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The Vintage Advantage: Achieve More

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Casual Magic, Vintage

One of the keys to Vintage’s popularity among its players is the community. Since the
population of Vintage players is relatively small compared to other formats, players develop
reputations and get to know each other better, even outside their local metagames. At an event
like GenCon or Eternal Weekend, it’s common to see players from around the country and
around the world chatting not just about the event but also catching up about their homes,
families, and so on. It’s an interesting phenomenon, and it makes Vintage a welcoming and
accessible format for new players.

Different groups have different traditions to reinforce community too. In Ohio, for example, we
make it a point to get as many people as possible to join in a decadent post-tournament meal,
first-time player or seasoned veteran, win or lose. Even the invitation itself has been good for
getting new players to join the Vintage scene. And the promise of great food has been known to
draw players in for a tournament they wouldn’t normally be able to make. When a person starts
craving a burger and fries from the Thurman Café, they just have to have it!

Anyway, another hook that we’ve started using in the Midwest is Vintage Achievements.
Three-time Vintage Championship top-eighter Kevin Cron developed the initial system for
tournaments in Columbus. Kevin then took the Achievements to Michigan when he left the
Buckeye State, and I picked them up from there in Columbus, as well as implementing them in
Sandusky.

Vintage tournaments, as I’ve mentioned, are competitive Magic the Gathering played in a
casual  environment, and Vintage Achievements reward that by giving players video-game-style
points  for meeting different Vintage milestones. At the end of each round, then, whoever earned
the most points receives an extra prize. It’s a way to heighten the excitement already inherent
in the format and to reward players for being awesome Vintage players!

The initial list of Achievements, developed by Kevin, included things that could only happen in
Vintage (for example, Old School :: Have all five original Moxes in play), things that highlighted
the power of the format (for example, The Hard Way :: Cast a spell that costs 8 or more), and
things that, while mundane in other formats, were rare enough in Vintage to merit recognition
(for example, Kevin’s favorite, “Float like a Welder, sting like a Spirit token” :: Attack for
exactly 1 damage). These worked well and are still part of the scheme.

When I took over, I added a few more options (up to 50) and randomized 17 Achievement
selections for each tournament. Choosing 17 was mostly just because it felt right: 20 was too
many, 10 was too few, 15 was about right, but 17 pushed the limit just enough.

Random probably isn’t the right word either; there was some manual cherry-picking. One
problem with using completely random lists was that there were a few Achievements were
too similar to each other to be on the same list. The bigger problem was that there were
a few randomizations that favored one type of deck too heavily. Frequently, this
was Workshops, which have the benefits of playing restricted cards, attacking with creatures,
making lots of mana, and keeping permanents in play, all of which are nicely quantifiable
and lead to good Achievements.

Usually, I’d try to balance achievements so that control, combo, and aggro decks of all kinds
could potentially get points every round. This worked fairly well. There were still events where
one deck type was favored over another, but worse were events where no one was earning any
points. With everyone getting only a few points each round, we ended up with a lot of ties when
rounds ended. There are a few ways to deal with ties, from giving prizes to everyone to coming
up with a match related tiebreaker, but we chose to decide by die roll.

We worked with this system for several events over a few months in 2013. The biggest
development was changing the prize pool. Turns out that lots of Magic players are kind of
hoarders. My Team Serious teammates and I were able to put together a decent selection of
packs, sleeves, cards (especially Vintage playables), playmates, and other Magic accessories
and items. Our host stores (Comic Town in Columbus, Ohio, and The Hero Zone in Sandusky)
donated similar items as well, which were much appreciated.
Prizes!

Opening the prize pool up to donations also brought in crowd favorites like a bottle of men’s
bodywash (I shouldn’t have to specify unused, but I will) and a can of treacle (I shouldn’t have
to specify un-expired, but I can’t). Other eagerly awaited prizes included the Weatherlight
Revealed hardcopy set review of the set released more than a decade ago, a 6×9” Jester’s cap,
and a set (two each) of Rock Lobster, Paper Tiger, and Scissors Lizard for choosing who goes first
in a match.

So, after a few more months of experience using the new prizes, we learned more about the
remaining problems and worked on trying to fix them:

1) Having new Achievements every tournament reduced continuity and made it harder to
remember what was going on.

2) Since everything was worth one point, more difficult Achievements didn’t feel much
like an achievement.

3) There were too many ties.

I discussed some of these with Team Serious, and brought up a few possible corrections. The
most recent version of the sheet is saved on my google drive, if you would like it, please message
me on twitter!

First, I wanted to create a list of consistent, relatively easy-to-meet Achievements that would give
every player some points every round. Currently, these are worth  one point each, and most decks
can get three or four in a match:

Gathering Clouds :: Play 4 or more spells on your turn.

Pete and Repeat :: Play a spell that shares a name with a card in your graveyard.

Fueling Up :: Draw 5 or more cards in one turn.

Welcome to the Machine :: Control 3 or more artifacts.

Scorched Earth :: Destroy 2 or more lands in one game.

Bearly Vintage :: Attack for exactly 2.

Proletariat :: Trade with a creature in combat.

Bill Dredgington Award :: Put 15 or more cards into your graveyard in one turn.

Meet the Fam’ :: Control 3 or more creatures.

Of course, that’s essentially the system that had existed; few points, but at least there was some
consistency. Hopefully regular players at the tournaments will get used to that list and have an
easier time keeping track in the future.

Breaking up ties and increasing the achievement feel was largely a matter of tweaking some
difficulty levels and point values up. One big development in this regard was the idea of scalable
achievements that are worth more points as different plateaus are reached:

“You’re not on the list.” :: One point for each restricted card you play in one game.

Over the Counter :: One point for each counter you have in play on any number of
permanents in one game.

Stack Overflow :: One point for each card you control on the stack. (Copies aren’t cards.)

Chain of Fools :: One point for each non-land permanent you control with a consecutive
mana cost, beginning and ending with any number.

Usually, I try to pick one permanent-based and one spell-based, to hopefully spread points out
among deck types.

The remaining seven Achievements are generated randomly from the previous list, as before,
but the point levels are adjusted somewhat based on difficulty. Four are worth three points; two
are five points; and the last is a match-long achievement that’s worth seven points. So far we’ve
used these two:

Buzzer Beater :: Win a match in turns.

and

Speed Racer :: Win a match with 30 minutes or more left on the clock.

Both have proved popular, with players looking forward to earning that big point total and boost
their points.

Kevin’s plan for Vintage Achievements, and mine too now, was that they could be adopted on  a
broad scale to increase the casual competitiveness of the format and to create a community
sub-game that would be entertaining and help draw people in. If any Vintage tournament
organizers or potential tournament organizers are interested in starting their own system,
let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

And if you’re interested in winning some Achievement prizes, there are several ways to go about
it. You should play both spells and permanents, win with storm and by attacking all at once or
over several turns. Play all five colors, all the restricted cards, and many four-ofs. Include at least
one of each basic land and try to get all five Moxes in play at the same time. Win games and lose
games, both quickly and after long grinds, in spectacular fashion by going infinite and taking
damage from your own Dark Confidant or Mana Crypt.

Remember, it’s Vintage, so we’re going for bigger and better.

Good luck!

Nat Moes

@GrandpaBelcher

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