Best posts made by The Atog Lord
posted in Vintage Tournaments read more

Huge congratulations to a very worthy winner. Andy displays tremendous sportsmanship, tenacity, and playskill. He will represent our format well.

posted in Vintage Community read more

This post will discuss why the current Vintage metagame looks the way it does. I will discuss the theory behind why Mentor and Ravager Shops appear to be so dominant. I will conclude with some suggestions for restrictions. I am including this in the Strategy section because it is mostly about strategy, though it contains some "Vintage Community" text as well.

Turbo Xerox Across Formats
It was 20 years ago that Turbo Xerox theory was introduced to the Magic universe by Alan Comer. Turbo Xerox remains the most powerful approach to building Magic decks today. In this missive, I will advance the notion that the current Vintage metagame is being warped around a powerful incarnation of Turbo Xerox. Reviewing Turbo Xerox theory helps us understand why Monastery Mentor is the leading Vintage deck today, with Ravager Shops as a close second.

Turbo Xerox theory is, briefly, the construction of a manabase with a suite of cantrips. A traditional deck might use 36 spells and 24 land. A deck built around the principals of Turbo Xerox Theory might have 20 land, 28 regular low-cost spells, and 12 cantrips. Here, a cantrip is defined as an inexpensive spell that replaces itself, often with a bit of library manipulation. The idea is that replacing lands with cantrips allows for much greater control over draws as the game progresses. Fewer land means fewer dead draws as the game progresses. More than that, the deck-manipulation cantrips mean that each drawstep is much more valuable to the Turbo Xerox deck than the traditional deck. Turbo Xerox Theory enables decks to maximize each draw step, while minimizing variance each game.

Turbo Xerox decks can be observed wherever there are sufficient cantrips. Consider some of the best decks in Modern. The Grixis Shadow deck has Thought Scour, Serum Visions, Street Wraith, and just 19 land. The Modern Storm deck has 18 land, along with Manamorphose, Sleight of Hand, and Serum Visions. In both cases, these Modern decks minimize their land count and dedicated win conditions in order to make room for cantrips. Similarly, in Legacy, some of the most powerful and popular decks utilize Turbo Xerox Theory. The leading Legacy deck is Grixis Delver, featuring 18 land alongside full sets of Brainstorm, Ponder, and Gitaxian Probe. The Legacy Miracles deck, before being hit with a Top banning, had Brainstorm, Ponder, and Top. Even the Legacy Storm deck is a Turbo Xerox deck, with a fairly large number of cantrips. What we are seeing is that across large formats, Turbo Xerox Theory is the centerpiece of some of the most powerful decks.

Turbo Xerox and Vintage (Mostly Mentor)
This brings us to Vintage. The Turbo Xerox deck of Vintage is Monastery Mentor. The Mentor deck tends to run a large number of restricted cantrips along with a full set of Preordain. These Vintage decks run a fairly low mana count, a lot of cards to dig through the deck, and a fairly low number of actual business spells. While the cantrip configuration of the Vintage Mentor deck differs from the cantrip suites found in the above-mentioned Modern and Legacy decks, it is clear that the theoretical approach of these decks is similar.

Two salient observations emerge from this. The first observation is that while other formats have tended to have a diversity of Turbo Xerox decks, Vintage Turbo Xerox decks have consolidated around Monastery Mentor. While the three mana required by Monastery Mentor might be more difficult for Turbo Xerox decks in other formats, Moxen in Vintage help make Monastery Mentor much easier to cast. Further, Moxen help provide free spells to turn Mentor into a quick threat. Mentor works so well with the combination of the Turbo Xerox engine and Moxen that it appears simply incorrect to make another other form of Turbo Xerox deck in Vintage. This is especially true when Monastery Mentor itself is very difficult for other Turbo Xerox decks to answer -- Monaster Mentory is in many cases the best answer to Monastery Mentor.
The second observation is that this highlights why Wizards was wise to restrict Gush. Turbo Xerox is the most powerful approach to deck construction, and Gush is the pinnacle of a card that Turbo Xerox abuses. Gush rewards a low land count and provides actual card advantage for no mana investment. In other words, Gush helps the Turbo Xerox approach far too much, and that approach did not need the help. Turbo Xerox decks are still very good with one Gush. With four Gushes, the Turbo Xerox decks had pushed all other blue decks out of the format.

Fighting Turbo Xerox
Tackling Turbo Xerox decks head-on with a fair deck is a losing proposition. As described above, Turbo Xerox decks are more consistent and extract more value from average draw steps than traditional full-mana decks. Therefore, there are only a few ways to fight Turbo Xerox approaches consistently.

