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Vintage 101: LCV Technology


October 2016 is going to be packed with high-level Vintage play. Eternal Extravaganza Five is scheduled for the 15th and 16th, and soon after that Eternal Weekend is starting on October 27th. With two marquee events so close together, Vintage players are paying close attention to any and all tournament results in the interim. The basic archetypes of the format have been fairly well fleshed out at this point, but you never know when a new deck or some new tech might emerge.

In some respects, things can move slowly in Vintage. A good example of this phenomenon would be the Eldrazi creatures like Thought-Knot Seer. In the weeks following the release of Oath of the Gatewatch, nobody gave the Eldrazi a second look. It took a fundamental shift in the format (the restriction of Lodestone Golem) to force people to adopt Thought-Knot and its brethren. This slow evolution is due in part to the fact that paper Vintage cards can be expensive, so switching decks takes a large commitment. The other reason that decks tend to evolve slowly is that Vintage is full of the most powerful and efficient spells in the game, so it's very rare to have more than one or two playable cards enter the format at any given time. 

This year is very interesting because we have two very large and important events happening in close proximity, but we also had quite a few playable (and possibly broken) cards added to the format. Conspiracy: Take the Crown and Kaladesh have been quite good to the format, and the preceding blocks had several important inclusions as well. 

I'm always on the lookout for new tech for my articles, but I'm also heavily invested in trying to understand the format from a player's perspective. The known decks from the past few months are very important to understand, but keeping up with their evolution is paramount when tuning a deck for an event. With that in mind, I'm going to feature a few decks this week that have included new pieces of technology. All of these decks have performed well in the LCV Vintage series, so while they may not necessarily be optimal, their performances do lend credibility to the new cards they've included in their lists. These European Vintage leagues always seem to have some interesting tech, and I'm excited to share it!

Ravager MUD - LCV Vintage Top 16

 

Mishra's Workshop decks used to come in many varieties, but recently everything has seemingly coalesced around Thought-Knot Seer. Thought-Knot/Ravager Shops has been one of the only Workshop decks to put up consistent results in the wake of the Lodestone restriction. These decks are certainly powerful, but they can't take full advantage of Mishra's Workshop the way MUD decks have in the past. At times Thought-Knot Seer will rot in a player's hand when they're unable to draw an Eldrazi Temple or Mana Crypt

So much mana...

Rubén Xicota's Ravager MUD list has opted out of the Thought-Knot plan and instead the deck includes more aggressive threats. The creature package is Eldrazi-free, so Mishra's Workshop is leveraged to its full potential! 

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Along with Phyrexian Revoker, this deck has four Arcbound Ravagers, two Chief of the Foundrys, and four Foundry Inspectors. That is fourteen creatures that can be cast with a single Workshop. Having access to all of these cheap creatures means that you should be able to flood the board rather quickly, taking full advantage of the tempo provided by lock pieces. Revoker and Ravager are well-known cards at this point, but the two newer creatures haven't been explored nearly as much. 

Foundry Inspector makes all of your other creatures and lock pieces cheaper to cast, so playing your cards through a Sphere of Resistance becomes much easier. While playing a Workshop deck one of the major potential problems is being locked out by your own Spheres and Thorns. Foundry Inspector essentially provides you with extra mana and as a 3/2 it can also do some work on the battlefield. 

Chief of the Foundry is also an interesting inclusion as it pumps all of your creatures. Having a lord effect is quite nice for obvious reasons, but it also means that your two power creatures can Crew the two Vehicles in the deck. 

Snakes on a Flagship

The first half of my double article on Kaladesh in Vintage included a discussion on the Vehicles from the set. There was one particular Vehicle that I felt had the best chance of being played, Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. So far this is the only example I've found of a tournament finish for a Vehicle, but this somewhat bolsters my confidence in the card. 

