So what should I learn in order to play Vintage?

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I've been looking over this forum over the last two days or so, and my questions are essentially what's on the tin: what should I learn in order to start playing Vintage?

I mean, the FAQ was somewhat helpful in this regard. Obviously I'll need access to things like the latest oracle wordings, the comprehensive rules, and other such resources. But I'm talking more about skills and habits that one should acquire when building decks. When piloting those decks. In what ways can I reasonably anticipate the deck I'm facing? What should one keep in mind when constructing a sideboard?

Thank'ee, folks, for the consideration and I do apologize for my ignorance, which I'm hoping I can remedy.
1) Know the rules, and know timing and triggers. This sounds silly, but things in Vintage happen in sometimes weird and complicated orders; you may want to hold priority for a spell, You may have lots of upkeep triggers and need to know what order to stack them in, etc.

2) Know how to play optimally. This sounds silly as well, and yet only a handful of people have probably mastered it (and I'm definitely not one of them). Some of it is simple; don't counter tutors, cantrips, or mana, counter what they play off them. This way the expend more resources and also don't have a chance of randomly drawing that card they tutored for later. Don't counter draw spells unless they generate enough advantage to be worth it, like Recall.

Other times, it's much harder. For instance, don't play two Phyrexian Revokers, one naming Jace, TMS, and the other naming a different card. Your opponent will kill the JTMS one and bounce the other (an actual play mistake from a sanctioned Vintage Top 8). 

You already touched on 3) Know what to expect from your opponent's deck. Identification is easy; you should know within the first couple turns whether your opponent is playing Oath, Dredge, Storm, Control, MUD, Thalia Parfait, Delver, etc. Look for key plays, like turn 1 Sphere of Resistance or Chalice of the Void, Delver, Forbidden Orchard, Duress, or Mox+2-drop white or green card.

Anticipation is harder. Based on how they're playing, you can sometimes guess what they have; if they keep droppping Spheres, the rest of their hand is probably lands and maybe a Tangle Wire. If they keep UU open, they probably have countermagic. If there is one card in particular that will totally screw you, anticipate that card. Otherwise, try to get a feel for the common lines of play, like Turn 1 Thorn of Amethyst, Turn 2 Lodestone Golem.

Overall, Vintage is not as hard and fast as people think. Games tend to go on well past turn 7-8, even against combo decks, and most of the plays are fairly obvious. Deckbuilding is harder, since your card analysis has to be razor sharp and sometimes harsh. But if you just jump in with us, you'll get the hang of it pretty quickly =)

If you're interested, my cockatrice screen name is serenechaos as well, so (if you use cockatrice) feel free to give me a buzz and I'll play a few games with you.
Etiamnunc sto, etiamsi caelum ruat.
If you're interested, my cockatrice screen name is serenechaos as well, so (if you use cockatrice) feel free to give me a buzz and I'll play a few games with you.



I'd normally be all-too-happy, but I'm afraid I cannot acquire Cockatrice at this time (and my barrier to doing so is social, not physical or connection-based). I could theoretically try some PbP games with you/others but last I knew those sorta...take forever.
How is there a "social" barrier for you?

"Oh no, I could acquire cockatrice, but then high society would ridicule me!"
"Hey mom, dad, I just downloaded cockatrice!"  "YOU'RE DEAD TO US"
"Oh, look at Jessie over there.  I heard SHE downloaded cockatrice!"  "What a loser!"  "Let's go to the mall without her!"
I hate dogs.
How is there a "social" barrier for you?

"Oh no, I could acquire cockatrice, but then high society would ridicule me!"
"Hey mom, dad, I just downloaded cockatrice!"  "YOU'RE DEAD TO US"
"Oh, look at Jessie over there.  I heard SHE downloaded cockatrice!"  "What a loser!"  "Let's go to the mall without her!"


How thick are you?

She either has a social phobia or gets tired of the stupid comments people make about her sex.  Probably the latter.