  1. Winning Fast: One can attack Turbo Xerox decks by winning before they get online. This first approach to fighting Turbo Xerox takes advantage of the fact that Turbo Xerox decks generally spend their first couple of turns using cantrips to sculpt their hand and library. While Turbo Xerox decks are in this early cantrip stage, they are vulnerable. The obvious way to leverage this window is by playing a deck that wins the game in the first few turns. However, Flusterstorm and Mindbreak Trap provide very powerful tools for Turbo Xerox decks to combat fast combo decks. Further, Monastery Mentor provides such a fast clock that if the fast combo decks stall even a little, they can find themselves overwhelmed by Monks. An example of a successful implementation of winning quickly against Mentor decks is Dredge. A Dredge deck can can win on the second turn; and even when it does not, by the time a Mentor deck gets online, it is often too late against Dredge. That said, Containment Priest being printed in the same color as Monastery Mentor has done nothing to help Dredge.
  2. Going Over the Top: A second approach to beating Turbo Xerox decks is presenting a powerful threat that goes over the top of their gameplan. This is observed in Modern in the Tron decks. These Tron decks in Modern can present enormous threats that launch over the top of the Death's Shadow decks. In Legacy, Lands can do something similar: A recurring Life from the Loam is a threat that Legacy Delver decks structurally cannot handle well, even once their engine is online. However, there is no analogue to this approach in Vintage. In Modern and Legacy, these decks that go over the top of the Turbo Xerox decks rely heavily on one-drops. Expedition Map and Exploration and Crop Rotation are all cards that help decks go over the top of Turbo Xerox decks; however, Mental Misstep invalidates these strategies in Vintage. While on the surface it may appear that Mental Misstep hurts low-to-the-ground decks, looking at how these over-the-top decks are actually constructed, I believe that Mental Misstep is keeping them out of the format.
  3. Taxing: The third approach to combating Turbo Xerox decks is to attack their game plan directly. The underlying assumption of a Turbo Xerox deck is that a manabase can be constructed out of cantrips. Sphere effects directly attack the Turbo Xerox plan. By making each cantrip cost more, a Thorn or a Thalia breaks the very game plan of Turbo Xerox decks. While there are large problems with the above two approaches to answering Turbo Xerox decks, the Taxing approach to Turbo Xerox is actually finding success in Vintage. Workshop decks, Eldrazi decks, and even Remora decks are all examples of using Taxing to attack the Turbo Xerox engine. I believe that the Ravager Shops deck is so popular and successful because it is a deck that can answer the Turbo Xero Mentor deck well, while also being viable against a broad range of other decks. The need to answer Monastery Mentor itself is likely preventing Taxing and Workshop decks from having greater diversity, as having access to Walking Ballista is vital for being able to address Mentor himself.

Solutions
In summary, Turbo Xerox Theory is likely the most powerful approach to building decks in Magic. Turbo Xerox decks are dominant in Modern, Legacy, and Vintage. However, while other formats have space for multiple Turbo Xerox decks, in Vintage, Monastery Mentor has collapsed the space of viable Turbo Xerox decks. These recommendations are based on the observations made above.

  1. Restrict Monastery Mentor: Restricting Gush helped to open the door for Blue decks other than Turbo Xerox. That is good and important. However, Turbo Xerox decks are still too good, and there is no way that another Turbo Xerox deck will be feasible as long as Monastery Mentor is present. Restricting Mentor would push down Turbo Xerox decks, allowing non-Turbo-Xerox decks to be more feasible. In addition, restricting Mentor has the possibility of creating the space for more than one Turbo Xerox deck to be viable.
  2. Restrict Mental Misstep: As noted above, in other formats, a viable approach to defeating Turbo Xerox decks is to go over the top of those decks. In Vintage, any viable over-the-top strategy is invalidated by Mental Misstep. As soon as I begin to think about a Vintage Cloudpost deck or a Vintage Lands deck, I am struck by how Mental Misstep would invalidate such a deck. Restricting Mental Misstep may not make these decks good, but it would at least make them worth considering. Further, restricting Mental Misstep would hinder Workshop decks. Rather than being forced to play 3 or 4 cards that don't interact with Workshops at all, Blue decks will be able to include more cards that actually have some impact in that matchup.
  3. Don't restrict anything from Workshops right now. Workshop decks are looking like a dominant deck. However, as I've described above, I believe that this is because Workshops is one of the few viable ways to attack the Turbo Xerox Mentor deck. If anything is hit from the Workhsop deck right now, the only result would be to collapse and condense the metagame further. In other words, the strength of Turbo Xerox Mentor decks is causing Ravager Shops to occupy an outsized portion of the Vintage metagame.This is because Ravager Shops is the best response to Turbo Xerox Mentor.
  4. Don't restrict Preordain. Turbo Xerox is extremely powerful, and in its current form is dominating Vintage. However, with the restrictions of Monastery Mentor and Gitaxian Probe (and the continued, much-needed restriction of Gush), I believe that the archetype will no longer be as dominant. The goal is not to kill off Turbo Xerox decks, but to bring them closer to alignment with other archetypes. Therefore, I think that Preordain should remain. I expect Turbo Xerox to be a Tier One approach with four Preordain, even with restricted Mentor, Probe, and of course Gush.

