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Vintage 101: Q1 2021 Metagame Update


Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're going to be doing a dive into the current Vintage Metagame as of this week and where things sit for the format and the decks in it. This is a great refresher on just what the format looks like right now! In addition to that we have two Challenge events to talk about, and of course our Spice Corner.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Vintage 2021 Q1 - A Look At The Metagame

We're now five months into the first part of 2021 and it has been a while since we did a write up on the current state of the Metagame. Thankfully, one of the big boons to this kind of article is the presence of the data collected by Justin Gennari and his team on the Vintage Streamer's Discord. This data is invaluable to discussing the current MTGO metagame and where Vintage happens to sit, and it's greatly appreciated.

Before we get into all of this, you can find the source sheet for this review right over here if you want to peruse it further. This sheet includes some fun stuff such as Meta % per Month as well as MWP % per Month.

This data covers from 01/01/2021 until Today and is updated every week on a consistent basis. Let's take a look first at the Metagame breakdown charts provided by the data:

One intensely glaring thing is that the overall presence of Combo decks is exceedingly overwhelming in Vintage right now. This is largely due in part to the second chart as we can see by the immense presence of both Underworld Breach decks and Doomsday.

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We've known for a while now that Combo decks in general in the format have gotten tons of boosts, but it's not just the fact that the Combos are better, it's that they're also much more compact and capable of being backed up by a lot of countermagic. Both Breach and Doomsday are exceptionally compact, with Breach only needing a mana source and a Brain Freeze to go off, while Doomsday piles have become far more simplified than before thanks to the presence of Thassa's Oracle. What this has done is allowed for the decks to complement that compact nature by playing much more countermagic and not having to rely on things such as discard (as decks like DPS used to) to disrupt the opponent long enough to win the game.

Beyond the Combo decks, despite having a bunch of limiters on it, Shops decks continue to remain as popular as ever. I attribute this largely to the popularity increase of Ravager Shops having found a deckbuilding strategy that really works (by using cards such as Fleetwheel Cruiser and the like) as well as the Golos decks having ways of beating traditional hate cards like Null Rod and Collector Ouphe by having more aggressive plays.

Let's also take a look at the Win Rate charts for these before we dive into the various major archetypes of the format further.

With Combo being popular, it's also important to note that those archetypes have a really strong win rate overall as well. That being said, let's dive into how each of these major archetypes really hashes out and we'll refer back to these charts as needed.

Fair Blue Decks

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When it comes to fair blue decks in Vintage, the biggest front runner of these decks are Deathrite Shaman based, most notably the BUG Midrange deck. BUG has a solid metagame presence and a solid win rate over the past months as well. Conversely, the next most popular fair blue deck is Jeskai Control, which does still seem to be relatively popular but not quite enough to really be on the same level as BUG is. Beyond that the 4C DRS decks, Bant Midrange, and RUG Midrange decks all sort of fall in line as well. Of these, the RUG decks seem to have the worst performance, while Bant Midrange has the best among these three.

The new kid on the block here that we don't have quite enough data on is the Grixis Tinker/Witch based decks, so I'm sure we'll see some pronounced understanding of where those sit the next time we do one of these, but for now, if you plan on playing super fair in Vintage, either BUG or Jeskai are good places to start with the format.

Combo

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We noted before that Combo's presence is exceedingly overwhelming in the current format. The big hitters of this are either Doomsday or Breach based decks. Both of these have really eclipsed out older combo decks like DPS, and while PO seems to still be around and has a reasonable win rate, it's nowhere nearly as popular as the other two decks at the top.

Outside of these traditional spell-based combo subarchetypes however, we do also still have decks such as Oath of Druids, but the sheer metagame share of Oath has dipped for quite a while now. Outside of some truly dedicated players, this is not a deck you will see often enough, but those dedicated players are very good with the deck.

If you're seeking out combo as an archetype, either the top two decks or PO will serve you well.

Workshops

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Workshops decks as noted are also very popular again, despite printings last year of cards like Force of Vigor and Collector Ouphe, combined with the fact that BUG is one of the most popular fair archetypes. The decks really haven't gotten many new threats lately, but they have gotten better constructed. Combo Shops especially is constantly being tuned and worked on and provides a Shops experience that also is a Combo deck, blurring the lines slightly.

The real winner is aggressive slanted Shops decks however, a deck that is probably one of the most straightforward aggro decks in the format.

Bazaar Decks

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Bazaar decks have really taken a hit overall in the current format climate. At one point, people were yet again clamoring for cards such as Hollow One even to be restricted and while it still may need to be at some point, it doesn't need to be right now. Dredge has taken over as the defacto Bazaar deck in the format once more, with the Hogaak deck being the other main strategy that sees play. The Hollow Vine-esque Squee based decks seem to have really largely fallen off in general.

