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Vintage 101: I Am Human, Hear Me Roar


Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're going to be looking at some of the Humans/Hatebears lists that keep cropping up as of late as well as our first two Challenge events with Lurrus of the Dream-Den legal yet again in Vintage. It's been an interesting week, for sure! We also as always have our Spice Corner.

Without further ado let's dive right into it!

Humans, Humans, Humans

While a lot of Vintage is focused on things that are flashy and fun, the combo decks and the decks that win with ridiculous plays, there is indeed a subset of fair police type decks in the format that have slowly begun to become more and more popular throughout the past few months. Primarily the most visible of these is the current incarnations of the Humans decks. We've talked about Humans a few times here or there, but let's check into the deck now and see what has changed with it.

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Humans has most certainly changed quite a bit since gaining some new cards in the past year, from things like General Kudro of Drannith to yes even Rick, Steadfast Leader. One of the more interesting and recent developments here is the introduction of the card Realmwalker, which as a Changeling is Human, but also allows the pilot to cast Human creatures off the top of the library as a way of pseudo drawing through their library. This can help a lot in scenarios where you need to get to a certain card.

As we like to do on this column, let's break the deck down into its core components.

Artifact Mana

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As most Vintage decks do, this deck obviously runs the fast artifact mana that it can afford. Since this kind of deck is highly disruptive on noncreature spells, it is only running the Power that is on color for it (being a four color deck essentially) as well as Lotus. This allows the deck to have some powerful starts and get on the board with its disruption quickly.

Disruptive Elements

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As noted, this deck packs a lot of disruptive elements, from taxing your opponent's noncreature spells via Thalia/Lavinia or punishing them for playing those spells via Kambal to being able to rip from their hand cards through Kitesail Freebooter this deck has a lot of ways to push your opponent into a poor position of being able to win the game. In addition to the Humans threats that do this, the deck also has some amount of Phyrexian Revoker as well as Kataki, War's Wage to attack on those angles as well.

Aggressive Elements

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All the disruptive elements in the world however won't end the game on their own, you need a clock to back up the disruption. This deck includes a lot of cards that also enforce a quick clock by pumping other Humans in play to become very large either through static effects or triggered abilities. Furthermore, cards like General Kudro of Drannith also act as a disruptive element and a board control option when in play.

Board Control

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This class of cards offers some disruptive elements but also board control options by either protecting things on your board (via Giver/Mother) or by removing your opponent's creatures (via Palace Jailer).

Card Advantage

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Both of these cards offer some powerful card advantage capabilities. Dark Confidant works rather well in this deck given that the overall curve of the deck is quite low, with the max being four on a few cards. This lets the deck push through its deck some and utilize the card advantage well. Realmwalker as noted already also acts similarly, letting future draws be cast onto the board as well.

General Disruption

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This deck also includes a few other disruptive cards, as there's not much penalty in playing the restricted copy of Mental Misstep in this deck. Both Wasteland and Strip Mine are available to help serve as ways to curb the opponent's spells but also to deal with many of the powerful lands in the Vintage format (Bazaar, Workshop). Finally, there are a few main deck copies of Leyline of the Void in this particular list, owing to the fact that both Dredge and Underworld Breach decks are exceptionally popular right now.

The Hatebear Equation

Humans is definitely a powerful and interesting deck, but there are other ways in the format to approach having a very focused prison strategy backed up by some strong aggressive elements as well. Commonly referred to a bit as the format's "Death and Taxes" of Vintage is the Mono White Vintage Hatebears deck. This deck has evolved a lot since it began showing up, and is now primarily headed by Archon of Emeria as the significant threat of the deck.

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Instead of just playing the artifact mana on color, this type of deck plays all of the artifact Power because it is very much looking to maximize its Turn One game to put a threat on board that utterly disrupts what the opponent is capable of doing. The best threat for that currently is definitely Archon of Emeria, as putting it on the table doesn't really affect the spells this deck wants to cast (as it is mostly creatures) and this turns it more into a bit of a one-sided tax effect on the opponent.

