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Vintage 101: Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

It's nearly Thanksgiving in America, and I for one am a very thankful person. I am thankful that I have a good family, a good job, and I'm thankful that I get to play the best format in Magic; Vintage! This time of year is very cold where I live and it never ceases to annoy me. Luckily for me things are still staying hot in the Magic Online Vintage scene! People are still willing to try new things, and for that I thank you! I've got a couple of interesting ideas to show you this week, so enjoy! 

Let's take a look at an interesting Storm build that eschews the traditional blue part of the mana base.

Although Dark Ritual Storm is often considered a "blue deck" for its inclusion of Underground Seas, in actuality it is very much a black deck that dips into blue and often red as well. There is a one notable exception to this; the TPS (The Perfect Storm) decks of past and present utilize a slightly higher blue card count in order to facilitate Force of Will in their lists. However, even the Force of Will/Misdirection Dark Ritual Storm decks play quite a few black cards. 

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The black-red Storm deck featured above has dedicated itself to making the black and red portions of the deck stronger at the expense of the blue cards. The deck still gets to keep vitally important spells like the Rituals (Cabal and Dark), Duress, Yawgmoth's Will, and the tutors. The extra space afforded to this list also allows it to play more rituals than it's Grixis counterpart. The list has a full four Cabal Rituals and extra black mana is vital for casting the more expensive bombs. This type of fast mana can also theoretically lead to a lethal Tendrils of Agony through a Null Rod, although this is admittedly not all that likely to occur.

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Eight powerful ritual effects may seem like overkill, but it gives the deck some much-needed consistency. Additionally these spells are important due to the fact that this list plays a high number of expensive game-breaking spells. Oddseidank's deck is running four copies of Dark Petition and three copies of Yawgmoth's Bargain! At five and six mana respectively these spells are very mana-intensive, so having four Cabal Rituals in the deck seems quite appropriate. 

Wishing for Consistency

The omission of blue cards in this list admittedly leaves out some valuable cards. One of the most important card types that have been stripped from the list are cantrips. There are no Brainstorms, Ponders, or Preordains to be found. In order to make this deck more consistent the only solution is to play with more high-impact bombs and more tutors. I've already mentioned that there are multiple Dark Petitions and Yawgmoth's Bargains. but there's another important "tutor" in this list; Burning Wish

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The list contains four copies of Burning Wish. When you pair that Wish with the Tendrils of Agony in the sideboard these four Wishes act as additional Demonic Tutors. Burning Wish can also grab sideboard cards for defensive applications as well. Specifically, Burning Wish can grab Pulverize from the sideboard in order to take down a Mishra's Workshop deck. 

Oddseidank has chosen to play his copy of Demonic Tutor in the sideboard, and the only reasonable explanation for this is that it can be "Wished for." Traditionally, chaining tutor effects is one of the go-to methods for creating a lethal storm count. This is an interesting tactic, but I find myself wondering if it would be more effective to switch one main deck Dark Petition for the sideboard Demonic Tutor.

Pros and Cons; Rakdos Storm in Vintage

I'm not sure if this style of Storm deck will become tuned enough to find a permanent spot in the Vintage metagame, but I think it's an interesting idea. The deck also seems to be better than I thought it would be. 

Analyzing this objectively, we have to ask ourselves what we lose when blue gets removed from the deck. Time Walk is probably the least important card that this deck doesn't get to play, followed by Time Twister. Taking an extra turn in a deck like this rarely does very much. Usually the only times I've cared about taking an extra turn with a Storm deck was when I was facing Workshops and I desperately wanted to make one more land drop before passing my turn. 

Timetwister is a draw-seven effect, and as such its efficacy varies wildly each time it is played. I have seen people do very well in events playing Storm without any draw-sevens so I don't believe that 'Twister is necessary whatsoever. This deck does also have a Wheel of Fortune if it needs that effect. 

Next, we have the blue cantrips. Replacing these does hurt in my opinion. However, you could possibly play Sensei's Divining Top in this deck if need be. The four Burning Wishes help to give the deck some of the consistency that cantrips used to bring. 

There's one card missing from this list that I haven't mentioned yet, and I feel that it's possibly the most important one. Hurkyl's Recall is an amazing tool for Storm decks. Hurkyl's is one of the best cards against Workshops as it can break a Storm deck out of a soft lock for only two mana. It's also quite common for a Storm player to use Hurkly's Recall on themselves as a storm generator. With as little as four mana artifacts a Storm player can create a twenty point life swing with Tendrils of Agony

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The replacement for Hurkyl's in this list is Pulverize, and while I think it's a decent replacement it is far from perfect. Pulverize is a sorcery, which can be a big problem. Also in the event that the Storm pilot does not win immediately following casting a Pulverize they will end up with very few resources on the battlefield. This might not matter, but it could give an opponent time to mount a comeback.

