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Vintage 101: A Story of Gods

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're going to be gabbing all about the God of Storytelling herself, Birgi, and the place she has found already in Vintage as a pretty sweet combo piece. In addition to that we have two Challenge events to talk about, plus the final results of the ManaTraders Vintage 15K. This event had gotten pushed back due to some bugs on Magic Online the week before, so they were able to do it this past weekend instead. As always, we have our Spice Corner.

Without further ado, let's get storytelling!

The God of Stories

Since Kaldheim's release, Vintage now has a bit of a new toy to play around with. One of the cards that I had really gotten excited about in my initial set review. That card of course is Birgi, God of Storytelling.

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Birgi is very clearly a powerful card in its own right, and it's the flexibility provided by this card that really sets it aside. The front half can generate mana in chains involving Sensei's Divining Top and Mystic Forge, which then turns the whole thing into one massive draw engine, while the back half can simply fuel playing through your deck and generating a lot of permanents very quickly. Top functions quite well with this as well, by being able to set up the top card of the library to be one that you don't mind pitching into the graveyard to then exile both Top + something else (hopefully a Mox or something similar) to then keep churning through the library.

The major downside of this card is that it is very mana hungry, as you still have to pay mana to cast the spells the back half exiles. So if you hit something you find yourself unable to cast you can sometimes put yourself into a pickle of not being able to do much of anything, and since those cards are exiled getting them back is problematic to impossible (I say problematic because you can get back at least an artifact from exile with Karn, the Great Creator so if you accidentally exile say your Time Vault then you can at least get it back).

Still, this card has definitely set many a-brewing in various forms from the decklist below to even a Breach variant (which we'll talk about further in the article).

Let's take a look at the list, provided in a sweet 5-0 by our good friend Matt Murray (ChubbyRain)!

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This deck has a lot of interesting things going on, so we're going to dive into deconstructing it into its core components and show off what this deck can do.

Artifact Mana

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(not all pieces listed, obviously there's so many!)

One of the things this deck does well is generating mana. It has to in order to be able to feed the horn of Harnfel well in order to cast its spells. There is a lot of mana generating artifacts here, from the full range of Power (Lotus+Moxen) to things like Sol Ring, Mana Crypt/Mana Vault, and Grim Monolith. This deck can generate a ton of mana within the span of single turn if sequenced properly. Therein lies one of the bigger issues with playing the deck is that sequencing is ultimately very key and so is mulligans and being more aggressive with those. Hands that spin a lot of mana but don't do anything can be problematic if an opponent has a card that prevents you from using your mana like Collector Ouphe or Null Rod.

Tutor Effects

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Because this deck has a lot of mana to it, it needs effects to spend that mana into that are impactful. The tutor suite is incredibly impactful to the deck, from cards like Tinker (which is obviously great with Bolas's Citadel) to the generic tutors like Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor. Karn serves as both a win condition + tutor effect for things in the sideboard, and Burning Wish is important to this deck as it lets the deck nab either a win condition or a business spell from the sideboard. Very occasionally emptying your hand and then Burning Wish for Balance can be a very powerful and strong play to debilitate an opponent's chances of clawing out of the game.

Utility Artifacts / Artifact Win Conditions

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Sensei's Divining Top is an incredibly powerful card that when combined with Harnfel, lets you churn through your deck as long as you can keep casting the spells you exile. Because this deck often operates much like a Storm deck, protecting its combo turns is important, so Defense Grid is very important to this.

Mystic Forge, Manifold Key, Time Vault, and Bolas's Citadel are all very powerful general win conditions, as setting up Vault/Key is a very common way to take the game away. Forge interacts well with the front half of Birgi, generating a red every time you cast something off the top, which makes the Sensei's Divining Top's much much better.

Another unlisted one here that is included is Nihil Spellbomb which is a great utility piece at drawing cards plus being good for a Dredge/Graveyard deck matchup.

Utility Spells

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Most of these are restricted cards and pretty obvious as to their inclusion in the deck. Both Flusterstorm and Pyroblast help protect the combo turns but also help against other broken things in the format. The general power level of the blue restricted cards is pretty self-explanatory as you always want to be casting Ancestral Recall if your deck can support it.


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Birgi sits in a category of her own, being a card that does multiple things and the best payoff in this kind of deck. The deck gets to run four of these because there's very little downside to doing so, thanks to the nature of Modal DFC cards. Being able to have both halves in play at the same time is a huge upside, and they both interact very well. You're never caring about Birgi's front face Boast ability ever (unless you plan on doing so by playing Arni Brokenbrow!) but the first ability of generating mana is incredibly powerful.

