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Vintage 101: All About That Combo

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 talking about the state of combo in the Vintage format. Combo is a long-time stalwart of the format and has evolved greatly over time. With upcoming events like a possible online Eternal Weekend and GenCon Online, it feels like a great time to overview these kinds of decks for newer players.

In addition to that we have two Challenges to look at, as well as a cool community update. Also, we have a super sweet Spice Corner this week.

Without further ado let's dive right into the thick of things!


When most people think of the Vintage format, Combo is a general topic that comes up. Thoughts of chaining Moxen and Rituals together into a lethal kill are often evoked by those who hear of Combo decks in Vintage. There are plenty of different ways to approach Combo in the format, and even plenty of uniqueness within each macro-archetype.

Spell Based Combo

Spell based combo is pretty commonly considered just what it sounds like. Generally decks that are spell based combo in nature are relying on the nature of the format's impactful noncreature spells to string along to a win, typically through cantrips and ritual effects. One of the most old school of these decks is Dark Petition Storm / The Perfect Storm (TPS).

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DPS is a deck that had previously fallen out of favor over time in favor of decks such as PO Storm and Doomsday, but in recent weeks the deck has seen a popularity increase due to the fact that one of the deck's most consistent pilots in Reid Duke played it in a Vintage Challenge and did well with it. There is so measure of truth to the fact that popular players have an impact on what people consider to play for Challenges, but DPS is also such a classically cool deck that this is great to see.

The primary route to victory with this deck is just what one would expect, utilizing its spells to draw cards and cheat on mana. One of the best ways of doing this is with the Tinker + Bolas's Citadel plan, as Citadel can often just win the game on the spot.

Another major spell based deck in the format is Doomsday.

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As is implied by the name of the deck, Doomsday revolves around mainly casting the titular card as a path to victory. This can allow the deck to win via Thassa's Oracle as the primary win condition. One of the great things about Doomsday as a deck is the deck's ability to play countermagic to protect its win condition as opposed to having to utilize discard spells like DPS does.

This deck used to be more complicated before the printing of Oracle, having to build piles that won through cards like Tendrils of Agony and Laboratory Maniac. Oracle simplified the deck's construction greatly as well as its play style, allowing the deck to be more reactive to threats against it.

Permanent Based Combo

Permanent based combo is slightly different from spell based combo in that it often relies upon both the necessity of spells and permanents in order to facilitate its engine. The most commonly recognized version of a deck like this in Vintage is the deck Paradoxical Outcome.

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PO is a permanent based combo deck on the basis that it needs permanents in play to interact with, specifically artifact mana. Moxen and other artifact mana are needed in order to allow the deck to cast Paradoxical Outcome. While this deck also plays cards like Tinker and Bolas's Citadel, the primary engine of the deck is PO, and in order for that engine to function the deck needs a critical mass of artifact mana.

PO also gets the benefit similar to Doomsday by being able to run countermagic to protect its game plan.

Another commonly played permanent based combo deck is Underworld Breach combo.

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This deck hinges on the use of Underworld Breach as a combo enabler, by utilizing the power of Breach to continually recast Brain Freeze in order to provide enough fuel to win via recasting Lightning Bolt over and over on the opponent. Breach has the power and ability to go off from very few resources, sometimes only needing a tutor effect and a mana source like Lion's Eye Diamond or Black Lotus to win.

In addition to PO, Breach also can run countermagic to protect the combo.

A final permanent based combo deck that is commonly played in the format is Oath of Druids.

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Oath is a combo deck that is akin to a deck like Show and Tell in Legacy, utilizing an easy way to cheat a large creature into play. The deck does this primarily off the back of resolving Oath and then either having the opponent have a creature already in play, or by using Forbidden Orchard to give the opponent a creature. While the targets for Oath have changed over the years, the current incarnations of the deck typically rely on Griselbrand as one of the primary Oath targets, as the card is hard to get rid of and allows the Oath player to draw cards to protect their game plan with.

