This past week at Hipsters we’ve been preparing you for the upcoming Vintage Super League, which premieres today at 9pm EST. To help you prepare we’ve released an outline of the structure of VSL including player profiles, top five decks and top ten cards.

Last weekend I was able to interview Rich Shay, who happens to be one of the leading content creators and players in the vintage scene. You can check out his player profile along with the other competitors here. Due to the length of the interview, some content has been paraphrased.

Aaron: What do you think is the best deck in Vintage?

Rich: There is no one “best deck” currently. Instead, there are four-and-a-half decks that are probably each a bit too good. I believe Shops, Paradoxical, Dredge, Survival, and Xerox are all currently the best decks. I’m counting Survival as a Tier 1.5 deck. These decks crowd out other decks from being developed. Worse yet, there is no simple solution to this. If you get rid of any of these top decks without impacting the others, then the metagame likely collapses. Each deck is holding the other decks in balance.

In other words, I believe that Vintage is diverse but not healthy. I don’t believe you can describe format health in a mathematical or qualitative method. I believe that many times, there are non-games because one of the decks performs its function and thereby excludes the other deck from participating in the game. Format health is low not because of one deck being entirely dominant. Format health is low because, in my opinion, many of the matchups between the top decks are often non-games.

Aaron: What do you think is the best deck to combat that?

Rich: The metagame isn’t “rock, paper, scissors.” Any deck can be designed to beat any of the others. For example, the Xerox deck by Matt Sperling from Eternal Weekend Vintage Champions is likely a great choice to beat Shops. But there are four-and-a-half best decks and I don’t believe any one is better than the rest since you can prepare any deck to beat a specific metagame.

Aaron: What deck do you believe will be the breakout deck of the VSL?

Rich: I believe that the top decks are too good. I don’t expect that there will be a breakout deck—at least not before the new set arrives. That said, the new set may change things.

Aaron: If you could restrict any cards, what would they be and why?

Rich: There are several cards I would restrict. I would not restrict one card and wait and see. As mentioned above, changing out one card at a time may lead to the format being worse, rather than better. I view this list as a suggestion for a large-scale change to the banned-and-restricted list.

Paradoxical Outcome: This card essentially ends the game for four mana. It is card advantage beyond what some restricted cards provide, and it is often free. Worse yet, the big blue decks built around this card crowd out other big blue decks from existing.

Preordain: This is the backbone of both Xerox and Outcome decks. It creates too much consistency. It also removes from consideration other cantrips, such as Sleight of Hand. Preordain is ubiquitous and better than the alternatives.

Mental Misstep: This too often becomes an odd sub-game within games. Having more Missteps often gives a large advantage. Further, being a free disruptive spell, it helps lead to non-games.

Phyrexian Revoker and Sphere of Resistance: These are the best two unrestricted lock pieces by far. Restricting them helps to remove Mishra’s Workshop decks’ ability to prevent the opponent from offering up resistance at all. Restricting them will lead to Workshop decks being far more aggressive. Moving Shops from a prison deck to an aggressive deck makes it much more entertaining to play against and watch, because the opponent will be able to cast spells more easily and have a greater chance to participate in an interactive game.

Hollow One: Being a free 4/4 leads to non-games. Mox Durkwood Boars is not just powerful—it is a card that ends games before they begin.

Golgari Grave Troll: This is “too much dredge for your draw.” Restricting this card should make Dredge decks less able to win on their second turn.

Aaron: Why those cards?

Rich: Each of the five best decks are too good. I feel like you cannot hit only one or two cards. If you hit one or two cards you likely take a format that is “balanced” and cause it to become unbalanced, where any one strategy becomes too powerful. Even if no new decks emerge, this list at least allows for fewer non-games.

I feel that this list of restrictions hurts each top deck but does but not kill any of them. I believe that each of these decks are fine for the format, but that they are just too good in their current form, causing the format to be unhealthy. By restricting these cards, I hope that other decks will be more able to compete with the existing decks. I would like to see decks such as Standstill and Dragon be playable again. Dredge becomes slightly less powerful with smaller Dredge numbers, and Mental Misstep reduces the pitch counts for free interaction, which decks like Dredge and Xerox can leverage. Restricting Misstep also helps Dark Ritual become better.

Aaron: Why not restrict Mishra’s Workshop?

Rich: Restricting Mishra’s Workshop would hurt Vintage rather than help it. Recall the restriction of Brainstorm back in 2008. This was a disaster for the US Vintage scene at the time. Restricting Workshop would cause a number of people to lose interest in Vintage, and that the format cannot take the loss of paper players. Any good that might come from restricting Mishra’s Workshop would be as easily accomplished by restricting other cards, while being far less risky to the lifeblood of the format. This likewise applies to Bazaar of Baghdad. Do not to restrict the pillars of Vintage—Shops, Force of Will, and Bazaar.

Aaron: Would you unrestrict any cards currently on the list?

Rich: Demonic Consultation could be unrestricted due to the nature of Vintage with many restricted one-ofs.

Aaron: Are there any untapped archetypes that you believe would be viable in Vintage as is? If restrictions happened?

Rich: Oath and Standstill stand to do well if the best archetypes get nerfed. I believe currently Oath cannot beat Outcome because it is slower and is full of many cards that don’t matter against Outcome. Oath can beat Workshops and Dredge, but does poorly against Xerox and Paradoxical. White Eldrazi would also get much better with these restrictions.

Aaron: Do you think any cards in the Ravnica Allegiance spoilers can break out in VSL?

Rich: I haven’t been paying close attention, but Lavinia, Azorius Renegade will likely do a lot. I am playing the first week so I won’t get to try anything. I think Lavinia easily slots into one maindeck and two sideboard slots for Paradoxical decks and maybe the Xerox decks.

Aaron: Who do you believe is best positioned to win VSL?

Rich: I don’t know. I think it is an incredibly strong field. I know I will do my best. I know my opponents will do their best. I think the viewers will win, and I think Vintage will win”

Aaron: Thank you very much for the opportunity to discuss vintage with you Rich, and good luck in the VSL!

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