Rich Shay

posted in Vintage Strategy read more

I am writing about this deck because I think it is an exceptionally good Vintage deck. There is already some material out there on the deck: The videos-on-demand on my Twitch stream show me playing the deck quite a lot recently. However, I have not yet seen a good written account of the deck.

On Saturday, I won the Vintage Power 9 Challenge on Magic: the Gathering Online. Prior to that, I played the deck in quite a few Magic: the Gathering Online daily tournaments. According to MTGGoldfish, in April, I went 24-4 with the deck in Dailies. I also split a Mox Pearl with the deck at Pandamonium in Cambridge, MA.

Here is the list I used to win the Vintage Power 9 Challenge.

// Mana
1 Sol Ring
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire

// Land
2 Flooded Strand
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Scalding Tarn
1 Polluted Delta
1 Island
2 Tropical Island
3 Tundra
2 Volcanic Island
1 Library of Alexandria

// Counters
4 Force of Will
1 Flusterstorm
1 Pyroblast
4 Mental Misstep

// Draw
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Brainstorm
1 Dig Through Time
2 Gitaxian Probe
4 Gush
1 Ponder
2 Sylvan Library
1 Time Walk
1 Treasure Cruise
1 Snapcaster Mage

// Threats
1 Erayo, Soratami Ascendant
2 Dack Fayden
4 Monastery Mentor
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

// Removal
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Swords to Plowshares

// Sideboard
2 Ancient Grudge
4 Containment Priest
1 Dragonlord Dromoka
2 Nature's Claim
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Swords to Plowshares
4 Tormod's Crypt

A Note on Gush

I'm only going to mention briefly why Gush is so good. No need for an entire book or anything. The ancestor of today's Mono-Brown Mishra's Workshop decks were created with a specific target in mind: Gush decks. Gush decks, in the grand Turbo Xerox tradition, reduce land counts and use cantrips as a vital part of their mana bases. In today's Delver decks, Preordain often lets the Delver pilot select between a land and a spell. More than one-mana cantrips, though, the central card of the modern Turbo Xerox deck is Gush. Gush is card advantage that dodges wasteland. Gush also lets one simulate an additional land drop by letting one float mana, Gush, and then play another land. In this way, one can cast a three-mana spell using only two lands and a Gush, all while netting card advantage.

Mishra's Workshop decks could fight that plan, using Sphere effects to make that manabase collapse under its own weight. However, with the recent restriction of Lodestone Golem, Mishra's Workshop decks have gotten worse. I believe that they will emerge as a tier-one deck, but it is undeniable that they have taken a hit in their power.

Given that, if one is going to play a blue deck, I don't think it is any longer a question of whether one should play Gush. A non-Gush blue deck is at a considerable disadvantage against a Gush-based blue deck. Evidence of this is that the current most-successful non-Gush blue deck is Blue Moon, which tries to transform opposing Gush-based Blue decks into fellow non-Gush-based Blue decks. In times past, one could argue that the non-Gush blue decks offered a more resilient manabase against Mishra's Workshop decks. However, this no longer seems like a valid concern. Further, as we will discuss in the next section, one needn't use a small manabase in order to utilize Gush.

Sylvan Mentor and Kelly Oath

Understanding Sylvan Mentor requires first understanding that it is a Brian Kelly deck. While Brian Kelly won the Vintage World Championship with an Oath deck, many of the principles underlying Kelly Oath and Sylvan Mentor are the same. Here is Kelly Oath for reference.

Note the four-color manabase. That manabase is greedy in terms of playing four colors, but quite robust in terms of the number of cards in the deck dedicated to providing mana. Delver decks and other Turbo Xerox decks build virtual card advantage through minimizing the number of cards in the deck dedicated to providing mana. Landstill decks create virtual card advantage by using lands with utility effects (i.e., manlands and Wastelands). Brian Kelly decks dedicate a large number of card slots to providing mana, and don't require that the mana sources provide much utility beyond that.

