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Vintage 101: New York Stax Exchange


Smokestack - Daniel Ljunggren

The New York Stax Exchange

In Long Island New York this past weekend the premier Vintage event of the summer happened. The NYSE (New York Stax Exchange) is the brainchild of Nick Detwiler, a pillar of the Vintage community. Besides having the coolest name of any tournament ever in my opinion, this event is considered the greatest yearly Vintage event in the United States by many people. There's always a large crowd, and it draws some of the best and brightest Vintage players to attend. The entry fee is steeper than many events, but it supports a truly insane prize pool. The Top Eight finishers draft Power Nine cards in order of finish. The first place finisher walks away with the crown jewel of any Magic collection, a Black Lotus

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Ninth through twelfth place finishes were awarded a Mishra's Workshop, and thirteenth through sixteenth place won a Mana Drain. There were other prizes and side-events throughout the day, and by all accounts the tournament was a blast. 

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The Vintage Community 

If the NYSE were only about sweet prizes, it would still be great, but the event is about much more. In the northeastern United States the paper Vintage community is much like a large family of players, and this event is like a reunion. I hear more stories about how much fun people had meeting up with old friends than details of gameplay. We might not have a Grand Prix for our favorite format, but we have events like this that are just as special. 

I was not at this event, but every single post I read on social media was a glowing testimonial about how well everything went. Considering that Magic players are not afraid to be vocal when they dislike something, the positivity surrounding the tournament is quite refreshing. 

I could easily write more about the community aspects of the NYSE and Vintage in particular, but I know many of you are here for decks. So let's get to it! The Top Eight featured some amazing decks, and a metagame breakdown was posted on TMD

NYSE IV Top Eight

I'd like to congratulate all eight competitors; this truly was a killer Top Eight. There were two Vintage Champions among them, and several Magic Online ringers as well. There was a lot of Gush being played in the event, and four Gush decks made it to the elimination rounds. Even with all of the Gushing going on, it is my opinion that a certain Eldrazi creature stole the show. The Top Eight featured twelve copies of Thought-Knot Seer between two Shops decks and one of the new White Eldrazi lists I wrote about last week

Of course, there was also a Dredge list. The Amalgam Dredge list was played by Ryan Glackin, who has been tearing up his local Vintage scene with his personal Dredge build. Monastery Mentor was more prominent than Young Pyromancer, but it was the Pyromancer's Elemental tokens that made it all the way to the finals, ultimately succumbing to the Ravager/Thought-Knot duo.  

NYSE IV Top Eight
1. Andrew Markiton Eldrazi Shops
2. Tom Metelsky Grixis Pyromancer
3. Hank Zhong  Esper Mentor
4. Ryan Glackin  Amalgam Dredge
5. Andy "Brass Man" Probasco  White Eldrazi
6. Roland Chang  Eldrazi Shops
7. Vito Picozzo  Jeskai Mentor
8. Brian Kelly  Esper Mentor


Now that we've seen the Top Eight, we can look at some of the decks. The first deck I want to show didn't make the Top Eight, but it came very close. This deck is amazingly powerful, and it did very well without a Black Lotus
 

Competitive Vintage Without Power

The Eldrazi have taken over the final frontier: Vintage. Not content to rule Standard, Modern, and Legacy, these crazy-looking flying spaghetti monsters have broken into the eldest of Eternal Magic formats. 

First there was Eldrazi Shops, then there was the White Eldrazi decks (which I am now calling Spaghetti Hatebears). This deck from Jason Jaco was designed to be run optimally without the Power Nine, Mishra's Workshop, or even Bazaar of Baghdad

Jason Jaco had an impressive run with this deck, finishing at 6-1-1, which was good for 10th place. Mr. Jaco has access to the Power Nine, and the NYSE is a proxy event anyway. This deck just ran better without the "best" cards in Magic! I find this innovative and somewhat budget-friendly deck truly inspiring. I speak with people all the time that are looking for ways to enjoy Vintage without Power, mostly because they simply don't have access to it online or in paper. This is the first successful Paper Vintage deck that is only about as expensive as some Legacy and Modern decks. On Magic Online it's even cheaper, costing half as much as some Modern and Legacy decks. 

