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Vintage 101: A New Hope


It's Metamorphin' Time. 

One Golem, and a whole lotta Mentors

By the time this article is published Lodestone Golem will be restricted on Magic Online. Paper Vintage can update immediately, but digital Vintage still has to wait for the appropriate Wednesday downtime update. Even though digital Vintage players were free to play with unrestricted access to Lodestone Golem. the various flavors of Workshop decks have seen a dramatic decrease in play since the DCI announcement last week. 

I do have faith that Workshop decks will still be good, although I do admit it seems like it will be a daunting challenge to maintain a tier one status. Magic Online tends to have a very strong "bandwagon effect" though, so results can shift rapidly in any direction. In paper Vintage, someone might have to do a little bit of work to get a new deck, buying cards for a new list and whatnot. On Magic Online, I can switch to a new deck in a matter of minutes. It's simple to put the contents of one list into my trade binder and sell an old deck to finance a new one. That is part of the reason why we can see such dramatic shifts in the digital realm. 

People tend to engage in even more group behavior when changing decks is trivially easy. Many folks seem to have taken to playing the "second best deck" in Vintage, Gush Aggro featuring Monastery Mentor. Mentor itself is the most powerful growing creature in the format, and the only thing that's ever really held it back was that it isn't as mana efficient as Young Pyromancer. Without the perceived threat of mana-taxing artifacts and Wastelands, many of the reasons to play Pyromancer over Mentor have evaporated. 

Rebirth of the Forgemaster

In paper Vintage the performance of Workshop decks shed more light on the potential future of the pillar because everyone's favorite four-drop is already restricted. There hasn't been a ton of events since the restriction, but I do have a deck I'd like to share. A game store in New Jersey, "The Only Game in Town," held a Vintage tournament, and a mono-Golem Workshop deck took it down. 

For those of you who haven't been playing Vintage very long, what you're seeing is a Kuldotha Forgemaster Workshop deck, commonly referred to as "Martello Shops." When I picked up my first Vintage deck on Magic Online, Martello Shops was the predominant Workshop deck. There were small amounts of Stax decks featuring Smokestack and a few random Metalworker builds, but the vast majority of Shops decks were of the Forgemaster variety. 

Martello Shops was also a big player at Vintage Champs 2015, but the deck didn't perform as well as the "Hangarback MUD" decks played by Brian DeMars, Paul Mastriano, and Rich Shay. The combination of Hangarback Walker and Arcbound Ravager, along with a lower overall mana curve meant that the deck (later referred to as Ravager Shops) was good in Workshop mirrors. The addition of Hangarback and Ravager also helped to fight Dack Fayden and Pulverize, which were two very popular pieces of anti-Workshops technology. 

With the success of the Arcbound Ravager builds and the subsequent restriction of Chalice of the Void, the Kuldotha Forgemaster builds fell out of favor. Forgemaster has always been a deceptively powerful card though, and I'm not surprised to see it pop back up. 

Kuldotha Forgemaster gives Martello Shops something that not many Shops decks have. It allows Shops decks to have a tutoring-type effect. It's almost like the artifact version of Tinker or the mono-colored version of Birthing Pod. The idea is that Martello Shops uses the traditional lock pieces to slow the game down, and then deploys Forgemaster to find the final nail in the coffin, Sacrificing a few unneeded mana artifacts to tutor up a Sundering Titan and destroying all of your opponent's lands is a great feeling!

Back when I first played Martello Shops, the decks all had four copies of Chalice of the Void and four Lodestone Golems. To make up for the loss of six of those cards, Will Dayton has added a fourth Sphere of ResistancePhyrexian Metamorphs, and three Cavern of Souls. Cavern was often run as a one-of in the past, as it is a great tool for making your artifact creatures uncounterable. With three Caverns in this list, the odds of forcing through a bomb rise dramatically. 

I was glad to see this deck do well, and I even rebuilt the list for myself. I'm happy that a Workshop pilot is fighting to keep their deck a viable choice, and I'm thrilled that Kuldotha Forgemaster is having success again. Out of all the Workshop decks I ever played, Martello Shops was the one I enjoyed the most. The "Timmy" in me still loves winning with giant creatures and Forgemaster lists have a great excuse to include them. I hope that even with the loss of several critical cards, decks like this one can still be a viable contender in the Vintage metagame. 

The Return of Oath

Oath of Druids seem to be making a bit of a comeback on Magic Online. There was even a recent Daily Event featuring three Oath decks that went 3-1 or better. Oath decks have always been a small part of the online meta, but it is unusual to see the archetype played this much. If I had to guess why people are picking up Oath all of a sudden, I would bet that people are hoping to score some free wins against creature-based strategies like Monastery Mentor. Of course, there's also the fact that at least some people who normally play Workshops appear to have picked up a new deck. 