In exchange for spending more card slots on a robust manabase, Brian Kelly decks gain two benefits. First, they get to cast more expensive spells than decks using smaller manabases. Four-mana Jace is a much better card than Two-Mana Jace if you get him onto the table. A larger manabase facilitates casting that larger Jace. The second benefit of a more robust manabase is that Brian Kelly decks can run four colors. This means tapping into a larger proportion of Magic's card pool. For example, Ancient Grudge is leagues beyond any other anti-Workshop card. It's so strong that I've been consistently including it maindeck. At the same time, it is a spell that requires two colors that don't cast Gush or Mentor.

A reasonable question is whether our larger manabase costs us games against decks with smaller manabases. For example, Delver has far more live topdecks than Sylvan Mentor, assuming that neither side has anything going on. Sylvan Mentor uses permanents to mitigate its draws. Sylvan Library and to a larger extent Dack Fayden help ensure that Sylvan Mentor draws more live cards and fewer useless mana sources. Yes, you do have games where you choke on the large number of mana sources you run. But you can often use your resources to filter your draws, getting value out of both drawn lands and lands returned through Gush. That is to say, Dack Fayden is an essential part of the deck's manabase.

With a large manabase, Ancient Grudge, and Dack Fayden, Brian Kelly decks have strong Workshop matchups. And with a very deep pool of card advantage, they can often out-draw and therefore eventually defeat their Blue rivals as well. But this requires that we be able to leverage card advantage into a win. We will discuss that in the next section.

It's Mentor's World

When Mishra and his robots ruled Dominia, Oath of Druids was likely the best win condition. It didn't win two Vintage Championships in a row by accident. Oath is a two-mana win condition that requires no further mana or spells. It is especially strong against creature-based strategies, which Lodestone Golem had ensured most Workshop decks were.

In a post-Lodestone metagame, however, the criteria for best kill mechanism have shifted. We can more reliably chain together spells and may not as reliably face opposing creatures. Both of these factors help to make Oath of Druids a little worse, and make Monastery Mentor a little better. Further, without as many Workshop decks in the metagame, there are more Blue mirrors. In these blue mirrors, the dead draws of a Blightsteel Colossus or a Griselbrand can become magnified. Whereas, Mentor carries no such baggage, and helps us out-draw our opponent.

Sylvan Mentor is designed to out-draw other blue decks and it is quite good at this. As noted above, while it has more mana sources than a deck like Delver, an active Planeswalker or even Sylvan Library can help it mitigate mana flood. In blue mirrors, it is common for the Sylvan Mentor player to be ahead on cards, but behind on board. How can the Sylvan Mentor player dig out from this situation? There are two key cards for this. The first is Supreme Verdict. The uncounterable sweeper is perfect for the blue Token mirror. Opposing token decks tend to be light on non-creature threats and will often be behind on cards by the middle of the game.

Supreme Verdict is a great way to avoid losing, but we still need to win. The most powerful way in Vintage today to leverage excess card advantage into a superior board position and soon a win is Monastery Mentor. As noted above, Mentor as a win condition doesn't require any blank cards like Voltaic Key or Oath monsters. And while Pyromancer grows wide and Quirion Dryad grows tall, Mentor grows in all directions at once. He very quickly dominates creature combat and very quickly kills the opponent. A first-turn Mentor is about as game-ending as a first-turn Tinker, and a late-game Mentor is far more resilient than a late-game Tinker.

Putting the Pieces Together

Now that we've covered the theory behind the Sylvan Mentor deck, we can consider some of the individual components. We want to have a Gush-based deck with a robust manabase. And we want Mentor himself to be the primary win condition. The large manabase of seven fetchlands and seven dual lands has been very effective for me. Blood Moon convinced me to run a Basic Island, and Library of Alexandria fits our card-draw theme.

Having ten counters has felt correct. Pyroblast edges out the second Flusterstorm because it handles opposing Planeswalkers. I don't think the fourth Mental Misstep is absolutely necessary, and could see it becoming the third Gitaxian Probe.

The draw engine starts with six restricted draw spells. To that we add Gitaxian Probe, which helps us make much better decisions in this decision-intensive deck. Snapcaster Mage is situational, and at times does nothing useful. However, Time Walk is so good in this deck that we include a single Snapcaster Mage to flash it back.

In addition to one-shot bursts of card advantage, we have several recurring sources. These cards hover between being card draw spells and threats, in the grand tradition of Ophidian. Sylvan Library is the deck's namesake card, and is why we are playing Green in the first place. This card can provide a burst of card advantage, and lets us use our fetchlands to filter our draws for the rest of the game. Dack Fayden lets us filter our draws and turn Gushed-back lands into more spells. The fact that he often auto-wins against Workshop decks is a further bonus. Finally, Jace himself lets us win so long as we can protect him, and he also lets us kill opponents through cards like Moat.

