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Vintage 101: Conspiracy Theory


 

Vintage Conspiracy Theories

Lodestone Golem knew too much, and it took the fall for the real perpetrator, GushWrath of God will be reprinted a million times, but they're never reprinting Damnation as a massive trolling of the entire Magic community! Both of those statements are completely false of course, but they make for tantalizing conspiracy theories. As much as I love a good work of fiction, I find factual information much more interesting and relevant. And the fact of the matter is the sequel to the wildly popular multiplayer draft set Conspiracy is being released soon, and it is full of some really sweet cards. 

A few important reprints have been announced, and several of the brand-new cards that have been spoiled are going to make waves in eternal formats. This week's Vintage 101 is going to look at some of the gems that Conspiracy: Take the Crown will be bringing us. 

Reprints

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Berserk, Burning Wish, and Show and Tell are all going to be lurking in Conspiracy draft pods across the globe. All three have seen Vintage play, although they're not especially popular at this time. Still, these cards are a nice bonus to have in a set that is primarily a casual draft format. 

There are other reprints that have the community buzzing, namely Inquisition of Kozilek. You can't hit a Gush with Inquisition though and that unfortunately makes it irrelevant to today's savvy Vintage aficionado. Obviously not every card that people would have liked to see made it into the set, but all in all I think Wizards did a great job. 

Reprints are great in their own right, but the really exciting thing about Conspiracy: Take the Crown is that Vintage players are getting some new toys to play with. 

Sanctum of the Void

 

Games of Vintage are often played in compressed time frames compared to Modern or Standard. Games last for a shorter duration of time than in other formats, but each turn is actually more complex and involves large decision trees. Fast mana and efficient spells are the culprits here; cards like Ancestral RecallBrainstorm, and the like are cheap and they have a profound effect on games in which they're cast. 

In order to compete with the rest of the format, many decks are packed with cards at zero or one mana. This setup allows these decks to have relevant plays early on and on each subsequent turn. In the past, Vintage deck builders could choose to exploit this homogeneity of converted mana costs by running Chalice of the Void. Playing Chalice was common for Workshop pilots, but the card also did tremendous work for everything from Junk Humans, to Hatebears, to Merfolk. 

Sanctum Prelate is quite different than Chalice of the Void, but I feel that there's enough of a similarity to warrant a comparison. Both Prelate and Chalice can be used strategically in a known metagame to exploit an opposing deck's reliance on spells at a specific mana cost. For example, much of the time Workshop pilots would simply play a Chalice of the Void with one counter to negate the plethora of one-mana cantrips that a large portion of the field relies on. Chalice is most often set to zero or one, with higher settings utilized less frequently. Sanctum Prelate can perform a reasonable impression of a Chalice of the Void on one or two.

Sanctum Prelate always costs three mana to play though, which means that it's less efficient for negating zero or one mana spells. The beauty is that the Prelate can be set to any number for the exact same mana investment. You're never realistically going to have enough mana to stop someone from casting Gush or Force of Will with Chalice of the Void, but this is a completely viable play with Sanctum Prelate. It's truly incredible that this card allows you to stop your opponent from casting vital spells of any mana cost for the small investment of three mana. 

Another difference between Chalice and Prelate is that Sanctum Prelate only affects non-creature spells. This is a double-edged sword, but I'm sure that most of the time it will be beneficial. Sanctum Prelate will probably be a utilized in any Hatebears-style deck that can reasonably cast a three-mana double-white spell. In a White Trash deck, for example, you could use Prelate to shut off your opponent's removal without hindering your board development.

Sanctum Prelate will also reward players for knowing the metagame well. A player with a better understanding of which cards are important to specific matchups should be able to leverage the power of Sanctum Prelate. On the flip side, playing a Prelate set to a suboptimal number is pretty much a complete waste, and it could easily cost someone a game or match. 

What kind of deck would make a good home for this pseudo-Chalice on legs? Let's take a look at a deck that might consider adding a Sanctum Prelate

Bazaar of Baghdad's Esper Fish deck is an interesting brew that seems like the offspring of a BUG Fish and a White Eldrazi deck. Spell Queller is getting some love in this list, and there's also a single copy of the restricted beauty, Chalice of the Void

This deck obviously wants a Chalice effect, so making space for more seems like a reasonable idea. This list doesn't need a lot of one-drops, so it's easy to use a Chalice on one to hinder an opponent. There's a card that this deck would love to disrupt that Chalice of the Void can't touch, and that's Supreme Verdict. The deck plays Meddling Mage which could be used to stop an uncounterable spell like Supreme Verdict, but Meddling Mage seems less versatile than Sanctum Prelate. Prelate can be used to stop a specific spell and anything else with the same mana cost.  

