Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017



  • Really enjoyable read Steve and I agree with most of your assertions. I'm not quite sure I agree with your almost final point though that Vintage should change slowly. I think many long-time Vintage players are certainly suffering from an almost moribund format becoming a living one again thanks to MTGO - but I'm not really sure, that's who should be catered to if the format is to grow. ie: Vintage's best hope to attract new players is via Magic Online, Online players notice formats getting stale far quicker due to the high turnover of play, so to keep those new players in the format we/the dci should be thinking about meeting their expectations. That might mean more regular changes in what constitutes the format.

    That said, I would hope first and foremost for change via unrestrictions, new printings and perhaps better errata management (eg restoring something like Transmute Artefact which might boost an alternative blue strategy). I personally enjoy the fact that the format is less about the restricted cards than ever before - and also don't believe that less variance in the power level of cards leads to lower skill. I think many sub-optimal plays are rescued in Vintage by drawing into broken one-ofs; ripping Time Walk or Ancestral for the win for example. Try piloting control in Standard right now for an idea of how skill-testing a low-powered, homogeneous format can be....

    If we are talking restrictions though then I do agree with the above posters, that there might at least be a sober discussion to be had about restricting Workshop whilst also unrestricting Chalice and/or Golem. I think Thalia decks have shown the viability of aggro-prison strategies in the format without the namesake from Shops decks, such that Workshop's holy cow status as 'keeping the format in check' no longer stands. I also wonder if fans of playing interesting, fun artefacts might not be better served by Workshop being restricted - for much the same reason Birthing Pod was in Modern. It simply puts too much of a brake on what R&D can print going forward.

    Just a couple of thoughts anyway. Before the printing of Ballista, I might have said it was time for Mentor to go. But it's good to see the emergence of a new card that could perhaps reign in a card that has otherwise superceded all alternative win conditions for gush decks. I'm in favour of Gush sticking around - I think over all its impact on the format is favourable. But I would say the last six months has felt very stale in Vintage to me and that, as an online player, I've been seeking my kicks elsewhere. That's been a revelation to me personally - I'm playing Standard now for the first time since Tempest block and always draft the new sets, plus the various cubes - and I greatly enjoy being involved in Magic more broadly. But I do also think that this is emblematic of why Vintage needs to get to grips with being a living format, and one which lives mostly online, where there is plenty of competition for players' attention. Retreating into the lofty Vintage mindset of yore and spurning the many possible new players online would at this point be disastrous for the format. The only problem is, that I do not believe, that even if we as a Vintage player base are willing to move with the times, that Wizards is equipped to do so, too. They simply don't have the staff resources to keep a close eye on the format, to be nimble or rigorous with restrictions, to free cards from stifling errata etc....it is perhaps only because of this - because of the fear they'll cock up the format - that I am sometimes grateful Vintage is left to evolve slowly.....

    Cheers for a thought-provoking read as always Stephen. Sorry you didn't make it into the VSL this season, at the very least to provide historical perspectives and reasoned arguments when the sometimes hysterical commentary flares up.

    (Edited to correct the god awful predictive text function on my shite mobile phone)



  • @Thewhitedragon69 said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    Why, oh why, are people so afraid of restricting Workshop and letting chalice and golem off the list?

    The fact that you're still making the same exact argument you were making before Thought-Knot Seer was printed, without adjusting it in any way or even mentioning the possible impact of 4-Chalice Eldrazi on the metagame, strongly implies to me that you haven't played a lot of vintage in the past year and a half.



  • @Smmenen @mdkubiak

    Weismann campaigning for a new B&R list was before my time as a vintage player, so I can't be sure whether that's something I support or not 😄 . At a high level, my opinion isn't focused on any one archetype, or new players vs old players, but rather the business maxim, "if everyone is your customer, nobody is your customer"

    A small group of passionate players writes articles, hosts podcasts, runs tournaments, and inexplicably buys websites. If designing the format in a way that gets a few people motivated happens to alienate others, those others have a huge variety of other formats, games, and hobbies to enjoy instead. I'm not saying the format should be crafted in a way that I'm passionate about it ... just that it's important someone is more passionate about it than they are about their best alternative.

    If out of 100 people, 25 of them are deeply passionate about vintage and 25 of them hate it, you end up with a 25 person vintage format.