Bazaar Based Combo

The final combo category to talk about is based on the card Bazaar of Baghdad. Bazaar is often at the heart of aggressive combo/aggro decks, the primary of which is Dredge.

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Dredge is a hybrid combo deck, utilizing the combination of Bazaar and the Dredge mechanic in order to play both a control and aggro route. The power of Bazaar as an enabler here allows the deck to fulfill specific roles within a matchup.

Outside of aggro/combo slanted variants, there are other Bazaar strategies that utilize the card in a combo oriented fashion, such as Ziasbond.

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Ziasbond utilizes Bazaar as a combo piece along with Fastbond and Crucible of Worlds in order to cycle through the deck, using Wasteland or Strip Mine in order to destroy and recur Bazaar to be able to continue doing so.

Community Vintage Update

I have a great update for the community in regards to tournament events. While this isn't a paper event, this is pretty awesome. GenCon Online is coming up soon at the end of this month (July 30 - August 2) and Pastimes Comics is running a slew of Magic events on Magic Online including a bunch of Vintage prelim events, as well as an invite-only Vintage Championship event on August 2. To qualify for this event you have to go 4-0 in one of the prelim events.

One of the great things about these events is that in conjunction with Wizards and Magic Online, signing up for any of these events gives the player a token that grants access to every card on Magic Online for the duration of the event. That's right, even signing up for one of the prelim events will give access to non-tradeable copies of every card on Magic Online so that players can play in the event and practice. If there was ever a time to get into playing Vintage, it's with these events.

You can find out about these events in greater detail over on Pastimes website.

Vintage Challenge 7/18

Our first Challenge of the weekend was the normal Saturday Challenge, and it had around 61 players. Let's take a look at the Top 32 Metagame breakdown.

This was definitely an interesting Top 32, with plenty of the usual suspects, but also with a big increase in DPS. I do believe Reid's performance with the deck put a light back on the deck, and allowed people to take a look at it again and try it out. In addition, Hogaak Bazaar still did very well, but there was a lot of other interesting decks in this Top 32 as well.

Now let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Doomsday 1st DiscoverN
Hogaak Bazaar 2nd JMeyer2030
Ravager Shops 3rd Caleb_Yetman
DPS 4th MomsBasementStreams
RUG Xerox 5th Gernardi
PO Storm 6th Condescend
Jeskai Xerox 7th Michelino
Hogaak Bazaar 8th SebastianStueckl

This was certainly an interesting Top 8, with Bazaar vs Rituals galore. Mix in a Workshops deck and some Xerox and we got a party!

At the end of the event however, it was DiscoverN who took it all down on Doomsday.

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This has been pretty commonly most of the lists showing up lately, even right down to the sideboard options. It's generally pretty cool to see cards like Tasigur, the Golden Fang out of the sideboard.

In Second Place we have Hogaak Bazaar.

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This deck continues to be incredibly strong and continues to push results. Is this the deck that gets something out of these shells restricted? Is that card Hollow One? Unsure, but Hogaak is super powerful.

In Third Place, we have Ravager Shops.

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There has been an interesting shift in Shops decks playing the restricted copy of Karn, the Great Creator as of late, but with all of the artifact-centric combo like PO and Breach it makes a lot of sense to have a main deck card that hits those things but also provides a win condition.

In Fourth Place we have DPS.

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This is a pretty typical DPS list, right down to a splash in the sideboard for Pyroblast. We even see the sideboard Bontu's Last Reckoning here, which is really cool.

In Fifth Place we have RUG Xerox.

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RUG Xerox is a pretty solidly interesting deck and a great place to look for a solid Xerox list right now. The sideboard Chandra, Torch of Defiance is very cool for sure.

In Sixth Place we have PO Storm.

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This list is pretty solidly in the same vein as the lists that Bryant Cook and others within the community have been having success with, right now to the main deck Breach and sideboard Sprite Dragons.

In Seventh Place, we have Jeskai Xerox.

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Sideboard Peacekeeper here is super sweet as a card that answers things like Hogaak and HollowVine. This deck is very clean and powerful regardless.

Rounding out the Top 8 we have Hogaak Bazaar.

