Banned from Constructed play

Discussion in 'General CPA Stuff' started by Oversoul, Mar 9, 2017.

  1. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    This doesn't quite fit the theme of the "Memories" threads that I've been posting, but I've been thinking about an old post I saw when looking for one of my own old posts on Survival of the Fittest...

    I don't know how well that holds water, but I find it interesting. The idea seems to be a bit of a throwback to the old Type 1.5, where the only cards that were banned were the ones restricted in Vintage. These days, Vintage tournament play is such a small competitive environment that discussing it as a Magic format is a little weird. Sure, it's kind of the oldest format, but in some people's minds it's a dead format. Most Vintage results for which there is data are Magic Online, and it's a different game with a different setup. Trying to crunch numbers, though, just doesn't work as well as it does for other formats. With so many very small tournaments showing up it can seem like a very diverse, wild format. But focusing only on the (rare) larger tournaments doesn't give a clear story either. Longtime Vintage enthusiasts like Kevin Cron and Randy Buehler might try to provide analytical commentary, but the whole situation is just weird. Perhaps Vintage isn't dead, but it's kind of dead. Undead? A lot of players, myself included, are worried that Legacy is headed the same direction. But that's another topic.

    Anyway, going with the idea that if a card is banned in Legacy, but not really playable in Vintage, there's no home for it and the card is essentially, if not actually, banned from Constructed play, what cards might this apply to? Sure, a lot of cards are just not strong enough to make the cut in Legacy. Some of those were once actively played in competitive Magic and no longer have a relevant niche, but that's different. If we think of Legacy as the "You can use your cards unless they're too powerful" format and Vintage as the "Even powerful cards are allowed" format, what cards are oddly left out? What gets banned out of Legacy, but is apparently not powerful enough to have its own niche in Vintage? Like I said, I don't really know about this concept holding water. If we identify the cards, what can we meaningfully say about them? Should they be unbanned in Legacy? I think most Legacy players are of the opinion that some more robust criteria should be used for making such decisions. But I find myself drawn to the idea anyway, and I'm curious enough to go through the list...

    Firstly, I'll dismiss the cards that are banned in Vintage. That's a totally different category from Shabbaman's idea. Yes, one could say that Falling Star is "banned from Constructed play" but that is for totally different reasons. So yeah, cutting out the conspiracies, ante cards, manual dexterity cards, and white sorceries from Arabian Nights illustrated by Kaja Foglio. They're out of the picture. Moving on...

    Let's also dismiss the cards that are demonstrable Vintage powerhouses. The format may be a kinda undead or whatever, but some cards are unquestionably strong to anyone familiar with Eternal formats. That these cards are banned in Legacy and not banned in Vintage is what separates formats from each other.

    Ancestral Recall
    Bazaar of Baghdad
    Black Lotus
    Mana Crypt
    Mana Vault
    Mishra’s Workshop
    Mox Emerald
    Mox Jet
    Mox Pearl
    Mox Ruby
    Mox Sapphire
    Oath of Druids
    Sol Ring
    Strip Mine
    Time Vault
    Time Walk
    Tolarian Academy
    Yawgmoth’s Will

    Close scrutiny might suggest that some cards are missing from that crossed off list. And I agree that there's a case for that. I wanted to first get rid of the cards that I'm basically 100% convinced are "Vintage and not Legacy." Some cards are played in Vintage, but the fact that they're banned in Legacy is more of a current circumstance than a defining feature. For example, Gush is an excellent card in Vintage. Does it need to be banned in Legacy? A case could easily be made that Brainstorm should be banned instead and that Gush should be unbanned. I'm not advocating for this. I'm just saying I want to be distinct in what I'm crossing off and why I'm doing it. The cards above are clearly, indisputably, beyond the power level of Legacy and are also very widely played in Vintage. I left them in alphabetical order. If they were prioritized, Fastbond would probably be at the bottom of the list. It doesn't appear in Vintage decks quite as often as it once did, but I still think it's a powerhouse.

