Type 1 is allegedly the format where a player can play all of their cards, or at least as many as can be allowed in a balanced format. Yes, even those that were printed a really, really long time ago. This fact is clearly evidenced by the existence of a restricted list in Vintage, which is in direct contrast with the banned lists maintained in all other competitive formats. If the above is truly the raison d'être of Type 1, then wouldn't it be in the best interest of the format to have as compact a restricted list as possible? What cards (if any) can safely be removed from the Type 1 restricted list in order to achieve this goal?
A precedent has already been established for successful unrestriction in Vintage, so it is not unreasonable to think that such success cannot be repeated. On March 1st 2003 Berserk, Hurkyl's Recall, and Recall were all unrestricted based on comments made in a discussion on TheManaDrain.com initiated by the content manager of MagicTheGathering.com, Aaron Forsythe. None of these unrestrictions had any measurable impact on the format, or any effect at all, other than heavily inflating prices on Berserk. To this day, none of these cards has caused any problems in any Vintage tournaments. I need only to link you to Phillip Stanton's Designing Cards For Vintage, Part 2, and point to the facts. Over the course of ten major Type 1 tournaments, only five Berserk, twenty-five Hurkyl's Recalls (as sideboard artifact disruption for the most part), and a whopping zero Recalls were played. The numbers, even for Hurkyl's Recall, lie in stark contrast to those of such powerhouses as Coffin Purge (49) and Seal of Cleansing (40).
However, on the same day that Berserk, Hurkyl's Recall, and Recall were unrestricted, both Entomb and Earthcraft were restricted in Type 1. The same source that gives us precedent for unrestriction also offers two perfect candidates.
The Front Runners
The first couple of cards I will discuss are, from my perspective, cards for which there is little to no reason to be restricted. I believe that most of the cards in this section should not have been restricted in the first place.
"Earthcraft joins the many other combo cards that are restricted in Type 1."
- DCI Banned and Restricted List Announcement, March 1st 2003
Is it just me, or is the reasoning offered for Earthcraft's restriction just a tad unsatisfying? There are, and have been for a long time, viable combo decks in Type 1."This is a combo card" is simply not justification for restriction. Is Worldgorger Dragon restricted? What about Tendrils of Agony? Why then should Earthcraft's nature as a combo card be excuse for its restriction? The qualification for restriction of a combo card should be something along the lines of"this combo card is too powerful," or"this card leads to an unrecoverable early game swing." Earthcraft was never a powerhouse in Vintage, I distinctly remember some prominent 1.5 players commenting that they did not understand its restriction in relation to their format either. Infinite squirrels on turn 2 or 3 is just not that scary, especially when all parts of the combo and its setup are so wonderfully counterable and easy to destroy.
With all the combos legal in both Vintage and 1.5, I see no reason for Earthcraft to remain restricted. Earthcraft never dominated either format, and the combo in which it operates is a mediocre one at best.
"Every good"tutor" card is restricted in type 1. Entomb is one of the best tutors left in Type 1, and it now joins Demonic Tutor, Demonic Consultation, Enlightened Tutor, etc. on the restricted list."
- DCI Banned and Restricted List Announcement, March 1st 2003
The DCI's assertion about"every good"tutor" card" being restricted is simply false. Academy Rector, Lim-Dul's Vault, Survival of the Fittest, Spoils of the Vault: none of these are restricted, and some of them are more heavily played now than Entomb was in the heyday of Dragon combo. It is clear, therefore, that there is no objective standard that dictates the restriction of all good"tutor" cards. Since this is the case we need to defer to the power of a card as criteria for its restriction.
The fact of the matter is that even if Entomb was unrestricted, it would not supplant the new Bazaar of Baghdad and Intuition engine that drives Dragon combo, the deck blamed for Entomb's restriction. Bazaar of Baghdad is the card that made Dragon viable, and to fit Entomb back in to the list would require the deck to cut other valuable cards. Reanimator, the only other archetype poised to utilize Entomb, is not a threat to the stability of Vintage. Reanimator is most closely analogous to, of all other decks in Type 1, TnT. Both decks attempt to ride an early fat threat to the win, backing it up with search and recursion of some sort. While TnT is good, it is not a dominating deck, so allowing decent Reanimator decks back into the format is not a problem.
