Magic Memories: Yawgmoth's Bargain

Discussion in 'Single Card Strategies' started by Oversoul, Aug 11, 2017.

  1. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    First, I want to get one thing out of the way, and it's a big thing: Necropotence. When either of these cards come up in any context outside of the use of Necropotence in the mid-90's before Bargain existed, the comparison between the cards almost inevitably follows. And before today, I had this idea in mind that Necropotence was going to have to be one of the next cards that I'd talk about; I envisioned it as "next in the queue" for a Magic Memories thread. I kept putting it off, mostly because I figured that once I started talking about Necropotence, it would be impossible to get me to shut up about it. I've vacillated on whether my personal favorite card is Dark Ritual or whether it's Necropotence, as the two are so closely linked in my mind: I played them together a lot. But Dark Ritual, well, there's only so much to say about it, because it only has a few different uses, and all of those involve using it to enhance the value of some other card, so my Dark Ritual memories are more about the cards that I used Dark Ritual to power out than they are about Dark Ritual itself. I could have come up with more to say about it, and perhaps I will revisit the Dark Ritual thread, but I think I covered the important parts. Necropotence, though? I could write a novel. I'm worried that I might!

    So when I mention Bargain, Necropotence as a point of comparison seems like a given. I've seen others do so when discussing Bargain. To top it off, both cards are banned in Legacy and restricted in Vintage where, historically, they've been used alongside each other in "TPS" or "DPS" decks (almost every TPS/DPS deck runs a copy of both enchantments, and hardly any other decks in the format run either one). But for me, it actually goes beyond that. I talked about this in the Academy Rector thread...

    We played various versions of those decks against each other so much. It was a formative experience for both of us and definitely cemented my obsession with Necropotence, which I harbor to this day. So yeah, when I talk about Yawgmoth's Bargain, Necropotence is inherently the elephant in the room. I suppose that I'd better do a quick, simplistic, side-by-side comparison of the two...

    • Bargain costs twice as much.
    • Necropotence exiles the cards that you discard, which sometimes matters.
    • Necropotence does not actually draw cards, but sets them aside and then later puts them into your hand, which can matter, especially when other cards have abilities that are triggered when players draw cards.
    • Necropotence hides the cards from you until the end of your turn. You cannot look at them and do not know what you will or will not get, only how many cards you're getting.
    • Bargain gives you cards right away, whenever you activate it. Opponent's turn? Fine. During your upkeep with Ivory Tower's ability on the stack? Go for it. Found exactly the card that you want? Feel free to stop.
    I'll presumably cover this once I'm actually raving about Necropotence in a thread dedicated to it, but the card has been used in aggro, control, and combo decks over the years. I think of Necropotence primarily as a card for control decks, but as more cards have been printed over the years and more options are available, especially now that it has such a specific (and small) niche in Vintage, it is generally associated more with combo decks. Aggro is the least popular, but it turns out, if the environment is ripe for it, that an aggressive black deck would do well for itself to be running a card, playable off Dark Ritual, that refills its hand every turn. But Bargain? Bargain is a combo card through and through. That, in my view, is the main point of emphasis in the comparison.

    Well, enough about Necropotence! For now. Mostly. Maybe. Look, I make no promises. Anyway, I'm starting a thread on Yawgmoth's Bargain largely because in the past few months I've encountered some isolated mentions of the card as it pertains to different formats, and that's been brewing in my mind. Specifically, I've seen other people who are not me cite the card as a possible safe unrestriction in Vintage, as a safe unban in Legacy, and as a safe unban in Commander. The contexts of the card in those formats were each brought up by different individuals, none of them connected to each other (as far as I can tell). I have my own opinions for each case, but also a lot of uncertainty and trepidation.
  2. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    When it comes to Bargain as a possible unban/unrestriction, the closest point of comparison is probably not Necropotence, but Griselbrand...


