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Buying a Vintage Foundation on MTGO: The Time is Now


Ever get tired of slamming Siege Rhino into Siege Rhino in Standard? Is killing with a 20/20 mana dork in Modern just not powerful enough? Not a fan of Brainstorm? Do you want to play the most broken cards ever printed in the most powerful decks ever designed? Sounds like the Vintage format might be just what you are looking for.

A few short months ago Vintage on life support, suffering from the reserved list which has lead to an extremely small supply of format staple which in turn has lead to insane prices with the end result being very little tournament support. Today, thanks to several factors (most importantly, the release of Vintage Masters) Vintage is back from the grave (at least in the digital world) with some of the best minds in the game innovating, daily event support, and Randy Buehler's Vintage Super League leading the way.

If any of this sounds appealing, I am here to tell you that the time to buy into Vintage is now. Like right now. Today even. This means, if you think you might want to play Vintage next year, a combination of forces means you are far better buying your deck now (if at all possible) then waiting. Let's run down these forces, and explore why the time is now to buy into Vintage. (While we will be focusing on a players perspective, many of these reasons suggest this is also the time to speculation on Vintage staples as well).

Most Vintage decks can be broken down into five parts, which together form the foundation of Vintage. These pieces are Power 9, Lands, Restricted Cards (along with a few other powerful spells mixed in), Win Conditions, and Sideboard all of which are exemplified by LSV's deck below.

To understand why now is the time to buy into Vintage, we are going to look at each of these parts individually, but there are two perks to Vintage that apply to the format as a whole. First, there is a lot of overlap between decks, most notably with the power nine. While buying a set of P9 is still relatively expensive (costing slightly more then the most expensive standard deck), once you take the plunge you have the foundation of pretty much every Vintage deck. Second, due to the nature of the restricted lists, Vintage players get the same benefit as many EDH/commander players, namely, you one need one copy of many cards, because that is the maximum you are allowed to play.

The Power 9:

Pretty much the only Vintage deck that does not run a full (or near full) set of P9 is dredge, so unless you really like Bridge from Below investing in Vintage requires spending about $580 on these nine (well, actually eight since Timetwister... Timetwister?). While this might sound like a lot of dough, you have to remember that these cards make up nearly half the price of any Vintage deck you want to build. Plus, it is likely that all of these cards are at or at least near the lowest they will ever be.

The magic online economy has several important patterns to be aware of, two of which are especially important in regards to the price of P9. The first pattern effecting the P9 (as you can see in the price history of Black Lotus) is that people dump expensive cards when a new set releases to spend their tix drafting prerelease and release events. This effect is even more pronounced at rotation (because instead of just updating an old standard deck, people are building new decks from scratch) which is where we are at right now. Now, as you may know, Vintage Masters is now officially out-of-print. Drafts are gone and packs are no longer for sale in the store. This means that the number of P9 in the system is no longer increasing day by day. See the 30 tix jump in the price of a Black Lotus between July 8th and 9th? That was when Wizards announced VMA drafts would be ending in mid-July. This increase is going to happen again, maybe not as dramatically, but Lotus will be a 200 tix card again as more people buy into Vintage and the finite supply of P9 gets gobbled up. By buying your P9 now, you stand to save yourself a bunch of money by getting in before the inevitable increase.

Mana Base:

The Vintage mana base is at the lowest price it has ever been, and like the power 9, duals and fetches have no where to go but up (for fetches, in the long term, duals in the short term). It was only this past winter that buying a full set of 40 fetches and 40 duals would have set you back several thousand dollars. Now you can get all 80 cards for closer to 600. Many Vintage utility lands like Tolarian Academy, Strip Mine, and Library of Alexandria are also fractions of their former costs due to VMA printings. Much like P9, fetches and duals are played pretty much every Vintage deck, and investing in a set while they are low not only gives you the flexability to play whatever you like in Vintage, but in Legacy as well.

Restricted Cards: (entire list)

About 90 percent of the Vintage restricted list was reprinted in Vintage Masters, with the rest of the list being relatively inexpensive commons and uncommons. While not as omnipresent as the lands and the P9, these cards go into a wide range of Vintage decks, and are the cheapest they will ever by. While it may take longer for the prices on VMA rares to increase (compared to mythics or the special P9), it will happen. Vampiric Tutor, for example, simply is not a 1 tix card. If you need to pick and chose which cards on the list to buy first, start with things that are Legacy-legal because they stand to increase fastest due to the dual demand.

Others Spells:

[[Force of Will] is the biggest "must have" of the non-restricted spells. And thankfully, the VMA printing (and MOCS promo) has FOW at close to one-fourth of its peak price of 110 tix. Snapcaster Mage and Grafdigger's Cage are the only other non-restricted rares among the most played cards in Vintage, with many of the other spells being inexpensive commons and uncommons. Unfortunately, Wasteland is still important and extremely high (yes, I know it's a land), but you can get by with Strip Mine, or (as LSV's deck shows) without it all together if need be.

Win Conditions:

While the first three parts of a Vintage deck stay the same, more or less, from deck to deck and from color to color, win conditions vary widely. Some decks are looking to storm you out with Empty the Warrens, others want to seal your fate with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and still others go for the two-card combo kills of Voltaic Key/Time Vault or Tinker/Blightsteel Colossus. While some of these cards were reprinted in VMA, as a whole this is the only part of a Vintage deck that is not at an all-time low to to across-the-board reprintings. Thankfully, most Vintage decks only run a handful of win condition and even the most expensive seem cheap compared to the cards we have been talking about - so don't let the cost of Blightsteel Colossus keep you from buying into a great format while the cost is low.

Sideboard:

Other then the expensive Hurkyl's Recall, and maybe a copy of Misdirection most Vintage sideboards are made up of inexpensive artifact destruction and dredge hate. So while you are not necessarily better off buying these cards right now then in the future, the fact that they are inexpensive means it really doesn't matter much either way.

In Conclusion:

If you are interested in buying into Vintage, or even think you might be interested in buying into Vintage, the time to do it is now. The foundation for the Vintage format is at an all time low due to reprintings in both VMA and KTK, and with VMA now out-of-print, it's only a matter of time before the allure of the new set wears off and people start buying into Vintage as an alternative to Siege Rhino and Dig Through Time, which will drive up the prices the format staples we have been talking about. Plus, these cards are going to hold their value better then standard or even modern staples. Last October, then the now infamous Kibler rant put an end to daily events, standard prices dropped faster then a moose pushed out of an airplane (which, PSA, is illegal in Alaska). Eternal staples didn't budge. Unlike Standard, or even Modern, where most cards only fit in a small number of decks the unique nature of Vintage means that by purchasing a small list of staples, you have bought into the format (since you can inexpensively switch from deck to deck) instead of just buying a deck.

The List:

Finally, if you are thinking of buying into Vintage, here is the list of card that, once purchased, will give you the foundation of the format, allowing you to play many different decks, with just a few additions here and there. I've left off commons and uncommons that are easily avilable, because they are inexpensive, and you probably have some sitting around your collection anyway if you have been playing MTGO for any length of time. You can find a full list of the most played cards in Vintage here:

 


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