I disagree, wholeheartedly with that section. The way that you are classifying decks seems to be a way to just argue for the banned/restricted list as you are boiling everything down to one or two cards (which action could be taken against). What I am describing is a method of classification that works across all formats, and thus all card pools. It takes the abstract concept of an individual card or set of cards out of the equation, and focuses on what really matters in terms of the game, that is: "the strategy that your deck follows to win".

@vaughnbros said in February 12, 2018 Banned and Restricted Announcement:

I'm assuming by reactive cards you are referring to Misstep, Force, Brainstorm, Preordain, ect.? They are huge in deck building process! Unless you've of course already decided that you are going to play a "Blue Control" deck! Me deciding to play Misstep, Force, ect. is a major design decision when I'm building a Dredge deck or some other Combo deck because I haven't implicitly made the assumption that they are going to be the core of everything that I am playing.

Misstep and Force, Yes. The others no.

And this is kinda the point. Deciding to run Misstep or Force is a major design decision in dredge, but isn't the most important design decision the fact that you are playing dredge?

@chubbyrain

Sure, it is. But making the decision to play Force+Misstep is still a major design decision. Its not a secondary thought unless you've already made the bigger decision of playing "Blue Control" where they are already a part of your core of cards.

@vaughnbros Do people decide they want to run Force of Will first or do they want to run Paradoxical Outcomes. Or Force of Will or Oath. Or Force of Will or Tinker. My argument is that the most important design decision and the way most players operate is to pick the proactive components (or overall strategy) first. They pick the reactive elements later. I know you can start out with "Let's build a blue deck without Force". Heck, I did that. It's just most of the time, Force of Will is a default reactive card for a lot of players given it's near universal applicability. If the format was wildly different or Force of Will was restricted, you'd still get players thinking "I want to play Oath of Druids" but they would insert a different card in place of Force.

And our classification scheme is really a product of trying to make it useful to the majority of Vintage players, whether they are arguing for a restriction or using the breakdown for deck construction purposes. Every classification scheme is going to be flawed in some way. The effort to create a universal classification will be similarly flawed, especially given that we are on a Vintage only forum.

last edited by Guest

@vaughnbros said in February 12, 2018 Banned and Restricted Announcement:

@Smmenen

My approach is very similar to yours except that its just more generalized. For someone who primarily plays Dredge, it really doesn't make that much of a difference what type of blue deck you are playing. They are all mostly the same in the way that I am interacting with you.

This is exactly my point. Only someone who primarily plays a deck like Dredge would think it's not problematic to sweep all the varieties and strains of control decks into a single category of 'blue.' That's because you are only fighting on one dimension of game play really: graveyard hate and protecting it/removing it.

That's what makes your sweeping generalization of 'blue' so problematic. As Gadamer says: That which reveals also conceals. That's the case here.

Xerox school decks are constructed on fundamentally different principles than Weissman School decks or Marc Perez Style Fish Aggro Control decks. Yet all use permission and blue draw spells. They are very, very different strategies.

Sweeping decks into a super category of "blue" washes out so many important distinctions that it's dysfunctional for almost every purpose except for the narrow perspective of someone playing Dredge. It's wholly inappropriate for B&R discussions.

@chubbyrain Are people picking Paradoxical Outcome to play Paradoxical Outcome or so they also have easy access to Force of Will? Are people picking Oath of Druids to play Oath of Druids or do they assume that it comes with Force of Will? (Oath isn't even blue so I'll let you come to your conclusion on that latter one).

You are making this assumption that people are selecting a card, and not a deck. My understanding of most people, even brewers (myself included), is that they start with a "overall" deck or core of cards that they want to play. They don't just say, I want this one card. Although I guess they could! Sometimes I tell myself I really just want Force of Will in my deck! I absolutely hate not being able to respond after all... So actually, wait a second, I actually build most of my decks around a reactive card...

@smmenen

And the fact that you play mostly blue+storm combo reveals why you classify Dredge and Workshops with a broad stroke! We are all biased so all of us are wrong!