    That's quite the mana cost, but in a black-heavy deck that is using some form of mana ramp, it's two mana more than Bargain. While that is a significant increase, a 7/7 flying lifelink creature is nothing to scoff at. Also, creatures tend to be easier to cheat into play than enchantments, and it's an oft-raised and fair point that in many decks, especially in Legacy, Griselbrand's mana cost is irrelevant. It might as well cost a million mana: you're not paying for it anyway. So the comparison isn't truly six mana for Bargain vs. eight mana for Griselbrand. It's six mana for Bargain vs. however much mana you use to cheat Griselbrand onto the battlefield. While Bargain can be cheated out too, the means of doing so are more limited, and you don't get a 7/7 flying lifelink creature out of it. Griselbrand is commonly played in Legacy decks that either reanimate it or use Show and Tell or Sneak Attack to cheat it out. In Vintage, it tends to be used primarily in Oath decks. So in the one format where Bargain is legal, Griselbrand already sees more play.

    Another card, once commonly played in Vintage and still used in Legacy tournament decks, is Ad Nauseam...


    Hey wait, I wrote an article all about Ad Nauseam and I think it was actually not half-bad! So here's that.

    Ad Nauseam is one mana cheaper than Bargain. That can actually matter a lot. Many commonly achieved board states in fast combo decks hit five mana without being able to hit six. These decks use a combination of artifacts, lands, and instant/sorcery mana sources to get more mana on early turns of the game. Obviously, it is easier to get one mana than two, two mana than three, and so on. But the magnitude of the difference in difficulty at each of these gradations is not uniform, and the exact reasons for this are rather technical. An easy example of such a difference is the simple case of decks using Dark Ritual. For such a deck, it could never be harder to reach two mana than three: that wouldn't make any sense, as all of the states that hit three mana also hit two. And it could be easier, such as if the deck is also using Rite of Flame, Lotus Petal, or Mox Jet. But Dark Ritual would account for some of the ways to hit two mana, and it always also hits three. While it would technically be possible, for a given deck, to use eigenstates to compute the exact odds of achieving a certain amount of mana on a certain turn, such thorough statistical work has not, to my knowledge, been done. Still, years of experience are informative, and players have some common understanding of this concept. As it happens, while the jump from 6 (Bargain) to 8 (Griselbrand) is pretty big, the jump from 5 (Ad Nauseam) to 6 (Bargain) is also pretty significant. Of course, Ad Nauseam introduces deckbuilding constraints: it's bad to have other cards in your library that cost more mana, as they eat more life. However, players have shown that it is perfectly possible to work within these constraints and that, in some cases, Ad Nauseam gains the potential to dig deeper than Bargain could. Ad Nauseam doesn't accrue life loss on lands or zero-cost spells, so in a library dense in such cards, it can keep digging with no penalty. Also, because Ad Nauseam doesn't require you to pay life, but instead incurs life loss, it can be used with something like Angel's Grace to "go infinite" and draw your whole library.

    More recently, I've seen Bargain in Vintage compared to another five drop...


