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Vintage 101: Dack Fayden vs. the World

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host Joe Dyer and this week we're diving into the format yet again with a look at the current crop of Vintage playable planeswalkers and how they stack up against each other! That's right, it's DACK FAYDEN VS THE WORLD!

Now that we've got the pop culture references out of the way, let's first talk about a brief history of Planeswalkers in Vintage.

A History of the Walker Menace

Planeswalkers were first introduced to the world of Magic in the set Lorwyn where there was a monocolored Planeswalker at rare for each color. While these Planeswalkers seemed interesting and powerful, they didn't generate much interest to eternal formats. Garruk Wildspeaker and Jace Beleren seemed interesting enough, but there was nothing truly good for Vintage and even Legacy. It didn't take long however for a powerful playable Planeswalker to appear. Shards of Alara introduced a new and powerful option in Tezzeret the Seeker.

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Part of what made Tezzeret so powerful and insane was the fact that it came about during a perfect storm of things happening in Magic. One of those important things was the fixing of the errata of the card Time Vault. Time Vault has had a long and perilous history of functional and power level errata over the years (to the point where there is an actual article detailing how many changes the card went through that you can read here). But in 2008 when Shards of Alara was released, the card was fixed to its original wording, making it ultimately one of the most powerful artifacts in the format, and one that Tezzeret could fetch immediately at -2 upon entering the battlefield. Tezzeret would go on to define Vintage for some time as one of the more powerful options available in the format. Most of the other Planeswalkers printed during this time were pretty lackluster in Vintage, and it wasn't until the Zendikar block and the set Worldwake that the format would receive another powerful (and very blue) option in the form of Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

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While Jace is now infamous for the Planeswalker that got banned in Standard and is widely considered to be one of the most powerful Planeswalkers ever printed, the card slid quite nicely into the power range of Vintage as a playable option that continues to see play to this day. The next walker that would impact the format would come from a very interesting place. Conspiracy, released in 2014, was a multiplayer draft product that also aimed to print cards for Legacy/Vintage play at the same time. This set introduced a character that has been widely regarded as one of the more popular (and unfortunately now dead) Planeswalker characters. The Greatest Thief in the Multiverse - Dack Fayden.

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Dack provided multiple avenues of card selection and the ability to steal artifacts which are of course... a big part of the Vintage format. In fact, Dack was so powerful for a long time that he was playable even over Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

The next five years would bring the occasional interesting Planeswalker here or there (from Chandra, Torch of Defiance to Teferi, Hero of Dominaria) but it was this year's War of the Spark that brought in new and powerful options.

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The Power of Planeswalkers

One of the things I wanted to do with this article was to rank the various playable Planeswalkers in the format by a power ranking, but I found that it was very contextual to give hard rankings. Instead I came up with a tier system that focused more on the influence the Planeswalker card currently has in the format. I defined this system as such:

  • S Tier - Planeswalkers in this category are so powerful that they enable an entire archetype or set of archetypes to exist and be competitive. They are the very reason the deck is played.
  • A Tier - Planeswalkers in this category see play in a number of consistent archetypes across the format and are generally played at least as 3-of's.
  • B Tier - Planeswalkers in this category see play in a few archetypes, but their effects are generally reduced to 1 to 2-of's. (With notable exception)
  • C Tier - Planeswalkers in this category see play in exactly a single archetype.
  • D Tier - Planeswalkers in this category see play as either sideboard cards or see play in existing archetypes as niche fun-of type strategies.

There is one Planeswalker that didn't make any of these current tiers, and that is because the card feels too new to evaluate properly. Wrenn and Six is certainly a powerful and interesting card, but I didn't feel comfortable assigning it a ranking in one of these tiers because there simply isn't enough data available to say what this card is doing or is capable of doing in the format as of yet. However, the card does feel pretty strong and I expect we'll revist this list at some point with them on it.

S Tier - Karn, the Great Creator

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This should come as little surprise. The effect that Karn has had on Vintage overall is a massive one, enabling several new archetypes to develop (including Eldrazi based builds, Stax based builds, and Brass City Vault) and has influenced the format in such a way that not many other walkers have. While Karn decks can certainly be beaten, the card offers a powerful asymmetric hate effect while acting as a tutor for silver bullet cards and win conditions both. The fact alone that Karn has allowed many different archetypes to flourish and appear shows the card's impact and is definitely deserving of this status.

A Tier - Dack Fayden, Narset Parter of Veils

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Both Dack and Narset are at a step below Karn, but they're still among the best Planeswalkers in the Vintage format right now. Dack has never really ceased being powerful, combining card selection and fueling of delve spells with a control effect that is good versus decks running Mishra's Workshop (see Karn, above) and his ultimate pairs well with Xerox decks casting spells like Pyroblast and Monastery Mentor. Narset, on the other hand, has certainly influenced how blue decks are attempting to fight each other (and conveniently she pairs pretty well with Dack Fayden and his + ability) that she is showing up in nearly every blue-based deck in the format and has become a consistent performing card in the format overall.

B Tier - Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Karn, Scion of Urza

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These cards are obviously very powerful cards in context, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor is still one of the more powerful Planeswalkers in existence, but these cards are seeing less play these days than the Planeswalkers above. Despite the fact that Karn, Scion of Urza is seeing play in some of the Karn decks, that is still really the only place the card is seen for his additional effect. Occasionally this card saw play in PO Storm as a sideboard card as well. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is certainly still seeing a level of play, but mainly in BUG Midrange lists and primarily as a 1-of. Even when the powerful walker does appear as of late it has been mainly as a 1-of. Finally, while not a *true* Planeswalker in the traditional sense, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy does still continue to be a pretty powerful option for the format, but not quite on the level of the A Tier Planeswalkers.

