The responses I got were great. Not only were most of them well thought out, but also well written. After churning through the inch-thick stack of printouts, I compiled the information into a sort of "Top 10 List" of suggestions, which I present below.
Please understand that this exercise was not commissioned by the DCI or the Tournament Team; I simply did it on my own to generate discussion. So no promises about anything actually coming of this. That said, I promise to pass all the information on to the relevant people so that they can peruse it at their leisure. They all have their own ideas about what should be happening in the format, but "second opinions," especially well-informed ones, never hurt.
I was particularly pleased with the overall positive tone of the letters. There's this perceived disconnect between Wizards and the Type 1 community, but in general, the community seems content with the status quo. New cards are making their way into the format, nothing too absurd is happening, and the metagame is diverse. But, as with all things, there is always room for improvement.
Enough with the intros... here are the Top 10 player-suggested changes to the Type 1 Banned and Restricted List.
1) Unrestrict Recall
Recall is a weird card. It was reprinted in core sets three times after being restricted in Type 1 in September of 1994, so its easy to see that even R&D understands that the card's power level is not problematic in and of itself. In the early days of the Banned and Restricted List, however, any card that allowed the reuse of the real powerhouses, like Ancestral Recall and Balance, was restricted.
Honestly, Recall was probably very good eight years ago. I know for a fact that I've seen decklists, albeit not recent ones, that do sport the lone copy allowed. But the game has changed, and with over 3000 new cards printed since it was restricted, players have found better ways to get cards out of their graveyards, such as Yawgmoth's Will or Nostalgic Dreams. Recall is expensive to play, removes itself from the game to prevent recursive abusiveness, and is inherently card disadvantage. And because of all those shortcomings, no current tier-one decks play it. If any card on the list deserves to be unrestricted, Recall is that card, and over two-thirds of the letters I received echoed that sentiment.
Jay Fagley summed up Recall:
This card is just weak. Even unrestricted it would never see play with some of the new recursion spells out there. Combo decks that win by recurring spells would much rather play Twister-Regrowth or Holistic Wisdom.
On October 1, 1999, nine months after the restriction of Tolarian Academy in Type 1, Hurkyl's was restricted as part of a continued massive anti-combo movement. Joining Hurkyl's on the Restricted List that fateful day were Crop Rotation, Doomsday, Dream Halls, Enlightened Tutor, Frantic Search, Grim Monolith, Lotus Petal, Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, Mind Over Matter, Mox Diamond, Mystical Tutor, Tinker, Vampiric Tutor, Voltaic Key, Yawgmoth's Bargain, and Yawgmoth's Will.
That was a lot of cards to restrict at once, and it has taken some time for the dust to settle and the ramifications of the huge purge to be determined. In the days since, most of the cards on that list have proven that they deserve their restricted status, and continue to be put to good use--even as single copies--in competitive decks. Others, like Dream Halls and Doomsday, have virtually disappeared from the format now that decks cannot be built around them, but such decks would probably be unhealthy and so the cards remain on the list.
But Type 1 players believe that Hurkyl's Recall is different. If you think back to the pre-Academy days, you may remember a recursive artifact deck based around four copies of Hurkyl's Recall. The deck would use Mana Crypts, Mana Vaults, and Mox Jet to generate lots of mana, Hurkyl's them back and replay them, draw cards, lather, rinse, repeat, and then win with a Kaervek's Torch or some such nonsense. The card also showed up in the first wave of Academy decks--the variety that killed on turn one so often it was frightening--prompting its restriction. But because Mana Vault (and Grim Monolith), Mana Crypt, and even Mox Diamond and Voltaic Key were all restricted along with Hurkyl's, it doesn't look like a Hurkyl's deck would have many tools to work with these days. Guilty by association, perhaps? Restricting all the fast mana may have been enough, without the need to restrict the instant.
JP Meyer makes a good case for the unrestriction of Hurkyl's, following a preface about the Banned and Restricted List in general:
1) I've always seen the Type 1 restricted list as being a sort of "hall of fame" for Magic's broken cards. Because of this, underpowered cards should be removed from the list to increase the symbolic effect of being on the restricted list.
