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Vintage 101: Kavu Kavu Kavu


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 one of the more recent midrange/aggro variants to pop up, a DRS variant that is playing some copies of the card Territorial Kavu! In addition to that, we've also got some event data on the Vintage Showcase Challenge as well as the regular Sunday Challenge. We've also got a Spice Corner!

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Territorial Disputes

The DRS variant shells in the Vintage format offer some of the most unique flexibility, allowing for differences in the deck to flourish and prosper. Most of this is predicated on the back of how much Deathrite Shaman enables these shells, allowing not only for powerful color fixing but also as a win condition and life gain mana sink when necessary. We've seen many different variations of these shells that are 4C shells, utilizing cards like Wrenn and Six and Oko, Thief of Crowns alongside cards like Assassin's Trophy and Dark Confidant, but this list, which has been most recently showing up, is really stretching those limits much further with the addition of Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Territorial Kavu.

Let's take a look at a list.

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At first glance here there's a lot of familiarity to this shell. We have the basics of Deathrite, W6, blue restricted cards as well as cards like Leovold, Emissary of Trest. But digging a little deeper lets us see some of the powerful additions made to this shell and it starts right down at the basics with the Monkey.

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We've discussed the power of this card plenty of times in the past two months and how much it has jumped into Vintage without even breaking a sweat. It's very strong here as it enables a lot of the deck's more expensive cards and allows for a lot of mana fixing as well. Ragavan and DRS are best friends here, doing powerful things together. However, the really interesting card here is Territorial Kavu.

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At first glance this is just a big dumb beater, and that part is pretty reasonable true. Able to become a 5/5 pretty swiftly thanks to the additions of multiple land type lands like the dual lands and Raugrin Triome, this card offers some interesting functionality. It's a rummage effect when needed, which is always going to be strong, but it's also an effect that exiles cards from graveyards. This opens up this card to being able to remove things like Dredgers, shrinking the opponent's graveyard to reduce the chances of them being able to land a critical Delve spell in a game, or simply removing cards that have other ways to recur from the graveyard. In addition to the pressure put on by Deathrite Shaman as well as Ragavan removing cards from the top of the library, it's very easy to see why this card works so well. It's essentially a Tarmogoyf with a little bit of upside every attack phase. Furthermore, it's a Goyf that has the added bonus of working well with your own Deathrite Shaman and not being affected by opposing copies of DRS either.

Another addition to this shell that has crept its way into the format more and more in the past two months is Endurance, which is an exceptionally flexible and powerful card (as we'll see it used later in the events). Also in the sideboard here is the card Unholy Heat, another new card that has proven to be one of the more interesting and powerful one-mana removal spells in a long while.

All in all, this is a really interesting deck. It leans a lot into many of the new additions from Modern Horizons 2 but integrates them into the shell in a pretty flawless way. In fact, the only big issue with this deck on Magic Online is the price tag. At a little over 1300 tix it's definitely difficult to rent this deck out, as three Ragavan is 300-ish tix of the price alone. Much of the Modern Horizons and Modern Horizons 2 cards are definitely still a little pricey on Magic Online for sure currently, and that works against decks that break over 1200-ish tix since 1000 is often a pretty hard limit for rental services.

Still, I'm pretty impressed as Territorial Kavu is not a card I would have expected in Vintage in 2021.

Vintage Showcase Challenge 8/7

We had a Vintage Showcase Challenge this past weekend, the last one of the current season of Premier Play (and also currently the last Showcase Challenge for a hot minute as Season Three continues to not have Vintage as an option). These events are Qualification Point entry only (costing 40 QPs) and feed into the Showcase Qualifier event at the end of the season (which is fast approaching). This event, thanks to data collected by the Vintage Streamers Discord, had 135 players in it.

You can find all of the Top 32 decklists for this event here and the datasheet for this event here. I am also switching to utilizing the graph data from these sheets because they have a bit more information than the ones I had been making before.

Quite a bit of BUG in the top of this event as always, as it is one of the most popular fair decks in the format and continues to be as such. The Hollow Vine decks also were very popular here as was Doomsday. Out of the decks represented, Dredge had an exceptional win rate but at a fairly low sample size out of the entire event (3 out of 135 players). Blue Tinker variants continue to be a breakout performer in the current format with both UB and Grixis variants performing very well.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
BUG Midrange 1st Ozymandias17
Dredge 2nd T1_Tinker
Paradoxical Outcome 3rd shir kahn
Blue Tinker 4th zachattack23
Dredge 5th kanister
Blue Tinker 6th Cioffo86
Blue Tinker 7th Capriccioso
Paradoxical Outcome 8th Bryant_Cook

Quite a bit of Blue Tinker variants and Dredge here, along with PO decks. Rising to the top of the heap however is Matt Vook (known Legacy stalwart) on BUG Midrange.