University of Charleston School of Pharmacy, Class of 2016

My Peasant Cube: A Cube for the Commoners

How is there a "social" barrier for you?

"Oh no, I could acquire cockatrice, but then high society would ridicule me!"
"Hey mom, dad, I just downloaded cockatrice!"  "YOU'RE DEAD TO US"
"Oh, look at Jessie over there.  I heard SHE downloaded cockatrice!"  "What a loser!"  "Let's go to the mall without her!"


How thick are you?

She either has a social phobia or gets tired of the stupid comments people make about her sex.  Probably the latter.




Actually, this is the in-laws' computer and they've strictly forbidden the downloading of programs, apps, and things of that ilk.
ITT rxphantom doesn't realize that you can download and play cockatrice without being like "HAI GUYZ IM A GURL" or engaging in any social interaction other than saying "keep".
I hate dogs.
But she cannot download, end of story.
Hay Jessica.  Generally, yes, you wanna be up on the details of the rules.  But the JTMS/revoker example, while instructive, is something that could happen in any format.

The reason you need to be aware of complex interactions is because of the incredibly high volume of restricted cards.  This is why, to me, Vintage is the most like chess.  Everything that's a four-of is your pawns.  Everything else is your minor and major pieces.  Playing Vintage is like playing at the grandmaster level.  I'm not putting down other formats, and some of the best Vintage players are virtually unheard of outside maybe the legacy scene, and some not even there.  It is a narrow, obsessive format.  But once you get into it, you can't play anything else.  The only reason I ever branch into other formats is because of a lack of activity in Vintage, or because I have friends who almost exclusively play other formats and I enjoy playing with them.

Vintage means that whether you are playing fish or stax or storm or whatever, you have to have a tight decklist.  The tightest.  No other format is less forgiving of a suboptimal card choice.  It is easy to make deck building mistakes.  Because in other formats you can rely on a lot more consistency.  In vintage you have to create your own consistency.  A lot of decks are full of four-ofs, such as stax.  But a lot of lists are full of almost nothing but singletons!  The reason is simple.  In no other format are there so many options, and in no other format do you have to make a choice that is weighted by the reality of restriction.  For instance: Yawgmoth's Will.  Or Yawgmoth's Bargain.  Undeniably insane cards.  But: hence their restriction.  And hence your quandry.  There aren't really replacements for either of these cards, so you can't run one and fall back on near-reprints, as in the case of Brainstorm > Ponder.  You have to construct your deck  around getting these cards into play, or else make the deck completely functional even if you never draw that card, or some happy medium.

I'm being overly wordy but also kind of not explaining this very well, I fear.  But the key to playing and winning vintage is like chess in this way: it involves having a massive arsenal of memorized games and lines of play against a massive number of decks with a massive number of decks.  You also need to constantly be on the lookout for novelty when it comes to both deck design and actual gameplay, but you can't ever be distracted by that into playing subpar cards or subpar plays.  You can't play tendrils and then say "oh I wanna add Lotus Cobra and Gush and Fastbond" and just go.  Even if you only add those 9 cards to an existing list, what you take out is ridiculously important.  Or should you take out more?  And how differently will this list play once you get to the game?

It is like the subtle difference between opening a chess game with the English planning to transpose into Queen's Gambit declined as opposed to just playing d4.  Both are legitimate plays.  But the wisdom of each depends on your familiarity with the deck, and with your opponent, and with your opponent's deck, and their familiarity with their deck and with you and yours.  With so many restricted cards, knowing when to mulligan is important so much more, even if you run very few unique cards, because your opponent may have the nuts hand and you don't have a turn to wait.  In legacy and everywhere else, you can just march your queen out knowing you have 4 more.  Not so with Vintage.  But you can't be timid, either, or your opponent will smash you with their queen.