    If out of 100 people 100 of them think "vintage is alright", you end up with 100 Hearthstone players.


  • TMD Supporter

    Workshop is certainly a power 9 level card. More belonging on the P9 than Timetwister (in my opinion). However, there are a lot of ramifications of restricting the card. If you reduce it to 1, you seriously hurt Workshop decks, Two Card Monte, etc. Yeah, there are other "Sol Lands", but they come at generally a huge restriction. Ancient Tomb hurts you, City of Traitors go away as soon as you play another land, Eldrazi Temple is only usable in an Eldrazi dependent deck. Workshop has it's own inherent restrictions with it being only able to cast Artifact spells.

    I'm not exactly excited at the prospect of playing against 4 Chalice of the Voids. I think that is a very dangerous proposition to make, especially as @Brass-Man said, when you team it with Eldrazi. 4 Chalice of the Voids would also basically kill Paradoxical Outcome decks. At least, make it very fringe. I think the last six months or so have made it much more difficult to unrestrict that card (and I was one that called for it to be unrestricted, so hypocrite maybe?). From a personal standpoint, I think Chalice of the Void is way more "unfun" card than any taxing effect. That's just a personal opinion though, take it or leave it (though this whole message is a personal opinion).

    But going back to Workshops, let's say WOTC does restrict the card, what do you honestly do to replace Workshops? Okay, you have 3 open slots, but three incredibly important slots. I don't think it's as simple as putting in other "Sol Lands" to make up for the loss of Workshop. The value of Workshop to the curve of a Workshop deck cannot be understated. I would be very hesitant in playing cards like Wurmcoil in my sideboard as an example. Not to mention Triskelion (as a 5th Walking Ballista), or any card that costs more than 3 in the deck. The same thing happened when Lodestone was restricted. It wasn't as simple as slotting in 3 new taxing effects or more Phyrexian Revokers. Every card in the deck would have to be evaluated again.

    That doesn't even account for the monetary ramifications of restricting the card, but I'll give in and say I don't want WOTC to make decisions based on that.

    On another point. I don't think people are crazy for suggesting it, or even necessarily wrong (though I do disagree), I just think there is a lot to consider even on the mere thought of restricting Workshop.


  • TMD Supporter

    @Brass-Man said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    @Smmenen @mdkubiak

    Weismann campaigning for a new B&R list was before my time as a vintage player, so I can't be sure whether that's something I support or not 😄 . At a high level, my opinion isn't focused on any one archetype, or new players vs old players, but rather the business maxim, "if everyone is your customer, nobody is your customer"

    A small group of passionate players writes articles, hosts podcasts, runs tournaments, and inexplicably buys websites. If designing the format in a way that gets a few people motivated happens to alienate others, those others have a huge variety of other formats, games, and hobbies to enjoy instead. I'm not saying the format should be crafted in a way that I'm passionate about it ... just that it's important someone is more passionate about it than they are about their best alternative.

    If out of 100 people, 25 of them are deeply passionate about vintage and 25 of them hate it, you end up with a 25 person vintage format.

    If out of 100 people 100 of them think "vintage is alright", you end up with 100 Hearthstone players.

    If 25 are passionate and 25 hate it, what about those other 50? 😛



  • @mdkubiak honestly? they probably play Hearthstone. 25 is still better than 0.

    We're not talking about a national policy decision that helps out some people at the expense of others. If people who hate vintage quit it to play another game, those players, the vintage community, and the community of the new game they join all benefit.


  • TMD Supporter

    @Brass-Man

    I wasn't disagreeing with you, I was just joking around.

    I agree from the standpoint that yes, if someone isn't having fun playing, they really shouldn't be playing. Nothing wrong with taking a break, trying a different format, or quitting altogether. A game should be fun. That much I agree with. However, I do want to see new blood in the format and the last thing I want to see is vintage become this insular group of players that don't welcome new players. That it should only be "their" vintage. Of course, I'm not saying you're saying that, just pointing out the obvious I guess.



  • @jhport12 said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    I'm curious to hear some nuanced theories about what would actually happen if Workshop was Restricted.

    People would cry about losing to Ancient Tomb and it would be the next to go. The cries of losing to prison are always the loudest.

    In the low variance world of 4 round events Shops can look daunting, but losing out on the most powerful draw, cantrip cards ever printed over 8+ rounds is what balances the card out to some degree.

