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Vintage 101: A League of Our Own!


Finally, We Get Our Own League on Magic Online!

I know that the header for this paragraph is probably the most awkward one I've ever come up with, but I'm too excited to come up with something more clever. I, and many others, have been patiently waiting for Vintage Leagues on Magic Online and they've finally been announced! Starting on August 30th the Vintage community will get a league that seems to somewhat mirror the "friendly" leagues that other formats have had. 

I know that some people might not be thrilled that the leagues are using a flatter prize support structure, but I think it will be a boon to the format and all the players. One of the big draws to the weekly Vintage Challenges has been that the prize structure allows people to win their entry fee back without having to have a stellar finish. This means that there is basically no risk to playing in the Vintage Challenge. In the Vintage leagues you'll only need to win three out of five matches to win the minimum prize. Four and five wins will get you even better prizes.

  • Event Entry: 12 Event Tickets or 120 Play Points
  • 3 Wins: 120 Play Points and 1 Treasure Chest
  • 4 Wins: 180 Play Points, 8 Treasure Chests, and 1 Qualifier Point
  • 5 Wins: 180 Play Points, 16 Treasure Chests, and 3 Qualifier Points

I think that's a decent payout for a nominal expenditure. I'm also glad that this will open the door for a lot of people to start playing competitive Vintage again. In my experience there are a lot of Vintage players that are a little older; many of them have families and careers that makes it very tough to set aside four hours on a preset time to play Magic on their computer. I am one of those people so this announcement is music to my ears. I will most likely be enrolled in a Vintage league at all times after they go live, and I'll be able to play a few matches when I get a day off of whatever. 

The hardcore participants will still have their weekly Vintage Challenges, so there will still be plenty of high-level play. Hopefully the low-pressure environment of the leagues will inspire people to try some riskier decks, and that could lead to a revitalization of the format as well. I've got high hopes for this, and I look forward to seeing some of you in the Vintage queues soon! 

The Vintage Challenge!

We had another successful Vintage Challenge tournament on Magic Online this past weekend. The usual dominant forces of Mishra's Workshop, Monastery Mentor, and Paradoxical Outcome were in full force. When the dust settled, a very interesting Storm/Mentor/Outcome deck took the top prize. 

 

Ecobaronen's deck has a considerable diversity of win conditions. This is a really smart move in my opinion, because it enables the deck to abandon untenable game plans mid-match and instead focus on a more appropriate one. Mentor and Tendrils turn Paradoxical Outcome into a combo enabler into addition to card advantage. Of course, it's hard to storm off or make a lethal horde of monk tokens when there's a Trinisphere on the battlefield. For those situations this deck has its Tinker plan. Time Vault and Blightsteel Colossus work with Tinker to create a very inexpensive win condition for those situations where your mana is being taxed. 

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If we look beyond the fact that some of the central components of this list are rather mundane (Mentor, Tinker, etc.) what we have here is a deck that was built very well in my opinion. The core of the deck is fairly standard at this point; it's basically a Mentor deck combined with the big blue Tinker combo engine. Also, instead of running eight or more counters, this deck is simply running four Force of Wills and fills that void with more bombs. 

There's a ton of mana, but it's in the form of Moxen (there are only thirteen actual lands in the main deck). This is important because it allows the deck to be explosive against the non-prison decks, and against prison decks the extra artifact mana allows the deck to increase its mana base. 

Mishra's Workshop decks can function through their own Sphere of Resistance effects because their lands mostly produce more than one mana (Workshop, Ancient Tomb, Tolarian Academy). Of course the Shops decks also have their own Mana Crypts, Sol Rings, and lovely Power Nine jewelry. People often mention that playing more mana will help to beat Workshops, but that statement is only partially true at best. You simply cannot keep up with a Workshop deck just by making all of your land drops because the Workshop player will out "Sphere" you and produce much more tempo with their superior lands. 

So, having a full set of Moxen is vital to defeating a Workshop deck in many cases. Having more lands is a great help as well, and Ecobaronen's deck actually has both. If you look at the sideboard you'll notice that there are two basic Islands. Once upon a time basic lands in a player's sideboard were considered as important as a towel is to Arthur Dent, but many people have been failing to pack the extra basic lands. Since Workshop decks fight on a different axis than most other decks in the format people often find that they have a sizeable supply of dead cards for that matchup. Swapping out garbage like Mental Misstep or Pyroblast for a basic land feels pretty great. Ecobaronen's choice of two basic Islands makes perfect sense too, because the main anti-Workshop sideboard card here is Hurkyl's Recall

It's a good thing that Ecobaronen's Combo/Mentor deck had a good game plan against Workshops because the field was literally choked with big brown decks. Here's Thiim's second-place Workshop list, hot off the heels of winning the previous event!