Many people have the misconception that vintage is all about turn one wins.  The truth is that vintage is all about one turn wins which can happen on any turn.  Just because your opponent didn't go all in on turn one doesn't mean they won't on turn two, or four, or ten.  Stephen Menendian's column is rightfully called "So Many Insane Plays" because that's what vintage is all about.  This game is all about positional play that gets you into an unlosable position, and knowing when you've achieved that position, and knowing when to just say f it and go before you're ready because your opponent is about to get that position and you just have to play the odds.

1) First, the metagame: deciding what deck to play.

2) Then, deck construction: deciding how to build whatever deck you've decided is best.

3) Then, the individual card choices within that deck: where to innovate, where to use old standbys, and how to recognize hidden synergies and antisynergies.

4) Then, evaluation: you've made the best deck you can along the lines you've gone so far: should you scrap it and move to a new one, recognizing that there are no better iterations for this deck, or can it still be improved, if it is still not good enough?  This is the rarest and most important skill in Magic, as in grandmaster chess play, and it is the most rewarded in the Vintage format because of the unique complications caused by restricted cards.

5) Then, mulligan decisions: what percentage of subpar hands does your deck give you?  How reliant on having an optimal hand is your deck?  Having a deck that can function pretty well with a terrible hand is much better than a deck that is doomed without one of a few cards or combinations available on the first turn, no matter how unstoppable that god hand is.  Learn the difference between how your deck works on the play and on the draw.  In Vintage the importantance of this difference is magnified.  Learn the difference between when you made a bad mull, and when you made the correct play and your opponent just got lucky.  Learn the difference between when you made a bad mull and when your deck's draws are just inconsistent.  Learn the difference between mulliganing decisions post board, and in key matchups, and how to outthink unfamiliar decks.

6)  Then, actual play decisions: know your opponent's possible strategies and counterstrategies, tactics and counter tactics.  Know how likely each is.  Know how powerful they are.  Know their weaknesses.  Know how to play around your own inconsistencies and weaknesses.  Be willing to make a weird play that you've never made before, because it will come up in a game with 150 cards filled with singletons, half of them chosen by your opponent, and it will come up often, and if you don't know how to invent a play on the spot, you will lose.  Be prepared for situations you've never encounterd.  Over 15,000 cards are impossible to test rigorously.  Know the rules and interactions and matchups like the back of your hand, and then know that none of that matters compared to making the right play for the right reason.

It all really boils down to two things.  Both can be learned, but no one can really teach you either of them.  You have to have it in yourself.  You must be adaptive.  Nowhere else is it more rewarded.  And you must be obsessive.  Nowhere else is it more required.  All other formats require a library full of knowledge.  Vintage requires an ocean.  You will absolutely fail at Vintage without these two things, or else you will end up playing a casual variant of Vintage.

Play Vintage.

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I strongly disagree that Vintage is more chess-like than other formats; my current Standard deck frequently goes to time because of the decision trees. Sure you see this more often in Vintage; but I think that's a reflection of the player base more than the format.

However, the aspect of deck building you mention is something I forgot to bring up. Here's the best way I can put it. In Standard (or Modern, or Legacy, etc.) you will frequently see people in the forums discussing decklists, and you will see statements such as "Why is he running card X?". In Vintage, you will rarely see this statement. Instead, you will see statements such as "Why is he running 4 fetches instead of 5?".

Decklists in Vintage are that tight. You have the greatest consistency you can reasonably ask for, thanks to the sheer number of tutors and broken draw spells. So what does it come down to? Tweaking one or two slots. You can have an entirely new build; there's plenty of room for innovation. But you still have to consider slots very, very carefully. What will the third Burning Wish add to your deck? What will it take away?
Etiamnunc sto, etiamsi caelum ruat.
However, the aspect of deck building you mention is something I forgot to bring up. Here's the best way I can put it. In Standard (or Modern, or Legacy, etc.) you will frequently see people in the forums discussing decklists, and you will see statements such as "Why is he running card X?". In Vintage, you will rarely see this statement. Instead, you will see statements such as "Why is he running 4 fetches instead of 5?".

