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Vintage 101: Eternal Extravaganza Six!

Eternal Extravaganza Six

This past weekend was Eternal Extravaganza 6 held in Baltimore, Maryland. For those of you who don't know what it is, Eternal Extravaganza is just about the coolest tournament series around these days. The two-day events feature large Legacy and Vintage events, and the Vintage events allow 15 play-test cards for the crowd that doesn't have a fully-powered collection. Although I have yet to make it to one of these events myself I will say that I have heard nothing but positive comments about the events, and they draw some of the best eternal format players in the eastern United States. 

The Vintage event featured a Top Eight that was stacked with skilled competitors. There were some really cool decks as well, even though six decks out of the Top Eight were based around Gush

Eternal Extravaganza Six - Top 8
Nicholas Dijohn Ravager Shops
Hank Zhong Mentor
Jeremy Beaver Hydra Gush
Charlie Welsch Ravager Shops
Joe Brennan Mentor
Michael Herbig Mentor
Roland Chang Mentor
Jonathan Suarez Mentor


Mishra's Hit and Run Holiday

Nicholas Dijohn won the Vintage event with his latest build of Ravager Shops. Between hasty vehicles, hungry Ravagers, and machine-gun Walking Ballistas, this deck is both extremely aggressive and very controlling. Bogging your opponent down for even a turn or two is often enough to get in some serious damage, and the potential for a Ballista/Ravager combo kill looms at any time. 

Dijohn has a ton of Top Eight finishes with Workshop decks, and I'm glad to see he managed to take the Vintage event down. I had the pleasure of meeting Nicholas at the Waterbury last year, and I have to say this tournament couldn't have been won by a nicer guy. Keep up the good work!

Crushing Gush

Ryan Eberhart did a breakdown of the event on and it looks like Gush was the most popular deck of the day. When the room is full of Gush it's really not a surprise to see the mana-taxing decks like Workshops rise to the top. The Top Eight had six Gush decks, so I fully expected to see things play out the way they did. If Gush decks continue to be such a large part of the metagame I suspect the perceived dominance of the taxing decks will continue.

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Sylvan Library Mentor

In second place was Hank Zhong with Sylvan Mentor. This particular build of Gush/Mentor isn't as popular lately as it was a ways back, but this second-place finish shows that it is still very good. 

Compared to many of the contemporary Mentor decks with Stony Silence, Sylvan Mentor runs a more expansive mana base with sixteen lands and the full five Moxen. The extra mana sources can help against mana taxing decks. Playing your moxen for more than zero mana isn't glamorous, but it can sometimes help you build up enough mana to play your sideboard cards on a subsequent turn. 

The downside to playing off-color moxen is that it means the list has more dead draws against other Gush decks. Typically these decks are able to function with very few lands, and drawing fewer mana sources creates "virtual card advantage." Sylvan Mentor tries to make up for this somewhat by playing Sylvan Library and planeswalkers like Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Dack Fayden. Sylvan Library can be utilized to aggressively draw cards as the life loss will often be inconsequential. With fetch lands Sylvan is even better and it can be used to create both virtual and actual card advantage.

The planeswalkers offer a similar kind of permanent-based card advantage with the added benefit of offering a versatile range of important abilities. Typically looting and Brainstorming are the most-utilized modes, but it is nice to have the option to cast Unsummon and Steal Artifact when you need to! 

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Sylvan Mentor is possibly my favorite Mentor builds of the last year or so because it has a wide range of cards available to it. Dipping into a fourth color (green) means that the deck can support great cards like Ancient Grudge and (of course) Sylvan Library, and that adds a lot of interesting lines of play. Sylvan in particular is an old favorite of mine, and it can do some serious work in contemporary Vintage. Unfortunately Sylvan Library also carries the risk of entering the battlefield and being destroyed before it can do anything, but in reality the same can be said for many cards people still play. 

When a deck has a strong finish it often sees an uptick in play immediately afterwards. I certainly think that we'll see more people pick up Sylvan Mentor in the near future too, as it has shown it still has plenty of gas left in the tank! 

The Beaver's Gush Deck

Long before Monastery Mentor and Young Pyromancer there was a popular green creature in Gush decks called Quirion Dryad. When Magic Origins was spoiled there was a card that seemed to be the second coming of the Dryad, but it never really took off. Managorger Hydra seemed like this incredible card that just wasn't quite as good as the token-generating horizontal-growth creatures that were available in the format. 


Jeremy Beaver likes Managorger Hydra enough to keep playing with it, and for his efforts he earned a third-place finish at Eternal Extravaganza. Here's his very unique BUG Gush deck!

In a lot of ways this deck reminds me of BUG Fish. There's Deathrite Shaman, Abrupt Decay, Leovold, and Null Rod, all of which feature prominently in contemporary BUG Fish decks. Instead of relying on Wastelands and Dark Confidant this deck utilizes Gush and the associated smaller mana base. That means the deck can keep up with Gush card-for-card, but it gets to play some of the better cards that BUG Fish also uses. 

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Null Rod is great against modern Shops decks, as well as most combo decks. Deathrite Shaman does a lot of different things, but most importantly it makes mana through Null Rod. I've done some brewing with four-color Gush/Deathrite decks, and I was usually glad to see an opening hand with Deathrite Shaman and Null Rod

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Leovold, Emissary of Trest is one of the main reasons to want to play a Sultai-colored deck. He's great in the mirror, but also super annoying for many other decks to face. Even against decks where Leovold isn't fantastic there are usually a few positive interactions created by playing him. Simply getting to draw a card because someone Wastelanded you is more helpful than you'd expect. 