    With those out of the way, I'll also cross off some cards that are at least marginally played in Vintage and have or once had a very prominent role. For example, Memory Jar is used in Paradoxical Outcome decks and occasionally crops up elsewhere. It's not really a Vintage staple, but back in the days of Goblin Welder, it was seen all the time. Maybe Paradoxical Outcome is going to be a permanent fixture in Vintage, or maybe it's flash in the pan. I really don't know. But a card like Memory Jar has historically had a strong presence in Vintage, and still shows up on a regular basis in at least one major archetype. If Vintage were to continue to evolve, perhaps to thrive as a competitive format, perhaps some day Memory Jar wouldn't show up in decklists. And actually, I think that the card should be unbanned in Legacy, although I may be completely alone in the world on that point. But right now, I'm not focusing on whether cards should be banned or not. The point is that we've got some cards that are, at least currently, strong enough to have a significant role in Vintage, so banning them in Legacy doesn't leave them banned from Constructed play...

    Demonic Tutor
    Dig Through Time
    Library of Alexandria
    Mana Drain
    Memory Jar
    Mental Misstep
    Mind’s Desire
    Mystical Tutor
    Treasure Cruise
    Vampiric Tutor
    Wheel of Fortune
    Yawgmoth’s Bargain

    Some of those are close to marginal for Vintage. Traditional Storm decks aren't as prominent as they once were, and they're the main home for cards like Wheel of Fortune and Mind's Desire. But for now, I'm comfortable crossing those off as "Vintage playables." That does get rid of most of the list. Several of the remaining cards have still definitely had marginal Vintage appearances, but I don't want to go crazy. In some cases, a brief search shows that a card has made some appearances in Vintage tournament results over the years, but that almost all of them have been by the same player! Just because one guy manages to successfully use his pet card in a local metagame for a format that is played too sparsely to get good competitive data doesn't mean it should be crossed off, dismissed as "Vintage playable."

    For the sake of trimming it a bit more, let's cross off the cards that are still here, but that are restricted in Vintage. My reasoning is that even if these cards are not played to a great degree in the format, the fact that they're restricted is an extenuating circumstance. I'm not commenting on whether they should be restricted, but it seems notable. The card I'm primarily thinking of is Flash. Yes, it is banned in Legacy and restricted in Vintage, and it doesn't show up in Vintage decklists these days. But a card that isn't played when it's only available as single copy might be played a lot more if it were available as a four-of. One could argue that such a card being restricted in Vintage is sort of banning that card from constructed play, but it's for a very different reason than what Shabbaman had in mind. Instead of "this card isn't good enough for Vintage and is banned in Legacy" it's more that the card is thought to be so powerful that it is too good to be unrestricted in Vintage, and it just doesn't have a niche while restricted...

    Demonic Consultation
    Imperial Seal
  2. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    That leaves us with this list of "banned from constructed play" cards...

    Frantic Search
    Goblin Recruiter
    Hermit Druid
    Mind Twist
    Survival of the Fittest

    Well, on the one hand, at least that isn't very many cards! One could potentially dispute some points. Some of the cards that I crossed off have historically had a Vintage presence but are too marginal now to warrant designation as "Vintage playable." That might raise the question of whether they should still be restricted in Vintage at all. And one could argue for crossing off some of the cards that I've left there, as they've seen at least a little Vintage play, but it's a bit of stretch. Notably, all six of the cards left on the list are ones that I've argued should probably be unbanned in Legacy. In fact, the list of cards that I want unbanned and the list of "banned from constructed play" that I've made from my interpretation of Shabbaman's idea are almost entirely overlap (I am very hesitant on Frantic Search with how prevalent cheap, blue card-drawing spells already are, given that they seem to have approached a sort of critical mass for taking over the format, although if Brainstorm were banned, that worry would go right out the window). Granted, the same person would be compiling both lists, so it could just be bias. But I do think that there's some merit here.
  3. Melkor Well-Known Member