2) The idea in Type 1 is to be able to play with as many cards as possible. Therefore, as few cards as possible should be on the list.
3) The restricted list should balance the environment, although currently, there don't seem to be any new cards that need to be restricted.
Hurkyl's Recall: Hurkyl's Recall was restricted because it was in the original Type 1 Academy decks that were ridiculously overpowered even after an initial set of restrictions. The problem with Hurkyl's Recall now is that since Mana Vault and Mana Crypt are restricted, Hurkyl's Recall doesn't generate very much mana. Also, Rebuild is unrestricted and does practically the same thing. As a bonus, an unrestricted Hurkyl's Recall would be useful as a sideboard card in blue decks to use against the numerous artifact-based that have sprung up recently in Type 1.
Some care has to be taken with the statement that if "no one plays one copy of a restricted card, no one would play four," as Dream Halls is probably a pretty big exception to that "rule." In fact, the appeal of unrestricting a card like Hurkyl's Recall is that maybe someone will play four. But in general, if a restricted card isn't showing up in decks, its status probably deserves some scrutiny by the DCI.
3) Errata Specific Cards
Every so often, combos pop up that abuse certain cards in ways that clearly go against their "designed purpose." Worldgorger Dragon was not designed to be part of an infinite mana engine. Illusions of Grandeur was not created to be the kill card in one of the most pervasive combo decks of all time. Phyrexian Dreadnought was not made so that it could come into play on turn one.
For the most part, such combos are at the core of what we, as Magic players, should be trying to find. What fun would it be to play every card the way the R&D team envisioned? We should be trying to break things! Some of the most interesting decks use cards in ways that others--even people here at WotC--never envisioned. I assure you that Squee, Goblin Nabob was not meant to be part of an abusive card-drawing engine, and that Squirrel Nest was not meant the namesake of a turn-three kill, but once players get their hands on the cards, crazy things happen. That's what makes Magic cool.
The flipside of breaking things is that sometimes real damage is done. Tournaments suffer when combos start getting way out of whack, and at that point we have to step in and change things. Sometimes a card gets restricted or banned, and sometimes errata is issued. Neither is pretty.
Remember the original interaction between Recurring Nightmare and Great Whale? Or Iridescent Drake and Abduction? Or Parallax Wave and Opalescence? Not good. Not good at all. But does that mean errata was the right answer?
Sometimes in the past, a card was given errata to make it do what it was supposed to do, the card remained good enough to be played anyway, and everyone was happy. The changes to Parallax Wave, Thawing Glaciers, and Palinchron worked out like that in the long run. But what was more often the case was that cards were errataed from "This card is insane" to "This card is unplayable," which no one enjoyed. Great Whale, Karmic Guide, Waylay, Iridescent Drake, and Time Vault are among the cards relegated to the unplayable pile as a result of changed wordings.
We don't want to do that anymore. Clearly, the issuing of errata helps the greater good of that particular play environment, but it has lasting ramifications outside of it. I cannot tell you the number of emails I get from casual players asking about the interactions of some of the cards listed above, and it really sucks to have to say, "Your deck doesn't work the way you want it to because we changed the wording on that card." For players not plugged into the tournament scene, the idea of errata borders on repulsive.
So, should Phyrexian Dreadnought have some clumsy clause about turning face up jammed onto it? Some of you think so.
Should Illusions of Grandeur be made to say "If you lose control of Illusions of Grandeur, you lose 20 life?" Some of you think so.
Should Worldgorger Dragon be given the classic "if you played it from your hand" text? Some of you, including Roy Spires, think so. Spires writes:
[Worldgorger] Dragon MUST receive errata; it is currently the single most important thing to the health of the T1 environment. The "infinite loops" it generates are abusable even in the sense that they let you draw the game whenever you want. A deck that abuses the most basic rules of Magic should not exist. Not to many people enjoy having 3 draws in a row followed by an unbeatable turn-1 win, which is exactly what the Dragon is capable of doing if the Dragon player chooses to do so.
