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Vintage 101: Bazaar of Moxen


Magic is played all over the world, and Vintage is no exception. There's a robust Vintage scene in Europe, and there's one particular event series known as the Bazaar of Moxen that always draws a sizeable crowd. Bazaar of Moxen Annecy featured multiple formats including Legacy and Vintage. Each time one of these events happen, Vintage players pay very close attention to the top tables, always on the lookout for trends and new tech. 

Data collection and analysis are very important to serious Vintage players, and much of the time tournament results come from either Magic Online or various medium-sized proxy paper events around the United States. When large events occur like the NYSE, Eternal Extravaganza, Vintage Champs, or the Bazaar of Moxen, the results are considered very important. When a deck goes 4-0 in an Magic Online Daily Event it is certainly a positive sign, but these results only tell us so much.  Winning four rounds is much easier than rising to the top of a tournament of six or more rounds and a cut to Top Eight. That's why large events like Bazaar of Moxen or the Power Nine series are so important.

The only results that I had access to were the Top Eight deck lists for the event, but there were certainly a few interesting decks among them. Out of the 65 participants in Vintage, the Top Eight featured a Mono-Blue Belcher deck, three different Mentor decks, one Ravager Workshop deck, one Workshop Affinity, one Merfolk deck, and finally, a Five-Color Humans deck that won the entire event. Today we're going to take a look at a few of the decks to break into the Top Eight.

Rainbow Humans

Five-Color Humans is one of the more interesting decks that I've seen recently. It is somewhat like a Hatebears deck, but with a five-color mana base that allows for a greater range of threats. 

I first learned of this type of approach to an aggro-Hatebears deck in a TMD post by Stormanimagus. In the post, the author went on to extol the virtues of cards like Scab-Clan Berserker, Mantis Rider, and Reflector Mage in Vintage. All three of those cards have "Standard" written all over them, so I didn't put a ton of weight into thinking about those creatures. Well, the success of this Rainbow Humans deck has made me change my mind. 

Each one of the creatures in this deck is a very good card, but by themselves none of them seem like the sort of thing that will win you a game. The magic happens when they're all combined into one deck. 

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Thalia, Guardian of Thraben slows down your opponents, and she's particularly nasty to those playing Storm combo. Dark Confidant keeps the gas coming, ensuring that you keep applying pressure. Noble Hierarch is your mana dork to accelerate out all of your creatures, and it also can pump creatures since it has Exalted

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Containment Priest is usually just a Grizzly Bear, until it completely wrecks your opponent and wins you a match. I can tell you from experience that the number one thing I do not want to see as an Oath player is an opponent packing main deck Containment Priest! Most of the time the decks that the Priest will hurt the most will have very few (if any) answers to it in their starting sixty. 

Qasali Pridemage is just a solid body that can take out important artifacts. Winning with Oath of Druids or Time Vault becomes much harder when Pridemage is in town. It's the kind of creature that seems kind of boring and unimportant, but at the end of the day it puts in a lot of work. 

Mayor of Avabruck is pretty crazy in a deck with mostly humans. Untransformed he is an anthem effect, which is great in an aggro-tribal strategy like this deck. Once he flips into Howlpack Alpha you get a 3/3 body that starts spitting out Wolf tokens. This guy floods the board quickly, adding to the already overwhelming creature package. 

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From Standard to Vintage!

Scab-Clan Berserker doesn't immediately seem that great in Vintage, until you realize it's essentially a Pyrostatic Pillar that only hits your opponent. Try getting up to a lethal Storm count with the Berserker online (spoiler alert: you will lose). It's not just Storm Combo that wants to cast a ton of spells. The current deck-to-beat in Vintage, Gush Mentor, is built around casting a bunch of cantrips every turn. Having to play Preordain just to hit land drops becomes much less appealing when you take two damage each time. 

