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Author Topic: Sven, the Lost Lion: Voltron Blog  (Read 65051 times)
voltron00x
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« on: December 04, 2009, 04:51:21 pm »

I’ve been meaning to start a blog here for some time, but several of my attempts to do so turned into SCG articles.  This one was headed down a similar path, but its so Vintage-specific and focused on my personal results that it feels more at home here.  If you feel it to be self-indulgent or self-promoting, I accept that criticism, but that really wasn’t my intent.  The review of my personal results, including successes and failures, is done to help guide my play in the future.

2009: A Vintage Odyssey

Where to start... How about the beginning?

Returning to Vintage

I covered some of this in my initial article for SCG, but that was almost a year ago, but as some of you are probably familiar with this info, I’ll keep this part brief.

I originally played Magic from Arabian Nights until Tempest.  I played on one Pro Tour, PT2 in Long Beach, but I considered myself a decent to good player at that time (probably incorrect in hindsight, but the internet was in its infancy at that point, so it was harder to measure one’s abilities, and being on the East Coast was a huge advantage as far as acquiring emerging tech).  After that Pro Tour, despite scrubbing out of the actual main event, I was ranked in the top 50 in the world in Limited (due to crushing the Alliances pre-release and the Japanese 4th FBB release event at the Pro Tour), and for the better part of a year (95-96) I was in or around the top 250 in the world in Standard... but being 16 with limited funds, I didn't play in many PTQs because I couldn't afford to travel.  I did constantly play Vintage (then known as Type I) at Grey Matter events, until the DCI restricted Black Vice and gutted my deck (a Nether Void meta deck designed to prey on "The Deck").  At that time, they used to run 3-bracket events, with the top 2 from Vintage and top 3 from Standard and Sealed making top 8, which was either sealed or draft, for $1000 cash (technically I believe it was for a set of the P9 which they would buy back for $1000 cash).  Eventually my play group fell apart and I didn't feel like traveling to test, or spending $100 to pick up Cursed Scrolls, and that was that.

I briefly got into the game again in 2002-2003 (how insanely good was Odyssey block?), but I ended up in retail management after college, and working every Saturday doesn't leave any time for tournament play, so I sold my cards again - apparently I didn't learn from the first time around.  When I got promoted in 2006 and was no longer in a store or working Saturdays, I started following the game again, mostly by reading articles on Starcitygames.com and the Wizards home page (especially Frank Karsten’s articles, which were invaluable to me as I got back into the game in 2007).  When my company basically shut down and I was laid off with 10 weeks severance in March 2007, I suddenly had the time to get back into the game (and the cash-out of my accrued vacation time gave me the funds to acquire a new collection).  The subsequent office job that I got meant that I had my Saturdays free for the foreseeable future.  I drafted a lot of Time Spiral, played that block season, and then got into Standard over the summer and Extended in early 2008.

Legacy into Vintage

My journey into Vintage really began in August 2008 at GenCon.  I had planned on playing mostly Lorwyn block events, including Block Champs and two PTQs, but I also started trading for Legacy cards so I could play in Legacy Champs as well.  I traded for four Lion’s Eye Diamonds and ended up trying to decide between different LED combo decks (since most of my testing was based on gold-fishing).  I wound up playing Belcher because at the time I owned zero dual lands and only needed to borrow two to run the deck, and because I felt like I needed the least knowledge of the format to make the deck work.  I placed 3rd out of 160 players in what was effectively my second Legacy tournament. 

As an aside, it's amusing to me that suddenly Belcher is a "hot" deck because certain pros have taken to it... the deck was a wrecking ball in the Legacy portion of Worlds 2007.  I don’t think it’s any more or less of a gimmick deck than 43 Land, as both of those decks have shown that they can top 8 large tournaments, but both have struggled to actually win an event.

In any case, I started picking up Legacy cards in earnest after Legacy Champs, but there weren't any local Legacy events to speak of outside of some stores that held small, weekly tournaments.  There were, however, Vintage tournaments at AU Blue Bell, which were all of 5 minutes from the apartment where I was living.  Some of the guys at the store, notably Brian Legrow, Mykie Noble (now a teammate on D3G) and John Jones, talked me into proxying up some Vintage decks to get a feel for the format.  I built 100% proxy versions of MS Paint (which was awesome, but quickly invalidated by the printing of Tezz and change to Time Vault), Workshop Aggro, James King's Hellkite Oath, TPS, Euro Control, and Manaless Ichorid.  Of those, Hellkite Oath was far and away my favorite. 

I'm not really sure why that was the case... I suppose some of it had to do with the style of the deck.  I have a soft spot for cheating big creatures into play, and I love "big spell"-style decks like Enduring Ideal.  I also liked the mana denial aspect of the deck.  The last Blue Bell of 2008 was for a set of 40 Revised Duals, and I ended up playing the James King list 75/75.  I had to borrow the dual lands, Force of Wills, and Oaths plus proxy the full 15 cards. 

My first round, I have to admit I was a little nervous, despite play-testing a decent number of games.  I hadn't played Vintage since 1996!  In the first round, I ended up getting an unintentional draw with Joe Davis (now a teammate on D3G), and then won three of my next four rounds to head into round 6 at 3-1-1.  In the last round, I had to play Mykie Noble (now also a teammate on D3G), who was rocking a non-traditional U/B Stax list.  We'd tested the night before and I'd done very well, but he smoked me 2-0 and went on the win the tournament.  Still, 3-2-1 with a chance at making T8 in my first Vintage event in 12 years seemed decent enough, and I really liked the deck. 

