One of my goals for the next few months is to make a concerted effort to play more Vintage. For those of you who don’t know a ton about me outside of my CFB column, I used to be a pretty die-hard Vintage player back in the day.
In fact, my early Magic career was based around traveling to Vintage events across the country. When I qualified for my first Pro Tour, I didn’t even play Standard! How the times have changed.
I’m excited about getting back into Vintage, because there have been some serious shake-ups that will have a profound effect on the format.
Before I even get to the Banned and Restricted list debate, I’ve got to touch on the introduction of Vintage Leagues to MTGO.
One of the factors holding me back from enjoying Vintage has simply been that it is hard to find a place to play the format. The cost of entry (buying expensive reserved list cards) basically ensures that it is difficult to find players serious enough to ever form an in-person event.
No doubt there are some groups of players who keep the format alive and play in paper form. These individuals deserve mad props for keeping it real. The problem is that these weekend Vintage gatherings often conflict with other tournaments, which makes them impossible for me to regularly attend. Back in the day, every LGS had a thriving “Tuesday Night Vintage” that I could visit, but not so much anymore.
The Vintage side events for Eternal Weekend byes at Grand Prix have been a nice way to bring Vintage back into the fold. I haven’t been able to play in one of these tournaments yet, but I’ve really enjoyed rail birding Vintage games in between my rounds. It’s cool to see Magic’s oldest format being played at the gigantic magical gatherings that are Grand Prix.
But Leagues will open the format up to new players around the world, simply by making it more accessible. Weekly events did exist, but the luxury of being able to fire up and play a League at any time is a huge step forward.
I’m genuinely hoping that the Leagues are able to build momentum for Vintage. The format is sweet and really interesting to play. It’s cool that everybody will have more opportunities to experience Vintage in the coming months!
The B&R Announcement
There was also a major banned and restricted announcement this week.
Thorns of Amethyst and Monastery Mentor are Restricted in Vintage
One is the loneliest number.
Yawgmoth’s Bargain is Unrestricted in Vintage
Four can be as bad as one.
Vintage had become a two-deck metagame: Workshop versus Mentor.
Sure, there are plenty of other viable decks: Oath of Druids, Dredge, Storm, and other miscellaneous archetypes. But Shop and Mentor were the best, and everyone knew it.
In Vintage, the cards are so individually busted that any given deck can win a tournament on any given day. If I’m winning die rolls and drawing Forbidden Orchard, Mox, and Oath a lot, I’m going to win a lot regardless of what the best performing decks in the metagame are.
Overall this is a strength of the format, diversity always has a shot based upon the individual power level of the cards.
But with that said, Mentor and Shops have the data to show they are the most popular and best performing decks in Vintage. While you can play whatever you want and hope to run hot, the data supports that choosing Workshop or Mentor gives you a better chance to string a few wins together.
Let’s start with Mentor:
Before there was Mox Monkey, now there is only Mox Monk.
I like the move to restrict Monastery Mentor. As it stands, Monastery Mentor is just a combo with Vintage cards in some abstract general sense.
The power is yours.
Moxen are artifact mana sources that are built into every mana base. It’s a Vintage thing. The problem is that Monastery Mentor turns these already broken cards into yet another way to generate advantage.
Before I even get to the part where these decks are also full of cheap cantrips, the basic rules of Vintage conspire to make the card amazing.
I like the restriction of the card because it forces blue decks to diversify and do something other than stick a Mentor and cast a few spells to win a game. Before the restriction, it was too easy to consistently win with Mentor and I’m excited to see how blue decks branch out as they search for new victory conditions to replace the copies of Mentor they’ve lost.
I believe the restriction of Monastery Mentor was almost a foregone conclusion and I’m glad that Wizards decided to make this happen. A+
A Thorn in my side every time I play blue…
I understand what Wizards of the Coast is trying to do here, but I don’t like it.
This is now the fourth card restricted in order to make the world safe for Mishra’s Workshop.
I’m too rich to go to jail.
Mishra’s Workshop probably should have been restricted years ago. It’s a dominant strategy in Vintage (always one of the two best decks) and it is an unbelievably powerful card. It also only gets better every time a good artifact is printed, which happens regularly.
Who needs to walker the planes when you can just hang out at Mishra’s Workshop all day?
