I agree that Chalice was a force for diversity in the format. People did moan about x4 Chalice shops and it is likely that they were right to do so but there are two cards being moaned about in x4 Chalice shops. One enforced diversity and the other is oppressively format distorting. So long as Shops are unrestricted Chalice isn't safe which means that other decks can't play it against the Turbo Zerox strategies which means that those strategies push others out of the format more easily and reduce strategic diversity even further; all because of Mishra's Workshop. Would Chalice need to be restricted if Mishra's Workshop were? I tend to believe it wouldn't. Even if a singleton Mishra's Workshop was powering out multiple Chalices it would have a very hard time dominating the format without the consistent tempo boost and virtual card advantage provided by Mishra's Workshop. Having Chalice around gives players the choice of opting out of playing Mental Misstep in Favor of just hammering all one drops if they chose to build their deck accordingly. This not only provides strategic diversity in the immediate with the advent of an entirely different strategic direction but it also opens the format to different strategies which don't thrive in an environment where one drops and mental missteps hold supremacy.
I may have missed something but i fail to see the link between chalice and worshop in your reasoning. I mean : unrestricted chalice was played most of the time at 1, some times à 0, and rarely at 2 (basically against oath). If the goal is to prevent a chalice turn 1, then you must also restrict/ban also the sol lands and ban every mana artifact (moxen, sol ring, ...). Restricting workshop won't change much about that problem.
The goal is not to prevent a Chalice on turn one. If you read my post more thoroughly you'd see that the goal is quite the opposite. Chalice on turn one is not problematic unless it is accompanied by a sufficient number of the rest of the lock pieces which are all powered out by Mishra's Workshop and to a lesser degree Ancient Tomb as you pointed out. Ancient tomb is far less effective than Mishra's Workshop for multiple reasons. It obviously makes less mana and costs life but it also prevents the user from achieving the same total amaount of mana that Mishra's Workshop does which means they'd need to invest one more card into their mana base. The means one less threat and/or one less lock piece. The archetype will still exist it just won't be 50%+ of top8s.
As for the taxing effects, IMHO the real question is : why shop are playing them (or so many of them) ?
Shops plays sphere effects as its primary tool for disruption because so few other effective preventative measures exist in the form of artifacts. Sphere effects are the best at what they do in an artifact based strategy which is also very effective against everything else in the game, i.e. casting spells. The best defense Mishra has is to prevent all of its opposition's spells from being cast because there is an artifact destruction spell in almost every card type and/or colour. The only way the archetype does well in it's current iteration is if no opposing strategy is able to resolve a spell.
When you don't have access to any form of counterspell and you know that you are living in a format where broken stuff can happen and kill you on the spot (vault/key, tinker, storm, ...) what are your options ? I mean that there is some kind of balance : the more degenerate the format is, the more sphere effect shop will play, and the reverse is true ... that's my whole point : if the meta manage to shift toward less broken effect, shops decks will adapt and play less sphere and that will open the meta even more. One could say that mentor is not an 'instant kill' but actually when you are playing shop and try to fight the chaining spells that leads to the mentor end-game, it is not so different as fighting a storm deck.
That may be your whole point but it is also a big part of my point and we do not disagree except where you say that sphere effects will evaporate if people stop doing "broken" things. That scenario has already played out in the form of the most recent set of restrictions and they have had the exact opposite effect to what you've predicted. This is the same fallacy that has been repeated throughout this thread. Restricting the opposition to one strategy does not reduce the effectiveness of that strategy; quite the opposite. People who share your mentality are overlooking the fact that sphere effects are broken things. Preventing your opponent from ever having any chance at casting any spells is just as "broken" as any other strategy. You seem to be missing they key point that if you can't cast spells you lose just the same as if you got hit with Blightsteel Colossus before being able to cast a spell. In both scenarios you never got a chance to play your spells. The illusion of a continued game is created by that extended period of time between being deterministically locked out and actually technically losing the game. The problem is not intrinsic to sphere effects however since they would be largely symmetrical if it weren't for Mishra's Workshop. The Shop is what makes them "broken" because it allows the shops player to play through them thus making them asymmetrical instead of symmetrical.
They are forced into that position because all strategies must reduce their curve to be competitive against mana denial strategies such as those used in Mishra's Workshop based decks.
This is not true at all. Both Modern and Legacy have a "Race to the bottom" mentality when it comes to mana costs and the closest to Shops you see there is DnT. It has nothing to do with Sphere and everything to do with Tempo. It's a rule in competition decks, you don't pay more than you have to. A 3 mana Goyf is not suddenly going to be more loved than its two mana counterpart in Modern while a 1 mana one would.