I decided to commit somewhat to the format and set about getting the rest of the cards I needed to at least be able to play at 15 proxies.  Mykie sold the set of duals he’d won back to the store as he already had a full set, so I picked up some of those and did some selective shopping to get myself within 15 proxies.

As a side note, one of the reasons why I believe that Legacy can and should be a gateway into new Vintage players is due to the fact that I personally took that path, but it required recruiting on the part of the local Vintage community as well as people willing to let me test a gauntlet, explain the common lines of play (I had never played with Tinker, Yawgmoth’s Will, etc), and loan me cards for my first event.  I try to do the same now to do my part in helping out the local Vintage community, and I know there are many others that do the same.  This process is definitely needed if Vintage is to survive, long-term.

Gradually, as 2009 progressed and the attendance at local PTQs exploded (to the point where 300 players has become the norm in PA and NJ), I began to focus more and more on Vintage and Legacy and less on the PTQ formats.  It’s not that my desire to play in a Pro Tour again has faded, but given the time restraints in my life right now, I’d rather devote the time I have for Magic to a format that I genuinely have come to love discussing and even playtesting.

A Year of Oath

One of the interesting aspects of Eternal formats is that they give you the opportunity to continue playing a deck over a long period of time due to the lack of rotations (with decks being invalidated mostly by metagame shifts).  I played in fourteen Vintage events in 2009 (and should end up on 15 for the year including the December Blue Bell), playing Oath 11 times and loaning the deck out once, giving me a sample of 12 tournaments to review.

February Blue Bell - 4-2, 9th place (40+ players)

For this tournament, I changed two of the Negates from the James King list into Lim-Dul’s Vaults after being dissatisfied with Negate, and finding it to be too mana-intensive.  I wanted another way to find Orchards, as I found many people were letting me resolve LDV despite it being a sort of super-Vampiric Tutor in this deck; it gives you not only Oath or Orchard, but also lets you set up what comes after.  I misplayed my way out of this tournament, getting blown out by AJ Grasso and then punting a match by fumbling an Impulse and picking up a game loss.

Losses:  Painter, Landstill

GP Chicago Vintage Side event - 4-2 (82 players; Swiss + 1 style)

I lost round 3 to a Mystic Remora deck, beginning a trend of my losing the die roll to decks with Remora and not being able to beat a first-turn Remora, but winning games where I was on the play.  At this event I experimented with Null Rod in the SB, but wasn’t impressed.  Looking back, I now realize that this was more due to match-ups during the tournament than anything fundamentally wrong with Null Rod, but I didn’t use Null Rod again for almost six months.  I was knocked out of top 4 contention in round 6, losing game 3 to Tezzeret.  I had resolved a Lim-Dul’s Vault and found a block of 5 cards with 3 Oaths, and set them up consecutively.  I used Thoughtseize and then the first Oath to clear my opponent’s hand, but he drew a Drain of the Top, and then a Force, and countered all three.  I dropped at 4-2 (rather than try to win the next two for a chance at “top 8” of Swiss + 1, which would’ve been a Guru Swamp) to eat at Morton’s.

Losses:  Tezz, Remora Control

April Blue Bell - 7-1-1, Finals – Win (44 players)

I recapped this event in an article, here:

http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/vintage/17310_The_Long_And_Winding_Road_How_Progenitus_Got_my_Groove_Back_Vintage_Oath.html


The list I ran was a slightly modified version of what I’d played the previous few months, but after Josh Barkon slaughtered me in round two, I drew excellent hands all day and played much better.  I feel like this was the tournament where I began to understand the format, its interactions, and most importantly the potential / capability of my deck and the major archetypes, and started to map out decision trees correctly.  I won a Mox Jet at this tournament, and kept it.  This was also the tournament where I ran Progenitus for the first time, in place of Akroma.  Looking back and being honest with myself, I was drawing incredibly hot for the back end of this tournament and into the top 8, but coming off a tough few months after I started writing for SCG, this win was reinvigorating.

Losses:  Tezz

April Princeton NJ - 3-1-2, Top 8 (26 players)

For this tournament, I added Tinker + Inkwell Leviathan to my list, to have an alternate win condition and to help beat sideboard measures such as Greater Gargadon.  I cruised through the Swiss thanks to some easy pairings (in terms of match-ups, not player skill), but was demolished by Jeff Folinus (now a teammate on D3G) in the top 8.  Nick Coss (also now a teammate on D3G) crushed Nick Detwiler in the second round, playing the Fatestitcher Ichorid list from the Waterbury, which was influential on both of us.  In Detwiler’s case, he swore to never skimp on Ichorid hate again, which is key in our area as the deck is relatively prominent (or at least, has very good T8 penetration).  For me, it gave me another deck to test in Ichorid, and one that I used to get second place in the May Blue Bell (where I loaned out my Oath deck – see below).

Losses:  Tezz

Philly Open 3 in May - 2-2 (55 players)

I started out 2-0 at this one after beating Paul Mastriano in round 1, but lost round 3 to a Mystic Remora deck and then round 4 to an extremely hateful Fish deck (my only loss to Fish in 2009 – I believe I went 11-1 against Fish this year with Oath).

Losses:  Remora Control, Fish

May Blue Bell - 5-2, Top 4 (32 players - deck was played by Chas Hinkle)

I played Ichorid in this one and got 2nd, losing to Jeremy Beaver’s accelerated Tezz list.  I loaned the Oath deck to Chas Hinkle (now a teammate on D3G).  The build I gave him had a stronger mana denial element, with a Crucible of Worlds main and a Strip and 2 Wastelands, with a 3rd Wasteland in the SB.  Chas gave me some feedback on the list that would prove influential later in the year (notably to add Merchant Scroll back into the deck, consider Regrowth, and possibly add Mystical Tutor).  I almost lost to him in the T8, but was savagely lucky in our first game.  I also split in the finals of a Legacy tournament in May (with Jeff Folinus) and bought out Jeff’s half of the Lotus; combined with the store credit / cash I won by getting in this tournament and winning a Peasant EDH earlier in the year, I now had effectively won a Mox Jet, Sapphire, and Lotus and had committed to trying to fill out the Power 9 through tournament winnings and, later, working as a dealer with Nick Coss.

