I really enjoyed listening to your analysis of the Banned and Restricted list announcement, but I think that by focusing on the empirical results you missed out on discussing what is in my opinion the key point of why many such as myself wanted Gush to be restricted rather than Lodestone Golem. I certainly cannot think of a way to quantify or prove this, but I think that the power of Gush led to the rise of Workshop decks in the online metagame.
I think that Gush aggro decks forced the blue decks in the field to adapt by homogenizing. Steve, you of all people should be aware of the power of the Gush aggro decks like Mentor or Delver against traditional "Big Blue" decks like Grixis. Gush decks are able to play fewer mana sources and generate card velocity in ways in which you have described in far greater detail than I am capable, which results in them being able to naturally predate the slower control decks.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that despite Workshops performing the best on Magic Online, that Blue decks as a whole were the most popular archetype, if you aggregate all of the Force of Will decks together. When a deck like Delver or Mentor has a favorable matchup against non-Gush aggro decks and seemingly a 50/50 matchup against other Gush aggro decks, which combines to the majority of the field, it is hard to choose a blue deck other than Gush Aggro. The exception to this is Oath, which has a strong Gush matchup, resulting in its success at the last 2 Vintage Championships.
The problem with Gush Aggro thwarting most of the other blue decks and after a point in time almost invalidating them is that the Gush Aggro decks homogenize the format to the point where there is little strategic diversity aside from Mentor vs. Delver/Pyromancer as Gush has monopolized the blue "market" and pushed out other strategies. This homogenization made it significantly easier to build a Workshop deck that was strong in the field. Gush Aggro decks typically don't play as many mana sources as other blue decks, do not win particularly quickly (until they play Mentor) and rely on cantrips to filter cards. A deck like Ravager Workshops lines up perfectly against this, by playing numerous Sphere effects which pressures the mana base of Gush Aggro decks and plays proactive threats which make spending turns casting overpriced cantrips or Gushes hurt more as the deck can win the game relatively quickly, especially when Triskelion is factored into the equation. Ravager Workshops is not nearly as well suited to face something like traditional Grixis control because it has trouble racing or answering something like Tinker, especially when accelerated by fast mana, but it doesn't need to because Gush Aggro has for the most part pushed Grixis from the metagame in the post Dig, post Chalice metagame.
If Gush were restricted I think that decks like Grixis, BUG Fish (not Big Blue, but weak against Gush Aggro), Merfolk and Landstill would reemerge as viable choices in the metagame. Gush Aggro would not disappear, it would diminish in popularity and have to adapt, but there are a myriad of ways to replace Gush, especially in decks which either didn't play 4 Gush before, or were not playing a full compliment of Preordains or the like. Also, the rise of non-Gush Aggro decks would strengthen something like Mentor and Delver as matchups which were at least historically favorable would become more popular. Most importantly, I think that this diversification of Blue decks would force the Workshop decks to change. The cards which are best against Gush Aggro are not the same as those which are best against the "Big Blue" decks, which cuts back on the power level of the Workshop decks.
Perhaps this would not have been enough to weaken Lodestone, but I think it might have balanced the format more than restricting Lodestone Golem.
I completely agree with your opinion that one card should be restricted at a time, Steve. I think any more than one card and the lines between correlation and causation become blurred and you cannot see what is really driving the results.
Also, Steve, I think that your take on the diversity of the Workshop archetype somewhat glossed over the strategic diversity of the pillar. While I do not disagree that a lot of paths which were previously not worth exploring are now more viable which will lead to diversity, I do not think that the pillar lacked decks that took different paths to arrive at the same goals.