Despite this however, the Bazaar decks continue to be among some of the most polarizing decks and matchups in the format and still haunt sideboard spots. However, player knowledge in general of these decks is much greater, and while we occasionally see Dredge do well in an event, it's not consistently breaking the metagame open.

Aggro / Hatebear Strategies

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We've seen a fair resurgence in Mono White Hatebear and Eldrazi strategies that while they are an exceptionally low metagame share, the decks are performing reasonably well enough to have game in the current format. A lot of these decks are predicated on the notion of resolving cards like Deafening Silence which can really slow down the early game for a lot of decks. The downsides of these decks are their functional multicolor manabases and the fact that they aren't playing any if at all of the restricted blue card draw such as Ancestral Recall. Still, these decks can catch a player unaware.

The Current Popular Cards / Staples

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Vintage as a format is always going to have a really slanted set of popular staple cards given how much cards like Power Nine show up in so many decks, so the really interesting dirt is on what Lands are prevalent in the format. The top two most played lands in Vintage right now are indeed both Wasteland and Strip Mine. Despite being a one of restricted card, Strip Mine currently sits in 60% of the decks recorded by MTGGoldfish's data. I'm sure this number is much larger in a potential data set such as the data set provided by the Streamer's Discord, but that's not something we can easily figure out. Despite being a format that really wants artifact mana, land destruction effects are powerful and very prevalent. It's also very telling that the third land on the list is Misty Rainforest, echoing the idea that BUG Midrange and BUG based decks continue to be exceptionally popular.

We see this even further on the creature side with Deathrite Shaman topping the list in 22% of the decks recorded by MTGGoldfish currently. Breaking into that list now is Sedgemoor Witch from Strixhaven and in number two Lodestone Golem out of Shops.

The Lurrus Effect

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The unbanning of Lurrus of the Dream-Den was exceptionally polarizing to a lot of players in Vintage, some who believed that it was a great idea to see if the Nightmare Cat would be able to thrive in the environment with the added restrictions of the Companion Mechanic rules, and those who thought that things would go right back to Lurrus' first heyday in the format.

It's kind of awesome to really see how much having Lurrus in the current format has basically been just fine, as the overall share of Lurrus in the format has dipped exceedingly to where it's currently in only 6% of the decks recorded by MTGGoldfish currently. And while Lurrus has had some competitive success, the choice of running the card is very apparent now. What I do enjoy about this card is the fact that it allows Vintage to be the format where nearly everything is playable in the format within reason and using the banlist for truly extraordinary situations.

I don't expect Lurrus to ever be re-banned at this point. It seems like just a normal fun option part of the format now, and that is great.

The Health of the Format

I think the biggest and most important thing to be asking is if the format is healthy, and for right now I think that it is. The top tables of the events consistently are turned on their head every week or so, and despite the overwhelming presence of the combo decks in the format, they're not unbeatable and there are two major archetypes of those fighting for control, which takes away from both.

For now, I think Vintage is in a really decent place, but we do have Modern Horizons 2 on the... horizon, so we shall see if anything from that set crops up to take a stab at the format.

Mythic Society 5/12

Yet another week has passed and yet another set of Mythic Society events continue to keep taking place. These events are always very fun and if you're looking for a more casual FNM style Vintage event, these are a great event to join up on. They occur every Wednesday night and you can find out more information about them over on the Mythic Society Twitter.

Our first list from this event comes from the lone 4-0 in Hogaak.

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One major thing stood out here in this deck. Abundant Harvest. This card has been making waves lately in Legacy and I'm not surprised to see it suddenly show up in a deck like this either. The fact that this card hits a land always is really strong in a deck that does want to see Bazaar of Baghdad pretty often. Choosing non land can also clear lands off the top and get you some action. Very powerful card for sure.

Also in this event, we had a list of actual factual DPS!

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I love old-school DPS, so it's super cool to see it even if it is in a more casual event.

Our next list is a sweet DETH-like list with the same similar combos we see in Golos Combo Shops.

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Seeing a list like this honestly makes me wonder when someone is going to get Curse Stompy ported into Vintage. If you're out there Reeplcheep, you're our only hope!

Justin Gennari brought some sweet sweet hilarity with a Ruby Storm port!

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Super fun list for sure here. Birgi is great, Storm-Kiln Artist is pretty absurd with all the spellcasting, and who doesn't love seeing cards like Jeska's Will?

Finally, a list that really tickles my fancy. The Crab Shack.

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Quandrix Apprentice is a really sweet way of digging through your deck for lands, especially if you're missing something like a bounce land or an Oboro, Palace in the Clouds to continually trigger your crabs with. I love love love the sideboard options of boarding into an Uro control deck to offset the life loss of Fastbond.

Be sure to continue to check out all of the Mythic Society events! They're fun and very low-key.

Vintage Challenge 5/15

We had two Challenge events this past weekend, the first of which was the mid-afternoon Saturday event. Thanks to the efforts of the Vintage Streaming Discord we know that this event had 63 players in it overall.