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One of the big adoptions for this deck has been the growing presence of Endurance as a staple. The card is so incredibly flexible and powerful that I am not really surprised to see it hitting main deck status in these kinds of decks. The two Tabernacle in the sideboard is definitely owing to the understanding that Bazaar aggro and decks like Dredge are still very popular and Tabernacle is a great way to combat those decks.

In Second Place we do indeed have Dredge.

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Even further on the other end of the spectrum is the widespread adoption of Grief into the Vintage Dredge shells. You would be hard-pressed to find a list without this card now, as the power and flexibility it provides is quite good. Creeping Chill also continues to be a staple of the deck, providing reach in matchups where the life total difference really matters.

Also in the Top 8 we've got PO, as done by our good friend Nico Bohny.

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Definitely has been a while since I've seen main deck Balance in a deck, so that in of itself is pretty sweet. Urza's Saga enables the Key aspect of the deck very well, giving it a way to hunt down the other half of the Time Vault combo.

Down at Fourth Place, we've got UB Tinker.

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A lot of these builds have eschewed cards like Sedgemoor Witch lately for things like Hullbreacher. It's an interesting divergence for sure. I still think Sedgemoor Witch has plenty of life in the format right now, but it might not be a good time for it with the changes after Modern Horizons 2.

Just outside of the Top 8 we've got a sweet Mono White Taxes variant.

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This list is certainly neat. Speaking of Modern Horizons 2 cards, we see again another of the Evoke cycle in Solitude making a splash in this deck. This is definitely a really powerful strategy right now and it looks like a ton of fun.

Further down the Top 32 we've got Oath.

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Four Field of Ruin is a really interesting thing here. Even more amusing is the two copies of You Find Some Prisoners from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms in the sideboard. This list is a masterpiece for sure.

Vintage Challenge 8/8

We also had a regular Challenge event over the weekend, which was the Sunday morning event. Thanks to the data from the Vintage Streamers Discord, we know this event had 49 players in it.

You can find all of the Top 32 decklists for this event here and the data sheet for this event here.

A fairer spread of top decks here with a smaller amount of players. Still a good amount of BUG as to be expected, but a solid performance from Jeskai Control despite the small sample size of two players.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Golos Stax 1st Tsubasa_Cat
Jeskai Control 2nd discoverN
Golos Stax 3rd fistfullofmetal
BUG Midrange 4th WhiTe TsaR
UR Aggro 5th TeamLeaderNA
Mono White 6th Wizard_2002
Blue Tinker 7th hodortimebaby
Oath of Druids 8th Punchilleno

A solid spread of decks here, with some Shops variants plus some combo and fair decks. At the end of the event however, it was the Golos Stax deck that took it all down.

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A very solid list here, and very clean at that. Having the main deck restricted Karn is pretty good for a lot of the silver bullets in the sideboard. We can also continue to see the sideboard action of Archive Trap to ward off Doomsday.

In Second Place, speaking of typical Doomsday players we have discoverN on a different deck... Jeskai Control.

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New cards Prismatic Ending and Expressive Iteration take up spots here which is pretty interesting to see. Otherwise this is pretty close to typical Jeskai Control variants with Arcanist.

Down the Top 8 we've got a showing by the UR Aggro variant deck.

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That one copy of Subtlety is pretty cool honestly. Pitch elementals all abound in this format right now it seems, since there is even a pair of Fury in the sideboard.

Also in the Top 8 we've got another Mono White Taxes variant with Lurrus at the helm.

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The upside here is this deck gets to run things like main deck Kataki. The downside is that you don't get Archon of Emeria. There's definitely a tradeoff here and I like how that feels.

Down the Top 32 we had another taxes style deck show up in White Eldrazi.

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We haven't seen a lot of this deck as of late, so it's pretty cool to see people still playing it. New card Elite Spellbinder here is also really neat.

Near the bottom of the Top 32 we've got a real blast from the past (or is it present? I can never keep these timelines straight!) in DPS.

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Just good old-fashioned clean Storm killing right here.

Around the Web

  • Justin Gennari is getting down with Dress Down in PO. Check out both vids below:
  • Bryant Cook recorded his Top 8 run in the Vintage Showcase! Check out that recap here.
  • Another Top 8 Vintage Showcase recap featuring Top 8 competitor Dom Harvey and Jarvis Yu. Check that out here.

The Spice Corner

It has been a real hot minute since I've seen a Tezzeret the Seeker.

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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 at 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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