My Verdict

I'm no Nostradamus, but I predict that Sanctum Prelate will see a lot of play. It really seems like there are a lot of hatebears being played in Vintage these days, whether it's in dedicated decks or splashed into divergent strategies. The effect that Chalice of the Void has had on Vintage, in both its presence and its absence, is palpable. Sanctum Prelate isn't a turn one play in the same way that Chalice often was, but the 2/2 body and greater flexibility is likely to make it a format staple. 

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Imperial Recruiter of the Guard

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Imperial Recruiter has been a very expensive Legacy card for a long time, but it's not really a Vintage card. In Vintage we've got Demonic Tutor for stuff we really need, and even Demonic Consultation or Vampiric Tutor. If Recruiter of the Guard was just a functional reprint of Imperial Recruiter, I wouldn't even be writing about it. 

Recruiter of the Guard isn't a functional reprint though. It's white for starters, and it tutors for creatures with toughness 2 or less, not power. These attributes mean that Recruiter of the Guard will have to be utilized in different types of decks. There aren't a lot of Vintage decks that would really want this effect, but there are some. 

The likeliest home for Recruiter of the Guard would be in a Hatebears deck. Most Hatebears decks are mono-white or heavily based in that color. Recruiter of the Guard could be used in a toolbox-style hatebears deck. You could tutor for the perfect answer to what your opponent was playing for a small investment, and you'd be adding another body to the battlefield at the same time. 

Recruiter of the Guard plays very well with another popular card in contemporary Vintage, Eldrazi Displacer. With a Displacer on the battlefield, you can blink your Recruiter over and over again to create card advantage. Many aggro/prison decks lack a card-drawing engine, so it can be useful to have access to the Recruiter/Displacer combo. 

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Some people are already playing Eldrazi Displacer with Containment Priest for the interaction that they have. If you're also playing with Recruiter of the Guard you could use it to assemble the Displacer/Priest combo. Conveniently enough you can also search up Sanctum Prelate with Recruiter of the Guard

My Verdict

I think that people will try Recruiter of the Guard in Vintage, but I'm not sure if it will take off. In a fully-powered deck with sol-lands I could see the Recruiter being a good addition, but without a lot of mana you're taking an entire turn to play a 1/1 and essentially draw a card. In Vintage we have one-mana draw-three's; a three-mana draw-one doesn't seem as enticing. 

Vintage players have had access to Imperial Recruiter for a long time, and it's not being played. That suggests to me that this is an effect people aren't looking for currently. 

Daretti or Not, here I come!

Black and red was a favorite color combination of mine when I was a youngster, so having a new Rakdos planeswalker gets my inner child excited. I've always loved artifacts as well, and much like his predecessor from the Commander supplemental products, this Daretti is full of artifact synergies. Will Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast become a Vintage staple? Let's take a look. 

In a way the new Daretti reminds me of Dack Fayden. Dack was a three-mana planeswalker that didn't quite fit anywhere besides Vintage, and as time went on he became a cornerstone of many successful archetypes. Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast costs three like Dack, which is a great casting cost for planeswalkers in general. At three mana, a 'walker can come down early and begin to provide an incremental advantage. The downside of Daretti's mana cost is that it's red and black instead of blue and something else. The harsh truth is that blue is an extremely important color in Vintage. Being red and black doesn't preclude Daretti from consideration in a Vintage deck, but it's vital to consider that casting him could be a bit clunky at times. There's a reason that Badlands isn't a very popular dual land after all. 

Daretti can protect himself somewhat with his first ability, and that's often the benchmark of a successful planeswalker. The first ability creates an artifact creature token, so it plays well with Tinker, Tolarian Academy, and even Goblin Welder. Spitting out a 1/1 token each turn isn't the most powerful ability a planeswalker could have, but it plays well with the rest of abilities that Daretti has.

When you combine the first and second ability, Daretti can protect itself proactively. Daretti can destroy a creature or an artifact, which has applications in pretty much every matchup there is. Presumably you'd be using Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast in a deck with Black Lotus, all the Moxen, Mana Crypt, and Sol Ring, so you wouldn't always have to +1 your Daretti to use it's second ability. You could simply sacrifice an superfluous Moxen or a Mana Crypt, about to kill you, to take out your opponent's Griselbrand or Time Vault

The type of artifact-laden deck that Daretti would be at home in is typically very vulnerable to Null Rod. Fortunately Daretti can answer a Null Rod just fine. It's fantastic that Daretti can get around Null Rod, but he can also do some broken things through a Grafdigger's Cage as well. 

