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Vintage 101: Season's Gleemox!

Strictly Better than Mox Opal

After last week's article about my Golden Gun Gush Oath deck, I received a comment from a reader who expressed interest in new tech for the Paradoxical Outcome decks. It turns out that there's a hot new card that some people are playing in their Paradoxical decks, but it's just a little too good for Vintage...

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Sometime on the evening of Sunday, December 18th, people figured out that there was a bug in Magic Online that were allowing people to register decks with Gleemox in Commander, Legacy, and Vintage. Even though it is a joke promo card with text declaring "This card is banned," people were allowed to enter the Sunday night Vintage Daily Event with as many as four copies of the strictly better version of Mox Opal! Needless to say this caused quite a kerfuffle in the community. VSL mainstay and all-around Vintage ringer Rich Shay (The Atog Lord) happened to stream that event, and ended up facing a quad-Gleemox Outcome deck. You can check out some video from Rich's stream here and see for yourself. 

By Monday night I had noticed a Tweet from Lee Sharpe saying that the Gleemox bug had been fixed. That's a good thing too, because even in Vintage Gleemox is too powerful. The degenerate potential of Paradoxical Outcome and a deck with eight copies of Mox Opal is absurd. I can understand the draw that someone might have to exploit a loophole like this in a free-play match, but playing a self-banned card in a tournament is a little much. I'm glad that the online Vintage community is safe for the time being, but let's all hope that this same bug never happens with the development card called Library of Congress.

Tezzeret, The Reeker

In other news the new Tezzeret was finally spoiled the other night, and all of us in the Vintage community can all let out a collective sigh of disappointment. 

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Tezzeret wasn't spoiled in English, but people have translated his abilities. He's probably great for non-Vintage formats, but I don't think he'll be making the cut in an updated Tezzerator deck anytime soon. 

  • +1 Create a colorless Etherium Cell artifact token with T: sacrifice for 1 of any color of mana
  • -2 Target creature gets +X/-X until end of turn where X is number of artifacts you control
  • -7 you get an emblem with "at beginning of combat target artifact becomes 5/5 creature"
  •  5 Starting Loyalty

The original versions of Tezzeret either won the game with tutoring effects or provided card advantage. For four mana this card starts off by either making a non-creature token to ramp next turn or potentially killing or pumping a creature. The first ability doesn't protect Tezzeret, and the second ability won't always get the job done either. I imagine it would be very difficult to keep this thing alive against a Mentor/Pyromancer deck, let alone a true creature-based aggro deck. 

The ability to possibly kill an opponent's creature the turn you play this card is decent, but four mana is a lot to pay for an effect that might not work. Remember, you have to have several artifacts for this ability to kill anything, and that's not always a given. Starting at four loyalty also means that you'll have to plus Tezzeret immediately if you want to kill a creature during your next two turns. 

It's also possible to use Tezzeret to pump a creature, but that's very hard to make use of in the type of Vintage deck that would want a four mana planeswalker. I suppose it doesn't hurt to have that option, but I fail to see a scenario where it makes sense to use it. 

The ultimate is very easy to reach, and it's decent. Unfortunately both Tezzeret the Seeker and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas have better and more deadly ultimates. This card has a powerful ultimate but it probably won't equate to a win for at least a few turns. 

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Considering that cards like Tezzeret, the Conspirator are built for Standard I can't be too upset that it's not Vintage material. If I had to evaluate the card across all formats I'd say it's pretty good. and I really dig the 1990's era grunge-rocker look that Tezzeret has. There could possibly be a home for the new Dimir walker in Legacy, Modern, or Standard, so I'll keep an open mind.

I really wanted Tezzeret, the Conspirator to be good enough for Vintage because I really love blue/black planeswalkers. Overall, Vintage players have been pretty spoiled by spoilers lately and there's still plenty of Aether Revolt to be spoiled over the next month. I'll be spending the holiday season waiting patiently and hoping for some new goodies!

Tezzerator 2.0 - The Agent of Bolas

Tezzeret is often associated with Time Vault decks, but there's more to this planeswalker than just untapping a broken artifact. All it takes is a little creativity, and you can come up with something interesting like this brew by Magic Online user Archae27.