    On the surface, the cards have little in common. Yawgmoth's Bargain is a card-drawing engine and Dark Petition is a tutor. Here's the trick: both get used in much the same way. You drop some mana-producing cards, cast Bargain, and then try to use it to win. Similarly, you cast some mana-producing cards, cast Dark Petition, and then turn it into Necropotence, which you try to use to win. Necropotence and Bargain are both restricted, but Dark Petition is not. So, the argument goes, if ramping up to five mana and casting Dark Petition for Necropotence for an attempted storm combo finish on the following turn isn't dominating Vintage (and it's not), then would using the same mana ramp plus one more mana into an unrestricted Yawgmoth's Bargain really threaten the format? Obviously Bargain is more powerful than Necro, but there are some advantages to this approach. Firstly, like I mentioned already, it's a bit of a jump from 5 mana to 6. Secondly, in many cases Dark Petition can be used to find something else for a combo finish in cases where Bargain wouldn't work. This is highly dependent on cards in your hand and graveyard and on the amount of mana available, but the most common target would be Yawgmoth's Will. In my own gameplay of "DPS" decks, I found myself reaching for the Dark Petition into Yawgmoth's Will combo finish a whole lot of the time. By itself, this is not sufficiently reliable to build a deck around, but in conjunction with Necropotence and other tutor targets such as Black Lotus, Mind's Desire, and Wheel of Fortune, I can see a potential case that unrestricted Dark Petition, which makes for a fringe deck in Vintage, isn't really all that bad compared to unrestricted Yawgmoth's Bargain.
  3. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    My previous post talked about some of the cards that, in tournament play, occupy some of the same space as an unrestricted Yawgmoth's Bargain hypothetically would, and how those cards might be similar or, in some ways, even better. What those comparisons didn't convey is just how good Bargain is. In the right combo deck, a the ability "Pay 1 life: draw a card" is so strong that it outclasses these other options. Yes, a 7/7 flying lifelink creature is good. Yes, Griselbrand also doesn't make you skip your draw step. And yeah, technically "Pay 7 life: draw 7 cards" is the same amount of life per card. But "Pay 1 life: draw a card" is potentially so much better that a Bargain player would not even care about that other stuff. This is especially relevant in Vintage, where you might pay only a few life, then go, "Stop. I would like to take a break from paying life for cards, cast these spells, and then draw 7 cards without paying any life. OK, now I have a full hand again, and let's go back to paying life. Oh, stop again. I'll play these spells, tutor for this, and you know what? Let's cast another draw-7. I'll cast these spells and oh, this one too. I'll pay some more life. Not enough? OK, a little more. And there we go, I kill you." When your next topdeck might give you a new line of play toward a kill, it's much, much better to have the flexibility to draw the cards one at a time. Batches of seven aren't bad, but they do lose out on some of the potential that Bargain offers.

    Ad Nauseam may cost a little less and have the potential to dig deeper in the right scenario, but it relies on specific combos or on a plethora of zero-drops to do so. In Legacy, ANT decks often go for the Past in Flames kill because if they get unlucky with Ad Nauseam, they might have to stop digging before they get enough cards to win. And TES decks deliberately forgo Cabal Ritual and move most of their sorceries into the sideboard to be fetched with Burning Wish, mostly to capitalize on Ad Nauseam. It's a tremendous amount of special modifications to decklists just to approach the consistent 1 life = 1 card provided by Yawgmoth's Bargain. In some cases, Bargain might even be used over more than one turn, so you can at least untap your stuff, while Ad Nauseam is one-shot. But the main distinction is the deckbuilding flexibility.

    Dark Petition into Necropotence might be cheaper, but it's a lot less reliable. Even an extremely skilled player has to attempt to estimate probable lines of play and hope that they've paid just the right amount of life for the particular board state. In the case of an unrestricted Bargain, you don't have to play that kind of guessing game. That's not to dismiss Dark Petition's other uses, but intuitively, it seems like the play of "make six mana and cast Bargain" has a better chance of working than the play of "make five mana and cast Dark Petition into Necro."

