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Vintage 101: Kaladesh Tech!

Mountains Win Again

Last week's Vintage 101 took a look at the Top Eight decks from the Vintage Championships at Eternal Weekend. Most of the time the Top Eight decks of large tournaments soak up all of the attention, and people sometimes miss out on some sweet tech because of that. In large events the difference between making Top Eight and just barely missing comes down to tie breakers. People can have very good runs in an event and never have their lists publicized. Today I'm going to feature a few of the decks that I think merit a second look. 

The first list I want to talk about did very well, ending up in 21st place with a 7-2 record. Even more surprising is the fact that this deck did so well without any Power Nine cards, no Bazaar of Baghdads, and it wasn't a Tribal Eldrazi deck! Kurt Crane built this unique mono red prison style deck that preyed upon various decks in the Vintage metagame. 

Blood Moon Rising!

Kurt's deck brutalized opponent's with a combination of eight "Moon effects" (four Blood Moons and four Magus), as well as a whole host of other nasty surprises. Is your opponent playing Storm? Well then ruin their day with Eidolon of the Great Revel, Trinisphere, Null Rod, or Chalice of the Void. Perhaps your opponent just wants to play fair and attack you with creatures. Well in that case there's Ensnaring Bridge to make sure the attack phase is useless. 

Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon aren't quite as devastating in Vintage as they are in other formats, but they're still very good at wrecking opposing mana bases. Gush can't be cast correctly with Blood Moon in play, and Workshop/Eldrazi type decks can't leverage their special lands for extra mana either. 

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The main way that Vintage decks have to work around a Blood Moon is to use moxen or Black Lotus. Unfortunately for those people planning on crutching on their artifact mana, this deck also runs Null Rods! 

To power out all of the different prison elements the deck employs four copies of Simian Spirit Guide and seven total "Sol Lands" (City of Traitors and Ancient Tomb). There's also a Lotus Petal and Sol Ring for good measure. With all of this mana acceleration it shouldn't be too hard to start your first turn with something evil like Blood Moon or Trinisphere

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Many of the important cards in the deck are creatures, so Cavern of Souls does a lot of work in this list. It's unfortunate that most of these creatures do not share a creature type, but if used wisely the Caverns should render opposing counters useless. I'm sure that casting an early Magus of the Moon with Cavern of Souls feels pretty good, and I'm sure it's a nightmare for opponents too. 

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Rabble Rabble Rabble!

All of the creatures in this list do a lot of work, but there's also the former Standard format staple Goblin Rabblemaster to do a lot of the heavy lifting. Rabblemaster creates a substantial board presence quite quickly, and it can be somewhat protected by the deck's mana denial strategy. If a Rabblemaster is left unchecked for a few turns it can quickly become lethal. The Goblin tokens it creates also have some synergy with Ensnaring Bridge, It's easy to keep just one card in hand to ensure the Goblin tokens can always attack, and then dump that one card so that opponents don't get to swing back. 

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Big Red 'Walkers

I had written all about this sweet mono red deck, and I nearly forgot to mention yet another Kaladesh card that's broken into Vintage! The new Chandra made a lot of waves when it was spoiled, and it looks like Kurt Crane put her to good use. 

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Chandra, Torch of Defiance has been hailed as the red Jace, the Mind Sculptor due to both cards having four loyalty abilities. Chandra is never going to replace the Mind Sculptor, but in an all red deck she's the best planeswalker you could hope for!

Chandra's first ability provides much needed card advantage, which allows the deck to keep its opponent's under pressure. Chandra also gives this deck extra removal. The minus three creature buring ability can take out a Thought-Knot Seer, which is extremely relevant. Her "ritual" ability helps make extra mana after the deck's Sol Lands have been turned into Mountains. Her ultimate ability is probably the least relevant, but if you do manage to activate it you're probably winning that game. 

Kurt's list also played a single Koth of the Hammer. Koth has seen play in similar big red decks in other formats because his abilities work best in such a deck. He provides a win condition and mana ramping, and his ultimate is easy to reach. Koth's ultimate ability can be activated three turns after he enters the battlefield, and it gives the deck an easy way to win through Ensnaring Bridge

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Meta Red in Vintage

I'm very impressed with the results that this deck had at the Vintage Championship. Although it doesn't look like much on paper, evaluate how each of the cards attack the current Vintage metagame. This deck was able to do well while eschewing the power nine, and I think that this deck is a great option for people looking to play Vintage for cheap.

I'm often asked by readers if there are budget decks in Vintage. This is a tricky question to answer for a few reasons. First of all, the prices in paper Vintage and Magic Online are drastically different. Most decks are substantially cheaper on the online platform. When people ask for a cheap deck, I always have to give them different answers depending on whether they're playing Magic Online or planning on going to a local Vintage event. 