The Ichorid report for this event (I went 6-2 and made the finals) is here:

http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/vintage/17525_The_Long_Winding_Road_Eating_Vintage_Brains_for_Fun_Profit.html


Losses (Chas, with Oath):  Tezz, Ichorid

Dan Herd Memorial (June) - 3-3 (64 players)

I started out 3-1 at this one and was in 11th headed into round 5 (in between Jeff Folinus and Paul Mastriano), but somehow ended up paired down against AJ Grasso (who was 2-1-1).  His Landstill deck was still an awful match-up for me, and I got crushed.  I then got paired down again in round 6, against Jerry Yang (who was somehow 2-3).  I lost two coin-flips to lose game one (50% chance of hitting a haste creature to win, followed by a Mana Crypt flip with him at 3 life), and he kicked the crap out of me game 2.  At this point I decided I needed to revamp the list.  The two non-haste creatures were causing me to lose far too many games and the mana denial package, especially Chalice, seemed to be causing me more problems than anything else.  I also had a nice conversation with Jerry, having no idea at the time that he was one of the better Vintage players / deck designers on the planet.

Losses:  Tezz (2), Landstill,

June Blue Bell - 4-2 (52 players)

This was a weird event that had unexpectedly high turnout, and a sudden jump in Shop players (possibly due to Nick Detwiler making the finals of both large Philly events in May/June).  For this tournament I attempted to up the power level by playing more restricted cards and all haste creatures, while cutting Chalice of the Void completely.  I also added Key/Vault to the deck.  I liked the build but had to mulligan nearly 50% of my opening hands on the day.  Frustrated, despite thinking this build had some promise, I went back to a Chalice / Null Rod strategy without Time Vault for the NYSE II in August.  I didn’t play any Vintage in July, and played Ichorid at Vintage Champs.

Losses:  Tezz, Workshop Aggro

NYSE II (August) - 4-2-1, Top 8 (39 players)

I recapped this event here:

http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/vintage/18013_The_Long_Winding_Road_Vintage_Old_Favorites_New_Tech.html


This list ran triple Dragons (2 Hellkite, 1 Karrthus) to combat what I expected to be a Stax-heavy field.  I also ran three Null Rods in the sideboard with no Key/Vault in the deck.  This list proved pretty effective for that specific field, and I went 4-1-1 and made the top 8, before losing to Austin Pollack’s Next Level Vault in the top 8, 2-1.  Although CB is still a fringe card in Vintage, it is extremely difficult to beat with Oath.

Losses:  Steel City Vault, Counterbalance Control

September Blue Bell - 2-4 (40+ players)

This was my worst showing with Oath in 2009.  I ran the same list as I did at the NYSE II, but I had a terrible day, losing a brutal round 1 to Steve Nowakowski (now a teammate on D3G), eventually evening my record out to 2-2 before losing consecutive matches to NYSE members (including a round 6 where both Nick Detwiler and I were 2-3).

Losses:  Tezz (2), 5C Stax (2)

September Oaks - 5-1-2, Finals - Split (32 players)

I recapped this tournament in an article, here:

http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/vintage/18136_The_Long_Winding_Road_Vintage_DoubleShot.html

I redesigned the deck to be more in line with the deck I had wanted to build in June.  This list had three creatures, no Gaea’s Blessing, added red for Ancient Grudge and REB, and played Yawgmoth’s Will and more tutors / restricted cards.  I wanted the list to be greedy.  I had relatively favorable pairings through the Swiss, and then beat TPS and the mirror to make the finals, where I split with Chas, who was now playing an updated version of Austin’s CB/Top deck. 

I played Elves at the October Blue Bell just to play something different, and went 3-2 after starting out 2-0 (and winning my first 5 games, no less).  In round 5, at 2-2, I played Mark Hornung, who had won the previous Blue Bell and would later win the Philly Open IV.  My final round pairings were pretty ridiculous in 2009!

Losses:  Oath

NYSE III - 6-0-2, Finals - Split (53 players)

This tournament is also recapped in an article, here:

http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/vintage/18200_The_Long_Winding_Road_NYSE_III_Tournament_Report.html
 
For this event I further refined the list from Oaks, this time adding Iona and Spell Pierce with the same red splash. 

Losses:  None (unintentional draw with Vroman Oath in round 1)

2009 – Recap

Without the benefit of DCI Sanctioning, it is more difficult to keep track of one’s Vintage performance, but it’s something I’ve done all year to try to track my progress as a Vintage player and learn from each event.  I would suggest that anyone trying to get into Vintage, or improve at Vintage, do the same thing.  I also kept track of the number of players in these events – the only one with less than 32 players was the Princeton tournament, so for Vintage events in the US, many of these were decent-sized tournaments.  Unfortunately, outside of Vintage Champs, I didn’t play the larger Vintage events in 2009 (including the ICBM and Waterbury), something that I plan on addressing in 2010.