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Fatal Push is another great card that Beaver has included. It's trivially easy to trigger revolt in this deck; all it takes is a fetchland or casting a Gush. One-mana removal is very important in the eternal formats due to the efficiency of the creatures you're looking to dispatch. As a matter of fact I think that Fatal Push just might be the second-best removal spell in the format behind Swords to Plowshares

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All Hail the Hydra!

As I mentioned before, Managorger Hydra features prominently in this list. It is by far the most unusual inclusion and it hasn't had that many significant finishes. The problem with Hydra is that it doesn't leave any tokens behind when it dies, so it's a easier for opponents to deal with. Even so, it grows extremely fast. Managorger grows each time anyone casts any spell, which means that it's actually going to grow in a lot of situations where Mentor or Pyromancer won't. Against Workshop decks it's going to get larger each time they play another lock piece even when you're unable to cast your own spells, for example. 

I think the best way to look at the inclusion of Managorger Hydra in this deck is that it is a way to include a deadly growing creature in a BUG Gush deck without jumping into either white or red as a fourth color. When I was working on similar brews that ran a fourth color for either Mentor or Pyromancer, it does strain the mana base a bit. With this configuration Jeremy Beaver's deck is able to easily cast cards like Leovold and Abrupt Decay, while still creating a deadly board presence and Gushing by turn three. And while I'm sure some people might balk at the lack of Mentors in this deck I firmly believe that the third-place finish is indicative of this deck viability just the way it is. 


Gush in Vintage

The rest of the Top Eight decks included one Workshop deck and four other Gush decks. Gush was also 33% of the field, and it had the second-highest win rate of any deck. The number one deck in terms of win percentage was Workshops, but considering the large turnout of Gush decks that is nothing out of the ordinary. 

Gush is simply the best unrestricted card-drawing spell in the format, and the fact that six out of the eight decks in the Top Eight played it just goes to show that. When you pair Gush with all of the powerful cantrips and delve-based card draw spells it creates something that is tough to beat. Frankly, up to the point where Paradoxical Outcome entered the format I think it was pretty hard to justify playing anything other than Gush. And even with the raw power that Outcome has I don't think it's nearly as good as Gush is. 

In the past year I and at least a few other people have resorted to using Gush in their Oath of Druids decks to try to keep up with the "Gush/Tokens" archetype. Even Jeremy Beaver's third place deck is practically a BUG Fish deck built to run Gush. It's my opinion that Gush warps the format more than any other card (although some others are arguably very close).

In the past few years a lot of people have argued for the restriction of Gush, and I find myself falling into that category lately. I don't say that lightly either. I personally love Gush very much, and I'm in the process of reading Stephen Menendian's book on the card. The main reason I have not advocated for this restriction in the past is that there are a lot of different decks that play the card, and some of the cheaper decks with fewer Moxen are Gush decks. However we have had one tournament after another of Gush doing very well. Each of these events where Gush does very well is followed by the community arguing as to whether the current saturation and performance of Gush decks is significant enough to be declared as "dominance." In particular, there will be folks that will argue that the 33% meta share and 55.3% win percentage of Gush decks isn't high enough to count as dominance. 

Well, even though Gush isn't always half of the metagame, I still see evidence of it warping the format everywhere I look. The Gush decks (and most other blue decks as well) tend to lean towards greedier mana bases, and they include tons of cards like Mental Misstep and Flusterstorm. Those cards are dead against their bad matchups like Workshops or White Eldrazi. These players are including those cards because they're dead in the water in a mirror or pseudo-mirror without them. The Gush pilot is playing a deck that is a third of the field so they need to hedge against the mirror. 

The other thing that tells me that Gush warps the format is the consistent strong finishes of the mana-taxing decks. Ask any Workshop pilot and they'll probably tell you that Gush is their best matchup. They don't want to face decks with a ton of mana and more than just one Island for basic lands. I might be wrong on this, but when I go over old tournament results it looks like every time Gush decks get new toys (Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, Monastery Mentor) the Workshop decks did very well. 

Gush isn't the only problem though. Mental Misstep and perhaps even Gitaxian Probe deserve a close look as well. Both spells are cards that I enjoy playing, but they're really bad for Magic in general. Probe gives perfect information and smooths out draws for a paltry two life. Mental Misstep is idiot proof and it's hard to justify not playing it. People run Missteps to protect their one-drops when they're not even playing blue. People play Missteps just to counter people's Missteps targeting their own Missteps. If it wasn't for the fact that Mental Misstep occasionally saves me from an Ancestral Recall blowout on turn one, I'd hate it even more. No offense to whoever designed Misstep, but let's be honest it's banned everywhere else for a reason. I could live with just one Misstep in everyone's decks. 

I'll get off my soapbox now. I haven't ever really argued for any restrictions in this column as I don't like to get into that subject very often, but lately I feel like these cards really need to be looked at. Gush has been restricted in Vintage on two other occasions, at the very least it should be on a watch list. Probe just got banned from Modern, and Misstep is banned everywhere. Both Probe and Misstep should be at least considered for a possible restriction in my opinion. Even if the ultimate choice is that all of those cards are fine, I will accept it as long as I know the DCI is watching (and it appears that they are). 

That's all the time I have for this week. Keep being eternally extravagant. Thanks to Shawn Griffith for uploading the E.E. 6 results and thanks to Diophan for breaking down the data. 

You can follow me on Twitter @Islandswamp - Islandwamp on Magic Online and The Mana Drain

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