Erayo deserves special mention in this shell. Matt Murray convinced me to try her and I've been pretty happy with her. She can be a blank, but she can also shut down opponents single-handedly. The Storm matchup can be difficult, and she gives us a proactive way to lock up Storm players. She's not a card that is necessary to the functioning of the deck. However, she's also a card that I don't have any intention to cut at this point.

Finally, we get to the removal suite. Removal spells are, by definition, sometimes useless. Therefore, I am including only a variety sampler of removal spells, and storing redundant copies in the sideboard. I have enough respect for Shops that even in its decline, I still maindeck an Ancient Grudge. I also include a Supreme Verdict and a Swords.

As always, a control deck must be adjusted for an expected metagame. There is no "right" build of the deck. I've almost always tinkered with the build before playing it, hoping to tune it for today's metagame and not leaving it optimal against yesterday's metagame. This notion of constant change goes all the more for the sideboard. Don't just copy and paste what I'm doing. Take it and make it your own. I'm going to give you a few pointers, and help you understand my philosophy with the sideboard.

First, respect Workshops in the sideboard. Even with Lodestone being less popular, I still bring in four hard artifact-removal spells and a Swords. This combines with the maindeck cards and large manabase to give a fairly positive Shops matchup. Second, the sideboard has to respect Dredge because the maindeck is weak against it. Dredge can beat us fairly quickly, and so I have eight graveyard-hate spells. Cards like Strip Mine (a fine sideboard choice) are at best marginal against Dredge. Having eight actual hate cards is a better approach, if you can spare the room. Since Dredge decks have taken to running Mental Misstep, I am avoiding one-mana hate. Tormod's Crypt is great with our large draw engine, because we can draw into it and cast it for free. Containment Priest serves as Oath hate as well as Dredge hate, and even when the opponent kills her, she takes all of the opponent's Bridges with her.

Now we'e used up 13 of our sideboard slots. I consider being able to go up to 2 Supreme Verdicts important post-board. And for the final slot, I opted for Dromoka herself, which was instrumental in the finals. She is extremely powerful against Delver and Landstill, as well as various other decks that attack your life total. I didn't include any specific Storm hate, which turned out to be a reasonable metagame call. Ethersworn Canonist is a great one-of if you anticipate more Storm.

Conclusion

And so, that is Sylvan Mentor. The deck has been very strong for me, and I suspect that it will continue to be a top deck in this metagame for a while. If you like drawing cards, you might just like it too.

posted in Vintage Community read more

@wappla

Rich Shay, who spent the better part of the last year using his celebrity to moan about Gush homogenizing blue decks, played Stax.

Yes, I've played Stax. I've played Punishing Oath. You can look forward to seeing a list posted today that involves As Foretold. As is often the case, I play a variety of decks.

No one made the argument that restricting Gush would hurt Workshops more vocally than Mr Shay, and yet a day after the announcement, he is playing Workshops.

I never said that restricting Gush would kill Shops. And that wouldn't be a good goal. Restricting Gush would free up space for decks choked out of the format. In fact, I believe that Stax is one such deck.

The gross hypocrisy aside, this once again illustrates how idiotic the argument against Gush was.

I am afraid that whoever taught you the definition of "hypocrisy" did you a severe disservice. At your age, you still apparently don't know what the word means. I would be a hypocrite if I said never to play Shops and then did so myself. Instead, I have advocated that Shops would be hurt by the restriction of Gush. I stand by that.

The metagame is going to be in a state flux for a little while. During that time, raw power is going to be at a premium. Reactive decks, designed to tackle an existing metagame, will only be able to develop once things are more established. We've seen a lot of diversity among successful decks, with Control Dredge winning last night.

I am going to continue trying new decks. You could do that as well. Or you could spend your days whining about my deck choices. Either way.

posted in Vintage Community read more

As a scientist, I find it unfortunate that Wizards are deliberately working to make us all more ignorant.

posted in Vintage Strategy read more

Introduction

After a string of strong performances in MODO Vintage Dailies, I just won the Vintage Power 9 event with a Blue White Red Mentor deck. I call the deck Mentor Silence. I would like to tell you a little bit about this build and how it came together.

The Universe Before Paradoxical Outcome

First, I should catch you up with the recent Vintage metagame. Mentor Silence, like so many of us, is a product of the environment in which it came about. For a long time, the card Gush has been the defining card of Vintage. I won't delve into the Turbo Xerox theory here -- let it be sufficient to say that non-Gush Blue decks really had a hard time taking on Gush decks. Gush decks have more consistency, better threat density, and fewer dead draws than non-Gush Blue decks. And so the metagame adapted to its Mercadian overlord. Workshop decks full of Spheres proliferated, because mana-taxing effects are especially potent against Gush decks and their cantrip-infused mana bases. White Eldrazi decks, likewise, helped to make those cantrip-heavy decks malfunction. Dark Petition Storm figured out that Defense Grid really gave Gush decks a bad time.

