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Vintage 101: Atraxa Strikes Back!


Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're talking all about the wacky wonderful world of Atraxa, Grand Unifier and how much that card has shaped Oath of Druids decks these days. In addition to that we've got a paper event to talk about in the Oklahoma Land Run as well as two Challenges.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Atraxa Used Deathtouch! It's Super Effective!

In the past few weeks we've certainly seen some really interesting shifts in decks utilizing Oath of Druids, and it all really boils down to one card. Of course, it's Atraxa, Grand Unifier.

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Atraxa has become hands down the best Oath target to ever come about for this archetype, and that's saying a lot given the archetype's history of ever-changing threat cards. This list has included such bangers as Serra's Emissary (which definitely worked well during the initial burst of Initiative decks), Inferno Titan / Sun Titan, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and of course Griselbrand. In fact, Griselbrand was the gold standard outside of really specialized variants of the deck for quite some time. There was a lot of discussion about the differences between Atraxa and Griselbrand during the spoiler season for Phyrexia: All Will Be One as to which of the cards was a better fit for Oath of Druids decks. It has seemingly turned out that the answer there has been Atraxa by miles.

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What really happened here? Well, for starters one of the big primary realizations behind Atraxa is that Atraxa is better in multiples than Griselbrand is. There's a number of reasons behind this, the floor of which is that the card has the capability of being pitched to multiple pitch spells like Force of Will, Force of Vigor, and other spells like this, so the flexibility of having a copy in your hand isn't nearly as bad as a Griselbrand is in that scenario. The other reason is that because of how Atraxa's ETB works, having your Atraxa removed in response is still going to allow you to refill your hand typically, and then a second or third Atraxa will continue that train. Another note here in that playing multiples is great specifically because of the fact that not only can Oath of Druids put this card into play, but so can cards like Show and Tell and Eureka. Having not just four ways of enabling your payoff card is very strong.

Atraxa also tends to play to the board better than Griselbrand does in cases where cards like Pithing Needle, Narset, Parter of Veils, and Hullbreacher are in play. Being able to rip through those kinds of effects is very powerful and what also makes Atraxa powerful is the raw card selection that the card gives to the deck. One of the raw understandings of this card is not the average number of cards you're "drawing" off of it, but looking at it from the perspective that you are "drawing 10 cards" and then getting to have card selection to choose what cards you need, sort of like a mega Brainstorm effect. That kind of card selection is pretty overpowering when you approach it with that mindset. Not only are you powering through extra draw punishment effects (which we just got a new one in the form of Orcish Bowmasters) but the card also allows you to select what cards you specifically need for the situation as appropriate, and that alone cements the card as one of the best creatures ever printed for Oath.

Only time will tell what could supplant Atraxa's reign of terror, but for now, the Phyrexian Angel is well in control.

Oklahoma Land Run Vintage 6/18

This past weekend out in Oklahoma at Game HQ we had the Oklahoma Land Run Weekend events! This weekend was a big weekend for a lot of Eternal Magic events for sure. The primary Vintage event here had 50 players in it, and one of the prizes given out at the event was an entry into the Buffalo Chicken Dip Vintage Open later this year! This definitely sounded like a super fun event!

You can find all of the decklists here and the datasheet here.

Initiative was very popular here, making up almost 25% of the event. It had a really strong win rate as well. Both BUG and Combo Shops did pretty poorly overall, while Breach and Esper Saga had solid performances.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing Player Name
Esper Midrange 1st Logan Morris
Esper Saga 2nd Joe Brennan
Paradoxical Outcome 3rd-4th Tyler Ragels
4C Tinker 3rd-4th James Adams
Breach 5th-8th Tom Andrews
Initiative 5th-8th Kyle Driskill
Oath of Druids 5th-8th Luke Tooker
Initiative 5th-8th Jacob Milchman

Fairly interesting Top 8 here. Lot of Tinker variants here plus some Initiative. At the end of the event it was a neat Esper Midrange list that won by Logan Morris.

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This list looks super fun for sure. I am digging a lot about this. Orcish Bowmasters from the new Lord of the Rings set showing up here is super cool. Malevolent Hermit + Lurrus definitely feels pretty unfair.

In Second Place we had Esper Saga Tinker.

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Very straightforward Esper Tinker list here. Leaning hard on Lavinia and Mentor here for sure.

Also in this Top 8 we had Breach.

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No backup plan creatures in the main deck here, with the hate effects reliant on Opposition Agent out of the board and Sphinx of the Steel Wind for the Tinker game plan. Saga really pulls a lot of weight here for sure.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we had Oath.

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I did the Crop Rotation variant of this deck. Being able to fetch your Forbidden Orchard when you need it, but also able to get Bojuka Bog or Wasteland is great as well. Seems like a super fun list.

Vintage Challenge 6/17

The first Challenge event of the weekend was the mid-afternoon Saturday event. This event had 65 players in it thanks to the data collected by the Vintage Streamer's Discord.

You can find all of the Top 32 decklists for this event here and the datasheet here.

Initiative was quite popular here, and it's win rate looked pretty good overall. Prison Shops did insanely well, while Combo Shops had a poorer win rate.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
GW Aggro 1st Wesal
Prison Shops 2nd oosunq
Initiative 3rd Boin
Initiative 4th Breckoroni
Lurrus Vault Key 5th Sprouts
CounterVine 6th WingedHussar
Jeskai Lurrus 7th unluckymonkey
Initiative 8th Oscar_Franco

A lot of Initiative in this Top 8 sprinkled in with some other archetypes. At the end of the event though it was GW Aggro by Wesal that won.

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Really speaks to a lot of the hard work put in on decks when this deck without any of the common aggressive threats (i.e. Initiative creatures) can do well. Pretty interesting to see overall.

In Second Place we had Prison Shops.

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Fairly straightforward list here overall. This variant waxes and wanes appropriately with the format cycling back around, and it's quite good if you put the time into learning its subtle ins and outs.

As noted, we had a lot of Initiative in the Top 8, so let's look at the highest placing one.

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Definitely what has become considered stock for this deck now here. There's a good number of minor flex spots here or there but for the most part the core of the deck is pretty well established. Great place to start if this is a deck you're thinking of looking into learning.

Further down the Top 8 we have Lurrus Vault Key.

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This deck is pretty interesting to me. It really has one major gameplan and that's to get Vault Key in place, but the sideboard has a ton of options for dealing with various decks. My favorite here is Porphyry Nodes (the color shifted Drop of Honey) because it seems quite good versus stuff like Initiative.

Vintage Challenge 6/18

The second Challenge event of the weekend was the early morning Sunday event.

You can find all of the Top 32 decklists for this event here. There was no data for this event collected, which means we only have Top 32 to go off of and no fancy graphs.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Combo Shops 1st Cherryxman
Combo Shops 2nd _BOI_
4C DRS 3rd yoshiwata
Initiative 4th Unknowless
Oath of Druids 5th noprops
CounterVine 6th Turn1GlistenerElf
Grixis Tinker 7th Jpsn54
Oath of Druids 8th desolutionist

Nice variety of decks here. At the end of the event though it was Combo Shops v Combo Shops.

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Not a huge difference between these two lists. The primary difference is the inclusion of Displacer Kitten in the second list and some sideboard changes between the two. This is a super strong archetype in Vintage right now and there are a tiny number of flex spots but the primary gameplan is very strong.

Also in this Top 8 we had 4C DRS.

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I really love this list. It gets to play so many of the cards that were originally banned in Legacy and it chains them together quite well. Incredibly fun list for sure.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we had Grixis Tinker.

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I love Spreading Seas as an answer to Urza's Saga, Bazaar of Baghdad, and Mishra's Workshop. Very clever indeed!

Around the Web

The Spice Corner

You can find this past week's 5-0 lists here. However, our Spice Corner this week all comes from the OK Land Run!

This super sweet Azorius Initiative deck is really fun looking.

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Because we have to give a shout-out to the UNPOWERED list in 25th place of this event... it's classic Jaco-Drazi!

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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 my Link Tree! In addition, you can always reach me on the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the Vintage Streamers Discord.

Until next time!



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