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Vintage 101: Q3 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'll be talking about the current state of the Vintage metagame and how things are shaping up since the release of Modern Horizons 2! In addition to that we've got two Challenges to talk about as well as the Vintage ManaTraders Swiss/T8.

Without further ado, let's jump right to it!

Vintage Metagame Q3

It's been a while since we took a look at the overall metagame and where things currently stand, and the release of Modern Horizons 2 provided a lot of things happening in the overall format, so let's dive right in to what is going on with the format. Some of this data comes from how things look currently on Goldfish but also from the Vintage Streamer's Discord and the Challenge metagame data that they release from there.

Fair Blue Decks

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Fair blue decks are the bread and butter of the Vintage format, with the current top dog in popularity being the Deathrite Shaman based BUG decks. However, right behind it is the classic Jeskai based decks, which have gotten a bit of a prop up in the format thanks to cards like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Dragon's Rage Channeler. These decks are generally police the format and have ways to attack various other decks. BUG itself is pretty flexible in its construction, and has recently begun to adopt the card Endurance in the main deck due to how flexible it is across a number of different matchups.

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The one major interesting thing about these decks is that their win rates over the course of time since the middle of June (the release of Modern Horizons 2) are actually not all that insane with BUG having a just shy of 50% win rate and Jeskai having a slightly over 50% win rate. This doesn't mean these decks are bad at all, in fact they often tend to perform pretty well in events. They take some time to master well the sequencing of casting blue spells in Vintage, but once you know what you are doing they are powerful shells that can spike an event, or simply provide counteraction to something else going on in that event.

The RUG variations of these control/midrange piles have seem to have fallen off for the most part, with the Deathrite Shaman 4C decks having taken their place with cards like Ragavan to also help fix their mana alongside DRS and Wrenn and Six. In addition, the Bant versions of the control/midrange pile (known primarily as Bant Archon) have also fallen off quite a bit as decks that include red not only have impactful spells but also access to Pyroblast which has never been more important for the current format thanks to all of the Tinker decks running around.


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The release of Urza's Saga seems to have completely reshaped the landscape of Mishra's Workshop based decks in Vintage yet again, this time cementing the Golos Stax build as the primary build of the deck. While the Combo Shops variants were capable of really abusing Saga through cards such as Thespian's Stage, it seems that none of those extra shenanigans were really ever needed, and a deck running Crucible of Worlds could handle the extra load just fine.

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Because of this shift, the more traditional Ravager-focused aggro versions have seemingly completely disappeared yet again from the current metagame, as have the Combo Shops variants utilizing the Helm/Leyline and Dark Depths kills. I still believe there is a good reason to play these two variants however, as their current fringe status makes them ripe for events that may not be expecting their presence. The Shops decks also have all warped their sideboard construction around beating the deck Doomsday, due to the fact that it is the worst matchup of all for Shops. They have done this by adjusting and playing four copies of the card Archive Trap in their sideboard specifically for the matchup.


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Bazaar decks have coalesced into three primary branches, all of which are exceptionally viable in the current metagame. The old hat, Dredge, continues to be very good in the current format, propped up by new additions of cards like Grief and new technology like Creeping Chill. Furthermore, Hogaak continues to be a powerful deck as well, and while it isn't absolutely playing a bunch of newer cards, playing four Force of Vigor main deck is pretty good against decks that want to play Urza's Saga.

The biggest change to decks came about on the Hollow Vine decks, which had a multitude of variations over the past year, but Modern Horizons 2 added a bunch of new cards to this strategy between Master of Death and Blazing Rootwalla as well as cards like Fury and Endurance.

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As noted however, all three of these Bazaar based lists are perfectly viable. Picking one of these and sticking to it is also a good idea, since specializing in one of the three can help with attacking the metagame.


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Combo in general is in a really solid place to be in the current Legacy format, and there's plenty of options for it. From Paradoxical Outcome decks to Doomsday and even Underworld Breach decks, combo is in a great place. Despite having absolutely nothing really from Modern Horizons 2, Doomsday decks continue to be solid performers in the metagame, to the point where other archetypes are warping entire sideboard constructions around fighting it (via cards like Archive Trap). PO received a big upgrade in the form of Urza's Saga which brought the deck back in a big way, and Breach decks adopted cards that were low to the ground like Dragon's Rage Channeler to have an aggressive aspect to their combo/control game plan.

