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Vintage 101: Any Given Saturday


Any Given Saturday...

It's plain to see that the old monthly Magic Online Power Nine Challenge was very successful. Now that there's a Vintage Challenge event on any given Saturday it's made a great thing even better! Each week these events seem to do very well, and the tournament format is a nice supplement to the ongoing Vintage leagues that are available. These Vintage Challenge events are even more important now that Wizards has decided to limit the amount of metagame data that they publish from leagues.

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Last weekend's Vintage Challenge featured four Workshop decks in the Top Eight, yet none of those four combatants managed to take down the entire event. Instead, the tournament was won by the world's most interesting Atog, The Atog Lord Rich Shay. Let's take a look at the Top Eight standings and a few of the decks:

 

Rich played a Temur (RUG) control deck with five planeswalkers, plenty of card advantage, and zero broken combo cards. There were only four different archetypes in the Top Eight, with the aforementioned four Workshop decks, two Oath lists, RUG Control, and a single Dredge list for good measure.  

Vintage Challenge - 12/9/17
The Atog Lord RUG Control
Eruxus Dredge
Winryder Ravager Shops
Carioca_Falsi Ravager Shops
Thiim Inferno Oath
Pascal3000 Ravager Shops
Shadaro Inferno Oath
Jazza Ravager Shops

 

1st Place - The Atog Lord's Temur Control

With two copies of Chandra, Torch of Defiance, two Dack Faydens, and a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, this list is almost like a Vintage "Super Friends" deck. There are no haymaker combo pieces to be found here, only control cards, and spells that create incremental value. There aren't any giant creatures to win with either, only planeswalker ultimates or Snapcaster beats.

The card in this deck that I find the most interesting is Search for Azcanta. No Vintage player ever found Atlantis, but Azcanta is apparently easier to find...

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Anyone who's ever used Jace, Vryn's Prodigy knows that it's really easy to hit five cards in the graveyard. Seven cards in the graveyard isn't that tough either. Once your deck has crossed the threshold and you find your way to Azcanta this card actually does something good. Having Azcanta in play is basically like having a reusable Impulse on a land. At four mana (three mana and tapping the land itself) this isn't a terribly expensive ability. There isn't a lot of main-deck enchantment removal in Vintage either, so the enchantment side of this card is relatively safe. 

Since this deck wants to play the long game (as evidenced by it's planeswalker win conditions), Search for Azcanta seems like a good fit. The card hasn't been out for all that long though, so I'm interested in seeing how it pans out in the future. 

 

2nd Place - Eruxus's Pitch Dredge

 

Dredge is always a part of the Vintage metagame in some way, even if it sometimes isn't a popular choice. Right now Dredge only represents around ten percent of the online meta, but this second-place finish by Eruxus shows that skimping on Dredge hate is still a bad idea. It's insanely difficult to defeat Dredge without hate cards, and there's no way to guarantee that you will dodge the deck in a large event. 

The list that Eruxus played only runs 16 blue cards main deck, and only eight of those are counterspells. Typically some number of Mindbreak Traps are featured in Pitch Dredge, but with the downswing of combo decks lately it probably isn't an important inclusion anymore. 

The sideboard transformation here is typical of most current Dredge builds; Gurmag Angler and Hollow One instead of Dark Depths and Thespian's Stage

3rd Place - Winryder's Ravager Shops

 

Until another artifact set comes out we might not see all that much new tech in Ravager Shops. Once upon a time there were Smokestack decks, Kuldotha Forgemaster decks, and even Metalworker decks that could do some really broken things. The unfortunate side effect of suffering through multiple targeted restrictions is that Workshop decks have been forced into narrower and narrower builds.

It seems to me that most of the slots in contemporary Workshop decks are set in stone. Since the archetype lost three copies of Chalice of the VoidLodestone Golem, and Thorn of Amethyst, there are only so many lock pieces left. For that reason, each of these decks simply use the maximum number of resistor effects they're allowed to use. The final slots of these Ravager Shops decks might go to things like Steel Overseer, Precursor Golem, or even Sorcerous Spyglass.

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Winryder's deck has four Steel Overseers, four Hangarback Walkers. and three Phyrexian Metamorphs. These cards have great synergy with Walking Ballista and Arcbound Ravager, so it's fair to say that this interaction is a focal point of the deck. 

