Give Me Back My Format… Or Why You Should Listen To Ben Bleiweiss

As I sit here in my cluttered office writing this article, I risk the wrath of the Type One community I worked to nurture. With this in mind, I’m sure plenty of you will believe my point of view to be flawed, wrong, or off-base. However as I watch the forums around the net ignite, I feel someone should say this: Ben Bleiweiss isn’t as wrong as you’d like to think.

As I sit here in my cluttered office writing this article, I risk the wrath of the Type One community I worked to nurture. With this in mind, I’m sure plenty of you will believe my point of view to be flawed, wrong, or off-base. However as I watch the forums around the net ignite, I feel someone should say this: Ben Bleiweiss isn’t as wrong as you’d like to think.

I suggested that Dark Ritual needed to be restricted in Type One.

But that’s not all!

I threw in Mishra’s Workshop for good measure.

‘Atta boy, Ben.

Ben’s usually on target or not far off, but I feel it could be elaborated on more than what was presented. Perhaps it’s because he only has a passing interest in Type One, but there was so much he could have said that he didn’t. Being the public servant to Type One that I am, I’ll elaborate for him.

First, I’ll examine Ben’s arguments. He started off by explaining how Mishra’s Workshop is broken with such cards as Trinisphere and Smokestack. I basically already said this in my last article under “Why I hate Stax.” However, one thing that Ben illustrates is how these Workshop decks abuse Tinker. I think it’s really a bad argument, since just about every other Type One deck abuses Tinker. I admire your goals Ben, but this is bringing a knife to a gun-fight. Certain people who argue for a living (and by that, I mean players who incidentally argue law all day long) will hone in on your weak argument in an attempt to discredit you instead of arguing your tougher points.

Another weak argument was mentioning how broken Tinker was in Extended. Can we learn lessons from Extended (or Standard for that matter)? Of course, but this point doesn’t belong in this debate. Extended had four Tinkers legal and a much lower bar on the power-level scale. I just don’t see it as being comparable.

His next good point was comparing both Workshop and Dark Ritual to Black Lotus and Lion’s Eye Diamond. This is fine premise for a great case to make against these two cards, but allow me to bring it to a more relevant state.

Regarding Dark Ritual, Ben said:

Let’s face it – the Ritual is what has held all of these combo decks together. It helps Worldgorger Dragon, it helps any sort of Tendrils of Agony-based storm deck, and it pushes almost any other combo-based decks over the top. It was banned in Extended for a reason – it was just a massive accelerant that put first- and second-turn kills over the top.

Nobody really plays Dragon since it catches so much splash hate from other archetypes. Secondly, it’s not really a must-include in Dragon. Seriously, fire me an email and I’ll proof-read your Vintage arguments from now on. Far too few people in the Vintage community give you the credit you deserve over crap like this. Also, you forgot to mention Black/Green-based Goblin Charbelcher decks, which is the biggest argument for its restriction and here’s why:

Why I hate Belcher

First, here’s a little information on Belcher. Kim Kluck (the first person to play Belcher to the best of my knowledge) thought it would be a fantastic idea to pack every bit of acceleration into a deck and cast Charbelcher on turn 1. Most good players won’t play it because it’s too risky. The deck epitomizes extremes in Type One. Either it goes off in your face turn 1 and generally there’s nothing you can do about it, or it’s the worst deck ever and you roll over it.

This deck alone lends some credibility to the “coinflip” misconception that has always plagued Type One. To illustrate the effect this deck has on the metagame, here’s my experience from the last tournament I attended.

Round 1 – Raymond Robillard (Iamfishman) with Belcher

Game 1: I can’t mulligan into a Force of Will, which is unlucky for me. He goes first, plays a fist full of acceleration, plays Channel, then casts a Demonic Consultation for a Goblin Charbelcher and wins.

Game 2: I keep a hand with Force of Will (but no Chalice of the Void) and get my 1 turn. I Brainstorm, in hopes that one would be in the first ten cards of my deck. No such luck. He goes first and lays a Bayou, then Duresses me and plays Lotus. Then he breaks the Lotus, casts 2 Dark Rituals, an Elvish Spirit Guide, a Sol Ring, Demonic Tutor for Yawgmoth’s Will, then does it all over again, finds a Belcher and I’m about done.

Round 3 – Someone else playing Belcher

Game 1: He drops a load of mana and attempts to play Memory Jar, which I had a Force of Will for. From then on, he plays catch up while I go on to win.

Game 2: He tries an early Wheel of Fortune, but that gets countered. Again, he’s left with a bad position with little mana and a small hand. Later, I end up with a Chalice for 1, then a Chalice for 0, then a Chalice for 3 (he Land Granted and I saw 2 Ritual, 1 Necropotence, and a Tendrils). He can’t break that lock, so I win.

For your reference, here is the list Ray won with at the tournament previous to this event.

Hadley, Ma 10/09/04 1st Place: Raymond Robillard (Iamfishman)

1 Timetwister

1 Tinker

1 Channel

1 Wheel of Fortune

1 Grim Monolith

1 Bayou

1 Taiga

1 Oxidize

1 Mox Pearl

1 Mox Jet

1 Mox Ruby

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Emerald

1 Sol Ring

1 Black Lotus

1 Lotus Petal

1 Yawgmoth’s Will

1 Vampiric Tutor

1 Time Walk

1 Demonic Consultation

4 Elvish Spirit Guide

4 Dark Ritual

4 Land Grant

4 Duress

4 Goblin Charbelcher

3 Spoils of the Vault

4 Tinder Wall

4 Goblin Welder

4 Chromatic Sphere

1 Mana Crypt

1 Mana Vault

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Memory Jar

1 Lion’s Eye Diamond


1 Mishra’s Workshop

1 Pyroclasm

1 Crop Rotation

4 Xantid Swarm

1 Mogg Fanatic

1 Naturalize

3 Oxidize

1 Arcane Lab

2 Red Elemental Blast

My round 1 opponent (Ray “best man ever” Robillard of Waterbury fame) crushed me round 1 and there wasn’t much I could do about it with any deck. He won the die-roll, so even had I been playing something with Workshop-Trinisphere I likely would have been crushed. Here are Ray’s comments regarding his first victory with this deck when asked if he had to face Trinisphere all day.

