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Vintage 101: Evolution


Welcome to another installment of Vintage: 101! Even though I've been covering this format for quite a while, and many of the top archetypes have been figured out, people always find ways to surprise me with innovation. I think that the overall increase of players testing the format regularly (online and in paper) has been a boon to the Vintage community. The increased number of matches played combined with the data collection and sharing by the community leads to more decks being developed.

The past few years have also given us a wealth of new and powerful spells to try, and I for one am extremely grateful. Everything from Dack Fayden to Treasure Cruise to Inventors' Fair and Walking Ballista have made Vintage an exciting format to brew with. Beyond the obvious and flashy printings like Ballista there are sleeper cards like Animation Module or Tamiyo, Field Researcher that have been successful in certain decks. It's odd to me that people cite stagnation as a problem for non-rotating formats even though things in Vintage keep evolving at a brisk pace!

It is true that entire archetypes don't disappear over night the way they do after a Standard rotation, but if I showed you a Mishra's Workshop deck from 2014 compared to one from today you'd see that they're very different as long as you know what to look for. I think the issue at hand is the evolution of these decks is harder for the untrained eye to notice than a complete rotational shift would be. However, if you do understand the way these decks work you'll know that there is a world of difference between the Kuldotha Forgemaster Shops lists of old to the Ravager Shops of today. 

With that in mind, Let's take a look at some sweet new tech! 

Paradoxical Evolution

The first deck I have chosen to feature was designed and played by the one-and-only Lord of Atogs, Rich Shay. If you're familiar with the Vintage Super League I'm sure you've seen the various decks that Rich has played, and many of his designs have become trends. This most recent brew of his that I found is a hybrid of Griselbrand Oath and Paradoxical Outcome Storm. 


Paradoxical Outcome is a truly broken card in a format with every single zero-cost artifact ever printed. The only thing that has ever held the Outcome decks back is the fragility of their mana base. To maximize the potency of Paradoxical Outcome the lists generally play very few lands and run zero-drop mana rocks in their place. On the play this tactic of running a mostly-artifact mana base is perfectly fine, but on the draw when facing hate cards (Thorn of Amethyst, Null Rod, etc) things can blow up in your face. In response to the explosion of combo decks the format has adapted to handle the issue with an increased prevalence of Null Rod effects and the like. 

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In the past there have been some decks that used Oath of Druids in the sideboard to hedge against the Workshops/Eldrazi matchup. The Atog Lord took things a step further and made room for an Oath of Druids package in the main deck! This means that the list should have a much better chance at stealing game one from a Prison deck than the old Outcome decks. With Ravager Shops once again becoming the most-played deck on Magic Online it's a good thing too! 

When you're not playing against Workshops, Eldrazi, or Null Rod/Stony Silence, having Oath in your deck is still pretty good. The vast majority of decks in Vintage use creatures as their win condition so Oath is easy to turn on. As an enchantment Oath of Druids is also a bit harder to counter than Paradoxical Outcome. It's possible to overload your opponent's countermeasures by using your Oaths as Force of Will bait, eventually creating an opening for a Paradoxical Outcome to refill your hand. 

Another neat thing about running Oath in this deck is that as a permanent it also powers up your Paradoxical Outcome if you need it to. I'm sure that most of the time this won't come up, but it's nice to have the option. Perhaps you might find yourself in a position where you can save your Oath of Druids from a removal spell by casting Paradoxical Outcome in response.

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Griselbrand is practically a flying Yawgmoth's Bargain, so his ability compliments the combo strategy nicely. You certainly don't always need the added card draw, but it's rarely a bad time to draw seven cards! I really like the extra options that the Griselbrand/Oath side of the deck brings, and I wouldn't be surprised to see this be a widely-adopted tactic. 


U/W Flash in Vintage!

If you're a fan of Control decks and creatures with Flash you're in luck. Here's a sweet Spell Queller deck for the Vintage format! 

Here we have a really sweet-looking Moat Control deck. All of the creatures in the deck have Flash and provide disruption or card advantage. This tactic allows you to play a "draw-go" style of Magic most of the time. 

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This list also eschews the suite of Preordains or Gitaxian Probes that are seen in a lot of other blue decks. Without Monastery Mentor or Young Pyromancer there is less of an incentive to play cantrips, and instead the deck gets to run more powerful cards. There is only a Brainstorm, Ancestral Recall, and Sensei's Divining Top for card draw/selection in the low end of the mana curve. 

