Brian on Brian
Although today’s column is supposed to discuss Randy Buehler much-awaited Type I column, I have to take a moment to commend Brian David-Marshall from last Wednesday,”Three Takes on Type I.”
Without taking up the strategy content woven in, this is probably one of the most memorable Type I articles ever written, and few other pieces remind you why you enjoy playing this lower-profile format so much. Brian’s store owner perspective might be the secret dash of uniqueness here, and he even manages to describe the proxy issue in a way that’s touching to players of all opinions. Finally, we haven’t heard a lot out of Neutral Ground lately, but the features on the today’s most famous active Keeper player, Mikey Pustilnik, and New York Type I’s young gun Steve Sadin are very well accepted, considering we had a number of very vocal Keeper players from that area back in Beyond Dominia days.
Incidentally, Brian David-Marshall wrote:
“For those of you unfamiliar with Brian Weissman, he was one of the first players to have a deck that he put forth become a”net deck”. He built a blue-white-red control deck that became known simply as The Deck that became the talk of the usenet groups. It is probably the progenitor of the modern four color-control decks, which is the deck Brian plays in Type 1 today. He is considered by many to be the most skilled Type 1 player in the world. He almost never makes changes to his deck and at the time he was playing with Mikey P had not changed his deck in many years-not a single card.”
Brian Weissman e-mailed to clarify:
“One thing that’s a bit wrong about the recount of my match with Pustilnik is the claim that ‘and at the time he was playing with Mikey P (he) had not changed his deck in many years-not a single card.’ Last time I checked, Polluted Delta and Cunning Wish were made within the last few years, not that it’s really that important 😛 I also told Mike that I was impressed by Brainstorm and that I would definitely give them a try, but I still haven’t ‘added them to my deck’.”
As detailed in”Rector, Cunning Wish and Intuition to be Restricted?“, Brian met Mikey P at US Nationals and Brian edged out with a 3-2 record. Brian’s decklist is always of interest to Type I fans, and I’ll try to post his January 2004 build in a future column. Right now, I’m still hoping to sell him on Isochron Scepter and friends, in addition to those Brainstorms.
CAN Randy Buehler Play Type I?
Randy’s column ends Wizards’ Type I week, and this particular article has been eagerly awaited for two weeks. I hope you appreciate why.
Since 1999, the Type I restricted list has changed almost every year, often with format-altering effects. The big problem, however, is that no one ever bothered to explain each change beyond a couple of terse sentences on the DCI website.
This is extremely important because we have to admit that Type I has a far less structured, less publicized and smaller tournament circuit, and the reasons are just not as obvious when you can’t just point to a Type I Pro Tour and how a certain deck made up over 50% of the field. Lacking both a detailed explanation and a large pool of tournament results, collector and player alike has trouble figuring out what the rules really are.
That, however, changed today with Randy’s column.
Before anything else, you have to give him credit. I criticized – too violently, some said – Mark Rosewater column because it was just a cut-and-paste of an old column and was certainly unflattering, sounded patronizing in a number of areas, asked for Type I articles on topics that had already been debated to death on Star City and TheManaDrain, and focused on what they wouldn’t do without saying much about what they would.
Forget all that.
Not only does Randy connect with Type I readers, his opening story about the case of Arabian Nights is very much in the same spirit as Brian David-Marshall collection of anecdotes – I don’t think anyone else has more powerfully written that to be part of Type I and Magic in general is to be part of a very special ten-year story that still hasn’t ended.
Giving a nod to both the style and the substance, I certainly hope Randy will make this column a quarterly habit.
A peek into DCI’s decisions
The reasons Randy cited for each card have already been taken up in various Star City articles. Beyond the individual reasons, however, I’d like to think Randy has given us enough raw data to extrapolate the rules DCI is playing by.
From what I see, DCI is giving more weight to the practical as opposed to the theoretical approach. That is, no matter how compelling an argument against a particular card is, it won’t be restricted until they see the most compelling evidence of degeneracy. This sounds like tournament results from various more credible locations reported by fans, but the most degenerate cases might get the ax from a simple playtest. Some players complained that tourney results from the United States and Europe simply don’t bear out the alleged dominance of Burning Desire. However, when Randy says their goldfish won on Turn 1 60% of the time, I think fellow Paragon Steve Menendian is very much vindicated.
