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Vintage 101: Planeswalk like an Egyptian!


Force of Will by Jaime Jones

Planeswalk like an Egyptian

The spoilers for the newest Magic set, Amonkhet, have been pouring in faster than you can build a pyramid (obviously...). My first impression of the set is that it is very interesting, and the Egyptian theme seems like a cool idea. On the other hand the set also reminds me of Theros with the way it was based on a real-world historical culture. Theros was a really cool set with a lot of fun cards, but the cards were honestly not very good in formats beyond Standard. The flavor and art of Amonkhet are amazing, so I'm hoping that this set doesn't suffer the same issues. 

With that in mind, let's take a look at a few interesting cards. I'm not sure if any of these will make the cut in Vintage (or Legacy and Modern for that matter), but only time will tell. 

Dissenter's Deliverance

The first card I'm going to look at isn't terribly exciting, but it might actually be more useful than it first appears. 

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Dissenter's Deliverance isn't flashy, but it's a reasonably priced piece of artifact removal. It's an instant too, which is very relevant. However, at two mana it's less efficient than other options like Nature's Claim or Fragmentize. Dissenter's Deliverance also lacks the card advantage contained in a spell like Ancient Grudge. The only thing that could possibly make this spell worth running over anything else is the fact that it has cycling (and a cheap cycling cost at that). 

Nature's Claim is dirt cheap, but it's just not main deck material. Ancient Grudge sees some main deck play simply because it can create card advantage via its flashback ability, but it's still primarily relegated to sideboards. Dissenter's Deliverance could be a decent card to include in a main deck because it can at least cycle for one green mana, so it's never completely dead. Cycling cards can fill the graveyard for Treasure Cruise or Dig Through Time, and you could possibly flip a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy even faster this way as well. This isn't the most exciting concept I've ever encountered, but I think it's worth considering,

The real question here is whether or not people are willing to play Dissenter's Deliverance in the place of other options. We must also keep in mind that the other options are cheaper, or have flashback, or hit enchantments as well as artifacts, and so on. My guess is that Dissenter's Deliverance becomes a one-of artifact removal spell in decks that can meet the color requirement, but beyond that I'm not expecting much. The place I envision Dissenter's Deliverance being played is in something like Sylvan Mentor.

Manglehorn

When I was a young man we walked two miles to school even when there was a foot of snow on the ground! And we also played Uktabi Orangutan and we were happy to do it! Seriously though, Manglehorn is the latest in a long line of "enters the battlefield and destroys something" creatures, and it's definitely caught the attention of the Vintage community. 

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If you manage to get a Manglehorn on the battlefield early it can certainly be a huge pain for several prominent strategies in the format. Workshop decks and White Eldrazi have a lot of artifact mana and this card does screw with that, but it's probably at its best against Paradoxical Outcome decks or anything with Mox Opal (like Belcher, for instance).

The artifact-based mana of Outcome decks can't function properly when it comes into play tapped. The Paradoxical Storm deck has a very small chance at being able to combo off through a Manglehorn the way it is currently built. The Paradoxical Mentor lists can't chain together their namesake draw spell when facing a Manglehorn, so they'll be creating fewer monk tokens. 

Scarab Feast

Scarab Feast is on my list of cards to review for the same reason as Dissenter's Deliverance. The cycling ability on these spells makes it worth taking a look at them. Very few decks can afford to play any graveyard disruption in their starting sixty because such cards are dead (or nearly so) against such a large portion of the field. Scarab Feast is cheap to cast and has a cheap cycling cost, so there's at least the potential for this spell to see some play. 

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One major strike against this card is that it can only hit three cards. Often times exiling three cards from a Dredge player's graveyard won't be enough to stop them. Still, it might slow the Dredge deck down and give you a small chance at winning game one. 

