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Vintage 101: Spoiled Rivals

Spoiled Rivals

It's 2018! Welcome to the future, Vintage peeps! Spoilers for Rivals of Ixalan have been trickling out and the Magic community awaits each new nugget of precious information like an excited puppy waiting for its master. As always is the case with new Standard releases, Eternal format aficionados must carefully sort through each spoiler looking for diamonds in the rough. So far I'm not seeing much that appears to have potential, but the community has been discussing a few of the new spells. Let's take a look at the cards people are talking about!

Wishing for a new Wish

Mastermind's Acquisition is the most recent evolution of a tutor, and it can trace it's lineage all the way back to Demonic Tutor in 1993's Limited Edition Alpha. We all know that Demonic Tutor is very Vintage playable, but it's also exceedingly efficient with it's converted mana cost of two. 

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Pictured above is an incomplete list of black tutors available to Vintage players. There are other Tutors like Demonic Consultation and Vampiric Tutor, so the contemporary Vintage necromancer has plenty of options for tutors. 

Diabolic Tutor has been around for a while, and at four mana it's considered unplayable in Vintage. Grim Tutor is Vintage playable at three mana, but it's been replaced by Dark Petition since Magic Origins. In Dark Ritual-based Storm Combo, Dark Petition functions identically to Demonic Tutor much of the time and this is what makes the difference. In the rare instances where Dark Petition is cast without Spell Mastery it becomes quite an underwhelming experience. 

For Mastermind's Acquisition to be playable, it's secondary ability and the flexibility that it provides has to be worth the additional mana it costs to play. The secondary ability on this card is nearly identical to a card that has seen Vintage play, Death Wish

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Back when Death Wish was played in Vintage, the rules regarding the Wishes were slightly different. The "exile zone" as we know it did not yet exist. Cards that were "removed from the game" (with Swords to Plowshares for instance) were considered to be in the same zone as your sideboard. Simply stated, this meant you could Wish for a card that had been exiled. This meant that Death Wish had some interesting interactions with Yawgmoth's Will, a card that featured prominently in the types of combo decks that want tutor effects. Nowadays, as you probably know, cards like Mastermind's Acquisition can only be used to "tutor" for a sideboard card. This technique of running a "Wish Board" sideboard is perfectly valid, although it's not all that common in Vintage these days. 

The main difference between Mastermind's Acquisition and the Wish cycle is that the Wishes all exile themselves upon resolution. Additionally, the playable Wishes are all two or three mana. Even though you can replay a Mastermind's Acquisition, you're going to have to spend a ton of mana to do it. Frankly, I don't think this card is playable at four mana. As a Tutor it's too slow, and as a Wish it's too slow as well. I considered the fact that you could use it to dig out a sideboard card in game one of a match, but again, at four mana that's unlikely to save you in time. 

Bloody Sun Day

Once upon a time I found myself wishing that Blood Moon had a partner in life, a Sun to be its better half. It looks as though I was not the only one. Serious though, this Blood Sun is pretty neat, and the flavor is great. The mental image of a bloody red sun dripping plasma all over the battlefield is pretty metal. Is the card worth playing though? That question is debatable. 

Compared to Blood Moon, Blood Sun is not nearly as powerful. Blood Moon has been wrecking greedy mana bases since The Dark. Blood Sun is more on an inconvenience to most decks. Unless you're playing a deck like Lands (from Legacy) or you've built your deck around Dark Depths, Wasteland, and the like, Blood Sun isn't going to stop your primary game plan. 

Luckily Blood Sun is a cantrip enchantment (a cantripment?) so you aren't losing any card advantage to play this. You're still wasting three mana on that turn and a slot in your deck though, so its not a free roll entirely. This card draw is a nice touch, but I don't think it's enough to warrant playing Blood Sun in Vintage. Think about it, in any situation where Blood Sun would be effective, wouldn't Blood Moon just be better? 

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As an example, think about the three cards pictured above. Each of those cards gets wrecked by Blood Moon, but only two of them get wrecked by Blood Sun. Realistically, the only deck where Blood Sun would be playable would be a deck that wants to run non-basic lands for a multicolored mana base but still wants to hose an opponent's utility lands. Frankly, I can't think of a deck that would meet that criteria. If you're making a deck that wants more Blood Moons, you just play Magus of the Moon. I suppose that if you wanted twelve similar effects than you could make a case for Blood Sun, but in Vintage I assure you that those slots should probably be Null Rod or something else. In Vintage players have much more non-land mana sources, which can make Blood Moon irrelevant. 

