So Many Insane Plays – Understanding Confidant Gush

(Editor’s Note: This content was formerly published on Quiet Speculation, and the former Downloadable Product has since been made available free here with the permission of the author and QS. Enjoy!)

Gush is the Vintage Magic equivalent of the Wonderlic test. How a player views Gush as a card is indicative and suggestive, although not determinative (by any means), of their Vintage IQ. If a player looks at Gush, and is either unimpressed or thinks it’s simply not that good, it is only a matter of time until they are proven wrong. If a player doesn’t know how to play Gush, and fumbles around with it in testing, it’s guaranteed that they will underestimate it. If a player casts Gush on turn two, and passes the turn without doing anything else meaningful, they are GushFailing.

In many respects Gush is a test of a true Vintage master. The best Vintage players know and have always known how powerful Gush truly is. They respect it and abuse it. This is more so now that so many parts of the old GushBond engine have been restricted. Gush is now only a menace in the hands of the most experienced players. It is a card that separates the wheat from the chaff.

With this reality now manifest, consider the fact that Gush has been unrestricted since October 2010. Yet, it took until the Vintage championship in August 2011, nearly a year later, for the Vintage community to awaken to its true power; for Rich Shay and others to demonstrate and remind players of Gush’s true place in the Vintage pantheon. How many players have wisely used that time to hone their Gush skills? How many have played Gush decks, or at least tried them, in the interim?

So Many Insane Plays – Three Lessons From Bobby Fischer

So Many Insane Plays – Three Lessons From Bobby Fischer for Magic Players: What I Learned From Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall – From America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness

Bobby Fischer is arguably the greatest Chess player of all time. This fact is all the more astounding because he was an American who rose to the pinnacle of a sport dominated by non-Americans (think soccer, or “football”). His method of play, his studious preparation, and even his descent into madness contain valuable lessons for the young or mature Magic player.

Frank Brady has written a fascinating, page-turning biography of one of America’s most transcendent and enigmatic icons: Brooklyn-born World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer. Young Americans may not appreciate the Fischer legend or his iconic stature, since it was forged in the crucible of the Cold War. As a point of comparison, he was transcendent in the way Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods are in the modern era (in the 90s and 00s, respectively), in terms of their visibility beyond the sport and cross-cultural global status. In each case, they transformed the sport participated in, and became icons beyond it.

Fischer’s defeat of Soviet chess legend Boris Spassky in the 1972 World Chess Championship, in my estimation, approaches the 1980 U.S.A. Men’s Hockey Team’s “Miracle on Ice” defeat of the Soviet Union in the Winter Olympics, in terms of its cultural relevance. The Soviet Union had long dominated the Chess World Championship, largely on account of a system of state subsidized training and support. Chess was to the Soviet Union was baseball once was to the U.S.: a national pastime. The significance of Fischer’s win cannot be overstated in that context, although in a post-Cold War era, it’s difficult to appreciate.

In reading Brady’s book, I couldn’t avoid comparisons to Magic and my experience in Magic. Although Magic is a different game from Chess, there are many parallels, from the dedication required to reach mastery levels of the game itself and to hone one’s craft, to the rating systems which defines achievement. I’ve culled three critical lessons from the book that are directly applicable to Magic.

So Many Insane Plays – Legacy Checklist August 2011

Are you overwhelmed by the breadth of card choices available in the Legacy landscape? Would you like a concise list to help you navigate?

Author Stephen Mendendian is here to guide you through the Legacy card pool, and has constructed an awesome checklist of epic proportions, based on real world tournament results. Useful for anyone getting into Legacy, for the Eternal veteran, for the collector, or for the dealer or speculator making sure he’s not left behind – the Legacy Checklist is a very useful tool for all. This Downloadable Product contains a comprehensive list of Legacy playables, special notation for “staples,” and comes with both a long form list and an Excel spreadsheet.

So Many Insane Plays – 2011 Q2 Vintage Metagame Report

(Editor’s Note: This former Downloadable Product has now been made free to all customers. Enjoy!)

Ah Vintage, you are a stunning creature. Just 18 and a half years old, reaching maturity, you are in full bloom. It is my pleasure to help others appreciate your wonder. The Vintage metagame is a special creature, but it takes a seasoned hand to help illuminate this beauty. Every quarter, just as corporate America is compiling and releasing earnings reports for investors and regulators, I am doing the same, but for the Vintage format.

This is the most unusual metagame report I’ve ever composed. This is true for a number of reasons, but above all because of the sheer diversity in the Vintage metagame. This diversity manifests in a number of ways.

So Many Insane Plays – What is the LEAST Unrestrictable Card in Vintage?

This month may herald some exciting changes to the Vintage Restricted List. In recent years, the DCI has typically made adjustments to the Vintage Banned and Restricted List mid-year, perhaps with an eye towards the Vintage Championship at GenCon. For each of the last five years, changes to the Vintage Restricted list have been announced, and all of the announced changes to the Vintage occurred in June or September.

Debates over the Restricted List generally follow the same narrative in two forms: a particular card is too dominant, and statistical evidence or player discontent is proffered in support; alternatively, a particular card can be safely unrestricted, because players want it and the unrestriction would have a modest statistical impact on the format given what we know about the metagame. Last week I co-wrote an article arguing that Fact or Fiction should be unrestricted along those lines. In both cases, the argument centers on whether a card would be statistically healthy for the format and the degree of player support for or against a particular change.