5th Place - Thiim's Inferno Oath

Thiim's Inferno Oath reminds me of past Oath decks played by Brian Kelly and Greg Fenton. Mr. Fenton designed the "no Time Vault Oath deck" that Mark Tocco won the 2014 Vintage Championships with. At the time, playing Oath without a secondary combo was practically unheard of, but that philosophy was proven incorrect. Brian Kelly tends to play decks with a lot of quirky (yet very effective) cards, and he's also not a fan of Time Vault. Thiim's deck follows in those same footsteps as it does not rely on any crazy combos. Simply activating an Oath of Druids is a powerful enough combo to win the vast majority of matches.

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The main creatures that this deck wins with are Griselbrand and Inferno Titan. Everyone who has the smallest bit of Magic knowledge knows that Griselbrand is amazing. Inferno Titan is a little less impressive on the surface, but in practice it's a powerhouse. The Titan can be hard-cast relatively easy, so it helps negate the effect of anti-Oath tech that opponent's might use. Also, much like Griselbrand, Inferno Titan provides value even if it dies immediately. 

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The sideboard creatures that Thiim used here are all ones that I've never personally used, but I can see merits for each one. In particular Carnage Tyrant seems great at opening up a control mirror as it cannot be countered or easily destroyed, and trample means it can't be chump-blocked. Stormbreath comes in against decks where Swords to Plowshares is the primary removal spell. Gisela seems like a great creature too, but I'm unsure of the exact purpose it serves. 

9th Place - Unrestrict Brainstorm's Jeskai Young/Mentor

The rest of the Top Eight was made up of three more Shops decks and a second Oath deck. There wasn't much variation there so I didn't include them. Instead, I'm going to include the ninth place deck as it was really interesting. 

For those that don't know, this list was played by the current owner/operator of The Mana DrainAndrew "Brass Man" Probasco. Although I understand the sting of placing ninth in a tournament where only the Top Eight matters, I still think that it's a notable accomplishment and indicative of a deck's viability. 

Although this list has been placed into the same category as The Atog Lord's deck (due to the large volume of identical cards), it's actually very different. What we're looking at here is the modern-day descendant of the "Gush Tokens" decks that ran roughshod over the Vintage format from 2014 to 2017. You can see this in the single copy of Gush and the three efficient token-generating creatures. 

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Alongside the two Pyromancers and mono-Mentor there are six additional creatures in this list, most of which are quite normal. There's a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and two Snapcaster Mages, both of which are very common in this type of deck. There's also one Vendillion Clique, which isn't extremely prevalent anymore, but it's still not out of the ordinary. The last two creatures here are the oddballs; two copies of Containment Priest

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It's not unusual to see a Containment Priest in a sideboard, but main-deck inclusion of such a card is usually limited to decks like Hatebears or White Eldrazi (which is basically a Hatebears deck anyway). My assumption is that Brass Man included two copies of Containment Priest in this deck so that it would be pre-sideboarded against both Oath of Druids and Dredge. Considering the fact that Oath is the most-played deck right now, and Dredge is always a threat, this seems like a real next-level move. Both Oath and Dredge are probably a very tough matchup for this deck, so for the small opportunity cost of just two card slots this deck gains a lot of ground when battling its toughest matchups. 

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This deck also happens to have Cavern of Souls, and six out of seven creatures are humans. So there's obviously a chance that Containment Priest will be uncounterable. Even without Cavern, Containment Priest has flash, so it can act as a pseudo-removal spell (along with Snapcaster and Clique). 

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There are four main-deck planeswalkers (two copies of Jace and Dack) and one Chandra, Torch of Defiance in the sideboard. It definitely seems like there's an uptick in the amount of planeswalkers that people are playing in Vintage. It wasn't that long ago when people were cutting copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor because a four-mana blue permanent was too slow and a liability against Pyroblast. Perhaps the format has slowed down enough, or otherwise evolved in a way to allow players to benefit from higher numbers of planeswalkers. The permanent-based value these cards provide is indisputably beneficial. 

With all things considered I have to say that Unrestrict_Brainstorm's deck seems like it was built very well. There's a solid core of offensive and defensive cards, and several additional situational cards that give the deck a leg up against the expected competition. Looking at the list I see main deck cards in the sideboard and sideboard cards in the main deck. This means that this list isn't just sixty cards with a fifteen-card afterthought; it is truly a seventy-five card deck with a fifteen card "bullpen". You could easily take this list into a slightly different meta and move the Containment Priests to the sideboard to bring in an extra removal spell or planeswalker. 

That's all the time I have for this week, I'll be back soon with more Vintage than you can shake a scepter at! In the mean time you can follow me on Twitter @Islandswamp

 


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