@smmenen In chess, some openings are named after individuals (Alekhine’s Defense, the Ruy Lopez), some are named after multiple individuals (Caro Kann), some are named by strategic concepts (Queen’s Gambit, Four Knights game), some are named by geography (French Defense, the Sicilian).
I really like the line of thought that has emerged about certain types of hate making for better gameplay than others. I whole-heartedly agree. Above all else, Magic games should be demonstrations of gameplay skill (not just deckbuilding skill). And continuous-effect cards lack decision points and so don't provide as many opportunities to demonstrate gameplay skill, on both sides of the table.
I think one step that WotC can take to improve gameplay is to avoid publishing continuous-effect cards. Like @ajfirecracker wrote, "More Cursecatcher...and Deathrite Shaman, less Ethersworn Canonist and Containment Priest".
With that said, I still stand by my original thesis that the best way to shape the metagame is by publishing new hate. Ideally that hate does not take the form of a continuous effect, and it need not take the form of a bear.
So for example, if we were to unrestrict Chalice of the Void + Lodestone Golem and sought to reduce Workshop metagame dominance, perhaps we could publish something like...
Anti-Workshop-Forest: Legendary Land. Tap: add G to your mana pool. Tap, sacrifice, pay 1 mana per artifact you control: add 1 to your mana pool for each artifact target opponent controls.
Requires gameplay skill, hates without saying "you lose", non-bear form to appease the hatebear-haters. I think I rather like this card idea.
Of course, like I said earlier, the risk with such hate is that you might make the best deck better. If Mentor turns out to be the best deck and is able to derive value from this card, then it makes the metagame worse. Which is why putting the hate on a bear is the safest decision from the card designer's point of view.
I read the paper and so can provide a layman’s summary.
The authors considered game states where there are no more decisions left to be made by either player, and no more randomness. There is only a sequence of forced actions and triggered effects left to be resolved.
The authors say: assume for sake of contradiction that there is an algorithm that can take such a game state as input and output who will win the game. They prove that if such an algorithm exists, then the algorithm can be used to solve the halting problem. But the halting problem is provably undecidable (no algorithm can solve it). This implies that the assumption of the existence of an algorithm that can determine the winner from a game state is false.
The sketch of the proof is that they cleverly construct a game state that can represent the internal state of a Turing machine, with the mechanics of the remaining triggered effects mapping to the execution of the Turing machine’s instructions. A Turing machine is basically a representation of any algorithm (or computer program). Here is a snippet of their construction:
Each Rotlung Reanimator needs to trigger from a different state being read – that is, a different creature type dying – and needs to encode a different result. Fortunately, Magic includes cards that can be used to edit the text of other cards. The card Artificial Evolution is uniquely powerful for our purposes, as it reads “Change the text of target spell or permanent by replacing all instances of one creature type with another. The new creature type can’t be Wall. (This effect lasts indefinitely.)” So we create a large number of copies of Rotlung Reanimator and edit each one. A similar card Glamerdye can be used to modify the colour words within card text.
Thus, we edit a Rotlung Reanimator by casting two copies of Artificial Evolution replacing ‘Cleric’ with ‘Aetherborn’ and ‘Zombie’ with ‘Sliver’ and one copy of Glamerdye to replace ‘black’ with ‘white’, so that this Rotlung Reanimator now reads “Whenever Rotlung Reanimator or another Aetherborn dies, create a 2/2 white Sliver creature token”4. This Rotlung Reanimator now encodes the first rule of the q1 program of the (2, 18) UTM: “When reading symbol 1 in state A, write symbol 18 and move left.” The Aetherborn creature token represents symbol 1, the Sliver creature token represents symbol 18, and the fact that the token is white leads to processing that will cause the head to move left.
You can sections III and IV of the paper for full details.
There has been much written around here on the recent restrictions of Lodestone Golem and Chalice of the Void, and about potentially restricting Monastery Mentor and Gush. I'd like to stop and compare to what I believe was a similar situation in the past.
