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Vintage 101: March Metagame Update

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 diving into the current Vintage metagame and how things are shaping up in the current format. Vintage is a ton of fun right now so it will be interesting to see how things are really looking. In addition to that, we've got two Challenges to discuss as well as a Spice Corner.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Vintage Metagame Report - March 2022

It's been a while since we looked at the overall Vintage metagame, so I thought it would be a good idea to sit down and poke at things and see where we are sitting with the way the metagame is shaping up. This data comes to us from the Vintage Streamer's Discord data collection efforts managed by our good friend Justin Gennari. The combined data set for this data is located here.

Let's start by looking at the charts on how the metagame is looking from a pure data perspective. Yes, I know these charts all say 2021, but the data set is from 6/1/2021 to the end of 2023 so it is everything up until now.

Blue Tinker variants have overtaken BUG variants as one of the most popular decks to be playing in the format, and the win rate of Blue Tinker is reasonable. BUG has a less than 50% win rate, and Prison Shops (Golos Stax variants) have a relatively reasonable win rate as well. The big decks to note here is Breach, Aggro Shops, Hogaak, and PO, all of which have some really positive results and positive win rates. Oath of Druids seems to have largely fallen off the map, as has Combo Shops (which doesn't even make the cutoff of the graph at 84 copies overall).

So, what does this tell us about the current format?

Tinker Remains Very Popular But Attackable

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The most common thread of the current Vintage format is the presence of the card Tinker and of course, Urza's Saga. However, despite the raw popularity of these decks, the gameplay between the various archetypes is varied and interesting, and the shells all feel attackable in their own way. In fact, the sheer fact alone that there are even variations on this formula (Grixis, Esper, variations with and without Hullbreacher) says that these decks have to constantly evolve and change to try to address metagame forces, which is really positive overall. This can only be a good thing as players have to discover what version of the shell is best suited for an event.

Furthermore, despite the popularity of Urza's Saga, the card still feels pretty beatable and it does not feel like you are locked into a deck having to play Saga to win games or even events. While the card is exceedingly popular and is very powerful, there's so much strong counterplay to it that it still just seems relatively fine. I like that aspect of the format a lot, and prefer to see less restrictions on the format than more, so I don't think we still need to restrict Saga as it continues to feel pretty reasonable.

One thing that is interesting is the fact alone that it seems that Boseiju, Who Endures hasn't had as much of an impact on the format as it feels like it should have (and we will discuss this later here), as plenty of the Tinker shells are still high on Sphinx of the Steel Wind despite it being hit by the card pretty cleanly. I suspect this has a lot to do with the fact that the player playing Boseiju simply has to have it, and the risk is worth having a threat that is immune to a lot of other destruction effects including Force of Vigor.

Of course, while the collective Blue Tinker variants are the most played of the variations of Tinker, the Paradoxical Outcome based Tinker decks continue to have some of the more long term positive results in the format, as casting PO continues to be a strong way to win the game. The 8Cast variants have slowly dropped off despite having a longer-term positive win rate, because more players are aware of that variation and are able to combat it much more effectively, leading to ups and downs in its popularity and performance.

Bazaar Decks are Pretty Equally Split

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The Bazaar decks of the format have pretty much solidified into three distinct variations: Dredge, Hollow Vine, and Hogaak. All three of these are very reasonable picks for any given event, and they all have different strengths and weaknesses versus whatever else is going on in the format. Hogaak especially has had some really solid events including winning both the Showcase Challenge and the regular Challenge a week ago. Hogaak seems to be one deck where Boseiju, Who Endures is seemingly finding a home when paired with cards like Life from the Loam. This combined with the fact that Hogaak isn't ultra reliant on Bazaar to win makes the deck very strong.

The Hollow Vine decks definitely are one of the more attackable variants of the Bazaar strategies, but at the same time those decks are frightening when their engine of pitching 8 Squee effects is online. Those decks have easily adopted newer cards from Modern Horizons 2 such as the pitch elementals like Fury and of course Squee #2 Master of Death.

Dredge continues to dredge on, adjusting ever so slightly from event to event to combat hate, but the primary stock builds now all utilize effects like Creeping Chill in the deck as a powerful reach effect to hit an opponent's life total directly.

Shops Variants Have Dipped Back to 1-2 Variations

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Initially after the release of Modern Horizons 2, the Golos Stax decks were pretty prominent because those decks seemed to be one of the better ways to abuse Urza's Saga in those shells, but as time went on we've moved past those decks and more leaned on Aggro based Shops builds of past to utilize both Saga and another new card in Nettlecyst. Nettlecyst saw very little hype during spoiler season of MH2, but it definitely ended up being one of the best cards for the Aggro Shops variants due to the fact that it comes with a creature and is a scalable threat that only costs three mana to put on the board. Combining that with evasive threats like Gingerbrute really sealed in the power level of the deck.