You can find all of the Top 32 decklists for this event here.

Doomsday continues to ride the popularity wave in the format currently as we discussed earlier, with Breach very closely behind it in this particular event. BUG also was popular here, and it was definitely both BUG and Doomsday that had a solid performance into the Top 8 of this event.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Ravager Shops 1st Burt_Reynoldz
Doomsday 2nd Condescend
Grixis Tinker 3rd bweezy
BUG Midrange 4th Sprouts
Doomsday 5th sixmp
Breach 6th Dead_style
Golos Combo Shops 7th Slasher21
BUG Midrange 8th Falkoneye

As noted, Doomsday put two pilots into the Top 8 here as did BUG, with the finals being a Ravager vs Doomsday slug fest that ended amusingly enough with Ravager Shops as the undisputed king of the hill.

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What's really big here in this matchup is the presence of Fleetwheel Cruiser. Being a haste threat means often enough if the DD player has to make their pile and pass the turn to try to win next turn, the life loss from Doomsday can be just enough that a well timed Cruiser can put the matchup out. We also get to see the tech here other Shops decks have adopted in the sideboard of Archive Trap versus Doomsday.

As noted, the Second Place finalist was Doomsday.

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I would have said that playing a lot more Flusterstorm in this deck would seem odd, but there are a bunch more decks now in the format playing full four Flusterstorm so I'm not really surprised to see almost that many in a DD list.

Speaking of a lot of Flusterstorm, we also had a Top 8 showing by Grixis Witch Tinker.

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Sedgemoor Witch is certainly continuing to live up to its name and the truth of how powerful it really is. This deck is really strong for sure.

Further down the Top 8 we had a showing of Golos Combo Shops by our reigning Showcase Qualifier Champion Slasher21.

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This is a well tuned and oiled machine with some really powerful moving parts. Slasher's dedication to this archetype sure shows and it has been great to see how he has evolved as a player over time.

Outside of the Top 8 we had a showing by the one and only Miharu with Oath.

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A few things I noticed here were new Strixhaven cards in this list, from Expressive Iteration to Test of Talents and even Prismari Command. Command in general seems pretty solid in being able to have to a multifunctional spell that has main deck text against things with cards like Grafdigger's Cage and the like. Seems pretty cool to see these new cards tested!

Further down the Top 32 we have our good friend Nico Bohny on a sweet Lurrus Standstill variant.

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You don't often see a Grixis Standstill variant, but this is more of like a Standstill / Underworld Breach type deck as well. Seems really interesting and fun for sure.

Vintage Challenge 5/16

The second Challenge event of the weekend was the early morning Sunday event, which had 42 players in it according to the data collected by the Discord.

You can find all of the Top 32 decklists for this event here.

Again, we see the climbing popularity that is Doomsday. It's pretty wild to see just how this deck has gone from being just a fine option to play to being one of the best if not the best combo/control deck in the format. It feels like it has happened in very short order for sure.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Golos Combo Shops 1st Darkmattergun
Grixis Tinker 2nd keiesu
Golos Stax 3rd LORiWWA
RUG Midrange 4th SenpaiBlank
Doomsday 5th SingPanMan
BUG Midrange 6th Wizard_2002
PO Storm 7th sawatrix
Doomsday 8th revenantkioku

Not too bad here, some well represented archetypes of varying strategies, and no Bazaar based decks here at all. At the end of it, it was Golos Combo Shops that took it all down.

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Kozilek, Butcher of Truth seems like a SWEET sideboard card for matchups where you just need to go bigger and have a bigger creature to demolish a board state with. Having a slight ability to turn into a more prison-esque build as well with Ensnaring Bridge and God-Pharaoh's Statue is also pretty cool.

The Second Place finalist was Grixis Witch Tinker.

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I just love how clean this deck looks every time I look at it. It has all the great hallmarks of a big blue deck in Vintage and plays very Vintage-esque-like. I love it.

Also in the Top 8 we had a showing by RUG Midrange.

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This is also a pretty clean and powerful list. Having cards like Wrenn and Six and Oko, Thief of Crowns is very strong, and the creature threat package of Arcanist and Goyf is nothing to sneeze at.

Further down the Top 8 we have PO.

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I do absolutely enjoy seeing cards like Mystic Remora around still. It's a really fun and interesting card to play with and it really has intriguing implications on early game play.

Outside of the Top 8 we had a showing by UB Death's Shadow!

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What really intrigues me here is the presence of the Sky Whale, but I've seen enough of that card to know that it can be back breaking sometimes if left unchecked. This is a fun list for sure and seems really strong.

Around the Web

The Spice Corner

Flat out UR Control deck with Court of Cunning AND Niv-Mizzet, Parun?! Sign me up!

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Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Thanks for your continued support of the column and join me next week as we continue our journey into Vintage!

As always you can reach me at Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! In addition you can always reach me on the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the Vintage Streamers Discord.

Until next time!



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