    Before I try to take sides on either the potential unrestriction of Bargain in Vintage or the potential unbanning of it in Legacy, I'll note that it seems most who advocate for such a change have a grasp of the facts that I've outlined. The argument doesn't necessarily have to be, "This other option is stronger than Bargain." Rather, there is a case to be made that these options, while not quite as good as Bargain, are sufficiently similar to show that Bargain would not dominate. That's an important distinction. Sometimes a card is unbanned and goes on to make no substantial impact in the format, as was the case with Land Tax in Legacy. Other times, a card might be unbanned and go on to have a real presence in the format, but not one that is a problem, as was the case with Entomb. It's not that anyone suggesting that Bargain is unrestrictable/unbannable is dismissing the card as bad or as definitively worse than other options.
  4. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I should note that while I find this speculation interesting and don't personally come down hard on either side, the point is moot. WotC have no interest in unbanning or unrestricting Yawgmoth's Bargain, as their current stance is hostile toward combo decks and they can't even be bothered to unban even more innocuous cards anyway. Even if Bargain were safe, they would not touch it. This was not always the case. Stroke of Genius, Grim Monolith, Mind Over Matter, Replenish, Crop Rotation, Dream Halls, Time Spiral, Entomb, Metalworker, Mox Diamond, Doomsday, Voltaic Key, Illusionary Mask, Braingeyser, Burning Wish, and Worldgorger Dragon were all once banned or restricted out of fear that they would cause undue format distortion by enabling broken combo decks. All have since been proven safe, so either the initial action taken was unnecessary or, much more likely in at least some cases, the formats evolved beyond the state in which those cards would be a problem. However, official attempts to trim chaff from the lists or use unbannings in attempts at increasing format diversity have been fading away in recent years. And then there's the historical context. People remember Yawgmoth's Bargain as one of the broken cards from Urza's Block, along with things like Tolarian Academy and Tinker. It ran rampant in Standard and Extended with fast combo. The role of a single card in the Extended format in 1999 has no bearing on its role in Vintage in 2017. But all most people will see is a broken card from a broken block of broken sets. Nevermind if a card might be safe today. It was so scary back then.

    So, is Yawgmoth's Bargain potentially safe? I'm uncertain. I tend to be wary of it, although if it turned out to be playable, I'd eagerly build a deck around it.
  5. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    To address Legacy specifically, I'm going to ramble a bit here...

    Yawgmoth's Bargain has been banned in Legacy since the format's inception a carryover from the old Type 1.5 ban list. It's only been in the last few years that I've seen some espouse the belief that Bargain should be unbanned, and this mostly seemed to come from people who had never played with the card in their lives. The people advocating for such a change often wanted to make other drastic changes to the format, so I generally viewed them as cranks. But the idea did pick up some steam after the rise of Griselbrand and perhaps more importantly, Show and Tell.

    Why Show and Tell? Well, Show and Tell became a premier combo card for the format, the driving force behind both blue/red "Sneak & Show" decks based around using the card and also Sneak Attack to cheat big creatures onto the battlefield and monoblue "OmniTell" decks designed to use the card to cheat Omniscience into play. Both decks have, at various points, become one of the best decks in the format. And for a while in 2015, OmniTell dominated Legacy, resulting in the banning of Dig Through Time. With Dig Through Time gone, Show and Tell reverted to its former role as a strong combo card, but not a dominant one. Some considered this to be a well-reasoned choice for the health of the format, citing the fact that Miracles , which had also adopted Dig Through Time, was the second-best deck in the format. So a ban on Show and Tell would not have stopped the Dig Through Time problem. Others figured it was probably just a knee-jerk reaction to the explosive power of the Delve mechanic. Either way, Show and Tell remains active in the format, powering one of the strongest decks (Sneak & Show). Show and Tell hasn't taken over the whole format or anything, but it has had some extremely powerful decks based around it, and people talk about it a lot. Many players would like to see it banned just because they think that a three mana "cheat out anything" card is inherently broken. While I think most Legacy players don't go so far, it does lead to an interesting point about the ban list in general. The argument goes something like this...

    The point of the ban list is to keep the most overpowered cards out of the format. Many cards that are currently on the list are clearly less powerful than some of the other cards that are already available. This should be fixed.