In all seriousness, Trinisphere is my ass… I did escape it all day, though did beat it in Endicott (it’s all about winning the die roll so you get TWO games that you play). There were other decks with Trinisphere there though.

My round 3 opponent would have lost had I been playing any deck with Force of Will. The deck really went to screw itself over with little input from me. I honestly could have been playing Fish, 4cControl, Tog, or any Slaver variant and had the same result. If deck-hate for Suicide Black involves resolving spells, then deck-hate for Belcher is allowing the opponent to play the game.

I hate Belcher because it adds too much of an element of randomness to the format. We have it random enough with half of the restricted list. We play Vintage because we like to win big and we like to lose big, Belcher definitely breaks those boundaries. There has always been a balance of sorts between play-skill, deck-building/metagaming, and luck. If you have any doubts, find someone who can play Belcher against you for ten games with the deck you feel hates it the most. I know you’ll find it to be, at times, the best deck ever or the worst piece of trash to cross your computer monitor.

The best solution for this is to drop the axe on Dark Ritual. Don’t keep it off for the budget people; they aren’t using it to cast Hypnotic Specter and Phyrexian Negator anymore. Mono-Black is terrible. It’s great in Tendrils-based combo, which are strong decks but nothing the format can’t handle.

Regarding Workshop, Trinisphere, and Crucible

This argument is harder to nail down than Dark Ritual because Crucible of Worlds and Trinisphere by themselves aren’t bad. When Workshop pukes out a Trinisphere, which buys a few turns and disables Force of Will, we can live with that to a point. Sure it’s broken, but usually the most damaging thing that can follow it is an Artifact Fatty (which will swing a few times off of those free turns) or a Smokestack, which is devastating but livable.

Now that we have another crippling card in Crucible, we just seemed to have broken the camel’s back. Now a Trinisphere can be followed up with a fatty or a Crucible. Now Stax can follow up a Trinisphere with Smokestack or Crucible (yeah I know Tangle Wire exists, but I am omitting it because it taps Trinisphere quite often). We basically just added up to 100% more follow up threats that really make Trinisphere worth running.

What should be done? Kill one of them. I’m not sure which one of them I’d go with, but here are my thoughts on each individual case.

Restricting Crucible

The positive: We still have Workshop Trinisphere running around to slow the format down to a more manageable pace.

The negative: We still have Workshop Trinisphere, which will still be a wrecking ball in the format.

Restricting Trinisphere

The positive: We no longer give Workshop decks more free turns than Workshop already gives them. We also remove much of the “luck-sacking” of opening hands.

The negative: We really open the door to more explosiveness in Type One. I think this will balance itself out with the restriction of Dark Ritual. Also, before Trinisphere we had Sphere of Resistance and Chalice of the Void doing their part against combo (well, combo that you actually got a turn against). Printing Trinisphere was just gratuitous.

Restricting Mishra’s Workshop

The positive: No more insane artifact craziness. Think about it this way: What happens if they print yet another Trinisphere/Crucible? If you ask me, it’s only a matter of time before this gets restricted, self-governing (due to its insane monetary cost) or not.

The negative: Workshop by itself is only marginally more insane than Bazaar of Baghdad and Mana Drain. I’ve always been on the fence about Workshop, more towards let’s-leave-it-alone side, but still on the fence nonetheless. At the risk of repeating myself, below are my additional thoughts on the restriction of Workshop.

Also, Stax is the simplest deck to just destroy people with. Workshop-Trinisphere-go doesn’t exactly require any real finesse. The deck forces a control player to hold a Force of Will and even so, the deck is certainly capable of vomiting out a Welder on the same turn. It is 22.5% of the Top 8’s right now and I firmly believe that if Mishra’s Workshop cost $25 like it did three years ago, it would be back on the restricted list.

Like Dark Ritual, Workshop-Trinisphere has the random element of great and awful. If we were to rate these Type One decks on a scale of 1-10 regarding its best and worse broken moments, here’s how I’d rate them: Belcher gets a ten for best case and a one for worse case. 5/3 gets a nine for best case (if Juggernauts took 1-2 turns to win, then I would say a 10) and two for worse case. Something that is middle-of-the-road like Control Slaver would score at best an eight for best case and a four for worst.

As I have shown, Vintage decks are always pushing the envelope of broken. That’s to be expected, of course, since our job is to be more broken than the other player. There has always been a balance of sorts between play-skill, deck-building/metagaming, and luck. With these two decks adding such an element of randomness to the format, the balance shifts heavily towards the luck side.

While my “it-adds-too-much-randomness” argument doesn’t fit the normal criteria for restriction, I can’t possibly think what good a format is where you can have 1-2 matchups out of your control. If you can’t win a matchup by correctly metagaming, playing, deck-building, or any other reason than luck, something needs changing.

Do you know what else made the format this random? Decks with 4 Black Vice (great turn 1, trash turn 3 and forward).