This week Thiim went back to a more traditional, non-Eldrazi Workshop brew. The only major change here is that he came prepared to dominate the Workshop mirror. Thiim replaced the usual four copies of Mishra's Factory with three copies of [[Ghost Quarter]. This switch dropped the deck from eighteen lands down to seventeen and that made room for more creatures (likely the four copies of Hangarback Walker wouldn't have fit otherwise). Ghost Quarter is, for all intents and purposes, a Strip Mine against Workshop decks. Five "Strip Mines" and four Wastelands adds up to a ton of land destruction. Since Workshop mirrors often revolve around mana superiority, this is a tremendous boon.

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Workshop mirrors can often create stalemates as well as both decks will invariably clog the board in short order. Hangarback Walker gives this deck yet another way to break such stalemates. Hangarback can go wide by creating a bunch of flying tokens, or it can feed an Arcbound Ravager/Walking Ballista combo. I've even seen cases where someone was able to load up one or two Hangarback tokens with modular counters to win.

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The Night's Whisper Begins to Shine

There were several Workshop decks in the top eight, so I'm going to skip around and highlight something else. The next list is pretty funny to me as it is basically Gush Mentor with Night's Whisper in the place of Gush!

It might be funny to some people to see Night's Whisper in Vintage, but the card has actually seen more play than you'd think. Once upon a time Thirst for Knowledge, Gifts Ungiven, and Gush were all restricted at the same time. Enterprising young Vintage mages needed to find a card advantage spell to replace their restricted draw engines, and at times people have chosen Night's Whisper to fill that role. 

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Night's Whisper is actually a decent rate for drawing two cards. It's cheaper than Thirst for Knowledge and it provides the same +1 in card advantage (albeit with less selection and zero graveyard-enabling). There's only one black mana in the casting cost which makes it very castable in a format full of dual lands and fetches. Also, unlike Gush, Thirst, and Thoughtcast there aren't any hoops to jump through in order to make Night's Whisper work. Thirst, Thoughtcast, and Gush have some pretty severe deck building constraints.

 

Pun1sher's Esper Mentor deck barely dips into black at all. The only black cards in the main deck are Night's Whisper and a Demonic Tutor. In the sideboard there are two additional black spells; two copies of Kambal, Consul of Allocution

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I assume that Kambal is in this sideboard mainly as an answer to fast combo decks. Paradoxical Outcome decks can't chain spells without taking out Kambal first. Storm decks are obviously hindered by Kambal as well. Additionally I feel that Kambal could be good in the dreaded Mentor mirror. I imagine that it would be tough to try to produce more monks than your opponent if you're being hit with a Drain Life for two each time. 

Kambal, Consul of Allocation has popped up twice in this top eight; it's also in the first place deck's sideboard. The success of Kambal as a sideboard tactic could be the start of a trend. In the worst-case scenario Kambal eats a removal spell and every Swords to Plowshares that's not killing your Monastery Mentor is a good thing! 

Vintage Superfriends featuring Goblin Welder!

The last list that I want to look at only went 3-2 but that's still just one match win away from top eight in this event. This record was good enough for a top sixteen finish, and I think the deck should be awarded a few style points as well. 

This list by Tevlok is a Welder Control deck and it's built to fully exploit the graveyard and artifact synergies! There are three copies of Goblin Welder, which is one more than most contemporary Welder decks run. There's also a bunch of planeswalkers that work well with Welder and an artifact heavy deck. 

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With three Welders, one each of the planeswalkers pictured above, and a single copy of Dack Fayden for good measure, this deck looks like an absolute blast to play. There are tons of things you can do at every turn and the planeswalkers give the deck a wide range of options. This is like a Vintage Superfriends deck featuring Goblin Welder

The deck has the standard issue combo of Time Vault and Voltaic Key. The deck has a lot more tricks than just that though. There's a Wurmcoil Engine, two Baleful Strix, and a Blightsteel Colossus. The Colossus only works with Tinker, but Wurmcoil and Strix can be repeatedly discarded and/or welded into play to provide an enormous advantage. You can flood the board with Wurmcoil tokens or draw a bunch of extra cards with  Strix.

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Baleful Strix also has flying and deathtouch which makes it a pseudo removal spell. Because it is a creature Strix is easier to utilize when playing against a prison deck. This makes it an important card against Workshops and White Eldrazi. 

This list is also running Thirst for Knowledge, Gifts Ungiven, Mana Drains, and a sampling of other counterspells. With these inclusions the deck is able to function much like a Grixis Thieves deck. That tells me that the deck is more than just a Goblin Welder gimmick build. This Welder Control list has a lot going for it and I wouldn't be surprised to see it keep performing well. 

That's all the time I have for this week! I'll see you in a Vintage League very soon! You can find me on Twitter or Magic Online @Islandswamp 

 


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