MTGGoldfish is supported by its audience. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission.
Browse > Home / Strategy / Articles / Vintage 101: Journey to the Center of the Meta Game

Vintage 101: Journey to the Center of the Meta Game

Howdy folks! It's time for yet another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host with the most Joe Dyer, and this week we're shifting gears a little bit. The past few weeks we've been talking about the various decks in the Vintage format and deconstructing what they look like. Now, we're going to talk about the Vintage Meta Game as it pertains solely to Magic Online. With a weekly dump of League 5-0 decklists in addition to a Vintage Challenge every week we have the best view that we can get of what Vintage looks like right now. We're also going to take a look at last weekend's Vintage Challenge and some of the decklists from that, and talk about my trip to Michigan over the weekend.

Of course, as always we'll finish off with a dose of Vintage Super League!

Without further ado, let's get started!

Vintage Meta Game Update - February 2019

Over the past week or so I've been collecting and harvesting data based on the Magic Online Vintage Challenges 5-0 League postings since Ravnica Allegiance was released to keep track of what the Vintage Meta Game is currently looking like. The following chart is a culmination of that data up to this past weekend's Challenge/League postings.

We can glean some pretty important piece of information from this chart, so let's dive into what this all means.

The Three Big Decks of the Format are PO, Shops, and UR Xerox

In terms of sheer representation, these three decks are what we would consider the Tier 1 strategies of the format currently. Despite an ongoing bug with the card Foundry Inspector and X creature spells like Hangarback Walker on Magic Online, Shops appears to be as good as it ever has been, keeping pace with the other two Tier 1 strategies.  PO Storm has supplanted the traditional Dark Ritual based Storm decks, while plain U/R Xerox (often either splashing green, white, or both) have taken the place of the traditional Jeskai Mentor Xerox decks as players have figured out that they can play four copies of Young Pyromancer in these decks.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Tier 2 Strategies Are Relatively Wide-Open

While the Big Three reign supreme over the format, many of the Tier 2 strategies that exist are still very powerful to play. Decks like Survival, Dredge, Grixis Thieves, and even Taxes builds are capable of doing well in the format. There's even room to play within this space for various builds such as the Eldrazi tax builds, which have migrated from colorless/white builds to blue/white builds in order to play Lavinia, Azorius Renegade. Survival especially has fragmented into three different variants of the deck (BUG, Bant, and Lavinia focused builds) while Dredge has finally somewhat settled into a comfortable variant in Pitch Dredge (with clever pilots such as Andy Markiton attempting various interesting takes on the deck, including some builds playing Flayer of the Hatebound!)

$ 0.00 $ 0.00   $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Furthermore, cards like Lavinia, Azorius Renegade have been making a real splash in the format since Ravnica Allegiance released, forcing even the top tier decks to have to adjust to the card's existence in the format. Lavinia has arisen to just around 192 copies of the card in decks since the release of RNA, even taking the forefront of certain decks.

Archetypes are Balanced Currently

Despite the fact that there are the Big Three decks, the archetypes in the format are actually fairly well balanced right now. At the top end there is a Tempo deck (Shops), a Combo deck (PO Storm), and a Control deck (Xerox Control). Beyond that there are various toolbox strategies, a graveyard combo strategy, and other interesting deck archetypes available.

Is the Format Healthy?

This is at the core of a lot of ongoing discussion about Vintage. Is Vintage actually healthy? From the perspective of raw data and the balanced archetypes in the format, things do actually look fairly healthy from a diversity standpoint. Even though there are three definitively top tier decks, Vintage's diversity expresses itself in the terms of the shells present in the context of the format.

However... if the format is healthy, what are people complaining about? Mostly they're complaining about the lack of fun within the games played. This I feel comes down to what someone wants out of the format. There are certainly very polarized opinions on this subject. There are some folks within the Vintage community that believe cards like Hollow One should be restricted even. My personal experience with the format goes back to a statement made to me from someone at an event where "Even if things are unhealthy, the format's still fun to play." I think that still holds true for where the format is at currently.

That being said, I know that the discussion always tends to trend back to cards like Paradoxical Outcome, Mental Misstep, and the like. However, because of how balanced things actually are right now, hitting just one card with a restriction could effectively unbalance the format quite a bit.

Personally, I don't wish to see things get further restricted right now until a true problem arises. For the most part, people have figured out how to beat PO, and the format is fluctuating as normal week to week between challenges. If anything Shops still feels pretty much like the absolutely best deck in the format, but people are starting to innovate there too to be better versus Shops (UR Xerox running cards like main deck Ancient Grudge for example).

I very much believe that one of the reasons for such innovation is the presence of Survival in the format. Survival's emergence this past year as a real contender in the format has spurred many to consider trying various different strategies in order to find what else can possibly work. If you think about it, the cards for Survival all existed for quite a long time before the deck emerged. In fact, the newest card for the deck, Hollow One existed in the format for over a year before people figured out how to build the deck appropriately. This kind of innovation is only good for Vintage, because it has shown there is still room within the format to be able to construct new decks. We are starting to see a real resurgence of certain decks, including things like Two-Card Monte, Rector Flash, etc. A big reason behind that is, honestly, Vintage Super League getting people to try new things.

