Why do you think we have a restricted list?

@smmenen Thank you, I changed it to the "DCI" in my initial post. I sorta knew that and had a brain fart.

Question: do you think their principles for restriction extend all the way back to cards like Ancestral and Time Walk? Was there ever a time when they would have said "these cards are not automatically restricted we have to evaluate the format?" What were the competitive balance reasons that any of the moxen should be restricted? What degenerate things did they enable that could not be enjoyed by many many different deck? I have my own theories as to why they got restricted in the first place, but I'd also like to hear from the community.

Moxen have been restricted since within 3 years or so of Magic's creation. Even back in tha day they allowed degenerate first-turn plays like land+mox+mox+twister/wheel/balance.

I haven't updated this in awhile, but here was the original chronology:

Ali from Cairo 1/25/1994
Ancestral Recall 1/25/1994
Berserk 1/25/1994
Black Lotus 1/25/1994
Braingeyser 1/25/1994
Dingus Egg 1/25/1994
Gauntlet of Might 1/25/1994
Icy Manipulator 1/25/1994
Mox Emerald 1/25/1994
Mox Jet 1/25/1994
Mox Pearl 1/25/1994
Mox Ruby 1/25/1994
Mox Saphire 1/25/1994
Orcish Oriflamme 1/25/1994
Rukh Egg 1/25/1994
Shahrazad 1/25/1994
Sol Ring 1/25/1994
Timetwister 1/25/1994
Time Vault 1/25/1994
Time Walk 1/25/1994
Channel 3/23/1994
Copy Artifact 3/23/1994
Demonic Tutor 3/23/1994
Regrowth 3/23/1994
Wheel of Fortune 3/23/1994
Candelabra of Tawnos 5/2/1994
Feldon's Cane 5/2/1994
Ivory Tower 5/2/1994
Library of Alexandria 5/2/1994
Mishra's Workshop 6/13/1994
Chaos Orb 8/1/1994
Divine Intervention 8/1/1994
Falling Star 8/1/1994
Mind Twist 8/1/1994
Mirror Universe 8/1/1994
Recall 8/1/1994
Sword of the Ages 8/1/1994
Underworld Dreams 8/1/1994
Maze of Ith 10/10/1994
Balance 4/19/1995
Fork 4/19/1995
Zuran Orb 11/1/1995
Black Vise 2/1/1996
Fastbond 10/1/1996
Strip Mine 1/1/1998
Stroke of Genius 1/1/1999
Tolarian Academy 1/1/1999
Windfall 1/1/1999
Memory Jar 4/1/1999
Time Spiral 4/1/1999
Crop Rotation 10/1/1999
Doomsday 10/1/1999
Dream Halls 10/1/1999
Enlightened Tutor 10/1/1999
Frantic Search 10/1/1999
Grim Monolith 10/1/1999
Hurkyl's Recall 10/1/1999
Lotus Petal 10/1/1999
Mana Crypt 10/1/1999
Mana Vault 10/1/1999
Mind over Matter 10/1/1999
Mox Diamond 10/1/1999
Mystical Tutor 10/1/1999
Tinker 10/1/1999
Vampiric Tutor 10/1/1999
Voltaic Key 10/1/1999
Yawgmoth's Bargain 10/1/1999
Yawgmoth's Will 10/1/1999
Demonic Consultation 10/1/2000
Necropotence 10/1/2000
Fact or Fiction 1/1/2002
Earthcraft 3/1/2003
Entomb 3/1/2003
Gush 6/1/2003
Mind's Desire 6/1/2003
Burning Wish 12/1/2003
Chrome Mox 12/1/2003
Lion's Eye Diamond 12/1/2003
Trinisphere 3/1/2005
Imperial Seal 9/1/2005
Personal Tutor 9/1/2005
Gifts Ungiven 6/1/2007
Brainstorm 6/1/2008
Flash 6/1/2008
Merchant Scroll 6/1/2008
Ponder 6/1/2008
Thirst for Knowledge 7/1/2009

last edited by joshuabrooks

I believe there's a third facet, related but distinct from Steve's point about promoting sufficient counter-play: variance-reduction.

Consider for a minute the repercussions of a completely unrestricted format: it would be easy to construct a deck that goldfishes a first-turn win a very high (>95%) percentage of the time. The obvious avenue that comes to mind is a storm kill, but in truth in a format with access to 4 Black Lotus, 20 Moxen, 4 Demonic Tutors, 4 Ancestral Recalls, etc. there are a plethora of valid strategies that consistently win on the first turn.

Of course, Vintage is not a single-player game, and the metagame would adapt to the need to disrupt the opponent when on the draw. And Vintage has access to a surprisingly large amount of tools for doing so, many currently underused: free counterspells are one option, but we also have Gemstone Caverns, Leyline of Anticipation, Chancellor of the Annex, etc.