Its inappropriate of you to use the word Dredge and not call it "XL Dredge", or to just call it Workshops and not call it "Ravager Shops". How dare you Steve!

@vaughnbros said in February 12, 2018 Banned and Restricted Announcement:

@smmenen

And the fact that you play mostly blue+storm combo reveals why you classify Dredge and Workshops with a broad stroke!

But I don't. I don't organize Vintage into Blue and Colorless decks. I think that's a terrible way to organize decks.

I prefer strategic orientations like Aggro-Control, Control, Combo, etc. or "Schools" of Vintage Magic like Robert Hahn did, but modernized (Comer, Weissman, O'Brien, etc.).

last edited by Smmenen

For me, using card names for naming a whole deck (ie. oath deck, ...) is just a usefull shortcut and we all know what is hiding behind (ie. a deck that aims to cheat a fatty into play using a particular setup ...).

I agree with what has been said earlier, namely that decks classification in a B&R context is very subjective and as such quite difficult. I have no answer but lets put the finger on some of the problems.

Saying that every deck using blue is the same archetype sounds stupid to me but on the other hand they differ only with a limited amount of cards and their strategies are often very similar. So where is the truth here ?

My answer at this question comes from my engineering science background : i would look at the function of each card. Each deck has a plan that is supposed to lead to victory, and each card in the deck is here for a reason related to the said plan (its 'function'). IMHO what makes it difficult to classify decks is that a single card may have different function when they are in different decks. Let me give two simple examples :

In a aggro shell, Tangle wire will be played after you drop a lodestone golem so you make sure your kill will stay online, whereas in a Stax shell you would play tangle wire before the golem to make sure it will not be hit by a counter (it is oversimplification but i guess you get the idea).

In a same way, some years ago in Legacy there was 2 decks : tempo thresh and tempo zoo. If you look at both decklists they looks really similar : some creatures were different and some of the counterspells chosen were different. With one deck, the plan was to stick a creature and make sure it goes till the end, the other one planed to deal with what opponent put online and when he has exhausted his ressource kill him with whatever creature. Very similar decks but opposite plan and more important similar cards but slightly different because of their function in the deck.

So to make it short, one can't look at deck lists and say '90% of the cards are the same so it is the same deck'. It requires a deeper analysis on how the deck is played and why each card is here. That kind of analysis is often done on 'blue' decks and they are categorized but i noticed that very often it is not done on other archetypes (for example, when there was several shop decks (aggro, stax, ...) they were always put in the same). For the sake of fairness, the same treatment shoudl be applied to all archetypes.

last edited by albarkhane

@smmenen

You just used the word Dredge! And Storm earlier! If this isn't how you view them, why would you use those words? Or are Dredge/Storm special and they get classified differently?

Are there any new schools of magic or that's it every possible strategy was defined in 1996?

@vaughnbros said in February 12, 2018 Banned and Restricted Announcement:

@smmenen

You just used the word Dredge! And Storm earlier! If this isn't how you view them, why would you use those words? Or are Dredge/Storm special and they get classified differently?

Dredge and Storm are not strategic orientations. A strategic orientation is a broad class of strategies, which I listed out above (Aggro, Combo, Control, etc.). Dredge and Storm are strategies, but not strategic orientations.

Are there any new schools of magic or that's it every possible strategy was defined in 1996?

Well, you'll have to read my History of Vintage Series for the full answer, but no, not every strategy was defined in 1996. Hahn articulated 4 Schools (Handleman, Chang, etc.) that, with historical perspective, are not actually Schools. And some of the key schools had not yet emerged in 1996, or weren't fully blossomed. By 1997 almost all had, except the Comer School does not really come into existence until he creates Turbo Xerox. Part of the reason that the Comer School bloomed late is that you needed to have a format with Strip Mine restricted and you need enough cantrips in existence. Cantrips aren't in Magic until Ice Age, and you need more than that to build around.