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Induced Amnesia

I was going to write about this card, then I forgot what it did... All bad jokes aside, I think that this card will ultimately prove to be forgettable.  Let's take a look!

Right out of the gate this card drew some comparisons to Memory Jar, and that makes sense. Both cards have a sort-of, kind-of, Wheel of Fortune effect and both cards set aside the initial hand of cards and return them when the effect is over. 

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Induced Amnesia is even cheaper than Memory Jar, and I'm sure that caught some people's eye. In reality the card is closer to Windfall though, as it is NOT a "draw seven." It's a "draw as many cards as you had before." This distinction is vitally important. The power of the many draw-sevens out there is that they always draw seven cards! That  means you can create card advantage with them.

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You might think that a pseudo-Windfall would be powerful seeing as Windfall itself is restricted. Well, Windfall doesn't even need to be on the restricted list anymore. That restriction is a relic of a time long passed where it was a powerful card in Tolarian Academy combo decks. 

I should mention that there is a bit of upside with Induced Amnesia. It's a targeted effect so you can make it benefit only you, and it's an enchantment not a sorcery. As an enchantment it's immune to Flusterstorm, and that's a nice feature. Also, Induced Amnesia doesn't trigger automatically at the end of turn the way a Memory Jar does. With Jar, you only had one turn to make use of the new cards that you were getting. 

There may be a use for Induced Amnesia in Vintage, but I'm honestly not sure exactly what it would look like. With a Windfall you can play out your entire hand and still draw seven cards if your opponent happens to have a full hand still. To get an immediate boost in card advantage with Induced Amnesia you would need to play it when you have a hand full of cards, draw some new ones, then immediately destroy the Amnesia to get those exiled cards back. Maybe it's time to bring back Despotic Scepter and Claws of Gix? Suddenly Induced Amnesia is starting to sound like part of an Inquest combo. 

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As more spoilers are revealed, I will try to add them to articles. The three cards I featured here are highly unlikely to do anything in Vintage, but I had seen people post about them so I figured that I'd chime in with my two cents. I'm really hoping that Wizards prints a giant dinosaur that's playable in an Oath deck, but I'll have to wait and see. 

Deck of the Day! 

Before I leave you today, let's take a look at another killer Oath deck from the reigning champ of the Vintage Leagues on Magic Online!

Whole Lotta 'Walkers

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This list has four different planeswalkers and five planeswalker cards in total, and that's quite a bit for a Vintage deck. The benefit to this is that it enables this Oath deck to be a multiple-trick pony. Each of these planeswalkers represents an alternate win condition for the matches where the main Oath of Druids plan becomes untennable. Additionally, each card has abilities that give the pilot additional options in a variety of matchups. 

Multiple Oath Targets

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Everybody knows that Griselbrand is insane by now, and personally I won't play an Oath deck without at least one copy (although I do not criticize those that make that choice). Inferno Titan is sort-of old news at this point as well. It's been a year or two since the first time I saw people regularly playing Inferno Titan. and most people recognize that it is a powerful choice in the current meta. 

Sphinx of the Final Word has been far less popular in Vintage, but it's a card I always had my eye on. I often would end up not running it in my Oath decks because it was only a 5/5, it's casting cost was a bit high, or perhaps I was only running two Oath targets in a particular build. Still, I've always known that it's an insanely good card. It's tough to kill (hexproof) and it gives you complete dominance in the blue mirror! If you counter your opponent's spell, it's staying countered. There aren't going to be any crazy stack battles when you've got "The Final Word!". Technically you can still flood the stack with cards, obviously, but at least none of your instants and sorceries can be countered by traditional means. 

BrianPK80's deck has a strong mana base with 17 lands, and this makes the deck much better against the Aggro-Prison decks in the format. Oath of Druids is also great against the Prison decks, and those pesky Workshop decks are being played by a lot of people right now. 

This list contains a lot of singletons beyond just the restricted spells. This gives the deck a lot of different answers and it's part of what makes it perform so well. Things like Fire // Ice, Sorcerous Spyglass, and Ancient Grudge do very different things, but each one can be a silver bullet in a wide variety of situations. 

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Although I think BrianPK80's deck is very interesting and powerful, I don't necessarily think it's for everyone. Many folks will be unable to duplicate the same results with this list simply because they're unfamiliar with why each card choice was made. However, I do think that using this list as a starting point and brewing your own similar Oath deck is a great idea. With Workshop decks still performing very well in the format, right now is still a great time to be an Oath pilot. 

That's all the time I have for this week, I'll be back soon with more Vintage action! Stay tuned folks! You can follow me on Twitter @Islandswamp


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