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Vintage 101: BUG!

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're going to be deck diving and looking at BUG Midrange and explaining the basics of the deck as well as why it is currently so popular. In addition to that we've got two events to talk about in the Challenges from last weekend, as well as last weekend's Mythic Society event. Oh and we've also got a Spice Corner!

Without further ado, let's jump right in!

I Heard You Like Bugs

Vintage as a format is an exceptionally powerful place, where players are casting spells like Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall, and Tarmogoyf... wait, what? Yes, that's right. The old Goyf is indeed a card that can very quickly put away a game of Magic in the Vintage format, and it's popular to boot. We've talked about BUG a lot in the past few weeks of just how popular this deck is, but why is it so popular? Let's start by taking a look at a list.

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One of the biggest overwhelming things is that BUG is a deck full of very fair things. It wins by casting spells and generally by turning creatures sideways to deal combat damage. There's no combo and no elements that really set it apart from the really broken things that often occur in the format. This is one reason the deck is popular with players. Many players desire that fair Magic experience and BUG definitely is one of the most fair decks in the format for sure.

At its heart however, BUG is the very epitome of a format police type of deck. It's existence serves as a way to keep other decks in the format honest, and the major reason it can do that falls to a few very important tenets about the deck.

#1 - Consistency

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BUG is very much one of the more consistent decks in the format, with access to both redundant interaction as well as the blue suite of cantrips to support that consistency. While this isn't quite on the same level as a deck in Legacy with access to 4x Brainstorm, the sheer amount of card draw effects in most blue decks in the format is generally enough to afford this deck the consistency it requires. As such, the deck is built in such a way to really maximize upon that consistency.

#2 - Answers

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BUG's answers are powerful and among some of the best in the format. Outside of the normal blue answers that can be ran (Force of Will, Force of Negation, etc.) other answers such as Abrupt Decay as well as lock pieces like Leovold, Emissary of Trest allow the deck to provide quality answers to whatever it comes across. Primarily the biggest answers required here are to decks like Dredge and Workshops decks, which BUG can manage very well via main deck graveyard interaction in Deathrite Shaman and ways of dealing with ramp from Workshops decks with cards like Wasteland.

#3 - Threats

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Most Vintage decks that don't rely on creatures are pretty threat-light. BUG capitalizes on that with its creature threats, many of which are pretty strong in their own right. We mentioned Goyf before, but Goyf's power comes from the context of the format in that it is a difficult card to remove outside of very specific removal spells (Decay, Swords to Plowshares), and the mere fact alone that it can be very big and close games out quickly. In addition to that, threats such as Deathrite Shaman play an important role in the deck by being a combination of Answer + Threat in the same card. Cards like Oko have simply added to the deck's amount of threats, giving the deck clean answers to cards like Blightsteel Colossus and even Bolas's Citadel. And of course, in a pinch, you can always make your Black Lotus an Elk and swing with it.

Becoming Popular

Because of all of these facets, BUG tends to be exceptionally popular especially for players that are newer to the format. The deck carries a lot of parallels from other formats with decks like BUG Control in Legacy and Jund in Modern. The play patterns of this deck line up very well with those kinds of decks, which allows players to carry over those skills from other formats to the deck. This makes the deck attractive to new players but also to players familiar with the format as well since BUG's matchups line up well versus some of the mainstays of the Vintage format. One of the deck's few predators in the format is the Jeskai Control/Arcanist decks mainly because of how well those decks leverage their card advantage options in addition to premium removal in both Swords to Plowshares and Lightning Bolt being available to the deck.

Even further, BUG's popularity has continued to go up in the past few weeks simply because of the response to cards like Lurrus of the Dream-Den and decks like Underworld Breach based decks. By having some of the better removal for those decks in Decay, BUG can deal with the permanents in these decks like Breach and Lurrus very easily. The effects of this have been rather subtle as players have slowly begun to dip away from Lurrus based decks for a return to decks with Tinker and Bolas's Citadel. However, one of the other nice things about BUG is flexibility. Cards like Assassin's Trophy can allow the deck to shift a little in its removal suite and allow them to answer other problem permanents like Citadel if they need to.

All in all, this makes BUG a solid deck to consider when determining what to play on Magic Online. While the deck is now on the upper end of expense in the format (close to or somewhat over 1000 tickets), it offers a play experience that is very consistent and powerful, and many of the staple cards on MTGO (Wasteland, Force of Will, duals, fetches) translate well to Legacy BUG variants as well. Rental services can help ease this as well, and this is a deck that has consistent results in the format long term.

Mythic Society Weekly Vintage 4/14

Every Wednesday evening is the events hosted by Mythic Society! These are sweet little four round FNM style events held via Magic Online and are generally a lot of fun. Since they are often more casual events you can generally find some really interesting decklists within them. As always, you can find Mythic Society over on Twitter to find out how you can register for their events.

At the top of the heap in last week's event, we have the GOAT of spice, Brian Kelly on his signature Standstill list he's been playing for a while now. This time, with more Valki!

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There's so much interesting stuff here, it's so cool to see it all. Behold the Multiverse?! Super sweet stuff. Fitting this all into a Lurrus shell is also very interesting for sure. Brian's lists never cease to impress, and they always stand out from the crowd for sure.

Another Lurrus list that showed up was Mono White Death and Taxes/Hatebears.

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This list borrows some sweet tech from the more Modern D&T decks, utilizing Leonin Arbiter and Ghost Quarter to essentially have additional copies of Strip Mine in the deck. As such it's also playing Path to Exile for the sheer value, not to mention that basics tend to be in low supply in a lot of Vintage decks anyways.

In what really makes me giggle is RUG Eldraine Adventure Tribal. This deck is sweet.

