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Vintage 101: Iconic Dino-Pirates!



To the Victor goes the Spoilers

Last week was sort of an odd spoiler season experience. Spoilers for the new Standard-legal set. Ixalan were coming out, and Iconic Masters was spoiled as well. It did seem a bit odd to me that they'd spoil a reprint set in the middle of their big new Standard offering, but at least there were a lot of neat pictures and social media threads to meander through! 

The themes in Ixalan revolve around pirates, exploration, dinosaurs, and more. Looking through the spoilers I've seen cards that reminded me of the mythical city of Atlantis as well as a card that bears a striking resemblance to Gaea's Cradle. I even noticed that there is a spell that seems to represent the comet or meteor that killed the dinosaurs of Earth. The environment that Ixalan is creating seems really interesting and I'm excited to see how it all plays out as more spoilers are released. 

Iconic Masters has some Vintage relevant reprints I'd like to discuss first, as the cards in this set are well understood already. If you didn't already own any of these for your Vintage collection you're in luck, and if you did own them and saw your value shrink, I offer my sincere condolences. Here's a few gems to gawk at:


Mana Drain

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This is a big deal. Mana Drain has been a Vintage staple since it was printed, and although its popularity has waxed and waned it is still a good card to include in your collection. Other than a fairly rare Judge Foil, this will be the first reprinting of Mana Drain. I'm a little shocked that a card this Iconic wasn't printed in Eternal Masters instead, but I guess they wanted something to sell packs of the latest "Masters" set. 

I think it's neat that Drain has seen an uptick in play right around the time that it's seeing a reprinting. Theoretically this should help people looking to complete a Vintage deck in paper. On Magic Online this new printing won't make a difference though, because Vintage Masters made Mana Drain one of the cheapest staples for online players. The only way that I could see Mana Drain going up in price on Magic Online would be if the Vintage format's new leagues caused it to expand the player base considerably. 


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Good old Necro, the apple of my skull's eye. This is one of the most powerful cards ever printed, and as such it is banned in Legacy and restricted in Vintage. Unfortunately it was also printed in Fifth Edition, as well as Eternal Masters, and a "From the Vault" set. There's really only one deck in all of Magic that wants (and is allowed to play) Necropotence; Dark Petition Storm. This lack of demand and relatively high supply keeps Necro from being valuable. It's the kind of card that you might get excited to open only to quickly realize that it's practically a bulk mythic. 


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Channel is certainly an iconic card. This represents half of the most famous combo in Magic history; Channel/Fireball. The issue with this card is that it's banned everywhere except Vintage, and it's restricted in that environment. As a four-of Channel would be incredibly degenerate. You could cast a turn one Emrakul, the Aeons Torn extremely easy. Red/Green Goblin Charbelcher would become viable and much more consistent.

As a restricted card Channel just doesn't offer enough to make it worth including in most decks, and as such nobody really plays this card anymore. Poor Channel ends up being a bulk card because of this fact. Also Channel was in every core set until it was removed in Fifth Edition, and it was an uncommon at that. I've seen this card listed for under a dollar in various conditions. 

If you happen to draft this though, they did include Fireball in the set. So maybe you can live the dream of combo killing someone in the early turns of the game. There's no Black Lotus or Moxen though, so it won't be quite as easy as it was in 1993. 


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I don't think Flusterstorm is very iconic. It's really good though, so it's about time that it got reprinted. When I got my copies they were absurdly expensive because they were in short supply. This new release should help alleviate that issue somewhat. 


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Thoughtseize counts as a Vintage-playable card. Cabal Therapy and Duress see more play, but Thoughtseize definitely has its place. I like that they reprinted this with the original art because I prefer the Lorwyn art to the Theros version. 

Fancy Lands

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Grove of the Burnwillows and Horizon Canopy are fringe-playable Vintage cards, and they were quite valuable before as well. The rest of the future-shifted "dual" lands from Future Sight are also printed in this set, but I don't think the rest of those are played in eternal formats. If this printing drives down the price enough it could be beneficial to someone looking to make Punishing Oath or something along those lines. 

On a somewhat tangential note, I'd like to mention that if lands like Grove and Canopy were printed with two basic land types they'd actually stand a chance at being budget-friendly dual lands for sanctioned paper Vintage. Fetchlands are important to the eternal formats due to their interaction with cards like Brainstorm and their ability to play around Wasteland and Blood Moon. Every time I look at a decent and playable dual land that can't be found via fetchland it feels like a missed opportunity to me. 


Dino-Riders and Pirates!

So far Ixalan looks like an absolute blast to play with for Standard and draft. I didn't see much in current spoiler list that could have an impact on Vintage (or Legacy even), but that's not the point of Standard-legal sets. 

The first card that I want to talk about is one that was leaked a long time ago. There was some buzz about this card in the Vintage forums, but as it was not officially announced I had to remain silent about it. Now that it's been officially spoiled I can show you the new card that allegedly has a home in Vintage Workshop Prison. 

Sorcerous Spyglass

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So this is a Pithing Needle with a built-in Peek. It's a Peek-Thing Needle I suppose. Pithing Needle and its close relative Phyrexian Revoker are certainly Vintage-playable cards, but will Sorcerous Spyglass find its own place in the format? 

At two mana and without a body attached to it the Spyglass is at a distinct disadvantage. This can name any card, just like Pithing Needle, but it also cannot stop mana abilities the way a Revoker can. The real question is whether or not the "peek" ability is worth the one extra mana. 

