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Vintage 101: City of Brass Man


Streamer Showcase

One of the fastest-growing segments of Magic: the Gathering content is streaming. People across the world broadcast themselves playing the world's oldest and best collectible card game to an eager audience of gamers and grinders alike. Wizards of the Coast loves the streaming phenomenon so much that they regularly hold "Streamer Showcases" where popular streamers draft a new set before the general public gets their hands on it. 

People watch Magic streamers for a variety of reasons. It's equal parts entertainment and education. The vicarious thrill of watching a match unfold on Twitch.tv can teach viewers a lot about how their favorite players play the game. Vintage is a format with a huge depth of strategy. Each turn is critical, and it can be difficult to navigate for those with little experience. For beginners and experts alike there is always something to be gained from watching a Vintage streamer. Whether it's the Vintage Super League or individual Vintage players streaming their matches. there are some things best learned from watching highly-skilled Vintage adepts sling virtual cardboard. 

Today I'd like to shine a spotlight on one of my favorite streamers, Andrew Probasco. Better known as "Brass Man" on The Mana Drain, Andrew has a storied Vintage career. He's placed second at Vintage Champs and performed well in many SCG Power Nine tournaments. He even had his own column on StarCityGames at one point. I frequently reference his material in the course of researching my own articles.

 

Four Deathrite Shamans visit Jace at the Bazaar...

 

Brass Man always strives to break the mold, and he prefers to play entertaining decks on stream. In the process of battling and brewing he has created and streamed some really interesting decks. I strive to feature unique and interesting decks in my articles, so I figured I'd show off some of his creative decks. The first one I'd like to talk about is Brass Man's take on Vintage Painter's Servant

Paint the Town Blue

When Thirst for Knowledge was released from the Restricted List, the Vintage queues online were flooded with Time Vault decks. In one of the first Daily Events in the four-Thirst era, Brass Man finished 4-0 with a deck featuring multiple copies of Thirst for Knowledge but no Time Vault. Instead, he chose to revive an old idea, the two-card combo of Painter's Servant and Grindstone. Activating a Grindstone with a Painter's Servant on the battlefield instantly erases someone's library, resulting in victory by decking.

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Much faster than Millstone...

Painter is a deck that is more common in Legacy, but it is still deadly in Vintage. Time Vault and Voltaic Key are cheaper and more popular in the format, but Painter's Servant offers its namesake deck a few advantages that Vault / Key does not. The most obvious advantage is that Painter's Servant and Grindstone are not restricted unlike Time Vault. Vintage Painter is free to play the optimal amount of its key combo components. 

Besides Grindstone, Painter decks play multiple copies of two cards that have a special synergy in the deck: Red Elemental Blast and Pyroblast. Combined with Painter's Servant, the Red Blasts can destroy any permanent or counter any spell. Thirst for Knowledge decks are, by necessity, heavy with artifacts. This reliance leaves the decks vulnerable to cards like Null Rod or Stony Silence. A Vintage Painter deck can potentially Blast away any such permanent and carry out its game plan. Many decks struggle to find room for main-deck artifact removal, and enchantment removal is almost always relegated to sideboard. Fortunately for the Painter pilot, they can deal with nearly any card an opponent can play.

Like all other Blue decks in Vintage, Painter decks run Force of Will. Another interesting aspect about playing with Painter's Servant is that if the chosen color for Painter is Blue, then lands can be used to pitch to Force of Will! Just beware that against decks with their own Pyroblasts, naming "Blue" for Painter's Servant can turn on their Blasts and Force of Wills as well. 

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Vintage Painter also gets to take advantage of the awesome power of Tinker and Yawgmoth's Will. The deck can perform many of the insane plays that a Grixis Time Vault deck can. You can Tinker for either half of the combo, and if that fails there's the old standby of cheating a Blightsteel Colossus into play. 

Gush and Thirst for Knowledge allow the Vintage Painter deck to aggressively draw cards and keep pace with the Gush-based aggro decks of the format. This area is one of the Painter's strengths. Many combo-control decks can't match the card-drawing velocity of a Monastery Mentor deck, which can cost them the match. 

Of course, the Painter's Servant deck does suffer from vulnerability to removal spells like Abrupt Decay, but it isn't more susceptible than any other deck. Still, Vintage Painter exists on the periphery of the format and it is a somewhat fringe deck. Like many other rogue decks Painter is undoubtedly potent and not heavily metagamed against. The deck has put up decent finishes both online and off, and I'd recommend the archetype to anyone looking for untapped potential. 

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Stay Thirsty, my Friends...

Tendrils and Monks

What do you get when you cross a Monk and a Tornado? Monastery Mentor-Storm! At first glance putting a creature like Monastery Mentor in a Storm deck seems a little off. The more I think about it the more sense it makes. Both Mentor and Tendrils of Agony reward you for playing as many cards as you possibly can, and the high spell count is perfect for Monastery Mentor. TPS decks have always been full of must-counter bombs — cards so dangerous that their resolution ends in a victory for their controller. Monastery Mentor is just one more bomb that must be countered. 

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The majority of this list is the normal kind of stuff you'd see in a TPS deck. As luck would have it, all of those TPS cards trigger Mentor. The major advantage is Mentor gives the deck a very solid plan for victory if the Tendrils of Agony win isn't possible.  Monastery Mentor is much like the traditional "Plan B" of including Tinker and Blightsteel Colossus, which was once widely employed in Vintage Storm decks. Unlike Blightsteel Colossus, Monastery Mentor doesn't have to be cheated into play, and it doesn't have to be followed up by a Time Walk to ensure victory. Old Blightsteel is a scary robot, but with Dack Fayden running around it isn't always safe to pass the turn after Tinkering up your Bot.