1 Grim Monolith
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
4 Pyrostatic Pillar
1 Sol Ring
4 Survival of the Fittest
1 Wheel of Fortune
4 Mishra's Workshop
1 Strip Mine
4 Wooded Foothills
"The problem with Doomsday is that the combo built around it is incredibly hard to pull off. For anyone that doesn't know, Doomsday combo decks rely on casting Doomsday and leaving Black Lotus, Lion's Eye Diamond, Regrowth, Braingeyser (or any X-spell) and a random fifth card in the library. This isn't a one-card kill though, since after casting Doomsday you also need exactly 3 cards in hand, one of which must be Timetwister, and 1G in your mana pool so you can Regrow your Timetwister. You then generate a mana loop by casting Timetwister which draws you your entire library, followed by Black Lotus (sacrifice for UUU), Lion's Eye Diamond, Regrowth on Timetwister, Timetwister, and in response you sacrifice Lion's Eye Diamond for GGG. That looks hard enough to pull off that a Doomsday deck wouldn't become too powerful."
-JP Meyer on Doomsday in Aaron Forsythe's article.
Doomsday falls into the"combo card" category. However, as we've already seen,"its a combo card" is not good reason for restriction in and of itself. As we can see from JP's comments, Doomsday-based combos are clearly hard to execute. In fact, the combo seems so difficult that Doomsday's initial restriction appears somewhat suspect. In light of recent developments in the power level of Vintage combo, with the advent of Neo Academy, Dragon combo, and most recently Storm combo, it is safe to say that the Doomsday combo is too complicated and involved to be viable. The fact that Doomsday is seeing no play now as a singleton also speaks for its power. While I see no possible use for Doomsday other than in a combo deck, the combo itself is so weak that it makes no sense for the card to remain restricted.
The Good Ole' Boys
The cards listed in this section were very strong at one point in Vintage Magic's history. For each of these cards that time has passed irrevocably. I assert that these cards can be safely unrestricted without any negative backlash for Type 1.
Braingeyser and Stroke of Genius
As combo win conditions, both of these cards are now defunct. Even with four Stroke of Genius and four Braingeyser, Neo-Academy would not replace Storm-Combo and Dragon combo in the upper tiers of combo decks (not to mention that it couldn't fit them in the deck to begin with). Why generate large sums of mana with a combo based on a restricted land and several other cards, when you could do it with an unrestricted creature and a fifty cent enchantment? Dragon has proven itself surprisingly resilient and, unlike Academy, is possessed of the ability to draw the game if needed. Storm combo by its very nature circumvents the need for generating obscene sums of mana by counting spells instead, which is a much more convenient method for combo to win. Storm combo offers the additional boon of near uncounterability, which neither Stroke of Genius nor Braingeyser offer.
As mass draw in control, both of these are beneath par when compared to the newer draw engines in Type 1. Skeletal Scrying is cheaper and not misdirectable. Intuition with Accumulated Knowledge (and the optional Deep Analysis) is much more versatile in that it can slow-roll to avoid counters and recur cheaply via Cunning Wish. Isochron Scepter (with any draw spell) is much more adaptable, as it provides constant draw and unlimited utility, which can break games wide open. Even if Stroke of Genius' and Braingeyser's casting costs were not an issue (five mana for two cards is quite a deal these days, right?), they're being played would only spur a resurgence in the use of Misdirection, which in turn would flush them out of the format once again.
Large scale draw is often used in a pure control deck (Tog would certainly not play Stroke, since it wants to win quickly) to recover after its resources have been depleted by an onslaught of spells or creatures from an opponent. As such, they are often cast when ones hand is nearly empty. Having a large Braingeyser Misdirected at that point will lose you the game. Why not avoid the gamble and run a more versatile and less Misdirectable draw engine?
Fork is a good card, a really excellent card. Practically, though, what decks have double Red open on a reactive basis? I ask, because Fork is a reactive card in most of its uses. What I mean is that, while Forking a Lightning Bolt that you are casting is pretty cool, that's still only six damage for three mana and two cards, and there are better deals than that in Type 1. For the most part, Fork's real utility lies in Forking spells that opponents have played - Ancestral Recall, Mana Drain, Force of Will, etc. - to help you. This is a reactive strategy, one that aggressive decks should not employ, because if they are playing reactively against control, they have already lost (See: Who's the Beatdown?).