If we take a look at how the deck is built, it clearly has roots in the Modern and Legacy Eldrazi decks. The Vintage card pool allows for extra Sol-Lands not found in Modern, and it also gives the deck more ways to destroy mana with Strip Mine. The deck also uses far fewer artifacts than most other similar decks, so there's no need for Mishra's Workshop. Since there's no Workshop, the deck doesn't suffer from those clunky draws with too many Eldrazi and not enough colorless sources. 

One of the biggest adaptions found in this deck is that the Thorn of Amethysts that are usually found in the Legacy versions have been replaced with Null Rod. Null Rod is the type of card that seems innocuous to non-Vintage players, but it is actually very disruptive in the format. 

Disruption

Most Vintage decks play mana acceleration in the form of Moxen, Black Lotus, Sol-Ring, and the like. Null Rod turns all of those cards into dead draws, creating virtual card advantage. A few decks like Delver or Dredge don't really care about Null Rod, but many others do.

Storm decks usually play an abundance of mana artifacts, and they are dependent on the tempo they provide. There are also decks that use Time Vault as a primary win-condition, some of which even run artifact lands like Seat of the Synod. The Goblin Charbelcher decks all play one or zero lands, and they can't cast anything other than Force of Will or Gitaxian Probe when Null Rod hits the table. 

While Null Rod forces opponents to play fair, the Eldrazi decks still cheat on mana with all their Sol-Lands. Turn after turn they're skipping ahead of their opponents on board development by playing lands that tap for two mana. Each turn they're producing more and more threats, overwhelming opponents and cruising to victory.

Jaco's Eldrazi list also plays plenty of land destruction effects. There are the four Wastelands, a Strip Mine, and three Ghost Quarters! That's eight free Stone Rains, and there's a Crucible of Worlds to replay them. Against Dredge or Workshops, Ghost Quarter functions as a Strip Mine, as those decks don't have basic lands to fetch. The majority of the other decks in Vintage only have one or two basics to fetch when they get Ghost Quartered. 

Cavern of Souls doesn't seem like a disruptive card, but it actually is in a way. It allows the Eldrazi decks to ignore Force of Will and Mana Drain, creating dead cards in opposing decks. Most of the Eldrazi list is immune to Flusterstorm and Mental Misstep. The number of Vintage staples that are completely dead against this deck is truly astounding. When you end up using your Cavern to cast Thought-Knot Seer things get even more nasty. 

Spells

This deck plays Warping Wail which gives it a way to interact on the stack. Countering a Sorcery might not seem like that big of a deal, but Wail can take out cards that would otherwise cause the deck problems. There are also a few creatures that die to Warping Wail. The utility of the spell is very important.

Dismember is the main removal spell in the deck. It hits the important creatures, and it can be played for as little as one mana. There are two copies of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth in the deck, so in a pinch it's possible to play Dismember using Black mana. 

Creatures

I've written quite a bit about the Eldrazi in the past, and I'm sure everyone is well aware of the staple Eldrazi creatures that make up most lists. The innovations in this particular deck are adding more copies of Endbringer than are usually found in these decks, and the addition of Phyrexian Metamorph. Metamorph acts as extra Eldrazi when needed, but it could also have corner-case uses like copying Griselbrand or Blightsteel Colossus

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Power-Free Eldrazi in Vintage

As far as I'm concerned, the success of this list proves that Eldrazi is a viable archetype moving forward. I love that it gives hope to those that want to play Vintage but are concerned about the availability of the Power Nine cards. Null Rod Eldrazi Tribal is potent, and remarkably cheap for a Vintage deck. If it wasn't for the fact that Cavern of Souls has gone up in price in recent months, the deck would be even more affordable online. About half of the online price of the deck comes from four copies of Cavern and Wasteland. If you're a Magic Online player looking to get into Vintage, this deck is a great way to do so. 

Before I move on to the next deck, I'd like to show everyone a picture of Jaco's actual list. Jason Jaco is known for playing altered or foiled decks in Vintage, and this one really looked cool. 

 

Gush 2112 - Grixis Therapy

The next deck I want to take a look at finished in second place. This deck has a lot of similarities to the Grixis Therapy decks that were very popular last year. There are some interesting inclusions in this deck, and I think it might be a good deck choice in a field full of Eldrazi decks. 

