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Vintage 101: Playing With(out) Power


Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! We're getting into the season of preparation for US Eternal Weekend's Vintage Championships at the end of this month, so we're going to talk about things to expect from one of the larger paper Vintage events as well as ways to compete without needing Power! We'll also be covering the Vintage Challenge from the past weekend and talking a bit deeper about some specific Throne of Eldraine cards that you should be looking at.

So, without further ado, let's dive right into the world of budget.

Eternal Weekend's "Budget" Prize

Held October 31st - November 3rd in Pittsburgh, PA, the event of US Eternal Weekend includes the prestigious North America Vintage Championship 2019. This event is one of the largest paper Vintage events in the US, and brings a diverse group of players to enjoy the awesome that is Vintage. Since this is a sanctioned event, you are going to see lots of players with fully powered decks, but that doesn't always mean you need to explicitly have that to be able to play the format.

So then, why would someone play a budget deck in this event? Well, perhaps you're going to be there already playing in the Legacy Championships event, and your deck is capable of being converted for play in Vintage rather easily. This not only saves you money in being able to play with cards you already own, but also allows you to play both events (since Vintage and Legacy take place on different days). For those looking for the additional play experience of both formats, this might be worth a look for you.

In fact, Eternal Weekend offers a budget prize option for the highest placing budget deck in the event. By "budget", this refers to any deck that does not include the Power Nine, Bazaar of Baghdad, Mishra's Workshop, or Library of Alexandria. There are four of these prizes awarded, ranging from $600 in store credit to $150 in store credit for the top four highest placing budget entries. This is regardless of your overall placing in the event, so theoretically you could still cash this event and also earn the top budget prize.

So, what are some strategies that can prosper as powerless decks? Well, thankfully there's one big change to Vintage as a format that has recently opened up a lot more functionality to converting typical Legacy decks to Vintage playable strategies, and that's the restriction of Mental Misstep.

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With Misstep restricted, much of the Legacy playable CMC 1 space opens up, allowing for some interesting and powerful strategies to take shape as a budget entry.

Turbo Depths

One such strategy that is perfectly viable now is the advent of Turbo Depths as a very real and playable deck. A lot of decks cannot easily beat a fast 20/20 Marit Lage token, as is evidenced by the power of decks like Ziasbond. The major changes to this deck that separates this list from the Legacy variant is the presence of Demonic Tutor and four Fastbond, however, if you desire you can run a split of Exploration and at least one Fastbond, but this will obviously slow down some of the more busted starts of the deck. In addition, Strip Mine is another good tool in the deck to recur with Life from the Loam for grindier games.

U/R Delver

This deck is pretty much a stock U/R Xerox list that focuses heavily on Delver and Young Pyromancer as the key win conditions. If you're a Legacy player who already owns U/R Delver or Grixis Delver, it's more than likely that you own a lot of these cards already and can transition to this kind of list very easily. Again, the biggest changes to this kind of list from Legacy outside of downsizing on restricted Brainstorm is the addition of cards such as Dig Through Time, Gush, and Treasure Cruise, in addition to your restricted copy of Strip Mine. However, these acquisitions are not too bad to pick up and it is also worth noting that this kind of deck can be relatively competitive, as this very list comes from a friend of ours DrMuggy who 5-0'ed with it on Magic Online. If you're looking to do well, this could be a list to keep in mind.

Freebird (Arclight Phoenix Combo)

This deck, dubbed "Freebird" because it plays on the theme of combo with Arclight Phoenix and Buried Alive, is also another viable option for play. This deck is relatively close to the Legacy variant, with the additions of Vintage cards like Gitaxian Probe as another free restricted spell to cast to trigger Phoenix. The downside of this deck is that it very much perishes to Chalice of the Void on 1 counter, but with that being a restricted card and a lot of the metagame being a lot of blue variant decks right now, it can be powerful in a powerless configuration. The nice thing about this style of deck is that it can steal wins on the back of the opponent not really knowing what's going on and putting three Phoenix on the board turn one can be back breaking vs a lot of the Xerox decks.

Mono Red Prison

Mono Red Prison is another solid option for play, considering that the deck placed 36th last year at Eternal Weekend 2018 in the hands of Andrew Frank. The slightly biggest issue here for you if you're a Legacy Mono Red player will obviously be the Mana Crypt in the list and potentially the Null Rods, but beyond that this is a great option of a deck that can easily stick a threat or a lock piece and quickly end a game. Blood Moon can be back-breaking versus Shops decks in addition to the main deck Null Rod, and in the sideboard I've also included a singleton Chandra, Awakened Inferno for those grindy Xerox games. Good for mopping up Mentor + Arcanist, and presents uncounterable, game-winning damage long term. If you can borrow some of the pricier pieces, and you already own the core of Mono Red in Legacy this is worth looking into.

