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Vintage 101: Brew Something!

Brew Something!

Vintage has a huge card pool, but unfortunately many of the cards are just not good enough to rise to the top. The people grinding games on Magic Online also tend to reveal what the best decks in the format are too, so people tend to simply copy the best-performing decks instead of trying anything new. Luckily there are a few people willing to burn a few tickets or play points to try something different. For those of you who brew, I salute you. 

Iamactuallylvl1 may actually be next level, I don't know yet. He's crazy enough to play an updated take on Jer Beav's Splinter Twin deck in Vintage so perhaps he's a mad genius. 

Back when you could play four copies of Gush this was probably a better deck concept, but even in this shell you can still get some free wins. I like the way that this deck wants to play a "draw, go" style of control. Most of the creatures have flash and there are quite a few counterspells too, so this deck is looking to be very reactive. 

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Teferi is extremely good against other control decks. Teferi doesn't just stop people from playing spells on their opponent's turn; against Teferi players are unable to cast any spell while there are other spells on the stack. This obviously makes counterspells useless and it forces opponent's to have a removal spell for Teferi before they can break out of that soft lock. 

Deceiver Exarch is the least impressive creature in the deck on it's own, but it isn't worthless either. Exarch can strategically tap down lands to make Flusterstorm better. Also, against Oath of Druids or a Tinkered-up Blightsteel Colossus a Deceiver Exarch can save your hide for another turn. Of course there's also the game-winning combo of Exarch and Splinter Twin, but you already knew that.

The rest of the deck is mostly made up of cantrips, counterspells, and a few planeswalkers. For the most part it looks a bit like a Young Pyromancer deck with the Pyromancer stuff replaced by the Splinter Twin combo. I've featured a Vintage Twin deck before that was based on Gush, and I think the missing copies of that card are why we see Merchant Scroll here. With the Scroll and two copies of Jace, Vryn's Prodigy this deck should be able to cast Gush almost as easily as it could before the restriction. 

Pros and Cons

I think it's really neat to take an old Standard and Modern deck and turn it into a Vintage deck. There's something really cool about seeing a Mox Ruby tapped for mana to cast a Splinter Twin. This list is not without it's problems though. 

Right off the bat I can say that the fourteen lands and five artifact mana sources does not seem like enough to me. This deck wants to cast [Splinter Twin]], Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and good ol' five-drop Teferi! With only nineteen mana sources it will often struggle to hit four mana by turn three or four. There are three basic Islands in the deck and a basic Mountain, but I still think the deck could use a few more mana sources overall. 

The Splinter Twin combo takes up a ton of room too. This deck has four Twins and four Exarchs for a total of eight slots devoted to the combo. That is more slots than an Oath deck uses, and certainly more than the average Tinker/Time Vault/Voltaic Key/Blightsteel Colossus package that is standard in this format. 

The main thing that this deck has going for it is that it's entertaining to watch someone's face when they suddenly lose to an obscure combo. People aren't going to expect this and they might play incorrectly because of that. Unfortunately this also means that the more you play a combo like this, the less effective it becomes. So, even though this isn't a deck that I would suggest to anyone I still have to tip my hat to this player for running it. 


Draining Gifts

Gifts Ungiven was once the most powerful thing you could do in Vintage. Eventually it was restricted and the card faded into obscurity. When Gifts became unrestricted a while back it didn't really do much, and it has been mostly forgotten. In this new environment Desolutionist has been trying to make Gifts great again, and looking at his tournament finishes I think it's safe to say he has done just that. 

Desolitionist loves Gifts Ungiven so much he has devoted an entire thread on The Mana Drain to talking about playing with the card. I can tell you from experience that it is indeed one of the most fun and powerful cards that you can play with, although it is not the easiest card to play with. Using Gifts correctly requires clever deck building and a lot of forethought, but when everything comes together it is quite good. 

The main paths to victory in this build are Tendrils of Agony and Blightsteel Colossus. Sometimes decks like this play Time Vault as well, but it isn't required. Since Gifts basically tutors for two cards and puts two in your graveyard, it naturally helps to facilitate a storm-based victory. Yawgmoth's Will and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy allow you to replay the cards that your opponent puts in your graveyard, which also adds to your storm count. 

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Desolutionist's build features an interesting card that I haven't seen used that much. Baral, Chief of Compliance is like a super-powered Goblin Electromancer, but with an added bonus. When you counter a spell with a Baral in play you're allowed to loot if you want to, which helps sculpt a winning hand and/or build up your graveyard for a massive Yawgmoth's Will

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Looting is extremely powerful in Vintage because of the potency that certain individual cards have. Trading a useless land for something like an Ancestral Recall illustrates this point nicely. The graveyard is also an important resource in this format, so discarded cards aren't really "lost" the way they are in Modern or Standard. 