Mantis Rider has Flying and Haste, which are surprisingly relevant abilities in Vintage. There aren't that many creatures that will be able to block a Mantis Rider, so it's usually free to swing in and take out your opponent's Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Vigilance is the least-relevant ability, but it's never a bad thing to be able to attack and block on the following turn.

Reflector Mage is the second coming of Man-O-War, one of my favorite cards of all time. Bouncing your opponent's creatures is a huge tempo play. Even more of an advantage is gained due to the fact that your opponent can't replay that creature for a turn. Reflector Mage is also great against a Tinkered-out Blightsteel Colossus, or any giant creature that was cheated into play. 

All of these creatures are fantastic, but there's a magical piece of real estate that ties everything together perfectly . . .

Cavern of Souls is the perfect land for this deck. Making your creatures uncounterable is great, but the card does more! Cavern is a rainbow land, something that a five-color deck needs! Simultaneously fixing your mana and ensuring key creatures resolve is incredible. Cavern creates virtual card advantage by blanking every Force of Will, Mana Drain, and Mental Misstep your opponent is playing. 

My Name is MUD

No Vintage Top Eight would be complete without a MUD deck, and here's an interesting take on the archetype. The deck is an updated Ravager list, sans Thought-Knot Seer

 

When I first took a look at this list, a few of the card choices didn't make a lot of sense to me. Cards like Mana Vault and City of Traitors aren't seen that much in MUD decks these days. To make room for those lands, David Beduzzi cut a Wasteland, one Phyrexian Revoker, and one Arcbound Ravager. All three of those cuts are highly unusual. After looking at these rather unique card choices more closely and pondering my own experiences playing Ravager Shops, the list made much more sense.

When Lodestone Golem became restricted, the majority of MUD lists shifted towards playing extra copies of Sphere of Resistance to make up for the three lost "Sphere effects" that the Golem previously provided. The problem with simply replacing Lodestone Golem with Sphere of Resistances comes from a few angles.  

These days many deck builders (including myself) have moved into running either Kuldotha Forgemaster or some number of Eldrazi. Adding more expensive cards to your deck increases the mana curve and creates a larger percentage of games where one or more copies of Sphere of Resistance can lock the MUD pilot out of playing their higher-cost cards. Most Forgemaster lists of the previous era were designed to run three Sphere of Resistances, and many Ravager lists only ran two. Suddenly adding extra copies of Sphere of Resistance puts a lot of strain on a MUD deck's mana base. 

Sphere effects like Lodestone Golem and Thorn of Amethyst were by far the most preferred versions of that effect in Vintage. MUD decks are largely centered around creatures, so Thorn barely taxes a MUD deck at all. Good old Lodestone taxes everything other than artifacts, the card type that MUD decks are comprised almost entirely of. Maxing out on these cards is a no-brainer, but drawing too many Sphere of Resistances can be very awkward. By adding extra Sol lands and an extra mana rock, this version of MUD should have a much easier time paying for its own copies of Sphere of Resistance

Swords and Bombs

Another unique inclusion to this list were the copies of Sword of Fire and Ice and Ratchet Bomb

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Both Ratchet Bomb and Sword of Fire and Ice have seen play in Vintage MUD before, but playing three copies of each in the main deck is quite unusual. Both cards are cheap and can offer an effect that is quite useful to a Ravager Shops deck.

Sword of Fire and Ice turns any little threat into a larger one and provides card advantage at the same time. The Protection from Red and Blue are also relevant, stopping everything from Lightning Bolts to Red Elemental Tokens. Throwing an extra two damage at a creature or player is also quite good; the Sword can either take out a creature or add four total damage to your clock. 

When it comes to permanent destruction, there aren't a lot of options for MUD decks. Some options like Spine of Ish Sah are quite expensive. Ratchet Bomb is cheap and can take out multiple things. The only downside is it can be a bit slow if you need to take out anything bigger than a converted mana cost of zero or one. Still, Ratchet Bomb can sweep away all of the tokens on the battlefield, or it can take out all of your opponent's Moxen so they can no longer pay for your Sphere effects. 