In my history of Vintage series (link in my signature), I include a table at the end of the 1997, 2002, 2007, and 2012 chapters that describe each School, it's design elements, and decks from that school. Dredge is the latest version of the Reanimator School, which begins in nascent form with Mark Chalice's The Machine in 1995, but fully blooms with Alan Comer's Type 1.5 Reanimator deck in 1997. It's always used self-reanimating spells like Ashen Ghoul and Nether Shadow, which today are superceded by Bloodghast and Ichorid in much the same way that Morphling replaced Serra Angel in the Weissman School, etc.

last edited by Smmenen

@smmenen

Thank you for fully describing your classification method, and giving me some sources to look at.

I'm looking at your article right now and I'm not sure that I agree that all the current iterations of Dredge are following a similar strategy as Comer's Type 1.5 deck unless you are painting a very broad brush. Certainly game 1 is typically going to be similar for most variants of Dredge (and they have that game in common with Comer's deck and the other "reanimator" core concepts), but I think it falls apart when you go to games 2/3 for certain builds of Dredge.

Any version of Dredge with a transformational sideboard becomes a dramatically different deck (which I think are much more common now with the Hollow One printing than any traditional anti-hate build). That may or may not use its graveyard, and may or may not even care about reanimating a single creature. The Hollow One builds just want to drop a quick free, or cheap creature off of Bazaar (Again if a broad enough stroke I guess that's the same as reanimator?), but you also have the Dark Depths builds don't even use the graveyard one lick! Some of my builds of Dredge even function more like a "Control" deck games 2/3 setting up Strip Lock + Countering/Discarding Spells than anything resembling a true "Combo" deck. Eventually I'll win, maybe by comboing off, but also maybe by just attacking with a hardcasted 1/1. Again, you can put these into your "Reanimator" shell with a broad brush, but otherwise they are distinct decks.

At what point does a classification system simply become useless though? Why classify at all if there are so many categories that no aggregation of data can be done? To give a little more background, as a statistician, the only times I even resort to classification is if I need to. The reality is that they are all artificial and you lose information by making that classification. The problem is that almost always you need to make that classification. Its simply impossible to make any sense out of the data at all without it. So I certainly understand your gripe about me "painting a broad brush", but at the same time, I'd like to actually make some sense out of the data instead of just say, yeah that's nice, but you can't actually classify any of these decks as the same. So what I'd ask is what is a meaningful classification system that is also useful for data aggregation? Instead of Workshops, Dredge, Storm, Xerox, ect, in your opinion, what should we be using? Are there few enough schools (without painting too broad of a brush) where they could even really be used in analysis?

I have spent countless hours debating and discussion taxonomies in this forum and its predecessor.

Over that time, I've always stressed that most taxonomies tend towards what are known as Folk Taxonomies. Even those that purport or pretend to be framed in terms of science, we all know how Linneaus Taxonomy preceded the discovery of DNA and the genome.

Human beings are natural classifiers. There is an entire branch of human psychology devoted to how this occurs. Most taxonomies are folk taxonomies that work roughly as intended (e.g. avoid snakes with triangular shaped heads or certain fungi or colored berries), but are not precise or scientific.

Therefore, Taxonomies are only useful to the degree to which they are practically applied. Chubby Rain made the point that we need taxonomies to organize decks and tactics in a way that can inform B&R list policy. I agree. But I also tried to explain that we need them as a way to gain strategic insight, both to guide our play and our design.

Consider the famous strategy article "Who's The Beatdown?" by Mike Flores. The central insight and entire value of that article is utterly dependent upon dividing the world into "Beatdown" and "Control." If you reject that premise, then the article is incoherent epistemologically.

Yes, I agree that all taxonomies provide insight and lose information. I already said this: As Gademer and others in the hermeneutical tradition say: That which reveals also conceals. This means that every way of organizing information also masks other insights. Every metaphor that reveals masks some other aspect of reality. That's a given. So the question is which classification scheme is best for which purposes.

IMO, classifying decks as "blue" is misleading more often than not, for any of these purposes.

last edited by Smmenen
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