The Sideboard

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The sideboard of this deck is chock full of spells that are generally silver bullet-type things (Balance, Devastation Tide) to win conditions for going off (Grapeshot, Mycosynth Lattice). Most of the sideboard here is devoted more to the Burning Wish half of the deck as opposed to the Karn part, because there are more Burning Wish in the deck than Karn (sadness at being restricted). There are also a subset of cards that generally get boarded in because they can't be fetched with a Wish (Lightning Bolt, extra Pyroblast, Blightsteel Colossus for Tinker purposes, etc.) but a good majority of the sideboard is fetchable with a Wish or Karn.

This gives this deck a fair amount of versatility and interesting gameplay. I've always personally enjoyed Wish board decks so this is right up my alley as far as playability is concerned.

The Verdict

My final verdict on this type of deck is that Birgi is super fun and interesting to build around and play, and definitely deserves further looks in the Vintage format. The card has an incredible amount of potential and is a great example of a great card being printed in a new set that engages an archetype in a positive and intriguing fashion.

If you're looking for something new to pick up that feels interesting and different, I definitely recommend either this deck or the Birgi Underworld Breach deck we'll be talking about in event results further down.

Vintage Challenge 2/6

We had two Challenge events this past weekend, the first of which was the mid-afternoon Saturday event. Thanks to the efforts of the Vintage Streamer's Discord, we know there were 73 players for this event! Thanks for all you folks are doing for data collection for the format, it really is super helpful. Let's look at the metagame breakdown.

Breach continues to remain ever popular, but it's popularity is tempered by the rise of other decks such as the Bant Midrange deck with Archon of Emeria. In all honesty this is a great looking metagame. There's plenty of fun things to be doing and nothing seems incredibly absurd right now in the format.

Lets take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Ravager Shops 1st KelmasterP
Ravager Shops 2nd non_basic_land
Bant Midrange 3rd keiesu
RUG Midrange 4th Phill_Hellmuth
4C Midrange 5th Dazai
Doomsday 6th Jacobisboss
Golos Stax 7th hodortimebaby
Golos Combo Shops 8th into_play

Fair amount of Shops decks in this Top 8 from both Ravager and Golos variants. There's also a fair amount of Midrange decks as well as Doomsday. The finals was a knock-down drag-out battle between two aggressive decks in a Ravager v Ravager fight that ended with KelmasterP winning. Let's take a look at both lists.

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Crystalline Giant is a super sweet inclusion in the first place list. Provided things line up well for the card, it can be very powerful depending on what abilities it ends up getting. Also a big fan of the Cranial Plating here as well which seems very strong at pushing through damage. The Second Place list is exceptionally similar with the major exceptions of Foundry Inspector over the Giants and Defense Grid.

Also in the Top 8 in Third Place was the Bant Midrange deck.

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Archon of Emeria has proven itself to be an exceptionally powerful card in Vintage for sure, and these Bant lists are continuing to grow in popularity the better they finish. Very powerful deck indeed.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we have Golos Combo Shops.

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Four Archive Trap in the sideboard is a real statement, but it is a real powerful statement versus Doomsday based decks when they have to either pass the turn or go to cast a cantrip to start digging towards their win condition post Doomsday (forcing them to draw from an empty library and lose the game). It's especially good with Leyline of the Void in play since you end up milling those cards into exile.

Vintage Challenge 2/7

The second Challenge event of the weekend was the early morning Sunday event and it had 47 players in it. Let's dive right into the metagame breakdown.

I always mention how interesting the Sunday event is, because it doesn't always have a lot of players but the fact is that it has players that often want a little different experience from the Saturday events, and thus decks like BUG, Doomsday, and 4C are all very popular decks for players in these events. However, despite how popular Doomsday is among this crowd, it sadly didn't put any pilots into the Top 8 of the event.

Lets take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Jeskai Control 1st Kenzaburo
BUG Midrange 2nd Montolio
Death's Shadow 3rd TrueHero
Dredge 4th PRGJJAR
Birgi breach 5th musasabi
Breach 6th shir kahn
Breach 7th achillies27
Bant Midrange 8th unicornparadise

Breach did considerably well in this Top 8 given that both pilots on traditional Breach made Top 8 and the one pilot on the Birgi Breach variant also made Top 8. There was also a fair amount of Midrange/Control in this Top 8, with the end being a Jeskai vs. BUG battle with Jeskai coming out on top.

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This is a pretty solid and clean Jeskai list. There isn't much fluff or frills to this archetype anymore it seems, which makes it really easy to build it as a very powerful strategy. Six Force effects and one Daze is pretty insane though.

The Second Place finalist as noted before was BUG Midrange.

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BUG continues to be one of the decks that tend to have good solid answers versus most of the format and is one of the most consistent decks at finding those answers. It does tend to lose some ground versus Jeskai however, as the sheer card advantage quality of Jeskai is super powerful. This list is trying to supplement a bit with multiple Leovold, Emissary of Trest. I would also maybe consider looking at Hullbreacher more in these lists as additional Leovold/Narset effects.

Also in the Top 8 is TrueHero with Death's Shadow.