    That's a very simplistic rendition of the argument, but I think it captures the spirit of it. Right out of the gate, the most important thing to note is that a lot of other players object to the initial premise, arguing that the point of the ban list isn't to police broken cards but to allow for the right kind of environment, i.e. one that is fun, balanced, diverse, etc. So they might argue that even though a card not on the list might technically be stronger than a card that is on the list, if it produces a metagame that they think is better, then that's fine. In real discussions, both philosophies develop nuances and caveats, with different people rehashing the same points over and over. So even in a room where everyone present agrees on the relative power level of cards, they might disagree on which ones should be banned because they have different philosophies on how a ban list should be set up in the first place. Hm, this is getting too vague and theoretical. OK, specific example: Frantic Search. It's banned in Legacy. Another blue card with the same mana cost is Show and Tell. If you don't like that comparison because the cards have such different roles, another blue draw spell is Brainstorm. Both work for my example, really. Brainstorm and/or Show and Tell are generally agreed to be more powerful cards than Frantic Search, and yet Frantic Search is the card that is on the ban list. But even where that is agreed, there are some who would argue that Brainstorm and/or Show and Tell should remain unbanned because they are key components in decks that keep the environment healthy, whereas Frantic Search might be a bad candidate to unban because of the effect that it might have on making decks that are already good too strong.

    Along come other people who bring in a completely different philosophy, saying that you can't just look at a snapshot of the metagame as it is right now and analyze the ban list based on the hypothetical impact of cards on that one environment. They believe that the ban list should be there just to keep the most egregious cards out and let everything else remain, that archetypes and their representation should arise organically, with a minimalist banlist that only targets the cards that would dominate. In this philosophy, it is a mistake to ban cards in a targeted, goal-oriented manner, attempting to weaken a particular archetype or to shift the overall balance of the metagame.

    I'm rambling a lot. To summarize, I've noticed a pattern in discussions of the Legacy ban list and I notice two incompatible overarching philosophies on display by the interlocutors. I'll make up names for them that seem appropriate: Sowers and Planters.

    Sowers harken back to some of the response to the original ban list in 1994, and the concern of "You're telling me that I cannot play with my cards!" They recognize that there needs to be some regulation in order for the game to be a viable game in the first place. If people are allowed to use full playsets of the original five Moxen, for instance, everyone would be trying to win on the first turn every game (or trying to sabotage opponents on the first turn so that they would be unable to win), and it wouldn't make for a format people would actually play. But once there is some general definition for how a format should work (in Vintage, problem cards are restricted rather than banned, and in Legacy there are no restrictions, only bans), a ban list should strive for minimal interference. As new cards are released or new playstyles are discovered, it may come to be that something gets out of control. If that really turns out to be the case, if we think that the game cannot handle a certain deck and players have had sufficient time to adapt, but it remains dominant, then the next step is to identify the card deemed most responsible for the domination, the "broken" card, and to ban it.

    Planters have, to some extent, been around since the beginning, but they really got going in the early 00's in Vintage, with the consolidation of the format into competitive archetypes and the advocacy by prominent players of goal-directed restrictions meant to maintain the balance between the major archetypes. Planters have a vision for their format, and while the chaos of real-life competition won't match up 100% to what they have in mind, they want to nudge the format in the right direction and, to that end, are willing to use bans and/or restrictions as tools to cultivate the environment, to shape it to match that vision. In contrast to Sowers, who just want to cast the necessary bans/restrictions onto a format and let the format grow on its own, Planters would prefer to use the lists as management tools, as something to direct the format. The most obvious prototypical example of this philosophy was in the original 1994 list with Dingus Egg, which was targeted in an attempt to weaken land-destruction without actually restricting any of the land-destruction cards themselves. As the philosophy emerged in player analysis, one of the most vocal pioneering Planters was the CPA's own Rakso, who spoke out against new archetypes that were overturning the balance between traditional "The Deck" control and its traditional aggro opponents (mostly on Star City Games, I think, but perhaps it was on Beyond Dominia or The Mana Drain—I forget).

