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Vintage 101: A Bug's Lyfe

Howdy folks! It's Joe yet again with another edition of Vintage 101! This week we're continuing our look at various decks in the Vintage format, along with looking at Week 4 of VINTAGE SUPER LEAGUE! This is an exciting week folks, as our very own SaffronOlive takes the stage to pair with some of Vintage's most powerful wizards! Should be very exciting!

The deck we're looking at this week is another entry in the classic Xerox shell, but its strength lies in the fact that it gains access to one of the most powerful one mana creatures ever printed. That's right, we're going deep with Deathrite Shaman and BUG Midrange!

A Buggy History

BUG colors in Vintage have long had some issues with identity in Vintage, as early ways of building the decks relied on traditional effects like Tinker, Blightsteel Colossus. One of the awkward things is that those colors did not have quite the disruption effects that color pairings like Jeskai or UW have had access to. However, Return to Ravnica would bring to print a few cards that would go on to define the archetype overall.

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Deathrite Shaman, arguably one of the greatest one mana creatures to ever see the light of day, quickly went on to be banned in Modern and eventually in Legacy due to the sheer power of the card. Deathrite BUG decks could lean on the power of this card, along with powerful threats like Dark Confidant and Tarmogoyf to put a clock on the opponent,but it wasn't until the set Conspiracy: Take the Crown that the deck would receive its biggest and most powerful upgrade.

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With the power of Deathrite, Leovold is an absolute beast in a format typically defined by drawing cards. Cantrips are everywhere in this format, from Preordain to Ancestral Recall and Leovold handles them all. Paradoxical Outcome also becomes a bit of a downer to resolve with Leovold in play, and attempting to remove him at the very least draws a card. BUG Control lists now also have access to cards like Assassin's Trophy as additional ways of dealing with opponent's permanents.

The Bug's List

Alright, let's take a look at an example list, shall we?

As we always like to do with this series, let's break down this deck into its categories.


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It is odd to see a list not playing Black Lotus, and I can't really fathom why you wouldn't want it here personally (the card is really that good), but I'm more than willing to give it a shot. Beyond that however, this list is only playing the on-color Moxen and of course, our one mana planeswalker.


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This deck comes with threats that a lot of people will have been used to seeing in various Legacy BUG control lists, such as Leovold and Tarmogoyf, but we also gain access here to card advantage engines like Dark Confidant and recursive spells through Snapcaster Mage.

Card Selection + Draw

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The important spells in regards to any shell based around the Xerox concepts, this deck packs most of the ones you will commonly see. It's worth noting that both Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise are kind of scary to flip off the top to a Dark Confidant trigger.


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As always a deck like this requires some form of interaction with the opponent, with the primary countermagic being Force of Will and Mnetal Misstep. However, interaction with cards like Thoughtseize and Abrupt Decay is also highly relevant versus the field.

Bugging Your Opponents

Like most other Xerox decks, BUG Midrange plays out much in the same way, deploying land drops and spells to help find and cast your creatures. You are ultimately playing a fair game of Magic, but at the same time you get access to cards like Deathrite Shaman which can act as an early mana source that turns into a late game way of grinding your opponent. One of the things you do have to pay attention to with this strategy is when using Deathrite would change Tarmogoyf's power and toughness (in addition to when casting your Delve spells would do the same). Also, while Dark Confidant is immensely powerful, this is a deck that does include FIVE 5-CMC spells and TWO 8-CMC ones. Flipping a couple Forces and then a Dig Through Time can sometimes be brutal, but that's part of the risk of playing for greatness at any cost. Still, be aware of this as a possibility, and try to avoid it as much as possible.

Also, Leovold is an exceptionally powerful card, but one interaction to be aware of is when you are facing down a deck like Dredge. Dredge can do its thing through a Leovold, as long as the Dredge player has not actually "drawn" a card during that turn. What this means is that if the Dredge player replaces all of their draws with Dredges, they can still do this multiple times throughout the turn because they have not yet actually drawn a card. As soon as they draw a card in a given turn however, Leovold turns on and prevents them from drawing any further even if they could replace those draws with dredges.

A Bug's Sideboard

Now let's take a look at the sideboard options for this deck.

Graveyard Hate

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While Deathrite does provide some insulation against graveyard decks, most of the Dredge in the format is simply too fast for the little elf that could. Thus options like Leyline of the Void, Grafdigger's Cage, and sometimes cards like Ravenous Trap will appear in these sideboards.

Artifact Destruction

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Shops matchups can be rough for BUG, since the deck does not run that many card types to feed Deathrite and Goyf, so additional ways of combat'ing that matchup are required out of the sideboard.

Interaction + Creatures

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In addition to being able to combat Storm, Flusterstorm has utility in the Xerox matches as well, and additional removal can be very powerful in the form of Fatal Push. Infernal Reckoning is a strange card, but it is a powerfully clean answer to a lot of creatures out of Shops and Blightsteel Colossus.


