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Vintage 101: Eternal Weekend Cram Session - Control and Midrange

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we have one final Cram Session article before Eternal Weekend this coming weekend, this time on Midrange/Control variants in the format. In addition to that we've got two Challenges to discuss as well as a Spice Corner.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Prepping for Eternal Weekend with Midrange/Control

As we wind down towards Eternal Weekend 2021 this weekend we still have one final subset of decks to discuss and that's the aspects of Midrange/Control shells in current Vintage. Primarily when we talk about these kinds of shells they are often divided into a few different sets: decks without Deathrite Shaman, and decks with Deathrite Shaman. Let's start by discussing the decks that don't play the Little Elf Planeswalker That Could by first looking at Jeskai Control variants.

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Jeskai Control has long been established as one of the Vintage format's quintessential blue decks and generally, it seeks to play some of the best hits of threats, removal, restricted blue cards, and countermagic in the format. Of the restricted cards that Jeskai currently plays, those cards make up approximately 28-29% of the entire main deck, and a lot of the game play revolves around these back-breaking cards, and very specifically mostly revolves around the casting of Ancestral Recall.

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This deck requires a lot of understanding of being able to properly sequence cantrips to find what you need to win a game, but also when to cast restricted cards. Ancestral Recall is a card often cast at the beginning of an opponent's upkeep unless your opening hand has a bunch of other free artifact mana to deploy as well. The point of casting it on your opponent's turn often revolves around the fact that you force your opponent to tap mana for their answer potentially (or put themselves down a card on their turn with Force of Will or Mental Misstep) to reap the benefit of having more cards than they do on that turn. Furthermore, cards like Dreadhorde Arcanist and Mystic Sanctuary exist to maximize the functionality of casting Ancestral multiple times, which allows the Jeskai player to pull ahead in terms of raw card advantage.

Playing this kind of deck means you will need to familiarize yourself with the heuristics of things like Gush (for example, floating mana before casting Gush to use the mana to negate the downside of having to replay a land) and Dig Through Time (casting Dig at instant speed on opponent's turns, or in response to other spells on opponent's turns) as well as the general power level of cards like Preordain. The deck has picked up plenty of new threats such as cards like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Alpine Moon (for dealing with Urza's Saga). The downside of this deck is that this deck is really teched to fight other blue decks in the format (which is fairly appropriate given the nature of the format) that occasionally you run into matchups where pretty much a good chunk of your cards are literal bricks in the matchup. For example, Flusterstorm and Pyroblast have very little text versus Workshops decks, with the only exception being that Pyroblast can be used for Prowess triggers from Monastery Mentor (since it can target anything and only does something if the spell/permanent is blue). This is one of the things we mostly accept with these kinds of decks unfortunately.

Another non-DRS deck is the RUG Midrange/Control variants that play cards like Wrenn and Six. These decks tend to benefit from the green splash by having access to things like W6, Oko, Thief of Crowns, and Tarmogoyf. They too have also gravitated towards playing some newer cards like Ragavan and even Dress Down.

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This deck has a solidly cool combo-esque finish that involves using Wrenn and Six to ultimate and then continually recast Time Walk from the graveyard, functionally building your own Vault/Key combo in a non Tinker deck.

The final deck in the non-DRS category is the Bant Archon lists. Bant hinges a lot of its power around the card Archon of Emeria by hoping to resolve the card and then use their countermagic and mana denial strategy to put the opponent off-kilter enough to win the game.

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This deck is more of a Midrange pile than a pure control deck as it does not run any cards like Preordain, just the restricted draw spells in Brainstorm/Ponder/Ancestral. You still have to have some measure of when to cast these cards in this deck, but a lot more of the deck revolves around resolving permanents and playing to the board than burying the opponent in card advantage.

Decks that utilize Deathrite Shaman make up another major category of Midrange/Control piles, and these decks just like the Bant deck are much more tuned around being Midrange decks than pure control. The primary most popular of these decks is the BUG Midrange variants.

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BUG in Vintage tends to feel like and play out a lot like old school Jund from Modern, in that it plays to the board and answers threats with powerful answers to protect their own threats in order to close the game out, usually via combat damage. BUG variants often play a lot of really powerful effects such as main deck copies of Force of Vigor, Collector Ouphe, and Leovold, Emissary of Trest. A lot of this gameplay is less focused on the restricted cards, although many of them are here and are very strong, by focusing more on the permanents it deploys and the answers it plays. Much of playing this deck revolves around knowing what role to assume in a matchup, whether you are more controlling and reactive or whether you are a proactive beat down plan.

The final DRS variant is the 4C variants that are generally splashing into red for cards like Wrenn and Six and Ragavan, often using both W6 and DRS as the glue that allows them to play some of the most powerful cards on color for the four colors it plays.