This list is running three copies of Mana Drain. I imagine scenarios unfolding where you counter something with Drain while having Baral in play. Next turn you add additional mana to your mana pool, you've looted one card if you wanted to, and now your Gifts Ungiven and every other spell you have is cheaper to play too. This seems like a pretty solid game plan and one that isn't all that hard to put together either. 

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The counterspell package in the deck is quite robust. Since the win conditions in the list are so compact, basically only taking up two slots, there is plenty of room for Flusterstorms, Mindbreak Traps, and the requisite Force of Wills and Mana Drains. There are three copies of Gifts Ungiven and one each of the restricted draw spells (Gush, Dig Through Time, and Ancestral Recall). That's six powerful draw spells to gain plenty of card advantage. Even when you're not able to set up an immediate victory you'll be able to grind out enough card advantage to eventually overpower your opponent. 

Gifts Ungiven in Vintage

There still aren't a ton of people playing Gifts in the format right now, but the continued success of Gifts decks gives me hope for the future. Quite frankly I feel that Gifts simply did not have a chance to be any good when Gush was unrestricted. Gush was easier to play, and it allowed you to leverage massive card advantage consistently by turn three all the time. Plus Gush was much better with the token-generating creatures which have overrun the format. 

With Gush restricted the best blue draw spells seem to be Paradoxical Outcome and Gifts Ungiven, and that's at least slightly different than what existed a few months ago. I sincerely hope that the format continues to diversify even more than it has. The best and most popular decks haven't changed for a long time and any changes we're seeing are relegated to fringe decks and limited successes with stuff like this Gifts deck. 


Gush, Mentor, and Vintage

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There has been a lot of talk about the metagame continuing to be stale even after Gush is restricted. Some people think that Gush shouldn't have been restricted, and some people think it definitely needed to go. Frankly I am not sure how I feel about it. I do think Gush needed to go, but I also admit that things haven't changed as much as I would have liked. I think that the continued dominance of Monastery Mentor indicates that it might need to be restricted though. 

Mentor just isn't a fair card in this format, and it pushes many other creatures out of being playable. It's a better "combo kill" than Tinker, and it's quite possibly the easiest card to use in the world. If you manage to land an early Mentor, you just play every card in your hand and try to spam your opponent to death with a horde of prowess monks. Mentor is also harder to stop than nearly every other win condition in the format because it is naturally resilient against removal. Most of the time if you manage to untap with a Mentor you will win, and unlike a Blightsteel Colossus it doesn't get blown out by a single Swords to Plowshares

The legacy of Gush/Mentor is kind of a strange case. Gush didn't need Mentor to be the best blue deck in the format, and apparently Monastery Mentor didn't need Gush to be the best creature in the format either. I think the case was that Gush Mentor was the perfect storm of degeneracy and that's why it was so good for so long. The best way to counteract both of the namesake cards was to make sure that individual spells were more difficult to cast. One or two Thorn of Amethyst effects negates the advantages of Gush while making Monastery Mentor much, much worse by limiting it to one (or less) trigger a turn.

Now if I'm going to be perfectly honest I have to say that I wrote this section of the article as a response to some of the comments against the Gush restriction. One sentiment I saw expressed many times was that Gush should have been left alone and Monastery Mentor should have been the card that was restricted (with or without Gitaxian Probe). I feel that if Mentor had been hit while Gush remained free, we would just see these Gush decks run one Mentor and three or four Young Pyromancers (or possibly one of the other "growing creatures"). You'd probably just see Jeskai Mentor become "Jeskai Black Mentor" with Demonic Tutor and Yawgmoth's Will to find and replay Monastery Mentor. Frankly I do not know if this hypothetical scenario would be an improvement. 

I will end this section with this thought... I know that this is a contentious issue, and I know that my opinion will rub some folks the wrong way. That is fine. My opinion is just that, my opinion. Everyone is entitled to having an opinion, and mine is not "right" or "important." Whatever transpires from this point on I will still enjoy this format simply for the fact that it lets me play with crazy spells while mixing the oldest cards with the newest ones. This format, like this game in general, is more than a sum of its parts. It is made up of a great community of folks, and I'm happy to be a part of it. They can restrict anything, and I'll still keep playing. 

That's all the time I have for this week, I'll see you next time with more Vintage action! You can follow me on Twitter/TMD/Magic Online @Islandswamp

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