For instance, a deck like Terra Nova which relied on 4 Mishra's Factory, 4 Mutavault, Null Rods and a full compliment of Sphere effects operates much differently than Espresso Stax did which used Smokestack and Crucible of Worlds to create a permanent advantage. Terra Nova's goal was to simply put as many Sphere effects onto the board as quickly as possible, something which all Workshop decks can achieve, but which this one was built to do because it played 4 Phyrexian Metamorph and up to 2 Sculpting Steels. These decks occupy the true Control end of the spectrum, whereas the Martello (Forgemaster) decks play more of a combo role. Although both Smokestack and Kuldotha Forgemaster lead to the same end goal in a somewhat similar fashion - not doing anything the turn they come into play, the means to the end is much different. Forgemaster decks play numerous targets to tutor up which answer opposing threats, rather than something which kills indiscriminately like Smokestack. Then in the aggro corner you have the Ravager Workshop decks which feature more creatures and try to play more of a tempo game in which they slow the opponent down enough that they can get in 20 damage, rather than relying on locking the opponent out from ever casting another spell as the Terra Nova, Espresso and Martello decks do (Martello does this list than Espresso or Terra Nova because you can tutor up a big creature like Sundering Titan to do this).
While this may seem like minor variations in some instances, the differences between these decks is similar to the strategic diversity that blue decks face where they may play 40-50 of the same cards, but have a different win condition, like say 4 Oath of Druids, 3 Griselbrand 3 Show and Tell, 4 Forbidden Orchard compared to 3 Snapcaster Mage 1 Tinker, 1 Blightsteel Colossus, 4 Gush and 5 other cards.
Thank you for taking the time to undertake this experiment and write this piece. Overall I greatly enjoyed this and for once don’t feel alone as a Workshop pilot who takes copious notes and tracks their results.
It felt like you slightly undersold the challenges and difficulties of running Shops. I’m not sure if that was done deliberately or if this was just a byproduct of your results which were obviously quite strong.
I enjoyed the way that you framed the Vintage Metagame with regards to 70% Blue 20% Shops 10% Dredge, but I disagree that restricting Mental Misstep solves this problem. If it’s not Mental Misstep it will be Red Elemental Blast or Spell Pierce, this problem will persist.
My take on the underlying problem is that Workshops has never actually reached the proportional Metagame percentage that it should given its power level. If the meta were 50% Blue, 40% Shops and 10% Dredge then card’s like Ancient Grudge, Dack Fayden, Hurkyl’s Recall etc would replace some of the Missteps/Pyroblasts and Workshops would thus be weakened.
I think economically something like this could only happen on Magic Online because of paper card availability in a tournament like Eternal Weekend and we would almost certainly see Mishra’s Workshop restricted before this happened, probably before the Metagame fully adjusted to this because the restrictions of Chalice, Lodestone and Thorn has by and large eliminated the strategic diversity of the Workshop archetype. This has gotten to the point where the big argument amongst Shop pilots is what you want your 7 main deck “flex slots” to be because everything is “Workshop Aggro”. The Blue decks have been homogenized, but to a much lesser degree as there are certainly more than 7 cards separating Oath, Xerox Control, Delver, Outcome, BUG etc despite all of these decks sporting Force of Will, Ancestral Recall and Time Walk. This is a long way of saying that I don’t think this problem is easy to solve and that Mental Misstep being restricted would do little to change the calculus.
After watching Vintage Super League throughout this season, Mentor has to be the #1 target, just for its mindlessness. People who know little about the format can just overpower the format (not meant to be a knock on Tiu). Preordain is the card being discussed that I most want to keep since it is the unrestricted card that most seems to matchup to that archetype's pillar (card filtering, draw, quality). I also want to keep Probe if and until the Storm archetypes prove excessive. I've lost a couple of times because of an early Probe's damage, so the card is not strictly free, and can even lead to some quality skill-intensive decisions about when to fire/keep/pay for. I think Gush is fine and Misstep, while annoying, is not oppressive. I would hope that WotC, with more resources at its disposal, analyzes the situation to see if benefits in format diversity created by an absence of Misstep would trump its lack of oppresiveness.