Like all non-mainstream decks, Mentor Storm has surprise factor going for it. Depending on which cards an opponent sees in game one, they might sideboard incorrectly or choose to keep a hand they shouldn't have. This situation actually happened to me in my first ever Vintage Daily Event. I saw a Monastery Mentor in the first game, so I sideboarded as if I was facing a Mentor deck. I ended up losing to a Tendrils of Agony in a few turns because I was completely unprepared for a Storm-kill. 

If you like Mentor decks, or Storm decks, I'd give this list a try. It's a ton of fun to play, whether you have a broken opening hand or an early horde of Monk tokens. 

Indecent Ascendancy

Khans of Tarkir block has had a large impact on every format in Magic. In non-rotating formats there were the Delve spells like Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise. Eventually they got banned from Modern and Legacy, but not before they made an indelible mark on the collective Magic psyche. One card in particular was once heralded as the harbinger of doom for the beloved Modern format: Jeskai Ascendancy. Skilled brewers immediately latched onto the combo potential of the tri-colored enchantment, and indeed there were Ascendancy combo decks in every format. Vintage was no exception, and it too had a deck based on Jeskai Ascendancy, albeit a somewhat fringe deck. 

This deck was never widely-played, but it had some serious game. For the most part Vintage Ascendancy plays like a normal Young Pyromancer deck, but upon resolution of a Jeskai Ascendancy the deck quickly spirals out of control. Just like the Modern Ascendancy deck, the Vintage build relied on Fatestitcher to combo off. It used the untap trigger from Ascendancy on Fatestitcher to allow the player to make mana each time a spell was cast. Once the deck started comboing off, Young Pyromancer would create an ever-growing army of tokens. Victory was achieved through either an army of tokens or an arbitrarily-large Young Pyromancer or Fatestitcher.

One of the greatest strengths of the deck was it could play the role of a Gush aggro deck very well. Other than Fatestitcher and Jeskai Ascendancy the deck was comprised of a typical Gush aggro shell; cantrips, Young Pyromancer, Gush, and Force of Will. Much like the Mentor Storm deck it was possible to win a game with this deck without playing any combo cards, which led opponents to sideboard incorrectly. 

Since the restriction of Dig Through Time, Vintage Jeskai Ascendancy combo has all but vanished from the format. Dig enabled the deck to find key spells for a nominal mana investment, a feat not currently replicated by any other unrestricted Vintage card. Perhaps some day someone will figure out a way to make this combo work again. 

White Tiny Robots

Occasionally Brass Man plays Mishra's Workshop decks, but more often than not the decks aren't the typical Shops builds you see every day. Sometimes he plays the "Tiny Robots" deck, a version of Workshop Aggro reminiscent of Modern Affinity. 

This deck here is a mash up of a Tiny Robots deck and Hatebears. With all of the colored spells and creatures, Mishra's Workshop had to be dropped. There's still a few Ancient Tombs, a Tolarian Academy, and plenty of mana artifacts. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Phyrexian Revoker are classic Hatebears that are great at disrupting opponents.

The point of this list is to keep your opponent on their back foot so that they can't stop the creature rush. Cards like Tangle Wire and Wasteland give the deck a big tempo boost by temporarily crippling opponents. This delay paves the way for the most mana-efficient creature in the format to bring the pain.

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It's great to see Memnite get its moment in the sun, pounding on opponents while wearing a Cranial Plating or just being fed to a Skullclamp. At zero mana, the thing is just a beast. Don't be surprised when people blow a removal spell on the little artifact creature.

If you're interested in a Hatebears-type strategy you might enjoy playing Tiny White Robots. This is a relatively new and experimental deck, so it might be better to play a more mainstream version of Hatebears before attempting to play this. 

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Field of Streams

Of all the featured decks I think Painter's Servant is the best-suited to be a contender in the current Magic Online metagame. The deck has a recent Top Eight finish in one of the Power Nine Challenge formats. It has many of the aspects that make Grixis decks so powerful. A close second would be the Mentor Storm deck, but with Workshops taking over the top spot in the online metagame, Storm Combo may have to fight an uphill battle. One thing is certain, all of the featured decks are not widely played, so picking one and becoming skilled with it will earn you some wins due to utilizing an unexpected strategy.

If you find any of the featured decks interesting, or if you're just interested in watching some killer Vintage streams, check out TMDBrassMan's Twitch channel. If you see me in the chat room, feel free to say hello. 

There are a few other Vintage streamers I enjoy watching. Vintage Super League Member Rich Shay has been streaming Vintage for a few months, and I recommend CafeCafe's Twitch Channel as well. Any of these people are entertaining to watch, and you can learn a lot about the way people navigate a match. 

In the last few months there has been increased Vintage activity on Magic Online. The Power Nine Challenge tournaments seem to have spurred additional players to pick up the format and I couldn't be more happy about that. If you're one of the people who have recently started playing Vintage but aren't yet ready to jump into a Daily Event or Power Nine Challenge, there's a player-run Vintage event series you can try. It's completely free to join, and there's prize support generously donated by Card Hoarder. If you'd like to check out the event, here's a link to the post on TMD. I've played in a few of these and they're a ton of fun. They're not just for beginners either; I've ran into some really talented players in those events. 

Thanks for joining me this week, I hope you check out some Vintage streamers and show your support for the format! You can follow me on Twitter @josephfiorinijr Islandswamp on MTGO


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