The ultimate ability on Daretti is remarkable, although planeswalkers generally have incredible ultimate abilities. For six loyalty, you can make three Clone tokens of any artifact in play or in any graveyard. The possibilities of what you could do with this ultimate are incredible. Grixis control decks or Control Slaver variants often use large and powerful artifacts or artifact creatures to abuse with Tinker or Goblin Welder. Daretti can perform similar tricks, and he does so in triplicate. Imagine making three token copies of any of the following cards:

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Copying any of these behemoths three times should take over a game. Lodestone Golem might seem like an odd card to copy, but remember you can copy your opponent's cards. I also wonder if a colored Mishra's Workshop deck could become relevant again. Playing a Rakdos or Grixis Stax deck with Mishra's Workshop, Goblin Welder, and Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast would be very powerful if you were able to balance it correctly. While this might seem like a bit of a stretch, there is some precedent for a colored deck with Workshops. Daretti might find a home in a deck similar to this brew by vaughnbros14.

My Verdict

I believe that Daretti could easily be a big player in Vintage in the near future. The only thing that really stands in the way of Daretti being an all-star is the issue of Gush strategies in Vintage. If a deck built around the new planeswalker is to succeed, it will have to be able to survive the card-drawing and horde of token creatures that a Gush deck will spit at it. It can be very difficult to keep a planeswalker alive when you're being attacking by several creatures a turn, and since Daretti can only give himself one loyalty counter a turn, he could be slowly killed by as few as two or three attacking tokens. 

I'm really hopeful that Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast will inspire some interesting new decks, because it sure looks like it will make for some interesting games. 

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So Long, and Thanks for all the BUG Fish

When Leovold was spoiled, I immediately thought of BUG Fish. Whether or not Leovold is right for that deck remains to be seen, but it certainly is in the correct colors. Honestly I'm thinking that Leovold, Emissary of Trest won't make BUG Fish suddenly tier one again, but it is a very strong card. 

As I mentioned earlier, Vintage is largely based on cheap cantrips. Many decks in the current meta want or need to play a cantrip on the first turn, and most likely they'll play them on subsequent turns to ensure they hit lands drops and find the proper spells. Leovold makes every cantrip your opponent plays worthless, much like a Spirit of the Labyrinth or Chalice of the Void would, but it doesn't affect your own spells. Playing with Spirit of the Labyrinth means that you have to give up the power that the blue card-draw spells provide. Leovold is a one-sided effect, and that should allow you to out-draw your opponent until they're able to remove it. 

If and when your opponent does decide to bump off Leovold, Emissary of Trest, you'll at least be drawing an extra card out of the deal. If you manage to counter the removal spell targeting Ol' Leo, you're still going to get an extra card. It's very difficult for an opponent to remove your Leovold and remain at parity because all targeted removal will cause you to draw a card. 

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If your opponent is playing Cabal Therapy or Tendrils of Agony, they're really going to hate you if you resolve Leovold, Emissary of Trest. Each time they go to strip a card from your hand, they're losing a point of card advantage and potentially putting another counterspell in your hand. If you're being targeted with a lethal Tendrils of Agony, the Emissary of Trest will help you draw cards until you find that Mindbreak Trap

With all of the great abilities that Leovold, Emissary of Trest has, it's easy to overlook he's a very solid 3/3 for three mana. In Vintage getting three different colors of mana to cast a spell isn't all that difficult, and the body on this creature is perfectly serviceable. I've seen some people question the efficacy of this creature because it's a three-mana spell, but I think it's cheap enough to be relevant against a Storm deck. In a Sultai-colored deck with Deathrite Shaman, this card can be a turn-two play much of the time. Turn three is the magic turn for Gush decks, so the converted mana cost of three should be fine. 

My Verdict

I'm sure that Leovold will see play, the real question is whether it will become a staple in a BUG Fish list, or will it spawn its own original brew. Using Leovold in BUG Fish to slow down your Gush-playing opponent would be fine, but it might just be better to play your own Gush deck with Leovold, Emissary of Trest as a trump in the blue mirror match. Gush is just such a great card that it's silly not to be playing it most of the time. 

 

Wrap-Up

Conspiracy: Take the Crown will add some real game-changers to the Vintage card pool. Last time around we got Dack Fayden, and it seems like Wizards of the Coast have outdone themselves. There are even more cards that could be relevant beyond the ones that I discussed in this article, but I chose to write about the new cards that I think have the best shot at being successful in Vintage. If there's a card from the set that I didn't include that you think will be relevant, let me know in the comments. 

That's all the time I have for today, I'll see you in seven days! You can follow me on Twitter @josephfiorinijr - Islandswamp on MTGO

 


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