Considering that Workshops are still the top deck in Vintage (according to the number of copies being played on Magic Online, at least) I'd say that playing a deck with either Pulverize or Hurkyl's Recall is a smart decision. 

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I may be off-base here, but I feel like this deck should theoretically be less-prone to being hurt by Mental Misstep in comparison to other Storm decks. The extra two-mana rituals help give the deck mana that can't be Misstep'ed, and the four copies of Defense Grid shut off Misstep as well (along with all the other nasty counterspells). Mental Misstep remains a prevalent and frustrating force in the Vintage metagame, so building a deck that doesn't worry about that card is probably a wise idea. 

With all of this taken into consideration is black/red Tendrils a viable option going forward? I'm still on the fence about this. My initial thoughts were that playing Pulverize is a smart move right now, but that it's very possible to run Pulverize in a Grixis Storm list. People have had some success with such an archetype in the past. The only benefit I see to playing black and red without blue is that you might be slightly better against Null Rod. Unfortunately though, it's the Null Rod effect that is the problem, not the card itself. Therefor this deck still loses hard to Stony Silence, as it brings the same devastating effect in a card type (enchantment) that black/red cannot deal with effectively. A Grixis Storm deck can bounce a Stony Silence with Chain of Vapor. It's this fact that leads me to believe that ultimately this black-red Storm deck is an evolutionary dead-end. 

Tezzeret's Revenge

In order to find the really interesting decks it takes some digging. When I find a list that looks like this next one, I know that all the work was worth it! Let's take a look at MRP900's interesting Paradoxical/Mentor brew.

For the most part this deck is a normal Paradoxical Outcome Mentor deck, but there are some interesting card choices as well. Since Mentor got hit with restriction there have been a few extra slots open where Monastery Mentors three through four used to be. MRP900 has added a few midrange creatures to give the deck some non-combo paths to victory.

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Tasigur and Gearseeker Serpent are both cheap, mid-sized creatures. Tasigur isn't that popular of a choice in Vintage or Legacy compared to Gurmag Angler as it is slightly smaller and it gets hosed by Karakas, but its ability does provide a nice value. Gearseeker Serpent has never seen play in Vintage as far as I know, even though it's pseudo-affinity does make it a two-drop 5/6 much of the time it's played. Both of these cards are likely very helpful against mana-taxing spells, and with fewer monk tokens in the format they're not as easily chump-blocked as they have been in the past. 

Since the deck is running three copies of Paradoxical Outcome it only makes sense to include some cards to combo off with. Typically people play either Tendrils of Agony or Monastery Mentor. This list already has the one Mentor it's allowed to have, but it does not include a Tendrils. There's no Time Vault or Tinker either. Instead this list is running Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas.

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Tezzeret acts as card advantage with the first loyalty ability and it can protect itself with the second one. The ultimate is extremely easy to reach, and in this deck it's not unreasonable that the ultimate could deal a considerable amount of damage.

Paradoxical Updates

The rest of the deck is standard fare; counterspells, Swords to Plowshares for removal, and the normal blue power cards you'd expect to see in a Vintage deck. MRP900 has also built this deck with eighteen lands in addition to the eight pieces of artifact mana. I like that the mana base here is very robust, as I've always advocated for playing a stable mana base in the face of the Workshop threat. However, in this case I would personally change things a fair amount. 

The deck only has ten artifacts in it and yet it wants to use several cards that depend on artifacts; Paradoxical Outcome, Tolarian Academy, Tezzeret. Agent of Bolas, and Gearseeker Serpent. If I was dedicated to playing these cards I would definitely try to up the artifact count. 

The list currently has three Underground Seas, three Tundras, and three basic lands (two Islands and a Plains). The basic lands are a smart choice, but one plains and one Island should be enough. Seat of the Synod would have the needed synergy with Tezzeret, Tolarian Academy and Gearseeker Serpent (although it wouldn't interact with Paradoxical Outcome). The easiest switch would probably be to take out one Island for a Seat of the Synod.

Adding one Seat of the Synod only brings the total artifact count up to eleven, so I'd keep going. The popular candidates for additionl artifact mana are Mox Opal, Chrome Mox, Lotus Petal, and Mana Vault/Grim Monolith. Of those cards I mentioned I would play Mox Opal and/or Lotus Petal most likely. Mox Opal is the better card overall, but sometimes a poor hand will cause it to not work. Lotus Petal always works, but only once. At least Lotus Petal can become fuel for Tasigur's casting cost! To make room for some number of Opals/Petal I would swap out either dual lands or fetch lands. This would keep the overall number of mana sources the same while making the artifact theme of the deck stronger. 

That's all the time I have for this week, I'll be back soon with more Vintage content! Stay awesome folks! You can find me on Twitter/TMD/Magic Online  @Islandswamp

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