Gushing About the Ban/Restricted Update

Hello everyone!!

I am back and ready to hit you with some more sweet juicy Vintage goodness. So much has happened to shake Vintage up in the last few months. By now I am sure you have how seen the super strong Aether Revolt artifact, Walking Ballista in action. On the back of this construct a new archetype of Workshop decks has been forged. Eternal Extravaganza just concluded last weekend and there were three copies of Ballista Shops in the top 8, and it even earned the trophy on a mulligan to FOUR game three.

Walking Ballista

With Vintage Champs in Europe coming up next month, its bound to be a very exciting time in Vintage. Despite the prevalence of Mentor decks with Gush at the helm, there is sure to be an Inventors’ Fair worth of interesting decks. This tournament will shape much of the upcoming of Vintage metagame regardless of which decks do well. This brings me to to the topic of the most recent ban/restricted announcement.

“As such, there are no changes to any formats at this time.”

No. Changes. At. This. Time.

Screeeeeech.

Wait, what?

This announcement made quite the uproar, for all formats, and Vintage was no exception. It was shocking that NOTHING felt worthy of a restriction in Vintage. There is the usual talk about restricting cards like Mishra’s Workshop or Bazaar of Baghdad. I think they are great cards to have in Vintage and won’t discuss their removal here. A few ban/restricted announcements have come and gone and people are still complaining about Monastery Mentor with it’s prominence of decks in top 8’s and the ease of victory it often ensures.

To understand my opinion regarding Monastery Mentor in Vintage, I would like to first mention that I am a fan of slow moving restrictions. Ideally, we give the format time to flesh out and find answers to popular strategies. When Paradoxical Storm was crushing the Magic Online queues left and right it certainly felt there was a large outcry for Paradoxical Outcome or Mox Opal’s Restriction. Now I feel the deck, while powerful, is safely under control. Sure, they could have instantly responded and restricted a key card to the deck, but allowing the format to solve itself and find the appropriate checks unhindered worked out. Other formats like Modern and Standard see many, many more events than Vintage, both in paper and online. Because of the massive amounts of data on those formats, Wizards is incentivized to act swiftly and appropriately to problem cards. Vintage is a different beast and more data from large events should be compiled first.

Needless to say, I can understand Wizard’s decision to wait until the European Vintage Champs to analyze all tournament results to finally make a move. If the results continue to reflect overly formidable Mentor decks, I believe Wizards will intervene with some kind of restriction. If the Mentor menace fails to put up the good showing that we have come to expect and prepare for, we may not need a restriction after all. I am not holding my breath on this outcome. I do feel like Mentor decks could use a nerf at this time, and I believe two cards should be restricted to aid this.

Gush

The first card I believe should be restricted in Vintage is Gush. Gush is an amazing card and there are countless articles and even a book written on it (shout-out to Stephen Menendian!) Gush has been on the restricted list in the past and at times Wizards has felt the card could have a safe reintroduction to the format. Even with main deck Pyroblasts running around, I still feel as though this card is slightly too oppressive to allow 4 copies any longer.

Gush allows many blue decks to cheat on mana sources, as well as a free way to gain card advantage, while simply playing cards they were playing anyway. Many of the best cards in Vintage that have little or no deck building constraints are restricted. Gush should be right there along with Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, Ponder, and Brainstorm. I believe Gush to be the central problem in this format and that Mentor decks would obviously take a huge blow from its restriction.

This being said, many Vintage players have shown an interest in restricting Monastery Mentor itself. I disagree with this for the simple reason that I believe Gush to be the real problem card. Perhaps if Mentor decks are still plowing through events at full-speed, a Mentor restriction can be discussed. If you take Mentor away, Gush will simply go into the next most broken deck. Gush is like the annoying kid who keeps interrupting the class by talking to whoever is sitting next to them. Sure, you could remove the other student, but the problem still remains. Remove the bad seed and maybe the classroom can learn more.

Gitaxian Probe

The second card I would like to see restricted in Vintage is Gitaxian Probe. This is a card that I don’t believe belongs in Vintage but for an entirely different reason. It’s no secret by now that Phyrexian mana was a design mistake. I do commend Wizards for trying to explore different design spaces and the mechanic felt flavorful, strong, and different, which should always be the aim. Even the simplest of cards like +2/+2 Giant Growth and sorcery speed Peek can be broken in half just because of the way Phyrexian mana works. Sure, getting Dismembered by one open blue mana Feelsbadman, but in my opinion the most miserable of cards to play against is Gitaxian Probe.

Just recently banned in Modern, I have to say that most people don’t seem to miss it and for good reason. It just doesn’t add a good dynamic to the game on top of being arguably broken and boring. Similarly to Gush, the card has a very low deck inclusion investment with only an occasional weakness to sphere effects and Mental Misstep. It even allows you to occasionally skimp on a land as well. Combo decks are heavily incentivized to run it as it provides perfect information for a combo turn as well as Storm and card advantage with cards like Yawgmoth’s Will. The card is more than just a peek-like cantrip in non-combo blue decks as well. Probe has amazing synergy with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Snapcaster Mage, and of course, Monastery Mentor. Synergizing with these cards isn’t necessarily a bad thing…unless it is free, and combined with the miserable experience of playing against it, gives me the opinion that Gitaxian Probe should be restricted in Vintage.

I would like to end this article by discussing a card that is picking up steam in Vintage and that we could perhaps see more of in the coming months. It is no coincidence that his recent popularity is at least in part due to the prevalence of Gush and Gitaxian Probe.

Leovold, Emissary of Trest

This three color powerhouse was actually originally designed specifically for Tiny Leaders (RIP), an EDH offshoot format, because the Sultai color combination was lacking a legal general. While Leovold is an absolute menace in EDH, he has also made his way to Legacy and Vintage, where his ability to suppress blue opponents is put on full display. Leovold has also been especially potent on Vintage Super League where blue mirror matches are the norm. Leovold does have the downside of costing three different colors of mana and having virtually no useful text against Shops and Eldrazi decks. It is with these restrictions that you will find the real cost of adding him to your deck. This combined with the fact that you don’t have easy access to Swords to Plowshares in a BUG control shell is an additional cost.

I predict that, without a Gush restriction, Leovold will remain the best way to keep Mentor decks abusing Gush, Probe, and friends at least on their toes. It is possible that Leovold could be enough to check Gush Mentor decks but I am not convinced. Now, there are decks like Brian Kelly’s Green Sun deck from VSL that play both Gush and Leo so maybe in the end we’ve just created a horrible monster. I would rather see Gush and Probe go, but either way, I believe our sly little buddy from Trest will be seeing quite a bit more play. For my next article I will be posting a few Leovold decklists as we eagerly await the Europe Vintage Champs. See ya next time!

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