April 24, 2017 Banned/Restricted Announcement

Discussion in 'CPA/WOTC Magic Issues' started by Spiderman, Apr 24, 2017.

  1. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    April 24, 2017 Banned/Restricted Announcement

    I know Oversoul already posted about the Divining Top here, but I like to keep all of the announcements with the "official" title :)
  2. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I deliberately did that because I wasn't sure how many silly videos or images along the lines of "ding dong, the witch is dead" I might post, and I wanted to keep your thread reserved for serious discussion, as this is a very serious place.
  3. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

  4. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    OK, so now that I've had some time to mull this stuff over, some thoughts. But to start with, I'll focus on the stuff that isn't specifically about Miracles...
    • The Standard environment is still very controversial and it seems all too likely that WotC still doesn't know what to do about it. In the same position, I certainly wouldn't know what to do about it. Standard has gotten just to one of the worst states it's seen in recent memory, but with Amonkhet around the corner and with the nature of the problem, they can't really solve the problem with bans and they can't leave the format alone either. It's a Catch-22. So making significant changes in Legacy and Vintage is an excellent distraction. It's a signal to the players, saying, "Look, we're paying attention to our formats and analyzing the situation." Miracles has been the top deck in Legacy for years. I don't buy for one second that they were deliberating on it that whole time and finally, after thorough analysis, came to the conclusion that banning Sensei's Divining Top was the appropriate step for Legacy. It's one thing to say that you're scrutinizing data. Increasingly, I've come to suspect that WotC is doing very little quantitative analysis on tournament data. Now, it's not that they can't or that they aren't interested. They are a company that has hired a lot of math nerds, and in fact it goes beyond that: they've hired a lot of people who are math nerds and have been practicing on gaming applications of mathematics specifically. I'm no statistics expert. Not even close. They have people who are far more proficient in these matters than I am, and indeed, than almost anyone in the world is. Those just aren't the same people who are making decisions when it comes to banned/restricted lists, the "DCI" stuff. But now, after years of pushing Standard so hard and after all the recent struggles they've had with it, that looks like they might finally rethink that approach. I'm not holding my breath on it or anything, but it seems like a possibility.
    • There's been some controversy in Vintage with aspersions that the Vintage Super League is skewing policy in that format disproportionately. So a vocal minority in what is already a small format is swaying decision-making because of their unusual visibility and possibly because of insider connections. I try to remain neutral on that sort of thing, but at this point, it's hard for me to believe that this isn't going on. Vintage is an extremely complex format and I'm not so well-versed in it as to predict what these restrictions will do, but I really think they're too much.
    • On Gitaxian Probe, a lot of the antagonism toward the card was due to "perfect information." That phrase isn't actually a real thing. It's gibberish. But what they really meant by it was, "My opponent can see my hand, so I can't use strategy or tactics that rely on the contents of my hand being a mystery." Like I said, Vintage is a complex format. It has a lot of smart people who play it and they like to be able to utilize those smarts to outplay their opponents. That can involve mind games and bluffing, as well as sequencing of plays and predictive assessment of future turns. Some of those people feel like their witty plans are spoiled by opponents being able to peek at their hands. And to that I would say the best approach is to not be such a gigantic pile of mewling babies about this aspect of gameplay. Sometimes your opponent is going to get to see your hand, so shut up already. But now the tables have turned: they got the card banned, so I'm the one who has to stop crying. Whatever. It's too bad though, as Gitaxian Probe into Cabal Therapy was one of my favorite plays for setting up in combo decks. Probe in general was a huge boon to Ritual-based Storm decks, and I fear that this restriction may mark the end of their fourteen-year run in Vintage.
    • Well, now that Gush has been restricted again, that's probably it for the card. It was never one of my personal favorites, but I did think that it got a bad rap.
    • One issue I've noticed for Vintage, where cards are restricted rather than banned, is that a kind of critical mass of similar cards with strong effects is a looming threat in the format. WotC got pretty careful about Ritual-like burst mana effects because it was the most obvious category where this could be a problem. Once there are too many cheap cards that produce more mana than they cost, restricting them, even restricting all of them, isn't enough to stop combo from running rampant. Because yeah, Cabal Ritual isn't as good as Dark Ritual, but I'll run both, and if you keep making slightly inferior versions of Dark Ritual, but subsequently restrict them because they're too strong as four-ofs, eventually I have enough of them to just use one of each and still pick up those easy first-turn kills. But they've been less careful about blue card drawing and filtering. We're approaching critical mass there, or perhaps we've already hit it but these decks are kept in check for now because of other broken cards still remaining unrestricted. What I mean is that while you can restrict Ancestral Recall, Dig Through Time, Brainstorm, Ponder, Gush, Treasure Cruise, Mystical Tutor, Merchant Scroll, Gitaxian Probe, and so on, but once there are enough of these cheap card selection spells running around, just using one of each is sufficient to create a broken deck. Back in the mid 90's, after making both Dark Ritual and Ancestral Recall, WotC correctly determined that Ancestral Recall was the more broken card. But it seems that they never stopped to think, "If we keep making different versions of this, they're going to add up."
    • At this point, I can't see how Shops won't be the strongest archetype in Vintage. Arguably, it already was, and now the other top decks got nerfed by restrictions. But Workshop, despite being much stronger than many of the cards on the Restricted List, is apparently untouchable. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I'm picking up a playset of Shops.
    • I presumably am not the first person to point this out, but in the March announcement, Erik Lauer said...
    (That's some odd phrasing and the part about the tournament being a "data set" doesn't really make sense, but I assume it as just a casual slip-up of unclear language.)

