No Top Decks Anymore
- Dr. Hans Joachim Höh
Was it the top deck, the Top deck, or just too concerned with the top of the deck?
Why was it wrong to ban Sensei's Divining Top in Legacy?
The Miracles deck was strong but not completely dominant. It won various events, but the Top8s were never filled with the deck. If it is among the most played decks in the field, then it is not surprising to see one or two copies in the Top8. That is just the expected conversion rate. Let's look at some examples: There were more Elves than Miracles decks in the Top8 of the Legacy Championship 2017. There were zero Miracles decks in the Top8 of MKMS Milan this year despite being the most played deck. There was just one Miracles deck in the Top8 of our largest MKMS Legacy event (410 players) in 2016.
The numbers just don't back up the "best deck" dominance claim, especially when compared to other formats. Miracles made up 15% of the winners' metagame in the last two months. Compare this to Workshops' 20% in Vintage, Death's Shadow's 13% in Modern, and Mardu's 34% and Copycat's 32% in Standard, all of which were not acted upon.
Keep in mind that all blue white control decks get tagged as Miracle decks, while other decks often get divided into subgroups dividing up their percentages. Delver decks get divided by their colors, BUG variants get divided into Delver, Shardless, Leovold, Food Chain, Aluren or into “BUG midrange” and “BUG control”despite using much of the same deck skeleton with minor differences.
Is no control better than annoying control?
But even if the numbers would prove Miracles to be ban-worthy, there is a great argument for leaving it in the format: It was the last real control deck in any of the formats. Therefore it was the last place to turn to for players who enjoyed that kind of play-style. Not only is it bad if these players now consider quitting Magic altogether, it is also bad for the game if these strategies don't exist in the game anymore. What makes Magic so magical is the multitude of strategies you can employ to win a game. It might not be fun for you to be locked out of the game and having to wait for your opponent to slowly mill you out with their Lantern deck, but Prison decks should be part of the endless possibilities Magic has to offer. And for the same reason classic U/W control decks should be able to exist. It is exciting game-play for one player to figure out how to stop the aggression and for one player to order their plays correctly to break through the control player's defenses.
Whenever control decks are nonexistent, formats tend to just turn into races. Creature based damage races can be interesting, but racing to do your lethal combo first is often not interesting at all. When the control options are too weak to compete, the metagame race to the bottom is on. It pushes the format towards one-sided strategies. Modern has been a clear showcase of exactly that for years now. Modern game play is mostly not about anticipating your opponents' moves and adjusting your plays, it is often about doing the most broken thing your deck can do as early as possible. While this is a fun part of Magic as well, it should not be the only thing going on.
Miracles kept Elves in check with Terminus, and it stopped Storm from just chaining cantrips and rituals into a lethal Tendrils of Agony. You might not have liked to fight an uphill battle against Counterbalance, but you might end up disliking the future Legacy even more.
Is Elves vs. Storm exciting?
Maybe it is just me, but I would expect many Legacy players to like their format exactly for these interactive decisions. Removing the last control deck will most likely start a metagame development heading away from interactive decks, exactly as we saw in Modern for years.
With the current state of Standard (aggro vs. combo), the fast pace and non-interactivity of many Modern matchups, maybe it is time to reconsider the design stance responsible for both of those state of affairs (printing better threats than answers for more than a decade) – instead of pushing Legacy towards the same trap by removing the only true control deck?
I believe that they listened to player feedback regarding this ban, but they shouldn't have. Players often disregard the bigger picture and the long-term effects their demands might have. Hopefully, the resulting Legacy metagame will work out fine in the long run. One way or the other, it is definitely going to be interesting to see what happens at the MKM Series in Frankfurt this weekend.
See you there!