Overall, I was relatively pleased with my performance at Vintage tournaments in 2009, especially considering the fact that I never played with Tezzeret, TPS, or Stax, and was still learning the format for the first half of the year.  My rate of scrubbing out completely was very low, and I was able to adjust my Oath deck to keep it competitive for essentially all of 2009.  You might think I struggled against Tezzeret by looking at the breakdown of losses I had throughout the year, but that isn’t really the case.  In many tournaments in the first half of 2009, before Thirst for Knowledge was restricted, I was playing over half of my rounds against Tezzeret.  The match-up was relatively even throughout most of the year, but I feel like it has swung in my favor thanks to the addition of red to the deck and the printing of Spell Pierce and Iona.

The thing that surprised me the most in reviewing these statistics, and the thing that made me the happiest, was my win percentage for events where I made the elimination rounds.  I’m not really sure what to attribute that to, but I think part of it might be the fact that I played a deck positioned outside of the Tezz / anti-Tezz balance that made up the majority of Vintage this year, and further I was 2-0 in mirror matches in the elimination rounds this year (going 3-0 against Oath if you include my relatively lucky win over my own deck in the May Blue Bell, when I played Ichorid).

Total record - Oath:  49-22-1 in finished matches (1 unintentional draw at the NYSE III), or 68.1% match win percentage across 12 events; total of 6 top 8s in 12 tournaments, with a record of 8-3-2 once in the elimination rounds (reaching the finals in 3 of 6 top 8s, with two splits and one win).

Personal record – Oath:  44-20-1 in finished matches, or 67.7% win percentage across 11 events; total of 5 top 8s in 11 tournaments, with a record of 7-2-2 once in the elimination rounds (reaching the finals in 3 of 5 top 8s, with two splits and one win).

Personal Winnings - Vintage:  With Oath:  Mox Jet, split of Mox Emerald / Grim Tutor, split of Black Lotus / Timetwister, Mana Crypt, Force of Will.  With Ichorid:  Time Vault. 

Personal Record – Overall (Vintage):  53-26-1 in finished matches, or 66.25% win percentage across 14 events; total of 6 top 8s in 14 tournaments, with a record of 9-3-2 once in the elimination rounds (reaching the finals in 4 of 6 top 8s, with two splits, one win, and one loss).  I went 6-4 overall with Ichorid in two events, with one finals loss and one 0-2 drop, and 3-2 in one tournament with Elves.

Looking ahead to 2010

The printing of Iona and Spell Pierce has thrust Oath into the Vintage spotlight, and at worst I think you have to consider the deck tier 2, if not tier 1 at this point.  This development comes as I’m finally looking to play other decks in Vintage.  While I continue to test and develop Oath, I expect to alternate between Oath, Ichorid, Workshops, and Mana Drains throughout 2010. 

People often ask me why I played Oath so consistently in 2009.  I’m not sure how to answer that question.  I suppose it starts with why I chose to play Vintage in the first place.  One of the main reasons was that I was just frustrated with Standard, and coming off a terrible Extended season where I couldn’t find a deck I liked.  For whatever reason, I really enjoy playing Oath, and for better or worse, a lot of my performance in Magic has to do with my enjoyment of the deck I’m piloting.  Beyond the fact that I like the deck, I’ve had reasonable success with it throughout the year, as noted above, so I didn’t have much of a reason to play anything else.  I played Ichorid in May because I thought the metagame was soft to it at that time, and I didn’t want to be completely pegged as “the Oath guy”; in that regard my Ichorid experience was successful, as a lot of people put me on Ichorid over the next few months.  That said, playing the same deck so often does tend to give one a warped perspective of a format, and the sudden popularity of Oath means an increased number of mirror matches, and I don’t particularly enjoy the Oath mirror.  I played six mirror matches total at the Oaks and NYSE III tournaments, and although I went 4-1-1 I those six matches, I’d still die a happy man if I never had to play an Oath mirror again.

One of my key objectives for 2010 is to finish acquiring the Power and Vintage staples I need, which is basically down to a Time Vault, Time Walk, Imperial Seal, and Library of Alexandria.  Not bad for someone who was proxying Force of Will and dual lands 12 months ago.

While I’ve tested a considerable number of games with Tezzeret and Stax this year, mostly 5C Stax over the summer and lately B/R Stax, I still haven’t played either of those decks in an actual tournament, so I look forward to gaining a broader perspective on the format by actually piloting the lists most people consider to be tier 1.

D3G

Lastly, I really can’t wait to see what kind of results our team, D3G, can put up in 2010, and to see if we can continue to string of successes we’ve had since forming in August.  In particular, the performance of Jeff Folinus and Steve Nowakowski has been nothing short of amazing.  I always considered the formation of teams (outside of the Pro circuit, where there are clear benefits) to be something of an ego thing, but I can speak first-hand now to the improved results that come from the formation of a successful team.  While most of our team was putting up decent results throughout 2009, the official formation of the team, with team boards and routine play-testing, has reaped immediate dividends, and these two guys in particular are playing at an incredibly high level. 

Since August, D3G has: reached the finals of the NYSE 2, reached the finals of the September Blue Bell, split the finals of the Oaks tournament, won the October Blue Bell, split in the finals of the NYSE III, and made the semis of the Philly Open IV (with three members total in the top 8, out of six team members in the 68-person field).  It will be interesting to see if we can continue to keep up our focus and begin to place at the larger Vintage events in 2010.

Further, I’ve witnessed first-hand the drawing power of playing Vintage, with actual power, at tournaments and various stores, again mostly brought about by relentless testing by team members.  Vintage has an appeal that tends to draw in the passer-by, and I hope that all Vintage players out there use this fact to help draw attention to the format and publicize their local events.

In Conclusion

I find detailed review of my past performance to be a key to improvement in the future, and hope that this can be an example to help you. 

Then again, this is coming from someone that keeps the majority of his draft decks together for review and analysis, so it could be that I just have undiagnosed OCD.