Decklists in Vintage are that tight. You have the greatest consistency you can reasonably ask for, thanks to the sheer number of tutors and broken draw spells. So what does it come down to? Tweaking one or two slots. You can have an entirely new build; there's plenty of room for innovation. But you still have to consider slots very, very carefully. What will the third Burning Wish add to your deck? What will it take away?



This is right on, and way more succinct.  You can't say "I like this card better" in Vintage.  It has to BE better.  I come up with rogue decks all the time, but the vast, vast majority are just fun thought experiments.  A small minority of those may actually inspire me to change a single card slot in one of my "serious" decks.

I strongly disagree that Vintage is more chess-like than other formats; my current Standard deck frequently goes to time because of the decision trees. Sure you see this more often in Vintage; but I think that's a reflection of the player base more than the format.



I agree that there are standard decks/games/players that are on par with vintage in terms of complexity/difficulty/skill, but vintage both requires and rewards these things far more.  The player base in vintage is a consequence of the format's depth, not the other way around.

www.nogoblinsallowed.com

 

A creative hub for art and all things Magical, Dungeony, and Dragony!

 

Feel free to copy this into your sig, adding one to the generation number.

 

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I guess Standard is more like chess because all of the decks are the same. 

Chess has diversity of strategy though that can be found in eternal formats.  
I guess Standard is more like chess because all of the decks are the same. 




My deck is 5 colors and runs 17 lands. I haven't seen a lot of those =P
Etiamnunc sto, etiamsi caelum ruat.
Again, it is possible to have decks/games/players that break this rule.  But innovation implies neither success nor complexity.  And even successful and complex innovation in standard is necessarily possible less frequently and with less potential depth than in vintage, because of the much larger cardpool and the unique complications caused by restriction.  No other format has restricted cards unless they are singleton formats, which involve even less decision.

People get distracted by the existence of certain staples in Vintage and think that there is no room for innovation.  As Mark Rosewater pointed out, nearly every possible deck is improved by the inclusion of Black Lotus.  But there are plenty of decks that have no use for Force of Will or Dark Confidant or Lotus Cobra or Aether Vial[/card] or Necropotence or Mind's Desire or Trinisphere or Time Vault or Tinker or Ancestral Recall.  The format is wide open as long as you accept that your innovations have to endure a gauntlet of testing unlike anything else before they can become proven.  This is why Vintage is fun.  The best, tightest Standard deck competes against a much narrower field when it comes to strategy, even if the decklists are more varied.

www.nogoblinsallowed.com

 

A creative hub for art and all things Magical, Dungeony, and Dragony!

 

Feel free to copy this into your sig, adding one to the generation number.

 

Generation=0

Again, it is possible to have decks/games/players that break this rule.  But innovation implies neither success nor complexity.  And even successful and complex innovation in standard is necessarily possible less frequently and with less potential depth than in vintage, because of the much larger cardpool and the unique complications caused by restriction.  No other format has restricted cards unless they are singleton formats, which involve even less decision.

People get distracted by the existence of certain staples in Vintage and think that there is no room for innovation.  As Mark Rosewater pointed out, nearly every possible deck is improved by the inclusion of Black Lotus.  But there are plenty of decks that have no use for Force of Will or Dark Confidant or Lotus Cobra or Aether Vial[/card] or Necropotence or Mind's Desire or Trinisphere or Time Vault or Tinker or Ancestral Recall.  The format is wide open as long as you accept that your innovations have to endure a gauntlet of testing unlike anything else before they can become proven.  This is why Vintage is fun.  The best, tightest Standard deck competes against a much narrower field when it comes to strategy, even if the decklists are more varied.



Oh, I absolutely agree. Vintage inherently has more depth involved in deckbuilding and strategy, and is less forgiving to innovation. My point was that games themselves will always require a similar depth of thought and strategy, no matter the format. B/R aggro has to decide how far to extend into an oncoming Terminus. Bant has to decide which spell most needs to be Dissipated, whether to tap out for Jace. Do you use Azorius Charm to cantrip now, or save it for an attacker later?

