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Vintage 101: Power Nine Time!

Power Nine Time! 

Welcome back to Vintage 101! This week we're going to look at the most recent Magic Online Power Nine Challenge. We'll take a look at a few of the decks, but first let's look at the results from the Swiss portion of the event.  

November Power Nine Tournament - Top 16

stsung Jeskai Delver 6-0
littledarwin U/W Mentor 5-1
Llanowar07 Paradoxical Storm 5-1
matori Pitch Dredge 5-1
k0de Car Shops 4-2
OompaLoompa Jeskai Control 4-2
lsv Jeskai Control 4-2
Bigger_Bear Jeskai Control 4-2
The Atog Lord Stax 4-2
desolutionist Storm 4-2
MossdogTrainee Paradoxical Storm 4-2
footemanchu Paradoxical Storm 4-2
hirsn Sun-Rai Oath 4-2
MissClique Jeskai Delver 4-2
Boin White Eldrazi 4-2

Top Eight

Here's the final standings for the Top Eight. Congratulations to Littledarwin for winning the November Power Nine Challenge with U/W Mentor! 

Final Standings - Top 8
Littledarwin 1
The Atog Lord 2
OompaLoompa 3
k0de 4
stsung 5
Matori 7
Llanowar07 8

There were three Workshop decks in the top sixteen decks, all of which made Top Eight. Also in the Top Eight was a single copy of Pitch Dredge, three Gush decks, and a single Paradoxical Storm deck. Paradoxical Outcome appeared in four different top sixteen deck lists, but with all of the Workshop/Eldrazi decks in the field only one of these combo decks was able to crack the Top Eight. 

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These results seem to be in line with what we've been seeing for quite some time now. The main difference is that Paradoxical Outcome has been becoming a bit more prominent lately, although it has maintained at least a small presence since it was released. Theoretically Paradoxical Outcome decks should be weak to Shops, Eldrazi, and any deck with lock pieces like Thorn of Amethyst. However, in practice the Outcome decks can kill on turn one or two in a substantial percentage of games. With Force of Will for the first lock piece and Paradoxical Outcome to quickly draw through a deck, you can't completely discount the Paradoxical Storm and Mentor decks no matter what hate card you're packing. 

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With all of the Paradoxical Storm decks around right now I think that Null Rod and Stony Silence are good cards to have access to . Both cards are good against the large amounts of artifact mana present in Paradoxical Storm decks and they're also great at blanking Arcbound Ravager, Triskelion, and the vehicles from Car Shops decks. However, as I mentioned before Null Rod and analogous effects aren't always going to be enough to guarantee victory. 

In my opinion the decks that should be the best at fighting the insane draw engine that Paradoxical Outcome provides would be Stax and Jeskai Gush decks. Both decks can utilize Null Rod (or Stony Silence) and they also have additional pressure in the form of lock pieces or additional control elements. With that in mind, let's take a look at our fifth place deck, Jeskai Delver. 


Jeskai Delver by sstung

When I was first getting back into Magic and playing Vintage on Magic Online, Delver of Secrets was a dominant force in Vintage. Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time had warped both formats considerably, and there was very little incentive to play anything else at the time. In the time between the 2015 Vintage Championships and today, the presence of Delver of Secrets in Vintage has waned considerably. Typically the Gush decks that people are playing online are centered around Monastery Mentor and/or Young Pyromancer, and most people have shied away from the flying Wild Nacatl

Delver is still really good though, and this undefeated six-round run by stsung proves it. The core of the Gush decks is just so strong that it almost doesn't matter what win condition the decks are currently utilizing. 

Cantrips, Gush, and the restricted draw package of Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, and Ancestral Recall give a Delver deck the gas it needs to run over the opposition. Of all the Gush decks in Vintage, Delver is the most tempo-oriented. Some of the cards are less powerful than those found in the combo/control decks in the format, but they make up for that with consistency. 