    Notably, Sowers can disagree with other Sowers over when and where to draw the line, or over which cards are actually too powerful. Likewise, Planters can disagree with other Planters over what sort of environment they want to cultivate and over which measures will best guide a format toward that goal. But because they don't all wear signs saying which philosophy they prefer, it often happens that Sowers argue with Planters and the two are talking at cross purposes, broadly agreeing on the circumstances behind the power of the cards and the effects that a ban/restriction will have, but disagreeing on the fundamental reasoning behind the lists in the first place. To further complicate things, a lot of people, maybe all of them, are some hybrid between the two philosophies, leaning toward one, but applying the other in some cases. I suspect that WotC have a general bias toward the Planter mentality due to the emphasis on Standard. In Legacy, I think most of the players have more of a Sower mentality. This is at least partially responsible for the disconnect between the playerbase and the people who actually manage the ban list. Most Legacy players want Mind Twist to be unbanned. The opposition, including the responses from WotC on the matter, have been along the lines that Mind Twist wouldn't add anything valuable to the format, that it would either do nothing or it would do something unfun. So even though the card has arguably never, in the entire lifetime of Legacy, actually been strong enough that it would have dominated the format, it remains on the ban list to this day.
  6. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I had a second part to my previous post an the message board ate it. I don't have time to rewrite it now. But rest assured that I was going somewhere with this. I'll get back to finish my train of thought at a later date. Really annoyed that the message board ate my post. :mad:
  7. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Like I said, part of my very long post was lost. I'll try again, but it won't be exactly the same. the stuff I'm writing now is definitely taking on a different form than if I'd tried to write a structured article. When I started that post, I had no intention of trying to elucidate the Sower/Planter disconnect, but I thought a lot about the idea while I was writing about Show and Tell. It's an important point because when it comes to longstanding ban lists, the waters get muddied. Yawgmoth's Bargain and other cards on the ban list are, or were at some point, very strong cards, but the format also allows other very strong cards, such as Show and Tell, to be included in decks. It's not necessarily the case that the cards that are banned are ones that are more broken than the ones that are used in the most prevalent decks in the format. And that's possibly the biggest gulf between Sowers and Planters.

    Anyway, most of the debate I've seen on the topic of Yawgmoth's Bargain as a possible Legacy unban hasn't looked like Sower vs. Planter, but actually a case of Sower vs. Sower. The advocates for a Bargain unban compare it to things that are already possible in the format, and in particular compare it to Griselbrand and Ad Nauseam, as those cards take on a similar role as black card-drawing engines used in combo decks. Detractors of this proposal point to the extreme flexibility of the "Pay 1 life: draw a card" ability, something that would allow a Dark Ritual fueled storm deck to do things that the currently legal cards cannot.

    So where do I stand? Honestly, I am uncertain. My position evolved sometime while I was writing my articles on the history of the Legacy ban list. In Part 1, I wrote...

    But by the time I wrote Part 3, my attitude was...

    Essentially, that's still my view. I worry that it's too dangerous, but I don't think it's so crazy that it should be completely off the table. If I got to make a reverse watch list for card that shouldn't be unbanned in Legacy yet, but should be scrutinized for possible future changes, Bargain would be on it. Contributing to my indecision on the matter, if a Bargain deck could be played in Legacy, it would be my pet deck. My own bias toward the card sways me, but I think sometimes it sways me in different directions. There are times when I wish the card could be unbanned and I'm hopeful that it would be strong but not dominant, and there are other times when I want it to stay banned as a kind of testament to how powerful the card is, thinking that we should keep Ad Nauseam in Legacy as the "fixed" version and let Bargain haunt the ban list as one of the great combo enablers of yore. But even if Bargain is potentially safe in Legacy, it wouldn't be my first unban choice. I believe that changes to the Legacy ban list, barring extreme circumstances, should happen one at a time, allowing the environment to adjust to each change individually.