    Mind Twist continues to stick out like a sore thumb. It's just clearly not too powerful for Legacy and it doesn't go in any currently powerful deck. The only thing I really hear against it is that it isn't "fun" to have used against you. Of course, it's not very fun for the opponent when B/R Reanimator puts a Sire of Insanity into play on the first turn (with Chancellor of the Annex backup!) which isn't that unusual a play. I can at least envision the rest of those cards potentially being part of something degenerate.
  4. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I don't think that any of those cards slot very well into a currently powerful deck, except maybe Frantic Search because hey, free card-drawing. But I do agree that Mind Twist is probably the most egregious. Another one that's pretty weird to still have on there is Goblin Recruiter. Legacy had such an influx of players in the last few years of the 00's and first few of this decade, that on multiple occasions I've seen players who were experienced and well-versed in the format just assume that Goblin Recruiter is on the banned list due to logistical issues, akin to Shahrazad. They imagine that the library-stacking must have been too time-consuming for tournaments. And then someone who was actually around in the days of Food Chain Goblins informs them that no, the deck deck didn't really slow tournaments down nearly as badly as some of the other stuff that's been legal, and it was banned in Extended for power level and then the ban carried over when Legacy was created, just like several other cards that got their bans in Legacy lifted over the years. After that, they look at how the deck actually functions and at the lines of play. There's this sort of slow progression from, "Hey, Food Chain Goblins was a pretty cool deck" to "yeah, this probably would not fare any better in Legacy than existing Goblins decks."

    The most fun thing in Legacy is probably, "In response I pay 1 to spin Top, OK, reveal the top card of my library for Counterbalance. Your spell is is countered. End of turn, tap Top. Untap, upkeep, draw, play Top, make another Monk token..." Everyone loves playing against that!

    I think it's a mixed bag. Like I said, Frantic Search is more blue cantrip crap, which is already dominant in Legacy, but it's not like having Frantic Search banned and Brainstorm unbanned really makes sense at this point. Hermit Druid might be risky, and it's different enough from what's played now that I don't know how to gauge its potential. The other four all strike me as extremely safe unbans, but I could try to put on an imagination hat and picture a case where Survival of the Fittest or Earthcraft found some unexpected scenario and took over Legacy. I don't think it's plausible, but if I really squinted hard, maybe I could see it. Goblin Recruiter and Mind Twist being able to even compete with stuff like a Jitte-equipped "protection from you" creature, let alone dominate the format, is just plain silly.
  5. Shabbaman insert avatar here

    Wow, this is a very fun mental excercise! Thanks for doing this! It's also the first time anyone started a thread based on something I wrote, so yay.

    One point you make that I think I've never considered is that Legacy has banned cards that were taken from the original Extended format. Like Hermit Druid (I assume... Angry Hermit was quite the powerhouse). At the time you could play it in type 1.5, although that wasn't a very popular format at the time.
  6. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Thread necromancy! Hey, this thread's corpse was practically still fresh...

    So I've probably reopened the old wounds of the Legacy banning of Survival of the Fittest more than anyone else on the planet, even though I didn't originally set out to do that, but I keep circling back around to the topic in various places for various reasons. Anyway, in case there was any doubt, I still think I was right in 2010. And also, apparently, I think that this dead horse hasn't been beaten enough. Kind of. OK, maybe not really. The real reason I am digging this back up is that Survival of the Fittest is now "officially" Vintage-playable. Now, I already mentioned the occasional appearance of Madness-type decks in contemporary Vintage tournaments, but such appearances were rare. A lot of fringe stuff crops up in small Vintage events.

    But now it looks like Survival has real staying power. The combination of Survival of the Fittest and Bazaar of Baghdad makes a graveyard-based aggro approach potent, and both cards make it easy to cast Hollow One. The "Survival Salad" concept has been gaining ground in Vintage on MTGO and seems to be here to stay. It isn't as powerful as Dredge, but has some advantages over the more extreme archetype, so the relative usage of the two will probably oscillate somewhat depending on the rest of the metagame. But anyway, it does appear that after ~7 years of being banned from Constructed play, Survival of the Fittest has become a thing again.

    I'm happy about this development, but I also can't pretend that it presents no conceptual challenge to my own stance on these matters. Does this development vindicate the original 2010 Legacy banning of Survival of the Fittest? Does this deck's success mean that other "banned from Constructed play" cards are just waiting for the right new deck to emerge in Vintage? Is Survival of the Fittest now definitively too broken for Legacy? I'm tentatively tempted to say no on all counts, but it'd be foolish of me to dismiss the issue without serious trepidation.

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