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Delver decks typically play with more creatures than the the Mentor/Pyromancer builds. Three or four Delvers is the norm, and having these additional creatures allows the deck to fight prison strategies much more reliably. The deck's namesake card Delver of Secrets is particularly good against Workshops because it slides into play before the first lock piece hits the board. It's often possible for a Delver to flip early and wind up going the distance by itself. 

Young Pyromancer is the most efficient token generating creature in Vintage. Like its partner-in-crime Delver of Secrets, Young Pyromancer can come down early and subvert prison strategies. The Elemental tokens generated by Pyromancer can quickly stabilize the board and overwhelm opponents. 

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is another efficient form of card advantage this deck utilizes. Tiny Jace acts like a more efficient Snapcaster Mage, and he allows the deck to replay key spells. Reusing something as small as a cantrip provides a significant advantage, and copying more powerful spells like Time Walk is downright dirty. Another key advantage that Jace, Vryn's Prodigy has is that it isn't affected by  Thorn of Amethyst. Resolving one or two-mana creatures against Workshop decks is much easier than casting even the cheapest non-creature spells. 

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The top of the curve for Jeskai Delver is the single copy of Dack Fayden. Dack is still one of the best planeswalkers in Vintage, and he's particularly good in this deck. Dack lets you trade useless lands for more gas. 

Jeskai Delver in Vintage

Grixis Pyromancer was the hotness for quite a while, but now that Paradoxical Outcome decks have become established in the meta I think Jeskai is now the proper choice. Jeskai Delver (and Mentor) get to play Stony Silence instead of Null Rod and that is a marked improvement. Storm decks, including those of the Paradoxical persuasion, tend to be Dimir or Grixis-colored. Blue, black, and red are great at a lot of things, but dealing with enchantments is not one of them. Basically Stony Silence is a Null Rod that's not afraid of Hurkyl's Recall and Shattering Spree

This Jeskai Delver deck took down six opponents in a row in the Swiss rounds and eventually landed sstung in fifth place. Going undefeated for six rounds is quite a feat, and I consider this to be an excellent finish. For those of you who are interested in seeing this deck in action, sstung happens to be a Twitch streamer. She's also the author of some fantastic Vintage articles and tournament reports. She's written several articles detailing her exploits with Jeskai Delver, and I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a good read. 


Get Out of My Dreams and Into My Car Shops

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There were two decks in the Top Eight that contained Fleetwheel Cruiser and zero copies of Skysovereign, Consul Flagship in either deck. Both of these decks have been labeled as "Car Shops," but they're fairly different from the decks people have been calling Car Shops in the past. One player, k0de, had a deck that was more like a Ravager/TKS deck with a single Fleetwheel Cruiser added to it. Former NBA all-star and Magic Online player CLYDE THE GLYDE DREXLER played a list that was much closer to the original Car Shops deck developed by Nick Dijohn. 

Clyde's list happened to play Myr Battlesphere, which is unusual enough that I felt I had to feature it. 

This list has the Arcbound Ravager/Triskelion combo that has been the centerpiece of many Workshop decks since August of 2015, but there are some interesting updates as well. Instead of four Thought-Knot Seers, this list has a play set of Foundry Inspectors. 

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Foundry Inspector isn't that impressive as a 3/2 for three mana, but when you consider that it's castable with a single Workshop it starts to seem like a better rate. Inspector also makes all of your other artifacts cheaper to cast, so it makes for some explosive starts. The cost reduction also helps the deck ignore its own Sphere of Resistances, which is highly relevant in the course of most games. 

Clyde also ran Karn, Silver Golem and Myr Battlesphere in his deck. Both of those cards help make Fleetwheel Cruiser even better. The Battlesphere creates Myr tokens that can either team up with the Battlesphere itself or pilot a Cruiser, and Karn's ability can allow Cruisers to attack as 4/4 creatures with Trample. 

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Seven mana is kind of a lot for a Workshop deck, but with Foundry Champions in the list I'm sure that it's not all that difficult to cast a Battlesphere when it's needed. The 4/7 body on Myr Battlesphere is tough to deal with, and it can potentially deal twelve damage to an opponent each turn.