Next Stop: Value Town

Similar lists to this deck have been popping up online recently, like this one that predates the NYSE. The card that stuck out to me immediately is Baleful Strix, as it hasn't seen much Vintage play recently. Baleful Strix has seen increased play in Legacy since the Eldrazi Stompy decks in that format are more prominent. At two mana, it functions as an efficient removal spell and it replaces itself with a cantrip effect. Baleful Strix could be a good card to include in your decks these days. 

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The original Grixis Therapy decks were UBR Young Pyromancer decks with cheap cantrips and Gush. One of the draws to the deck were the synergies and interactions surrounding Pyromancer, Gitaxian Probe, and Cabal Therapy. These three cards developed a board of tokens while simultaneously stripping cards from your opponent's hands. Each of the lower-casting cost spells end up creating incremental advantages, until opponent's are too far behind to win.

The first versions of the deck were well-tuned to beat Workshops during an era in which it was the most popular deck on Magic Online. Most of the spells were cheap, and there were copies of Pulverize in the sideboard to shatter every Sphere of Resistance in play. This updated deck utilizes a couple of cards that weren't included in the older builds.

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Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Yawgmoth's Will are usually relegated to "Big Blue" decks with Mana Drain, or combo-control decks like Oath. It can be difficult to cast expensive spells in a Gush deck when you're not playing many lands or artifact mana sources. The choice to play these more expensive spells does increase the power level of the deck quite a bit, and with a second-place finish it must be a good list for the current meta. While this deck may not have the same broken plays as a Time Vault deck, it can still get an absurd amount of value from a Yawgmoth's Will. Imagine casting Time Walk with a Young Pyromancer on the battlefield, then replaying that Time Walk and all of your cheap draw spells. The only thing better than taking two turns in a row is taking three turns in a row. 

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Gush is the central draw spell in this deck, but there are also all of the cantrips as well as the restricted draw spells. Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time are easy to cast for one or two mana when your graveyard is being filled with Dack Fayden's looting ability. 

Monk Removal

Keeping up with Monastery Mentor can be tricky for Grixis Therapy because both decks play nearly identical lists of draw spells. Elemental tokens are trumped by Monk tokens, so this Grixis deck plays one of the best answers to a Mentor. Sudden Shock is one of the few cards that can cleanly answer a Mentor, and it can't be countered by conventional means as it has Split Second. If Sudden Shock is utilized correctly, the Mentor player will only be able to get at most one Monk token out of the exchange. Split Second also means that the Mentor player will not be able to cast any additional spells until Sudden Shock resolves, so the Mentor can't grow large enough to survive the exchange. 

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In the past, the premier removal spell for Grixis Therapy would have been Lightning Bolt. Bolt is much worse at dealing with Mentor, but it was great at killing the biggest creature threat of the day, Lodestone Golem. With Lodestone Golem restricted and Mentor becoming increasingly prevalent, swapping Bolt for Sudden Shock makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, this Grixis Therapy deck ended up facing Ravager Shops in the finals, so I wonder if only having two removal spells was a problem in that matchup. At least Sudden Shock has some utility against Arcbound Ravager, but I wonder if playing more removal would have affected the outcome of the finals. 

Sideboard Therapy

Building a sideboard for a paper event is always going to be tougher than building one for a Magic Online Daily event. Playing six rounds means that you'll face a broader range of decks, and the online metagame is much more inbred than in paper. The first versions of Grixis Therapy on Magic Online had sideboards that were primarily built with Workshops in mind, and they included board sweepers like Pulverize

The restriction of Golem led to Workshops receding in prevalence, so many decks I've seen are playing fewer sideboard slots dedicated to artifact destruction. The cards that used to be good against Shops are sometimes less effective nowadays because they don't hit Eldrazi. Pulverize lost a lot of utility as of late, as it is bad against Thought-Knot Seer and the Ravager/Hangarback Walker combo. 

The sideboard for this list doesn't contain nearly as much Workshop hate as older lists, and considering the metagame it makes sense. It's too bad that this list ended up paired against Shops in the finals because I think it would have had a better chance against another matchup. 

On the plus side, there are more cards to combat Dredge, Storm, and other decks simply because less slots were used up on Ingot Chewer and pals. Being able to bring in extra creature removal in certain matchups is nice, and most of those removal spells can be used against Workshops as well. In particular Murderous Cut and Dismember are nice to have as they can take out the 4/4 and 5/5 Eldrazi creatures that are everywhere now. 