    Here's the Top 8 from the tournament they said they'd be looking at. In bold are decks that rely on cards that would later show up in this latest Restricted List announcement:

    White Eldrazi
    Shops
    BUG (Leovold-based aggro-control, whatever you want to call it)
    Shops
    Mentor (3 Gush, 3 Gitaxian Probe)
    Blue Control (3 Gush)
    Shops
    Mentor (only 1 copy of Gush, so it doesn't count, as this deck would be legal post-restriction)

    So that's two decks in the Top 8, placing at 5th and 6th. In contrast, four decks in the Top 8, placing 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 7th, used full playsets of Thorn of Amethyst. If this is the tournament that WotC was going to look at in order to inform their decision on the Restricted List, then uh, what? What? I don't know what to say to that.
  5. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    • I maintain that in formats like Legacy and Vintage (and even Modern), it is almost never warranted to ban or restrict more than one card at a time. So I think the decision to restrict two cards was a mistake. But I'm puzzled as to how blue-based decks are supposed to be the bigger problem than artifact-based ones right now, and at how Gitaxian Probe would possibly be the culprit in the case, rather than Monastery Mentor.
    • When I saw that Top was banned in Legacy, I knew that besides hitting Miracles, there'd be collateral damage on some far less prolific decks, such as Painter, 12Post, and Doomsday. What I didn't realize until I saw someone else point it out was that Doomsday decks in Vintage (again, not prolific decks, but ones that have a few dedicated fans) relied heavily on Gush and Gitaxian Probe. So even though they probably didn't even realize it, with one announcement, WotC killed Doomsday decks in two different formats.
    • Banning Top in Legacy wouldn't have been my first choice. There were other options, and if I had my way, I'd have been sorely tempted by some of them. I think that fetchlands are bad for the format in a lot of ways, and while banning ten different cards is extreme, I strongly suspect that Legacy would be a better format without them, and that it would quash the potential to need to ban anything else while also making it even safer to unban some of the borderline chaff on the Banned List. And if that option is ruled out, Brainstorm is almost certainly the best card to target for a ban.
    • Well, I guess now Sensei Sensei is strictly relegated to being a casual deck. Haha, of course it already was. But I mean now it's an illegal deck. Well, except in Vintage, but my upcoming Shops deck would totally wreck it. :p
    • As a long-time casual player, I've had this philosophy that the cards on the Banned List should be the broken ones, and not stuff that is strictly there for fine-tuning metagame balance. On that level, the Top ban doesn't sit well with me. It's not like, say, Tinker or Skullclamp. Top is merely an OK card from a casual perspective. It's only the particular combination of the Counterbalance lock and the synergy of Miracle spells (mostly Terminus, but Entreat the Angels is part of the equation too) with cards that manipulate the top of the library that push things over the edge. I don't think this sort of consideration should be a big factor in guiding the direction of a tournament format, which is ultimately what Legacy is, but it does leave me feeling weird about the whole thing.
    • Aaron Forsythe's announcement mentioned tournament logistics as a concern for Top, and some Legacy players have taken his words to mean that Miracles wasn't overpowered enough to warrant a ban on its own, but that its power in conjunction with match time limits combined were what caused the ban. He didn't explicitly say that, but he did strongly imply it. Again, perhaps it's my history as a casual player rather than a tournament participant, but that's another thing I don't like. Tournament banned lists tend to bleed over into casual gameplay, and players assume that cards on banned lists are there because they were overpowered in some way. Usually, that's true. With some very bizarre exceptions of very old cards (such as when Orcish Oriflamme was restricted just to keep its presence down on account of the misprint on the Alpha version of the card), that has pretty much always been the case. But in more recent years there have been some exceptions, some cards that were banned not for overwhelming power in tournament play but rather because their use interfered with the structure of tournament setup. Another example is Second Sunrise in Modern. The card wasn't dominant, but it caused matches to go to time limits too often, and that was why they banned it. Still, Top probably is too good. It is a very strong card. But broken? It's a borderline case.