    All of this is moot anyway. WotC take a very conservative Planter-type stance when it comes to Legacy unbans, especially pertaining to combo decks.
  8. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Well, now that I've talked Legacy to death, it's time to address Vintage. I see one major factor that makes this easier than the Legacy analysis and one major factor that makes it harder...
    • To make things easier, Yawgmoth's Bargain is already restricted in Vintage, rather than banned. This means that the card has a presence. We do not need to wonder what Bargain does in Vintage, as we can observe it in action. The question is whether the increased consistency of being able to run up to four copies makes the card too good. And as a pretty good starting point, we can imagine what a Bargain deck would look like by extrapolating from decks that run Bargain as a singleton.
    • To make things harder, Vintage is kind of a broken format at the moment, and analyzing a card in the context of the current Vintage environment can be tricky.
    To unpack the first point, Yawgmoth's Bargain in today's Vintage seems to show up in two different kinds of decks: dedicated storm decks and decks running Academy Rector. The latter are slightly obscure. I've seen some interesting Show and Tell lists that can use Rector to fetch either Omniscience or, if it won't produce a kill, they can go for Bargain instead, and it can be quite effective. Setting aside the fact that decks like this are pretty rare, they're probably also irrelevant to an unrestriction discussion. They are only allowed to run one copy of Bargain, but they look like even if they could run more, they would not. It's worth noting that in Vintage, sometimes even when a restricted card is played, and even when is demonstrably good, it's not necessarily the case that unrestricting the card would motivate players to use four copies of the card. This is especially evident from the fact that many unrestricted cards only show up as singletons already. Storm is a different case. The advent of Dark Petition in 2015 brought about a resurgence of "TPS" decks. Bargain is still an inclusion in these decks, but its role is limited. Usually, these decks hope to chain a few spells together, build up mana, and win with a lethal Tendrils of Agony. Yawgmoth's Will is the most powerful Dark Petition target, but if things aren't working, Necropotence is a powerful card-drawing engine that can set up a kill on the next turn. However, these storm decks have waned since 2015, and last year, Paradoxical Outcome began its takeover as the dominant combo engine card.
    The card lives up to its name. Normally, bouncing your own cards in order to draw more cards is a good way to overfill your hand and ruin your board position. And in other formats, the holds true. But Vintage has so many cheap artifacts that can be tapped for more mana than was used to cast them that it yields a true paradoxical outcome: the card can both draw cards and generate mana. Not all Paradoxical Outcome or "PO" decks are storm decks. Many of them primarily rely on Monastery Mentor as a kill condition. But the idea is similar in both cases.
  9. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Does a Bargain-based combo deck have more to offer than one relying on Paradoxical Outcome? Dark Petition? Ad Nauseam? Griselbrand? I think so. Outcome is heavily reliant on artifacts. Petition is dependent on having both the setup to cast it early with spell mastery and the potential to follow it up with something that wins the game. Ad Nauseam clashes with too many good cards and is constrained to a one-shot burst that puts cards in hand. Griselbrand needs setup (generally Oath of Druids or Show and Tell) and is generally constrained to either exactly 7 or exactly 14 cards. But Yawgmoth's Bargain also enjoys better synergies with some other cards, including Lion's Eye Diamond, Windfall, Wheel of Fortune, Timetwister, and Tendrils of Agony. In turn, those cards synergize with Yawgmoth's Will, so even though Yawgmoth's Will and Yawgmoth's Bargain don't directly help each other much, a Bargain-based storm deck would almost certainly make better use of Yawgmoth's Will than any other deck in Vintage. That using so many potent card-drawing spells and so much fast mana production could easily mean quick kills even without ever casting Bargain is a nice perk.