Blue Danube Waltz

Although this is not a deck you'll see very often, I have faced it before (back when it was able to run four Chalice of the Voids). Oddly enough I ended up facing this deck at the TMD Open back in August, and upon chatting about it with my opponent we realized that he was Archae27 and we'd played each other online. I never got around to asking the guy why he named the deck "Blue Danube Waltz," but it was neat to meet an online player at a paper event. I've always thought that this was a very unique deck and I'm glad to see it finished well in a recent Daily Event. 

If we take a look at the list, it seems like a hybrid of Prison and Control. The deck plays things like Trinisphere, Sphere of Resistance, and Phyrexian Revoker, which are cards you'd see in a Workshop Prison deck. There's also Force of Will, Mindbreak Trap, and other powerful blue spells that Workshop decks don't get to use. 

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Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas acts as a card advantage engine, and it helps to find the proper artifact to stop whatever strategy the opponent is running. There's also Trinket Mage and several key artifacts to fetch. 

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Between Tezzeret and Trinket Mage it should be relatively easy to find the perfect hate card and disrupt an opposing strategy. The interesting thing is that many decks that would be hurt by Grafdigger's Cage or Pithing Needle don't have much in their main deck to deal with those cards. Case in point, when I faced this deck while piloting Oath I lead with Orchard, Mox, Oath, pass, and I ended up losing to a Grafdigger's Cage I couldn't answer. 

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The mana-taxing cards in Blue Danube Waltz are strong against many different decks in the format. Since this deck has a substantial mana base and access to Tolarian Academy, it can play its spells through the various "Sphere effects." Crucible of Worlds helps to recur the Wastelands, and it also serves to protect Tolarian Academy from other people's land destruction effects. 

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The original build of this deck would have played four copies of Chalice of the Void, but unfortunately this list has to make due with one. Null Rod can do some of the work that Chalice could do, but realistically it provides a very different angle of attack. Null Rod is very relevant in the format these days though, so I'm sure it pulls its weight. Ensnaring Bridge is a great answer to any deck that's trying to win by attacking with creatures. Between Rod, Bridge, Chalice, and all the mana-taxing artifacts this deck is just packed full of "no, you can't" cards! 

Win Conditions

Having a deck full of prison and control cards is great, but eventually a deck needs a way to win a game. This list has a variety of things it could potentially win with. It's probably possible to win with most of the creatures in the deck, but Sphinx of the Steel Wind is probably the likeliest candidate. Baleful Strix could also get the job done in conjunction with Ensnaring Bridge because it's small enough to attack after each draw step. 

Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is also a powerful win condition in Blue Danube Waltz. You can ultimate this Tezzeret the turn after you play him, and if you were to plus him two turns in a row you could activate the ultimate and leave one loyalty on the card. Even the minus two ability could potentially win the game as it can turn something as small as a Mox Jet into a formidable creature. 

Waltzing through Vintage...

I think that this deck is one of the most interesting decks I've seen in quite some time, and I would love to see more people pick it up. I haven't tried this list, but I've played against it several times and it looked very powerful from my perspective. I suspect that the proper way to build this deck is something that evolves frequently as it is very important to include enough of the right answers to popular threats. If you're looking for something out-of-the-ordinary, I'd say this is as good of a place as any to start. 


Storm 2k17

In the spirit of broken decks and degenerate card-drawing, I bring you Pomegrant's take on the Paradoxical Storm archetype. This list is somewhere between Reid Duke's Storm variant and the Time Vault-centered versions that include Tezzeret the Seeker

This deck has a few more lands than the Paradoxical Storm decks and a few less artifact mana-producers. In this way it's less all-in than the typical Paradox Storm deck, but this list has the added benefit of an alternate win condition in Time Vault. The Vault/Key combo is more vulnerable to counterspells and removal than Tendrils of Agony is, but it has some advantages too.  With all the artifact mana and Tolarian Academy in this deck, it's possible to assemble infinite turns through a Thorn of Amethyst or two, whereas hitting a lethal storm count in those situations would be much more difficult. 

The protection package in this deck is also different from the usual builds of Paradox Storm. Typically those lists are running Force of Will because they have enough blue cards to support it. Reid Duke's original list had four Forces and two Defense Grids for a total of six defensive spells, which is pretty normal for a Storm deck. Pomegrant's list also has two Grids, but he's got a set of Thoughtseizes instead of Forces.