  6. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I probably missed something in there, as there is just so much to unpack with the effects of this announcement, but for now, I'll move on to Miracles, the deck that got Top banned in Legacy...
    • Legacy has a lot of older, more experienced players. I think part of the popularity of Miracles came about because of nostalgia for late 1990's "permission" decks. Some people really liked the idea of playing a control deck that was almost entirely reactive, as opposed to establishing proactive measures. As the game evolved, this style of play disappeared from every format except Legacy, and Miracles was seen as the last bastion of this traditional "draw-go" school of control. As the deck continued to outperform the rest of the field, a lot of voices expressed concern that the deck would be crippled by a ban and that dedicated countermagic-based hard control decks would disappear from Magic forever. I can sympathize with this and I do think, to a point, it's a valid concern. But Miracles plays pretty differently from old style permission decks, despite being reminiscent of them. From the beginning, it was more of a hybrid between countermagic-based control and lockdown. The Entreat kill condition gave it a bomb that was really over the top and changed the dynamic. When a more traditional control deck managed to throw up obstacles and slow the game down, opponents might seek to bide time and hope to build up some sort of weapon they had that could punch through control, either a single card or a sequence of cards that control decks would have trouble stopping. But once Miracles slowed the game down, the opponent was on a clock to find a way out, because as turns progressed and lands had been dropped onto the board, the Miracles player could spontaneously vomit a squadron of angels onto the battlefield and win on the spot. Old draw-go decks couldn't get away with that! And the advent of Monastery Mentor changed things even more, giving the deck a potent battlefield presence that forced the opponent into the position of reacting, the opposite of draw-go. If opponents could somehow break through the countermagic quickly and create a stronger board presence, Miracles could simply Terminus, and even decks with recursion lost out because it didn't kill the creatures, but sent them to the bottom of the library, a one-mana better version of Wrath of God. The deck was basically getting to have and eat its cake. And while that is impressive, I don't think it's tenable to insist that a deck is entitled to that level of versatility and power, just because it is the last bastion of a popular style of gameplay.
    • Looking back, the CounterTop lockdown was pretty obnoxious even before Miracles. Once the whole deck came together, it became downright oppressive. A deck built to fight around CounterTop had to be so warped in its construction that it was a weak design against anything else. And while Counterbalance on its own is a mediocre, situational enchantment, Top is a Miracle-enabling, Mentor-boosting, future-gazing Swiss Army knife that was quite strong even before it was paired with Counterbalance. If Miracles warranted a ban, I think WotC made the right judgment call targeting Top instead of other proposals, such as Counterbalance or Terminus.
    • Whether Miracles was actually dominant was a point of some contention. The numbers speak for themselves, but I think what's particularly telling is that because Miracles was allowed to operate unchecked for so long, it saw the rise and fall of multiple alleged Miracles Killers. Off the top of my head, these included Tezzerator, Shardless Control, Lands, Eldrazi, and 4C Delver. Generally, they either fell short or Miracles adapted to beat them with some minor adjustments that didn't particularly weaken its game against the rest of the field. There were some true bad matchups, such as Goblins and 12Post, but those decks were too soft to other prevalent decks, so they didn't show up enough to really threaten Miracles' reign of terror.
    • If Abrupt Decay hadn't been printed, the dominance of CounterTop would have been so extreme that a ban would have come much sooner, assuming everyone didn't up and quit the format first. That one card kept things mostly competitive, but "Either play Miracles or play a deck that can run Abrupt Decay" is a rather lousy condition, and definitely warrants a ban. It didn't get quite to that point, but it was approaching it.
    • They didn't give us a prisoner exchange this time, dammit! Mind Twist was supposed to come off the list, as per Legacy Banned List Tradition.
  7. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    ZOMG QUADRUPLE POST OVERSOUL STOP...