Additionally, running four Forks, even in a Blue/Red control deck with the capacity to do so, is essentially giving yourself four cards that don't actually do anything by themselves. Say an opponent has a creature on the table, a Voidmage Prodigy for arguments sake, and you have a Mana Drain, a Fork, and a Force of Will in hand. While you may be looking at Fork and thinking,"This card is Sweeet Like Ninjas!" having it in hand is not going to help you stopping that opposing Kai. So choosing whether to play Fork becomes a choice between raw power and true usefulness. In control, Fire / Ice is likely the more useful card, since, though Fork may help you win a counter war, Fire/Ice will allow you not to have to. In aggro, Naturalize is the more useful card, since it saves your ass more than Forking a Bolt ever will.
Yes, Fork is a very good card, but the fact that we can speak of it so, rather than speaking of it as broken, means that it need not be restricted any longer.
While I do have respect for the argument that proposes any cheap mana accelerants should be restricted on principle, the fact of the matter is that such a policy is designed to prevent powerful combo decks from dominating the format. Fast mana is dangerous only because combo can use it to win now. I assert that modern combo cannot support Mox Diamond.
By Peter Olszewski
*For more information on this deck see The Dragon Primer
The above list is a very recent incarnation of Vintage Worldgorger Dragon Combo. With seventeen lands, four of which (Bazaar of Baghdad) one would never discard to a Mox Diamond, it is clear that Dragon cannot support the burden of drawing dead Mox Diamonds. Dragon, when compared to other combo deck in the format, runs a very high number of lands. Vintage combo decks top off at about thirteen or fourteen mana-producing lands, many running only ten to twelve, and Goblin Charbelcher builds may run from none to five. To support multiple Mox Diamonds, a deck must be able to guarantee that it will have a land when it has a Mox Diamond. Running 12 lands is no such guarantee. This is further evidenced from the fact that most combo decks do not play the single Mox Diamond.
It is also unlikely that Vintage Control would run Mox Diamond for a number of reasons. Firstly, Mox Diamond is card-disadvantageous, which does not fit in to the control decks strategy of attrition over long games. In addition to this very steep downside, with the proliferation of Gorilla Shaman and Pernicious Deed, it would imprudent to invest so heavily in a mana source only for it to be lost so easily. Finally, as with combo, nearly no one plays Mox Diamond as a singleton in control, so there is little reason to believe it would be played in multiples.
Neither control nor combo are likely to use Mox Diamond, and powered aggro will likely also stick to the originals. The only decks that stand to gain seriously from unrestricted Mox Diamond are budget decks, which can always use the help.
There certainly was a time when Regrowth was powerful, however that time has long since passed. Since Regrowth was last printed, Yawgmoth's Will, Gaea's Blessing, Recoup, and Holistic Wisdom have all been printed (along with many other recursion spells). Yawgmoth's Will so far outstrips Regrowth in raw power that many control decks that do run Green leave out the old standard. Vintage Psychatog, for example, has never played even a single Regrowth.
In addition to its complete replacement by Yawgmoth's Will, there are many other cards available that provide recursion effects similar Regrowth's. Gaea's Blessing offers cantrip reshuffling of four cards back in to your deck while protecting you from decking. Recoup allows a control player to recur not one, but two of the more powerful spells in their deck, including such notables as a countered Yawgmoth's Wills, played Balances, Time Walks, or Mind Twists. Holistic Wisdom offers a control player unlimited recursion of any type of card. And yet, aside from Yawgmoth's Will, none of these cards see significant play. The power of Regrowth mechanic has faded inexorably into the past. The incredible power of Yawgmoth's Will has dwarfed all other control-oriented recursion spells. As such, if Regrowth is reintroduced in to the format, it would do little other than slightly strengthen green heavy control decks (of which there are very few) and budget decks.
I think it may even be possible for me to make a case that Voltaic Key should never have been restricted. However, combo winter was bad times for Type 1, so a knee-jerk restriction of everything remotely resembling combo was probably justified at the time. If we look at Voltaic Key now, though, what real power does it have unto itself?