Skysovereign performs a variety of important tasks for a Vintage MUD deck. The primary selling point in my opinion is that it functions as creature and planeswalker removal. Before this card was printed, the only way you could deal with your opponent's Dack Fayden was to hit it with a Phyrexian Revoker, Triskelion, or possibly Pithing Needle. Skysoveriegn. Consul Flagship gives you a reasonably-priced way to deal with a Dack, and it also kills many important creatures.  Plus, you get a damage trigger when you resolve the card, so it at least does something relevant even if you're unable to attack with it later. Once you're attacking with it each turn, it's a quick clock combined with board control. 

Moat and the similar effects in Vintage aren't exactly mainstream strategies, but they do see enough play to make the flying on Skysoverign very relevant. Even when there's not a literal Moat on the battlefield, the plethora of token creatures in Vintage can clog up the ground nearly as much. Again, flying over with six damage might just be enough to turn the tide and cruise on to victory. 

Factories over Temples

The reality of including Eldrazi in a MUD deck is that you're forced to look for more colorless mana sources, and the sources have to produce more than one mana in order for the deck to function properly. Generally this means running Eldrazi Temple, and sometimes even some number of City of Traitors. Playing Eldrazi Temple comes at the cost of Mishra's Factory, a card that's deceptively powerful. 

Eldrazi Temple basically does nothing all game long, until you draw an Eldrazi and suddenly need it desperately. Mishra's Factory also taps for colorless mana, but it provides you a body when you need it too. Factories can combine with one another to become a bigger threat, and they can hold the modular counters from an Arcbound Ravager. Sometimes you can even attack with an animated Factory while your Oath opponent is scrambling to find a Forbidden Orchard. Basically, Mishra's Factory is superior to Eldrazi Temple in every single situation that doesn't involve casting Thought-Knot Seer

Non-Eldrazi MUD in Vintage

Scrapping Thought-Knot in favor of a non-Eldrazi deck does have a downside, but it also allows for a true mono-Artifact deck that has a much more consistent mana base. I think that the overall power level of the Thought-Knot/Ravager MUD decks is higher than the lists without them, but there are some serious issues with mana consistency that make it a tough decision. 

Skysovereign, Consul Flagship looks like it's the real deal, and I wonder if it might be better suited in a deck that plays Etched Champion and Sword of Fire and Ice instead of Chief of the Foundry. A few players have been doing well on Magic Online with an Etched Champion build, so there's a precedent for it. 

It's a Conspiracy!

The next deck I'm going to feature is an interesting build, but I chose it mainly because it showcases a few of the new cards from Conspiracy: Take the Crown. These cards were good enough to help propel this deck to a winning record, but they're not yet part of the Magic Online metagame. If you've been attending any paper events recently though, I'm sure you've seen some of these gems in action. 

The heart of this deck is simply Junk Hatebears, a deck that's been around in Vintage for a number of years. If you're not familiar with Vintage, perhaps you've seen a similar style of deck in Modern. Start with the freshest hatebears, sprinkle in some mana acceleration and removal, liberally season with Cavern of Souls, and you've got yourself a deck. There are just so many great hatebears you can play in Vintage, and you can pick the specific ones that counteract whatever strategy you expect to face. 

The traditional creatures that Junk decks contain are here, like Deathrite ShamanThalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Dark Confidant. There is also some cool new tech as well. This deck includes several cards that are new printings: Eldrazi DisplacerThalia, Heretic Cathar, Recruiter of the Guard, and Sanctum Prelate.

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When Chalice of the Void was restricted it affected more than just Workshops. Many disruptive aggro decks ran Chalice as a way to combat the broken decks, and to take out the cantrip package that Gush decks play. Sanctum Prelate can't do everything that a Chalice can, but I'm willing to bet that it does a very reasonable impression of Chalice in this list. 

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I'm actually a little surprised to see Recruiter of the Guard here because I didn't think that a three mana conditional tutor was fast enough for Vintage. There are only two in the list, but I suppose that being able to tutor for the perfect Hatebear is very handy. A deck like this could possibly lose to a fast combo deck, so snagging that Thalia or Containment Priest at the perfect time is a nice option to have. The list also utilizes Eldrazi Displacer, a card that combines with Recruiter to create card advantage. 