Ravnica introduced dredge in 2005, and Future Sight introduced Bridge from Below and Narcomoeba in 2007. Thus the dredge archetype as we know it today was born. Dredge might not have ever dominated the format, but it did warp it significantly. The reality emerged that the deck would win 90+% of its Game 1's, and that every other deck would need to use half of its sideboard to deal with it. There were some who called for the deck to be dealt with by the B/R list, with Bazaar of Baghdad and Bridge from Below being the two main candidates.
Rather than resorting to the B/R list, however, WotC printed more answers. The introduction of Dredge was shortly followed by specialized answers like Leyline of the Void, Ravenous Trap, and Yixlid Jailer. Later came more versatile answers like Grafdigger's Cage (also attacks Oath/Tinker) and Rest in Peace (also attacks Yawgmoth's Will/delve) - both cards have seen maindeck play in vintage.
Going back to the original purpose of this post: I would broadly categorize Vintage as featuring 3 different power mechanisms: dredge, spell-count-advantage (i.e., I cast more spells than I should in normal Magic - the key to Storm, Mentor, Pyromancer), and mana-advantage (i.e., my lands produce 2+ mana, all spells costs more). There are others - something like Oath is perhaps a distinct power mechanism - but I'll focus on these 3.
For all this talk about the need to restrict Gush, we should pause and think about the rather embarrassing fact that a card like Ponder is restricted in Vintage. Restricting Ponder to curtail spell-count-advantage is akin to restricting Stinkweed Imp to curtail dredge. It's dodging the fundamental issue. Same goes for restricting Lodestone to curtail mana-advantage.
I believe it is possible to curtail spell-count-advantage and mana-advantage in the same way we curtailed dredge: by printing more hate cards, both specialized and versatile. Here are some of my own ideas:
- White Hate Bear: creature, 2/2, costs W1. Artifact spells are no longer considered artifact spells.
- Green Hate Bear: creature, 2/2, costs G1. All lands produce 1 less colorless mana when tapped for mana.
- Black Hate Bear: creature, 2/2, costs B1. If a player would draw a card except the first one he or she draws in his or her draw step each turn, that player discards a card instead.
- Force of Mephistopheles: instant, costs BB3. You may exile a black card in your hand and sacrifice 1 life instead of paying casting cost. Until end of turn, if a player would draw a card except the first one he or she draws in his or her draw step, that player discards a card instead.
If these 3 cards were printed, I think Gush/Mentor would be weakened, and Ponder/Chalice/Lodestone could be unrestricted.
The problem with that approach is that they've been following that approach for a while and I don't think many people like the direction it's taking us. People want to play Vintage; they want their deck to do powerful things. People don't want to play with a bunch of hate bears. There used to be only 1 hate bear deck but now the hate bear concept is just spread across all the major archetypes and that's not okay.
This is an interesting perspective that I didn't realize was so prevalent.
To me personally, I find it quite beautiful that a deck that would get beaten in Standard can have game in Vintage, and how the deck balances the metagame by keeping broken strategies in check. I distinctly recall watching VSL Season 5 and hearing the commentators squeal with glee as Paul Rietzl brought hatebear decks like white-weenies and spirits, and I shared their delight. But I can see how others might feel differently.
My card suggestions were just starting points for discussion, and I don't think it's necessary that new hate takes the form of bears. For instance, I would love to see ideas like them in the form of Legendary Lands that tap for G, a la Karakas.
With that said, it is easy to see, from a card design evolution standpoint, why hate has come to take on the form of bears. There is a fundamental dichotomy when it comes to hate: (1) hate cards that simultaneously help your own deck's path to victory, and (2) hate cards that don't. A card like Karakas is an excellent example of a non-bear type (1) card - it provides targeted hate against a few cards, but simultaneously taps for W. Cards like Null Rod and Grafdigger's Cage are type (2) - no deck uses those cards for anything but defense.
The first iteration of dredge hate cards like Leyline of the Void and Ravenous Trap were pretty much all type (2) hate cards that only targeted Dredge. So while these newly designed cards helped keep dredge in check, we had the distasteful situation of every deck needing to dedicate half their sideboard to type (2) hate cards. I'd argue this decreased metagame diversity, because any viable deck essentially only had half of a sideboard to position itself well against the other pillars of the format.
The way I see it, two ideas emerged on how to solve this problem. The first was to introduce type (2) hate cards that had more utility against other decks (e.g., Grafdigger's Cage). The second was to introduce type (1) hate cards.