In addition, there are folks in the community like IAmActuallyLvl1 and Chubby_Rain who continue to push the envelope of innovation in the format. This kind of innovation can only be good for the format, as it will continue to show people that you can genuinely brew in the format.

Vintage Challenge 2/16

This past weekend we had another weekly Vintage Challenge on Magic Online, and it was certainly a very interesting Top 8 combined with a super interesting finals match.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
UR Xerox 1st TheHamburglar
Colorless Eldrazi 2nd Thiim
Ravager Shops 3rd Montolio
Ravager Shops 4th Bpaf
Ravager Shops 5th Itsukis
Humans 6th Jdphoenix
PO Storm 7th SandyDogMTG
UR Xerox 8th Pascal3000

Despite the overbearing presence of Shops in the Top 8 (which is interesting given that unless something has changed Shops is still bugged on MTGO with Foundry Inspector and Lavinia, Azorius Renegade stealth buff versus Hangarback Walker / Walking Ballista), the finals of this challenge were down to UR Xerox versus... Colorless Eldrazi!

TheHamburglar's list is pretty stock to a typical UR Xerox variant, with the exception of the addition of sideboard card Pulverize (which looks pretty gross versus Shops + PO). He would eventually take down the entire event in the finals, so congrats to him on a solid finish!

However, it was MTGO User Thiim who ended up alongside him and also finished in the Swiss at a perfect 6-0 record on Colorless Eldrazi.

This deck is actually just really sweet. Thiim has placed a few times in the Challenges before with this list, but I believe this to be the first time they have Top 8'ed with it. Again, we go back to innovation in the format being a real key right now to helping people build decks for the format.

Also showing up in the Top 8 is a Humans list!

This list is also very strong, especially leaning on the powerhouse that is Lavinia, Azorius Renegade. This card is very, very good and I would not expect to see less of her as time goes on.

Going down the Top 32 it was infested with PO and Shops, with a mixture of Dredge and Landstill thrown in for good measure. But it was the 32nd place list at 3-3 that really caught my eye. Ladies and gentlemen... Vintage Blazing Infect.

There are no words.

Vintage Slam!

This past weekend I hauled myself up to Battle Creek, MI to play a little Vintage at a store up there called Perfect Storm Comics and Games. They run a monthly unsanctioned event there, and since this was part of my birthday weekend (birthday being Feb 19) I figured why not go up and have a good time.

So, Sunday morning I drove a long way to Battle Creek to Perfect Storm to find out that including myself... only four players had shown up. I was not overly disheartened, as the store manager Travis had mentioned that the event did not get posted to The Mana Drain like it should have been. I knew about it through Facebook, and there was no real way to know that the event would have that few show up.

We played a Round Robin pod (with everyone playing against each other) instead of Swiss, and I played the following list:

I have always loved Fatestitcher versions of Dredge, so I figured I would run it back for this kind of event. At the end of the event, I went 2-1 facing down Survival, PO, and Shops (beating Shops and PO, losing to Survival). All in all, I had a great time, including highlights such as being able to Dread Return a Golgari Grave-Troll with 19 +1/+1 counters on it and getting to actually cast Spinning Darkness versus a Containment Priest. I also managed to leverage the singleton Chalice of the Void out of the sideboard, which really helped my post-board game versus PO. Chalice is a card that I'm going to be looking at a lot more to work into more Dredge lists that I play in the format because it is in an exceedingly good place right now.

Regardless of the turnout, the event was great and I got to meet Aaron Katz, who was a great guy to talk to and playtest with. In addition, the guys at the store were fantastic to talk to and it was a very clean and lovely store. I used my store credit I won to purchase some cards for my Middle School format deck that I'm building (this is another article for another time, obviously!) so that was great.


That's right folks! This week was the sixth week of Vintage Super League! Taking place on my birthday, no less! One could not ask for a better night. This week continues our working our way through the pods as we see the following competitors take the stage:

  • Andy Probasco (HE WHO DRAINS THE MANA)
  • Randy Buehler (HE WHO COMMANDS THE VSL)

This is a sweet lineup this week and an interesting one given that Erin at 0-3 is out of the playoff contention, but she has a chance to crush some dreams and play something fun, and boy howdy did she bring something fun to the table. Let's check out the lists.

A fun sidenote to this week's decklists. When I was up in Michigan playing against Aaron Katz, he was playing the same deck that Kevin submitted for VSL. He and Kevin are good friends, so Aaron was playtesting for him. It was sweet to see this deck in action before VSL, as the Sai, Master Thopterist plan is really wildly interesting.

Without further ado, let's jump into the matches!

Round 1 is Andy Probasco vs Kevin Cron! Kevin takes a quick Game 1 by being able to resolve a quick Voltaic Key/Time Vault combo through Andy's quick Monaster Mentor. Game 2 sees Andy being able to slam an early Lavinia, Azorius Renegade and quickly take over the game with a Turn 1 Dack Fayden. Game 3 shows Andy being able to assemble the Painter's Servant + Grindstone combo to take the match!

