Blog Fanatic: Restriction Time! The Article That Vintage Players Do Not Want You To See
Hello, everyone! I wish I had more time to write these days, but I've been ridiculously hectic ever since our new shopping cart went live. I truly do miss writing this blog on a regular basis, and I appreciate each and every e-mail and post of support that has been sent to me, Ted, and Pete in support of the Blog Fanatic returning. It will return! It's just a matter of the business side of my job at StarCityGames.com settling down into a little more of a routine.
Speaking of "routine," Pete and I traveled by van to the third Star City Games Power Nine tournament in Chicago last month. That trip was anything but routine - ten hours in each direction with nothing but Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio between Virginia and Illinois equaled hours of unparalleled fun for the both of us.
- Hours one through three: Pete and I talk business.
- Hour four: Pete and I talk about Extended, of which Pete is a huge fan.
- Hours five through ten: Our only amusement, in order, is Pete's ability to run over a dead deer, countless tire treads, a wagon full of Amish people, Dom DeLuise (who barely fit under the chassis), and the speed limit, not necessarily in that order. Our time is spent in stony silence, with naked dreams of dancing Moxen in my head, and dreams of me dancing naked for Moxen in Pete's head.
P.S.: Don't tell Pete about this article. I know it's his site and all, but he tends to gloss over Blog Fanatic. I'd prefer to keep my job.
P.P.S.: If this is Pete reading the article that you aren't supposed to be reading, ha ha! Of course I'm joking!
Please don't fire me.
The tournament itself went swimmingly at Pastimes in Chicago - Alan (the owner of Pastimes) and his staff did a great job, and they played a most gracious host. I got to meet (or remeet - I officially declare remeet a word) several Type 1 players, members of TheManaDrain.com, and members of The Magic Rarities forum at www.magiclibrary.net. People had a great time at the event - and the biggest story was the success of Stephen Menendian's (or as I like to call him for short, Stemnemdemianan) team MeanDeck* built Doomsday deck.
The Doomsday deck recorded several first- and second-turn kills on the back of Doomsday, Ancestral Recall, and Beacon of Destruction... Or did it? You see, Stemnemdemianan and I had a conversation about the viability of the deck at the tournament. Steve claimed that the deck was nigh-unbeatable. I told him that if that was the case, then something needed to be done to keep the power level of the deck in check. Then I uttered the magical words that caused him to throw a true-to-life hissy fit, replete with "oh no, you did not girlfriend!"s and "Stemnemdemianan don't play like that!"s.
I suggested that Dark Ritual needed to be restricted in Type One.
But that's not all!
I threw in Mishra's Workshop for good measure.
Let's face facts, people - Vintage is all about having broken turns and killing the opponent with overpowered cards and the like. However, there is a restricted list for a reason - some cards just cross the line into complete brokenness when allowed in multiples of four. Steve told me that he'd kill me if I wrote this article - he clearly did not want his sacred idol Dark Ritual molested by the slimy hands of Type 1 expert Benjamin H. Bleiweiss.
Dark Ritual and Mishra's Workshop are two of the three most broken cards that are unrestricted in Vintage today. The third? I'm not naming it, because I'm not firmly convinced it deserves the one-quarter axe. If you're been following the "new" 1.5, it's one of the cards that landed on the 1.5 banned list. 'Nuff said.
Let's tackle Mishra's Workshop first. Mishra's Workshop is a reusable Black Lotus for artifact-based decks. It allows the acceleration of key spells in a number of decks to the point of brokenness - a first-turn Trinisphere from a Workshop deck might as well be game over if the Workshop player is going first. Why is it game over? since it can be followed by any number of broken cards, the least of which include Smokestack, Juggernaut, Mindslaver, Chalice of the Void, Triskelion, Sundering Titan, Duplicant, Crucible of Worlds, Tangle Wire, and others. If they don't hit on the first turn, these cards arrive on turn 2 with such acceleration (and reusable acceleration that that) that it's virtually impossible for an opponent to react, lest they have a Force of Will - and a two-Workshop draw will sometimes get around that. (Not to mention the Workshop decks that run Force of Will themselves!)
"But Ben!" the Vintage community might argue, "There are a dozen different viable Workshop decks! It proves that the card is good but not broken, because it's not used in just one type of deck!"
I have one word for you: Tinker. And if that's not enough, I have one tournament for you: Pro Tour: New Orleans 2003. An entire environment was dominated by - you guessed it - broken artifact decks that abused the power of Tinker in order to win.