The newer way of approaching this however has come from the blue Tinker based decks that really ride the line of whether they are combo or control (and quite frankly they're a mix of both).

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The Tinker decks ride this line by having traditional combo elements of cards like Bolas's Citadel and the combination of Manifold Key + Time Vault, while sitting on top of a control-esque shell that plays cards like Force of Will and restricted blue cards. What has made these lists interesting is the amount of variation in them. There are Esper variants, straight Dimir variants, Grixis variants, or in the case of the above list variants that utilize eight Thoughtcast-like effects to draw cards and are mono blue in nature. The Tinker shell itself is so incredibly powerful that it doesn't really matter what you put in it as long as you are playing the individual restricted cards that make it work as well as cards like Urza's Saga (which helps tutor for things like the Key to go with the Vault). I expect this shell to continue be one of the strongest combo/control shells going forward for sure.

Outside of this, other combo decks such as Oath of Druids based decks have seen a slight resurgence as well, in both the traditional Miharu control variants as well as combo variants with cards like Underworld Breach and Urza's Saga. DPS, once a stalwart of the format, is now so exceptionally fringe that it's a curiosity when it does pop back up in an event, and I think that lends a lot of understanding to the fact that traditional combo leaning on discard instead of Force of Will to win the game has disappeared from the format.


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One final class of deck that has been cropping up more and more in the past couple months are the (generally) mono white variants of hatebears/Death and Taxes style lists. These lists are either powered by Archon of Emeria and Luminarch Aspirant or they play Lurrus of the Dream-Den in the sideboard as a Companion and eschew Archon of Emeria for a more D&T low to the ground style of game play with cards like Leonin Arbiter and Spirit of the Labyrinth.

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The evolution of these lists really came about because of the printings of Archon of Emeria / Luminarch Aspirant and the unbanning of Lurrus this past year. It has taken a bit for these kinds of decks to pick up and do well, but now that they are there seems to be no shortage of them in various events, including both Leagues and Challenge events.

Fringe Decks

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Fringe decks are still rather fringe in the format, as they require people to actively be working on them and playing them more and more. Of these, the Oops decks are the least fringe as they will occasionally place well in events, but they have results to back up how good they are. Of many of these decks, I'm a little sad we continue to see a lot less people working on Fastbond piles especially with Urza's Saga now. I am excited however to see Goblins as a legitimate deck again, thanks to cards that have been printed in the past two years.

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More and more however, as things continue to move forward it feels as if the format is relatively hostile to "brews" and decks off the beaten path unless you really know all the ins and outs of the overall format. The powerful new cards we've gotten have made it increasingly difficult to find space to even brew in due to the fact that many of the new cards do some things so incredibly well that there's no point to really brew in the first place.

The Current Health

Vintage right now appears to have a measure of healthiness to it, as it seems like every week of events is something new and interesting, and there is a solid push and pull in the metagame forces. This alone keeps the metagame fresh and interesting and allows for players to predict how the metgame will shift rather than what it looks like. Honestly this does look like a great time to jump in and learn a specific strategy because everything seems pretty good right now.

Vintage Challenge 8/28

We had two Challenges this past weekend, the first of which was the mid-afternoon Saturday event. Thanks to the Vintage Streamers Discord we know this event had 58 players in it.

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

The various Blue Tinker variants were among the most popular in this particular event, the format showing much of the back and forth it has done in the past few weeks. Tinker variants are strong and just very easy to pick up and learn which influences their position and winrates in the format. Right below that were Jeskai and BUG variants of control/midrange, which is not very surprising.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Golos Stax 1st Tsubasa_Cat
Blue Tinker 2nd Diem4x
Hogaak 3rd MadMaxErnst
Doomsday 4th revenantkioku
Doomsday 5th yamakiller
Blue Tinker 6th medvedev
Blue Tinker 7th Rooney56
Jeskai Lurrus 8th SenpaiBlank

Golos Stax had the best event overall given that it converted one of its three pilots right into the Top 8 and into the top spot of the event as the winner.

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The power of this shell with cards like Urza's Saga continues to be pushed and pushed as one of the best ways to build a Mishra's Workshop deck right now. Very strong stuff.

In Second Place we've got Blue Tinker.

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This variant is specifically the "8-Cast" variant with Thoughtcast and Thought Monitor. I especially like the addition of Sea Gate Restoration which doubles as both a draw spell and a land.