Round 2 is Randy Buehler vs Erin Campbell! Erin kicks things off Game 1 with a Null Rod and Sphere of Resistance, while finding a Bloodghast and Prized Amalgam to provide a clock on Randy. Randy tries to find an answer, but ultimately is unable to do so. Game 2 is an insane back and forth with Erin having the Dark Depths + Thespian's Stage combo live with Randy having Karakas up for it. Randy is eventually able to pull through to win Game 2 on the back of Monastery Mentor + Hurkyl's Recall. Game 3 Erin opens on Sphere of Resistance with the Depths combo in hand. Gane 3 shows Erin having the combo and being able to pull it off, but Randy has the Repeal for the token. Randy is eventually able to find a Paradoxical Outcome with Yawgmoth's Will in hand and is able to locate Tendrils of Agony for the kill.

Round 3 is Andy Probasco vs Erin Campbell! Game 1 shows Erin with a quick Null Rod right off the bat, but Andy is able to Tinker for Blightsteel Colossus to stick Game 1. Erin opens Game 2 with Null Rod + Chalice of the Void and is able to stick a powerful clock to take the game. Game 3 is wild and Erin has some powerful draw, but Andy eventually finds the Tinker for Blightsteel. Erin blocks twice with Hollow One + Marit Lage, but is unable to find a way to win the game.

Round 4 is Kevin Cron vs Randy Buehler! Game 1 Randy goes into the deep of an early Paradoxical Outcome on Turn 1 and is able to jam a Tendrils of Agony to win the game. Game 2 is a crazy back and forth between both players as each player attempts to gain traction over the other. Randy goes off to the races and casts Mind's Desire for 29 copies, and follows up with Tendrils of Agony after countering a potentially lethal Ancestral Recall.

Round 5 is Andy Probasco vs Randy Buehler! Game 1 is Andy taking over the game with Lavinia, Azorius Renegade into the ability to Stone Rain Randy's lands with Pyroblast under Painter's Servant naming blue to push Randy out of the game. Game 2 shows Randy casting Mind's Desire for 3 and trying for a PO and Andy finding a Force of Will off a Gush to counter it. Andy follows up with Tinker into Blightseel Colossus to shut the game out and take the match.

Round 6 is Erin Campbell vs Kevin Cron! Game 1 sees Kevin finding the Time Vault + Voltaic Key, but Erin goes off to the races with the Dredge half of her deck to lay down the beats and take the game. Game 2 shows some mulligans for both players with Kevin going for a Yawgmoth's Will off Demonic Tutor. Game 3 shows both players making some interesting plays with Erin destroying some of Kevin's lands with Wasteland + Strip Mine, but Kevin is eventually able to make a Monastery Mentor and tokens to slam through for a win.

We end the night with Andy swiftly making a 3-0 to put himself at 4-2 overall to move into the playoffs, and Randy at 2-1 to move into 5-1 overall to also move into the playoffs!

The Spice Corner

Have you ever just wanted to Jund people out in Vintage? Well, Chubby_Rain has got you covered in this week's spice list.

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Next week we're going to be looking more at some Vintage Challenge data in addition to Week 7 of VSL, as well as talking about innovation in the format and some of the various people that make that innovation possible!

I am slowly working on the video stuff for the BUG Survival video as well, so that should be a lot of fun. As always, hit me up on Twitter if you want to talk a little Vintage!

Until next time, keep casting Survival!

More in this Series

Show more ...

More on MTGGoldfish ...

Image for Modern Horizons 3 Spoilers — May 24 | New Necropotence in Modern, New Ashling and more! daily spoilers
Modern Horizons 3 Spoilers — May 24 | New Necropotence in Modern, New Ashling and more!

A new Necropotence, a new Ashling, and Phyrexian Tower is reprinted into Modern and more!

May 24 | by mtggoldfish
Image for We Gift Each Other Your Troll Decks | Commander Clash S16 E19 commander clash
We Gift Each Other Your Troll Decks | Commander Clash S16 E19

A few weeks ago we asked you to send us your troll and meme decks. Today we gifted them to each other. Here's what we've got!

May 24 | by SaffronOlive
Image for The Power of Pauper: Without a Glitter the power of pauper
The Power of Pauper: Without a Glitter

Joe Dyer looks at the first results without All That Glitters!

May 24 | by Joe Dyer
Image for Single Scoop: Rankle Loves Which Card? Discard. single scoop
Single Scoop: Rankle Loves Which Card? Discard.

Rankle has the best pranks and it just happens to line up with 8-rack style of decks. Let's see if the new Rankle on Arena can cook up some more funny business.

May 24 | by TheAsianAvenger

Layout Footer

Never miss important MTG news again!

All emails include an unsubscribe link. You may opt-out at any time. See our privacy policy.

Follow Us

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Twitch
  • Instagram
  • Tumblr
  • RSS
  • Email
  • Discord
  • YouTube

Price Preference

Default Price Switcher