But we no longer think that way. When we get complaints like this, especially in Type 1, our courses of action are, in order:
- Wait it out and hope the metagame can adjust. This is where we are now on most of these cards. Emails like this one from Timothy Frank give us hope:
Dragon- As long as you don't restrict Tormod's Crypt, ANY deck can handle this combo. Also, Swords [to Plowshares] or any other instant removal works to take away all the opponent's permanents. I see Dragon as a deck that could be hated out of an environment very easily.
- See if the problem can't be solved by a restriction. When Trix was a problem in Type 1, it was cleared up by restricting the most egregious card in the deck--Necropotence. You may not agree with the choice of targets, but you can't argue that it didn't do what the DCI wanted. Perhaps restricting Worldgorger Dragon, or another component of the deck, would have a similar effect. And more on Necro later.
- Ban something. Note that nothing is currently banned in Type 1 for power reasons. More on this later as well. However, troublesome cards can be banned in other formats, and sometimes are.
Issuing errata isn't even really a consideration anymore, as we feel that doing so is more damaging than it's worth. Casual players really, really hate errata. (In fact, the Casual Players Alliance was formed because of the errata issued to Waylay in August of 1999. True story.) Our policy has changed in recent years. We don't want to errata cards, and will only do so under certain circumstances. We'll issue errata on cards that work in ways that most players find confusing. We'll issue errata on cards that don't work inside the rules of the game. But we won't issue errata on cards to "correct" power levels, especially older cards that people are used to playing with. If they turn out to be problems, restrict or ban them.
The DCI will continue to watch Dragon, Trix, and Mask decks to see if they are becoming real problems, but at the time of this writing, I don't think that is the case. Yes, the way these decks play is offensive to some people, but one man's meat is another's poison.
4) Ban Tolarian Academy
When Channel and Mind Twist were moved from the Banned List to the Restricted List in 2000, for the first time in the Lists' history, no cards were banned for either time concerns or power reasons. In fact, the only cards currently banned in Type 1 are either ante cards (Contract from Below, Tempest Efreet, etc.) or cards requiring manual dexterity (Chaos Orb and Falling Star).
R&D and the DCI are very proud of this fact, as they fully understand that banning a card from Type 1 is essentially "banning it from Magic," a fate they are loathe to exact on any of their precious "children."
Most Type 1 players (or at least those that bothered to contribute to this exercise) agree that the format it relatively healthy. But some feel that the Restricted List is unnecessarily long, with many of the cards on it solely because of how they interact with the most powerful land ever made, Tolarian Academy. Should the Academy be retired permanently, releasing its strangle hold on many other cards?
Illinois' Philip Stanton thinks so:
Whenever something turns out to be too good, instead of banning it, the T1 solution is to let you play a single copy instead of four.
I think this needs to be reevaluated. One card in particular, Tolarian Academy, points out the flaw in this system. Instead of simply banning the Academy, cards like Crop Rotation, Frantic Search, Time Spiral, Mox Diamond and Lotus Petal all had to be restricted. Even Windfall might not be there in the absence of the Academy. That's five or six of the 50 restricted cards that probably don't need to be restricted.
It makes sense that one of the overall DCI goals should be to have B/R lists be as short as is healthy for the game. If banning the Academy completely would free up so many different cards and potentially allow for new and interesting decks, the loss of the second-tier Neo-Academy combo deck really wouldn't be a high price.
Other players voiced similar opinions, and suggested other cards that could be potentially come off the list if Academy got the axe, including Tinker, Dream Halls, Mind Over Matter, Voltaic Key, and Hurkyl's Recall. While I'm not certain that all of those cards would be "safe" in an Academy-free environment, there are definitely at least three or four cards that lose their "oomph" if that Legendary Land is banned. And by reintroducing cards like Crop Rotation and Frantic Search to the format, maybe more than one new deck would pop up to replace the fallen Academy deck. An interesting proposition, to be sure, and making such a change would do wonders to clean up the Type 1.5 Banned List (More on this later).
But not all players agree. Edward McTighe, for example, is one of the players that share R&D's outlook on the Banned List:
The first thing I would like to say is that I feel that, in general, the cards that are on the Restricted List due to Tolarian Academy should stay there. While banning Tolarian Academy might allow some of those cards to be unrestricted, it would take away part of what makes Type 1 unique -- the fact that, even if a card is very powerful, you can still use a single copy of it (with the exception of ante cards and stuff like Chaos Orb).