Golos variants have dropped off hard since then, although they occasionally still show up. Combo Shops variants have all but disappeared from the current metagame, however we have seen some variations of Coveted Jewel + Paradoxical Outcome based Shops decks pop up here or there.

The Impact of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty

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Despite having a lot of really interesting cards for the Vintage format, the release of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty doesn't seem to have actually done much to the overall nature of the format. Even Boseiju, Who Endures has not really cracked into the format like many thought it might, only showing up in very few lists here or there after an initial burst of people trying out new cards. The aspect of Boseiju not seeing play in a format that seems ripe for its effect is interesting in of itself and I wonder if the format is simply slow to adopt it and we might see an uptick of it in the future.

Cards like Patchwork Automaton and Containment Construct also both saw a lot of initial hype, with the latter not really doing much at all and the former showing up here or there in archetypes built around the card. I know for certain that our good friend Zias has been brewing with the card in various artifact shells, namely utilizing KCI as a basis for the card as an aggressive strategy.

Other cards from Kamigawa also really failed to see much play like Tameshi, Reality Architect. One of the more interesting cards that has shown up is Twinshot Sniper in the Goblins decks of the format.

There Are Much More Non Blue Decks That Aren't Shops

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Vintage has had its ups and downs of how much blue decks dominate the format, and we've certainly had periods of the format where non blue decks have had their heyday, but it seems like we are getting back to a point where there are more non blue decks around that aren't based around Mishra's Workshop. Decks like Goblins have shown they have the pieces needed to compete on a power level standpoint, thanks to things like the Conspicuous Snoop combo and the power of Muxus, Goblin Grandee. Lurrus of the Dream-Den has firmly cemented itself into Mono White and WB based aggro decks that utilize taxing elements like Thalia and even effects like Leonin Arbiter.

Despite being based around another pillar in Bazaar, the Hogaak deck has had powerful results and is firmly a nonblue deck in the current format as well. There seems to be plenty of decks around that can compete on this level with the blue decks and that in of itself is a positive thing for the format.

The Blue Decks All Have Different Game Plans

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There's a wide variety of traditional Xerox style blue decks in the format now, such as Jeskai, RUG, and BUG, Izzet, and even 4C variants leaning on Deathrite Shaman as its central pillar. These decks all now have much greater options of gameplay thanks to some of the more powerful cards in the format. Cards like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Laelia, the Blade Reforged have cemented themselves amongst these decks in the format, giving them strong ways of attacking opponents.

BUG has received quite a few upgrades, but primarily the introduction of Endurance into the deck has been exceptionally solid by providing graveyard hate on a creature.

Finally, pure Izzet decks have been popping up in the format, propped up on the power of Ragavan, Expressive Iteration, and Murktide Regent. These decks function much more like a classic Delver style deck in Vintage than their Control counterparts do, but they provide yet another option for players looking to play something with Ancestral Recall.

Combo is Solidly Either Doomsday or Breach

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The pure combo decks of Vintage now sit firmly in two ways to go and that's either Doomsday or Underworld Breach based decks. Combo decks involving traditional Storm kills (such as those with Tendrils of Agony) are far gone at this point in the format, as both of these engines provide solid game plans that can easily win games on the spot.

Furthermore, it's hard to classify PO as a combo deck anymore, because the deck doesn't really play many actual combo elements anymore and instead feels and plays much more like a Tinker shell than a combo shell.

Of course, there are miniature combos across the entire format still that make their way into decks from the Tinker shells having the Vault/Key combo, to Goblins even having their own combo with Snoop + Kiki-Jiki, but purely dedicated combo win shells are largely based around these two strategies at this point.

Unexplored Space?

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The bigger question of Vintage at the moment is what unexplored space exists in the format that isn't being seen. I'm still of the mind that there is a lot of potential in the long run for Fastbond shells to present themselves to the format in a more positive fashion than has been seen in the past few years since its unrestriction, and furthermore I think there's even unexplored space in the blue control archetypes as well. Decks like Elementals provide us a solid glimpse into what is possible in the format when we're willing to step outside of the box and try something new.

A lot of this is based on the fact that much of the Magic Online metagame is small and moves at a fairly quick enough pace that players don't often have the time to sit down and really hammer out something new and interesting and have those decks picked apart by multiple players working on it at the same time, and this is one raw downside of MTGO in general here. I do suspect there's much more unexplored space in the current format than we've seen and I think there are fun ways to try to explore that.

Is Vintage Healthy?