It is still true; you've actually just made my point. There is always a race to the bottom but in every healthy format, not just Modern and Legacy, there are strategies that go over the top to win in this same race. Once again, you're claiming I've said things which I have not even implied. No one is claiming that anyone should ever pay 2 mana for the same effect when it is available at 1 mana. That is an insane argument that no one has ever made and is nowhere to be found in any of my posts including this one. Yet, in all formats there are cards at more than one mana which should see play in other strategies but instead don't because they are pushed out by mana denial strategies thus reducing strategic diversity. The cheapest spell is not always the most advantageous in terms of tempo. The effect each card has also matters, not just the casting cost. Obviously no one is going to chose to pay more for the same effect, no one would ever try to argue that because it's completely ridiculous. A rudimentary example of this would be the very baser relationship between an old school aggro deck and an old school control deck. the aggro deck plays cheap creatures early to try to close out the game before the control deck can stabilize. The aggro deck may play a creature turn one, another turn two and another turn three before the control player casts wrath for 4 in the case of the aggro player going second. In the interim there may be more creatures cast and more point removal used but for now let's test the most basic case. If wrath is cast on turn 4 by the control player that player has payed more mana for his or her spell but has gained tempo advantage because they have only invested 4 mana into the game state whereas the tempo player has invested 6. The control player is also up in card advantage which can be translated to tempo advantage later and vice versa. In the mean time the control player has had mana available to develop their board or hand in different ways with those early turns thus capitalizing on the tempo advantage the whole time. The race to the bottom is a healthy part of any metagame but where a metagame becomes unhealthy is when the "midrange" strategies become obsolete choking out strategic diversity among varying mana curves in deck design. Currently in Vintage, the closest thing we have to "midrange" is people attempting to cast non-creature spells through thorns at two mana (or maybe the occasional creature at 3+). Paradoxical storm doesn't obey this but that's because it's all moxen. The point is that is extremely low for any format, even Vintage. You could say that it's especially low for vintage because historically Vintage has had a greater diversity of casting costs among it's playable card pool thanks to moxen. The reason for this congestion of mana costs to such a low bar is not just the "race to the bottom" as you put it (which we expect from a healthy metagame) but also the Mishra's Workshop mana denial archetype. Workshop strategies aren't just good against turbo zerox the way symmetrical sphere effects are; they're good against all strategies because Mishra's Workshop makes those spheres asymmetrical.
If Shops vanished MM would not suddenly become a godsend to Vintage but more of a curse.
A better example of my point would be with Cantrips. You don't play Omen in place of Preordain. Sure, you have gained built in MM protection but the Tempo loss is too great to make that a benefit overall. If you play a Mentor mirror, the 1 extra mana is far far more harmful than the risk of a Counterspell.
I didn't say any of what you're implying I said. Specifically if shops were fundamentally less able to execute their mana denial game plan to such great efficacy and Chalice of the Void were unrestricted, it would create a greater diversity of mana costs and thus a greater diversity of strategies which would include those strategies that do not benefit from or get harmed by Mental Misstep. The format should not be designed based on Mentor Mirrors. Sphere effects would still be around and still be good against both TX and Mental Misstep, they just wouldn't be as good against the entire field as a whole. In other words they wouldn't be pushing "midrange" completely out of contention where it currently resides.
Rituals have a natural predator and have for decades, prison.
If the only way to stop one thing is to stop all things then how is that addressing the issue. Cutting a finger is not fixed by chopping off an arm.
Mental Misstep costing no mana, no opportunity cost short of trading a card slows the format down if you are counting it's complete obsoleting of mana dorks. DRS, Hierarch were key cards in keeping Thorn decks in check for years. Even 4 x Chalice, 4 x LG shops was a dog to BUG Fish decks with Shamans.
Those cards were key at keeping thorn decks down because thorn decks have become so pervasive that the only thing you can do is hope to resolve a 1 mana creature that adds mana so maybe one day you can resolve a business spell. If it weren't for the prison strategy being the dominant archetype this wouldn't be the case.
The argument that you can jump the curve with moxes is fine but again less mana is always better than more. I've played decks that dodge Misstep as best as possible but you are still just handicapping yourself by playing higher cost spells. That deck building paradigm catches up to you when you don't draw your moxes.