The result would not, I believe, be a format that lacks deck diversity. Nor would it necessarily be an uninteresting format. It would be very different, and very high-variance. Like in poker, mulligan decisions and the die roll would be critical (even moreso than in Vintage, and that's saying something.) I don't think a best-of-3 match structure would make any sense in such a format: to be skill-testing a match would need to be best-of-N for larger N, and don't believe the claims that a tournament so structured would be skill-less or unfun (just as you shouldn't believe claims that poker is skill-less or unfun.)

Put differently, I've always held that the concept of "fundamental turn," often used to analyze Standard and other slow formats, is not fully applicable to Vintage, where the turn by which a game is strategically decided can vary tremendously depending on matchup, and decks can surge to victory after falling behind for dozens of turns. Still, as a rule of thumb, the fewer cards that are restricted, the earlier the fundamental turn. A key function of the restricted list, especially when it comes to archetype-agnostic cards like the Moxen, is to delay the fundamental turn, prolonging games and reducing variance.

last edited by evouga

@joshuabrooks for an up to date B&R Timeline, also with unrestrictions and other Formats see https://mtg.gamepedia.com/Banned_and_restricted_cards/Timeline

last edited by Aelien

Just an off question, but why we're Rukh Egg and Orcish Oriflame restricted on the first list ever?

@serracollector They were errata'ed from their original text. Much more damning a sentence than simply being restricted.

@stormanimagus said in Why do you think we have a restricted list?:

@smmenen Thank you, I changed it to the "DCI" in my initial post. I sorta knew that and had a brain fart.

Question: do you think their principles for restriction extend all the way back to cards like Ancestral and Time Walk? Was there ever a time when they would have said "these cards are not automatically restricted we have to evaluate the format?" What were the competitive balance reasons that any of the moxen should be restricted? What degenerate things did they enable that could not be enjoyed by many many different deck? I have my own theories as to why they got restricted in the first place, but I'd also like to hear from the community.

I preemptively answered these questions in my post you replied to:

"I ... found that the DCI's bases for restriction have evolved over the decades of Type I and Vintage play, and is not entirely consistent or internally coherent. They have evolved just as the game has."

It wasn't until 1995 that the concept of "card advantage" came into parlance. It makes sense that the regulatory body who manages Constructed Magic would also evolve their rationale and bases.

As I demonstrate in my History of Vintage, many of the restrictions that occurred in 1994 were done without the benefit of tournament data. Rather a handful of cards were immediately restricted after Antiquities and Legends were released. For example, 3 cards were immediately restricted after the release of Antiquities: Ivory Tower, Feldon's Cane, and Candleabra - but curiously - Workshop wasn't restricted until more than a month after that - suggesting that it was evidence, not just a preemptive design act, that precipitated it.

Similarly, Library of Alexandria was restricted more than 5 months after Arabian Nights was released, and well after other Arabian cards like Rukh Egg had been restricted. Again, this suggests that data or tournament experience/results played a role. And again, Mind Twist was restricted immediate after Bo Bell's victory at US Nationals. And, yet again, Balance and Fork were restricted after decks appeared abusing those cards in tournaments in early 1995.

After Legends, the DCI moved away from the idea of pre-emptive restrictions. The only card preemptively restricted - or restricted nearly immediately - after the release of a set, from 1995 until the present - is Mind's Desire. The soonest card's get restricted in that period is at least 2-3 months after set releases, compared to the virtually coterminous restrictions that occurred with the release of Antiquities and Legends.

If you follow the pattern of restriction from 1995 through April 1999, it's very clear that the DCI only restricted cards in Type I that were proven problematic, and was generally narrowly tailored in doing so. The main exception to narrow tailoring, of course, was the mass wave of October, 1999, when the DCI restricted 18 cards. But that occurred only after two prior attempts to deal with the problem proved futile.

Then, if you look at the restriction regime from late 1999 until roughly 2006 or so, it's clear that part of the rationale that the DCI uses for restricting cards is "function," like "fast mana" or tutors. Yet, it's very clear that by 2008 through the present, that rationale is jettisoned. And thus, cards like Chrome Mox, Mox Diamond, Grim Monolith, Burning Wish and Gifts Ungiven are unrestricted despite being "fast mana" or "tutors."

In short, the DCI's rationale has evolved over time as the game has evolved, in both our collective understanding and the emergence of better and more refined data sources and data sets. The MTGO era gives the DCI more and better data than ever before. And it's clear from a number of recent DCI announcements, written mostly by Ian Duke, that they are using that data.