Karn. Silver Golem provides a good-sized body and it also turns all your lock pieces into creatures if need be. I have to say though that my personal favorite use for Karn is to kill my opponent's moxen by turning them into 0/0 creatures.  Also, if you're one of those players who tends to get really unlucky with your Mana Crypt flips, Karn can provide yet another way of avoiding an embarrassing death! 

Clyde's list is running fewer lands that most Workshop decks with only seventeen. Typically speaking Workshop mana bases consist of four Shops, four Ancient Tombs, four Wastelands, four Eldrazi Temples, or Mishra's Factorys, and one Strip Mine and Tolarian Academy. This deck is only running two Mishra's Factory and one Inventor's Fair, making for seventeen total lands. 

Car Shops in Vintage

Car Shops is definitely one of the best decks in the format, but it may not be the best Workshop deck in the format. Stax decks seem to be putting fewer copies into the Top Eights of tournaments, but Stax also has a few finishes that are higher than the non-Smokestack lists in the same events. I think that which list is best is really dependent on the matchups you're expecting to face in any given event. 


I am a big fan of Fleetwheel Cruiser though, I've been on the receiving end of a Cruiser beating more often than I care to admit. It's the brown Ball Lightning, but it keeps coming back turn after turn! I think that the key to Fleetwheel Cruiser and other vehicles being playable is that they need to do something even if they can't be crewed. Otherwise the vehicles need a very low crew cost, like Smuggler's Copter


The Walking Dead! 

Matori played the only Dredge list that made it to the Top Eight of the event. Pitch Dredge has been doing much better than traditional Dredge lately, possibly because of the added flexibility that the "free" countermagic provides. In my experience Mindbreak Trap is pretty good right now as a way to fight all of the Paradoxical Outcome decks. 

Matori's list has opted to not play Prized Amalgam, and instead he's running three Chancellor of the Annex. Chancellor is an annoying card to deal with when it's revealed from an opening hand and it can often buy the Dredge deck an entire turn. Against combo decks, Chancellor of the Annex is a very good Dread Return target as it makes it very difficult for those decks to go off. 

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The other Dread Return creature in the deck is Dragonlord Kolaghan. The common consensus among Dredge pilots is that Kolaghan is superior to the previously used Flame-Kin Zealot for a few reasons. FKZ does create a lethal board presence with slightly fewer Zombie tokens against an empty board, but in all other aspects Kolaghan is better. If the Dredge pilot isn't able to make that many tokens for some reason, Dragonlord Kolaghan does more damage on it's own. Kolaghan can fly over Moat, which is something that would otherwise be a huge pain for a Dredge deck to deal with if it manages to resolve. Lastly, the Dragonlord is black, so it has synergy with Ichorid in games where you're trying to grind someone out. 

Like all decks in this archetype the sideboard contains the Marit Lage combo. The usual suspects are all there, including Dark Depths, Thespian's Stage, and Vampire Hexmage. Matori also ran two copies of Pithing Needle in the sideboard, which is something that I've advocated for in the past. Sideboard space is truly at a premium in this type of deck, but Pithing Needle does a lot for this strategy. People have learned how to anticipate the Marit Lage plan so they've often looking to use  Wastelands or Karakas to stop you. Pithing Needle is the most efficient answer to both of those cards, and it has other applications as well. 

Pitch Dredge in Vintage

Dredge in general is a deck that is always powerful, and its viability always hinges on how prepared for it other players are. Pitch Dredge is likely at its best when there are a lot of combo decks in the format due to the inclusion of Mindbreak Trap and Chancellor of the Annex. Pitch Dredge is less adept at fighting Wasteland decks like Workshops though. 

TPS - Tendrils Paradoxical Storm

Paradoxical Outcome is becoming fairly popular online these days. I'm not surprised though, because the decks look like they're a ton of fun to play. Drawing cards is awesome; the only thing that's better is drawing your entire deck in one turn. 