Regardless, I encourage you to go ahead and analyze your own performance from 2009 - what trends do you see?  Which decks did you struggle against in the Swiss?  What was your performance like when you reached the elimination rounds?  What archetypes haven’t you played, and why?  What was your favorite deck from 2009? 

And, if you’re inclined to get better, what is your plan to do so, and how is it different this time than similar plans you’ve made in the past?
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« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2010, 11:10:57 pm »

This was an excellent read. 

As far as piloting other tier one decks go, I'd certainly say that you should bide your time.  These are the halcyon days for Oath.

I found your discussion of your path to Vintage interesting.  Everyone comes to the format in their own way.  For me it was the lure of owning a Black Lotus, and then having nothing to do with it (and resolving to build a deck where I could play it.)  While I toyed with Vintage for a while, I didn't seriously get into Vintage until 02-03, when I found Standard too dull to be worth my time. 

I don't think that it's a bad thing that you've played one deck fairly consistently.  You're certainly a capable Dredge and Elves! pilot, I'd imagine that if the environment shifted so that Oath were a poor choice, you'd shift your deck selection.  These are heady days for Workshop players, what with Oath and Dredge running rampant.  If I felt that I couldn't compete with Shops, I'd switch decks too.

I hope to see you out at many more events this year, and not just mine.  Once again, great read.
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« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2010, 10:09:49 am »

Where are the creatures in American Vintage?

My article on Monday discusses this to some extent, but it focuses mostly on listing some of the available creature-centric options and what makes them viable.  I’ve specifically focused on Selkie-less Noble Fish, as I’ve tested it a little bit lately and found that it has some very good match-ups for the meta in the mid-Atlantic.

In any case, while I acknowledge that creature-based strategies exist in Vintage and are viable, what are the forces at work that keep those strategies from gaining traction in the US vintage scene?  There are some areas where a good player has been dedicated to a certain strategy (in some metas Selkie / Noble Fish have done well, as have G/W Beats), but there has been very little corresponding meta adjustment even after such a deck does well.  For example, BUG Fish was a flash in the pan this summer, and G/W didn’t seem to pick up much popularity at all despite the good showing at Vintage Champs.

[Note:  Not to anger any BUG Fish players, but I happen to think that specific deck is pretty much the nut low at the moment and I wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole.  It's a shame that, for whatever reason, people have defaulted to that build when Fish comes up.  When you look at it in the abstract, it plays "powerful" cards compared to most Fish decks, but I just don't think it has the right "skill set" (if you will) to beat Tezz and Oath consistently, and beating Ichorid requires 50%+ of the sideboard.  Add that together and you get a deck poorly positioned to do much of anything at the moment.]

Compare Vintage to Legacy, where a fringe strategy that wins or performs well (Enchantress, White Stax, Belcher, 43 Land, Aggro Loam) at a big event will often see a burst of popularity at the next few tournaments, on the local and regional / national level.  Vintage seems to be quite different – even Steel City Vault came in and out of the mid-Atlantic meta over the course of, what, a month?

[Note:  You could argue that was because the deck wasn't really any better than traditional Tezzeret, but that's a conversation for a different time.  The deck also seems to have caught on in some areas of the world more than in the US.]

Decks like Noble Fish, U/R Fish, G/W Beats, and Mono-Black / Neo-Black could and SHOULD make up a much larger percentage of the metagame than they do.  I actually have to wonder if the lack of people playing those decks is a result of the struggle Vintage is having with player acquisition here in the states.  Obviously assembling a deck like Meandeck Beats or Noble Fish is considerably easier to do in even a low-count (5 or 10) proxy environment as compared to decks like Tezzeret, TPS, or even current Oath builds (King James Oath was more friendly to proxies, now that Iona Oath includes Time Vault, Timetwister, and sometimes Library of Alexandria and/or Mana Drain).

I also wonder if the deck most inclined to player acquisition has become Dredge in the states instead of Fish.  

Just some food for thought before my article Monday.

EDIT:  Now that I think about it, I'm going to cross-post this elsewhere on the site so it has more visibility.
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« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2010, 02:40:34 pm »

Thoughts on anti-Dredge sideboarding....

This is an excerpt from the article that went live today on SCG, discussing my thoughts on the result of diversification of Dredge hate in Vintage:

"Dredge is certainly a strange beast. Throughout 2009, Dredge posted consistent and impressive results in Vintage, and this has accelerated recently as that deck gained strategic options with the printings of Bloodghast and Iona (as well as a variety of different versions including some that utilize Fatestitcher and Shaarum, and others that are closer to mana builds). Of late, I’ve wondered if the printing of a variety of anti-Dredge cards has paradoxically allowed Dredge to improve its results in Vintage. On the surface, running a varied attack against Dredge seems to make sense – but with many decks, the end result is actually an overall decrease in the effectiveness of post-sideboard games. For example, cards like Ravenous Trap, Tormod’s Crypt, and Relic of Progenitus all have the same effect against Dredge by themselves: they set the Dredge player back a few turns, the first time they’re used. However, the use of Force of Will in Dredge sideboards means that current Dredge decks are well-suited to defeating these cards, and they lose value in the third game of a match (where Dredge decks may have Unmask, and are definitely going to play Bazaar and be able to dig for Force of Will to counter the first hate card). Further, decks that increase the creature count, such as those with Bloodghast, Narcomoeba, and Ichorid, force the use of Tormod’s Crypt / Relic of Progenitus / Ravenous Trap much earlier than in the past.