Furthermore, the disruptive elements go even further with this deck by playing cards like Spirit of the Labyrinth to shut down excessive card draw, both Thalia and Vryn Wingmare to tax noncreature spells, and even Leonin Arbiter to tax the opponent's ability to search their library for an answer.

Both of these decks are reasonably priced on Magic Online, and they're worth a look if you're interested in something a little different than just casting blue cards or tapping Workshop/Bazaar. They certainly both have a lot of power to them, and the Human-based synergy of the Humans deck makes it hard to deal with very quickly.

Vintage Challenge 2/20

We had our first two Challenges with Lurrus of the Dream-Den legal this past weekend, the first of which was the mid afternoon Saturday Challenge. Thanks to the data collected by the Vintage Streamer's Discord we know that there were 66 players overall in the first event. Let's take a look at the metagame breakdown.

A pretty interesting snapshot of what the metagame looks like at first with Lurrus being legal. As expected, Lurrus Breach definitely shot up into the stratosphere of played decks, with a lot of BUG Midrange at the top as well. I feel as if anything, one of the big things to glean from this weekend's gameplay and also from the community response to the unbanning is that it isn't Lurrus that seems overpowered. In fact, Lurrus itself has been noted as being anywhere from mildly okay to just good, but not exceptionally insane like it was under the old Companion rules. If anything, the big takeaway is that Underworld Breach is one of the most powerful cards in Vintage right now, and pairing the two together is sort of a no-brainer really. What this says to me is that if this is an experiment to see if Lurrus is busted, it may prove that the truly busted card is Breach, and possibly the change to be made out of this experiment is to actually restrict Breach and not re-ban Lurrus. Time will tell however what really will happen.

What is also apparent however is that it definitely seems like there is a real choice to be made when playing Lurrus, and it isn't an immediate auto-include into everything like it once was. If in fact it only ever becomes the cornerstone of Breach decks and a fun main deck card in certain decks, that could seem like a real win on the part of unbanning it in the first place.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Lurrus Breach 1st twinlesstwin
Breach 2nd DInglis
BUG Midrange 3rd shop3ball
Lurrus Breach 4th billsive
Doomsday 5th IdraftTheBeatz
BUG Midrange 6th gucci_gabe
Jeskai Control 7th BlueSkiesJ
BUG Midrange 8th Sprouts

The big takeaway from this Top 8 is that BUG was not only popular in this event, but it was pretty good. However, at the end of the event it was a Cat Breach vs No Cat Breach showdown with Lurrus Breach taking down the event.

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The big selling point here is in the inclusion of both Dreadhorde Arcanist (fresh from his vacation being banned in Legacy) and Sprite Dragon as the premier control threats of the deck, with recurrable advantage such as Soul-Guide Lantern to abuse with Lurrus. As we'll see in a second this deck does give up a bit to play Lurrus, but it might not be so bad.

The Second Place finalist was Breach without the Cat.

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We still get Dreadhorde because the power of the card is pretty high, but we also get Dack Fayden and Narset, Parter of Veils, not to mention a threat like Managorger Hydra. Other things that you don't get with the Cat are cards like Monastery Mentor, Teferi, Time Raveler, and very notably Bolas's Citadel with Tinker. This is the real choice of playing Lurrus it seems.

Also in the Top 8 we had a showing by Vintage stalwart Roland Chang in Third Place with BUG Midrange.

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This is a nice BUG list, filled with the cards that you'd expect to see in such a deck. I like the switchover to Abrupt Decay, expecting to deal with Lurrus or Underworld Breach by uncounterably destroying it. BUG is definitely popular because it is a deck built to have answers to a metagame, and I can definitely see the swing of more people playing it if Lurrus Breach especially continues to remain popular.

Outside of the Top 8 we had a cool showing by Lurrus in the main deck, piloted by ThePowerNine.

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If anything out of this whole thing the real power level might be in putting copies of Lurrus in the main deck instead of utilizing it as a companion. Not only do you get to reap the benefits still of having a Lotus every turn or utility cards like Soul-Guide Lantern, but you're not beholden to the restriction and can still play cards like Mentor, Narset, and Citadel. This seems like a really powerful list for sure.