    No, wait! This is different. I have some BREAKING NEWS!!!

    The mothership issued an addendum, and now Felidar Guardian is to be banned in Standard: http://magic.wizards.com/en/article...banned-and-restricted-announcement-2017-04-26

    Perhaps I've become too cynical. I don't believe Aaron Forsythe is being forthright on this. Rather, I am insinuating that he is a dirty liar. Scandalous, perhaps. Seriously, I am kinda uncomfortable saying this. I think that he has done great work in the past, and I've had a tendency to believe that official statements WotC publishes are generally truth-telling. Yeah, they might have stuff that they are compelled to hide for company reasons, but I'd like to think that they don't go publicly spouting falsehoods when some perfectly good obfuscation does the trick. In the first place, it would reflect poorly on them if they were somehow exposed. In the second place, it would be sloppy of them.

    But this stretches credulity! They expect people to believe that after deliberation and analysis, with Standard already in such bad shape, they came to the decision not to ban anything, but then less than a week later, "new data" got them to change their minds and they issued an addendum?
  8. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    I think you're being too cynical. As it appears they're basing their decision from data gleaned from MTGO, which is easily obtainable, they can see how much the card is in decks.

    Now, whether that would translate to "real world play", I don't know. But I'm guessing since the lists apply to either environment - online or real world - they have to make a decision.

    As to the pros/pizza/whoever else they're talking to, I have to assume that's enough people to make a valid decision also, since there's no numbers on that at all.
  9. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Maybe. To be clear, I completely buy that the MTGO data is there. But here's the thing. They didn't go into this blind. They've been considering the problem for a while, and the possibility that Amonkhet would have made the Standard environment even worse isn't some obscure trivium that could just slip through the cracks. Yeah, tons of players on MTGO will find things much more quickly than the development team at Wizards R&D, but the effect that he's describing is so pronounced that it would be difficult to miss. I don't think that they just declined to actually test Amonkhet and hoped no one would notice, and I don't think that they tested it with due diligence and utterly failed to find what a few days' worth of MTGO data shows clearly. I think something else is going on here. Not that I could say what it is, other than possibly some infighting among the people responsible for making these decisions. If that were the case, maybe one faction initially won, but another faction successfully appealed on the basis of the MTGO data that two more months of this would be deleterious for Standard and that it was better to issue an addendum before the set came out in paper. I'm just speculating, though. And it seems understandable that they wouldn't want to air their dirty laundry or publicly throw someone who messed up under the bus. But I strongly suspect that if you were a fly on the wall in the right place yesterday, you'd have seen some higher-up, be it Bill Rose or Aaron Forsythe or whomever, having harsh words for some of the people involved. Because, "Oops, we're banning a card a few days after the announcement that we're not banning any cards" looks bad.
  10. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    Actually, I think this is pretty much it. I mean, I think they tested as best they could but their internal group is no match for the thousands (I'm guessing here, I don't know the exact numbers) of players on MTGO. The reason why I think this is it is because Aaron issued a mea culpa of sorts when he said combos like this shouldn't get out of the door in the first place and changes are being made to try to prevent it in the future.

