It's VLS season yet again. I love VSL for so many reasons, but at this point, the top of that list has to be the shared experience of everyone that I talk to about vintage, watching and seeing the same things. Given that opportunity, I want to look at a fundamental aspect of the game that I have come to believe to be overlooked, or at least, vastly under mentioned in discussions about Vintage.
Simply put... these guys are really really good. For the purposes of this post, I will describe my own skill level simply by stating that I would like to think that I'm better than 50% of the players I see play vintage... would like to believe. SO, when I watch VSL, I am in heaven watching not only the sick plays, but the steady tight play turn after turn. Which brings me to my point, quality of play seems to me to be way way underrated when evaluating deck performance in the meta.
We recently had eternal weekend data dropped on us... which was sweet. People went through and tried to tease out what decks were good, bad, otherwise based on those win rates and head to head matchups. I think that's great, and a worthy pursuit... but as one of the people who spent a good deal of time doing that, I've also become convinced that there is a big problem. The main determiner of what wins, in my opinion, is the player rather than the deck. (Do this experiment, if I was playing really hateful Shops against Reid Duke on Storm... would you bet 5 dollars on me because of the match-up, or would you take the Duke of Storms?... I would not bet on me... now what if it was Montolio or Roland Chang on the Shops... you get the point.)
As I watch the play in, I'm reminded yet again, just how good these players are... and that the player pool is small enough that if a handful of the top players move from one deck to another, that would be enough to shift the win rates that show up in these data sets we see. Heck, Rich Shay moving online from Landstill to Mentor represents a tectonic shift in Landstill win rates alone. Reid Duke put up a sizable portion of the total combo wins at champs by himself, if you include Steve Menendian and Kevin Cron on that, those three players accounted for 16% of combo wins in the tourney, while accounting for only about 10% of combo games played... simply put, the one biggest factor influencing the success of a vintage deck is the player piloting it. Yet discussion almost never centers on particular plays that get made, but rather cards that get included or not, and very general win/loss trends between archetypes.