Thus, from now on, whenever you feel that a certain card is skewing the environment, you should focus on analyzing Top 8 finishes over the last three months and compile representative turn-by-turn records of various matchups. In the extreme cases where you’re arguing against a degenerate combo deck, also try to quantify how often it wins on which turns, and point out how little this is slowed by an opponent’s disruption.
Randy, however, didn’t set aside the theoretical arguments, and admittedly, tournament data isn’t as readily available as we’d like. He also discussed cards that faced very compelling theoretical arguments such as Mishra’s Workshop and Bazaar of Baghdad, but noted there just wasn’t enough evidence to justify a restriction, but they’d keep an eye out. Thus, your theories are still good enough to justify a”Watch List” status, and they still bolster any evidence you present (but evidence and theory to explain it is still better).
You saw the theoretical discussion with Chalice of the Void, since by its nature, I doubt you’ll ever find evidence to show that a”Chalice deck” has dominated the environment. Rather, Randy was left to weigh whether or not it unduly narrowed the decks you could build, and even explicitly mentioned budget decks.
He ended,”We concluded that Chalice is clearly relevant to what’s going on in Type 1 right now, but it doesn’t sound like anyone has really worked out exactly what that impact is.” This is probably a satisfactory resolution, and the issue may well be moot since the restriction of Lion’s Eye Diamond makes Chalice a lower priority for a lot of decks.”The Deck”, for example, would now value Isochron Scepter higher, and having both artifacts can be a headache.
The”Watch List” treatment is a wonderful compromise. It’s an acknowledgement that there are cards that are inherently broken even by Type I standards but not restricted. Instead of proactively restricting these, however, they’ll let the hammer fall if and when degeneracy is proven by evidence. The big exception Randy explicitly gave was fast mana, in this case exemplified by Chrome Mox, where the theoreticals were deemed more than enough.
Finally, seeing how Randy’s discussion mirrors a lot of past online discussion, I’d also recommend that you send a copy of any serious restriction proposal to Star City and let us read it at the same time DCI does.
All in all, this is a very wonderful compromise players of all opinions can accept. Let’s hope DCI’s restriction thinking remains consistent so we can follow it easily in the years to come.
The discussion was excellent, but I’d nevertheless like to pose some more questions to Randy, to get the most out of this exercise. Like I said, the pros and cons of the things he discussed were already taken up on this site, but there are some other things he didn’t discuss that I’m curious about.
Advance restriction announcements
First and foremost, if even the most rudimentary tempo argument makes Chrome Mox such an obvious candidate for restriction, when did you first consider restricting it?
Chrome Mox was marked as a sure restriction target even before the Prerelease, but Type I players suddenly nursed a few doubts when it was allowed to become legal without any word. It’s possible some strictly Type I players went out and competed with Type II players in the market to buy up a set of the new Moxen, and this belated restriction may have burned them.
The question for the future is, what might your policy be regarding these sure-restriction cases? Won’t you consider an advance announcement to make everything clear?
Incidentally, Randy’s exact words were,”You should expect us to continue to print fast mana cards with interesting drawbacks (like Chrome Mox) when we think they will be interesting cards in Standard, Extended, and/or casual play; but you should also expect us to immediately restrict them in Type 1.”
Any more exceptions to this new”evidence” rule of thumb?
Again, the general rule seems to be”restrict only when there’s real evidence, unless you’re talking about fast mana.”
As an aside, I’m sure some people will point out that Mishra’s Workshop is very fast mana. The counter-argument is, of course, that it can only be used to cast artifacts and doesn’t lend itself as readily to combo decks. (Though, I wonder if you can consider some of these artifact decks pseudo-combo decks, and the grapevine tells me Type I Mindslaver is being tested.)
