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Vintage 101: Narset, I Hardly Knew Ye


Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm the Vintage host with the most, Joe Dyer, and this week we're continuing to dive into various decks and topics of the Vintage format and how those decks will continue to evolve. We also have some information to digest with the recent changes to the Banned and Restricted list this past week!

We will not be delving into last weekend's Vintage Challenge, because the changes made this week to the Banned and Restricted announcements make things a little more interesting and also mostly invalidates the format that existed in those results.

So, let's get right to it, shall we?

Narset, Restricted

Yes, it's true. It finally did happen. Narset, Parter of Veils was indeed restricted this past week on the November 18th, 2019 Banned and Restricted Announcement. This is a big deal for the format overall, as this card's presence in the format was starting to get pretty ridiculous. Narset's frequency of creating gameplay that simply was not fun was happening quite a bit, as most people can go back to watch Eternal Weekend coverage and see just how many sub games devoted to Narset there were. This card steadily rose to become the best card in the entire format printed this year and it showed in every list containing the card and every event it appeared in. All in all, I'm pretty happy with this change. Now, we get to see how the format will evolve. I have some thoughts about what will happen going forward, so let's dive right into the thick of it.

Narset Based Decks Lose Out

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Decks such as above that sought to utterly capitalize on Narset's ability to leave an opponent out in the cold by pairing her static ability with wheel effects are the biggest losers of this change. While it's possible Grixis Thieves is still a fringe deck that can certainly be powerful when it hits their restricted cards, the deck loses a huge amount of its game plan since Narset was more difficult to interact with than a card like Notion Thief (since Narset not only prevented draws but also found countermagic to protect itself at the same time).

PO Benefits

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As one of the decks that have both become reliant on playing its own strategy and defending against its own strategy, PO has changed more than most decks in the format over the course of this year as it has tried to adapt its combo in various ways. One constant of this deck since War of the Spark has been the presence of cards like Narset in the deck to both provide advantage but to also defend against other blue strategies and the mirror. This deck has gone through several iterations this past year between green splash variants and Esper, but I think that eventually, the Esper variants will end up coming back, similar to the above list. Narset's omnipresence in the format led directly to a rise in the playability of Pyroblast, so less Narset in the format decreases the need for decks running four copies of the card. Because of this, the RUG variant of the PO deck may not be utterly necessary since it won't need cards like Draw 7 effects (Wheel of Fortune, Timetwister) and instead will be happy with lines such as Tinker into Bolas's Citadel.

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Regardless of how this deck develops this is the deck that does stand to gain the most from the restriction of Narset however and is going to be the deck to watch over the course of the next few months.

Xerox is Fine

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Xerox builds like BUG Midrange and Jeskai are honestly in fine places to benefit from this restriction as well. Even the RUG Planeswalkers deck we discussed last weekend is not in dire peril, as they can still play the restricted copy of Narset and also are able to leverage in other cards into their main deck. Most of these decks were typically only running 2-3 copies of Narset overall, so finding substitutions for 1-2 copies of the card is pretty easy. BUG especially being one of the decks that really did not care about Narset overall is still in a better place and will likely continue to be powerful and playable moving forward. If anything, these decks somewhat benefit from Narset's restriction because it's another piece in the blue arms race that these decks tend to engage in.

Shops Variants Continue to Hold

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Narset had very little effect on Shops decks overall, so the reduction of the card doesn't change much in that regards. However, the caveat here is that if decks like PO pick back up again as a dominant force in the format (and I mean dominant from the standpoint of the deck being everywhere) this is a strike against Shops because PO has traditionally held a favorable matchup over Shops decks due to Hurkyl's Recall. However, recent printings like restricted Mystic Forge and the newly available Stonecoil Serpent have added some speed to the deck that it previously did not have (Stonecoil being able to be made a Turn 2 6/6+ is pretty quick) may be just enough to give this deck a way to get under PO.

I also believe that this doesn't do much to the Golos Stax variants (which we will be talking about more below) as it has a lot of tools to beat these kinds of strategies.

Dredge Keeps on Dredging

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Dredge continues to do its thing, perhaps a little bit more unfettered thanks to the fact that Narset somewhat shuts off Bazaar of Baghdad, so Narset being restricted can only be a good thing for this deck.