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These decks stretch the mana advantage by both W6 and DRS to an extreme, giving them access to cards like Oko and Dack Fayden as well as on occasion green/black spells like Assassin's Trophy. Some of these lists are like the one above where they're mainly a RUG deck splashing into black for DRS because of the power level of the card.

Blue decks in general can be a daunting aspect of the format to play around with, but having fundamentals in other formats and knowledge of cantrip sequencing can be very beneficial towards understanding them. Plus, many of these decks are quite fun and present an interesting aspect of the format to play around with on a more fair level.

Vintage Challenge 11/20

We had two Challenges this past weekend, the first of which was the mid-afternoon Saturday event, which had 58 players in it thanks to data collected by the Vintage Streamer's Discord.

You can find all of the Top 32 decklists here and the datasheet here.

Dredge was very popular in this event, followed by Blue Tinker shells and Blue Tempo variants. Dredge had a solid performance, but it was 8Cast that really did very well in addition to Breach decks. Overall though Blue Tinker variants at the macro level were the most popular decks, spread across different variants.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Breach 1st sixmp
Oops! All Spells 2nd karatedom
8Cast 3rd bernardoccsa
GW Lumi 4th timmay56
Blue Tinker 5th Capriccioso
Hogaak 6th MrJACEone
BUG Midrange 7th Montolio
UR Saga 8th TristanJWL

Definitely an interesting Top 8 with quite a bit of diverse archetypes. At the end of the event though it was a very interesting take on Breach that won the whole thing.

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Laelia, the Blade Reforged has really proven to be very powerful. I've played around a lot with this card myself as of late and it seems pretty insane and aggressive. I love the idea of using it as the kill condition with Breach where you can just keep making Laelia bigger each time you Escape a spell from the graveyard. Seems ultra strong.

The Second Place finalist was on Oops! All Spells.

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This deck does have a lot of action but it's definitely very glass-cannon. It has a lot of powerful openers though so it can definitely do well in the right circumstances as we see here.

Also in the Top 8 we've got the GW Lumi deck.

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I took this deck for a spin myself and it seems pretty strong, especially if you can get an early start with Archon of Emeria and Outland Liberator / Luminarch Aspirant. It closes games out really quickly.

Down at the bottom of the Top 8 we've got the UR Saga deck that Isaac Bullwinkle won one of the Vintage Challenges with a while back here.

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This deck is really straightforward and powerful. Ragavan and Murktide do put in a ton of work, and it seems like this deck does have legs.

Outside of the Top 8 and down the Top 32 we had a sweet-looking Painter list.

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Show and Tell Painter is pretty wild, and so is Serra's Emissary. Super cool list here.

Vintage Challenge 11/21

The other Challenge of the weekend was the early morning Sunday event, which had 45 players in it thanks to the data collected by the Vintage Streamer's Discord.

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

A lot of one off decks, but in regards to named archetypes Breach had a lot of popularity and also performed exceptionally well. 8Cast did abysmally in this event with an exceptionally low win rate as well as only three pilots on the deck. It's always very interesting to me watch how these events go and makes me more interested to watch how the Eternal Weekend metagame goes this weekend.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Breach 1st sixmp
Breach 2nd Condescend
UR Tempo 3rd ecobaronen
BW Aggro 4th mosh110
Breach 5th albertoSD
Breach Tinker 6th Vertyx_
Jeskai Control 7th discoverN
Mono White 8th grymn

This Top 8 had a ton of Breach based combo decks in it, alongside a few ultra fair decks. At the end of the event it was a double Breach off, and both players split the finals of the event. One of which was sixmp, the winner of the Saturday event.

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Pretty much identical lists overall here. Laelia seems to be very strong indeed!

Also in the Top 8 we had a B/W Aggro variant.

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The neat choice here is running Lurrus main deck so that the deck can still have access to Archon of Emeria. Hitting a Lurrus in your opener and going Lotus Lurrus Lotus Archon seems incredibly strong for sure.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we had a Lurrus White Aggro variant as well.

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This is a very Death and Taxes-esque list for sure, leaning on the power of Lurrus to rebuy permanents from the graveyard.

Outside of the Top 8 we had a super sweet Artifact centric deck with Oswald Fiddlebender and Dollhouse of Horrors.

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This list is super duper sweet. I am digging all the cool synergies this deck has. Dack Fayden pitching cards to reanimate with Dollhouse seems groovy as all get out.

Around the Web

  • Justin Gennari's content machine cannot be stopped! More videos from him this week.
  • Vintage Champion Brian Coval plays some RUG Midrange/Control for us this week. Check it out here.
  • Bryant Cook posted a video on Dress Down PO. Check that out here.

The Spice Corner

This list is SWEET.

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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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