The metagame reached its expected equilibrium, based around Gush decks. Gush was the center of the Vintage solar system, and the other decks rotated about its axis. Non-Gush blue decks floated far away in space, with Oath on occasion orbiting in when Workshop decks became too popular. This ordered celestial dance lasted for many long months, until a meteor crashed in. This meteor is Paradoxical Outcome.

Paradoxical Outcome Changes Everything

Paradoxical Outcome has taken a long time to figure out. It was clear that it was a powerful card, but how best to harness its potency was not immediately apparent. I worked on several builds, but nothing quite satisfied. Matt and Vasu both got further than I did. Reid Duke created the most streamlined and popular build of paradoxical Outcome, featuring a single Tendrils as the kill.

The Paradoxical Outcome deck was, at long last, a non-Gush Blue deck that beat Gush decks. Gush is a powerful card, but today's Gush decks eschew tutors and Fastbond, and therefore require a few turns of setup before being able to handle opponents' threats. Paradoxical Outcome decks take advantage of this window and end the game in that short time.

Perhaps you might ask -- does not Dark Petition Storm likewise utilize celerity to defeat Gush decks? The answer is that Paradoxical Outcome decks have three key advantages over Storm decks. First, Paradoxical Outcome decks enjoy using Force of Will, which helps them not only against Force of Will decks but also against Workshop decks. Paradoxical Outcome decks perform much better than traditional Storm decks against Workshop decks, and so are stronger in an open metagame. Second, Paradoxical Outcome decks recover much better than Storm decks from having a key spell countered. A Storm deck uses up its Rituals to cast its spells, often turning a Force of Will into three-for-two for the opponent. Whereas, the Paradoxical Outcome deck mostly plays persistent mana sources (e.g., Moxen), so that if Paradoxical Outcome itself is countered, that Force of Will from the opponent is still card advantage for the Paradoxical Outcome player. And the third advantage of Paradoxical Outcome decks over Dark Petition Storm is that they are much less soft to Mental Misstep. Against a Storm deck, a Misstep can often dismantle an attempt to go off; against a Paradoxical Outcome deck, none of the key combo pieces cost one mana.

The above digression illustrates how Paradoxical Outcome decks have advantages over Dark Petition Storm decks against Mentor. The celerity of Paradoxical Outcome combine with its resiliency to make decks built around that card quite strong against Gush.

Adjusting to the New World

It took me a bit to adjust to the new paradigm. Both in Magic Online dailies and in real-life Magic, I kept taking traditional Blue White Red Mentor. And I kept getting crushed by Paradoxical Outcome decks. Reid Duke's Paradoxical Outcome Storm, in particular, has a very strong Mentor matchup. I decided that, if Mentor were to compete in this Paradoxical New World, something would need to change.

Several observations about Paradoxical Outcome decks will illuminate how I build Mentor Silence. Note that people have been adding Null Rod effects to control decks for some time -- that is not novel. In fact, recently, a player in Japan, Nagashima Makoto, ran Stony Silence in Mentor, though with a much heavier Red component than I used (http://www.hareruyamtg.com/en/k/kD19169S/).

  1. Paradoxical Outcome decks fall over and die in the face of Null Rod. I had been using Null Rod to great success in Workshops against these decks, and it became clear to me that Null Rod effects were the best answer to Outcome itself. Null Rod, or its kid brother Stony Silence, had to be part of the solution for Gush.

  2. Paradoxical Outcome decks win on the first turn. A lot. It got to the point where I was sideboarding Mindbreak Trap against it in my Stax deck. So, for a Blue deck, Flusterstorm is too slow and Red Blast might not get online. Full-strength Mindbreak Trap was needed to combat Paradoxical Outcome.

  3. Every Swords to Plowshares that you draw is really awful against Paradoxical Outcome decks. Extra mana sources are really awful against them, too. See above where I mention that Paradoxical Outcome decks recover more quickly than Storm decks. This means we needed a low-fat deck. Four Swords was a luxury we could not afford. Four-mana Planeswalkers were simply not going to work. And we needed good filtering effects for our draws -- this led to Dack Fayden and Tiny Jace being included over Larger Jace, Narset, Nahiri, and various other rotund Planeswalkers.

  4. Sometimes, Tolarian Academy happens. Tolarian Academy is absurdly broken in Paradoxical Outcome decks. It lets them do powerful things, despite Null Rod's best efforts. So, any Mentor deck hoping to take down Paradoxical Outcome decks should have Strip Mine at the very least, and perhaps Wastelands in addition. Further, Waste effects are quite strong against a lot of the rest of the format.