Yes, less mana is always better but people don't get laughed out of other formats for including two drops in their deck. Only in Vintage is there a prison deck which is so well armed that you can't rely on resolving anything other than one, or zero, drops. This is the only format where you design your mana curve to pay 2 mana on average for every 1 mana spell. Now people play moxen just to get to two mana so that they can cast an actual spell. They're no longer optional in opening hands. This furthers deck constraints by requiring every deck to max out on moxen et al.
Maybe Vintage, after 25 years, has hit a wall. Maybe there is no way out. Maybe this is the endgame of a format that has 25 years of accumulated printings without bannings. If the Dack-Delve draw engine is really what's powering the Mentor deck, then restricting Mentor isn't going to solve that problem, and, as you've said before in the arguments over Gush, we will just substitute cards like Pyromancer instead. Frankly, I've already begun testing what to replace 3 Mentors with in my deck for EW (a far more interesting endeavor than playing the current format).
This might be hyperbole, but it's not entirely implausible to think that you could restrict Mentor, Preordain, Misstep, JVP, and perhaps a few more cards, and the "blue stew" with the Dack-Delve/Gush draw engine would still probably be a tier 1 deck; perhaps even the best blue deck, still. Similarly, I don't see what you can restrict from Workshops at this point that would make it not at least 25%+ of the field. I don't think restricting Sphere or Thorn alone would make much difference.
Given that the path that we are on leads to either 1) restrictions that won't solve the problem, 2) many, many more restrictions to solve the problem, or, perhaps, 3) a scenario where restrictions don't actually matter - where the restriction policy device has actually lost it's power because a critical mass of restricted cards can support a deck, then perhaps it is better to try something else instead or rethink this flawed approach.
I think Vintage may have reached the state you describe many years ago and recovered; possibly more than once. I could be wrong but at several times there have been cards that have been unrestricted which then lead to the development of new strategies which, at those times, lead to greater strategic diversity in the years immediately following those unrestrictions. Mishra's Workshop is the first such case that I can think of (1997). Doomsday (2004) is the next candidate in chronological order followed by Gush (2007). Fact or Fiction (2011) didn't make a tremendous splash but Burning Wish (2012) and even regrowth (2013) had some minor impact at the time. Now we have the occasional Gifts Ungiven and Thirst for Knowledge (2015) being played as well. I could be wrong about this and maybe their effects were not always encouraging to strategic diversity. You would be better able to answer that question than I.
At times when Storm was dominating the format it was a consolidation of restricted cards. Even further back than that when Academy was performing well it was again a consolidation of restricted cards. But here we are today and neither are outperforming any modern strategy. Some of this is almost certainly due to power creep which bodes well for the future of unrestricting cards since those cards appear to have new balances in the more recent metagames based on their current performance. Maybe we're just seeing the emergence of another pillar, or pair of pillars, which are going to be similarly based on restricted cards as opposed to the Gush pillar for example which, for a long time, was not.
I'll try to explain the way I think of any given format when deciding what deck to play. I think it may be relevant to the discussion of restriction, unrestriction, and the health of the format. If we graph the frequency of appearances in tops 8s, top 4s, finals, and/or first-place finnishes for each "pillar" using a classification based on the presence of a key card such as Workshop, Mentor, Paradoxical, etc. using the z axis to represent frequency and the x and y axis to represent two other distinguishing characteristics of those cards we would get a 3D surface where the peaks would represent different archetypes. Imagine each point in the x and y plane represents a different card placed according to two distinct strategic metrics such as mana-value vs, card advantage, quintessential turn vs card type, etc. One could use any number of other metrics to distinguish any given strategy from other strategies. The goal is to chose those metrics such that cards which don't often appear in the same deck will be placed farther away from each other in the X Y plane. When each pillar is in balance the format remains in equilibrium. A balanced metagame might look something like this:
Each peak representing one pillar of the format but each peak being at exactly the same height (frequency). With location in the X and Y plane implying differences in baser strategy such that the decks can't share a extensive array of the same cards. It could be said that the greater ideal would be to have an absolutely flat form but I don't believe that to be possible since each card would have to achieve the exact same frequency of appearances.
Those metagames where only one deck was dominant such as academy, storm, or Tezz-Thirst might look something more like this:
There are still other strategies making appearances (the lower peaks) but they are overshadowed by the central dominant strategy.
Today's metagame might look something more like this:
With two archetypes in contention but one performing slightly better than the other (currently Shops). In theory unrestriction could add a third pillar to the format by adding another peak while restricting a card could reduce the height of one of the peaks to bring it closer to alignment with the lower peaks.