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There's also a single Null Rod in the sideboard, and I am a fan of this inclusion. Rod is great against a lot of the field, and it makes Arcbound Ravager and most of the cards in it's namesake deck nearly worthless. There isn't a lot of artifact mana in Grixis Therapy, so there's very little cost to bringing the Rod in from the sideboard. 

Prized Amalgam

Here we have Ryan Glackin's take on Dredge, with Prized Amalgam from Shadows over Innistrad. Much of this deck functions like a normal Dredge list. There's the usual Serum Powders to find Bazaar of Baghdad, and a deck full of creatures with the Dredge keyword ability. Cabal Therapy and Unmask give the deck ways to counteract its opponent's plays, and Cabal Therapy has interactions with Bridge from Below as well. 

The biggest changes are the addition of Prized Amalgam and the omission of Dread Return. Dread Return has long been the coup de grace play for Vintage Dredge. A common play would be to flashback Cabal Therapy to clear the way for Dread Return, flooding the board with Zombie tokens in the process. Dread Return reanimates a creature to gives all of the Zombies Haste, and the game ends shortly thereafter. 

By playing Prized Amalgam instead of Dread Return, the deck loses some explosiveness, but it gains an additional way to grind out a win against its opponents. In theory, not relying on Dread Return means the deck cares even less about cards like Force of Will than a normal Dredge deck does. 

Anti-Hate Sideboard

The sideboard for this Dredge list is typical of the anti-hate strategy. Knowing which sideboard cards will be most effective in each matchup is critical. There is one card that tends to make things a little easier, and that is Serenity.

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Serenity can sweep away many of the most effective countermeasures a Dredge deck will face, and it takes out all of them. No other card can as easily take out a Grafdigger's Cage and Rest in Peace at the same time. The only downside to Serenity is that a few graveyard hate cards are creatures. Containment Priest is still very popular, and Yixlid Jailer does see some play. For taking out creatures, Amalgam Dredge has Barbarian Ring.

Barbarian Ring is the go-to card for Dredge decks because as a land, it is uncounterable and cheap. 

Zombies Ate My Format

Dredge is always a powerful deck no matter what the format looks like. This particular build has been catching on recently, and the Top Eight finish as NYSE is bound to inspire some folks on Magic Online to start playing it. Be prepared to deal with Dredge when you enter an event, and make sure your sideboard cards are effective and varied! Running only one type of graveyard hate makes it easier for the Dredge pilot to beat you! 

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Stax is Back!

I think it's fitting that a Workshop deck won the fourth NYSE event. The creator of the event, Nick Detwiler, is a die-hard and incredibly skilled Workshop player. The "Stax" decks with Mishra's Workshop inspired the name of the event. With the recent restriction of Lodestone Golem, many Workshop players were concerned about the future of the archetype. Anyone who is willing to show up to a Vintage table without Force of Will has to have a high level of determination. This intense drive to succeed through adversity has led Shops players and deck-builders to come up with solutions that can work in the current metagame. Lodestone may be lonesome, but Thought-Knot Seer is here to stay. 

Here's Andy Markiton's wining Ravager Shops deck from NYSE IV. 

I've written about this particular style of Workshop deck quite a bit in recent weeks, so I'm not going to do a full breakdown of the deck. Most of the tech here has been perfected over the last month, so it is a known quantity. 

The deck is simply an updated version of the Ravager Shops decks that existed with an unrestricted Lodestone Golem. Thought-Knot Seer has replaced the missing Golems, and Eldrazi Temple takes the place of Mishra's Factory to support the Eldrazi creatures. At one point there were copies of Cavern of Souls, but I assume that Eldrazi Temple has been found to be superior for this application. 

Congratulations to Andy Markiton, NYSE Champion! 

Until Next Time...

That's all the time I have for this week, folks. I would have loved to cover more decks from the event, but there were just too many great lists to fit in one article. If there was a deck from the event that you would like featured, please let me know in the comments. If you're interested in attending a paper Vintage event some day, but don't know much about it, feel free to ask me. The NYSE and other paper events in the USA allow fifteen proxy cards, so they are much more accessible than you might think! Special thanks to Mr. Detwiler for hosting such a great event, and thanks to all those who helped make it happen. 

I'll be back with more Vintage next week. You can follow me on Twitter @josephfiorinijr - Islandswamp on Magic Online


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