Beth Moursand wrote an Duelist article that explained the rationale of every restricted card in Type I from 1994 through 1996. And the DCI has offered public explanations since roughly 1999, so we aren't entirely in the dark on what their rationale is. Your post seems to suggest we are completely in the dark. We aren't. That doesn't mean that their explanations are entirely comprehensive, but this isn't entirely guesswork either.

last edited by Smmenen

I'd say the purpose is to prevent any one strategy from becoming overbearing in a way that it is so hard to beat reliably without significantly warping your deck to gun for that one build and thus discourages innovation and diversity by making it THE deck to play/target.

The criteria I think DCI uses is # representation over several high profile tourney top 8s to guage if it is overly performing repeatedly or oppressing all other builds from having a chance. Cards that also consistently go turn 1, GG (i.e. workshop -> trinisphere) with such regularity as to make games uninteractive from start to finish are also hit. One could argue this first reason also applies to trinisphere - a turn 1 shop/trini would undeniably make shops THE deck to play/beat (where as now, PO, token control, oath, dredge are at least considerations).

I'd LIKE the DCI to also look at cards in the abstract that are degenerate and too fast - i.e. Workshop (bazaar to a lesser degree) {Bear with me, this isn't a "restrict shop" rant.}. Such cards are brokenly powerful and can be deployed turn 1 where the opponent has no response to stop it. Black lotus is restricted for the fact it is brokenly degenerate and fast - 3 mana (beyond the land drop) on turn 1 is a HUGE tempo advantage to an opponent playing a land a turn. All the moxen, crypt, and ring are restricted on that same basis. By that logic, a 3-mana producing land that doesn't sacrifice with use is on equal broken/fast footing, which just goes to show that it is currently NOT uniformly a criteria/approach to restriction. That criteria is used enough though, (i.e. Solomoxcrypt) that it IS a consideration in some cases. Channel falls in this category as well. GG for 19 mana is really fast and broken...but can't reliably be cast turn 1...so it might dodge the concept of "too fast."

Sometimes I wonder if its not to promote speculation and discussion about the format(s).

I like this question. Vintage is the only format with a restricted list, and this never made any sense to me. Back in 1995, Standard had a restricted list because some over powered cards were in 4th Edition (Strip mine, Balance, Ivory Tower, Zuran Orb). I think all formats should have a restricted to open up play to the preferences of the players.

I am saying that all formats should have a restricted list because cutting a cards availability from 4 to 1 produces a great deal of variance. In Vintage, an opening hand with Ancestral Recall, Time Walk and Black Lotus is incredible but very rare since you are only allowed one of each of these cards in your deck.

When a player decides to play only singletons they are accepting a great deal of variance from a statical standpoint relying on a single card is often a gamble. This is why the Xerox strategy works so well in Vintage because it reduces the variance.

The reason Shops and Dredge standout in the format is because they rely very heavily on having 3 - 4 of the same card in a 60 card deck and Storm decks on the other hand really need a sequence of restricted cards to be competitive and rely very heavily on tutors and card draw.

The restricted list allows over powered cards to be played with the tradeoff of accepting variance over a statical curve that would offer a much more stable line of play.

The tradeoff is up to the player and players should be allowed to chose how they wish to enjoy the game.

last edited by moorebrother1

@moorebrother1 Actually I believe most players dislike high variance formats, which is one of the reasons Vintage is not that popular (in MTGO for example, where it's cheap)

@fsecco said in Why do you think we have a restricted list?:

@moorebrother1 Actually I believe most players dislike high variance formats, which is one of the reasons Vintage is not that popular (in MTGO for example, where it's cheap)

I've certainly heard that sentiment from pros, good players, and from the guys who think of themselves as good players. I'm the opposite, FWIW; I'm pretty burnt out on Legacy because the low variance means most games give me deja vu. The high variance of the restricted list has made Vintage a really nice change of pace for me.

@stuart I play Vintage and loved playing Duel Commander (and thinking about Brawl) so I guess we know where I stand on this one 😛

The simple answer: Wizards is a business. Their job is to sell cards, and the game as a whole. So just like new sets, different formats, and other things produced by Wizards, the restricted list functions towards these goals. More specifically, Vintage has a restricted list because there was demand for a format in which all cards could be played that was also somewhat enjoy-able to actually play (instead of just allowing all cards to be unrestricted).

Vintage is the format where, within reason, you get to play any card. That's the official WotC reason [citation needed].

I don't know when this happened exactly, but some time last year after this thread was created, I believe, the DCI answered the questions in the OP.

The official Banned and Restricted List page now contains a statement of purpose:

"One key to the continued health of Magic is diversity. It is vitally important to ensure that there are multiple competitive decks for the tournament player to choose from. Why? If there were only a single viable deck to play, tournaments would quickly stagnate as players were forced to either play that deck or a deck built specifically to beat it. In addition, different players enjoy playing different types of decks. If there are plenty of viable options to play, there will be more players at more tournaments. To help maintain the diversity and health of the Magic tournament environment, a system of banned and restricted lists has been developed."

