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Vintage 101: Death, Taxes, and Kitties

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 talking about various D&T-like decks in the format, primarily the ones that are playing Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a Companion. In addition to that we've got two Challenges to talk about as well as the Vintage Showcase Qualifier event from this past weekend.

Strap in, and let's get right to it!

Death and Cats

The unbanning of Lurrus of the Dream-Den opened up a lot of interesting space in Vintage, primarily in the area of decks that utilize the card Thalia, Guardian of Thraben as a backbone of the deck. Up until the past few years, the primary deck that played Thalia was White Eldrazi, but the advent of Lurrus and other powerful effects have allowed other decks to exist in this same space, giving the format a form of Death and Taxes-like variant.

As always, let's take a look at a list.

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There are multiple variants of these lists, both with Lurrus and without Lurrus, and the prime reason to not run the Nightmare Cat is namely on the back of the card Archon of Emeria. Choosing not to run this card is a big choice, but the power of Lurrus being able to recur cards is a very strong reason to play the Cat.

As we often like to do with these kinds of lists, let's deconstruct them down a little and talk about their base functionality.

Artifact Mana

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It's no surprise that this deck is running a large array of artifact mana. Being able to put Lurrus in hand on Turn One and deploy it with a combination of Moxen / Lands and Lotus is pretty powerful in of itself, but also lending the deck the ability to play a Turn One hatebear effect like Thalia is very good as well.

Taxing / Disruption Effects

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Taxing an opponent's spells and permanents is one big way this deck gets above other decks in the format, between Thalia putting pressure on spells and Kataki putting pressure on artifacts. In addition, Spirit of the Labyrinth taxes the opponent's ability to draw cards, which is very good against all of the decks playing blue (Ancestral Recall) and against decks playing Bazaar of Baghdad (unless the opponent is dredging).

Sometimes in these lists you will also see new card Sanctifier en-Vec, especially if decks like Dredge are doing well because of all the relevant text it has against the cards in that deck.

Mana Denial / Disruption

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Mana denial is also very big in this deck. The typical solutions of Strip Mine and Wasteland are also supplemented by the addition of a Modern D&T favorite in Leonin Arbiter, which places a tax on searching libraries and turns Ghost Quarter into another Strip Mine if the opponent can't pay the tax. It also helps that Arbiter is a 2/2 that can grow over time (see below).

Aggressive Threats + Removal

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Another core strategy of a D&T-like shell is removal and having a few threats to close the game out with. Since this deck is playing Lurrus, one of the best ways to abuse this aspect of the deck is Luminarch Aspirant. Aspirant gets very broken very quickly and can generate board states out of thin air. Furthermore, this deck has plenty of removal spells in both Path to Exile (not only great with Leonin Arbiter but also great versus a wide array of decks) and Leonin Relic-Warder, which mops up opposing artifacts well. As is common to many D&T-like lists, Mother of Runes ties together the protection aspect of the threat base, keeping creatures safe from opposing removal.


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Lurrus presents a unique aspect to the deck. Despite the Companion Rule change where you now have to pay 3 to put the Companion into your hand, Lurrus offers a strong effect to the deck, letting you rebuy mana accelerants like Black Lotus, or simply rebuying a creature that has died. Growing Lurrus with Luminarch Aspirant can also be incredibly strong due to the fact that it has lifelink.

I'm a little surprised that this list does not have a singleton copy of Walking Ballista for use with Lurrus actually. Sometimes this comes into play as even though you can only cast Ballista for X=1 (for a total CMC of 2) from the graveyard with Lurrus' ability, Luminarch Aspirant can grow the Ballista again and the combination of fast mana can be used to pump it as well. This is something to consider in metagames where there are creatures that need to be dealt with damage-wise, or by providing reach for killing the opponent in a late game scenario.

Vintage Challenge 8/21

We had two Challenge events over the weekend, the first of which was the Saturday event. Thanks to the efforts of the Vintage Streamer's Discord we know this event had 50 players in it.

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

The Blue Tinker decks have risen to the top here in this event, with a fairly solid performance as well. Rising right alongside it was Jeskai Control, which had a solid breakout weekend despite some subpar win rate in this particular event. That being said, PO was definitely the deck of this event that did the best, as we'll see by looking at the Top 8 here.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Paradoxical Outcome 1st NumotTheNummy
Paradoxical Outcome 2nd JOANANTON
Jeskai Control 3rd fr0z3nsun4
Blue Tinker 4th wambocombo2020
Blue Tinker 5th ReneRandrup
Paradoxical Outcome 6th moatzu
4C Midrange 7th ilulu
Golos Stax 8th crazeyr15

Quite a bit of PO as we alluded to, as well as some Tinker variants and Jeskai. At the end of the event it was a PO vs PO battle with none other than NumotTheNummy taking down the event!

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Pretty solid Esper PO variant list here, with both the Time Vault combo and Urza's Saga as well as Hullbreacher.

The other PO list in Second Place was also Esper PO!