With this in mind, my Noble Fish sideboard is designed to do one thing and one thing only: find Leyline of the Void and protect it. When looking at current Vintage sideboards, a common theme is that Stax decks still bank on Leyline of the Void in the sideboard (and bring in Red Elemental Blast to counter Chain of Vapor), but most other decks are mixing and matching and not relying on the Leyline plan. In my opinion, based on the sideboards we’re seeing Dredge players run, this is a poor choice. A deck like Tezzeret is better suited on a plan that involves finding Leyline of the Void and Yixlid Jailer, which prevent Dredge from functioning, and protecting them long enough to win, instead of relying on tempo choices like Ravenous Trap (which make much more sense in a deck like TPS, where you only need to survive for a few extra turns). Regardless, the shift away from Leyline of the Void has resulted in Dredge sideboards that acknowledge the existence of Leyline but focus on flexible solutions to a variety of cards.

Noble Fish is quite good at protecting Leyline of the Void through the use of Daze, Spell Pierce, and Force of Will, and unlike most Vintage decks, it doesn’t rely on bullet cards or singleton win conditions. This allows Noble Fish to go completely all-in on the Leyline of the Void plan to the extent that I have included Serum Powders with the sole purpose of finding a turn-zero Leyline of the Void and winning the game before it starts. Noble Fish is further able to disrupt Dredge decks through the use of Wasteland and Strip Mine on both Bazaar of Baghdad and the colored mana that is required to play spells that counteract Leyline of the Void.

While game one is nearly unwinnable against Dredge, the match-up has been favorable post-board."

I snuck this section into the article and am curious of the thoughts of other players.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2010, 06:00:38 pm by voltron00x » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2010, 11:57:23 pm »

Thought #1:  Innovating new decks in Vintage is hard.  Really hard.  Most of us can spend our entire Vintage careers just tweaking existing archetypes into forms that are best-suited for our local metagame.  Most recent innovations - Steel City Vault, Remora Control, BR Stax, updated versions of "The Deck" - are really redesigns of existing decks more so than something truly new and exciting.

Thought #2:  Combo is seriously lacking in Vintage at the moment.  This is one of the reasons why certain decks (Tezz, Oath) are able to have success despite having to devote 5,6, or 7 cards to beating Dredge - and in fact, the lack of combo actually props up Dredge, as Dredge becomes the de facto fastest deck in the format. [To some extent, I suppose you could argue that if there were effective combo decks, people would have less SB cards for Dredge, which might help Dredge... but fast combo is a predator for the new, non-disruptive Dredge decks, so I can go either way there.  Run ANT against recent Dredge lists if you don't believe me.]

Premise:  If I said I built a combo deck that works like Belcher (in terms of speed) but doesn't use up its resources like a Storm deck AND has considerable resiliency against both counterspells and lock pieces, AND has an outrageously good win % against Dredge decks... would that be something that interests you?

Why yes Bob, I think it would.

Stay tuned, folks......
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« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2010, 01:24:43 am »

Quote
would that be something that interests you?

Interested me? Yes. Scared me? Very much so!

But now I'm going to be eagerly awaiting news about this deck.
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« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2010, 11:02:07 am »

Quote
would that be something that interests you?

Interested me? Yes. Scared me? Very much so!

But now I'm going to be eagerly awaiting news about this deck.

I'm playing it on Sunday in Harrisburg, and it will be in my SCG article on 2/8, unless it proves to be a complete non-starter.

If I do well Sunday, I'll post something on TMD, of course...
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« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2010, 05:30:45 pm »

Quote
would that be something that interests you?

Interested me? Yes. Scared me? Very much so!

But now I'm going to be eagerly awaiting news about this deck.

I'm playing it on Sunday in Harrisburg, and it will be in my SCG article on 2/8, unless it proves to be a complete non-starter.

If I do well Sunday, I'll post something on TMD, of course...

hrmmm.... I can only hope it involves Thrumming Stone, Mishra's Workshop, Dark Ritual, and Relentless Rats.

a.k.a. my interest is perked.
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« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2010, 05:39:58 pm »

I'm gonna go with LeylineHelm.dec, mainly because of the outrageous win percentage against Dredge part. But, we'll see.
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« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2010, 10:17:44 pm »

Breakdown of card type, maindeck (60 cards):

Artifact: 26 
Enchantment: 4
Instant: 6
Creature: 8
Land: 17
Sorcery: 3
Tribal:  0
Planeswalker:  0

Cards that overlap with Twaun's BR Stax, 75 to 75:  29





Even though this is fun, I should probably stop, b/c when I go 1-3 on Sunday, so many people are going to be disappointed now...
« Last Edit: January 30, 2010, 02:13:21 pm by voltron00x » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2010, 03:36:55 pm »

Currently sitting at 3-0. Beat workshop aggro, dredge, And tezzeret.  So far so good.....
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« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2010, 08:21:19 pm »

So I drew into top 8, at 3-0-2 and was in 2nd after Swiss.  I got paired against someone playing a version of Dark Times, Max's deck that won in Blue Bell on 1/3.  We were also paired in rd 5 and played some test games, which I lost 0-2 (although both were savagely good draws on his part).

Game one, my opponent played Demonic Consultation and I called a deck check based on it and found he hadn't de-sideboarded correctly from our test games.  I felt kind of dirty doing it, but the extra card was a 2nd Pithing Needle, which could have made a huge difference (although it wouldn't have this game as both were Exilted on the Consult).  Game 2, my hand was excellent but I drew somewhere around 15 cards without hitting a rainbow land and eventually lost.  Game 3, I made a subtle misplay that cost me the game.   