Paradoxical Storm first gained notoriety in the hands of Reid Duke at the Vintage Championships. Although none of these new combo decks cracked the Top Eight, they did well enough to make everyone take notice. Paradoxical Outcome is such an explosive card that it can easily win a game in one turn when the opportunity arises. With four Gitaxian Probes the Paradoxical Storm player can easily look for an opening, and if they find it they're probably going to win on the spot. 

Paradoxical Outcome in Vintage

I was discussing deck choices with a friend of mine one day, and we talked about archetypes ranging from Prison to Combo. My associate said to me that in a format as powerful as Vintage, showing up to a tournament with a broken deck is often the way to go. Basically, there are no wrong threats, only wrong answers. If your deck is strong on its own, that alone gives it some merit. Paradoxical Outcome decks exemplify this concept perfectly. Sure, they can sometimes lose to an errant Null Rod, but they can just as easily win before Null Rod even resolves.

As long as there are a lot of Workshop and Eldrazi decks in the meta, Paradoxical Outcome decks will be held in check, but they'll still be powerful enough to Top Eight events. To me this means that it's not a bad choice to play, although it may never be the absolute best deck in the format. 


Azorius Skullclamp Mentor

All of the Mentor decks from the Power Nine event have been listed as "Jeskai Control," but they're actually all just different (but very similar) flavors of Mentor. Littledarwin managed to win the event with a U/W Mentor deck without a single red card, and that's quite unusual. 

Many of the card choices in this list are in line with what is normally played, but there are a few key differences. First of all, as I mentioned above this is an Azorius-colored Mentor deck. Red gives these decks the ability to play Dack Fayden, Lightning Bolt, and Pyroblast, but Littledarwin has opted for a different approach. 

The mana base in this list is a little more stable and less susceptible to Wasteland due to the four Flooded Strands and the basic Plains. There's also a Wasteland and Strip Mine, and a Library of Alexandria. That's a total of four non-Island, non-fetch lands in the deck. I imagine that can cause some tension with the four Gushes in the list, but it looks like it worked out in the end. 

This list only plays Black Lotus and on-color moxen, which means that there are only nineteen mana sources in the main deck (with one more Wasteland in the sideboard). Nineteen mana sources seems a little low for a Monastery Mentor deck. Usually decks based on Mentor play all the moxen, while Young Pyromancer decks do not. 

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Since the deck is not playing red, the anti-artifact cards all have to be white. That means Fragmentize, Disenchant, and Stony Silence in the sideboard. I like the efficiency of Fragmentize quite a bit, but I'm not crazy about it being a sorcery. There's also Kataki, War's Wage and an extra Wasteland to fight Mishra's Workshop decks, which is important to have if you have so few mana sources. 

The last unusual aspect of the deck that I spotted was the single copy of Skullclamp. You can draw a ton of cards if you get the Skullclamp and Monastery Mentor combo going, but if we're being honest resolving a Mentor means we're winning already. I'm really not sure the Skullclamp is needed, but I bet it does some crazy stuff when it works. 

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U/W Mentor in Vintage 

This particular Mentor deck seems like it would be very good at fighting other blue decks due to the rather skimpy mana base. Too many moxen can be a detriment when you're facing the blue mirror because they're usually horrible topdecks. However this approach of using sixteen land and three sources of artifact mana seems like it opens the door to some blowouts from Workshop decks. Normally I wouldn't be a fan of running the main-deck basic Plains either, but considering the lowered number of mana sources I think it's smart to hedge against Wasteland

I would generally prefer to run a third color in a deck such as this because the mana is close to perfect in Vintage, but I can't argue with this deck's success. Littledarwin did have the second-best record in the Swiss and ended up winning the entire event, so that suggests that this configuration deserves a second look. 


That's all the time I have for this week, I'll see you in seven days. You can chat with me about #VintageMTG on Twitter @josephfiorinir - Islandswamp on Magic Online and TMD



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