    But I'm envisioning something like TPS with four copies of Bargain instead of one, and that is probably not quite right. Because when you know that you have four copies of a powerful card to work with instead of throwing it into a deck as a one-off, that changes other deckbuilding considerations. Maybe going back to Burning Wish like the fast storm decks of 2003 would be the right move. Or maybe Bargain and Dark Petition belong in the same deck. Still, I strongly suspect that were Bargain unrestricted, whatever deck it led to, regardless of how the particulars would vary from other combo decks, it would at least result in a deck using Dark Ritual and Tendrils of Agony. And those decks are a known entity in the format. They've been around for 14 years. At the moment, such decks are a tiny fraction of the Vintage metagame. Without knowing whether unrestricted Bargain would boost them to be a bit more relevant or if it would become completely dominant, we have a sort of starting point on what to expect. We know that it would be a very fast deck, that it would be resilient against spells that target permanents, that it would be vulnerable to Mindbreak Trap and Flusterstorm but a bit more resilient in the face of traditional countermagic, and generally that almost everything that has been true about all of the Ritual-based combo decks of the last 14 years would also be true about a Bargain deck.
  10. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Now, to unpack my assertion about Vintage being a broken format at the moment. That sounds bad, but I really don't think that it should be too controversial. Vintage has always been known as the format with all the powerful cards, where crazy things can happen. For many years, the format was defined by a kind of balance between "pillars." There were artifact-based decks (Stax, MUD) using Mishra's Workshop. There were fast combo decks (Storm, Doomsday) using Dark Ritual. There were grindy control decks using Mana Drain (Slaver, Oath). There were aggressive decks that kept broken decks held in check with Null Rod (Fish, Hatebears). There were explosive graveyard-based decks using Bazaar of Baghdad (Dredge, Dragon). There were fast blue-heavy "Turbo Xerox" decks that played a lot of cantrip spells (Delver, Gush Aggro). And there were even various rogue decks or cases where the "pillars" shifted in some way. Sometimes decks that otherwise looked like Null Rod decks dropped Null Rod and relied on Blood Moon to cripple opponents' manabases. Sometimes countermagic-based control decks became lower to the ground and shifted away from Mana Drain. But my point is that with some representation from each of those rough, broad categories, there was diversity in the metagame. But over the past few years, Vintage has become a virtual duopoly between cantrip-fueled decks (mostly Monastery Mentor decks, but also Paradoxical Outcome storm combo) and "taxing" Thorn of Amethyst decks (mostly Workshop decks, but also Eldrazi aggro). Like everything else that doesn't generally fit into either of those two camps, Dark Ritual has fallen by the wayside. And with it, Bargain has become rare in Vintage.

    While I think it's fair to criticize a severe duopoly as "broken," the problem goes beyond that. Not only does a duopoly exist, but it has been attacked by multiple restrictions over time and has only become more severe. Restrictions, so far, have shifted the balance of power between cantrip decks and taxing decks in the matchup between them and the composition of the decks in those two categories, but they haven not cracked the duopoly. There is the concern that the format has reached a critical mass of restricted cards. Yeah, you can restrict Gush and Gitaxian Probe, as happened in the last change to the restricted list, but players can still use one of each, and they're already using singleton copies of Brainstorm, Ponder, Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, and Ancestral Recall. Those alongside unrestricted cheap card-drawing (Preordain, Dack Fayden, and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy) form a suite of cards that let one filter through a deck for very little mana setting up either a kill with Monastery Mentor's tokens or enough artifact acceleration for giant Paradoxical Outcome plays. Cheap card-drawing is powerful if you can find something to use with it, and once there are enough different cards that fill the role, restricting all of them just amounts to causing decks to use one of each. At some point, once enough tools are available, restriction as a countermeasure against a dominant deck loses its teeth. By playing cheap artifacts that make cheap card-drawing spells more expensive, "taxing" Thorn decks can have an advantage against cantrip-based decks. But as I mentioned in another thread, multiple cards have been restricted over the years to keep Mishra's Workshop from dominating the format.

    Under this duopoly, the kind of deck that might employ Yawgmoth's Bargain is already disadvantaged. And this is where some people come in an argue that unrestricting Bargain would boost the faltering Ritual-based combo decks and bring them back into the metagame, smashing the current duopoly.

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