Marit Lage and the Reliquary Knight

It's interesting that a broken Vintage combo is included in an otherwise fair deck. There's exactly one copy of Dark Depths and one Thespian's Stage in the deck, and the only way to find them is with the two copies of Knight of the Reliquary. This combo is obviously not the central theme of the deck, but I wonder how many times Dark Depths ended up being nothing more than a bad topdeck. 

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Knight of the Reliquary is a formidable attacker at least, and it can search up other utility lands as needed. Token creatures could be a problem for a Knight of the Reliquary, but this list contains Thalia, Heretical Cathar, which makes tokens less reliably as blockers. 

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I'm somewhat surprised to see Null Rod in this list over Stony Silence since the deck does seem like it could support the white mana requirement. Null Rod is slightly easier to cast, but much more hate is played for artifacts than enchantments. Typically I've seen Stony Silence be the go-to anti-artifact static effect in any deck that could make white mana. Null Rod still does a lot of work, and it plays very well with the rest of the mana denial cards. The Rod is also very well positioned against the best Workshop decks in the format, as they rely heavily on Arcbound Ravager and Triskelion

Taking the Crown in Vintage

Personally I'm a big fan of playing Hatebears, but this type of deck has become much better in recent years. The decks always have been decent, but the increasing power level of creatures has finally made these decks able to compete at the highest level. One of the biggest breakthroughs has been to add Eldrazi creatures to give the deck some beef at the higher part of the curve. This deck is quite different from the White Eldrazi lists, but it does borrow some of the tech by playing the twin Thalias, Containment Priest, and of course, Eldrazi Displacer

I like the idea of the deck having access to the Marit Lage combo, but without playing it myself or seeing it in action I have to say I'm not sure it's worth running those cards. This deck, like all Hatebears decks, lacks a true draw engine. There's some amount of tutoring in the list with Knight of the Reliquary and Recruiter of the Guard, but that doesn't seem like enough to reliably make the 20/20 token. This means that Dark Depths is likely going to be a brick more often than I'm comfortable with. 

The aspect of this deck that I am the most excited about is the inclusion of the cards from Conspiracy: Take the Crown. It's too bad that this deck is unplayable on Magic Online in this form, at least for another few months. In the meantime, Vintage players will just have to find other ways to test out Sanctum Prelate and the rest of the Conspiracy cards.

 

This is the End, I Promise...

Here we have Miquel Alcoriza's fourth place list from the LCV Vintage series. I've always got my eyes open looking for new ideas, and this deck is pretty interesting. This is a big blue deck, but it's not based on Tinker. It's a hard control deck with Moat, but it's not based on Standstill like you might expect. It even plays Fact or Fiction, a card that isn't seen much these days. 

The only win conditions in the list are activating the ultimate on Jace, the Mind Sculptor and two copies of Emrakul, the Promised End. Emrakul has been seeing a little bit of Vintage love in Rich Shay's Emrakul/Landstill deck, so it's not much of a surprise to see it here too. 

Mystic Remora

The name given to this deck is Remora Control, and as such Mystic Remora is a central component of this strategy. Remora is an interesting card, and it tends to slow down games in a similar fashion to Standstill. Both of the blue enchantments make it tough for your opponent to profitably cast a spell, but Remora allows much more freedom in deck design. In a Landstill deck you shouldn't play much artifact mana because they don't play well with Standstill. You need to be able to make your land drops, whether it's an actual land or a mox drawn off the top of your library. Mystic Remora allows you to freely cast spells, with the downside of having a cumulative upkeep. 

Slowing the game down is critically important in this deck because the longer a game goes the more likely this deck is to win. Casting Emrakul, the Promised End should win the game in just a few turns, so the interim goal is to simply survive and to draw cards. Emrakul also gets cheaper to cast as a game progresses, and with many different card types in the deck it's possible to play the Eldrazi for as little as seven or eight mana. With a well-timed Mana Drain, Emrakul could show up even earlier! 