Eldrazi

While Eldrazi has been largely outclassed by some of the other powerless options available, it is still a powerful deck and worth considering if you already own the pieces of Legacy Colorless Eldrazi Aggro. With this list the biggest piece is the Null Rods again, but they are unfortunately rather crucial to making certain unpowered decks like this work by giving the deck a way to handle combo decks like PO Storm and Workshops decks. Still, this deck is relatively similar enough to Eldrazi Aggro in Legacy where it deploys multiple Eldrazi Mimic and a follow up Thought-Knot Seer into Reality Smasher to close the game out.

Humans

One of the bigger boosts this deck received this past year was in the form of Lavinia, Azorius Renegade. This card presents a powerful way the deck can interact with combo and even Xerox by limiting their ability to cast cards like Force of Will and Delve spells, and being a Human is icing on the cake. In addition, cards like Collector Ouphe and Deputy of Detention provide additional disruption despite not being Human. If you already own Humans in Modern or even in Legacy, a lot of this deck is pretty much assembled already here. The biggest changes to this kind of list are things like Scab-Clan Berserker and Kambal, Consul of Allocation which really beats up on combo decks when deployed early enough.

You Have the Power

These 6 decks are just a small indicator of what is possible to brew powerless and they are very close to existing Legacy tech and in some cases Modern tech as well. There is certainly more inspiration to be found within other various decks within Legacy, including even the decks that are playing cards like Arcum's Astrolabe and Wrenn and Six. If you have any cool powerless lists that you'd like to share, please do so down in the comments, as I would love to see them. Also let me know if you plan to play a powerless deck in the Vintage Champs event, as I would love to remain in touch with you throughout the event to find out how your experience is, and of course if you win the budget prize reach out as I love doing interviews with people like you!

The Budding Impact of Throne of Eldraine

Throne of Eldraine has been available on Magic Online for a little over a short week now, and the biggest impact the set has had on Vintage as a format is actually pretty minimal so far, however there are a few notable things to talk about. One of those things is that Mystic Sanctuary should probably be seeing more play, namely in Xerox based builds.

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While only one copy of this card appeared all weekend in the Magic Online results (namely in a Xerox build piloted by our good friend ChubbyRain) this card appears to be the real deal. Being able to recur back cards like Gush and Time Walk is pretty powerful, but it also seems the condition is not very hard to meet. I know I will be finding room for it in my Elementals list because of the interaction of being able to fetch for it plus rebuy it with Wrenn and Six (by using Strip Mine on it to recur it) seems pretty incredible. This is a card to watch for, but I expect to hopefully see more people looking at this card and adopting it.

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Another card that received a lot of buzz that didn't do much this weekend was Wishclaw Talisman and after talking with several pilots about this card, I think we'll eventually see it pop up more because it sounds like it was appropriately powerful in the combo decks that wanted the card, where using it and rebuying it back either through an effect like Repeal / Hurkyl's Recall or shutting it off with Karn, the Great Creator seems pretty strong for the possibility of a permanent based Demonic Tutor effect.

Once Upon a Time didn't really show up at all this weekend either, but I did hear there was a Dredge pilot that did not make Top 32 of the Challenge with four copies in their list, so that is pretty cool to hear.

It is actually somewhat of a nice relief however that the impact of this set is relatively minimal on Vintage overall, mainly because of the year we've had with sets impacting the format in big ways. I am a big fan of having cards enter the format that make certain archetypes more playable or viable, but between War of the Spark and Modern Horizons it is nice to get a set that doesn't provide a ton for the format.

Vintage Challenge 9/28

The last Vintage Challenge of September provided us some more interesting data and it was the first Challenge with Throne of Eldraine legal. As alwas our good friend ChubbyRain provided some analysis and data as well, so go check his info out here. So how did the Top 8 stack up? Let's take a look!

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Jeskai Dreadhorde 1st ReneRandrup
Dredge 2nd Lord_Beerus
Ziasbond 3rd Swiftwarkite2
Jeskai Dreadhorde 4th EGadd2894
Ravager Shops 5th Cuikui
DPS 6th CyrusCG (Cyrus Corman-Gill)
Jeskai Dreadhorde 7th JDPhoenix
Dredge 8th Ecobaronen (Andreas Petersen)

Again, Jeskai Dreadhorde presents itself as one of the biggest decks in the event, putting three copies into the Top 8 here. In a wildly awesome turn of events however, the winner at the end was ReneRandrup on the deck, boasting double wins back to back in Vintage Challenges!