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There isn't much to say about this deck that hasn't already been said. One thing to note however here is the lack of Mental Misstep and also the Chalice of the Void is in the main deck as opposed to the sideboard.

Now let's take a look at the 2019-2020 cards in this event. As noted before, we are only looking at cards with 8 copies or more, with exceptions made for Companions (if there are any).

Card Name Number of Copies
Force of Vigor 35
Collector Ouphe 23
Once Upon a Time 22
Force of Negation 20
Sprite Dragon 20
Deafening Silence 17
Narset, Parter of Veils 15
Golos, Tireless Pilgrim 12
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis 12
Underworld Breach 12
Lavinia, Azorius Renegade 11
Bolas's Citadel 9
Wrenn and Six 8
Lutri, the Spellchaser 1

Lots of Force of Vigor in this event, which made sense with a lot of Hogaak and BUG decks having the card all over the place. This event did have a rare appearance of Lutri, the Spellchaser though in a sweet Lutri Thieves DPS list.

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Vintage Challenge 7/19

Our second Challenge event of the weekend was the early morning Sunday event, which drew in roughly 48 players. Let's dive right into the Top 32 Metagame.

There was a lot of 4C Xerox in this event, along with a lot of BUG, so plenty of Deathrite Shaman to go around. One other interesting thing to note is that this event only had three total Hogaak Bazaar players and the deck converted exceptionally well.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
BUG Midrange 1st AlbertoSD
BUG Midrange 2nd Poriden
Doomsday 3rd CherryXMan
4C Xerox 4th SubeSube0417
Hogaak Bazaar 5th BennyBo
Hogaak Bazaar 6th Mogged
Hogaak Bazaar 7th Yashimoro
Breach 8th Kasa

As noted, all three Hogaak Bazaar decks in the event converted into the lower half of the Top 8, along with plenty of Xerox in the Top 8 as well. The Xerox decks rose to the top however, as BUG Midrange dominated the finals with AlbertoSD winning the event overall.

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This deck is strong and clean, with a solid threat base. It's cool to see both Brazen Borrower and Vendilion Clique here, usually we only see one or the other. Still, a very strong list.

Moving down to Third Place we have Doomsday.

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This appears to be pretty stock Doomsday at this point, even down to the same sideboard options. Don't mess with the formula, after all!

In Fourth Place, we have 4C Xerox.

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This list is very Svaca-inspired, leaning on the strength of Dreadhorde Arcanist and Tarmogoyf along with some of the format's best spells on color.

In Fifth Place through Seventh we have Hogaak Bazaar, so we're only going to look at the Fifth Place list.

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This version is similar to the list from the other Challenge, with main deck Mental Misstep and sideboard Chalice of the Void. There tends to be a few flex slots in this strategy for these kinds of decisions overall, so it's generally okay to pick a list and tweak from there when learning the deck.

Rounding out the Top 8 we have Jeskai Breach.

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This is a sweet take on the Breach archetype, whereas most of the variants of this deck are generally Grixis in color, Jeskai offers some interesting things such as Teferi, Time Raveler and a solid backup plan like Monastery Mentor.

Now let's take a look at the 2019-2020 cards in this event.

Card Name Number of Copies
Force of Vigor 25
Collector Ouphe 18
Oko, Thief of Crowns 17
Force of Negation 16
Lavinia, Azorius Renegade 16
Narset, Parter of Veils 16
Once Upon a Time 13
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis 12
Wrenn and Six 12
Sprite Dragon 9
Deafening Silence 8
Dreadhorde Arcanist 8
Thassa's Oracle 8

Force of Vigor continues to be pretty omnipresent in the current format, as BUG, 4C, and Hogaak/HollowVine all play the card. It's an exceptionally efficient answer to lots of strategies, so I'm generally not surprised to see it in this amount.

The Spice Corner

Our Spice Corner this week comes from a really sweet event in Japan, the 16th God of Vintage held at Hareruya. VINTAGE GOBLINS.

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Wrapping Up

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

As always you can reach me on 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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