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Vintage 101: Going Rogue!

The Top of the Food Chain

If you take a quick snapshot of the Magic Online Vintage metagame at this moment, the top four decks are: TPS, Mentor, Workshops, and Grixis Pyromancer. The information is a little more shocking when you consider Mentor and TPS both have sixteen appearances, equating to just under 19% of the meta. In third we have Workshops, which has less than half as many appearances with seven.

The simple fact is that the current online meta is highly skewed towards TPS and Mentor. Combined, these decks take up almost 40% of the online metagame. Looking through deck lists it appears TPS decks are mostly similar. In the category of "Mentor" there seems to be more variation.

The Bant-colored Mentor decks featuring Sylvan Library and Dragonlord Dromoka are making more and more appearances as of late. I had to go farther back (Dec 6th) to find more copies of the "Jeskai Mentor" decks built around Jace, Vryn's Prodigy that were once at the top of the heap. The reasons for this evolution are varied. The Bant decks are very good and have performed well, but also the fluid nature of buying, selling, and trading on Magic Online allows someone to play the newest, hottest deck whenever they desire. This being the case, the most reliable way to predict the future Magic Online meta is to read this very website. Shifts occur when someone breaks the mold and does well, especially if he or she is a well-known player. 

It's clear that if you want to succeed playing this format online you have to be able to deal with TPS and Bant Mentor. Unfortunately you can't just ignore the other decks. Vintage is a format where decks like Dredge or Workshop will absolutely ruin your day if you let them. Looking at the decks that make up the upper echelon of the current online meta, I've found an unsurprising amount of homogeneity. This is to be expected; the Magic Online client and MTGGoldfish deck listings make it pretty simple to download and play someone else's deck list. 

If you're not content with playing what everyone else is playing, and you want something that's a little different from the status quo, I've got a few decks that could be a great choice for you. First off, I'd like to show you a deck that narrowly missed the cut from last week. This deck is something I'm personally excited about, enough so that I recently put it together myself. 

Landstill Oath

"OathStill" is the brainchild of Joshua Potucek, an expert on Vintage Landstill. This deck combines the hard control aspect of a traditional Landstill deck with the brute force of Griselbrand. Being in the Sultai colors, both this deck and the more traditional Fenton Oath decks have a lot of similar cards like Abrupt Decay and of course, Oath of Druids. But where a normal Oath deck would usually have four copies of the often anemic Preordain, this deck has four extra copies of "Ancestral Recall".

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Both of these let you see three cards, one of them lets you keep all of them.

Landstill decks have always had the advantage of playing with four extra pseudo-Ancestral Recalls, but in return they've had to rely solely on creaturelands or Jace, the Mind Sculptor to close out games. Having Griselbrand in addition to all of that is pretty sweet. 

In the normal Oath build of three Griselbrands and three Show and Tells, I always felt that finding room for enough Blue spells and control cards was difficult. Cutting Show and Tell has opened up space to play a healthy removal suite of Abrupt Decay and Toxic Deluge, combined with even more counters than normal. There are tons of threats in Vintage that Abrupt Decay takes care of, and playing four in your deck feels fantastic. Then there's Toxic Deluge to mop up all of the stray tokens that Monastery Mentor and Young Pyromancer leave behind. Post sideboarding there's also Pernicious Deed and Engineered Explosives that can also wipe the battlefield of problematic permanents. 

Toxic Deluge [PZ1] Engineered Explosives [MMA] Pernicious Deed [PRM]

Traditional Oath decks tend to want to put together their combo of "Griselbrand and win" very early, before their opponent can stabilize or out-draw them. This OathStill deck is a Landstill deck that makes room for an Oath package. It is fully prepared to play a long game. In my matches with the deck I've actually cast a Griselbrand several times, which is something that happens rarely with other Oath builds. This deck is very comfortable sitting on a Standstill, sculpting its hand, and making land drops, hence the name "Landstill."

I've seen some skeptical comments about this deck around the web, but I really think people shouldn't dismiss this deck. I've been remarkably impressed by playing with this list, and I have noticed that the deck is much more complicated to play than Fenton Oath. There is an potential issue with Forbidden Orchard and the deck's "creaturelands," like Mishra's Factory or Treetop Village. This potential conflict of giving your opponent blockers for you Factories is a real issue and it necessitates forethought on which lands to use or play. Of course, much of the time you're opponent is due for a visit from Griselbrand anyway.

I like that the colored creaturelands in the deck are helpful in mitigating the anti-synergy with Spirit tokens. Treetop Village can't be chump-blocked, and Creeping Tar Pit can't be blocked whatsoever. Creeping Tar Pit is fantastic at taking out Jace, the Mind Sculptor before he can gain too much advantage. Mishra's Factory is also perfectly serviceable in this deck, although being in three colors can be tricky at times. 