But designing a fair type (1) hate card is very difficult. You risk making the most-broken deck even better. A Grafdigger's Cage with a Sphere effect for example would be much too good. The ideal way to do it is to couple the hate effect with a threat that doesn't coincide with the most-broken deck's aims, and using the beatdown-with-grizzly-bears threat for that purpose is a very safe way to do that.
Very well written, thank you. Your point about effect-multiplicity is very convincing.
I think you and I, and others in this thread, agree about the vital function of hate cards, but feel that WotC might have erred with a certain type of hate cards: the ones which reduce the level of decision-making and skill needed to win.
The old-school blue mage running up against Cursecatcher, similar to the dredge player running up against Tormod's Crypt, represented an exciting in-game puzzle. When should the hater pop his hate card? How much does the hatee hold back to sidestep the hate? There was bluffing and bluff-catching. When people say Magic is part poker, this sort of interaction is partly what they are talking about.
The anti-dredge player plopping down Rest in Peace - there is no poker going on there. The important decisions were already made before the game even started - the decision to have a white manabase and the decision to formulate a gameplan that is not dependent on your own graveyard. Now, deckbuilding and metagaming are important and fun in their own right, but gameplay is what it should ultimately it should all be about.
Designing cards that demand gameplay skill is very challenging. But if WotC is able to go in that direction with future generations of hate, I think it will improve the vintage landscape. Even better if they can somehow mitigate the effectiveness of continuous-effect cards already in the card-pool, but that represents an even bigger card design challenge.
WoTC essentially maintains 4 different lists: the max-0 list (banned), the max-1 list (restricted), the max-infinity list (basic lands), and the max-4 list (other). What if they added max-2 and max-3 lists? This gives them more tools to achieve their goals.
I would then propose bumping Mishra’s Workshop from max-4 to max-3. Compared to a full-on restriction, it wouldn’t cause as much economic damage to current owners, and would represent a more gradual approach to curbing Workshops strategies.
I will start with a proposal for a green anti-aggro-Workshops planeswalker. The key ability for vintage relevance is the bolded one; I didn’t put much thought into any other aspect of the card.
Nissa, Wolf Whisperer
Planeswalker - Nissa
+1: Create a 2/1 green Wolf creature token.
+1: Put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control.
-2: Move all +1/+1 counters in play onto target creature.
-6: All creatures you control gain first strike and trample until end of turn.
A more rigorous take on this debate:
Suppose you are allowed to run as many Leylines as you want. Let p[n] be the probability of winning a tournament with optimal deck construction given the constraint that you must run exactly n Leyline’s.
For any integer n, let S(n) be the following assertion:
max(p, p[n]) > max(p, p, ..., p[n-1])
The “0 or 4” crowd is then asserting that S(4) is true and can be deduced from first principles. Let’s assume they are right.
Now if Leyline is playable, then S(75) is clearly false.
This implies that if you consider the statements S(4), S(5), S(6), ..., S(75), then there is some magic k for which S(k) can be proven to be true from first principles, while S(k+1) cannot.
What is this magic k, and what is so special about it, that allows you to make a from-first-principles argument for S(k) but not for S(k+1)?
If no such k can be identified, then the “0 or 4” crowd must be wrong. It may indeed be the case that 0 or 4 is better than 1, 2, or 3, but that fact cannot be deduced from first principles.
Some other Vintage cards besides dredge cards and Snapcaster Mage for which the third ability can be relevant: JVP, Deathrite Shaman, Yawgmoth’s Will, Dark Petition, Cabal Ritual, Ancient Grudge, Vengevine, Squee, Wonder, Riftstone Portal, Life from the Loam, Goblin Welder, Sun Titan, Auriok Salvagers, Tarmogoyf.
This card is potentially the first main-deckable graveyard disruption that has an element of surprise, which might open up new tactical scenarios. The storm player facing down Deathrite Shaman knows to be careful when firing off Cabal Ritual or Dark Petition; otherwise he knows that he is highly unlikely to run into Ravenous Trap. But with this card the risk of surprise graveyard disruption becomes higher.
there are things other than planeswalkers that can be proliferated, though I'm not sure if pentad prism is vintage playable
Gemstone Mine is a card that benefits from the proliferate mechanic. There could be some weird tech with cards like Tanglewire or Smokestack.