Source: https://magic.wizards.com/en/game-info/gameplay/rules-and-formats/banned-restricted?fbclid=IwAR3VMibJBJtOKka8jKF_2zyGx6OLRk9rJsb8Y32WzLBj6JFDIEx7fmEDWho

Not incidentally, that is essentially what I said in this thread:

@smmenen said in Why do you think we have a restricted list?:

I answered that question, from my perspective, here: http://www.eternalcentral.com/so-many-insane-plays-suggested-banned-and-restricted-list-updates-2018/

The main purpose of the restricted list, in my view, exists to maintain and promote competitive balance. The DCI is basically analogous to the FTC or the Justice Department vis-a-vis the market. The Restricted List is the regulatory mechanism, and the DCI is the regulatory body that manages that mechanism.

The restricted list also exists to ensure that the format is sufficiently interactive (or even better, that there is sufficient "counter play."

It accomplishes both goals by 1) regulating dominant strategies, both monopolies and oligopolies, and 2) ensuring there is enough counterplay by regulating decks that win too quickly or shut out an opponent from doing anything, like Trinisphere or Flash.

The reason that Vintage has a restricted list instead of just a banned list is so that there is an official, sanctioned format where Magic players can play all of their cards (to the maximum extent possible).

Also, a corollary to that is: What do you think are the criteria R & D uses to decide what is on the restricted list?

The DCI manages the Vintage restricted list, not R&D. R&D is the team of staff that designs and develops new cards.

But assuming you mean the DCI, they provide public explanations, so you can parse their explanations for Vintage. I have done so as part of my History of Vintage Series, and found that the DCI's bases for restriction have evolved over the decades of Type I and Vintage player, and is not entirely consistent or internally coherent. They have evolved just as the game has.

But, by and large, the grounds they offer in their explanations for restriction and unrestriction generally match those I articulated above.

Also, that statement of purpose bolsters the argument I have long made, that any restriction that is taken for reasons other than promoting format diversity, such as "play pattern concerns," would quite obviously have the potential to undermine the 'diversity' of the format, and therefore undermine the main purpose of Banned and Restricted Lists.

So, for example, restricting Paradoxical Outcome would quite obviously remove that deck from the format. Unless you could show that restricting PO would open more deck options into the format than restricting it would take away, such a restriction would harm the central purpose for which the DCI states it has created B&R lists in the first place.

last edited by Smmenen

@thecravenone said in Why do you think we have a restricted list?:

@stormanimagus said in Why do you think we have a restricted list?:

I want to pose the simple question: Why do you think that Vintage has a restricted list?

WotC wanted a format where everything that could be legal would be legal. No true bans, so a restriction is the only way to reign in power-level.

alt text

But this wasn't always true (gets up out of rocking chair). For example Mind Twist and later Channel were outright banned in 1996. It still isn't true for Shahrazad and formerly Divine Intervention both of which are banned. Actually I think Shahrazad was already banned in the first event I played at that had a print out of the restricted list. I side more with @Smmenen here (ouch!) even back then the overwhelming purpose, even in the old days, was to ensure a reasonable spectrum of decks in a competitive setting. When Mind Twist was legal, even as a 1 of, the DCI felt that deck construction and in game tactics were largely centered around this 1 card. Channel being banned may have had to do more with the mixing of the newly created Type II format but it had detractors in Type I circles as well. They don't always get it right in some peoples views (mine included).

@nedleeds
Do you mean to say Channel was banned because of T2 or T1.5? I can see a lot of early restrictions happening because of 1.5, I have never heard of one in T1 because of T2.
If this is the case, could you explain why? I've never played T2 and I don't understand how this would interact.

last edited by John Cox

@john-cox said in Why do you think we have a restricted list?:

@nedleeds
Do you mean to say Channel was banned because of T2 or T1.5? I can see a lot of early restrictions happening because of 1.5, I have never heard of one in T1 because of T2.
If this is the case, could you explain why? I've never played T2 and I don't understand how this would interact.

Oh yeah, in the dark past Type II had a restricted list bound to Type I. There were actually restricted cards in Type II. Like Channel, Mind Twist, etc.. Mind Twist was absolutely banned because of Type I, Channel may have been a confluence of both formats wanting to be rid of the 'Oops!'. Keep in mind we are pre-Force of Will.

I specifically recall the Mind Twist debates raging on usenet. The Channel debate I don't remember quite as well other than I think it happened first, I could dig around and refresh my memory.

I was mostly posting to point out that @thecravenone was wrong even though I still love him like a brother.

last edited by nedleeds
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