Feedback Thread: Reverting and Indefinitely Locking All Decks to the Start of the Game in Modern

Discussion in 'General CPA Stuff' started by Spiderman, Jan 25, 2018.

  1. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

  2. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I vaguely recall other attempts at this sort of "now no one gets to do anything" goal. What's fascinating is that it has become possible to reach a state in which one is achieving this with a simultaneous "Look Ma, no cards!" engine. Per the rules, token are not cards, and with stuff like Mirrorworks, it is possible to get a board of functioning artifacts that let one do all sorts of tricks, and not to reach a point at which one is not using cards at all, but can still control the board (and this case, lock the opponent out of cards too). This is all so different from when I had to use Karn to make an artifact into a creature, Donate it to my opponent, and use Echo Chamber to copy it all to make a token copy of an artifact I wanted.
  3. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    Modern is a systems engineering dream, a puzzle in which it increasingly seems possible to craft almost any game state you can imagine. These kind of lock decks, like Lantern as a contemporary competitive comparison, are part of why that deck design freedom the format presents has the opportunity cost of frustrating some people when it comes to actually playing the game :)
  4. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

  5. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Huh. Sometimes the "proper judge answer" to a question is different from the answer I'd think should be right, and I don't know if this is one of these cases. I maintain that the true answer in this situation is that of course the game is a draw. Neither player has a way to win and both players can protect themselves from ever losing. April King inadvertently muddies the waters by using the phrase "nondeterministically" in one of the comments, but her usage there is vague. The scenario described is 100% deterministic. Nondeterministic scenarios do exist, and I touched on that in the Timetwister Solitaire thread, although there are better examples floating around out there somewhere. But this one is deterministic. Might be that the judges would declare this scenario not to result in a draw, but in that case I'm comfortable saying that the judges are wrong (or rather, that the guidelines they are given are wrong).

    And hey, if this is a tournament anyway, can't she just eat up the clock as described without asking for permission? I'd think the slow play rules aren't written in such a way that they'd apply to this situation. And if they are, then that's dumb.
  6. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    I like that her opponent chose to concede, and that this was judged in her favor. The rules could use some tightening / improved definition for locks. Pristine Stasis was quite enjoyable to design on a theory level, but should never be played beyond a casual exhibition of, "Magic is weird and deeply interesting." Lantern is probably close enough to warrant a similar distinction, and it will be interesting to see if Ancient Stirrings or Ensnaring Bridge go on the banned list next week (Dream scenario: Modern as a format now encompasses cards from 9th edition on... ;)
  7. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I find it laughable that Ensnaring Bridge or Ancient Stirrings would be thought banworthy, but then again, I found the banning of Ramunap Ruins in Standard to be silly as well. We live in strange times. OK, maybe not. I mean, they did ban Thawing Glaciers and such, back in the old days...
  8. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    As someone who rarely plays creatures with the intention to attack, let alone dedicated aggro decks, Ensnaring Bridge does seem a bit of an odd choice. It is one of the tournament appearing cards, along with Goryo's Vengeance, that sells for $40 dollars per card and the absence of which would reshape the Modern field to some extent if we could get Modern to start at 9th rather than 8th. Cards like Soul Spike and Sway of the Stars, while not format impacting at the tournament level, would change the design space for the format in what I would vote to be a healthy way. Cards like Commandeer and Sunscour I would genuinely miss though, in my casual world of dropping Barren Glory for the win.

    On the off chance that Wizards does not move Modern start at 9th in the February 12th announcement ;) , those advocating an Ancient Stirrings ban do seem to have a stronger argument from my point of view. I have played against the card some, and it never seemed a powerhouse, though in the much more competitive tournament scene it does seem to be the best and most efficient card finder in a lot of practical competitive scenarios. I think Ponder and Preordain are acceptable, so my views on the matter differ from WotC in the abstract, yet given the bannings of those types of cards in Blue, which theoretically has the best card advantage and finding outside Black, a similar ban for consistency on Ancient Stirrings in Green seems reasonable.
  9. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    That speaks more to the dearth of 2010's reprints than to the true functionality of the cards. Modern doesn't even get the hilarious Null Brooch + Ensnaring Bridge combo.

    I've long been torn on Soul Spike. It seems like they deliberately designed the perfect card for Necropotence in the retro set for the block defined in part by Necropotence, which is inspired. But that also probably pushes Necropotence over the top, for my dreams of it ever being allowed unrestricted in any established format. But more to your point, I don't think that design space in the abstract is (or should be) a motivating factor for card bans. Sway of the Stars is one of those cards that is sufficiently cumbersome that if someone can make it work, I can respect that. I've said the same about Biorhythm and Coalition Victory on the Commander ban list: if someone actually pulls it off and isn't thwarted by anyone else at the table, bravo for that person and maybe the rest of the table should up their game.

    I consider that my reminder to get that Kaervek's Spite deck built already. Barren Glory is awesome.