It's also important to raise the question about the health of the current format, and I'm thankful to say that I think the format is much healthier than it has been in the past few years. Eras of the past few years including stuff like Lurrus, Karn, 4x Narset, etc. have all had their upsd and downs of health, but the current format definitely feels fun and healthy and furthermore it has very interesting gameplay. There's a lot going on always in Vintage, and that in of itself is to be expected, but the range of playable decks and interesting things you can do with the format right now is well proven and it genuinely feels like any event could be anyone's game every single event. There's a clear popular archetype, but that archetype is attackable and has solid counterplay to it, and deck specialists on archetypes can always perform well.

Yes, Vintage feels incredibly healthy at the moment, and I'm genuinely looking forward to what comes next out of the format this year.

Vintage Challenge 3/12

We had two Challenges over the past weekend, the first of which was the mid-afternoon Saturday event. This event had 50 players in it thanks to the data collected by the Vintage Streamer's Discord.

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

Blue Tinker shells continue to be very popular in various color combinations (usually Esper and Grixis primarily), while Doomsday had a really great event, as did PO decks and Blue-based Tempo variants. 8Cast performed the worst here in the cutoff at a win rate below even 30%, putting a lot of the other Tinker shells way above it. This does make a fair amount of sense as the 8Cast shell has its ups and downs depending on what the rest of the format is up to in an event, but it also is a much faster and prone to disruption Tinker variant.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Doomsday 1st MaxMagicer
Aggro Shops 2nd D00mwake
Grixis Tinker 3rd ReneRandrup
Paradoxical Outcome 4th DrPringles
Breach 5th sixmp
Paradoxical Outcome 6th Miharu_Fuyumiya
Esper Tinker 7th JUJUBEAN__2004
Esper Tinker 8th Slasher21

Lot of Tinker variants in the Top 8 between the more Control-esque variants and PO as well as a Breach list, but at the end of the event it was Doomsday that took it all down!

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Doomsday continues to be one of those decks that is generally regarded as very strong, but not played nearly as much by a lot of people where it makes big splashes in winning events. It's certainly interesting to see how this deck has evolved over time, and the power level of the deck is certainly up there.

The Second Place finalist here was on Aggro Shops.

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This is a pretty solid list, very straightforward and to the point. Deploy threats and taxing effects and win the game with combat math. We can note here the return of Archive Trap to help combat Doomsday (since these decks tend to greatly struggle versus that deck).

Also in the Top 8 we had a Grixis Tinker list show up.

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The huge draw here is Ragavan and blast effects for the Grixis builds, but also cards like Abrade are very strong as well. Our secondary Tinker target in the sideboard is good old Blightsteel Colossus!

Further into the Top 8 we had a showing by Breach.

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Breach is a strong deck still, and the additions of Ragava and Laelia really have helped push the power of the deck. This is a great place to be in current Vintage for sure.

Vintage Challenge 313

Our second Challenge event of the weekend was the early morning Sunday event, which had 39 players in it thanks to the data collected by the Vintage Streamer's Discord.

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

Blue Tempo was super popular here and had a solid win rate to back it up, while Tinker variants sat on the lower end but still had a strong performance. This was a very middle of the road event for every deck in the cutoff, which looked quite good overall.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Simic Midrange 1st ecobaronen
Jeskai Control 2nd SenpaiBlank
Esper Tinker 3rd Yamaro
Dredge 4th ger5559
UR Tempo 5th Mogged
Goblins 6th MrApple65
Hogaak 7th medvedev
UR Tempo 8th jaredallsop619

Definitely an interesting Top 8 here, with a good number of Blue-based Tempo shells, as well as some Bazaar and even some Goblins! The finals here is wonky because the two finalist split the event, so technically in first place is a Simic Midrange variant.

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This is an interesting list, cutting black cards out of the mix like Assassin's Trophy and other restricted black cards usually seen in BUG Midrange for more copies of things like Endurance and even maximum copies of Flusterstorm. The deck still plays a singleton Underground Sea and a Mox Jet though so that it can activate Deathrite Shaman to drain opponent's life totals.

The Second Place list is Jeskai Control.

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Ethereal Forager is such a sweet card that does a lot of really strong things while at the same time being actually pretty well balanced in general (which is rare for Delve threats). This list is really solid in general though, and does a lot of really powerful things.

Further into the Top 8 we had a showing by UR Tempo.

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I haven't legitimately seen a copy of Mana Drain in a decklist for a while so it's kind of sick to see one here. This list is really lean and powerful though. Expressive Iteration making waves here too is not at all unexpected.

Also in the Top 8 we've got GOBLINS.

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Twinshot Sniper was such a solid card to introduce into the Goblins builds. Having an uncounterable way of killing certain cards (Containment Priest comes to mind) is really powerful. This deck is incredibly fun to play and has a lot of really deep cool lines to it.

Around the Web

The Spice Corner

You can find this past week's 5-0 lists here.

Coveted Jewel is always spicy.

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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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