I think that basing the Vintage Banned and Restricted list on the results of the Vintage Super League would be a huge disservice to the rest of the format. I understand that the VSL is the main avenue in which most non-Vintage players get a glimpse at Vintage, but the premise of the League is not a representative sample of Vintage in large part because it is invite only and so small. I admittedly did not pay extremely close attention to the VSL this season, but I know that in seasons past decks like Dredge, Workshops and Eldrazi were largely underrepresented as most people were playing Blue decks. This was happening before and after Lodestone Golem and Chalice of the Void were restricted and I think is at least partially attributed to the players wanting to play the archetypes that they find the most fun and the most enjoyable for the viewers.
I apologize in advance if this theory has been stated elsewhere, I admittedly did not spend the time to read all 122 posts in the Turbo Xerox and Monastery Mentor thread, especially given the length of some of the posts.
With that out of the way, I think that Magic Online has negatively changed Vintage because of the structure of the events. I also think that "community wide discussion" has hurt the community as a whole.
My biggest complaint is that the decklists for Vintage Dailies are posted for 4-0 and 3-1 decks. While there are players who take these events as a point of pride and want to see their name and deck posted as much as possible, it cuts down on innovation. I look at a Daily as a testing session, but why would I test with my list for Vintage Champs or another big tournament in an event where my list will be posted for public consumption if I do well? Additionally, if I played something new and creative that did well then my list would be copied or metagamed against by the others in the event. This strategy is widely accepted, but in my opinion it invalidates the metagame. It's analogous to filling your maindeck with Grafdigger's Cages and Containment Priests because you're about to play in an 8 man tournament with 2 Oath and 2 Dredge decks. There's nothing wrong with this strategy of course, but analyzing this data and presenting it as useful is asinine. I wish that after the tournament you could opt whether your list would be posted or not, so people who wanted to try out new things without losing their edge could do so and those who wanted glory could get it. As it currently stands, Vintage moves faster than it ever has, but it's all micro rather than macro changes which rewards people tuning existing decks rather than designing new archetypes.
Vintage Challenges are usually 40-50 player events and reward the Top 32 players. The problem with this prize support is that it encourages people to play known commodities. If my goal is to win prize, why would I play something new and innovative rather than Mentor or Ravager Shops? I get that this is not all or even most player's goals, but when the Vintage Challenges happen every week, the prestige level is low. Mentor and Ravager Shops are powerful enough decks that if played well should at least be able to yield a 4-4 record. If you play a brew then maybe your chance of catching everyone by surprise and winning the event is higher, but your chances of going 2-6 are also much higher. From a value perspective, it makes sense to play a deck with a high floor, which feeds into the notion that we're in a two deck metagame.
This critique pertains solely to TMD and Facebook, but people need to stop complaining about Vintage being so awful. I agree with the ideas that Monastery Mentor is very good and Gush/Probe getting restricted did not do enough to slow down the Delve engine, but complaining about it just turns people off from wanting to play. The Vintage community by and large has spent significantly more effort complaining about the format and squabbling over who thought Gush getting restricted would "fix" the format than it has in trying to address the problem at hand.
If instead of focusing on whether Mentor should get restricted, the Vintage community instead worked to build a good Leovold or Paradoxical Outcome deck then Vintage would be a much better and more inviting format.
I think that the Workshop pillar has by and large lost its ability to adapt and change to the metagame. The Ravager TKS deck practically builds itself and as results have shown is obviously quite strong, but this is because it preys on Gush decks. I don't really know if Workshops could adapt to Gush getting restricted, but for better or worse the metagame has revolved around Gush Tokens decks far longer than Lodestone Golem or Chalice of the Void have been restricted.
I miss the days when I could switch between Kuldotha Forgemaster, Smokestack and Null Rod based Workshop decks depending on how the field was changing. Now the metagame has for the most part stagnated, with the major changes being people deciding between which Gush deck is best. Conspiracy has a good chance of shaking up the format as does the Banned and Restricted announcement for Kaladesh.
