One of the most rewarding experiences in any tournament is the feel of having outplayed your opponent. Superior decision making is where the skill element comes in to play in any game, and in any good system it’s well rewarded.
Vintage, known as one of the swingiest formats in the world of Magic, penalizes a lack of skill like no other. A poor decision can leave you wide open to a topdecked Yawgmoth’s Will, completely ending the game even if you thought you were ahead. Some of the best examples involve a control player against a combo player. Games are won and lost dependant entirely on whether or not a Dark Ritual gets countered, because that mana might turn in to both a Duress and a bomb that turn.
The restricted list is designed to keep the format as skill intensive as possible, by keeping mindless “I win” cards from polluting the format. Cards like Gush and Burning Wish could make your opponent’s entire game plan irrelevant, because you could win before they got a chance to make any decisions, or just simply overpower them, putting them in a position that no amount of correct decision making could make them succeed.
The hot topic right now in Vintage is the upcoming December restriction announcement. There’s blood boiling on both sides of the issues, and as players it’s our responsibility to tell the DCI exactly what the format needs to remove in order to make skill as important as possible.
One of the things I can not stress heavily enough: to keep Vintage as Vintage and not some version of powered Legacy, there are three cards I feel cannot be restricted. Those three are Dark Ritual, Mishra’s Workshop, and Mana Drain. Each of the three has their pros (obviously, as any card worth its weight in salt needs to be extremely powerful to be worth running in this format) and their cons, but they are the format. To remove these would be to make a new format, which is a format most players do not really want. As such, the restricted list needs to keep the supporting cards of these three in check.
This card is the number one problem in Vintage right now. Any first turn Trinisphere spells game over, unless it’s followed up with absolutely nothing. It requires no skill whatsoever, and greatly reduces the integrity of the format. It’s easy to say losing Mishra’s Workshop would keep this problem in check, but besides what I already said about keeping the format intact, it’s also a fairly simple thing to ignore by running Ancient Tomb in the place of the other three Workshops. Shannon O’Meara, better known to some as MuzzonoAmi, even reported an increase of consistency after testing a Workshop deck with Ancient Tombs in their place. The reason for this would be a much simpler time casting spells like Thirst for Knowledge, as well as being able to cast Goblin Welder much easier under their own Trinisphere.
Back on topic, this card is an insult to skill in Vintage, and should be restricted.
Crucible of Worlds
The argument over this card is what lit the fuse on the powder keg, and drove a massive conflict between TheManaDrain personalities Richard Mattiuzo (Shock Wave) and Stephen Menendian (Smmenen). Once again, the central focus of the argument was that Crucible of Worlds was a card that required very little skill to earn a win with, and as such deserved restriction. Though this is true now, the removal of Trinisphere from the format makes the Crucible much less threatening. Nearly any archetype can run multiple basic lands to thwart Wasteland recursion, and the non-Trinisphere packing decks usually only have one as it is.
The exception to the above is a mysterious unposted list piloted by Mattiuzo at GenCon and several Canadian tournaments. Despite several wins and top eights, nobody has posted it anywhere. This seems extraordinarily silly, seeing as a broken list that performs so highly should easily sway people to his side of the argument. I’ve been requested to not publish it, which I will honor, but I will say having seen it, my decision remains.
Verdict: LEAVE UNRESTRICTED
Stroke of Genius
This is a fairly simple call for almost everybody in Vintage. This card is almost the same as Braingeyser, and is just as worthless in high level play. Skeletal Scrying is superior in many ways, and the decks that want to run Scrying can’t afford to run four in many cases.
Another seemingly harmless card. No arguments have been made to keep this card restricted, because there aren’t really any good ones. The best use proposed by Voltaic Key thus far has been to use Metalworker again, which can generate a fairly ridiculous amount of mana. The question is, why would you use Key for that, when an active Metalworker in conjunction with Staff of Domination simply wins the game?
Mind Over Matter
Originally convinced this card’s mana cost was not too prohibitive to be abused as a four of, I investigated further and came to the conclusion nearly everyone else in the community has. Mind Over Matter is costed far too highly to be abusive, since six mana (especially with four of it being color specific) is far too difficult to attain before format staples like Mana Drain are online. In addition, unlike an abusive card like Yawgmoth’s Bargain, this card requires a little help to win the game. Lastly, attaining four Blue is much, much more difficult than attaining, say, four Black, due to the lack of a Blue Ritual.
A very powerful effect for a card much easier to cast than Mind Over Matter. However, unlike Mind Over Matter, Dream Halls does not have the potential to win the game immediately, and requires limiting the deck to work with as few colors as possible. Creating a Dream Halls deck competitive today would be very difficult since the Dream Halls style support cards are so horrible on their own. A Dream Halls deck would not kill reliably in the early turns, and would require a fair bit of setting up, leaving many opportunities to disrupt it before it even got Dream Halls in to play.
Italian TPS, as I mentioned, is about as close as you can get to old-school Academy combo. As an already powerful contender that considers its one Time Spiral as one of its most potent cards, allowing it several more seems to be a poor plan. As expensive as it is, it’s still very dangerous, and much less terrible than Diminishing Returns when a deck is designed to abuse it the way that TPS does.