Scarab Feast has other applications as well. Against Dark Petition Storm you could use Scarab Feast to deny you opponent Spell Mastery. If a Storm deck is trying to use Yawgmoth's Will to combo off you could disrupt that process as well, provided you exiled the right cards at the right time. I imagine that Scarab Feast could also be used to hit cards that were about to be replayed via Snapcaster Mage or Jace, Telepath Unbound

Unfortunately cards like Scarab Feast (and Surgical Extraction, and so on) are not card advantage. This type of spell costs you a card and does nothing to your opponent's board. Unless you're using Scarab Feast or other similar cards to prevent an impending game loss, they're just not worth the space. For Scarab Feast to be worth including in a main deck there would still have to be an unusually high percentage of graveyard-based decks in the metagame. Cycling an unneeded card is certainly helpful, but it's not enough on its own to warrant inclusion over something more substantial. 

 

Watchers of the Dead

Cat lovers rejoice! If you're smitten with kittens, Amonkhet has the purrfect card for you!

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Watchers of the Dead reminds me of a cross between Tormod's Crypt and Phyrexian Revoker. The 2/2 body for two mana isn't great, but it is reminiscent of Revoker's 2/1 body for the same cost. The ability on Watchers of the Dead is close to a Tormod's Crypt; both cards exile an opponent's graveyard. Unfortunately the artifact cat lets your opponents choose two cards in their graveyard to save. 

Being an artifact creature my immediate thought was that Watchers of the Dead could be played in Workshop decks. The card also seems like it could possibly fit in White Eldrazi or Hatebears-type decks. The problem is that the body isn't big enough to push people into wanting to play it, and the graveyard nuke ability leaves a lot to be desired. Honestly, I think that if Watchers of the Dead had better stats or if it was simply a Tormod's Crypt on a grizzly bear body it would probably be playable. It would be nice if Shops had access to a main deck card that could help them take game one of a match against Dredge (aside from the usual Wasteland plan), but this card probably isn't worth it. 

 

Honored Hydra

 

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Honored Hydra seems to be the biggest of all the embalm creatures that I've looked at. Embalm is an interesting ability because it sidesteps Grafdigger's Cage and Containment Priest. Still, contemporary Dredge decks don't play enough lands to reliably pay for a four-mana spell. Perhaps changes could be made to a Dredge deck to enable embalming creatures, but I suspect that would just lead to the field changing their sideboarding tactics. 

In the past Yixlid Jailer was much more popular, and that shuts down Honored Hydra's embalm ability. Most Vintage players have realized that Grafdigger's Cage and Containment Priest aren't that great against Dredge anyway, and more folks are running Rest in Peace and stronger graveyard hate. 

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Bicycle Lands

Any dual land that can be tutored for with a fetchland automatically gets a second look from me. I'm not sure if these cards will be good enough, but they do seem very good. Mana flooding is a hindrance in any format and Vintage is no different. The ability to cycle away a land that you don't need for a newly drawn card is very tempting. Whether or not this hedge against mana flood is worth the drawback of entering the battlefield tapped remains to be seen. 

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So far the five allied colors have been spoiled, but let's be honest; only the two blue-based "Bicycle Lands" have even a remote shot of being played. The non-blue duals that see play in Vintage generally belong in decks like Junk Humans or Fish decks, and those decks absolutely cannot afford a land that comes into play tapped. As a matter of fact, the only deck in Vintage that could probably handle having one or two lands that enter the battle field tapped would be Landstill. 

Landstill seems like the only deck in the format that is slow enough that it wouldn't mind playing a tapped land once or twice a game. Landstill also uses Crucible of Worlds which happens to combo well with these lands. 

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I included two Irrigated Farmlands in the sample Landstill list because I can't imagine a deck wanting more than that. Even two of these cycling dual lands might be too much for a deck to use. I definitely think that these lands are worth testing though because the cycling ability and utility are quite beneficial. 

 

Amonket Rising

I'm excited for the Amonkhet prerelease even if it doesn't have as many Vintage gems as previous sets have had. There are still more spoilers to come, so stay tuned! You never know when the next future staple card be spoiled... 

That's all the time I have for this week! I'll be back soon with more Vintage action. You can follow me on TMD, Magic Online, and Twitter @Islandswamp

 


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