Get Out Of My Metagame!: The Gush And Mind's Desire Bannings
Back in March, I wondered where the restriction of Earthcraft and Entomb came from, as neither card saw a particularly large amount of play or was considered to be a serious problem for any metagame to deal with. Entomb saw play only in a few Worldgorger Dragon builds and in Reanimator decks - neither of which was particularly difficult to hose, given that cards like Tormod's Crypt and Planar Void see a decent amount of sideboard play even without those decks in the format. SquirrelCraft, or Army of Squirrels, saw heavy play for about a month as a hoser for TNT before it fell in popularity, and Earthcraft was forgotten until Wizards restricted it. I simply chalked it up to Wizards' hatred for any combo deck that was even remotely viable in a T1 metagame.
"Gush was one of the best card-drawing cards in the Standard format during its run; it should be no surprise that it has become one of the best card-drawing cards in Type 1. Gush's alternative play cost often results in players gaining mana in addition to the two cards drawn."
It's funny, I sure could swear that Gush's Standard"run" started around three and a half years ago. It's not hard to be the best card drawer in Standard - ever since Invasion rotated out, Deep Analysis has held that spot. I hope it's not setting a precedent for Analysis to become restricted in T1, what with it being the powerhouse card drawer that it is and all...
It took about six months for Fact or Fiction to get axed; if it takes three and a half years to decide if a card's too powerful, it's probably not worth restricting. As far as the part about the alternative casting cost resulting in players gaining mana, that's not a new thing either, since Mark Acheson's TurboNevyn has been doing that since the day Gush was released.
What Wizards really means is,"Some people have been crying about Tog being hard to beat, and so we're going to hamstring the deck."
Gush is a card that breaks the fundamental rules of Magic - namely, that spells cost mana. The problem is that Vintage is a format that is all about breaking the fundamental rules of Magic. Fastbond breaks a fundamental rule, Force of Will breaks a fundamental rule, Black Lotus breaks a fundamental rule. Type One is all about broken plays. When I Mana Drain a spell and use it to fuel a Braingeyser for nine the next turn, that's a pretty damn high power level - and much higher than anything you'll see in Standard. Breaking rules is not a good enough reason to restrict a card. I'd like to see them restrict Force of Will or Pyrokinesis because the alternative casting cost makes it too advantageous.
The major issue here isn't Wizards restricting a card or two - it's Wizards killing decks. Yes, there are historical precedents - and honestly, decks like Tolarian Academy and even Trix needed to be killed because they were just too good. Recently, however, Wizards has been wielding their axe far too frequently for my taste. Fact or Fiction really borders the edge of where the Restricted list should be. Yes, it's a great card, and if it were unrestricted, mono blue would be back to four, and even multi-colored control decks would probably go back to three... But even in Type One, sometimes four mana is too slow. It merited restriction, but by the skin of its teeth. When I think of cards that need to be restricted, I think of things like Black Vise, and Ancestral Recall - not Gush, and certainly not a six-mana sorcery that acts as a one shot Temporal Aperture with Storm. That isn't restriction-worthy; hell, it's not even playable.
(Oscar Tan thinks otherwise, and he made a pretty damn strong case - The Ferrett, who has no skills in Type One, but must present the alternate viewpoint)
Grow-a-Tog, or GAT, is not a problem deck. It is not Academy, it is not Trix, it is not destroying the metagame the way those decks did. This is not thirty Lotuses, twenty-nine Timetwisters and a Fireball. This is a metagame swing. This is not the Rebels deck of Masques Block; hell, it doesn't even dominate as much as the old T2 Fires deck did. It's not even difficult to hose; Chains of Mephistopheles and Ichneumon Druid immediately come to mind, either one resolving is GG for the Mr. Toothy deck. Sooner or later, Tog would have been forgotten, just as it's predecessor, Emerald Alice, or a thousand other decks have been forgotten - relegated to the annals of history.
I mean, this restriction is far worse than Gush, Earthcraft, and Entomb combined. Those were weak cards to restrict, but this, this is just plain stupid. Maybe Wizards doesn't realize it, but we have these things called spoilers, we get them well in advance of the release date of a set, and we know what the cards do. There was a lot of buzz about Long-Term Plans. A little buzz about Eternal Dragon (for the plainscycling ability mostly, but also as a reusable threat in decks like Parfait), but the unless Wizards is going to unrestrict Dream Halls in the near future, this monstrosity is totally unplayable. The unrestricted tutoring with Long-Term plans scares me far more than anything Mind's Desire can do.
The metagame, given time, will always correct itself. After all, necessity is the mother of invention, and nobody wants to play against the same deck all day and lose to it. Someone always has - and always will - find an answer to problem decks. The old Necro decks were a huge problem, and one that decks like Jay Schneider's Geeba (also known as Sligh) and Stasis decks seemed to answer. At the tournament that Paul Sligh did so well with Schneider's mono-red control, however, Necropotence took five spots in the Top 8. We have yet to see Tog do that well at a major tournament - in fact, I doubt its ability to do so - and yet Necro not only made it the entire time in Standard without being banned, it was actually reprinted! (Just because they screwed up then is not a reason to justify future screwups - The Ferrett)
I don't mind Wizards taking an interest in T1 - in fact, I think it's a great thing. They do, however, need to stop going off half-cocked at every little occurrence in the format. The next thing you know, they're going to re-restrict Mishra's Workshop, because TNT is too powerful, and then Force of Will because aggro is too weak, and sooner or later, we'll all be playing with crap like Scornful Egotist because it's the most abusive card that Wizards will let us play with.
For those of you interested in letting Wizards know that we enjoy the attention, but that they're doing it all wrong, Mark Rosewater may be reached at email@example.com; you can drop our dear MaRo a line and tell him to back off.