Emrakul 2.0

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I will always admit when I'm wrong, and for the record my initial impression of the new Emrakul was off base. I looked at the card and just assumed it was inferior to The Aeons Torn in every way. The truth is that New'Mrakul is much, much easier to cast than the old one. The Mindslaver ability is also very powerful, especially in a format as deadly as Vintage. 

Once Emrakul is in play, it's nearly as hard to remove as the original one. It's true that you can kill Emrakul, the Promised End with a sorcery, but when was the last time you saw someone playing Dreadbore or Vindicate in Vintage anyway? The way I see it, the biggest threat to Emrakul is Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which is exactly the same issue Emrakul,the Aeons Torn had. 

Fact or Fiction

Fact or Fiction was at one time the best unrestricted draw spell in Vintage. As a matter of fact, Fact was even restricted for a period of time. The card is still very powerful, but it's overshadowed by Gifts Ungiven, Thirst for Knowledge, and most importantly, Gush. The thing is that this is most definitely not a Gush deck, so using that is out of the question. The list is not a combo/control deck based on Tinker, so Thirst or Gifts aren't good options either. Fact or Fiction just happens to be the best candidate for the job due to the type of deck this is.

Fact or Fiction gets the best card or cards from the top of your deck and it does so at instant speed. This plays very well with a Mana Drain strategy. Fact also puts some number of cards into your graveyard, which aids in the casting of Emrakul. Even though the card is kind of antiquated at this point, it does seem perfect for the list. In fact, the only thing I would consider replacing Fact or Fiction with would be more copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor

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Since this deck plays Moat and Supreme Verdict. I feel that it could benefit from playing more copies of Jace. Theoretically it shouldn't be that hard to protect your planeswalker, and it can easily win a game on it's own. The only thing that Fact or Fiction has over Jace is that it's an instant. Jace provides a lot of card advantage and versatility for a relatively low investment. 

Big Blue in Vintage

I like this deck quite a bit, and I'm glad to see a non-Gush deck do well. Remora Control obviously has potential, but it's worth noting that it was a Gush deck that won the event that this list came from. In many ways Gush aggro/control decks play the control role better than these big blue decks. Gush decks end up drawing more cards, and they start getting way ahead on turn three.

This deck does mitigate the damage that the Mentor and Pyromancer decks can do by playing Supreme Verdict and Moat, so all is not lost. I think the key is finding the right mix of cards and hopefully learning the Gush matchup better than your opponents. 

I also like the fact that the deck doesn't play Tinker and Time Vault. As much as I love to play broken combo cards, I have to admit that they can lead to games where you lose to inconsistency. Playing Tinker means that you need to play a big, cumbersome creature to cheat into play. Playing with Time Vault means that you have to play Voltaic Key, a card that's useless more often than not. 

I'm not completely sold on this deck being widely adopted in Vintage, but I do like it a lot, and I'm glad to see Emrakul doing some work. 

Tournament Submissions

Before I end this week's article, I'd like to thank @PeachMTG and @rroger_grr for posting the results from the LCV Vintage series. For all the paper Vintage tournament organizers out there I'd like to remind you that MTGGoldfish now takes submissions for paper Vintage events. If you want your event to be featured on the website or in one of my articles, you can post the information yourself or send the results to me. 

There's been a dichotomy between paper Vintage and Magic Online for quite some time, and I feel it would be beneficial to see all of the metagame data in one spot. Sure, there are some differences between online Vintage and paper, but I think there's enough of a similarity to warrant including it all together. Maybe some day Bomberman and Leovold, Emissary of Trest will be part of the Magic Online Vintage metagame, we will just have to wait and see. 

That's all the time I have for this week, I'll see you in seven days! Chat with me about #VintageMTG on Twitter @josephfiorinijr  - Islandswamp on Magic Online

 

 

 


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