Here's what I played... there are some issues with this list, especially the SB, that I'll discuss in my article that goes up on SCG a week from Monday.  There are a few different ways you can build around the core of the deck, and I haven't played enough to figure out which is optimal (especially b/c the metagame is in flux).  That said, this is a surprisingly good deck considering we only worked on it for five days.  It would be tough to pilot through a field of Fish decks with Null Rod, but outside of that, its solid against a diverse field and man does it crush Dredge decks.  I will tell you right now that Nature's Claim goes in the SB (and also happens to be very good against the deck, sadly) and that there should be a Sundering Titan in the main in place of Wheel of Fortune.  The SB anti-Rod package is entirely wrong and I would've known that with some more testing.

In any case...

Two-Card Monte:

4 Serum Powder
4 Leyline of the Void
4 Helm of Obedience
4 Painter’s Servant
3 Grindstone
4 Goblin Welder
3 Red Elemental Blast
Memory Jar
Wheel of Fortune
Tinker
Ancestral Recall
Vampiric Tutor
Demonic Tutor
Demonic Consultation
Black Lotus
Sol Ring
Mana Crypt
Lotus Petal
Mana Vault
Mox Jet
Mox Sapphire
Mox Emerald
Mox Ruby
Mox Pearl
4 Mishra’s Workshop
4 Ancient Tomb
4 City of Brass
4 Gemstone Mine
1 Tolarian Academy

SB

4 Dark Confidant
2 Tormod's Crypt
1 Ancient Grudge
2 Chain of Vapor
1 Inkwell Leviathan
2 Pithing Needle
1 Ray of Revelation
2 Krosan Grip
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« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2010, 03:11:20 pm »

Why painter as the secondary win condition? Why goblin welder? I'm curious about this deck and looking forward to your article.

oh, and if you are worried about null rod.deck, oath sb?
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« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2010, 06:37:48 pm »

Why painter as the secondary win condition? Why goblin welder? I'm curious about this deck and looking forward to your article.

oh, and if you are worried about null rod.deck, oath sb?

Welder fights through countermagic the best given the win conditions of the deck.  Metalworker / Staff might be an alternate win conditon that fits what the deck is trying to do. 

Oath would be a good SB option but it doesn't really help against Noble Fish (which already wrecks Oath decks) and its also highly vulnerable to Nature's Claim, which sadly is also very good against the deck.
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« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2010, 06:49:28 am »

So we got another foot plus of snow yesterday.  Probably closer to 18-22" if I had to guess.  Because the 20"+ of snow we got over the weekend hadn't melted at all, there's nowhere for this snow to go.  They haven't even plowed my street yet, it has over a foot of snow on it.  Pretty much everything was shut down yesterday, including most offices and retailers, so at least people were off.

Not me.

I work for a national facilities maintenance company, which does a ton of business in snow, so we needed as many people in the office as possible.  My boss picked me up in a jeep.  We left the office at 4:00 to avoid being stranded at the office for the night once the winds picked up, so I got home at 4:30... just in time for the power to go out at 5.  When I went to bed at 11, it was still out.  Some time in the middle of the night, it came back on, so at least I got a warm shower this morning.

I'm currently waiting for someone from the office to pick me up in one of the 4-wheel drive trucks they rented... while everyone else in my house gets to stay home for a second consecutive snow day and enjoy the magic that is "electricity".
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« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2010, 11:58:01 pm »

So, I decided to at least try and check out the interwebs for Vintage discourse outside of TMD, to see if there were any good ideas for discussing this format elsewhere (which, I'm sad to say, does not appear to be the case).

After posting a little bit in the MTGS Vintage forums, I really want to smash my head in with a snow shovel.

Has anyone else had this experience?

Also, did anyone see that movie Moon?

I thought it was pretty good, all things considered, even if there were some goofy moments that required considerable suspension of disbelief.  I kind of felt like the movie was just short of being something really good instead of just a nice diversion.
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« Reply #16 on: February 14, 2010, 12:39:43 am »

While there are some neat people on MTGS and they have some top notch rumor and rulings people, Vintage is not MTGS's strong suit.
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« Reply #17 on: February 14, 2010, 12:46:17 am »

Yeah, I should clarify, I actually know a lot of the local guys post on there quite a bit.  I have no problem with the site overall.
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« Reply #18 on: March 01, 2010, 08:01:02 pm »

So Saturday was awesome, awesome, awesome.

I may need to stop pretending TPS isn't a deck.  All of my recent published lists have TPS as their worst match-up and I think people are starting to catch on.

Oh crap, perhaps I shouldn't have posted that in a public forum.
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« Reply #19 on: April 08, 2010, 10:02:46 pm »

Interesting discussion going on over on The Source, about this article:  http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/legacy/19129_Ideas_Unbound_Legacy_Attacking_is_Miserable.html

I think the article is interesting in that it highlights a very flawed way of looking at a format.

I also happen to agree with most of what our own Stephen Q Menendian is saying in the forums, here:

http://www.mtgthesource.com/forums/showthread.php?17105-[article]-Attacking-is-Miserable/page9

Legacy is not broken, ANT is very good but clearly not "the best" deck based on results, and the very fiber of what makes Legacy so interesting to me is watching the interaction of fair decks and those that are fundamentally broken. 
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« Reply #20 on: April 08, 2010, 11:33:50 pm »

To others: The bulk of what I said is on page 8, if you are gonna read it...
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« Reply #21 on: April 09, 2010, 11:28:52 am »

I dunno Steve, I only read page 8, but I think he's got you with the statistical significance point. Not saying I agree or disagree with his point, but GIGO, or maybe a better way to say it is you shouldn't be drawing such specific conclusions from such a broad data set with such a high level of confidence.

If you want to talk about general trends, sure, but if you want to be predictive (e.g. question what is the best deck in the format for the next event), I don't think you have the data to make anything but the broadest of assumptions.