Given this view of the metagame I think there are two metrics to consider when unrestricting or restricting any given card:
In the case of unrestriction it will be important that the card being unrestricted does not increase the height of any of the peaks which are considdered to be problematic to as much of a degree that it increases the other peaks in the graph. That is to say, we don't want to add a card to the pool of unrestricted cards that will make the current top deck better unless it makes a worse deck better to a greater degree. Another way of looking at it is to say that we want that card which we unrestrict to contribute the least to the highest peak(s) and the most to the lowest peaks so the strategic distance from any of those peaks is something that should be maximized. In other words we should chose our unrestriction candidate to maximize the distance between it and other peaks by minimizing the synergy with the current high peaks. The other metric to considder is whether the unrestricted card(s) are going to create a new peak which is sufficiently high. Will the card being unrestricted have an impact on the problematic strategies? Will it be good enough? If the answer is no then the card in question either doesn't need to be restricted any more or the current high peaks need to come down a notch or two.
In the case of restriction the selected card should be whatever card has the highest frequency of appearance out of all the unrestricted cards that are closest to that peak. In other words we should choose the best performing card that will diminish that strategy while affecting the fewest other strategies to the minimal degree. Apparently, based on some recent results, the restriction of Gush and Gitaxian Probe diminished non-Mentor decks more so than it diminished Mentor decks and so it appears to be an example of a bad choice for restriction.
In essence I think the problem of a top performing deck of almost all restricted cards has been solved in the past by creating new peaks which are able to compete at the same level as the towering pillar of all restricted cards such that there is some semblance of diversity in the format. I believe the unrestrictions of Gush (2007 and 2010) were both examples of such a case. There are seldom more than a handful of top performing archetypes in all formats and even in cases where that has existed it has been a transient state. It has always been this way and I think it is an inevitability of the game but I don't believe it precludes the possibility of constructing a format where there are multiple contenders by using restrictions as in Vintage.
So, in general, whether restricting or unrestricting cards I think that minimizing the size of the list is paramount. The fewer cards there are on the restricted list the greater the opportunity there is to create new strategies which give those restricted pillars a run for their money.
The historical pattern seems to be that Wizards of the Coast will restrict cards from the best deck until that deck has lost some traction in the metagame. In this case there are two top decks so it seems likely that they will both receive restrictions before the format settles back down to having more than two decks. Mentor's restriction seems inevitable at this point but I suspect that Mishra's Workshop will eventually be restricted as well.
There seems to have been a long standing point of tension between the two archetypes prison and TX. Prison can pray on TX and similar multi spell per turn strategies quite effectively but at the cost of pushing other decks out of the format that would otherwise create diversity by addressing those same issues another way. I think this comes from years of bias in favor of having Workshop around as a check against storm style strategies aiming to cast lots of cheap spells each turn. It is good to have such a check and almost everyone seems to favor its existence including my self; however, in my unpopular opinion this has had the opposite to the desired effect simply because the tools to shut down TX etc. are also effective enough to shut down anything aiming to pray on artifact strategies. Essentially, in order for the Workshop pillar to stand up it has to proactively disrup any opposition so thoroughly as to prevent getting blown out by artifact removal. The problem is that, using Workshop as a base, this disruption becomes too effective against other strategies which would otherwise be able to go "over the top" of TX. So as the two pillars have had tertiary components removed it has only served to narrow people's choices. Wizards of the Coast didn't go after Mishra's Workshop, they instead went after it's tools (Chalice and Golem) and in doing so allowed Mentor to achieve even greater performance. But when Mentor achieved greater performance they again didn't take away the problematic card in Mentor but instead removed the tools that multiple other decks were using thus dropping the peaks of other non TX decks, such as DPS and Doomsday even more so than that of mentor; again narrowing the metagame to those two decks. Add to that the fact that mentor is the only card advantage strategy that can consistently afford to cast cheap enough spells that it can play through the prison that shops presents to play the control roll and you have two towers casting their combined shadow on the entire former Vintage metagame. The two strategies paint strokes that are far too broad in terms of what decks they obsolesce as a result of their existence.
What do you do when every spell your opponent casts creates a threat and nets them a card to disrupt you? Play Shops.
What do you do when the only spells you can afford to cast are one and zero mana because of Shops? Play Mentor.
I am not advocating for a restriction or unrestriction; only sharing my opinion.
I respect each and every one of you and value your opinions.