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Gaea's Blessing isn't played in every Oath deck the way it once was. Mark Tocco's Oath deck ran the 3/3 split of Griselbrands and Show and Tells that have become the standard build. With that many copies of the Oath target, Blessing either wasn't needed or was replaced with Memory's Journey, which pitches to Force of Will. Since this Oathstill design has only two copies of the Oath targets, it becomes more important to recycle the deck. The cool thing is that this deck gets to use Gaea's Blessing in a similar fashion to the way it was used in the old Extended-format Oath decks.

It's perfectly acceptable in this list to activate your Oath when you already have a Griselbrand out just try to hit a Blessing and recycle the deck. Doing so is likely to recycle all of the card draw and counters, and more importantly, Time Walk and Demonic Tutor. Since this deck has no Time Vault combo, it is pretty important to have a way to Time Walk more than once. Drawing seven cards a turn and having unlimited Time Walks in your deck is a great way to stay in control of a game until you can close it out. 

If you're interested in trying this list out, please check out this tournament report written by the deck's creator. It's very handy to read the thought process behind specific card choices.

Death, Taxes, and White Weenie

I'm pretty sure BlueDiamonds forgot to put Islands in this deck, or he was out to prove you can win in Vintage without them. Either way, this interesting take on the mono-white Hatebears archetype swept a recent Daily Event. That's no small feat in a room full of Monastery Mentors and Tendrils of Agony.

This deck combines a swift clock with mana denial in the form of Wastelands and mana-taxing creatures like Vryn Wingmare. Speaking of Vryn Wingmare, the traditional assumption has been that it is too slow to effectively disrupt an opponent at three mana. BlueDiamonds has taken a slightly different route than other Vintage Hatebears decks and played a sizeable load of artifact mana to accelerate the deck to two or three mana much faster. 

The only obvious change that I would make to this deck is to add a Karakas. For the most part everything here is solid. It makes sense this deck went undefeated; getting a lethal storm count against all those Thalias and Wingmares is a nightmare!

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Abzan and other Junk

Perhaps you are interested in Hatebears, but not so keen on a mono-white build. This next deck is a sweet-looking Junk Hatebears list. As a bonus it's considerably cheaper than several top Vintage decks.

The thing I like about this deck is that it reminds me of G/B/x decks that have done well in Modern and Legacy. This deck would likely be easy for a Modern player to transition to if they had an existing Green and Black fetch land mana base. 

The concept is simple. The deck plays a grindy creature-based game and shuts people down with some mean old hate-bears. Unlike mono-colored decks of a similar style, this list plays some additional threats and answers that help raise the power level. Dark Confidant, while not the darling of the format he once was, is still a card advantage machine. This deck can protect "Bob" with Mother of Runes or even Mental Misstep. It only takes a few turns for Dark Confidant to provide a substantial advantage, so having a few options to resolve one and protect him is fantastic. 

I'm really loving the sideboard copies of Aegis of the Gods. Having Hexproof is pretty sweet as it shuts down Oath of Druids and cards like Tendrils of Agony. With Storm variants being played in large numbers it feels like a great time to play Aegis. 

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Honestly this deck (and the Mono White Hatebears deck) can be a real nightmare for Oath, Storm, and combo decks in general. Imagine flashing in the main deck copy of Containment Priest in response to an Oath trigger. That's the last thing I want to see when I'm playing Oath! At that point I'm praying for Abrupt Decay. Don't get me started about Karakas either, that card is a wet blanket for anyone with Griselbrand in their deck. 


Adventures #inVintage

I've said many, many times that there's nothing wrong with picking the "best" deck and just playing that. That said, I always find it interesting when someone can take something unique, wacky, or just plain different and win a Magic Online event. New or unexpected decks are interesting, and showcasing them in my articles helps to paint a broader picture of what's playable in Vintage.

Because of this, I'm issuing a challenge to all in the Magic Online Vintage community. If you can cash an event with something a little unusual, or something leaning towards "budget" for Vintage, then you get your deck posted in one of my articles. I read Magic Online event results on a daily basis, and I love it when I see someone win an event with a 400 ticket Dark Times deck. 

A lot of people tell me they want to get into Vintage on Magic Online, but they don't have enough cards in their account to trade for a full set of power and Force of Wills. I'm especially sympathetic to those comments because a year ago I had the same problem. When I can post a deck that has legs AND doesn't break the bank, I feel like it gives hope to those people who haven't quite been able to take the plunge into the format. 

So that's my challenge: Be adventurous in Vintage. Make a splash with something crazy so I can put it in an upcoming article! If you have any decks that you'd like me to see, let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading, see you in seven days! You can follow me on Twitter @josephfiorinijr -  Islandswamp on Magic Online 

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