    White Eldrazi threads the needle combining the prison of shops with "real" lands and diversifying the threat base such that narrow solutions (Hurkyl's, Energy Flux, Kataki, Shattering Spree, Pulverize) are no longer a panacea. There's an argument to be made that White Eldrazi is a superior prison deck than any popular deck with 4 Shops. Restricting Shop only helps reinforce its dominance of the archetype. Does this solve whatever play experience problem you hope to change by restricting Shop?

    One factor for Thalia's emergence was the printing of TKS. It paired a credible tough to kill threat with Thalia. I played quite a bit of Thalia during the Cruise era, and the card that vexed me more than anything was Lightning Bolt. There weren't many credible Cavern-friendly threats to pair with her that had more than 2 toughness.


  • TMD Supporter

    @Brass-Man said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    At a high level, my opinion isn't focused on any one archetype, or new players vs old players, but rather the business maxim, "if everyone is your customer, nobody is your customer"

    A small group of passionate players writes articles, hosts podcasts, runs tournaments, and inexplicably buys websites. If designing the format in a way that gets a few people motivated happens to alienate others, those others have a huge variety of other formats, games, and hobbies to enjoy instead. I'm not saying the format should be crafted in a way that I'm passionate about it ... just that it's important someone is more passionate about it than they are about their best alternative.

    If out of 100 people, 25 of them are deeply passionate about vintage and 25 of them hate it, you end up with a 25 person vintage format.

    If out of 100 people 100 of them think "vintage is alright", you end up with 100 Hearthstone players.

    Alternatively, if the DCI makes a decision to please a particular player segment, they will have annihilated any pretense of neutrality and impartiality, which is essential to their legitimacy. They would be attacked as partisan, and correctly so.

    Even if they please some player segment, they will alienate a larger crowd, and perhaps more importantly, a potential larger crowd. Why would new players find attractive to a format that is managed in such a way as to please a small segment? You would forever brand the format as inherently biased.



  • I don't understand, doesn't literally every announcement WotC makes favor one segment over another?

    I think the difference here is that I'm not convinced optimizing for "a larger crowd" actually gives us a happier, healthier vintage community.

    I do recognize that this isn't a solved problem, businesses have been struggling with this for centuries and I doubt I'm going to change anyone's opinion tonight.



  • I'm not really sure that the "cries of losing to prison are always the loudest." I don't think the evidence backs that up. I hear more complaints about Gush/Mentor, generally speaking. Also Paradoxical Outcome has triggered more than a few people to go on rants, although I don't know if it is more or fewer than Shops. I presume in the days of 4 Lodestone, 4 Chalice it was very common (I wasn't playing Vintage back then, however, so I don't know).

    "Restricting Shop only helps reinforce its dominance of the archetype" - I'm not sure what you mean by this.

    You comments on White Eldrazi are a little more focused on my question. If the argument is that Shops would decline and White Eldrazi might take its place as the premiere prison deck, that would be an interesting assertion.

    Another point could be that if Shops is slowed down, Gush would get too powerful and require a re-banning. I'm not asserting that, but it's a possible consequence.



  • @Brass-Man

    I tend to agree with the argument that every decision WOTC makes results in some people feeling like they've won something and others feeling like they've lost something. Absent clear direct evidence of pandering to one segment over another, I don't think it's very fruitful to make that a bar to reaching any decisions at all.

    That said, what key metrics can we use to determine the health of Vintage? Is it how many people show up to a big regional tournament? Is it how often the MTGO Vintage Daily fires?


  • TMD Supporter

    I think right now Vintage magic is torn between two forces:

    Paper magic- which tends to be a more casual, slower metagame. A lot of players flocked to Vintage in the early years because they didn't want to keep up with an ever-changing meta, and wanted their expensive cards to stay relevant. Not saying there aren't paper elite, but you'll probably find a lot more players playing "for fun" or as a hobby. Due to infrequent tournaments, the meta changed slowly.

    MTGO- People play on a daily/weekly basis and quickly tire of stagnation. MTGO is much more resilient to restrictions (price changes in cards), because the investment is smaller. I think MTGO is more cutthroat and competitive, and the incredible frequency of tournaments quickly reveals problems in the meta, that might have taken months for paper tournaments to spotlight.