The fate of Tolarian Academy makes for good debate material, but if I were a betting man, I'd guess that it isn't going anywhere. But you never know.
5) Separate the Type 1 and Type 1.5 Lists
I'll start this topic with a letter from Sam Doran.
Now I've never been to a Type 1 tournament myself, but I've played in (and won) more than a fair share of 1.5 tournaments. As we are all aware, Type 1.5 is supposed to be a vintage format that is fun to play but doesn't have the absurd amount of power and high entry barrier that Type 1 has. The way this is achieved is with the rule that any card restricted in Type 1 is banned in Type 1.5 without exception. I think this rule needs a change.
Many cards that are abusive in Type 1 would be relatively tame in 1.5 for various reasons. A good number of these cards were banned because of a certain deck that abused a particular "academic institute." "Academy Cards" are not overpowered by themselves; they are overpowered with Tolarian Academy.
Cards such as Fork and Crop Rotation would not do much damage in Type 1.5, because Tolarian Academy is already banned in the format. Other cards such as Fact or Fiction and its ilk would not be too harmful.
I propose a change in how the Type 1.5 Banned List is set up. Instead of Type 1 power cards being auto-banned, it has its own separate banned cards. Some cards simply aren't that powerful outside of their combo, and many of the combos are obsolete anyway. It sounds as though I'm proposing a whole new format, but I don't feel as though the change would be terribly drastic.
It would still achieve the original objective of type 1.5: A vintage format without the broken power cards.
I hope my thoughts are taken in to consideration and I look forward to Banned and Restricted week. After all, vintage players are people too.
Determining which cards should or should not be banned in Type 1.5 isn't as much of an issue as "Would it be worth it to separate the Lists?" As it stands now, the number of sanctioned 1.5 tournaments run around the world in a given year is miniscule, and devoting effort towards making and enforcing a second list are probably not worth the trouble. Let people memorize one list, and apply it to both Type 1 and Type 1.5. More lists does not necessarily make for a better game, but certainly add to the level of confusion, especially where new players are concerned.
Until 1.5 gets a little more popular, it will more than likely continue to be in the shadow of Type 1. I don't think the fact that you can't use Frantic Search and Crop Rotation in the format are what's keeping it from being played more, so I recommend treating the lack of a separate list as an effect of the format's lack of popularity, not as a cause.
6) Other Unrestrictions
Here is a list of the cards players want unrestricted, and the percentage of respondents that mentioned each card:
Many of those cards have been covered above, and we'll get to Necro in a second, but in the mean time, here are some more testimonials about unrestricting some of these other cards:
Raphael Caron on Channel:
Channel seems to be quite broken, but I don't think it would be that played in the current Type 1 environment. Aggro is being played a lot, and control has counterspells to deal with this. I'd say unrestrict the green card and put it on the watch list.
JP Meyer on Doomsday:
The problem with Doomsday is that the combo built around it is incredibly hard to pull off. For anyone that doesn't know, Doomsday combo decks rely on casting Doomsday and leaving Black Lotus, Lion's Eye Diamond, Regrowth, Braingeyser (or any X-spell) and a random 5th card in the library. This isn't a one card kill though, since after casting Doomsday you also need exactly 3 cards in hand, one of which must be Timetwister, and 1G in your mana pool so you can Regrow your Timetwister. You then generate a mana loop by casting Timetwister which draws you your entire library, followed by Black Lotus (sacrifice for UUU), Lion's Eye Diamond, Regrowth on Timetwister, Timetwister, and in response you sacrifice Lion's Eye Diamond for GGG. That looks hard enough to pull off that a Doomsday deck wouldn't become too powerful.
Mike Tabler on Enlightened Tutor:
There are few to no decks that can play this card and make it good. It would make Parfait [mono-white enchantment-based control] decks stronger, but I've never seen a Parfait deck near the top tables in any major tournament. This could bring about a stronger Replenish deck, but this also gives the user a loss of tempo, so again this could be unrestricted.