In the paper world this deck is very affordable (compared to a fully powered deck or Dredge). On Magic Online this deck is a little cheaper than its analog version, but it's still much more expensive than the average Standard deck. I tried to make a few cuts to this list to make it more affordable, but I'm afraid that it's still not cheap enough for most people to consider it budget, I'll share the list I created just in case anyone out there is interested, but I have to add that it's going to be far less powerful than Kurt Crane's build. 

Budget Version

To cut a few hundred dollars off the price tag I replaced Cavern of Souls and City of Traitors with Crystal Vein and Ghost Quarter. I also had to change the Eidolon of the Great Revels into Pyrostatic Pillars.  Crystal Vein should do a reasonable impression of City of Traitors, and Pyrostatic Pillar is an Eidolon that can't attack or block. The other expensive cards seemed way too important to the deck to cut, so I left them alone. 

If you're interested in playing Vintage on Magic Online and don't want to invest in the Power Nine just yet, this could be a good place to start. Most of the expensive cards are good in Modern too, so you may be able to get some extra use out of them. I haven't tested this budget list at all, but I can say that the swaps I made would indeed make the deck weaker. I'd recommend planning on building towards Kurt Crane's list eventually so you can experience the deck in its optimal form. 


The Ultimate Paradox!

Paradoxical Outcome was featured in several of the top performing decks at Champs, but none of them were able to crack the Top Eight. There were Paradoxical Mentor decks, Turbo Tezzeret type builds, and even a Storm variant played by none other than Reid Duke!

Reid placed very well and finished in 22nd place with his innovative take on Storm. Typically Storm decks have been fuelled by Dark Rituals, but this deck sheds all those black mana producing spells and instead plays as many artifact mana producers as possible. All of the artifacts help power the deck by creating extra mana and storm count, and they turn Paradoxical Outcome into a truly broken card!

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Cards like Mana Vault and Sol Ring are seen in Vintage all the time. When people have exhausted the usual list of mana rocks they start turning to cards like  Mox Opal and Grim Monolith to fill out their decks. Reid's list has four Opals, two Monoliths, and three copies of Chrome Mox which brought the total number of mana artifacts up to twenty! That's a lot of artifact mana for a non-Belcher deck. All of this artifact mana is needed to ensure that Paradoxical Outcome can be chained to dig through the deck in one turn. 

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Once this deck starts drawing cards with Paradoxical Outcome it is able to make an absurd storm count and also generate a ton of mana. This process is much like the way Storm decks used to use Hurkyl's Recall to make extra mana and storm, except you're also drawing huge chunks of your deck at once. The payoff is either Mind's Desire or Tendrils of Agony, and either one is likely to be lethal. 

Draw All the Cards

Reid's list contains several powerful draw spells, including most of the draw-seven cards available in Vintage. There's Windfall, Timetwister, Memory Jar, and even Wheel of Fortune. With all of the fast mana and draw-sevens it's trivially easy to play out your entire hand and refill your grip. Paradoxical Outcome functions a lot like a draw-seven effect except it isn't symmetrical and it adds mana and extra storm count as well. 

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Force of Will in Storm

One of the cool things about this particular build of Storm is that it is able to play Force of Will. Dark Petition Storm is too heavily focused in black to make Force a viable option. DPS has always used a combination of Duress effects and Defense Grids to protect their combo, and for the most part it worked fine. Playing without Force does have some drawbacks however. Without Force, a Storm deck is unable to reactively deal with many opposing threats, so it's possible for someone to either play their own combo faster or to deploy something that severely hampers the Storm deck. 

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Force of Will gives Paradoxical Storm a slightly better chance of beating a Mishra's Workshop deck in game one. If you can answer the first Sphere of Resistance or Thorn of Amethyst it can go a long way towards winning the game. I'm sure that the Workshop matchup is still tough, especially in game one, but I do think that Force is where you want to be when you're facing prison strategies. 

Paradoxical Outcome in Vintage

Paradoxical Storm is an exciting new archetype, and I expect to see more people picking up the deck in the near future. This deck is undeniably powerful and explosive, and it reminds me of a Belcher deck with slightly less of a glass cannon aspect. There aren't very many lands, but there are enough in the list to give it a chance of building up enough mana to deal with problematic permanents. 

Despite all of the positive things Paradoxical Storm has going for it, I also think it has some glaring weaknesses. The deck simply cannot function with Null Rod or Stony Silence on the battlefield. With zero main-deck Hurkyl's Recall the list seems especially soft to Workshops compared to the more traditional Dark Petition Tendrils decks. In the current metagame Workshops are no longer the only prison deck that players have to deal with either. Tribal Eldrazi can pack Null Rods and White Eldrazi has Thorns and Thalia, Guardian of Thrabens.

The increased presence of Eldrazi creatures and Thalias means that Hurkyl's Recall isn't enough to clear the way for a combo turn. The only way this deck has to deal with the varied threats that White Eldrazi (or Hatebears) would have is a single Toxic Deluge in the sideboard. Against those decks it might be possible to sideboard in Blightsteel Colossus and Empty the Warrens to add a few alternate win conditions, but I'm not sure if that's enough. Perhaps Engineered Explosives could be a good addition to the sideboard as it can be used to clear the board of two-drops quite easily, which would sweep away all the Spheres, Thorns, and Thalias on the battlefield. 