You can't just point at statistics and say they prove something. They actually have to have some minimum of established and accepted rigor. If we don't have the right data/enough data, thats not our fault, but it DOES limit the things you can say.   

If you really wanted to be predictive, you would use a regression analysis, but when I started working out a dataset that wouldn't be embarrassingly bad, it got really complicated. At the very least you should weight % of field, and exclude top 8 matches.  When I started adding coefficients, it got ugly - and unrealistic because I don't think we have the critical data.

Top 8 is fairly arbitrary, what you should be looking at is win% of games played. Top 8 adds in garbage like IDs, and people not making the cut with similar records. Again, not having the data is irrelevant to its significance. Just because we don't have it, doesn't make it not important. 

Maybe the best you can do is a chi-square analysis (just showing some kind of connection, but not telling you what that connection implied), but thats kind of a joke in any serious quantitative analysis.

I say stick with your qualitative analysis and give the quant up (or at least be more careful in your language)   
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« Reply #22 on: April 09, 2010, 12:15:28 pm »

I dunno Steve, I only read page 8, but I think he's got you with the statistical significance point. Not saying I agree or disagree with his point, but GIGO, or maybe a better way to say it is you shouldn't be drawing such specific conclusions from such a broad data set with such a high level of confidence.

If you want to talk about general trends, sure, but if you want to be predictive (e.g. question what is the best deck in the format for the next event), I don't think you have the data to make anything but the broadest of assumptions.

have you seen my data, to which I was referring my articles?  If not, then hold your judgment until/if you have.   
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« Reply #23 on: April 09, 2010, 01:59:22 pm »

Mr. Menendian has reviewed as much Legacy data as, well, anyone really.  His articles and Jared's on SCG have made it very clear that two of the worst-performing Legacy decks, in tournament after tournament, are Dredge and ANT.  3 weeks ago, Max said Dredge was the best deck in Legacy.  This week, he says it's ANT.

Anyone whose argument includes such lunacy as "All the people who play Storm are just terrible!" carries no weight in my book.  The results are the results.  Gindy played ANT at the SCG $5K in Orlando, presumably he's terrible?

The fact is that Legacy HAS become a relatively mature metagame, albeit one influenced by card "availability" (which is really card cost).  Zoo beats Merfolk, Merfolk beats CB/Top, CB/Top beats Combo, Combo beats Zoo.  Same thing you see in most formats.

By most people's definitions, Belcher and ANT (and perhaps even Reanimator and Lands) are "broken" or "unfair", but unless those decks are running rampant over the format - and statistically, they are not - the format itself isn't broken.  If Zoo and Goblins and Trinistax and Enchantress can win $5Ks, then it seems ridiculous to say that anyone who doesn't play LED or FoW in Legacy is dumb.
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« Reply #24 on: April 09, 2010, 02:13:00 pm »

I don't think Max is saying "Only ANT and Dredge should win tournaments." But even if he is, which decks actually win events are pretty poor statistical indicators of which decks should win.
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« Reply #25 on: April 09, 2010, 02:27:28 pm »

I don't think Max is saying "Only ANT and Dredge should win tournaments." But even if he is, which decks actually win events are pretty poor statistical indicators of which decks should win.

No one is saying that either.    In fact, no one said anything even remotely close to that.  I did say that decks that win tournaments cannot be, by definition, 'awful.'   They may be suboptimal, but not awful.   That's hyperbole or just wrong.

I was using charts like this:



This shows Top X penetration.   As you can see, ANT far underperformed the baseline.  We have data like this for multiple tournaments, which give it credibility and statistical validity.  Any single chart may not be statistically significant, but when we aggregate, clear trends are evident.     

And charts like this:



Dredge decks clustered at the bottom of the field.

Contrast that with Merfolk:



Which cluster in the upper sextile.

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« Reply #26 on: April 09, 2010, 02:29:24 pm »

I don't think Max is saying "Only ANT and Dredge should win tournaments." But even if he is, which decks actually win events are pretty poor statistical indicators of which decks should win.

No, he's saying that because they have excellent linear aggro match-ups, you should never play linear aggro.  This fundamentally ignores the make-up of the metagame.  What the metagame "should" be is more or less irrelevant.  If you want to win, you should play decks that beat what the metagame actually IS.  

Further, everyone that goes back to looking at top 8s is ignoring the fact that two writers on SCG present info that data mines the tournament field, not just the top 8, including complete match-up records across the Swiss and quantity of players on a specific strategy.  The data is right there.  Shoulda, coulda, woulda, these things aren't important.  The field is what it is, the data is what it is, and that's what matters.
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« Reply #27 on: April 16, 2010, 04:37:11 pm »

I tried to fight it, but I couldn't.  My article for next week (which should be Wed / Thurs, I should have 2 articles next week) will be a response to Max's article.

Also, I got my tax refund today, and not coincidentally, bought a Timetwister today and now have a legit power 9.  If I remember correctly, this is the first time I've owned the full power 9 since 1995.
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« Reply #28 on: April 19, 2010, 06:53:36 am »

I tried to fight it, but I couldn't.  My article for next week (which should be Wed / Thurs, I should have 2 articles next week) will be a response to Max's article.

Also, I got my tax refund today, and not coincidentally, bought a Timetwister today and now have a legit power 9.  If I remember correctly, this is the first time I've owned the full power 9 since 1995.


Congrats!

Was it harder to assemble the Power 9 now or back then?
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« Reply #29 on: April 19, 2010, 11:03:58 pm »

Harder AND more expensive now.

The sad thing is I probably need another Lotus and another Mox... Pearl or Ruby, I forget, one or the other.  Just b/c the ones I have are in terrible condition and I need to swap the sleeves on them every 4 matches or so.
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