In Third Place we've got Hogaak.

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There's a lot going on in this list it seems. Main deck Nature's Claim is a positively interesting bit of counterplay versus Urza's Saga in addition to the already staggering maximum number of Force of Vigor.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we've got a Jeskai Lurrus build that is pretty sweet.

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Very aggressively slanted deck here with DRC and the Monke, as well as Arcanist and Lavinia. Definitely seems like a strong shell when paired with Lurrus.

Down the Top 32 we had a showing by KCI.

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I love seeing Spine of Ish Sah in a Vintage list. Super sweet stuff.

Vintage Challenge 8/29

The other Challenge of the weekend was the early morning Sunday event, which had 40 players in it thanks to the Vintage Streamers Discord.

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

Pretty small field and a lot of Jeskai in that field, followed by Golos Stax. Jeskai didn't have such a solid performance in regards to win rates, as it averages out despite there being one in the Top 4 from the large amount of players on the deck in the event. Golos Stax had a solid performance, as did Dredge and Blue Tinker.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Golos Stax 1st oosunq
Jeskai Control 2nd yuurari_yuko
BUG Midrange 3rd ecobaronen
Paradoxical Outcome 4th JOANANTON
Dredge 5th Vertyx_
Blue Tinker 6th bennybo
4C Midrange 7th ZYURYO
Golos Stax 8th albertoSD

Definitely a decent Top 8 here. Great mix of combo and fair decks, along with some Bazaar action. At the end of the event however it was again Golos Stax that had a great weekend.

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Again, this shell continues to be very flexible and very powerful, and the additions of Urza's Saga seem to have continued to speed the deck up in power level.

The Second Place finalist was on Jeskai Control.

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A more traditional Jeskai Arcanist list here, implementing new tech like Expressive Iteration and Ragavan, as well as Prismatic Ending. This list is a solid predator to the Blue Tinker variants so seeing it pop up in force in response to Tinker doing well is no surprise.

Also in the Top 8 we had PO.

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PO is a very interesting deck right now as one of the decks that can really utilize the Saga very well with the critical mass of artifacts it needs in play in order to generally win a game.

Further down the Top 8 we had a showing by Dredge.

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Grief definitely impacted this deck quite a bit, making it very powerful. Dredge is still a very strong contender right now, despite all the hate for it.

At the very bottom of the Top 8 we have 4C Midrange.

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There's a lot going on here, and some very powerful things going on between the acceleration of both Ragavan and DRS. These 4C lists in the format are very interesting because they don't actually seem all that overpowering, just strong.

ManaTraders Series 8/28 - 8/29

This past weekend was the culmination of the month of August for the ManaTraders series. For those unaware, the ManaTraders series is typically ran in a month where players play qualifying games on their time to qualify for the Swiss rounds which take place at the end of the month. The Swiss rounds are held on the last Saturday of the month with Top 8 on the next day. Thanks to the Vintage Streamers Discord we know there was 106 players for the Swiss.

Let's take a look at the breakdown. You can find all of the decklists for ManaTraders series over here.

As is pretty well expected out of these events, BUG was the most populous deck and one of the better performing decks overall outside of some combo builds doing better in pure winrate numbers. Golos Stax decks made up another small chunk, followed by Jeskai and Blue Tinker variants.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
BUG Midrange 1st Ozymandias17
Oath of Druids 2nd Capriccioso
Paradoxical Outcome 3rd LeoFa
Golos Stax 4th YUMAS2
4C Midrange 5th GodOfSlaughter
Oops! All Spells 6th Cuikui
Blue Tinker 7th thepowernine
Blue Tinker 8th IamActuallyLvl1

Definitely an interesting Top 8 overall here with a lot of representation of various archetypes. At the end of the event it was indeed the BUG deck that went the extra mile in the hands of Legacy stalwart Matthew Vook.

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This list is very lean and clean as BUG lists often are. We see just how much Endurance has shaped these lists here as well.

The Second Place finalist of this event was the one and only Dom Harvey on Oath!

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Very interesting take on the Oath archetype here by developing it into a full Tinker + Urza's Saga variant. Also interesting enough to see Serra's Emissary in the sideboard as a post board Oath target.

Around the Web

The Spice Corner

While not incredibly super spicy, this White Taxes list has a Heliod, Sun-Crowned in the sideboard for its Walking Ballista.

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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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