[...]Berserk should be unrestricted. At first glance I can see how one might find this somewhat suspicious.[...] It is simply not open to the type of abuses that are characteristic of the Restricted List in general. The most cited reason to keep Berserk restricted was that drawing two or three Berserks with one Berserk compounding another is a serious problem. The consensus seems to be, however, against this. On particularly well-put statement on why this card should be unrestricted is from Edward "Legend" Paltzik: "Berserk is not so good that the current decks will not be able to handle such a development as its unrestriction. But it is good enough to at least lead to some minor changes in deckbuilding across the Type I metagame. Therefore, it is clearly the best candidate for unrestriction in my view. Some people would argue that Recall is a better candidate, but no one cares about that card."
The basic idea is that the spell affects a creature, and creatures on particularly vulnerable, and even if they can kill one or two turns, may not be fast enough. The suggestion was even brought up that it could be used in MaskNaught. Chris Flaaten and I both agree that Berserk is a suboptimal addition to MaskNaught given the opportunity cost of the slot it would fill that needs to be dedicated to search, combo, and discard.
However, I should add one word of caution. Extremely recent (but deeply rooted) innovations in the Type 1 metagame have centered around an unusual Grow variant that uses black [for Psychatog] and abuses Berserk. In particular, one well-respected member of the community has come out saying that the reason Berserk should not be unrestricted is because of this deck. However, I maintain for various reasons that the concern was unwarranted but I won't go into that right now.
Fork was the most openly questioned card with a slight edge in favor of those who say that it should be unrestricted. I think an important caveat to all of this polling is that the Type 1 community has a tendency to be conservative when it comes to dealing with the B&R list. Cards that have been restricted as long as Fork and Berserk have, and yet are still used in many decks creates an uneasy suspicion of unrestriction that is fertile ground for the hastily drawn conclusion that it is simply best to keep it restricted rather than risk potential abuse.
All said, I know there are cards listed here that the DCI won't touch with a 10-foot pole. On those same lines, many players anticipated outpourings of support for the unrestriction of certain cards and tried to "head it off at the pass." For every "unrestrict Berserk" and "unrestrict Channel" letter, there was one that said "Do NOT unrestrict these cards."
7) The Necropotence Package
The unrestriction of Necropotence was recommended by several players, and almost to a man they proposed two other changes that would theoretically allow such a move to be made:
The theory behind these suggestions is that Necro was restricted (unfairly) to quash Illusions/Donate decks, and that the format would be better with Necro than with either Illusions or Donate. The same arguments were made when Necro (and Dark Ritual) were banned in Extended. Also, the unrestriction of Vise would be to ensure that Necro decks wouldn't dominate the format.
We return to the letter from Timothy Frank. Frank, incidentally, was a proponent of issuing errata to Illusions, but was one of the few to not suggest unrestricting Black Vise.
Necropotence has a special spot in many player's hearts. There would be a resurgence of deckbuilding that would take place, and I don't think it would make black hands down the best color to play either. I currently believe the current metagame to be as balanced with as many competitive decks as I can remember, and adding into the mix all the Necro-decks will only further strengthen the environment.
The deck benefiting the most isn't really a single deck, but the Vintage format as a whole. A very strong and effective Necropotence deck can be built on a very reasonable budget, thus allowing more members to the Magic Type 1 community to participate at a competitive level. As newer players become more adept at Type 1 they will naturally gain the desire to expand their own deck choices, and thus will begin to acquire cards needed to do just that. In doing so they will help promote the format I love.
Even if Necro were to be unrestricted, I personally can't see reintroducing four-Vice decks as anything but bad. Kansas City's Jess Peterson agrees:
Black Vice is a vicious card that should never be taken off the Restricted List. It's not powerful enough to warrant a full ban, but is evil nonetheless. Obviously anyone lobbying for it's removal does not remember the days of having to play against a deck with 4 Vices.
Black Vise aside, this debate basically comes down to what should be restricted--the powerful card-drawer or the narrow combo piece? The DCI has already shown their colors on this issue in both Extended and Type 1, and I don't foresee them changing their tune.