C Tier - Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Tezzeret the Seeker, Teferi, Time Raveler

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The walkers in this category see some play but generally in a single archetype type. Tezzeret the Seeker, once the stalwart savior of the Vintage format, as the mighty have fallen so has Tezz's influence in the format overall. Still, occasionally he crops up from time to time in combo focused archetypes involving Time Vault and Blightsteel Colossus + Tinker. Chandra, Torch of Defiance is a popular card for Mono Red Prison strategies as she is a kill condition that can win through Ensnaring Bridge, but these days that position has been taken up by Karn. Teferi (3 mana Teferi) on the other hand, can be viable in decks like Landstill, where a resolved Teferi and Standstill forces the opponent to have to crack the Standstill on their own turn which is better card advantage for the Landstill player.

D Tier - Arlinn Kord, Ashiok, Dream Render, Saheeli, Sublime Artificer, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

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Mainly walkers in this list are generally either sideboard playables (like Ashiok) or are super fringe (like Saheeli). Arlinn Kord is of some note as it has seen play in Oath of Druids lists popularized by Brian Kelly and occasionally still pops up from time to time within the archetype. One of the farthest fallen of this list is Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, who seemed to be pretty powerful and playable given that he worked very well with cards like Mana Drain and Dig Through Time, but his advantage is now eclipsed heavily by Narset, and being in two colors at 5 mana is pretty rough to get on the board. Still, these Planeswalkers are fun options and in the case of cards like Ashiok can be good sideboard options for beating various strategies.


Honorable Mention - Wrenn and Six

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As stated before, we don't have a whole lot of data yet surrounding this card, but it is certainly a powerful card and I do feel like it will become a good part of the format longer term. That being said, here's a decklist featuring the card prominently.

Vintage Challenge 6/22

We had another Vintage Challenge this past weekend, so let's get right to the data!

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
BUG Midrange 1st Condescend
UW Xerox 2nd LittleDarwin
Dredge 3rd Shadaro
Dreadhorde Control 4th GeekyJackson
Brass City Vault 5th Ecobaronen (Andreas Petersen)
BUG Midrange 6th Svaca
UW Xerox 7th Johnni
Dredge 8th La_Biscia

This Top is relatively interesting, with a few different decks representing and only one colorless based deck in the form of Brass City Vault (by Ecobaronen). This is an interesting reversal of a few weeks ago when colorless decks were all over the format and one of the big reasons I see for this is Modern Horizons and Force of Vigor. It is definitely well known by now that FoV has had a far greater impact on Vintage's power balance than mostly any other card released this year even including Karn itself. The card has allowed decks that were previously missing tools to deal with Shops based decks the tools to do so, and that in of itself makes it exceptionally interesting.

Taking 1st place is Condescend on BUG Midrange. Let's take a look at their list!

As always we see the split between main and sideboard Force of Vigor. This is starting to become the more common configuration of this card in the BUG lists, and of course there is the presence of Tarmogoyf in the deck that is pretty strong. Goyf is powerful in the format I feel, much more powerful than people give it credit for, since it can attack and block through most of the Eldrazi and Survival creatures. This list is great. Congrats, Condescend!

Also showing up in the Top 8 is a Dredge list that is kind of a mash between Pitch Dredge and the HogaakDredge variant that has popped up by username Shadaro.

The construction of this list is interesting to me, but I'm still not sure we have seen the utmost appropriate version of Dredge to be running right now. It might take some time to arrive there, especially once London Mulligan goes live on Magic Online. A similar list to this one also placed 8th, so there is that.

Further down the Top 32, we have an amusing Mono Blue build with Urza, Lord High Artificer and Ensoul Artifact?!

Also down the Top 32 in 12th place is a Survival build playing FOUR Hogaak, the Arisen Necropolis!

And finally we have a Turbo Depths strategy down the Top 32 as well, playing a full four Force of Vigor across the main and side.

All in all, this event seemed to be pretty interesting actually. There is a lot going on in the format right now, and it will be interesting to further see how the London Mulligan and Core 2020 will be impacting it. Rest assured we'll be covering it in depth to get a good feel for the format as it continues to evolve!

What I'm Playing This Week

I've been back on the Ravager Shops plan as of late and having some fun with it. This is probably what I will stream at some point because I am enjoying the more aggressive slanted focus. I'm also interested in trying out the variants with Fleetwheel Cruiser at some point as well.

The Spice Corner

Brian Kelly bringing us a little bit of spice with a definitely intriguing Standstill list.

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! It seems like we're in perpetual spoiler season these days, because next week will by my Vintage set review for Core 2020! This set looks excessively interesting, and we'll be discussing what may be possibly Vintage playable then. Should be exciting times!

As always, you can catch me on Twitter, Twitch, and Patreon! I'm going to be getting back to streaming a little bit in the coming weeks so be on the lookout for that, and feel free to always hit me up if you like what I do and want to help support my content ventures! And of course, I'm always around the MTGGoldfish Discord server if you just want to say hi or chat!

Until next time folks, have a great weekend!

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