Anyway, I wonder if you might have other exceptions along the lines of this fast mana exception. The best parallel is extremely undercosted cards. Now, I felt Spoils of the Vault was a strong restriction candidate, for precisely the reasons Randy discussed. Simply, if you can set up a combo for one mana, one card and nineteen life, then Type I is the format where that deal is readily abusable.
True, with the restriction of Burning Wish, no non-mana card warrants the use of a tutor like Spoils in Burning Desire. However, it’s not hard to imagine that there are other unrestricted combo pieces (even in yet unprinted expansions) that justify Spoils. At present, the most prominent is Illusionary Mask, as ably discussed by Steve Menendian in his Spoils Mask article. It’s a deck categorized under aggro-control, but everyone knows it’s really a combo deck in Suicide Black clothing (and note the new emphasis on Unmask that came with the addition of Spoils).
Ever consider Dark Ritual?
I’m very glad that Randy covered not only the three cards that were restricted, but also the cards considered players likely to be. This makes the cards he didn’t discuss even more important. For example, you can take a hint from the absence of Illusionary Mask and Academy Rector, and the blue-haters out there will be reminded that Mana Drain wasn’t in the conversation, either.
I thought, however, that Dark Ritual should have been in that discussion, considering Lion’s Eye Diamond wasn’t the only key unrestricted mana accelerator in Burning Desire. I still think that Burning Wish was restricted mainly because LED and Ritual allowed Yawgmoth’s Will to be used as an early, overwhelming mana boost, and Ritual has been in combo decks for years. (Burning Wish control decks had Mind Twist and Balance in their sideboards, but they hardly raised an eyebrow.)
Restricting Dark Ritual, of course, has many other implications, namely that Suicide Black players will think the DCI got hit by a bus. Thus, I’d love to hear Randy’s thoughts on this card. (Randy also mentioned they talked about a few others to a lesser extent, and I’m curious what this short list was.)
How much evidence exactly?
Finally, I’d like to ask exactly how much evidence will be needed to get a card seriously considered for restriction, considering he slapped mental notes on a good number of them.
I’m sure we get the picture and something will happen, obviously, if a particular deck dominates the Dülmen Top 8 for three straight months. However, I ask the seemingly obvious question because I think the availability of evidence may differ for certain cards. For example, you didn’t have to look far for evidence regarding Fact or Fiction and Gush in Growing ‘Tog, since the decks in question were so easily built. However, Mishra’s Workshop and Bazaar of Baghdad may be different stories (possibly Spoils as well, if Illusionary Mask is indeed its current best friend).
I just noted that despite the compelling theoretical evidence and Steve Menendian’s very detailed playtest records, I saw a thread on The Mana Drain where some regulars opined Burning Desire’s dominance had not been borne out by evidence.
Corollary to this, I’d also like to ask Randy if there are particular tourney circuits or websites that R&D particularly pays attention to, like maybe Germany’s Dülmen.
Randy’s explanation of restriction list changes was something Type I has sorely needed over the last five years, and I have to say it made up for the wait. Not only did it give us clear and solid substance, the packaging convinces you that the internal discussion was done with a sincere appreciate for Type I. And again, the opening nostalgic discussion put a whole new, far more positive spin on the old-timer stereotype.
Hopefully we’ll see more of this discussion, even integrated into design articles along with Extended, Standard and Limited design notes. Hopefully, too, this article sets the tone for future Type I articles, and it’s really one of those little things I think the community appreciates very much-but comes at very, very little cost to Wizards. Hopefully, we’ll see this brand of transparency on the designers’ ends, if they choose to design more Type I-oriented cards for future sets.
Finally, the article also concretizes that Wizards listens to Type I players in general and Internet writers in particular, and a good chunk of the column was an implicit pat on the back for Steve Menendian.
Till next week, and thanks for the Christmas present, Randy!
Oscar Tan (e-mail: Rakso at StarCityGames.com)
rakso on #BDChat on EFNet
Paragon of Vintage
University of the Philippines, College of Law
Forum Administrator, Star City Games
Featured Writer, Star City Games
Author of the Control Player’s Bible
Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (R.I.P.)
Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance