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Vintage 101: Back to the Grind

Howdy folks! It's time for the first edition of Vintage 101 in 2021! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're back at the grind, taking a look at the January edition of the Manatraders series which just so happens to be Vintage! We're going to talk about decks to play and what I might end up trying out as well. In addition, we've got two Challenges from over the weekend to look at and as always our Spice Corner.

A reminder as well that there are two major premier-level events this month, starting with the Showcase Challenge for Season One of 2021 on January 16th, as well as a bonafide MTGO Vintage PTQ level event for the Kaldheim Championships on January 24th. Both of these events cost 40 Qualifier Points (QPs) to enter, and the winner of the PTQ event gets an invitation to the Kaldheim Championships PT level event on Magic Arena.

In addition, there are some notifications on the MTGO announcements this week that All Access Tokens on Magic Online are returning for two weeks, but no indication as to why as of yet. So if you ever wanted to get into Vintage, next week sounds like is a good time to look into it depending on how much it is to access!

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Back to the Grind - The January Manatrader Series

Well it's 2021, and the New Year is upon us. What better way to start that off but with a little healthy Vintage competition? The Manatraders Series, typically a month-long event every month that comprises of three phases (Qualifiers, Swiss, Top 8) is holding this event via the Vintage format this month. More information on how the Manatraders Series works can be found over here, but we're going to also break it down for you.

Qualifier Phase

The first phase of this event began on January 4th (the 2nd Monday of each Month). This is a play at your pace on-demand type thing where you play matches on demand against other players in the League in the Tournament Practice room. In order to qualify for the Swiss Rounds (Phase 2) you have to meet a certain percentage of wins:

  • 10-19 matches with a 70% win percentage
  • 20-29 matches with a 65% win percentage
  • 30+ matches with a 60% win percentage

Once you are qualified for the Swiss Rounds you are locked in to the event, even if you continue playing and dip below the necessary win percentage. There are also prizes associated with being on the leaderboard for this part of the event.

Swiss Rounds

The second phase of the event is the Swiss rounds which take place on the last Saturday of each month. This is about 5-9 rounds based on the amount of players in the event. The Top 8 players will move on to the final phase.

Top 8

The Top 8 phase is the final phase and is a typical Top 8 Single Elimination bracket just like you would be used to in a normal event.

Prizing + Entry

The entry for this event is technically free to enter, however, there is a tiny catch in that the prizing in the event is exceptionally better if you are an actual subscriber to Manatraders. For example, winning the event as a nonsubscriber nets a $400 prize, but as a subscriber, that prize is $4000 instead. There are plenty of ways to sign up cheaply, however, and many players that are active sponsored players have sponsored links for discounts. This is something important though to keep in mind if you're considering entering.

What to Play, Though?

This is certainly the most interesting notion of this event being Vintage for the first time. A lot of players are repeats in these series, and so there are bound to be a lot of players that are new to the format overall. Thankfully our good friend Justin Gennari has spent some time covering a lot of different things that players can approach to play in the current format, which you can find over here.

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There are several big pillars in the current Vintage format, from typical blue decks, Bazaar decks, Workshop decks, and Combo. It can be difficult to pick something to play at first, but the decks in Vintage often share a lot of parallels with other formats so it can be easy to find a deck that suits you.

Admittedly I've had a lot of thinking to do on whether or not I will be playing in this event or not, and what I might like to play in it. I generally seek out interesting or off the wall types of decks, and I certainly have a real soft spot for decks using the card Fastbond, so it's likely I could end up playing something of that nature.

I'm likely to consider the following for example simply because I also love Valakut Exploration.

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Vintage Challenge 1/2

Our first Challenge event of 2021 was the mid-afternoon Saturday Challenge and there were 72 players in this event, thanks to data collected by the Vintage Streamers Discord server. Let's take a look at the overall metagame breakdown.

Dredge's presence is certainly being felt and it shows, really cementing itself as one of the most popular Bazaar decks in the format. As well, Jeskai Xerox also continues to be the most populous Xerox variant in the format, but really it is the continued presence and power of the Underworld Breach decks. Between Breach variants and a new PO Breach variant popping up, the card's power level continues to clearly define Vintage combo decks.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Jeskai Xerox 1st McWinSauce
Horror One 2nd Hanchobai
Golos Stax 3rd John1111
Dredge 4th vwxyza648204
Breach 5th IamActuallyLvl1
Hogaak 6th dannyground
Golos Combo Shops 7th JakeHelms
Breach PO 8th Bryant_Cook

A lot of Bazaar and Combo in this Top 8, with a sprinkling of Shops and Xerox. However, it was indeed Xerox that won this event.