You can also use proliferate on your opponents’ permanents. Mystic Remora and Chalice of the Void are a couple examples of cards against which that option could be relevant.
Nothing terribly exciting, but just some possible interactions to keep in mind if the right proliferate card comes along.
@maximumcdawg “predict” is even a stronger word than necessary. The paper shows that even when there are no more decisions left to be made by either player, only forced actions and triggered effects left to resolve, it is impossible to write an algorithm that determines the winner.
@cuikui I'm repeating myself a bit, but the result of the paper is not concerned with the number of possible moves or number of possible game states. You are right to note that these numbers are large, but the authors don't care about these numbers at all. They are not considering algorithms that try to compute these numbers.
Rather, they only consider game states where neither player has any more decisions to make. In MTGO terms, both players are essentially in "F6" mode. The question is, if we restrict ourselves to only those types of game states, is it possible to write an algorithm that determines who will win the game after the remaining forced actions and triggered effects are processed? The paper proves that the answer to this question is no.
To be very precise on what this means, consider the problem of adding two numbers, x and y. Here are 3 candidate algorithms (written in python) to solve this problem:
- algorithm1 will always return something. The problem is, that something is not always correct - it will output 4 as the sum of 1 and 2, which is incorrect.
- algorithm2 is better in some sense - it never returns an incorrect output. However, it has another problem - it sometimes runs forever, never returning anything. For instance, if you ask for the sum of 0 and 1, it recursively calls itself, which calls itself, etc., going into an infinite loop.
- algorithm3 gets the best of both worlds - it always returns something, and it never returns an incorrect value
The authors proved that if you consider the universe of all possible algorithms that accept a game state of Magic as input (even if we restrict ourselves to those "F6-mode" states where there are no more decisions left to be made by either player), and outputs a winner as output, then every single algorithm in that universe will be like algorithm1 or algorithm2 in my example. In other words, any such algorithm will either return an incorrect output on some inputs, or go into an infinite loop on some inputs. If someone tells you, "hey, I wrote a computer program that correctly outputs the winner given an F6-mode game state as input, without infinite-looping", that'd be like someone saying, "hey, I discovered an integer that is neither even nor odd!" It's simply a mathematical impossibility, a claim that can be rejected on its face, without even looking at the code.
To be clear, just because the game enters an infinite-loop within the rules of Magic doesn't mean that a software program implementing those rules must also enter an infinite-loop. A program like MTGO can, in principle, perform logical deduction on the game state to determine that the game rules yield an infinite-loop, and then output the correct game result (the rules of Magic specify that infinite-loops result in draws). The paper shows that a program like MTGO cannot do this deduction perfectly. Any such attempt will be "buggy" - not due to incompetence of the programmers, but due to the laws of mathematics. But it is certainly plausible that, if well programmed, such a program can do it well-enough to cover all "real-world" situations.
There is another consideration worth bringing up.
In the past, players have complained that vintage had become a format where there are no meaningful decisions to be made after the sideboarding and mulligan phases of the game.
From what I've seen, it appears that Lurrus leads to increased interactivity, and leads to the better player winning more often.
For instance, in this video, Andrea Mengucci says that he achieved an overall record of 33-3 with a Lurrus deck, facing a lot of other Lurrus, and that the games are very "grindy", with many games finishing due to a player running out of time due to the sheer weight of so many difficult decision points. Lsv tweets here that he went 8-1 in a challenge with the same deck, mostly facing Lurrus.
One could reasonably hold the opinion that the pro of increased interactivity/gameplay-skill outweighs the con of decreased deck diversity. Perhaps future companion printings can increase diversity and we can get the best of both worlds.
I think another way to frame @chubbyrain1 's point of view is as this:
The publishing of this card is approximately equivalent to adding the following card errata on Alhammaret's Archive:
- This card's mana cost is reduced by (3) and increased by (UU).
- This card can now be Pyroblast'ed.
How many cards in Magic, if given the above errata modification, would move the card from vintage-unplayable territory to vintage-playable territory? Is there reason to believe that Alhammaret's Archive is one of those cards?