At a general level, the key to becoming a better player is to focus on the little things and understand whether the decisions you made were correct or not given the information you had available to you at the time. The posters before me made a lot of great points but I wanted to add a few things that didn't jump out to me from what has already been written here on the topic.
I have extracted a lot of meaningful insight by taking copious notes during serious testing sessions and tournaments so I can revisit key sequences after the fact. I write down all of my opening hands and spend a few minutes after most matches to document any specific details which might be useful down the road. I recommend adopting a similar approach and really committing to revisit your games to understand what happened.
In addition to taking notes, I encourage you to seek out players who are better than you and befriend them. This was the single most important thing that I did as a Magic player and I am supremely confident that I would not be anywhere close to the player or person that I am today without @Prospero as a mentor. Not everyone is as lucky as I was, but finding a good sparring partner is invaluable. Whether you actually play games together or just bounce ideas off of one another, it is significantly harder to succeed as a lone wolf rather than as a pack.
Finally and possibly most importantly, make sure you are having fun. As @Brass-Man said, getting better is a job after a certain point and it doesn't pay well, so make sure you are enjoying yourself. Personally, I try my absolute hardest to playtest in person with friends that I can play fun, competitive games with and only play MTGO as a last resort. If or when it stops being fun, don't hesitate to take a break. Personally, I play sparingly between November and February of each year to give myself time to unwind and recharge before diving into my preparation for the 6 or so paper events I play each year. Without this annual sabbatical I would have burned out long ago.
Knowing what your opponent is on is HUGE....in certain matches. If you are on blue and you are facing shops and know it, what are you going to do? Are you going to mulligan into your single hurkylls? Are you going to mull until you have 3 basic/fetch lands? if you do, you likely lose on mulls more than you win on luck-sacking into the perfect hand. Your best bet is to play that deck you are comfortable with, hope to make smart plays and minimize error, and win with any luck.
Now if you are on a certain deck running 1-strip/4-waste and perhaps even something like main sorcerous spyglass and KNOW your opponent is on dredge, you are damn straight mulling a good hand of 7 for a decent hand of 6 with waste/spyglass is a HUGE gain in game 1. It is the difference between a near auto-loss into a favorable g1 matchup. Even in a deck you are semi-comfortable with as opposed to a deck you've mastered, if you have ample cards against a deck that hinges on one axis and know you are facing that deck, you are much better off. The same could be said running a null rod-based deck vs PO storm. If you know that matchup is happening, you are better off mulling into the 1-of chalice or turn 1 rod off a mox than keeping a solid hand that won't win until turn 3 or stop artifacts.
If you have 3 basic land + an orchard, and an oath...you keep that vs shops. If you have that hand vs PO, you probably lose. If you have that same hand in your oath deck and also know you have FoWs and null rods, you probably mull that away instead of hoping to live to turn 3 with no answer to getting stormed out.
So, the answer to the question again is: it depends. Based on the matchup, the knowledge vs mastery can make a big difference.
People have known what I was on for the last 5+ years and that hasn’t stopped me from succeeding. I don’t disagree that it can win you matches, but mastery is more likely to win you tournaments.
Thank you for this podcast, I thought it was very pertinent, especially the analysis of the candidacy of various cards for restriction.
I felt like you touched on this, but that it's worth mentioning again that each person's perception of the B&R decisions made are shaped by their opinion of when Vintage was best and/or what they view as a healthy metagame. If someone thought that Vintage was best in 2002 and wish we could go back to the days when Workshops and Dredge were an afterthought then they might advocate something like restricting Bazaar and Workshop. Just because I don't agree that this is how Vintage should look doesn't mean that person is wrong. I also think that someone could make a claim that a metagame where Vault-Key and Blightsteel Colossus see almost no play or that changes need to occur until Bazaars as a pillar become better is not healthy.