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The benefit of Thoughtseize is that you're not giving yourself a two-for-one disadvantage when you play it. Since cards in hand are one of the most important resources in a Storm deck, discard spells like Thoughtseize are very beneficial. There is a considerable downside though. Force of Will does a much better job at making the matchup against Workshop decks manageable. If you can Force your opponent's turn one Sphere of Resistance or Trinisphere, there's a decent chance you can go off on your first turn. Against decks other than Workshops I have a feeling that Thoughtseize is better, but it's tough to say. 

In the sideboard there are a few other pieces of tech borrowed from Dark Petition Storm. Ancient Tomb has been a popular option in Storm sideboards as it allows you to build up mana faster, hopefully allowing you to play Hurkyl's Recall before you die to a Workshop deck. There's also a Tinker-bot. which adds another way to close out a game. Sphinx of the Steel Wind is a great creature to Tinker into because it can't be stolen with Dack Fayden, and the combination of lifelink and vigilance helps to stabilize against a board full of creatures. 

Overall I like this deck quite a bit, although I'm not sure if I like it more than the stock Paradox Storm decks that are being played these days. Even so, I'm glad to see people taking risks with the archetype as that is how new tech is found. 

A Different Shade of Blue

Other than the various types of Workshop decks, the most widely-played archetypes right now are all "blue decks." The highest percentage of those blue decks fall under the category of Gush decks, and most of those are based on Monastery Mentor these days. I enjoy durdling around and making a lethal horde of monk tokens as much as the next guy, but I get even more excited when I see people playing something different. 

If you're familiar with Modern and Legacy you probably know of the Merfolk decks that exist in those formats. Merfolk also exists in Vintage, although it is somewhat of a fringe deck. Even though it's not widely played, Merfolk is still a potent option, and the original blue fish deck has even won the Vintage Championship before. Magic Online user kevdou has been keeping the fish fresh in Daily events lately, and this is what he's been rocking. 

Spare the Null Rod, Spoil the Combo Player

Null Rod is a classic part of Vintage aggro decks, and it really shines in a Merfolk deck like this. The effectiveness of Null Rod changes with shifts in the metagame, but right now there are plenty of decks that it's great against. 

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The most popular Workshop decks are built around cards like Triskelion, Arcbound Ravager, and various vehicles from Kaladesh. All of those cards are nearly useless with Null Rod on the battlefield. Storm combo, both Ritual-based and Paradoxical-based versions, is a dog to Null Rod (or Stony Silence) as well. 

The mana denial aspect of Wasteland and Strip Mine put the squeeze on opposing mana bases, and their effects are even more pronounced in conjunction with Null Rod. These land destruction effects also help take out important lands like Bazzar of Baghdad or Mishra's Workshop

Lord of the Fish

Beyond the mana denial and counterspells, Merfolk is just a normal, fair Magic deck. With eight "Lords" and three Phantasmal Images to copy them, this army of fish grows quite quickly. Since around half of all Vintage decks contain Islands in one form or another these Merfolk are usually unblockable. 

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True-Name Nemesis adds a lot of punch to the deck. It's quite hard to deal with, and it's unblockable even without any Lords on the battlefield. Often times True-Name and the rest of the fish in the deck can't even be countered, thanks to everyone's favorite utility land, [[Cavern of Souls]. 

With Cavern of Souls making all of the creatures in the deck uncounterable, Merfolk pilots can save their own counterspells for disrupting their opponents. This is the real strength of the deck; it produces consistent pressure that gets increasingly dangerous over time, and it has the ability to disrupt opponents at the same time. Also, the Merfolk deck's mana base has a lot of basic lands so it is relatively strong against the mana-taxing decks in the format. 

Playing Merfolk in Vintage

Merfolk certainly isn't the strongest deck in Vintage, but it is very consistent at what it does. If you're use to the more fair creature-based decks in other formats, Merfolk could make a good choice for someone looking for their first Vintage deck. Often times new players are drawn to the crazy-looking combo decks in the format, but there's nothing wrong with getting your fee wet playing a Null Rod aggro deck. 

That's all the time I have for this week, I'll see you in seven days! Have a happy holiday season! You can follow me on Twitter @josephfiorinijr - Islandswamp on Magic Online


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