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Who Killed Lodestone Golem?

Goodbye Lodestone G, Though we never knew you at all
You had the Metamorph to clone yourself while your opponent’s mana stalled…

A little taste of the Elton John Lodestone Tribute song that Roland Chang is undoubtedly commissioning in light of the April B&R announcement.

Vintage: Lodestone Golem is Restricted

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Well, it finally happened—the Golem got the axe.

Love it or hate it, it’s happening.

Personally, I’ve been on the side of wanting a Lodestone Golem restriction for years. You can look back at B&R articles I wrote 3+ years ago and I sang the same song every time: “Lodestone Golem in Shops is oppressive to Vintage.”

The Pre-Announcement Drama in Vintage

The week before the announcement, there was serious drama going on in the Vintage community.

I wasn’t sure what was going on at first. My Twitter and Facebook were packed with comments from players begging and pleading that Wizards not ruin Vintage. The vibe in the air felt like WotC must have made a public statement announcing they were shutting Vintage down for good!

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It turns out the cause for concern was actually that some of the Vintage Super League participants had made posts on social media lobbying for something to be done about Workshop.

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I agree with these Tom and Sam that Mishra’s Workshop decks have been a problem in Vintage for the past 3 years but long abandoned the idea of restricting the card Mishra’s Workshop for the same reason that I’ve given up bothering to have a serious conversation about banning Brainstorm in Legacy:

Are these ridiculously powerful and better than the majority of the cards on their respective Banned and Restricted Lists? 100% absolutely true.

Will they ever be banned or restricted? 0% chance, because that is not what the vast majority of the people who play these formats want to happen.

I also strongly disagree that the presence of Mishra’s Workshop is the limiting factor for people playing Vintage. The biggest significant factors for the size of Vintage are easily lack of paper tournament support and the steep cost and scarcity of Reserve List cards.

Leggo my Mishra’s Workshops.

Workshop is a polarizing card because it is so darn powerful that you either play with it or you play against it. There is very little middle ground.

I also agree with Sam Black and Tom Martell on an important fact implicit to their discussion: As a card, Mishra’s Workshop is much more powerful than most of the cards currently on the list. The same can also be said about Bazaar of Baghdad. If the criteria for Restriction were based completely on weeding out cards with overall high power level, Bazaar and Shop would be 100% restricted in Vintage.

The difference between drawing a Workshop or a Bazaar in an opening hand and not is the difference between great and terrible, dogs and cats, winning and losing, etc.

The problem with restricting flagship cards from these linear decks is that by doing so, the DCI likely risks killing these strategies outright. Are Artifact decks and graveyard decks even playable when limited to 1 copy of their best land? Technically? Remember that these decks need to compete with blue decks so they need to be at least close to being that good.

It takes a mighty villain to compete with Superman.

Part of the cost of playing with Shop or Bazaar is that it becomes difficult to play with the other “best and broken” restricted cards, particularly cards with colored mana symbols as part of their cost. If you take away the Shops and Bazaars from Vintage, you are left with 50 shades of blue decks.

When There is No Workshop, There is Only Zuul

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Versatility is important for the health of any format and a powerful Workshop and Dredge help create diversity and keep Vintage fresh and changing. But it is important that no decks are oppressive for too long.

The VSL and Vintage

The influence of the Super League is fascinating because people seemed genuinely worried that a major shake-up was coming simply because the cast of a Magic Online TV show were complaining about the format.

It says a lot about how much influence individuals in high visibility positions have. Obviously, only the loudest voices get heard on the internet, but it seems silly to assume that the whim of a handful of pros on an unsanctioned Vintage steam have the power to cause change in a format played by thousands the world over.

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Well, alrighty then.

Do you know what really grinds my gears?

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It has been obvious to me that the Lodestone Golem printing has changed, and created problems in, Vintage for years now. Workshop became and remained the “best deck” or one of the two “best decks” for the better part of the past 3 years and the DCI did nothing and allowed Shops to continue to warp and distort the format. The prior B&R was the first time the DCI acknowledged there was a problem and attempted to take a stab at fixing The Workshop Issue.

The DCI decided to restrict Chalice of the Void instead of Lodestone Golem. Not what I would have done, but to their credit, they finally abandoned their do-nothing stance for a progressive do-something position.

The restriction of Chalice of the Void had much of the desired effect that the DCI had hoped for. Workshops (while still very good) took a step backward and in paper tournaments, Storm and Mentor decks rose.

Do nothing for years, restrict Chalice of the Void, see results trending in the right direction, and decide to restrict yet another card from Workshops. Why?

The only thing different from this restriction announcement was the loud commentary being made by some of the VSL about how much they dislike Mishra’s Workshop decks. Is it possible the complaining of the VSL played a significant role in the the restriction of Lodestone Golem? Well, if not, then what else was different this time around from the other 15 times when Lodestone Golem wasn’t restricted?

Oh yeah, and now that Lodestone Golem (the best spell in the best deck against Gush-based strategies) has been restricted and Workshops is severely weakened, I’m sure that Gush will be a perfectly reasonable spell to exist in Vintage. In my estimation and observation, Gush Mentor was already trending to replace Workshop as the default best deck in the format before Lodestone was restricted and now it feels like a foregone conclusion that various blue decks will dominate.

Also, it is worth noting that most of the large, high-profile Vintage events over the past 2 years have actually been won by Oath of Druids decks. It turns out that paying 2 mana for Griselbrand is quite good.

It is worth noting that the Salvagers combo can’t be realistically executed online but is a popular and real option in paper Vintage. It is also a risky cost of listening to and basing restriction decisions primarily from Magic Online data and not paper Vintage results.

Ultimately, I think Lodestone Golem needed to be restricted in Vintage. It was the card that changed Workshops from being very good in Vintage to being oppressive for an extended period of time. I would have liked to play Vintage with only Lodestone Golem restricted (and not Chalice) to see if that ultimately created a better Vintage format. Taking away both from Workshop players seems risky in weakening the archetype to the point where it becomes irrelevant and thus, the format becomes significantly less diverse for a period. It also opens up the opportunity for Gush, Oath, and Rituals to create an all-blue format with nothing to hold them back.

I think this pretty much sums it up:

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So I was thinking of joining the Mentor/Storm Daily tonight. Who’s with me?

I’m hoping the VSL complains about Gush next. Third time’s a charm!

Discussion

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