My personal opinion of when Vintage was best is probably right before Khans came out. Just about everything was viable, or at least more viable than many of them are today. I also think that a healthy metagame is one in which one deck is not unbeatable, which I think is the case now. I do think that Mentor is overpowered as shown by the invalidation of many flavors of blue since it's printing, but I don't think it warrants restriction.
Steve, I would be interested to hear your take on @diophan 's post. I can't help but interpret the B&R announcement as meaning that MODO and proxy events (Like the 88 person Eternal Extravaganza) do not influence their decision when compared with the European Vintage Championship which last year has 98 players. WOTC almost solely paying attention to the Top 8 of 2 events a year is scary, especially when you think about it through the lens of the ebbs and flows of the metagame. Sometimes this is based off of printings or restrictions, but more often they are natural developments. Ballista was printed and Workshops surged, then Mentor adapted with Null Rods and Workshops performed worse. Next, the metagame evolved further with Mentor decks that didn't play Stony Silence succeeding. Perhaps the next step is Outcome Storm finding success because of the rise in popularity of Mentor without Stony Silence in the main.My point in saying this is that I worry that taking 2 snapshots of the metagame could lead to extrapolation that is not warranted and a banned and restricted announcement that addresses a pivotal card in a deck that just so happens to be extremely well positioned for 2 events but were answered organically for the rest of the year.
@desolutionist said in The Relative Values of Data:
Vintage was a better format when the data collection was more limited (before MTGO). There were more threads about strategy then and less threads about complaining because people had hope that they could win the next tournament if they put enough energy into it. (Still True today but people don't do it; they just go with the win percentages and call it a day)
In my opinion, the problem is not that there is more data collection, but that every time the data gets posted it seems like half of the replies are people trying to interpret the data to support their position on the format and the other half is people telling those people they are wrong to do this and should stop.
I am a firm believer in positivism and negativism being infectious.
I have gotten and repressed the urge to post more frequently on TMD in the last few months because I know that the people who disagree with me are going to speak louder than those who agree with me. I don't feel like wasting my time trying to change the minds of people who will not agree with me, may never even understand my point of view and will likely not disagree with me in a manner that leads to a productive conversation.
I've been grappling with the dichotomy between wanting to help newer players and not wanting to hurt myself as well as my brother's in arms. The past 8 years have seen me learn, grow and evolve as a Workshop pilot. I could not have gotten to the place where I am now without the help of others and so I feel an urge to spread the good word of Mishra, but I don't think posting on TMD is the best medium.
I have spent countless hours thinking about Workshops, tried some really awful ideas out and obsessively focused on my sequencing, mulligan decisions and sideboarding. The problem is that by sharing my insights I may dull the edge that I have sharpened because anyone can read what I or anyone else posts, Workshop pilot or not.
While I don't want to give up my advantage, the bigger thing to me is to not give up the competitive advantage that my friends have created, especially when I am still borrowing some of their technology. A lot of the secrets I have found are not mine to give away.
My general advice to someone getting into Workshops is:
Understand why you won and why you lost. If you're consistently losing to the same thing or things, you need to adapt.
Don't get complacent. Even if you think your deck is 75/75 perfect try to anticipate the next change and go from there.
Workshops are a hate deck. If you don't know what you're going to be fighting it's hard to make sure you have the right tools.
Pay attention to as many of the details as you can. Understand what hands are winners and what are losers, analyze the sequencing of your plays and look at how you physically respond to your opponent and try to mask your emotions. Goldfishing is great for getting down the sequencing and mulligan decisions.
Practice with people who are better than you.
Understand exactly how to sideboard for every matchup and tweak your plan based on the games you play.
Just a quick note, Montolio was 5-0-1 when he lost his final match falling to 5-1-1 and getting 9th place. This event was very strange because it was so close to being 8 rounds, so only Craig Masley and myself were able to draw into the Top8 at 5-0-1 and everyone else (5-0-1 and 5-1 had to play their final round).
