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Vintage 101: Post-Gush Power Nine

Probing the Post-Gush Meta

This past weekend was the monthly Magic Online Power Nine Challenge. This also happened to be the first of these tournaments to occur in the wake of the latest changes to the Vintage restricted list. What did the format look like sans Gush and Gitaxian Probe? Let's dive in and take a look! 

Power Nine Challenge Top 8 - 4.29.17
Workshops Jazza
Mentor Tendrils Desolutionist
Jeskai Mentor Unrestrictbrainstorm
White Eldrazi Hitogoroshi80
Jeskai Mentor SMennen
Punishing Oath Trakklo
Ravager Shops Lexor19
Big Red Hate KeeperX


Workshops took down the event, and had two representatives in the Top Eight. Mentor is still being played, but only two out of the three decks featuring Mentor in the Top Eight were direct descendants of the Gush/Mentor archetype. The second place list was Dark Petition Tendrils featuring Monastery Mentor as an alternate win condition. Outside of those lists we had one Oath deck, one White Eldrazi, and even one home brew rogue deck featuring zero power nine cards (KeeperX's Stompy-like red deck). 

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I took a look at the results posted on The Mana Drain and the field seems pretty diverse compared to what it has been. Shops made up 12.7% of the field and had a slightly lower win percentage than it has had in some recent events. Big Blue and Oath took up 9.1% and 10.9% respectively, which isn't all that much lower than the numbers for Shops. If I had to guess I would say that is probably the reason that Workshops seemed less dominant.

Top 16

Making Top Eight of an event is great, but Magic is a high variance game, and it often doesn't take much to miss that mark. Let's take a look at the published lists that went 4-2 or better. 

White Eldrazi Nocley
White Eldrazi Andrea94
White Eldrazi cageykg
Punishing Oath The Atog Lord
Team Leovold Grischa__
Grixis Thieves eightfarms
U/W Landstill mossdogtrainee
Pitch Dredge Ravager101

Looking at the top sixteen decks shows us that White Eldrazi had three more strong finishes. The data from TMD says that White Eldrazi had the best win percentage against the field of any archetype at 61.8% (second highest was Workshops at 55.9%). It looks to me like the taxing decks are still very good, and White Eldrazi is doing especially well. My assumption as to why Shops seems to actually win more events than White Eldrazi is that the mana in Workshops is much better. White Eldrazi has colored spells, Cavern of Souls, and their namesake Eldrazi creatures that can be a drag if drawn in the wrong order. 

Dredge only had one copy in the top portion of the field, and I suspect that is at least partly due to the Containment Priests in the main-deck of White Eldrazi. Usually Dredge comes and goes in the metagame, so the pendulum could swing back at any time.

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I expected to see more Oath of Druids than just two, but Oath has never been a popular deck on Magic Online even when it's very good. The Auriok Salvagers Oath deck has been one of the better versions of the deck since Brian Kelly won the Vintage Championships with it, but the Magic Online interface makes that combo extremely slow and awkward to use. The two Oath decks were the Punishing/Grove builds popularized by KFChicken, and that particular build has a lot of tools to fight Eldrazi and Workshops. 

First Place Shops

Tangle Wire is super expensive on Magic Online. Good thing this player didn't need any! Instead of those 'Wires Jazza had four Precursor Golems for an ultra-aggressive Shops deck. Golem puts nine power on the battlefield for only five mana, and it's spread out over three bodies so it's tough to block. I'm surprised that more people aren't trying Precursor Golems these days, but maybe it'll pick up in popularity due to Jazza's victory here. 

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Mentor Tendrils

Dark Petition Storm hasn't been very popular for a while, but it is very powerful nonetheless. Desolutionist played a Mentor/Storm hybrid to a second place finish, and the cards were chosen as a hedge against the expected metagame. Paradoxical Storm or Mentor has to contend with Null Rod and Stony Silence, which doesn't have nearly as much effect on a Dark Ritual-based combo deck like this. When your Storm plan is untenable, you've got Mentor to fall back on and vice versa. This is a really interesting strategy, and I'm glad to see it did well! 


One Gush Mentor

Some folks are still playing Jeskai Gush Mentor even with their key card restricted. To deal with only one Gush these decks are typically running stuff like Mystical Tutor and Merchant Scroll to find Gush, and sometimes Jace, Vryn's Prodigy to replay their Gushes. These decks are still very strong even with only one Gush simply because they get to play every other restricted blue draw spell in the format, and I don't expect that this type of Mentor list will go away any time soon. 

Punishing Oath

I definitely think that Oath of Druids is very well-positioned right now. Oath is great against the mana-taxing decks which are a big part of the format. One of Oath's problems from the previous meta was that Gush/Mentor could out-draw Oath with Gush and their other draw spells, and that could stop Oath from burping up their Griselbrand (or whatever) on turn two. Without Gush as a four-of it should be slightly easier for Oath to resolve and activate their namesake enchantment. 

What makes Punishing Oath good is that it has a lot of answers to Containment Priest and Eldrazi Displacer. This helps make a previously poor matchup into a much better one. If White Eldrazi continues to be good I expect Punishing Oath to be successful. However, if combo decks make a resurgence I feel that Punishing Oath becomes a liability. I've played this deck a bit and my opinion is that the Punishing/Grove/Loam package is too slow and ineffective versus the fast combo of contemporary Vintage. Perhaps with tuning this situation could be different, but as it stands now Punishing Oath is best in a Shops/Eldrazi heavy meta. 

Grixis Thieves

I mentioned Grixis Thieves as a deck that could make a comeback, and while it wasn't very popular in this event it did put one player into the top sixteen. Eightfarms missed Top Eight by one match win, and that suggests to me that this archetype still has gas in the tank. 

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As a side note I noticed that this list has one Gush in it, which I think is really cool. Unfortunately it looks as though eightfarms forgot the one mandatory Gitaxian Probe, but I'll excuse it this time. 

Powerless Red Hate

KeeperX made Top Eight of this event without a single piece of the Power Nine in their deck! This deck would actually qualify for the budget category at Eternal Weekend, and if City of Traitors (and a few other cards) weren't so expensive online, it'd be budget on Magic Online too. I love seeing a deck like this do well because it helps to break stereotypes people have of Vintage. 

Blood Moon isn't quite as devastating in Vintage as it is in other formats due to the prevalence of Moxen, but a turn one Moon still beats a lot of people. Trinisphere is restricted in Vintage, so instead of the four 'Spheres you'd see in the Legacy versions of this deck, there's Null Rod instead. With eight Moons, Trinisphere, and Null Rod, this deck is actually has a very strong prison theme going. I hope this finish inspires more people to try out the format. 



I know it hasn't been that long yet, but I am very optimistic about how things are going in Vintage. Mentor is still a great deck, but it feels like there's a lot of other things people can play now. The results from the Power Nine event show a meta that looks much more balanced than before. I hope that things continue to go well, and I can't wait to see what decks crop up next. 

That's all the time I have for this week. Special thanks to Diophan and ChubbyRain for collecting the Power Nine data. See you next time! 

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