Congrats to Rene on such a great finish and taking down two in a row! Very cool stuff.

In second place of this event however, Dredge did its graveyard thing in the hands of Lord_Beerus who also went 7-0 in the Swiss rounds of the event. Impressive finish!

Also appearing the Top 4 is another Top 4 placing by Ziasbond. One of these days this deck is going to win one of these events, so watch out for that. Piloted by Swiftwarkite2 they included some hot new tech in the sideboard that was presented by Zias in the form of Sanctum Prelate and Elvish Reclaimer!

Insanely awesome list and finish. Congrats to Swiftwarkite2 for keeping the Fastbond dream alive! I knew it was only a matter of time before the appropriate shell for this card was found.

Also in the Top 8 is our good friend Cyrus Corman-Gill on his mainstay Dark Petition Storm. If you've been living under a rock for a while you might not know that Cyrus was the winner of Magic Fest Atlanta on Legacy Storm. Cyrus is a great person and a killer Magic player, so hella congrats to him for that accomplishment. Let's take a look at his DPS list.

I like this list a lot. It's very clean and simple for a Storm deck, hitting all the right spots. This is the most "Vintagey" of Vintage decks as I've heard Cyrus describe it, and it certainly shows in its plays.

Further down the Top 32 we have a rare showing of some new Throne of Eldraine cards in the form of Stonecoil Serpent in Ravager Shops, piloted by none other than Montolio (aka Andy Markiton).

Also further down the list of the Top 32 is a showing by Vintage Humans!

This list is pretty solid and packs a powerful punch once it gets up off the ground.

All in all this event seemed pretty interesting outside of the fact that Jeskai Dreadhorde seemed to dominate the Top 32 of it. As we always like to do, let's take a look at our current year cards, including now Throne of Eldraine cards in the mix!

Name of Card Number of Copies
Narset, Parter of Veils 44
Dreadhorde Arcanist 37
Force of Vigor 28
Force of Negation 19
Collector Ouphe 18
Bolas's Citadel 5
Teferi, Time Raveler 4
Veil of Summer 4
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis 3
Mystic Forge 3
Scrapyard Recombiner 3
Stonecoil Serpent 3
Elvish Reclaimer 2
Karn, the Great Creator 1
Magmatic Sinkhole 1
Mystic Sanctuary 1
Questing Beast 1

Out of the new cards from Throne of Eldraine, only Stonecoil Serpent, Mystic Sanctuary and Questing Beast appeared. Again however it is Narset that is at the top of the played heap, boasting 44 copies in the Top 32. In fact, Narset was the highest played Planeswalker in the event, seconded only by Dack Fayden.

Name of Card Number of Copies
Narset, Parter of Veils 44
Dack Fayden 25
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy / Jace, Telepath Unbound 5
Teferi, Time Raveler 4
Karn, the Great Creator 1

The power of Narset is undeniable, but are we yet at a point where restrictions are needed again? I don't think so just yet. I'd like to see what Vintage Champs looks like first, but it definitely seems like it is a format defining card. That being said, the set that has had the most impact this year still ends up being Modern Horizons with the introduction of both Forces, but also cards like Collector Ouphe. Longer term I see these cards defining what the format will look like going forward.

The Spice Corner

MTGO user AntiRush hits us with a sweet Uba Stax variant this week featuring the restricted Karn and a 1-of Karn, Silver Golem!

What I'm Playing This Week

I'm still tuning Elementals aka Risen RUG this week, and trying out cards like Mystic Sanctuary in it!

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! I hope you enjoyed our little foray into talking about various "Powerless" Vintage lists for Eternal Weekend. Next week we're going to talk more about the decks you should be prepping for at Eternal Weekend if you're going and a general overview of the Vintage Champs event. We're also going to as always keep up with the Vintage Challenge events and look forward to the upcoming playoff event two weeks before Eternal Weekend!

As always you can support me via Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! My first episode of "The Bazaar of Moxology" will go live to the public on October 5th, and this article finally marks my first year at MTGGoldfish. I am so grateful for all the support and love that I have received, both from the staff of MTGGoldfish but from the readers. To that end I am giving away some swag (including a full set of MTGO Power 9) to some folks. That giveaway closed on October 1st and the announcement of the winners will take place this coming weekend. Again, thank you all for the support, every little bit does indeed help content creators such as myself to continue developing awesome content for you to consume.

In addition, I am always around on Discord if you'd like to chat about Vintage or anything else MTG-related!

Until next time, keep casting Moxen!


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