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This is a fairly typical Jeskai list at this point. Most of these lists have coalesced well onto the three Arcanist, two Lavinia plan and then the typical suite of restricted cards. That isn't to knock this choice, it's just the reality of the archetype at the moment, and this is certainly a clean and powerful list. I will note the Archive Trap in the sideboard is ultra hilarious.

The Second Place finalist was the Horror One deck that has been running around.

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This list is certainly unique, as Krovikan Horror is a Squee effect that also can be pitched to cards like Sickening Shoal which is what makes it so interesting. The deck is ultra reliant on Hollow One and the recurrable creatures, so it's sort of like an amalgam between Dredge and Squee based Bazaar decks (a prized amalgam even!). Still, this is super neat, and Homeward Path in the sideboard is something.

Also in the Top 8 we have our good friend Justin Gennari on a sweet take on Breach.

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This deck is neat, and I love love love Magmatic Channeler. Dark Confidant also works really well here as most of the deck is pretty low in cost by not including some of the bigger restricted cards like Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise. Really super neat list.

Further down the Top 8 we have Bryant Cook on a PO Breach variant.

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The biggest thing about this list is dropping white and Monastery Mentor and using PO as a means to kill the opponent with the Breach kill, which is super interesting. Having multiple angles to find the kill here makes it certainly very interesting.

Just outside of the Top 8 we have a neat Bant Midrange deck.

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Spell Queller and Archon of Emeria is something else. This is basically a BUG deck in different colors and is super interesting all around. I love seeing creative takes on Midrange strategies like this for sure.

Vintage Challenge 1/3

Our second Challenge of the weekend was the early morning Sunday event, which had 59 players overall. Let's dive right into the overall metagame breakdown.

The Sunday event is always interesting because it generally always has less players due to its time frame, but the metagame also is very interesting given what the players in Europe and Asia typically like to play. I've noticed very much of a Xerox slant in this metagame, and the results always seem to paint that picture well.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Oath of Druids 1st Bennybo
Ravager Shops 2nd Mogged
Hogaak 3rd MadMaxErnst
Dredge 4th NekoReality
Jeskai Xerox 5th IdraftTheBeatz
4C Xerox 6th yoshiwata
Hullbreacher Xerox 7th Atog_215
Hogaak 8th nahuel10

Certainly an interesting Top 8 here, with as noted before, plenty of Xerox decks rising to the top as well as a few Bazaar and Shops. However it was Oath that took it all the way to the top of the event.

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This list is interesting, pushing out Niv-Mizzet for the often seen and often Tinker'ed Sphinx of the Steel Wind as the other Oath target. Other than that this is essentially pretty close to Miharu Oath decks, with four Oko and some Wrenn and Six shenanigans to play around with Mystic Sanctuary.

The Second Place finalist was Ravager Shops.

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Cars go BEEP BEEP! So that's pretty cool. This very aggressively slanted version is pretty strong and is something to keep an eye on for sure.

Also in this Top 8 we have everyone's favorite Bazaar deck in Dredge.

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Flayer of the Hatebound and Dread Return is certainly some energy and I love it. Main deck Leyline is slowly becoming a thing I'm noticing not just in Dredge but in other decks as well, so that is super interesting as well.

Further down the Top 8 we have Hullbreacher Xerox.

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Abusing Hullbreacher with wheel effects is very powerful as we've seen. This deck is only weirdly missing Wheel of Fortune however, and is focused more on being a Grixis Tinker type deck that can abuse Hullbreacher as well.

Outside of the Top 8 we had a showing by Humans.

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Despite the Internet's best efforts to try to point out that the Walking Dead Secret Lair cards were showing as "not legal" in any format on Gatherer, it turned out that was just a Rick Roll from Wizards (i.e. a visual glitch) and that Rick, Steadfast Leader is certainly legal enough to command a deck like this one. Luminarch Aspirant is certainly pretty interesting as well here.

Around the Web

  • Our good friend Justin Gennari posted a sweet set of videos on a Magmatic Channeler Breach deck, which you can check out over here.
  • Bryant Cook posted a video on his Top 8 Challenge finish with Underworld Outcome, which you can check out here.

The Spice Corner

This is probably the most perfect thing ever. Flash Hulk Oops All Spells.

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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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