I've featured many different kinds of Oath decks in my articles. but most of them share a lot of the same cards. Today I'm going to showcase a very interesting Oath brew that harnesses the power of Mystic Remora

If we take a look at Thiim's Oath list shown above, we can see that this list is a very different type of deck. Instead of Griselbrand there's Blazing ArchonVoid Winnower, and Iona, Shield of Emeria. Each of those creatures serves a function to shut down a particular deck in the Vintage metagame. Iona can stop combo decks cold, Archon stops any deck that wants to win with creatures, and Void Winnower is great against all manner of decks from Storm to Dredge to Shops. 

With three different Oath creatures, this Remora Oath deck can activate Oath several times in one game. If having one of those creatures on the battlefield doesn't win you the game, having the other two out probably will. To keep up with the Gush decks there are four copies of Mystic Remora. Remora lends itself to a controlling deck, and with all of the counterspells and Duress effects this deck is more controlling than many contemporary Oath decks.

Is Oath a Good Choice Going Forward?

One of the strong points of Oath is it has a positive match up against Workshops. Combos are great against a deck that can't play any counterspells. Oath of Druids is essentially a one-card combo against decks that win with creatures, and the card only costs two to play. This is why Oath is one of the best cards you could possibly play against a Mishra's Workshop deck. Unfortunately with the number of Shops decks decreasing, Oath is likely to face its best match up less often. Even so, things are apparently looking up for the archetype as it has been doing very well lately. 

Besides being great against Shops, Oath is also fantastic against any deck that runs creatures. Of course, most decks that run creatures also have access to cards that can disrupt the Oath strategy. Most creatures can't race a Griselbrand, but Monastery Mentor isn't most creatures. If the Mentor pilot lands a copy of their namesake creature early enough in a game, there is a distinct possibility that Griselbrand will not be able to hold down the fort by himself. Playing Mentor also means playing Tundras, which in turn make this obnoxious fellow quite easy to cast:

Containment Priest is one of the most annoying things for an Oath player to deal with because it shuts down both Oath of Druids and Show and Tell. Priest also can be played at instant speed, so it's very possible to catch someone off guard and cause a total blowout. Containment Priest does die to Abrupt Decay, a card that most Oath decks play, but smart deck builders know to play more than one kind of hate card. 

Containment Priest is truly at its best against Oath when it is used in conjunction with Grafdigger's Cage. As an Oath pilot I can say with confidence that I've beaten Priests or Cages on many occasions, but the number of times when I've been able to beat Priest and Cage at the same time are much fewer. Having two different hate cards on the battlefield means that one Hurkyl's Recall, Echoing Truth, or Abrupt Decay just isn't enough. This combination of anti-Oath tech is truly a pain to deal with. 
 
I don't know for sure what the best Oath of Druids deck will look like in the future, but I am certain that whoever finds the best way to play around Containment Priest will probably have the most success. Some decks have chosen to run a few creatures that are easy to hard-cast so that they can ignore Containment Priest, and some decks are using Auriok Salvagers as an alternate win condition. 
 

The People's Glass Cannon

The last deck I'm featuring this week is the most exciting one of the bunch. When people think of Vintage, they usually think of the crazy plays and ultra-fast combo decks. This is a prime example of that type of deck.

 

Here we have a Vintage Goblin Charbelcher deck. This list is somewhat similar to the Mono-Blue Belcher decks from the Vintage Super League, and also it bears a resemblance to the Living Wish Belcher deck that pops up from time to time.

One key difference with this list is the inclusion of the fixed Time Twister from Magic Origins, Day's Undoing. To take advantage of Day's Undoing and to negate its drawback, this version of Belcher plays with Leyline of Anticipation in the main deck. 

Most of the Vintage Belcher decks have played Leyline of Anticipation in their sideboards. The idea behind the Leyline is that they would come in after game one when the Belcher pilot was on the draw. Leyline of Anticipation would enable Belcher to win during their opponent's first turn, possibly during their upkeep. Belcher decks contain either one land, or no lands at all, so Leyline of Anticipation basically gives the entire deck flash. All of the deck's mana sources are artifacts, so it is possible to combo out before anyone has drawn a single card. To top it all off, when you cast it during an opponent's turn, Day's Undoing is essentially identical to Time Twister. Playing with five virtual Time Twisters is rather potent in this type of combo deck, and casting one usually ends up winning the game. 

Goblin Charbelcher is the kind of card that takes guts to play. Cards like Null Rod. Stony Silence. and even Phyrexian Revoker can stop the deck cold. 

If you like explosively fast combo decks, and you think you can handle just "going for it" every single game you play, then Vintage Belcher is the deck for you! 

Wrap-Up 

In a nutshell, Mentor decks are on the rise, and Shops decks are on the decline. It is too early to tell if this trend will continue or not, but for now if you ever wanted to play a deck with a bad Workshop match up, now is the perfect time. Without Shops decks to bring mana denial and Null Rods, playing combo decks or Mentor decks is probably a safe choice.

Do you have a pet deck you'd like featured? Let me know in the comments. Last week someone asked about Landstil, and although I didn't feature that deck, there is a TMD thread that might be helpful for those interested in [[Standstill] decks.

That's all the Vintage action for this week, I'll see you in seven days. You can follow me on Twitter @josephfiorinijr - Islandswamp on MTGO.


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