When I said that this complexity was a result of the players and not the format, what I meant is that good play and complex decision trees will ALWAY be rewarded more than luck or having good cards, no matter how big the cardpool is. I personally don't feel that Vintage rewards it more; Vintage just has stronger optimal plays. A correctly timed Recall will obviously be better than a correctly timed Think Twice.

On an unrelated note, do you have a Cocktatrice account? 
Etiamnunc sto, etiamsi caelum ruat.
Half of the field in the tcgplayer 50k is black red zombies. Innovation in standard are tweaking of decks. There are only a finite amount of interactions that can happen witch such a restrictive card pool. By the end of a standard meta it is a terrible thing that stops developing. The great part of eternal formats is that new cards are always being added and if there is something you want to do you can probably accomplish it.
i want to make a deck that attacks!

also transformational sideboard into rakalite combo

www.nogoblinsallowed.com

 

A creative hub for art and all things Magical, Dungeony, and Dragony!

 

Feel free to copy this into your sig, adding one to the generation number.

 

Generation=0

My god, Bun appeared!

I do appreciate the helpful advice ^_^ I do currently have some difficulty estimating the worth of a card; I mean, stuff like Black Lotus is fairly obvious, but I still don't understand the appeal of, oh, City of Brass or Library of Alexandria. Having never constructed a sideboard, I'm quite weak in that area as well.

Is there anywhere I can do further research on Vintage, or should I just keep poking you folks and seeing what sage wisdom flows forth?
if you have questions, feel free to ask.  or feel free to post a random deck, and we will work on it with you and explain why certain choices are bad or why the whole strategy is bad.  i would make a new thread for that though.  playing games is probably the best way to do it.  i know you dont have access to any of the magic programs, which will be a huge disadvantage to testing, but we can still run your stuff through the gauntlet via discussion, at least.

also serene: no.  ill probably need to redownload it soon though.

www.nogoblinsallowed.com

 

A creative hub for art and all things Magical, Dungeony, and Dragony!

 

Feel free to copy this into your sig, adding one to the generation number.

 

Generation=0

Safety advice:

When you use a "forbidden program" to connect to an opponent, your true IP address is revealed to them. From there, they can launch an intrusion attack right away if your computer security isn't configured properly. I'd bet your computer has a few unwanted visitors right now.

Not only this, but hackers can use a "Hex-editor" program to manipulate the game's results. They can manipulate your draws and their draws by tapping into the program and changing the referenced memory. This is generally called "hacking on the fly", and it's another reason why there is no point in using those programs to play Magic because the games may be crooked.

 
I hate dogs.
i loled

www.nogoblinsallowed.com

 

A creative hub for art and all things Magical, Dungeony, and Dragony!

 

Feel free to copy this into your sig, adding one to the generation number.

 

Generation=0

i loled


I normally go for making someone angry, but that also works.
I hate dogs.
2) Know how to play optimally. This sounds silly as well, and yet only a handful of people have probably mastered it (and I'm definitely not one of them). Some of it is simple; don't counter tutors, cantrips, or mana, counter what they play off them. This way the expend more resources and also don't have a chance of randomly drawing that card they tutored for later. Don't counter draw spells unless they generate enough advantage to be worth it, like Recall.



Another good one:  Know when to break the Serene's rules.  If your oppoent just laid down 4 artifact mana, gushed 2 land back to hand, played one out,  played out 2 rituals, one more artifact mana then plays Demonic Tutor with one card left in their hand, unless you are sitting on Flusterstorm, you go right ahead and counter that tutor, or you'll be eating a Tendrils of Agony.  They can go right ahead and pick that card up next turn.

Classic Quarter
(www.classicquarter.com)
A good Storm player wouldn't have saved the Tutor until the end of the combo and thus bottlenecked himself into countermagic...but yes, if they do bottleneck visibly like this, counters are well placed.
Etiamnunc sto, etiamsi caelum ruat.
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