I think Dredge's poor showing was mostly because the most experienced Dredge pilots in the field did poorly (Sullivan Brophy and Travis Compton). I don't know if this was because Dredge is poorly positioned or for some other reason.
Kevin, you're 100% right about my list. I took Montolio's deck from the N.Y.S.E. Open and cut 2 Witchbane Orb and 2 Relic of Progenitus from the sideboard for 2 Karakas, a 3rd Tormod's Crypt and a 3rd Dismember. As I mentioned in the tournament report I wrote, I played very little Vintage between the N.Y.S.E. Open and TMD Open 17 and felt that aside from the rise of Grixis Pyromancer that the metagame hadn't changed much if at all.
I feel obligated for whatever strange reason to give my $0.02 on the whole "State of Vintage" debate.
First though, I want to express my thanks to Matt, Ryan, and everyone else who helps put together data like this. I have been longing for data like this for far too long and put together Metagame breakdowns which paled in comparison to this back in 2010-2014. I know how much thankless work must go into this and I want everyone who helps with this to know that I appreciate the work they put in.
Vintage is a strange format in that it is an eternal format defined by the most powerful cards from the dawn of Magic which also incorporates and in some cases is shaped by the newest sets. I think for a long period of time this was not entirely the case, blocks like Kamigawa and Ravnica didn't completely change the landscape, but now it seems that every year something new comes out and completely rocks the Vintage world.
My point in saying this is that most Vintage players can point to a year and subjectively declare that, "Vintage was best in year ____". No one is wrong in saying this, maybe you loved the format in 2005, 2009, 2011, 2014 or 2016; regardless, you're not wrong for feeling that was the case. Unfortunately, Vintage is never going to be the place that it was in 2014 again before Khans came out, it doesn't matter how much you dislike what the Delve cards did to Vintage, they're not going to be un-printed. Personally, I loved the metagame immediately before Khans came out, but who really cares, Vintage is never going to be the same as it was until someone holds a "2014 Vintage Tournament".
Arguing about whether Vintage was a better format when Mana Drain is a strong card is a fool's errand. I think that trying to shape the B&R to make something like this a reality could work out really well, or it could be disastrous and given that nobody really knows what will happen if they restrict X or when something format altering is printed in 2018, it might be best if everyone stopped fighting about the B&R.
I think that Vintage is approaching a point where there are going to be people who play "Modern Vintage" and then there is going to be those who want to play "_____ Vintage" similarly to how people play 1993/94 Magic. I would probably play in an event like this, but I like being able to brew new decks and seeing how the new sets change things, so ultimately I'm going to be playing Vintage for the foreseeable future. I doubt that WOTC will do something like restrict Workshop, Bazaar or Force, but if something is viewed as oppressive I envision WOTC restricting or printing cards to prune back the plant so to speak, with the hope that they don't completely kill it.
I enjoyed listening to this, especially the thought-provoking conversation about whether Thorn or Sphere should have been restricted. Thank you very much for making it.
My take as a Workshop pilot given the way that Shop decks are built currently and for the foreseeable future is that Thorn's restriction hurt Workshops more than Sphere would have. I don't want to say more about this out of fear that I will compromise my competitive advantage, but I agree with Kevin's points from a Shops perspective.
With that said though, @Smmenen, I thought that your commentary on what this restriction means for Eldrazi as well as what it may have set the format up for is the biggest problem. Thorn was an integral part of the White Eldrazi deck as well as the recent iterations of Colorless/Tribal Eldrazi. As someone who did not play either of these decks for more than a few games, it seems like this loss is catastrophic, especially given the expected rise in Outcome.
Personally, I think that if Workshops rose to the top when the dust settles in the next six months that Sphere would be the next restriction, to further down this path of reducing the flexibility of lock pieces with which Workshops can use. I hope this isn't the case and know this isn't the ideal venue for a full fledged B&R discussion.