    Ponder and Preordain are are less extreme cases of the same problem posed by the cards in Legacy, alongside Brainstorm, although Brainstorm is far more egregious. It's a multifaceted problem that isn't intuitively obvious, and it probably only matters for highly competitive environments. Analysts in Vintage and Legacy have gone to great lengths in examining the nature and scope of the issue, and it gets unhelpful labels like "turbo xerox", "The Blue Shell", "blue stew", and "the cantrip cartel." A summarized, conservative description seems to be something like...
    • The critical mass of cheap, blue spells that provide card selection and replace themselves enables 60-card decks to quickly and reliably find the cards they need to win. This is different from casting a tutor because you have to actually draw the tutor, whereas you could draw any one of these blue spells, then cast it and either find the card you need or find another blue spell to cast and find the card you need. Because you're packing so many of them and they're so cheap, you can filter and pick multiple cards instead of just one, and you're freed from needing to manually draw a specific card. In Legacy, the good black tutors are all banned. In Vintage, they're restricted. But these blue card selection spells aren't all restricted, and in many case they're almost as good.
    • These spells synergize with fetchlands. Although Brainstorm is the more extreme example, fetchlands enable Ponder and Preordain too by providing a shuffle effect as a side bonus to providing mana-fixing. This enables decks heavily employing blue spells to run almost any other cards from other colors and to cast them reliably. Historically, running multiple colors in Magic decks meant one needed to take steps to provide color-fixing or risk not being able to cast spells. Fetchlands alone counteract most of this, but blue card selection spells push them over the edge, giving nominally blue decks easy access to just about anything that doesn't have a triple colored mana requirement.
    • Cantrips empower Delver of Secrets, Young Pyromancer, Monastery Mentor, Gurmag Angler, Tarmogoyf, and Deathrite Shaman. These are considered some of the best creatures around, in large part thanks to blue card selection spells giving them a boost. So you get efficient creatures that can dominate the board in the short run, and by their nature they are fueled by the spells that are sculpting your hand for you, providing countermagic and other tools to deal with whatever the opponent is doing.
    • Many of the strategies that can beat cantrip-based decks can also simply fail to do anything in time if they get bad draws. The cantrip-based decks simply fix their bad opening hands by casting cantrips. It's not 100% foolproof. In fact, it could, in some situations, work out so that a different deck has a better than average chance to win against a cantrip-based deck, but many tournament players will still prefer the cantrip-based deck because it is more consistent, and consistency is enticing. And that makes it disproportionately popular.
    • Because these spells form a card selection "shell" rather than providing a win condition inherently, they tend to appear in a wide variety of decks, which all use the many of the same cards. This tends to lead to a distortion of the tournament environment, rather than outright domination by a single archetype. But once the cantrips achieve a kind of critical mass, we end up with either (1) an environment in which one such archetype stands out above the others, or (2) one in which multiple archetypes are strong performers...
    1. A single cantrip-based deck stands out as the best. The tournament environment devolves into a war between that archetype and whatever deck can successfully compete with it. Historically, some tournament environments would end up with a kind of triangle: A tends to beat B, B tends to beat C, C tends to beat A. But that hasn't happened with these types of decks because the same thing that gives them the power to have top-tier explosiveness is also the thing giving them consistency, and when that happens, it takes something very special to beat it, something that shuts other decks down hard and doesn't have its own weakness that can easily be exploited. By definition, if its weakness were so easy to exploit, the cantrip-based decks would just incorporate countermeasures, because it'd be easy for them to do. I'd say this has happened in Vintage, although multiple restrictions have mitigated the problem for now. For a while, Workshop decks were pretty good against Mentor decks, but nothing else that was strong against Workshop decks was worth it to play because it would get hammered by Mentor decks.
    2. No single cantrip-based archetype stands out above the rest. This can lead to a "diverse" metagame that mostly consists of decks slinging blue card-selection spells, but with different win conditions and play modes. This can allow for several different options, but most players find it unfun. This has happened in Legacy to some extent. Sneak and Show, Grixis Pyromancer, Czech Pile, Miracles, ANT, Delver, and Team America are all top Legacy decks or close to it. They all play differently, but they all tend to run some combination of Brainstorm, Ponder, Preordain, Gitaxian Probe, and Force of Will. Not all of those decks run all of those cards, but there's enough overlap anyway that it can be frustrating.
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  10. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    I was thinking that without Brainstorm and Gitaxian, Ponder and Preordain would not be a real issue. Together they could be though, with the examples you pointed out - maybe a Preordain unban to syncronize it with its judgment in the Vintage format. Then ban Thoughtseize to syncronize with the Gitaxian ban :p
  11. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    You were right - they released from the banned list another way for control decks to lock the game state. Good instincts / analysis there.
  12. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I don't know how much it's really good instincts and how much it's just that there's some chaff on the Modern ban list and some of it inherently lines up with overall strategies and archetypes that we also happen to discuss. Might be a bit of both.

    I do think that, while I don't generally try to predict Modern ban list changes, JTMS and BBE are both cards that I would have thought were unban candidates. JTMS fulfills the dual purposes of giving control decks in the format something that applies pressure and selling packs of Masters 25 like hotcakes. BBE being banned was a relic of a more tumultuous time in the format's history. And without making predictions, I do think it's noticeable that there's a pattern in the cards that get banned vs. don't get banned and the ones that reside on the list permanently vs. the ones that are considered for being unbanned. WotC want to guide the format more towards Summoner Wars: the Gathering and are terrified of unorthodox play patterns, especially combo decks. BBE as a combat-oriented creature with a card advantage EtB ability was an obvious candidate for unbanning. Rite of Flame, as a potential combo enabler, is locked in as verboten.

    I talked about it some in that analysis thread for the format, but I've never really had a clear and comfortable ideal of what Modern should be. I joked that Counterspell should be reprinted in Dominaria, but that WotC are too scared of the card to ever do it. And then I learned that some Modern players are dead-set against such a possibility and emphatically believe that Counterspell in a Standard-legal set would "ruin" Modern. I actually don't know what to think about that. Thoughts have ranged from "But it's barely played at all in Legacy" to "It really would be a game-change in Modern" to "a format that would be ruined by the existence of Counterspell deserves to be ruined" to "well, that's pretty mean of me" and from there it just goes all over the place. I'm at a loss on that stuff, I guess.
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