I don’t understand exactly what the point of the restricted list is outside of making a format fun and enjoyable for the people who play it. Is Mishra’s Workshop fun? I think it’s fun to play because it’s a broken card.
Mishra’s Workshop in the opening hand from these decks is arguably the best card that any deck in the format can have. The only comparable card would be Bazaar of Baghdad in a Dredge hand. Having the card makes a hand multiple times faster and more powerful than a hand that doesn’t.
I’ve been writing a lot about things not being right or wrong but rather choices with upside and risks. The biggest reason why I’ve learned to ignore the fact that Mishra’s Workshop continues to dominate Vintage is associated with the cost of restricting it.
A Workshop restriction would have sweeping effects on Vintage. It would take an archetype that has existed for over a decade and immediately make it obsolete. The other problem is that Mishra’s Workshop sells for $1,000.00 in paper form. Restricting the card would make people who have invested in owning and learning to play with the card extremely upset.
If it were restricted, people would be furious. The cost of restriction is high for Wizards. I understand why it hasn’t been restricted and I’ll leave it at that.
I’m not sure why Thorn of Amethyst was the choice, but it was. It’s a fine card and restricting it diminishes the redundancy of 2-drop “Sphere” effects, which does decrease the power level of the deck somewhat.
With that being said, I’m not even really sure why Thorn is the card to hit. It’s almost the same card as Sphere of Resistance. So, Sphere is OK but Thorn isn’t?
If anything, I’d compare this restriction to when the DCI kept banning random cards to make Necropotence “balanced” in Standard and Extended. Necropotence was clearly the problem, but other factors lead the DCI to believe that balancing Necropotence (Workshop) with the other strategies in the format has upside as opposed to just removing the archetype altogether.
I’ll set the over/under at seven.
Let’s go with seven. Seven is the number of arbitrary artifacts that will need to be shelved before Wizards finally just gives up and restricts Mishra’s Workshop. Would you take the over or the under?
Maybe they’ve finally found a way to balance Mishra’s Workshop (doubt it). Only time will tell, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the format shapes up at Eternal Weekend and in the Leagues.
I understand why Mishra’s Workshop wasn’t restricted, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Restricting something was wise. The choice of Thorn seems logical enough that I believe they put thought into it, but random enough that it feels silly.
Are We Getting More Than We Bargained For?
I ripped that line off a Facebook quote by Justin Droba. If you remember him from Vintage back in the day, it’s pretty safe to say that he’s excited about this wild unrestriction.
A fixed Necropotence.
Yawgmoth’s Bargain hasn’t really been relevant in some time. It’s kind of a niche bomb that Storm decks sometimes play.
The question is: Does the value of this card improve dramatically when a deck has access to 4 copies?
I have no idea, but I’m glad that we’ve been given the opportunity to explore the premise!
We’ve seen some new storm cards lately and I wonder how that will play into the Bargain unrestrction. Are the other options like Outcome better, or do options like Outcome play right into a Bargain player’s hand?
I like opening things up here and giving players new things to explore. Giving something back takes away some of the sting of taking the other toys away.
My impression is that 4 Bargains probably enables a tier 2 deck. Oathing into Griselbrand seems easier than trying to make Bargain work. I cannot deny that Bargain offers upsides that the Demon can’t. I’m interested to see if people are actually able to break Bargain.
Yawgmoth’s Bargain feels relatively safe to unrestrict. If they missed something, it can be restricted again. Heaven knows they did it enough times with Gush… welcome back, Bargain.
Winners and Losers of Vintage
- Mishra’s Workshop – You may have fooled them but you’ll never fool me.
- Storm – 3 fewer Spheres in Shops? Seems like a Bargain for this deck…
- Time Vault – Blue decks have to win somehow now, right?
- People who want to play Vintage – Leagues will create more matches for people who want to cast Black Lotus.
- Kobolds – Thorn was the one card Kobolds could beat.
- Turbo Xerox decks – Winning used to be easy and straightforward. Play the Monk and the game ends. Expect blue decks to diversify, which is fun for Vintage.
I’m pretty stoked to dive into the new format. It’s an exciting time to be a Vintage fan and it seems like a good time to rejoin the party if you’ve been out of the loop for a while. Overall, I think these changes will be positive for the format. I’m sure Eternal Weekend will be a thrill ride to watch the new format unfold!