Card advantage is primarily gained through the five planeswalkers in the deck, three copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and two Tamiyo, Field Researchers. Both planeswalkers are great in a control shell as they provide card advantage and can deal with opposing threats as well. Jace's -1 bounce ability and Tamiyo's -2 tap-down effect aren't the primary reason for using them, but often times they can save your life. 

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The removal package in the deck is certainly not lacking. Moat isn't removal, but it does negate most creatures in the format and protects your planeswalkers at the same time. Supreme Verdict is one of the best answers to Monastery Mentor as it is an uncounterable sweeper effect. For spot removal there's Swords to Plowshares, the gold standard for one-mana removal. 

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In the sideboard there's all the typical stuff you would expect to see, including Stony Silence. Normally playing Stony Silence in a deck alongside a full load of Moxen and Sensei's Divining Top would be a bad idea, but it's too good against Paradoxical Outcome to pass up. I suspect that the only time it's correct to bring in Stony Silence is against a Paradoxical Storm deck, because in that case it's worth blanking seven cards in your deck to avoid losing the game. 

Restriction-Worthy Blue Spells

I have been a witness to or taken part in a large number of discussions about the Restricted List in Vintage over the past year. There are a lot of cards that people have mentioned as cards they believe should be restricted, and two of those cards are featured prominently in this next deck. Gush and Paradoxical Outcome seem like strange bedfellows as they work in completely different ways, but they've both suggested as degenerate enough to get the hammer. I'm not currently advocating for or against any restrictions, but I think it's really neat to see these two powerful draw spells function in the same deck. 

In some ways this deck is kind of all over the place, but it still seems really cool to me. It's basically a normal Gush Mentor deck, but it adds Paradoxical Outcome for some extra card-drawing shenanigans. 

This list isn't all-in on Paradoxical Outcome the way most decks that use the card are. Instead, the deck probably only casts Outcome for three to five cards, but that's still very beneficial. With a Mentor on the battlefield a relatively small Outcome will make a huge army of tokens. If you're lucky enough to resolve a Time Walk along with your Mentor and Paradoxical Outcome, it's usually enough to end a game. 

Since this deck isn't all-in on Paradoxical Outcome it stands to reason that it shouldn't be quite as crippled by a Null Rod effect as a typical Outcome Combo deck would be. There are enough actual lands that you'll be able to cast spells through a Null Rod with relative ease. Also, the three copies of Gush can turn a two-land hand into plenty of mana. 

This deck also has a Tinker/Blightsteel Colossus package along with Yawgmoth's Will and Tendrils of Agony, so it can switch gears and make a broken game-winning play. This gives the deck a few alternate win conditions without being dedicated to those strategies. Sometimes you'll end up using Yawgmoth's Will to simply generate value, and sometimes it will flat-out win you the game. 

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I haven't seen this exact list on Magic Online, but I have seen people have some success with a similar approach in some European tournaments. My guess is that time will tell if this style of Mentor deck is strong enough to become an established deck. I think that the power level of Gush and Paradoxical Outcome is high enough that combining the two would be quite strong provided that you made them work together efficiently.

"Budget" Delver for a Paper Metagame

Last week I wrote about some budget decks for Vintage, and I received a ton of comments on the article. A lot of people were put off by the paper prices of the decks, and others don't consider $600 to be very budget-friendly. Trust me, I can relate to those opinions. Speaking for myself, it took quite a lot of effort and help from the awesome Vintage community members to put together the collection I now have. I know that not everyone has the same resources though, but I figure perhaps I can try to put things into perspective by showing how much a cheap 15-Proxy deck might cost. 

I took the U/R Delver list from last week's article and removed the fifteen most-expensive cards. If you need to see what cards are missing, you can see the original list here. This deck would be legal at Eternal Extravaganza and the upcoming NYSE, as well as the TMD Open 18. If you happen to have a collection of fetch lands already, you're a lot closer than you might think. 

As far as I can tell that deck is roughly the same as a cheap Modern deck. I took a quick look at the top Modern decks and most of the good ones are actually a lot more than that. Plus quite a few of the cards in Delver are Modern-legal anyway, so it shouldn't be all that tough to get your hands on them. 

Despite what some outsiders might think, most Vintage players aren't millionaires who arrive at events via private jet. If you do decide to attend one of the events I mentioned earlier, you'll notice plenty of other people who have a hand-drawn Mox or two. 

That's all the time I have for this week. Keep on rockin' Vintage cards folks. You can find me on  Twitter, TMD, and Magic Online @Islandswamp


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