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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Lodestone Golem/Mishra's Workshop/Gush restriction?

Note that I'm not a professional player, I do not have a Vintage Champs title nor anything of that sort. I also wasn't aware of what was going on in the world so the notion of Tier 1 decks or archetypes etc was not known to me till Lorwyn came out (when I was forced to accept the fact that I'm probably the only person not knowing anything about Magic's pro scene).

For some time since someone during the VSL said something about 'Lodestone Golem' and 'restriction' I read very strange posts online. From my first sentence you can probably see that I do not watch Vintage Super League. I tried watching few episodes and I have to say that this would never make me want to play Vintage. What happens in the games and what decks are being played is totally strange to me. And the commentary from some of the players does not really make much sense to me no matter how professional and good those players are. I don't find it entertaining either. But obviously VSL for some players is something awesome and they take seriously what is being said or discussed and it is discussed on twitch, boards and Magic Online. After a chat we had with my opponent from round 7 of the P9C I felt the urge to write something about this matter myself.

I was personally in shock when I found out that people are really seriously considering the restriction and that many people actually hate Shops (Workshop/Golem). I find it rather outrageous especially after what happened at Pro Tour Rise of the Eldrazi eeer Oath of the Gatewatch. Do you guys really want another restriction so soon? Do you understand what restricting one of these cards could possibly mean? Because a different deck will take Shops place (most probably a Gush deck). The metagame will shift. The balance of the format will be lost and this can lead to a very unhealthy format.

Since like forever I always played against some kind of Prison decks. In my vicinity there were always players that liked this kind of deck so I had to face it if I wanted to play a game with Vintage restrictions. I was playing usually blue based control and it did not usually end well unless I incorporated some kind of combo finish in my deck so with time I ended up playing UB. Maybe that is why I always tend to play any kind of deck with a combo finish (yeah, says a player who just placed 10th at Power Nine Challenge with a Delver deck^_^). Since I wasn't really playing other decks at that time (I was happy with my control deck) I could not really see how others react to playing against Prison deck. My control deck deck was hated by most and those that weren't looking at me with hate were usually Prison players. I knew one thing - Prison was a problem for me, a serious one. On the other hand I did not really have such a hard time against other decks that I was encountering at that time.

For me there were Bazaar decks killing with Worldgorger Dragon, Mana Drain decks, Dark Ritual based decks, Prison decks and some aggressive decks that tried to go uphill since turn 1 (playing all kind of gorillas and shamans). During that time a certain balance existed among these decks. Each deck had to be prepared to fight other decks - graveyard abusing decks, Necropotence decks, blue based control decks and Shops. Each deck simply had to find sideboard or main deck slots for graveyard hate or artifact hate and since Disenchant effects could hit t1 Necropotence as well we all had the reason why to main deck such cards. The other match ups could be usually dealt with cards we wanted to have main deck and weren't really a metagame call. The most oppressive card from my point of view was Necropotence at that time but everyone felt that this card should be somehow ... well restricted. What can one do with 4 Necropotences and 4 Bargains? Not much. This was the very first time I really felt that something is wrong with the meta. Being stripped of all cards or watch my opponent draw cards for some loss of life was too much even for me. If I look back and I compare something like this (see screenshot) to Necropotence t1 I don't feel even close to how I felt years ago. The Golem is a fast clock but it can be dealt with rather easily. It does not mean GG as Necropotence used to. It takes 4 turns to deal 20 damage, the creature still allows us to play fast mana which we usually run unless we are on Dredge or something.

The decks I used to encounter form a kind of cycle that is balanced. Each deck has a better matchup with some decks and worse matchup with other. One deck works as 'stop sign' for another deck. It prevents the deck from being too oppressive. That does not mean that we can ignore those decks. We have to be prepared to play against the deck. I have 7 slots against Shops and that is fine. I can still play a deck I want and how I want to play it. I do not feel threatened that much by it and I certainly don't feel the matchup is not winnable. I usually have very nice games against Shops decks. Some games awry fast but can be said against any matchup.

when I started playing Vintage last year I saw the very same balance. There were new elements and decks all these decks are well placed within the cycle. With this cycle we can have a metagame that changes from time to time. If Shops will be prevalent there will be players playing Oath or Landstill. If these decks will start to be prevalent players will most probably shift towards combo decks and/or blue based control decks. When this will happen and more and more of these will show up it is time for Shops to come back and say 'no' once again to these decks and restore some kind of balance. It is a never ending cycle.

This is something that happens in every format with the exception of Modern perhaps that is ravaged by its always changing banlist. The format never had time to settle and something had to be prematurely banned which created an artificial disharmony. This upsets people more and more and the ban of Splinter Twin was something that probably made many people go 'Bah, I had enough of this...'.

Modern is a competitive format though played once a year at Pro Tour. Vintage is not, no matter how competitive we want it to be. The fact is that we don't have a Vintage Pro Tour and thus the cycles will be present throughout the time but are not forced by PT or other major tournaments. So it all depends on how lenient or active the players are. But the cards alone should not be held responsible unless there really is something like 70% of Shops in every single Vintage tournament!

When I used to play against Prison decks the game usually ended when I was locked down and couldn't play a spell or all my resources were destroyed or I stared at Staff of Domination that I couldn't deal with. But there was no pressure from the deck. No Lodestone Golem. At that time I guess the Prison decks did not need Lodestone Golem. But nowadays? Shops have to take the more aggressive route to fight (different) combo decks (that weren't present at that time) and even those blue decks. Lodestone Golem is the ideal card for this deck and without it I can't even imagine Shops deck to be what it is. The deck and this card keeps other decks in check - it dictates tempo of the game. How is the deck supposed to beat combo decks if it cannot put pressure on those decks? 2/1 or 2/2 creatures won't certainly do the job.

Mishra's Workshop is land that produces 3 mana but only mana that can be used to play artifact spells. It cannot be used for other spells or using activated abilities of some cards. A Prison deck always needed access to fast mana and a good start otherwise the deck alone would not be able to exist at all. Those longing for Workshop restriction should join the ranks of all the pro-Eldrazi players. Because those Eldrazi decks are the next gen 'MUD'!

For me starting to play Vintage on Magic Online meant going back to the times I used to play Magic and I felt like playing Magic. This is a format I feel in control of the game unlike in other formats. I also feel that the format now is actually very healthy. All kind of different decks can be build and can fight other decks. I personally do not see any reason for restriction of any card and I would like to keep Vintage the way it is. I want one format where I can feel like I can play anything I like and not be limited (too much).

Actually if I would really have to choose a card to restrict I would be looking at Gush. But that is one of the cards that defines Vintage or Magic in general for me and its restriction would certainly make me cry. I could possibly accept the restriction of the Golem and Mishra's Workshop but I would look at it the same way I look at banning of Splinter Twin. A card that could actually keep Eldrazi decks in check and I would certainly feel cheated.

Just my two cents about this matter. I just felt like typing something and this is my point of view. What happens when the new B&R is announced is not my concern now. What will be decided will be decided and we will have to accept it.