    But yeah, it does look bad.
  11. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    This weekend Cedric Phillips and Patrick Sullivan were on a Star City Games Podcast going into more detail with speculation along the sames lines as what I said about the "emergency ban."

    https://soundcloud.com/cedtalks/cedtalks-42717-what-the-hell-mtg

    Not that this proves I'm right or even that this isn't cynical (I'd concede that it's at least slightly cynical), but I do think it's worth noting that some more prominent voices than my own are echoing my sentiment.
  12. Oversoul The Tentacled One

  13. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Reviving this topic again, I'm not sure what to make of Gitaxian Probe. Most of my experience has been with Legacy. Based on that experience and just common sense, the card seems like a perfect card for Storm. It reveals what disruption the opponent has in-hand, ticks the storm count up by one, and draws a card, all for no mana. I really liked what it did for Cabal Therapy in Vintage and thought that the "strategy" objection based on "perfect information" was the worst kind of pomposity. I've seen this sentiment among players of older formats, but especially Vintage, that blue-based control decks are "skill-testing" and that any situation in which they seem to be disadvantaged is a sign that the game is diseased, that some card or cards should not be and that this affront to the healthy, cerebral nature of the right and proper way to play Magic: the Gathering. And so if you manage to execute a fast combo finish to defeat me, well, you're just doing what any moron could do. You're basically a troglodyte, using your wicked, sinister, deviant, and disgustingly free Gitaxian Probe to steal my most closely guarded secrets. In contrast, if I counter your spells so that I can win, this is a sagacious masterstroke that beautifully illustrates my genius and superiority. Because control is the thinking man's archetype, and combo is exclusively the purview of base simpletons. And that is why we need the free Force of Will. It is the glue that holds the format together, and using it to stop the same spells over and over, rather than being easy, is a strategic symphony of intellect, a task to which only the most acute of minds are equal. Also, that is why the free Gitaxian Probe is an affront: it lets you see my hand for free. And that's just wrong. See also Gush and anything that is making Shops too good. Basically, anything that puts the countermagic control master race at a disadvantage against the gutter trash that is anything else in the format whatsoever. It's all bad and wrong.

    Note: my point right now isn't that Probe should not have been restricted (and I definitely don't think that Force of Will is a problem) or that control deserves to be sidelined. In fact, I think it would be kind of cool if Mana Drain decks could make a comeback. But the whole attitude, probably coming from a vocal minority, of some kinds of decks being smart people decks and other kinds of decks being easy to play and so we need to restrict cards so that the smart people decks perform better, is just too much. Anyway...

    I fully expected that losing Gitaxian Probe would hurt Storm. The top Storm decks in Vintage were using Gush and Gitaxian Probe (both now restricted) to support big Paradoxical Outcome plays, while the DPS/TPS Dark Ritual decks were already relegated to the sidelines and had just lost their strong opener of Gitaxian Probe into Cabal Therapy. But while data trickles in slowly for Vintage, so far it seems like, if anything, Storm became slightly stronger following the restriction of Gitaxian Probe. And now Storm is also experiencing a bit of a resurgence in Modern, where Gitaxian Probe was banned earlier this year. It's premature to say that anything is really going on here. The change is minor and could be ephemeral. But I do find it interesting because it's so counterintuitive. If this resurgence, even a small one, does turn out to be real, I don't think that the reason has anything to do with Gitaxian Probe being a suboptimal choice. The card is just too clearly good for that. Best guess in the case of Vintage is that in the fallout from the restrictions, with a less firmly established balance between Null Rod, Mishra's Workshop, Monastery Mentor, etc., Storm has been able to claim more of a niche, even if it ultimately turns out to be temporary.

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