8) Restrict Mishra's Workshop
Most of the letters I received suggested that cards be taken off the Restricted List; very few suggested that any cards be put on the list. After all, the environment seems pretty diverse, and no one like having his toys taken away from him.
But one card has been ruffling a few feathers lately--a card that has been on the Restricted List before.
Here's V. Vaka's take on Mishra's Workshop:
In TnT decks [Workshop/Survival of the Fittest decks with Juggernaut and Su-Chi], Workshop is the equivalent of a Black Lotus that recurs every single turn. Allowing four copies of such a card to be played makes it so that an aggro player can't possibly hope to win a tournament if there is a chance they might run into even one TnT deck. They could hope to be able to outrace combo and control decks and outnumber other aggro decks, but there is nothing they can do against a deck that plays 5 Black Lotuses, four of which stay in play forever, along with numerous other mana producers, and uses all this mana to play much larger creatures that the other aggro decks can't take on the very first turn. As a result, over the past few months, other aggro decks virtually disappeared from competitive Type 1. And many of the previous aggro players have found themselves frustrated by their inability to use their decks in competitive environments. Those that could afford to moved onto playing TnT themselves or they switched over to combo and control decks. But for players that don't own the Power 9, this isn't an option. Virtually every major aggro deck has left the tournament scene as a direct result of TnT.
I personally agree that the card is gross. Having three mana that easily on the first turn can be unsettling, even if it has a constraint on what it can be used for. But that doesn't mean it necessarily needs to be re-restricted.
My inner "Timmy" is happy to see that, in this environment of combo kills and oppressive control decks, "bash you with my Juggernaut" is a viable strategy. If five-power creatures on turn one is what it takes for aggressive decks to work, then that's what they should be able to do.
That said, maybe the DCI will keep their eyes on the Workshop.
9) Allow Portal Cards
Now this is a proposal I can get behind. Not many people suggested it, because it requires "thinking outside the box," but it is a great idea nonetheless.
Portal as an oversimplified way to introduce players to the game was not the best idea ever, and the creation of cards that were not overtly goofy (like Unglued), yet still not legal in tournaments has been met with a small amount of ire in the community (especially by those players that started with Portal, only to find out later that the cards were "useless"). We have since stopped making such sets, and have gone so far as to make special exemptions for the tournament legality of cards that will only appear in the Starter game, as Eager Cadet will do when Eighth Edition rolls around.
The logistics of legalizing all three Portal sets, plus a few random Starter cards, is the real barrier at this time.
Most Type 1 players call for the legalizing of Portal because of one card in particular, the green common Jungle Lion, which many claim is just the card Stompy (mono-green beatdown) needs to be truly competitive. The problem is that the rules team can't just say "Jungle Lion is legal in Type 1." If Portal is to be legalized, all three sets must be legalized, which would entail writing Oracle wordings for all the cards (some of which are quite awkward under "real" rules), and assigning creature types to a bunch of monsters. While not an impossible task, it would require a bit of time.
All in all, a good idea, and one I'd personally like to see happen. But if and when such a change would be made are murky at best.
10) Do Nothing
A snippet from Bryce Reynolds:
Right now, the Vintage format is as diverse as it has ever been. At this very moment, I can count forty-one different deck archetypes that are each capable of taking the top spot at any given tournament. Additionally, each of these archetypes has endless different variants in construction.
I can honestly say that one of the biggest reasons for the Type 1 environment being so amazingly diverse now is the great job that you folks have been doing in R&D since Invasion; you have given us Vintage players many new toys to play with. The other big reason is of course the level of innovation that's been achieved throughout the global Type 1 community.
Regarding the Banned and Restricted list and making adjustments to it, the format is wonderfully diverse right now, so there is absolutely no reason to change anything. No card is causing a particular deck to dominate the format, so nothing should be considered for restriction.
It's great to hear that we're doing a good job, and it's also good to know that if this experiment results in zero changes to the format, a percentage of the audience will be happy with the decision.
There they are... the Top 10 suggestions I received from the public. Like I said, I'll pass them on, and who knows what good (or ill) will come from this exercise?Send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.