Decklist

Here is the decklist that I used to win the December 2016 Magic Online Power 9 Championship.

// Mana
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby

// Land
4 Flooded Strand
1 Polluted Delta
1 Scalding Tarn
2 Island
1 Strip Mine
3 Tundra
2 Volcanic Island
2 Wasteland

// Really Broken Draw
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Brainstorm
1 Ponder
1 Time Walk
1 Dig Through Time
1 Treasure Cruise

// Good Draw
3 Gush
3 Gitaxian Probe
4 Preordain

// Threats and Also Filtering
2 Dack Fayden
3 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

// Control
4 Force of Will
3 Mental Misstep
2 Mindbreak Trap

// Removal
1 Fragmentize
1 Pyroblast
2 Stony Silence
3 Swords to Plowshares

// Basically Tinker
3 Monastery Mentor

// Sideboard
1 Plains
1 Wasteland
2 Containment Priest
2 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Pithing Needle
1 Rest in Peace
1 Disenchant
2 Fragmentize
1 Stony Silence
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Mindbreak Trap
1 Pyroblast

This deck implements several of the above-described concepts in order to address the growing presence of Paradoxical Outcome in Vintage. I am pleased to report that the Paradoxical Outcome matchup has been extremely favorable. The Mindbreak Traps and Stony Silences really help to slow down the Paradoxical Outcome decks. The heavy cantrip base and three small Jaces help to keep the cards flowing. The lack of expensive Planeswalkers helps keep the entire hand ready to dispatch more quickly.

When I first built this deck, I was expecting the mirror match to suffer. After all, existing Mentor decks have evolved to be strong in the mirror match. To my surprise, I have had a favorable experience in the Mentor mirror. Being low-to-the-ground and filled with Cantrips has helped against other Gush decks, and certainly makes for an interesting, decision-intensive mirror. Likewise, while Workshop decks are natural predators for decks using four Preordains, Stony Silence itself is extremely good against Ravager Workshop decks.

Conclusion

Mentor Silence is a powerful choice to combat the Paradoxical Outcome deck. I am sure that Paradoxical Outcome will continue to be a part of the metagame. Some clever person -- perhaps Reid Duke or perhaps you, oh reader -- will figure out how to make Paradoxical Outcome crush Mentor Silence. And so the arms race continues -- that's part of the fun. In the mean time, you might want to give this deck a try. It's a blast.

Acknowledgments

Before I close, I want to thank those who have helped bring this deck into being. Special thanks to Brian, Joe, Keith, Lance, and Vasu for helping me brainstorm and think about the list. Thanks to Tom for reading this over before I posted it.

posted in Vintage Community read more

Perfect. Just amazing. What a great day for Vintage.

posted in Vintage News read more

This change is amazing for the format. The prizes are better. The threshold for this firing is low. And the fact that this is every weekend means more high-level Vintage.

This is more opportunity for new people to get into online Vintage. This is also more opportunity for new people to get into creating Vintage content via streaming. I know I am not always positive on MODO. But this is an example of their team doing something absolutely in the interest of our community.

posted in Vintage Community read more

@OurLadyInRed said: Seriously, "women of color" is what women of color prefer to be called.

It is amazingly presumptuous of you to decide that you can now speak for all non-white women everywhere. That's quite a statement you've made.

@OurLadyInRed said: Portal 3k is really the only reasonable example here, as (correct me if I'm wrong), nearly all of that art was actually done by artists of those ethnicities...These "fantasy versions of non-European places" are a problem called cultural appropriation.

You honestly think that a white person can't draw a non-white person? That is an incredibly racist mindset. And do you really think that Arabian Nights is Cultural Appropriation? Nonsense. Arabian Nights helped to bring an often-misunderstood part of the world to the minds and imaginations of a lot of people. Far too often, the Middle East is depicted in the popular media as being a horrible place occupied by bloodthirsty zealots. Arabian Nights the Magic set helped the players see another side of the Middle East, with imaginative creatures and fantasies played out in card form. Arabian Nights wasn't cultural appropriation. It was finding enjoyment in a culture that is far too often maligned. It's what the world needs more of.

And if you're really that concerned about "appropriating" cultures, I hope that, unless you're of Middle Eastern descent yourself, you don't use any Arabic numerals, study algebra, or wear eyeglasses.

posted in Single-Card Discussion read more

This card is completely unplayable in Vintage.

posted in Vintage Community read more

If anyone should be unhappy about Matt scooping, it should be I. I missed top 8 on it and got 9th. But I'm not unhappy. I'd have done the same thing as Matt. Andy did nothing wrong. Matt did nothing wrong.