I sincerely believe that Paradoxical Outcome will continue be a player in Vintage in a variety of decks, although it isn't likely to have a large market share. Combo decks are usually too weak to the prison decks to become too dominant. Personally I think that's a good thing. Amazing and broken plays are a hallmark of the format, but balance is equally important. 


Smuggler's Copter in Vintage!

I really have to say that Kaladesh has been the gift that keeps on giving for Vintage players. I wrote two articles about Kaladesh in Vintage to try to cover everything I thought would be good enough to see play and I still missed stuff! I predicted that Skysovereign, Consul Flagship and Fleetwheel Cruiser would be adopted by Workshop decks, but I didn't think any of the other vehicles had what it takes. Well, I am never afraid to admit when I'm wrong. I knew that Smuggler's Copter would be amazing in Standard, and now it looks like the Loot Copter has some work to do in Vintage as well. Let's take a look at Marc Frias' 11th place list from Eternal Weekend!

Dack Fayden and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy proved how good looting is in Vintage. The average power level of Vintage cards is so high that card selection becomes extremely valuable. Blue decks have always had plenty of card drawing and filtering anyway, but Workshop decks never have had that ability. The problem with trying to fit a draw engine or card manipulation into a Workshop deck has always been that doing so weakened the prison elements of the deck too much. Smuggler's Copter is cheap, and it's basically a creature, so the opportunity cost is negligible. 

Two mana is low enough that Copter can be easily cast with Workshop mana, even with one sphere effect deployed. The crew cost is so low that any creature in a Workshop deck can pilot it, and attacking for three flying is quite good. It's never a bad thing to have a flying creature in a format that contains Moat. Once you're attacking with Smuggler's Copter the real fun begins. 

I have played a fair amount of Workshops in the past, and I can tell you that the draws that the deck has can make or break a game. Plenty of times I would have won a game if my draw for the turn had given me basically any non-land card. These are the situations that Smuggler's Copter should theoretically be able to fix. If you can turn an extra land into a Tanglewire or Arcbound Ravager, it might just win you a match. 

Kaladesh Cards!

As I mentioned at the beginning of this section, Kaladesh has been very good to us Vintage players! Marc Frias played Smuggler's Copter, Fleetwheel Cruiser, Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, and Inventor's Fair all in the same deck. 

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Beyond all the new tech, the other interesting aspect of Marc's deck is the unusual construction. Most of the time Shops decks pack as many lock pieces in them as they can, and they usually rely on the mana taxing ones specifically. This list doesn't play any main-deck Thorn of Amethysts and instead runs a pair of Smokestacks and Crucible of Worlds. "Space Ships," as Marc calls it, is a blend of Ravager Shops, Car Shops, and Stax. Having such a wide variety of effects adds a lot of versatility, but it could also lead to some problems with consistency. Luckily the Smuggler's Copter and Inventor's Fair can help the deck find the correct pieces when it needs to. 

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Crucible of Worlds combos with Smokestack to form a hard lock, but it also does much more for a Workshop deck. Crucible is the best card in Shops mirrors because it recycles Wastelands and allows you to cripple people's mana bases. Crucible also works wonders with Inventors' Fair. The Fair/Crucible combo isn't cheap, but it does provide the deck another draw engine. Tutoring for more pressure each turn is a pretty tough thing for opponents to defeat. 


Vehicle MUD in Vintage

Vehicles are a fantastic addition to Workshop decks, and I expect to see more of these decks as time goes on. Null Rod Shops have been making a comeback lately, but I predict that these vehicles-based lists will continue to take up a large percentage of the pillar. Fleetwheel Cruiser and Skysovereign have proven themselves, and I think that Smuggler's Copter will soon join their ranks permanently. 

Thought-Knot Seer seems to be seeing less play lately, but I'm not sure if that trend will continue. There are a ton of good options for MUD decks to play nowadays, so it can be hard to predict exactly which cards will become dominant. Vehicles are a hot commodity at the moment, but Thought-Knot is just too good to die off. 



I hope you enjoyed the look at these decks. If anyone reading gets a chance to try them out, let me know how it goes. People have been asking me about budget lists for Magic Online Vintage, and I've been trying to come up with something along those lines. If you're someone who is interested in trying a budget Vintage deck, let me know in the comments. I'd like to know how expensive people think that a budget deck should be. There are plenty of decks that are cheap compared to other Vintage decks, but I realize that they might not be inexpensive enough for many people. I think it's important to remember that the price of online Vintage is comparable to Modern and Legacy! 

That's all the time I have for this week; I'll see you in seven days! You can chat with me about #VintageMTG on Twitter @josephfiorinijr -- Islandswamp on Magic Online and TMD



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