    The convergence of these two is definitely causing (going to cause) issues, and I'm not sure sacrificing the vintage "commoners" in favor of the vocal elite is a smart solution. It's a tough balancing act that the DCI walks, as Vintage means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. There is a strong emotional aspect to why people play Vintage that I don't think other formats have to deal with.


  • TMD Supporter

    @Brass-Man said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    I don't understand, doesn't literally every announcement WotC makes favor one segment over another?

    I think the difference here is that I'm not convinced optimizing for "a larger crowd" actually gives us a happier, healthier vintage community.

    Neutrality and impartiality doesn't preclude making decisions that have the effect of favoring one player segment over another.

    Every B&R list decision necessarily affects/harms the most impacted group more. That's not problematic. That's an inevitable byproduct of good management.

    Whats problematic is when the DCI makes decisions to placate a vocal player segment over another rather than because of objective or neutral criteria.

    That kind of decisionmaking delegitimates the format and marginalizes it in the minds of potential format players.



  • Great article as usual.

    You mentioned MTGO moving fast due to so many results being posted. I'd like to add another reason. Card acquisition on MTGO is faster than real life, cheaper, and lower downside.

    If I want to test out playing a new card in a tournament, I can usually get it for a small fraction of its paper value. I can acquire it in seconds and if I don't like it, I can sell it back at a tiny loss in another few seconds. In paper, I would likely pay more for the card, spend three or more days waiting for it, then get around half of the original value if I decided to sell it back.

    @Thewhitedragon69 said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    Why, oh why, are people so afraid of restricting Workshop and letting chalice and golem off the list?

    These days, you're doing well if you've paid $600 for a Workshop. That's about the same price as a Mox Pearl, which is no longer just-the-fifth-mox as it used to be. WotC claims to be blind to the secondary market but many of their actions indicate otherwise. Steve once said something along the lines of, "getting rid of the reserved list back then would've been a good idea but by now, it's too late." I think the same thing is true of both a Workshop and a Bazaar restriction. We will see many more things restricted out of these decks without their linchpin cards being restricted.

    Incidentally, what would the value of a restricted Workshop be? I imagine it would certainly be low enough for it to start being played in EDH/Commander again.


  • TMD Supporter

    Has banning shops pieces done this @Smmenen :

    @Smmenen said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    That kind of decisionmaking delegitimates the format and marginalizes it in the minds of potential format players.

    Because of some non-neutral criteria of what "fun" is. The justification for many restrictions from chalice to 3-sphere has appealed to some sense of what playing vintage decks is supposed to feel like, or what is or isn't fun, neither of which are subjective. I am not saying those were bad decisions, but I just want to know why you think that delegitimizes the format?



  • @Smmenen said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    Whats problematic is when the DCI makes decisions to placate a vocal player segment over another rather than because of objective or neutral criteria.

    That kind of decisionmaking delegitimates the format and marginalizes it in the minds of potential format players.

    I 100% agree with that. Whatever the actual process is for making format policy decisions, it can't look like "the loudest player wins", or it just encourages people to get louder or stop playing.

    I think an unhappy portion of the player base already believes they're doing this, and already feels disenfranchised for this exact reason.


  • TMD Supporter

    @garbageaggro said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    Has banning shops pieces done this @Smmenen :

    @Smmenen said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    That kind of decisionmaking delegitimates the format and marginalizes it in the minds of potential format players.

    Because of some non-neutral criteria of what "fun" is. The justification for many restrictions from chalice to 3-sphere has appealed to some sense of what playing vintage decks is supposed to feel like, or what is or isn't fun, neither of which are subjective. I am not saying those were bad decisions, but I just want to know why you think that delegitimizes the format?

    Trinisphere and Golem were dominant, not simply unfun.

    If they werent heavily played, they wouldnt have been restricted.



  • I feel like there should really be more answer cards printed in Commander/Conspiracy/Planechase/etc. Instead of leaning on more restrictions. I'd actually like to see things come OFF the restricted list and just have better cards for answering the "problem" cards/decks. Strange that there isn't at least one person pushing for this at Wizards...


  • TMD Supporter

    @smennen I mean Golem saw less play than gush has at multiple times in the metagame reports. I am not saying they shouldn't have been banned, but if we are really arguing for subjective measures there are other cards that have seen equivalent play. See Mental Misstep.


 

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