One fairly popular play with Pithing Needle is to name a fetchland as a mana denial tactic. It's this example that people have cited as a reason that a Workshop deck would want this card. If you're peeking at your opponent's hand you should theoretically be able to know exactly which fetchland to name. Since the time this card was first leaked Thorn of Amethyst was added to the restricted list, and I've seen a few folks suggest that the Spyglass could fill that void. 

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On the surface it might seem as though swapping three copies of Thorn for three Spyglasses would work. They're both two drops, and they can both inhibit your opponent's mana development. Personally I don't see that working out very well for a few reasons. First of all there's no guarantee that Sorcerous Spyglass will have any good targets. Secondly the trend for Workshop decks has been to become more and more aggressive over time. This increase in aggressiveness has actually made Workshops  better than it had been in the past. In my opinion running Sorcerous Spyglass to make a Workshop deck more controlling would be a bit of a step backwards. 

Also, if someone is looking for a controlling card to add to the empty Thorn of Amethyst slots I figure they'd go for Tangle Wire first. Tangle Wire can inhibit an opponent's mana production and temporarily disable opposing blockers too. 

Old-Growth Dryads

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Here we have a 3/3 for one green mana. That's a fantastic rate, and this cheap cost is offset by the fairly steep drawback. Old-Growth Dryads allows your opponent to get a free, tapped basic land when it comes into play. There are two questions that determine how important or not this card will be to Vintage. The first one is obvious; will the frree Rampant Growth be too much of a setback? The second question that needs an answer is how effective a vanilla 3/3 for one mana is in contemporary Vintage.

Against some decks I could see this card actually being very good. For instance, if you were playing Junk Hatebears against a Workshop deck. The Workshop player would be unlikely to have any basic lands in their graveyard so you'd be getting a 3/3 for one with no drawback. A 3/3 can trade with a Lodestone Golem and survive combat with a few other Workshop creatures as well. 

Unfortunately against many other decks this card would be fairly lackluster. Against a combo deck a 3/3 isn't that fast of a clock and the extra land drop could allow your opponent to combo off faster. The Mentor and Pyromancer decks that still exist aren't worried about a 3/3 either. Dredge doesn't usually play basic lands, but it's too fast for Old-Growth Dryads as well. In all honesty I am having trouble thinking of any deck that would really be bothered by a turn-one vanilla 3/3 creature. 

I really like the design of this card, but I don't see it being worthwhile in any format beyond Standard and maybe Modern (although I wonder how effective it would be in those formats as well). I come from a generation of Magic players that bore witness to the power of Rogue Elephant and mono-green "Senior Stompy," so it's a little sad to see that this type of card just isn't good enough anymore. 

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Chart a Course

I've seen a mixed reaction to Chart a Course, but personally I think that it will be a fringe-playable Vintage card. Drawing cards is good, and doing it for cheap is better. 

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The latest Divination is really interesting as it always costs two mana, but it won't always give you a plus one in card advantage. It'll always let you draw two cards, but unless you build your deck correctly you'll be discarding one of them more often than you'd probably like to. 

The obvious comparisons to Chart a Course are Night's Whisper and Thoughtcast. Both Whisper and Thoughtcast have seen play, and both of them have their own set of issues associated with their use. Night's Whisper is a great card, but the fact that it's black is a liability. It's very important to have blue cards for Force of Will and running Night's Whisper adds a lot of non-blue spells to your deck. 

Thoughtcast usually costs one or two to draw two cards and it's blue for Force of Will. It also requires that you play a large amount of artifacts in your deck otherwise it becomes a five mana draw two, and that is just plain bad. 

Chart a Course will be a reasonable inclusion in several blue decks. Merfolk is the most obvious deck that could easily make use of this card, but Blue/Red Delver could use it as well. Young Pyromancer decks (with or without Delver) might want this card, as well as a "Mentor" deck with supplementary creatures. 

Here's a quick draft of a U/R Delver deck featuring Chart a Course:

U/R Delver

In this shell Chart a Course fits in the slots that formerly went to Gush. Undoubtedly Gush was a better card, but running Chart a Course in it's place does have some advantages as well. Gush doesn't play that well in Wasteland decks, but with Chart a Course I was able to max out on Wastelands and Strip Mine. The extra land destruction also plays well with the Null Rods my build is running. 

I went up to twelve creatures to make Chart a Course more reliable. Two of those creatures are Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, but it's possible to attack with Jace if need be. There might also be cases where choosing to not attack before casting Chart a Course is the right move, for instance if you're trying to fill your empty graveyard to flip your tiny Jace. 

The list I've proposed will need testing and tuning, but with a new card-drawing spell, Null Rods to counteract Paradoxical Outcome decks, and Monastery Mentor on the restricted list, I could imagine that U/R/x Delver could easily make a comeback. 


More DinoPirates to Come!

There weren't any other cards that jumped out to me as possible Vintage playables, but as of this writing there are more spoilers to come. Also, if I missed a card that you think has potential in the eternal formats let me know in the comments! 

Before I end the article, let's take a look at a couple decks from the Vintage leagues...

Naya Hatebears!

Technically this is just a G/W Hatebears deck with Simian Spirit Guides added to it, but I liked the sound of  "Naya Hatebears" more. It's truly a breath of fresh air to see a creature-based non-blue deck go undefeated in one of these leagues. Keep up the good work Flow_True!

Sierra Mistcutter Hydra Strikes Again!

With Monastery Mentor on the restricted list deck builders are being forced to get creative. Here's a sweet Paradoxical Outcome brew with the requisite mono-Mentor, Mistcutter Hydra, and Seeker of the Way! There's also a Dromoka in the sideboard for style points and dominating the control mirror. 


That's all the time I have for this week, until next time stay calm and get your Vintage on! You can find me on Twitter and Magic Online @Islandswamp


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