Oath Loses a Bit of Steam

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Oath has come back in a big way, thanks to the prevalence of Oko, Thief of Crowns, but the deck also was able to ride the wave of being able to capitalize on the power of Narset early on in a game in order to be able to not only find copies of Oath of Druids, but also to ensure you didn't draw your Oath target as well. While this deck will still definitely play the restricted copy, it will be interesting to see where the deck goes from here. Still, I have learned to never completely count out a deck like Oath. It was able to function fine without Narset before and will function fine without it afterwards.

Other Decks Worth Looking At

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Other decks worth looking at going forward include variants of Survival and also White Eldrazi. Survival especially depended a lot on the use of Bazaar of Baghdad so the Narset restriction helps it quite a bit, but also its ability to adjust to a metagame with specific hate effects like Lavinia, Azorius Renegade and Collector Ouphe will prove very good versus decks like PO. In addition, White Eldrazi having access to several Thalia effects that don't care too much about Hurkyl's Recall is pretty strong as well.

In addition, Fastbond decks will continue to do what they are doing in the format, and those decks will still be very good to consider going forward, either the more prison aspect Ziasbond or the combo heavy Eric's Crab Shack lists.

The Golox Stax Effect

One of the decks I mentioned above that won't hold too much of an issue with Narset's restriction is Golos Stax. This deck has been popping up more and more as of late, due to the fact that Golos, Tireless Pilgrim is essentially a land tutor that grabs whatever is needed at any given moment. This makes the card reasonably powerful in decks with Mishra's Workshop since it can hunt down specific silver bullet lands for various situations.

Let's take a look at a list and deconstruct what's going on here, shall we?

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The main playstyle of this variant of the deck is to generally lock an opponent out of playing the game via several tax effects and then close the game out with a finisher. Let's break this down into its core components, shall we?

Fast Mana

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As a Workshop based deck, this deck plays a boatload of fast mana acceleration, including all the Moxen and Lotus, in addition to Sol Ring and Mana Crypt. These are common cards to see in Workshop decks.

Lock Pieces

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Some of the lock pieces this deck thrives on are the ability to tax the opponent on playing spells and activating abilities. Stacking costs on top of effects with Sphere effects is a good way to be able to lock the opponent out, but so is establishing things such as Crucible of Worlds locks with Waste effects and holding down the fort against opposing creature decks with Ensnaring Bridge. Uba Mask is a very interesting card, in that it makes draw effects slightly worse and is even better when paired with Bazaar of Baghdad.

Utility Cards / Permanent Destruction

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This deck packs some ways it can get rid of permanents, namely through the use of Smokestack, when combined with Crucible of Worlds can be pretty brutal. In addition, there are some utility pieces like Mystic Forge and Coercive Portal that can help push through the deck, as well as the restricted copy of Karn, the Great Creator. These decks always boast land destruction effects such as Wasteland and Strip Mine.

Creatures

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The few creatures this deck plays all generally serve a purpose, whether it's taxing the opponent's plays or shutting down specific abilities. Golos is the big name of this set of creatures, and it's worth noting that activating Golos' secondary ability is something that rarely (if ever) happens in this deck. The main reason this card sees play is the fact that it tutors up a land directly into play for five mana, and that in of itself is very powerful. The original Karn, Silver Golem even sees some play in this list, being able to snipe opponent's Moxen or simply being able to create a clock with some of the bigger artifacts in the deck.

Silver Bullets

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This deck also includes silver bullet lands for Golos to search up, the most notable of which end up being Karakas and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. Being able to tutor up Tabernacle into play versus Dredge can be very powerful and forces them to have an immediate answer to the card (and for the Stax player to not have a Crucible). In addition, both Buried Ruin and Inventors' Fair interact with retrieving silver bullet artifacts either from the graveyard or from the deck.

The Spice Corner

We've got two lists this week for your fun perusal! Our first comes to us from our good friend Erin Campbell, the Queen of Dredge and her take on Once Upon a Time Dredge!

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Our second list is wild, utilizing Bazaar of Baghdad to assemble things like Vengevine / Hollow One and also using things like Squee, Goblin Nabob as card advantage. It's like Survival, but there's no Survivals!

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Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! It's going to be an interesting weekend looking at the first Vintage Challenge on Magic Online with a restricted Narset world, so rest assured we will be taking a look at that, among many other things about the format as well. It should be exciting!

As always, you can reach me on Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! Please take a moment to check out my content on YouTube and Patreon, and subscribe! I have another episode of "The Bazaar of Moxology" in the works, featuring the Crown Prince of Thieves... Oko! Of course, you can also always reach me on the MTGGoldfish Discord server if you'd like to chat!

Until next time folks, keep casting Moxen!


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