I think this list is a novel approach to rebuilding Ravager Shops, but I'm not sure if this is the best direction to take the deck. The list only contains twelve creatures, which is not very much for a deck like Ravager Shops. Still, the list did very well, and I think that at least some of the ideas found here will live on in future incarnations of Ravager Shops

 

Stand Still, Fish

Up next we have another Top Eight list. This is an interesting take on Vintage Merfolk that utilizes the card-draw of Landstill and the power of Aether Vial.

The majority of this deck is the same as a normal Vintage Merfolk deck. The main difference is this list forgoes Null Rod for disruption and instead plays Standstill. You can't just jam Standstill into any old deck, but if you make the right card choices you can get a lot of miles out of the Blue enchantment.

In order for Standstill to be effective, your deck needs to be able to deploy the enchantment and win without needing to cast any spells. Most "Landstill" decks do this by playing creaturelands, and this list is no different in that regard. The four copies of Mutavault won't crack a Standstill, and they have a nice synergy with the tribal theme.

Merfolk decks always play a large number of creatures, which is something most Landstill decks cannot get away with. This "FishStill" deck fixes that problem by playing Aether Vial. As long as you play an early Vial, you can deploy creatures without breaking your own Standstill. If your opponent tries to play a removal spell on one of your Merfolk Lords you get to draw three cards. Playing with Aether Vial means that you can't run Null Rod, but all the extra cards you get to draw should ease your pain. 

Beyond all the card advantage, counterspells, and Vial tricks, the deck is pretty much just a nuts-and-bolts Merfolk list. The idea is to play a steady stream of creatures and turn them sideways. Your army will grow larger as each soldier hits the battlefield because the deck plays eleven lords and three Phantasmal Images. Since Vintage has a rather large number of decks that use Islands, most of the time your army will go unblockable.  

Fish #InVintage

Merfolk is a deck that never seems like it should be that great, but it is always a lot stronger than people think. Merfolk won the Vintage Championship in 2013 and it is a deck that can still win in the right circumstances. If you're new to Vintage and want to explore a strategy centered around creatures, a deck like this is a great start, You don't even need a full set of Power Nine as this deck only plays four of those cards. 

The Mentors

I spend a lot of time talking about Monastery Mentor decks, and I've featured a lot of the individual lists in recent articles. Broadly speaking these decks are doing very well and many people consider Mentor to be the deck to beat. Even though Mentor did not win the Bazaar of Moxen, I think it's worth noting that all three Mentor decks did advance into the semifinals, and one obviously took second place. 

A lot of folks are wondering if they should play a Mentor deck or just try to beat it. My advice is that there's nothing wrong with playing whatever you think the best deck is. If you're not inclined to play Mentor, or you just like to buck trends, you're probably thinking about how you should go about beating these Gush Mentor decks.

The key to beating Mentor or any deck in Vintage is to have a powerful plan of your own. There are no wrong threats, but there are plenty of wrong answers. If you dilute your deck with a bunch of cards dedicated to beating token strategies you might just lose to something else. It's important to have a strong and proactive plan with which to win a match. 

There aren't a lot of Workshop decks being played right now, so it might be a good time to go over the top of the Gush strategies with a combo deck. You could also combine a Mentor deck with Storm Combo to increase your chances of winning through sheer degeneracy. I've seen a few GushBond Mentor decks online that looked quite promising, and those decks aren't being hit with Wasteland as often anymore. A Mentor/Storm hybrid can win by pumping out a token army, and sometimes it can finish someone off with a Tendrils of Agony

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Whatever deck you choose to play, make sure it's a deck that you'll love. Practice with it until you know it inside and out. If you enjoy what you're doing, that makes winning more fun. If you become an expert with your deck, you can squeeze out some wins where you might not have thought it was possible. 

That's all the time we have for this week; see you in seven days. Keep on rockin' #InVintage! You can follow me on Twitter @josephfiorinijr - Islandswamp on MTGO.


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