Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why MUD is Bad: Angles of Attack

People really got worked up in this thread about Chapin “bashing” shops.

I agree with Chapin’s assessment of MUD/Workshop decks being “bad decks,” but not for the reasons he gives in his article.

MUD is weak, but not because it isn’t as powerful as the other decks. I think MUD is just as powerful as the other decks in Vintage. Unmolested, it will win the game very often, and it is redundant enough to easily survive mild forms of disruption like a Force of Will from the opponent or a Nature’s Claim turn 2. If people didn’t play hate cards like Tygon and Hurkyl’s, MUD would be the best deck. By the way, make no mistake that these are hate cards, if Workshop is restricted, people won’t play these cards. (Chapin says you run into hate “incidentally” because artifacts are popular, but the cards like nature’s claim aren’t what really gets you, it’s the Trygons and Hurkyl’s that are out there which really hurt).

What makes MUD weak is that it only attacks on one level, or angle of attack. That is to say that MUD puts a bunch of artifacts out, and something that stops a bunch of artifacts is going to be good against it, no matter which particular cards the MUD player has chosen to play. I would group things into “angles of attack” not by what they are, but by how they are stopped. Thoughtseize and Spell Pierce aren’t really the same angle of attack, but they might be in a context in which Chalice of the Void for 1 was a common defense to your deck. As with anything else, our definitions need to be flexible a bit, but we can still gain from the concept of “angles of attack.”

“Lots of artifacts quickly” is MUD’s only angle of attack. This is a particular kind of weakness, one of many potential types of weakness. That is to say, I’m not suggesting that decks be “measured” by the number of angles of attack they present. In fact there is often a tradeoff between “# of angles of attack” and “redundancy/consistency.” If we add Jaces to our Shop decks, we increase angles of attack (we now can win with our Planeswalker strategy) but at what cost? The answer is “a cost too great to bear.” The Shop deck will need to change it mana significantly to support Jace, or even a much easier backup plan like Tarmogoyf. Once we are playing Jace or Goyf, the whole concept of putting a Sphere of resistance into play is less enticing.

Thus, I’m also not necessarily suggesting that MUD players have built their deck incorrectly. It may be that their best chance to win with Shops is to choose 1 angle of attack (artifact lock pieces) and go all-out.

Here’s an important thing to keep in mind: a deck with only one or two angles of attack needs one or both of these conditions to be true:
1) people are unprepared to defend themselves against that attack and/or
2) your deck is so strong along that angle of attack that even prepared opponents will not fare that well against you.

If you play a deck with 1 angle of attack, and people expect that attack, and have the tools to fight back, you are fucked. I messaged Ochoa and others about my desire to put Trygon into my blue decks months ago. Others felt the same way (Pikula and perhaps Ochoa, independently, before I sent the message). There was a tool out there so strong at defending blue decks against Shops, that once Shops were feared (MUD decks were doing very well in several places), all it took was that fear instilled in someone who knew how to “solve the problem.” The weakness of the Shop decks was demonstrated at GenCon this year.

Say what you want about Shop decks in the abstract. The fact remains, a good player who wants to beat you will beat you, regardless of who you are. The same can’t be said of Tezz or TPS. You can’t take a reasonable deck (i.e. a deck that maintains percentages against the rest of the field) and just add 5 cards and all of sudden dominate Tezz or TPS. Furthermore, lets say you find that 3 Remora 2 Mindbreak trap in your blue deck really does make you crush TPS, TPS will have a much easier time adapting to the hate than MUD will have against Trygon, for example. TPS might already incidentally be prepared with some transformational Trygon+Bitterblossom/Goyf board plan (Like I’ve used in Ad Nauseum in the past). The blue decks are more flexible, and have access to additional lines of attack whenever they need them.

This is why I didn’t advocate playing Shops at GenCon, even though I respect the Shop deck generally. All I need to know to determine whether I want to avoid playing Shops is this: “Are people expecting a lot of Shop decks to show up?” If yes, I’m not playing Shops. If no, we turn to a host of other questions. But for GenCon, the one question would have sufficed.


  1. "I would group things into “angles of attack” not by what they are, but by how they are stopped." other words, the extent to which they can be *interacted* with.

  2. Triskelion for Trygon and SoFaI for Jace are answers imo.