But what if we flipped the question? What if, instead of asking “what is the most unrestrictable card in Vintage?,” we flip the script, and ask “What is the LEAST unrestrictable card in Vintage?” Why ask this? If we can answer this question, we will be forced to conceptualize and formulate a clearer understanding of the Vintage Restricted list and the purposes it serves. We may uncover hidden or obscured criteria for restriction or unrestriction. And, this process may help answer the original question regarding what the most unrestrictable cards in Vintage may be. This is likely because, in most cases, a person answering this question will likely begin by working backward.

Why Fact or Fiction Should Be Unrestricted: An Open Letter to the DCI

By Stephen Menendian and William Winger

Almost ten years on, the time has come to reconsider Fact or Fiction‘s restricted status. As difficult as it is for us Eternal enthusiasts to believe, Fact or Fiction has now inhabited the Vintage Restricted List for half of the game’s existence. Announced December 2001, and effective January 1st, 2002, the restriction of Fact or Fiction demarcates the midpoint in the life of the Vintage format and the game itself, the fulcrum between 1993 and 2011. This fact underscores the need to reconsider whether it still deserves to be restricted. We make the case not only that Fact or Fiction no longer deserves that status, and can join the ranks of cards like Gush and Frantic Search which have safely returned to the format unrestricted, but that its unrestriction would be a net positive, promoting the strategic diversity of the format and generating interest, enthusiasm, and good will throughout the format.

So Many Insane Plays – New Phyrexia Vintage Set Review

(Editor’s Note: This content was formerly published on Quiet Speculation, and the former Downloadable Product has since been made available free here with the permission of the author and QS. Enjoy!)

The Phyrexians have arrived, and they seek to remake the orb of Mirrodin in their own image. Will they remake Vintage as well?

Scars of Mirrodin block has proved to be a surprisingly worthy sequel to the original Mirrodin invasion. Scars of Mirrodin has been as impactful as any set from the previous block, and Mirrodin Besieged brought with it more than a few serious playables. Before we delve into the final set in this important block, let’s recap Mirrodin Besieged.

So Many Insane Plays – The Mirrodin Besieged Vintage Set Review

(Editor’s Note: This content was formerly published on Quiet Speculation, and the former Downloadable Product has since been made available free here with the permission of the author and QS. Enjoy!)

I. Introduction

Welcome loyal reader! In this article I continue my long tradition of reviewing new sets for Vintage format (the greatest format!) applications. As always, I will also provide a checklist of cards from Mirrodin Besieged that you will want to acquire to complete your collection and enable you to play any deck in the format. This checklist will give you a heads up over the competition, and allow you to make better trades. I will tell you which cards you should pick up now, which cards you should wait to pick up (because I expect them to fall in price), and which cards will be the sleepers you can make a killing on.

This set review marks a major change in my approach. In the past, I have selected for review only those cards that I perceived to be either clearly Vintage playable, borderline Vintage playable, or were otherwise mentioned or discussed by others in the Vintage context. In this article, I review every single card in the set. I do so for a number of reasons.

So Many Insane Plays – Decoding the DCI

The DCI is a body composed of some of the smartest people in Magic. Unfortunately, intelligence does not entail the ability to communicate ideas or thoughts clearly or effectively. Tom LaPille was a notable addition to the staff of Wizards of the Coast, not simply because of his accomplishments in Magic, but because of his ability to communicate the groupthink of a nest of brainiacs to the outside world. With notable speed Tom became the voice of Wizards R&D as he took over the reins of the column titled Latest Developments. This is not to say that Erik Lauer, the individual responsible for explaining the most recent changes to the Banned and Restricted List, has not explained the changes clearly or effectively. However, further elaboration or insight would be helpful. The implications of the most recent B/R list announcement reach Vintage as well as Legacy. Permit me to attempt to decode the DCI…

So Many Insane Plays – Why Survival Should Not Be Banned in Legacy, But Will Be Anyway

Survival of the Fittest is putting up unseemly – even gaudy – performance statistics. By any reasonable accounting, it’s dominating the Legacy format, if measured primarily by performance on the StarCityGames (SCG) Legacy Open series. I won’t rehash that data. Admittedly, there is some question about the scope of the data – whether its exclusive reliance on American tournament performance is truly representative of global metagame dominance. More than a few European players point to the European championships as counter-evidence (Editor’s Note: as well as the LCL series and every other large European tournament that is not SCG). But with that caveat, there is more than enough statistical evidence of Survival dominance.

So Many Insane Plays – Scars of Mirrodin Vintage Set Review

(Editor’s Note: This content was formerly published on Quiet Speculation, and the former Downloadable Product has since been made available free here with the permission of the author and QS. Enjoy!)

The suns that orbit Mirrodin dim, their color fading. The Myr have scattered. But the dread and the evil are not done with it yet. They have returned to scavenge the remains of this dying world for malevolent and selfish ends. We are among them.

Our return to Mirrodin is neither coincidental nor mere happenstance. We have come full circle, on a trajectory of exploration and pursuit of power. We arrived on Mirrodin just as Gush had left the format, in the Fall of 2003. Upon our return, Gush greets us.