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The big difference here is the complete lack of Saga, which is fine. I think that PO is a deck that can still very easily operate without the card. It's power lies in its engine and the individual card strength of its combo kills. In fact, much of this list is pretty old school PO, so it's super sweet to see it do well.

Down the Top 8 we've got an Esper Tinker variant.

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The Tinker variants all boast various strengths on the back of the individually powerful restricted cards they're all playing. The core of these decks is nearly the same across all the variants, just depending on what color is splashed (if any) outside of Blue and Black. Prismatic Ending showing up here in the sideboard in a big way for sure as a three of.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we've got the Kavu deck.

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This particular pilot has been one of the sole result holders of this deck and continues to really push this deck doing well in events. It's always nice to see hard work and consistent effort pay off.

Outside of the Top 8 we've got a unique take on the generic RUG Midrange deck by allowing it to board into Oath of Druids.

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Very unique concept and utilization of the transformational sideboard here. Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer is a hilarious Game One card when the opponent is prepping for removing it and you get to Oath in Griselbrand or Sphinx of the Steel Wind in post board.

Further down we've got our good friend Justin Gennari fiddling around with Fiddlebender.

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This list is actually pretty sweet. The Painter plan and new cards like Portable Hole aligning well with the Lurrus Companion plan is pretty solid.

Vintage Challenge 8/22

The other Challenge event of the weekend was the early morning Sunday event, which had 48 players in it thanks to the Vintage Streamer's Discord.

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

Blue Tinker was the most popular deck by a country mile here, but it was Jeskai that really shined. In fact, the Blue Tinker decks got really pushed down in win rates, while Jeskai soared.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Jeskai Control 1st discoverN
Jeskai Control 2nd WhiTe TsaR
Golos Stax 3rd Tsubasa Cat
RUG Midrange 4th Mogged
Jeskai Control 5th killersuv
Blue Tinker 6th bernardocssa
Golos Stax 7th johnsmith3373
Doomsday 8th bennybo

Speaking of Jeskai soaring, it was a Jeskai vs Jeskai fight in the finals with normal Doomsday player discoverN taking the top spot on the deck. Let's take a look at both lists.

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Fairly similar lists here between the two players. One thing that looked sweet in the Second Place list is the sideboard copy of Dress Down. That card has been seeing a lot more play in other formats and I think it has quite a bit of potential here as well. The floor of the card is already very high (pitches to Force, draws a card), but the upside is quite good.

Also in the Top 8 we have Golos Stax.

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This is a pretty standard Golos list. We continue to see how much these decks fear Doomsday with their sideboard construction (and for good reason as it is one of the worst matchups for the Shops decks).

At the bottom of the Top 8 we've got the "8-Cast" Tinker deck.

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I like this deck quite a bit. It has a lot of card draw action and a lot of power, which is something I really enjoy. Definitely a super fun looking deck.

Outside of the Top 8 we've got a sweet PO list.

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Coveted Jewel is pretty awesome. Ghostly Flicker is also pretty awesome. Phyrexian Metamorph?! Well, you know the drill.

Further down the Top 32 we have an even sweeter combo deck. Who's hungry for some Breakfast?!

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The Nomads en-Kor and Cephalid Illusionist combo are front and center here, with Flash + Protean Hulk able to assemble both halves PLUS Thassa's Oracle in play to win the game. The way this works is that you repeatedly target the Illusionist with the Nomads ability which mills you for 3 every time. Doing this with the Oracle trigger on the stack means you will just win the game on the spot. In Legacy, this deck is known as Cephalid Breakfast. Here? HULK SMASH BREAKFAST!

Vintage Showcase Qualifier 8/21

This past weekend was also the culmination of the last season of Premier Play with the Vintage Showcase Qualifier. This event was invite-only, with participants coming from Showcase Challenge Top 8's as well as LCQ finalists. There were 25 players in this event thanks to the data collected by the Vintage Streamer's Discord.

Unfortunately, Wizards has a track record of not submitting decklists for these events, but you can find the data sheet here.

With such a small field the metagame was bound to be pretty polarizing with plenty of deck specialists vs the players occupying the supposed "best deck" space, in this case Blue Tinker variants.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Jeskai Control 1st shir kahn
Blue Tinker 2nd zachattack23
Golos Stax 3rd Elfkid
BUG Midrange 4th Falkoneye
Blue Tinker 5th Capriccioso
Breach 6th twinlesstwin
Blue Tinker 7th Bryant_Cook
Golos Stax 8th juan89888

Blue Tinker had a heyday here with three copies in the Top 8, but the event was won by a good friend of ours in Nico Bohny on Jeskai Control! Congrats to Nico for his qualification into the MOCS! Nico tweeted out his decklist over here and I'll list it below.

Around the Web

  • Bryant Cook talks about his Top 8 in the Vintage Showcase Qualifier event. Check it out here.
  • Engwar01 started a series on YouTube called "A Tour of Vintage". Check that out here.
  • Our good friend Justin Gennari has a little Oswald Fiddlebender Painter for us. Check it out here.
  • Phil Gallagher took the "8-Cast" Blue Tinker variant for a spin. Check it out here.

The Spice Corner


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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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