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Vintage 101: Looking back at 2017

Looking Back at 2017

A lot happened over the course of the last year, and with 2018 rolling in soon I figured now would be a great time to go over some of the highlights. Let's start off with the release of Aether Revolt in January 2017, which gave us Walking Ballista. Triskelion had been a mainstay of Vintage Workshop decks, and Walking Ballista represented a clear upgrade. Arcbound Ravager based Workshop Aggro cemented itself as the most dominant form of Workshop deck, and unsurprisingly Ballista became a four-of in the vast majority of successful Workshop decks. 

Walk Like a Ballista!

 I first wrote about Walking Ballista in my article "Vintage 101: Aether Revolt Part Two". I would have featured the card in the first Aether Revolt article, but the card had not been spoiled at the time I was writing it. Other highlights of this article include a brief mentioning of the Gitaxian Probe ban in Modern, which in hindsight was a bit of a foreshadowing of things to come in Vintage. 

Also in that article was Hope of Ghirapur, a card that is quite interesting despite its near uselessness in competitive Vintage. I believe I've seen it pop up in a deck or two over the past year, but it certainly has not been impactful in the way that Walking Ballista was. 

Paradoxical Outcome

I think it's really neat that our own Saffron Olive got to spoil Paradoxical Outcome, especially considering how much the card dominated the Vintage format at times. Ultimately things have leveled off for this combo-enabler, but it's still an incredible card. Realistically, Paradoxical Outcome caused a lot of people to dust off their Null Rods, and for good reason. It's not uncommon to chain a few Outcomes together and wind up with most of your deck in your hands. 

Goodbye Gush!


Another contentious topic in 2017 was Gush. Many people wanted to see this card restricted, while many other prominent voices were against restricting Gush for the umpteenth time. Anyone can argue the true definition of dominance, but nobody can claim that Gush wasn't the best unrestricted blue draw spell in the format prior to it's most recent restriction. Sure, some people managed to play Thirst for Knowledge to some limited success, and Paradoxical Outcome was also good at times, but neither of those cards can truly match the potency of this deceptively simple spell.

Gush was so good in my opinion that some people played it in decks that it really had no business being played in. Take this Oath deck for example; the Forbidden Orchards have been cut down just to facilitate casting Gush on turn three as often as possible. 

Cartman Gets a Gitaxian Probe

Out of all the cards that were restricted in 2017 I think Probe is probably the least impactful. The card was great, but restricting it didn't really do much in my opinion. There wasn't any deck that just couldn't exist without a Phyrexian Peek. Still, I often get annoyed by this card's restriction, as I sort through the extra play-sets I purchased a few months before it being hit. 

I really wonder if they'll ever un-restrict Probe. It seems like Mental Misstep should be in Probes place, especially considering how destructive Misstep has been over the course of its existence. 


A Thorny Situation!


The Workshop haters out there were clamoring for another card to be restricted, and in August of 2017 they got their wish. Thorn of Amethyst got the axe, and life was suddenly fair for all. Or was it? 

Not long after the restriction of Thorn, Andrew Markiton (the best Workshop player in the world, no less) managed to win the Vintage Championships with Workshop Aggro. In my opinion, this proves that restricting Thorn was a safe move as it did not kill the archetype. To all of the Workshop haters, this was proof that restricting Thorn was not enough. I fall into the camp that believes that prison decks are an important foil for the format as they keep combo decks in check. Not everyone shares my opinion though, and I respect that. Vintage seems like it's doing okay right now though, so I hope that things stay the same for a while to see how it plays out. 

The Vintage Championships Top Eight was rife with Workshop decks, a fact that rubbed some folks the wrong way. Workshop players have had fewer and fewer lock pieces to work with over the past two years and they have adapted by playing increasingly aggressive mono-brown decks. Ultimately this increase in aggression proved to be serendipitous for Shops players, as the deck has shown no signs of dying out. 


Mono Mentor Malaise!

This past August Monastery Mentor joined Ali from Cairo and Lodestone Golem in the most exclusive club in Vintage Magic; the restricted creatures crew! Much like the other restrictions in 2017 this one ruffled some feathers amongst those entrenched in the community. I have mixed feelings about the subject personally; I really enjoyed playing Mentor decks, but I also realized how degenerate the card was in the Vintage format. In Standard, Modern, or Legacy, Prowess is a good ability. In Vintage, with its plethora of cantrips, Moxen, and other cheap spells/fast mana Prowess becomes absurd. When each Prowess trigger is creating a token army and casting a temporary Crusade effect, well then that is a whole new kind of degeneracy. 

The great thing about Vintage is that restricting a card doesn't kill it completely. Monastery Mentor can still be a great card. People can build a one Mentor, three Young Pyromancer deck to make up the lost Mentor copies. Players can also build decks with more card draw or tutor effects in order to consistently find their Monastery Mentors. The restriction just stops people from consistently getting opening hands with a Mentor in it, and it means that effort and resources spent to kill an opposing Mentor won't be easily undone by top-decking another copy. 

The restrictions of Gush and Monastery Mentor have lead to the creation of some interesting brews. Here's a cool mono-mentor Storm deck played by Atog_215 . 


A League of Our Own!

Vintage Leagues were finally announced in August, and they've been a rousing success so far. The additional opportunities for playing and streaming have grown the format's online participation dramatically. 

I'd like to take the time to congratulate the undefeated league participants. Number one by a mile is brianpk80. There are rumors that brianpk80 is a robot designed to beat people at Magic, but I think he's just really good. Maybe next year he'll be back on the Vintage Super League (his resume definitely suggests he deserves it). 


Moving Past the Year of Restrictions

2017 was a crazy year for Vintage no matter what side of which restriction argument you find yourself on. With Magic Online league play, great attendance at Eternal Weekend, and the Vintage Super League, more and more people are being exposed to the greatest format ever. This additional exposure is, on the whole, a great thing. There are a few downsides (in some people's opinion at least); some folks claim that the increased exposure (not card degeneracy) is the cause of the recent restrictions. Personally, I don't agree with that opinion at all. When a problem comes to light you don't blame the light for illuminating the problem, you simply fix the problem and move on. Since we're about to enter 2018, now just happens to be the perfect time to move on.

I'm looking forward to a brand new year of Vintage Magic. The prospect of returning to Dominaria is extremely exciting for me as I grew up during the Weatherlight Saga and the surrounding years. I started playing just after Ice Age, but I distinctly remember the releases of Mirage, Tempest, and Urza's Saga. The development and design teams at Wizards of the Coast have evolved considerably since the mid-nineties, so I'm confident that they'll make the return to Dominaria a balanced and memorable experience.

That's all the time I've got for this week, I'll see you next year! You can follow me on Twiter @Islandswamp - Islandswamp on Magic Online and TMD


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