That's right folks, we have arrived at Week 4 of VINTAGE SUPER LEAGUE! This season has been among the most exciting VSL's ever, with some really great decks and a lot of really insane plays. This week is made even more interesting by the sheer fact that we have a Vintage "rookie" so to speak in the form of MTGGoldfish's very own SaffronOlive! Let's take a look at the competitors!


This week is boasting some of VSL's most notable personalities and some of Vintage's most prolific players and quite frankly some awesome people. Having met both Andy and Kevin, they are both some of the most accommodating and wonderful guys in the Vintage community.

Let's take a look at the decklists they submitted, shall we? Some of you folks might have seen Seth testing a Restore Balance deck this weekend, but alas that deck was not meant to be (it was a very rough first draft through the combined efforts of him and myself and it just didn't pan out with all the Lavinia in the format) so Seth decided to try something a little different.

These lists are certainly spicy, and it's amusing enough how Andy Markiton's reputation precedes him by having some of the other players over-prepare for Shops, only for him to show up on Pitch Dredge, with Spinning Darkness no less! Also, our very own SaffronOlive showed up with some awesome spice with Esper Humans!

Let's dive into the matches, shall we?


Round One we see the Lavinia mirror match in Kevin Cron vs Matt Sperling! Game 1 sees a lot of back and forth but Kevin is able to scrape through and take over the game. Game 2 Matt pulls ahead, showcasing the power of Lavinia, Azorius Renegade. Game 3 shows a crazy back and forth between the two players, with some intense play on both sides. However, Kevin is able to pull ahead to take the win!

Round Two is the Vintage debut of SaffronOlive on Esper Humans vs Andy Markiton on Pitch Dredge! Game 1 is quickly decided by a double Hollow One opening with double Bazaar of Baghdad. Game 2 Seth is able to slam a Containment Priest but Andy top decks a Spinning Darkness in the critical turn to take the match.

Round Three is Kevin Cron vs Andy Markiton! Andy is able to slam through a win in Game 1 as Dredge is want to do. Game 2 both players mulligan quite a bit, but Andy is able to pull through with a turn 1 Hollow One!

Round Four is SaffronOlive vs Matt Sperling! Seth mulls to 5 and tries to get on board as Matt draws a crazy amount of cards on Turn 1. Matt is able to pull far ahead and stick a Mentor to take the game. Game 2 however, Seth is able to stick a powerful board and brings Matt to 1 life before Matt finds an answer with Balance. Seth slams a Kambal, Consul of Allocation to take the game. Game 3 Seth gets on the board with a powerful Turn 1 into being able to deal with all of Matt's answers to crush the match!

Round Five is SaffronOlive vs Kevin Cron! Kevin is able to get way ahead on board in Game 1, taking control of the game in short order. Game 2 Seth is able to navigate the game with ease and build a board to slam through into Game 3. Game 3 Kevin is able to push through all of Seth's disruption to take the match.

Round Six is Matt Sperling vs Andy Markiton! Game 1 sees Andy starting off with TRIPLE Hollow One on Turn 1 and slamming through to take the game. Game 2 Andy mulls to oblivion and Matt is able to establish dominance to take the game. Game 3 Andy goes deep into his deck and gets blown out by a Ravenous Trap.

We end the night with Andy Markiton and Kevin Cron at 2-1, and Matt Sperling and SaffronOlive at 1-2!

What a crazy night of Vintage, wild and very fun. Congrats to everyone this week!

The Spice Corner

I've been on a brew kick lately, and this deck is completely untested and untuned, but it looks like a ton of fun! Vintage Enchantress!

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! This was sure an exciting week! Looking forward to the next few weeks of this month, which includes not only my birthday on February 19 (anyone wanna y'know... get me some good cards? hint hint) but also an opportunity for me to play at a small monthly event up in Michigan at Perfect Storm Games on the 17th. Should be a lot of fun, and I'll be reporting on how well I did and the matches involved in the following article!

I am currently working on figuring out the logistics on my next video for "The Vintage Series", which is my little bit via my personal YouTube channel. It's most likely going to be a video on BUG Survival. If you have yet to get a chance to check it out, do so here! In addition, check out my Twitter! I'm always around Twitter and Discord if you ever want to chat about Vintage.

Next week I will be wrapping up the Deck Primer articles with a final one on one of the last remaining Xerox lists that operate around the card Standstill. That's right, we're talking about Landstill in all its forms next week. Beyond that, we will start looking at the developing metagame of 2019 Vintage by keeping a hard eye on the Vintage Challenges on Magic Online and especially looking forward to the first Format Playoff as well. Going to be an exciting time.

Until next time, keep tapping those Workshops!

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