One could easily argue that Voltaic Key has little inherent power, even when used to generate large sums of mana. It is the card that Voltaic Key is untapping that is overly powerful in those situations, not the key itself. Now if we look at the cards that are the largest targets for Voltaic Key abuse - cards like Grim Monolith, Mana Vault, and Mana Crypt - all of them are now restricted in Vintage. With all the really powerful counterparts out of the question (in terms of using the key to generate mana on a consistent basis) Voltaic Key becomes much less useful. Why would you play a sub-par little toy to that does nothing of much of real consequence, especially when Goblin Welder and Mishra's Workshop offer much more powerful acceleration and utility?
The Long Shots
I will tell you right now, I may get yelled at for some of these suggestions. Before I say anything in this section, I need to preface it with this: the cards I list in this section, while powerful, have begun to be reevaluated in recent times. I am introducing them for further discussion only at this point. I do believe that good cases for the unrestriction of all the cards in this section could be made. Maybe discussion spurred by this article will help us decide.
Fact or Fiction
When Fact or Fiction (FoF) was legal in multiples, it utterly dominated Type 1. How then could there be an even remotely arguable stance calling for it's unrestriction, one might ask. The answer most often given, and one that I agree with to a large degree, is that during the era of FoF's dominance, Vintage deck building was not taken nearly as seriously as it is presently, and the format had not yet evolved to the point that it is at now in terms of powerful aggressive and combo decks. Essentially, during FoF's reign, Vintage was comprised of budget aggro, some Keeper, Mono-Blue, and variants thereof. How can such a format be used to gauge the power-level of a card in the current format?
I do not believe that FoF would dominate Type 1 if it suddenly became legal in multiples. However, there also needs to be some objective cutoffs as to what draw spells are too good to be legal. It is clear to me that Stroke of Genius and Braingeyser are beneath that threshold. Fact or Fiction I am still on the fence about. Does FoF merit classification with Necropotence and Ancestral Recall? We will have to decide.
Library of Alexandria
Discussion over the unrestriction of Library of Alexandria comes down to is not how powerful a card it is (people tend to agree on that), but whether or not you think a control deck could sustain so many colorless sources. The way I see it is this: Keeper for example runs about seven colorless sources (four Wasteland, one Strip Mine, one Library, one Sol Ring). Can keeper run ten colorless sources and still function? Not if they ever want to cast Mana Drain, or consistently have mana for a non-Blue spell. So then it becomes a decision between Wasteland and Library of Alexandria as your colorless sources.
Now, while Library is often incredibly strong in control mirrors, it is often worthless against aggro or combo, both of which are much more powerful now than they ever were in the past. It is impossible to stay at seven cards and counter two draw 7's and a Yawgmoth's Will over two turns. The same goes for the two Juggernauts, a Goblin Welder, and a Pyrostatic Pillar that TnT will poop out. Wasteland, on the other hand, can be game breaking against nearly any Vintage deck. Additionally, if you forego Wastelands for multiple Libraries, an opposing control player will waste your Library. Don't you love your $100+ cycling land?
There is certainly a case for Library to remain restricted, even if only for raw power, disregarding that most control decks cannot play it in multiples. However, there is also a defensible position that calls for its full legality in Vintage. In these cases, it is usually prudent to defer to more cautious logic, but the topic should be discussed nonetheless.
Separation of Powers
One of the main concerns for the DCI in unrestricting a card in Type 1 is whether or not the card will have a negative effect on Type 1.5. For a while now there has been general agreement between players of both formats that the lists should be separated, that restriction in Vintage should have no effect on 1.5 unless it needs to, and vice-versa.
While I do believe that most of the cards whose unrestriction I have called for would be safe for 1.5, it is not my place to decide that, as I don't play the format. There are definitely some candidates - Mox Diamond and Entomb - which might significantly effect 1.5 if unrestricted (though whether that effect would be positive or negative I cannot say). Therefore, I would like to make two propositions.
The first, and most obvious one, is that the lists should be separated. The power differential between 1.5 and Vintage is so large that it would probably be more correct to say that 1.5 is much closer to current Extended in power level than it is to Type 1. These are two very different formats in terms of deck viability and power level. Why then should they be so dependant on each other?
The second suggestion is a more practical one. I ask that Type 1.5 players tell me what they think about the unrestrictions I have proposed, so that we can know which cards can be made legal in the highly probable case that the lists are not separated.
I hope that this article spurs some discussion. Feel free to email me with comments, critique, and questions about this article at Flamholz AT Princeton DOT edu.