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Author Topic: Don't Ban Sensei's Divining Top  (Read 4590 times)
Anusien
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« on: March 14, 2009, 04:31:09 pm »

Introduction
Ever since Sensei's Divining Top was banned in Extended, I think Legacy players felt like their precious Tops had an expiration date.  Top was banned in Extended supposedly for logistical reasons; it made tournaments take significantly longer because a large amount of tournament time was eaten up just by activating Top and rearranging the top 3 cards.  Since those reasons seem to apply to Legacy, why did Top not get banned in Legacy?  Luckily though Top did not get banned in Legacy.  I am writing this post because I feel like Top is a net positive for Legacy, and I believe it does not deserve to be banned.

Logistical Reasons
Part of the problem with Top in Extended is that practically every deck ran it.  Many Extended players knew something was up when Gerrard Fabiano literally just swapped a land for a Sensei's Divining Top in his Rock deck; the prevailing opinion was that Top went into every deck.  Legacy does not suffer from this problem.  Not every deck in Legacy runs Top; primarily only the Counterbalance decks run the card.  Even if Top were as prevalent in Legacy, it's not as bad as Extended.  Even without Top, Legacy decks still run many fetchlands, Brainstorm, Ponder and other deck manipulation spells.  Moreover Top does not appear to be the problem in Legacy that it was in Extended.  At Chicago, the rounds did not seem to run over time significantly and there were not a large number of unintentional draws because of Top.  Both signs indicate that keeping Top would be okay logistically.

Reign of Combo
Some form of Counterbalance-Top is certainly the best deck, and that's okay.  If it was not Counterbalance-Top it would be Dark Ritual-Ad Nauseam.  The Tendrils decks tend to bowl over every deck that does not either have Counterbalance-Top and Force of Will or large amounts of hate: Wasteland, Stifle, Force of Will, Daze and an aggressive draw.  The prevalence of Counterbalance keeps the Tendrils decks in check, and Counterbalance is a much better deck to be #1 than Tendrils.  When the best deck in the format is a control deck, players tend to perceive the environment as healthier than if the best deck is a combo deck.  Maybe the opponent gets blown out the same in either matchup, but at least against the control deck players feel like they have a chance.  Plus the control deck takes longer to win the game, opening up more strategic options for the opponent.  Also when a blue deck, especially a skill-intensive blue deck, is the best deck, the matches tend to have more turns and more decisions, allowing more skilled players to win (which is generally a good thing for promoting Magic!).  Having combo as the top deck would create an unhealthy format because it is so powerful and so hard to beat.
Players at GP Chicago who played combo told me they effortlessly bowled over every player that did not have Counterbalance/Top or a significant portion of their deck devoted to beating them.

Deck Diversity
Banning Top does not appear to open up any room for new decks in the format; actually it would significantly decrease available deck diversity.  If Counterbalance is banned, there do not seem to be any factors which would prevent the format from becoming combo decks versus anti-combo decks.  Legacy currently has a wide range of decks set to prey on the Counterbalance decks.  Green presents Survival, Rock and Natural Order.  Black presents Team America.  Blue presents Merfolk and Faerie Stompy.  Red presents Goblins and Dragon Stompy.  With Counterbalance gone, many of these decks become irrelevant.  It is difficult to see how the board control decks or in fact any nonblue decks can survive in a land without Counterbalance.  Right now those decks exist because Counterbalance is an easier target to metagame against.  It is vulnerable to creature removal, enchantment removal, City of Solitude effects and more.  Because the combo decks do not present a board presence, they are significantly less vulnerable to most of Magic.
Having Counterbalance actually opens up significant new avenues of deck building and card choices.  Counterbalance is a significant factor in the metagame, and it is one of the few things that forces deckbuilders to experiment and change things up.  Counterbalance offers a significant reward to players that choose to play different cards at varied casting costs.  The format driven by a combo deck forces players to play the cheapest spells possible.  Trinket Mage, Trygon Predator or Krosan Grip-style innovations in the maindeck are useless in a combo metagame; it becomes driving costs downward instead of upward.  In this fashion, Counterbalance helps compensate for all the older design mistakes by Wizards.  Many of the older cards are undercosted and would normally dominate, but they do not because Counterbalance provides an incentive to diversify casting costs.  Counterbalance it is the only reason why in a format of Swords to Plowshares and Daze that players are playing Trygon Predator and Sower of Temptation.

I think Counterbalance is good for the environment.  It causes players to use more turns, to play more interesting and more powerful new cards.  In this environment players are encouraged to experiment with new cards that cost more to get around Counterbalance's drawback, and it presents interesting deckbuilding challenges.  The metagame without Counterbalance is significantly less vibrant or healthy; a metagame where fast combo dominates is usually unhealthy.  This sort of combo deck is especially hard to fight because it gets access to all the best cards for fighting it as well.  Current Tendrils decks already use Duress, Thoughtseize, and Orim's Chant.

So do the right thing, Wizards.  Please leave Top in the format.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2009, 04:34:52 pm by Anusien » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2009, 05:48:39 pm »

It is my understanding that Legacy (as an Eternal Format) is about playing with all the cards you own (except the extremely broken ones and the well, really expensive ones like Bazaar/Mask).

Top wasn't banned for brokeness, but for high profile tourney time reasons.

I wouuldn't worry (but then again, I don't play sanctioned that often, or Legacy/Extended outside of casual/MWS)

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Anusien
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« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2009, 04:17:44 pm »

In short, a world without Top seems to consist of three types of decks.  The first are combo decks, largely in the form we have now.  Without CounterTop they probably slow down a tad and have 8+ disruption spells and beat the control decks.  Then you have the "control" decks, which have Force of Will, Stifle, Daze, maybe Duress, a fast clock and that may not be enough.  And then you have the Ancient Tomb decks that use Chalice, Trinisphere, and such.  All those decks are currently represented in the format.  I think you lose all the non-blue decks as contenders; the kind of decks like Goblins, Survival, or Aggro-Loam that prey on the blue decks just fall out of the metagame.  And I think part of the appeal of Legacy is how many decks can compete.
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« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2009, 07:35:56 pm »

Random comment:  I'm all for them banning Sensei's Top in Legacy.  I would enjoy TEPS that much more Very Happy
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« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2009, 08:52:22 am »

If they ban Top I would think they would also ban LED.  I mean, a consistent turn 2 combo deck seems a bit strong to me.
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