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WICKED WOLF! QUESTING BEAST! Not to mention the slew of Adventure creatures like Bonecrusher Giant and Brazen Borrower. Also, a copy of The Royal Scions?! SICK.

Also showing up in this event is perennial favorite, Goblins!

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Goblins is such a sweet deck with some really powerful games. This deck can very easily have its own Vintage-esque turns by having the Conspicuous Snoop + Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker combo ready on Turn 1. It's really so super cool to see.

Be sure to check out the Mythic Society Twitter and see about joining their events! They're fun and casual and every Wednesday night at 7 PM EST.

Vintage Challenge 4/17

We had two Challenges this past weekend! The first of these events was the afternoon Saturday event. Thanks to the efforts of the Vintage Streamer's Discord we know this event had 69 players in it.

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

Let's take a look at the metagame breakdown.

Despite having a really big metagame share overall, the traditional Breach decks didn't actually have a very solid performance in the event. Both Doomsday and Jeskai Control did however, as we will see by the Top 8 below. Despite how popular the deck has been as of late, BUG did have a drop in this event which was very interesting to see.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Ravager Shops 1st WhiTe TsaR
Doomsday 2nd discoverN
Jeskai Control 3rd Amiracle
Ravager Shops 4th twinlesstwin
Jeskai Control 5th wambocMad
Oath of Druids 6th _INF_
Golos Combo Shops 7th yamakiller
4C Midrange 8th Kenzaburo

Interesting Top 8 for sure, with two archetypes in 4/8 of the decklists (5/8 if you count Combo Shops as a "Shops" deck for the purposes of archetypes). The only thing missing here was a Bazaar archetype, but Bazaar archetypes seemed to not perform as well in this particular event outside of the one player on the Horror One list. At the end of the event however, it was Ravager Shops that took it all down. 

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Plenty of cars going BEEP here. The power level of this deck is really straightforward and strong, and it pulls no punches. It's also great to see cards like Traxos, Scourge of Kroog showing back up, as that card is grossly powerful when you're able to continually untap it every turn.

The other finalist here is the perennial grand master of Doomsday, discoverN.

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This is pretty bread and butter stuff for the archetype, but when something works and works well you don't often spend much time changing the formula. The Library of Alexandria in the sideboard is certainly interesting given how little we see that card in the format as of late. I also love that these decks have continually done well staying in two colors. I think that is super interesting.

Also in the Top 8 we have a good friend of ours Amiracle on Jeskai Control!

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Hullbreacher main deck here seems incredibly powerful with cards like Dack Fayden. Since Hullbreacher replaces all draws outside of their draw step draw, if you use Dack's looting ability targeting your opponent with it, they end up having to discard two cards and you make two Treasure tokens. Seems super strong for sure.

Also in the Top 8 we had a showing by Oath!

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This is fairly stock Miharu Oath, with four Oko, and cards like Sylvan Library and Veil of Summer. Again, this formula seems to work well, so why change it? It's also worth noting that Wizards has from what we understand fixed the bug with Grafdigger's Cage and Oath, so at the very least it seems like the deck is playable without abusing the bugs.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we had a neat 4C Midrange list.

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Again the main deck Hullbreacher with Dack Fayden, but we also have some cards like Eternal Witness and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath hanging around as well. Seems like a fun and interesting list.

As far as BUG lists are concerned, I'm mentioning this one outside of the Top 32 because of one of the cards in it.

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Battle Mammoth. The end.

Vintage Challenge 4/18

Our second Challenge event of the weekend was the early morning Sunday affair, which had 55 players in it.

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

Ravager Shops overtook the metagame by a massive amount here, half over the amount of BUG Midrange decks in the event. This would go on to be sort of amusing, since BUG well... BUG bugged.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
BUG Midrange 1st Phill_Hellmuth
BUG Midrange 2nd HouseOfManaMTG
4C Midrange 3rd yoshiwata
PO Storm 4th ZYURYO
BUG Midrange 5th GGoggles
Death's Shadow 6th TrueHero
RUG Midrange 7th burrarun
Ravager Shops 8th medvedev

That's right... out of the five pilots in the event on the deck, 3/5 of them made it into the Top 8, and the finals of the event was a BUG v BUG (Martha!) slam fest, with Phill_Hellmuth coming out on top as the winner. Let's take a look at both lists.

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Both lists are relatively close in construction with only a few cards in difference. Phill's list opted to drop Narset out of the way in addition to having access to effects like Brazen Borrower, while the second place list wanted to have Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. This is one of the other nice things about these lists is that they're great for subtle customizations like that.

Also in the Top 8 we have Death's Shadow alumni TrueHero playing around with some new cards.

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Sedgemoor Witch seems really cool here. You're already casting a solid amount of spells enough that it's almost like it's Young Pyromancer for strictly Dimir based decks, and that alone makes it very interesting. Also Flusterstorm with that card seems absurdly gross.

Just outside of the Top 8 we have a sweet D&T/Hatebear list.

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Again, Luminarch Aspirant seems to be really good in these decks, but it's really the four Archon of Emeria that is the real backbone of the deck. Archon is a solid card with a real clock, and it makes these decks really strong.

Around the Web

  • Our good friend Justin Gennari posted some videos with some Strixhaven cards to check out!
  • MTGO User Amiracle put up a video with their run in the Saturday Vintage Challenge. Check that out over here!
  • Also it is worth noting that the Vintage Showcase Qualifier event is this coming Saturday! This event comprises of all the players who qualified for it via the Showcase Challenge events, and sofar based on who's qualified looks like is going to be a really wildly insane event!

The Spice Corner

Straight up Esper Vial in Vintage. Wild!

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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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