Also down the Top 32 we had a 5C Midrange pile which is fairly interesting.

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Most of these DRS lists are generally only in BUG-R colors, but this one goes a bit further splashing into white specifically for Teferi, Time Raveler as well as some Swords to Plowshares and a Containment Priest out of the sideboard. It's also worth noting that it definitely seems as if Uro has cemented itself nicely into these DRS heavy lists, which is super interesting. The card is definitely powerful so we'll see if that continues to hold.

Further down, because it has one of my favorite cards in it, we've got Standstill! (And no, my favorite card is Sharknado, obviously).

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This is a pretty clean list for sure. I am digging the Supreme Verdict in the sideboard.

Vintage Challenge 2/21

Our second Challenge event of the weekend was the early Sunday morning event, of which we didn't have any data for from the Vintage Discord (it happens on occasion so no big deal there). Let's take a look at the Top 32 Metagame breakdown then!

Lurrus Breach variants definitely were popular enough to put up a respectable number in the Top 32, which is very interesting. In fact, it was so well represented that it dominated a portion of the Top 8, which we will now look at.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Lurrus Breach 1st shir kahn
Lurrus Breach 2nd Vertyx_
Lurrus Breach 3rd kasa
Doomsday 4th geekyjackson
BUG Midrange 5th yoshiwata
Dredge 6th rodeo
Golos Stax 7th LORiWWA
Golos Stax 8th SHAKELION

Yeah that's right, the finals was a Cat vs Cat all out scratching fest between two Lurrus Breach decks, with the event being taken down by our good friend Nico Bohny (shir kahn)! Let's take a look at both lists.

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The big difference here is that Nico chose to play a more spell-based interaction main deck with more copies of Lightning Bolt as well as a few copies of Thought Scour which is pretty cool. The Second Place list follows the similar formula of other lists by playing effects like Lavinia and beaters like Sprite Dragon as a backup plan. Very interesting differences between these lists for sure.

Also in the Top 8 we have the notable return of streamer geekyjackson on Doomsday.

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Library of Alexandria in the sideboard here is incredibly interesting for sure. Doomsday continues to be one of the popular opposing decks to Breach on the combo spectrum at this point, and its power level cannot be denied. It is definitely a very hard deck to interact with for sure.

Also in the Top 8 we had Golos Stax!

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One big shift that can always be noticed with these decks is whenever graveyard-based decks are super popular because the deck swaps to playing multiple Grafdigger's Cage in the main deck and can do so with relative ease. This makes a ton of sense since it shuts down not only Dredge but also Underworld Breach based decks. Four Sorcerous Spyglass main too is pretty potent at cutting off certain cards as well.

Outside of the Top 8 we had a showing by Bazaar Aggro archetype Horror One.

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The major appeal of this deck is the fact that having eight copies of a Squee, Goblin Nabob effect really offsets the usage of Bazaar by turning it into a positive draw engine and not card disadvantage. Krovikan Horror also pitches to cards like Sickening Shoal out of the sideboard as well.

Further down the Top 32 we had another Mono White Hatebears/"Death and Taxes" based list, this one playing some copies of Lurrus in the main deck.

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The real spice in this list is the two copies of Angel's Grace in the sideboard. That in of itself is super interesting to note. There isn't much synergy with Lurrus otherwise here outside of rebuying dead creatures (outside of Archon) and Lotus, but I don't think there really needs to be. Just having the extra mana every turn is a bit of a beating unto itself.

Around the Web

  • Bryant Cook posted a video on the Breach PO deck that he has been playing. Check that out here.
  • Phil Gallagher posted a video on Quad Luruss Hatebears! Check that out here.
  • Our good friend Justin Gennari posted a video on Lurrus Urza. Check it out over here.
  • 90sMTG has Esper Lurrus vs Birgi Underworld Breach! Check that out here.

The Spice Corner

Play Lurrus as a Companion they said. Hah! ThePowerNine laughs at that and jams four Lurrus in the main.

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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 on 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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