But gee, it wasn't just one deck that used Tinker - it was several, including R/U traditional Tinker (Hans Joachim Hoh, Eugene Harvey, Masashi Oiso), Mana Severance/Goblin Charbelcher Tinker (Yann Hamon, Gabriel Nassif, Nicolas Labarre), Goblin Welder Tinker (Rickard Osterberg). There were 112 decks that made day two, and 41 of them (over 33%) were Tinker-based. Seven out of the top eight decks were Tinker-based - but they were all different builds! What was clear was the power of Tinker.
Let's take a look at the Power 9 tournaments plus the T1 World Champs, which are among the few Vintage events that could be considered to be at the higher-end level of Vintage play:
- Chicago: 16 Mishra's Workshop (1st, 2nd , 4th, 7th)
- Richmond #2: 12 Mishra's Workshop (2nd, 4th, 8th)
- GenCon World Champs: 16 Mishra's Workshop (2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th)
Workshop decks are dominating fully half of the top eight slots at major tournaments! Compare Mishra's Workshop to other restricted cards like Black Lotus and Lion's-Eye Diamond. Both are restricted due to their massive power - the Workshop is simply a Lotus that can be used every turn, as long as you are playing artifacts. And as Magic has added more and more cards to the mix, there have been more and more artifacts worth playing!
Dark Ritual is another case. It probably has more in common with Lion's-Eye Diamond than Mishra's Workshop in that both are problematic combo enablers. Whether it be Illusions of Grandeur/Donate from long ago, Long/Death, or Doomsday, Dark Ritual has been the enabler that allowed either triple-black cost spells to be cast on the first turn, or massively accelerated a combo (often in conjunction with the ultra-broken Yawgmoth's Will) in order to get a storm count high enough for a one-turn kill.
Let's face it - the Ritual is what has held all of these combo decks together. It helps Worldgorger Dragon, it helps any sort of Tendrils of Agony-based storm deck, and it pushes almost any other combo-based decks over the top. It was banned in Extended for a reason - it was just a massive accelerant that put first- and second-turn kills over the top.
I've heard a few arguments about why these two cards shouldn't be restricted. None of them have held water in my eyes. People claim that Mishra's Workshops are running around $200 each, and it would be a huge financial hit to have the card restricted. Look, I can sympathize here - as a dealer, I never want to see a high-dollar card be crippled in value. But the health of the game is more important than the health of a few player's pocketbooks. In fact, a lot of players who had picked up the Power Nine in the past have proxied the Workshops, as they are the most expensive cards not already in their possession!
Conversely, many Vintage players claim that Dark Ritual helps keep budget decks competitive. Hogwash - we're way past the day of the argument of the budget deck (especially with proxy-five and proxy-seven tournaments having risen to prominence). Besides, the only "budget" deck that would run Dark Ritual is Suicide Black - a deck that many claim, with all their hearts, is a completely unviable deck.
R&D, if you're reading this article, please put Workshop and Dark Ritual out of their miseries. Seriously - people have been outright bracing for the restriction of Mishra's Workshop for over a year now. It's going to happen eventually, so just put the shoe down now so the metagame doesn't need to revolve around surviving a first-turn Workshop induced Trinisphere. Likewise, please kill Dark Ritual in the same way you killed every other combo-enabling card - it survived the restriction of Burning Wish/Lion's-Eye Diamond to neuter Long/Death but is rearing its ugly head for the umpteenth time in the form of Doomsday.
The problem isn't Doomsday - the problem is having four unrestricted ways to cast a first-turn Doomsday.
Mishra's Workshop is an obvious problem, while Dark Ritual is a subtler one. I think everyone knows that Workshop is the most restrictable unrestricted card left in Vintage - but Dark Ritual has always, always proven to be an enabler and a problem when given a chance. Although it hasn't dominated in an obvious way like Workshop, its appearance in several decks that got other cards banned is a testament to its ability to do the dirty work of a deck without taking a direct bullet to the brain.
Ben can be reached at Blogfanatic@yahoo.com . If you're Stemnemdemianan, you are not allowed within ten feet of my person as of the writing of this article, by order of the court.
* - Or is it Short Bus - I always get these two teams confused. How about we just call them Paragon A and Paragon B? Much neater! Who doesn't want to be on the A-Team?