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It's honestly pretty cool to see Shadow being competitive in this format and really doing well. It's certainly very intriguing from an archetypal standpoint given that it's more of a Tempo oriented deck in landing a threat and protecting your threats until you win type strategy. Super neat deck for sure.

Further down the Top 8 we have Birgi Breach.

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This is a super cool list for sure. Birgi / Harnfel seems pretty solid for the Breach plan, giving a discard outlet that lets you set up playing things off the top of the library. Birgi's front face lets the deck do some shenanigans with mana generation when casting zero drop artifacts which can help make the Breach plan a lot easier to achieve. Just a very cool deck overall.

Outside of the Top 8 we have a copy of White Eldrazi.

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Archon of Emeria yet again rears its head in this list alongside threats like Thought-Knot Seer and Eldrazi Displacer. Also Court of Grace is such a sweet inclusion here.

ManaTraders 15K Vintage

This past weekend was the culmination of January's ManaTraders Series event with the Swiss and Top 8 of the event. The Swiss portion of the event got shifted back a week due to some really back-breaking bugs on Magic Online. This event takes place over two days with the Swiss on Saturday and the Top 8 played out on Sunday. You can check out coverage of the event here.

Thanks to the Vintage Streamer's Discord, we know there was 190 players for the Swiss portion of the event. This is super awesome! Really solid event overall, and not only that a pretty great looking metagame.

Lets take a look at the breakdown.

It was pretty clear that a lot of people ended up on BUG for this event, and I think it's reasonable to see why. It has analogs to a lot of other decks in other formats such as Legacy and Modern that players from those formats dipping their toes into Vintage would be able to immediately pick up on and understand a little better. The fact that it has a lot of powerful interaction versus other decks in the format is obvious as well. It's also apparent that a lot of people dipped into Golos Stax. I also think this is an easy one for players looking in from the outside to see that it is a deck that does well and is a strategy that is mostly about sequencing out cards.

Overall however, this is a fantastic metagame. Tons of diversity in strategies, and lots of decks you can play.

Lets take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Horror One 1st La_Parkita
Breach 2nd runn3runn3r
Bant Midrange 3rd rav104
Dredge 4th Wizard_2002
Birgi Breach 5th musasabi
4C Midrange 6th EnihcamAmgine
Golos Stax 7th alopcas
Breach 8th stenophylla

Solid Top 8 here. Some Bazaar, some Workshops, some Midrange, some Combo. Just all the things that happen in Vintage happening right here. Cooler enough, the winner of the event was on the Horror One deck that had grown in some popularity this past year, piloted by La_Parkita.

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This deck is certainly very interesting. Krovikan Horror exists as another Squee effect that also pitches to Sickening Shoal / Unmask which is really strong. This is very much an aggressive tempo type deck. Think of it as like an analog to RUG Delver in Legacy. It's going to get some threats into play and then protect those threats with countermagic + removal. Very strong.

The Second Place finalist of the event was Breach by runn3runn3r.

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This is a fairly commonly built Breach variant, leaning on Monastery Mentor as a win condition in addition to the overall Breach combo kill (which can just be combined with Mentor + Time Walk to win the game anyways). Very powerful deck however, and one of the more popular combo variants in the metagame right now.

Also in the Top 8 I have to give a special shoutout to my good friend Ryan Freeburger (EnihcamAmgine) on his Top 8 run with 4C Midrange! Congrats Ryan!

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Uro Uro Uro! The Elder Titan that could continues to see more increased play in these 4C Midrange variants and it's interesting that it took this long still for it to happen (a year since Theros: Beyond Death was released). Still, this is a solid list. I especially enjoy the Bloodchief's Thirst in the sideboard.

Outside of the Top 8 we have another good friend in Justin Gennari (IamActuallyLvl1) on his standby classic, Esper PO Storm.

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This is a strategy that Justin knows all too well and has continued to evolve and iterate on over time. He's definitely a powerful player and this is a solid finish out of 190 players. Congrats Justin!

Around the Web

  • Phil Gallagher recorded a video on Vintage Hatebears! Check that out here.
  • Florian Koch wrote a great article on Ravager Shops, which you can check out here.
  • Tom De Decker wrote a two part series on his year in Vintage on CardMarket. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
  • Brian Coval put out a video on RUG Midrange in the Vintage Super Qualifier event. Check that out here.
  • Justin Gennari put out a video on his run in the ManaTraders 15K with Esper PO. Check it out here.

The Spice Corner

Void Winnower, because he can't even!

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A sweet Elvish Reclaimer lands build right here.

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From the ManaTraders event, it can't get any spicier than Amulet Titan in Vintage by HouseOfManaMTG.

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Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Thanks for your continued support of the column and join me next week as we continue our journey into Vintage!

As always you can reach me at Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! In addition you can always reach me on the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the Vintage Streamers Discord.

Until next time!

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