Verdict: LEAVE RESTRICTED
[author name="Stephen Menendian"]Stephen Menendian’s[/author] recent article lays out an argument for unrestricting Mind Twist. His support is that it’s currently seeing very little play, and there are no obvious “Mind Twist decks” to be made.
Unrestricting this card would be absolute insanity. Pointing again to the fact that the format should be skill intensive, even restricted Mind Twist wins games completely randomly all by itself. The argument that no optimal deck can be built with four doesn’t hold water, simply because an optimal deck assumes an optimal player. There are plenty of suboptimal players that will win games that they have no business winning because they run four Mind Twist.
Steve O'Connell, owner and administrator of TheManaDrain.com, has stated unrestricted Mind Twist would be as bad as unrestricted Trinisphere is now. I agree.
Verdict: LEAVE RESTRICTED
Stephen Menendian third place result at StarCityGames.com Chicago demonstrates that his deck does in fact deliver, despite having published it well beforehand and essentially allowing everyone to take it apart and play with it before he did. I originally wasn’t going to cover this, but having read Ben Bleiweiss‘ piece on restrictions, I felt the need to. Stephen explained that his deck was “nigh unbeatable” mostly because his “kill condition” in Doomsday could fetch the card to answer the threat on the table before winning.
There are a couple things that still do a good job of killing the deck however. For starters, it’s safe to assume that it’s rare the turn Doomsday is cast that the game ends. Most of the time, the initial wave of disruption is enough to clear the way to keep the Doomsday stack safe. But just how many things still beat the deck? There’s the usual counter wall that stops any combo deck from executing their game plan immediately, but there are several others.
Essentially anything played after the Doomsday resolves keeps the deck from being able to succeed. Some highly played cards, such as Wheel of Fortune, Windfall, Memory Jar, Ancestral Recall, or even Deep Analysis can outright win the game by themselves, but things like Chalice of the Void, Trinisphere, or a new counter can ruin the stack as well. When playing against Doomsday, be aware of what your bombs are, and try to sit on them until the Doomsday is cast.
Generally, if you know the list fairly well, you can look at the removed from game pile and figure out exactly what they’re planning on doing to form the most educated decision.
Verdict: LEAVE UNRESTRICTED
This wouldn’t be a restriction article without something highly controversial to close. This is the best you people are going to get from me.
Though I’m not a fan of Stephen’s argument that Mind Twist sees little play, I would still propose we look at Mox Diamond. Though there was a lot of surprise when Chrome Mox got restricted last year, it was shown to be a good move. Nearly every combo deck at the moment can abuse Chrome Mox, and allowing four would be very dangerous.
How many combo decks can truly abuse Mox Diamond? There are four major offenders that could conceivably run it.
TPS: Most TPS builds won’t even run one Diamond, simply because it doesn’t seek to obliterate the opponent turn one, and would much rather sit on bombs until it can comfortably force the win on turn three. Allowing four diamonds wouldn’t change this list at all.
DeathLong: With a manabase of 13 lands, finding the fuel for Mox Diamond would be extremely difficult. Many builds run the one, but there’s no way people would find room for more than that. In many cases, even Elvish Spirit Guide is better, which isn’t run as a four-of anyway.
Doomsday: Like TPS, this would usually rather sit on its cards and wait until it can Doomsday safely. The more highly recognized (and probably superior) build doesn’t even run the one Diamond.
Draw Seven: A combo deck created months ago by Stephen Menendian was his best argument against this card’s unrestriction. According to him, allowing reliable first turn double Blue is too dangerous as it allows one to fully take advantage of four Diminishing Returns. However, this would require a few things to keep the deck flowing well. For starters, it would need an enlarged land base, in order to make certain that if the Diamond were in the opening hand, one could still plant it and a land. With this enlarged base, seeing multiple diamonds won’t immediately end your game. However, the deck itself is still very impotent in comparison to its brethren. Without the speed of Deathlong, the resiliency of TPS, or the consistency of Doomsday, it’s just another suboptimal combo deck.
Could it create a new deck? Possibly. Would it be degenerate? Certainly not. The only archetype Mox Diamond is truly worth running in outside of Draw Seven is Raphael Caron’s Parfait, a mono-White (or occasionally splashing Black or Red) control deck, which is often laughed at and used in comparisons to determine terrible decks. While I don’t really believe Parfait is that terrible, I don’t see it becoming good enough to be playable even with four Diamonds. Even if it climbed the threshold to worth playing once again, it would be a welcome addition to the metagame as a (still) fairly underpowered deck.
As this article is heavily based on my opinion, I obviously can’t tell you much of the above is fact. All I can do is give you the opportunity to think about what I’ve said, and base judgment on that. Remember, the best way Wizards can determine what does and what doesn’t get restricted is by listening to us. Agree with me or not, I hope all you guys speak your piece. This is our format, and it will be what we want it to be, but only if you speak loud enough for them to hear.
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