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Wishes are one thing. But Ring of Ma'ruf is another. Here is the wording of the card:

  • 5: Instead of drawing a card from the top of your library, select one of your cards from outside the game. This card can be any card you have that you're not using in your deck or that for some reason has left the game. Ring of Ma'rûf is removed from the game entirely after use.

So, this tells us that the Ring is explicitly able to fetch a card "that for some reason has left the game." It immediately follows this with "Ring of Ma'rûf is removed from the game entirely after use."

Taken together, it is very very clear that wherever the Ring is going, another Ring should be able to pull it back. Any reasonable reading would indicate this.

While there are arguments for the Wishes not being able to grab Exiled cards, the Ring has a few different factors in its favor. First, it has not been printed with a different wording -- and as a Reserve List card, it cannot be printed with a different wording. Second, the Wishes do not explicitly mention that you can get back a card that has been removed; the Ring explicitly grants this. And if there is any remote power level concern, keep in mind that the Ring costs ten mana and eats up your draw step, too.

So, taken together, I think that there's a strong argument for Ring of Ma-ruf being able to retrieve cards from the Exile zone.

posted in Vintage Community read more

First, Greg, excellent post.

"Fuck yea women of color being represented in Magic."

While I find the phrasing "of color" entirely distasteful, if you are looking for non-white women represented in Magic cards, there are many. Magic has always been amazing for allowing us to visit places across the world through the game, both real and imaginary. Mirage Block, Portal 3 Kingdoms, Khans, and Kamigawa took place in real-life or fantasy versions of non-European places. Captain Sisay has been a large part of Magic's story for many years.

And of course, my personal favorite, Arabian Nights. While this set is before legends, it shows man females being depicted, such as Shaharazad and Sorceress Queen. So, when Wizards asked Terese to draw a black woman on Force of Will, that isn't anything new or unusual.

posted in Single-Card Discussion read more

This guy seems really strong. He's -1/-1 from Trike at six mana. But he's better at 4 mana and 8 mana. Being able to pump him is nice, too. If only he were available in Original Border Trashcan flavor.

posted in Official Tournament Results read more

"Ask the same question to people who complained about Gush. They could have played a non-Gush deck. Why didn't they?"

Non-Gush decks were choked out by Gush. The DCI wisely restricted Gush. Now the non-turbo-xerox blue decks have a fighting chance. That doesn't mean that Turbo Cerox decks are dead, or anything of the sort. It just means it is no longer a poor choice to play other flavors of blue.

We lived under the oppressive thumb of Gush for the better part of a decade. Finally, free from its metagame chokehold, we can see new ideas flourish. The process will take time. If nothing changes, nothing is lost. But I expect more changes to occur going forward. I enjoy Vintage far more now than I have in years. I feel there is the possibility for innovation which did not exist pre restriction.

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I would add -- When in doubt, call a judge.

posted in Vintage Strategy read more

The behavior of the present local regional (not world) Vintage Champion only matters if we want to point to his performance as evidence that EmtaStill is good in this metagame. Instead, let us consider the landstill vs Mentor matchup on a theoretical basis.

Mentor is quite favorable against Landstill/EmraStill. Mentor has strategic superiority. Landstill cares about all of Mentor's strengths. But Landstill has a number of strengths that Mentor doesn't care about. That misalignment makes things strongly in Mentor's favor.

Landstill is soft to Mentor's strengths. Mentor is great at developing card advantage -- much better than Landstill, which also tries to fight on that axis. Mentor has threats that go wide (Mentor himself often dodges Swords quite well). Mentor also has threats that ignore creature removal (walkers). Mentor gets ahead quickly while Landstill is often slow to develop. And all those Red Blasts lurking in Mentor's sideboard sure won't help Landstill. Finally, all of the cantrips in Mentor let it be more stable and consistent than Landstill, which can choke on all the colorless lands it has to run.

Whereas, Landstill has invested in strengths that don't matter against most Mentor builds. Landstill has a solid manabase -- but Mentor doesn't attack on that angle anyway. Landstill draws some cards, but Mentor does that much better. Lamdstill has wastelands, but Mentor generally can absorb or play around a couple Wastelands -- especially with Gush. Mishra's Factory is a glacial threat against a Mentor deck, and Dack Fayden loves grabbing Crucible of Worlds.

In short, Mentor presents threats in a way that align very well against Landstill's answers. Landstill does a lot of powerful things -- those things just don't align well against Mentor.

posted in Single-Card Discussion read more

If you want a repeatable Black Lotus, just play Workshop.

posted in Vintage Tournaments read more

@atog_215 You know, I spent a solid 30 seconds looking at this page and wondering when I said I was looking forward to going to this.