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Vintage 101: Spoiled Rotten by Kaladesh

Spoiled Rotten!

As I've mentioned in the past, Vintage is full of the most powerful cards in Magic's history, and as such it sets a very high bar for what is able to break into the format. Much of the time, a new set would be released, and while it would be filled to the brim with awesome cards, few of them would make ripples outside of Standard. Lately though, I feel like Wizards of the Coast's R&D team have been just nailing it out of the park with these releases. The spoilers have been coming hard and fast, and there have been quite a few gems and potential bombs packed into Conspiracy and the latest set, Kaladesh

I don't even have the full spoiler available to me as I'm writing this, but I'm excited enough about Kaladesh that I feel the need to write about it. There are a few things about the Kaladesh block that I think make it especially relevant to Vintage players. 

Mishra's so happy...

Vintage is full of powerful artifacts, and it's also full of powerful lands for playing those artifacts ahead of curve.

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In Vintage, you've got all the Sol-Lands like Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors, as well as Mishra's Workshop and Tolarian Academy. But wait, there's more! Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, and Mana Vault are all at our disposal as well. Big-mana artifact decks run the gamut from Ravager Shops to Grixis Thieves and beyond. Why is this so important? Kaladesh has a major artifact theme. An artifact that costs three or more mana can be too slow for other formats, but in Vintage these cards can be played much earlier and therefore become playable.There have been several potentially powerful artifacts spoiled so far, and cards like that often have Vintage potential.  

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Tezzeret is rumored to be making a comeback as well. A recently spoiled card makes reference to Tezzeret in its flavor text, so the Artificer planeswalker is bound to show up soon. Tezzeret. the Seeker was the first planeswalker powerful enough for Vintage, and he still sees play to this day. Even Tezzeret. Agent of Bolas has seen some play in Vintage (and Legacy as well), so there's a chance that the new one could be a player in eternal formats. 


The first group of cards that I'd like to talk about are the Vehicles. Vehicles are a new card type; they're kind of like a cross between an artifact creature and equipment. They are artifacts when they enter the battlefield, but they have power and toughness. To turn them into a creature, you simply tap any number of creatures you control with power equal to or greater than the cards' "Crew value." 

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These Vehicle cards have a lot of potential in Workshop decks for a variety of reasons. The most obvious reason is that the mana cost is trivial to reach in a Workshop deck. Also, these things aren't creatures until they're activated, which has implications against Oath of Druids. A Workshop player could conceivably play a Vehicle card and activate it with an animated Mishra's Factory to get some damage in while they're waiting to draw their Grafdigger's Cage. Fleetwheel Cruiser, in particular, has a Crew value of two, so it interacts with Mishra's Factory quite nicely. 

In addition to those factors, some of the Vehicle cards have some interesting abilities. Skysovereign, Consul Flagship has flying, so it can attack through Moat. Skysovereign also has a direct damage ability that triggers upon entering the battlefield or attacking. You can ping creatures or planeswalkers with Skysovereign, so it can play a role that Staff of Nin or Razormane Masticore filled in past Workshop strategies. 

Fleetwheel Cruiser

Workshop aggro decks have used Slash Panther in the past simply because it is essentially a four-drop with haste. Fleetwheel Cruiser is pretty much an all-around upgrade that has Trample. You only need to tap creatures with total power two or more, meaning it can attack with a Phyrexian Revoker to pilot it! Much of the time a Revoker can't safely attack anyway, so using it to pilot a Vehicle seems great.

I'm not sure if Fleetwheel Cruiser will make the cut in Workshop decks, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did. Nick Dijohn has been playing Reality Smasher in Workshops decks for a while now, and some previous incarnations of that deck have indeed run Slash Panther as well. The kind of deck that might want Fleetwheel Cruiser would probably look something like Nick's deck from the TMD Open 17, most likely placing the Vehicle in Reality Smasher's slot. I've piloted Nick's lists before, and while Reality Smasher is extremely powerful in that deck, it's also cumbersome to cast. The fact that Fleetwheel Cruiser can be cast with Workshop mana means it's just a better option.

Skysovereign, Consul Flagship

Skysovereign, Consul Flagship is the Vehicle that I think has the greatest chance at being adopted into Workshop decks.  It may only be a one-of as it is legendary, but having that direct damage ability is important. Workshop pilots are always dealing themselves a lot of damage with Mana Crypts, Phyrexian Metamorphs, and Ancient Tombs, but they're forced to run Dismember as their only removal spell most of the time. If a Monastery Mentor or Young Pyromancer sneaks into play ahead of a Sphere of Resistance it can do a lot of harm. Skysovereign gives a Workshop deck a way to handle several important creatures, and it can also help deal with a Dack Fayden or Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Workshop decks also have few true methods for creating card advantage, but the Consul Flagship can potentially create an advantage by destroying more than one permanent.

Ghirapur Orrery

Whenever a card has "Draw three cards" written on it, it grabs my attention. This may be the first time that a colorless artifact shares a line of text with Ancestral Recall, and at three mana it is easily castable with Mishra's Workshop. Orrery is a symmetrical card, so both players get equal use out of it. Workshop decks are historically very good at turning symmetrical effects into asymmetrical ones.

Ghirapur Orrery lets both players play an additional land each turn. When you're playing Sphere of Resistance effects, you don't really want your opponent to play more than one land a turn. Even so, Workshop decks play around eighteen or nineteen lands, which is about four or five more than most other Vintage decks. This means that opposing (non Shops) decks shouldn't be able to benefit from playing an extra land as often as a Shops deck can. 

The ability to play extra lands works very well with two cards that Shops decks already play, Wasteland and Crucible of Worlds. Wasteland and Crucible cripple opposing mana bases, and the only thing that ever held that combo back was that you could only play one land a turn. Without basic lands or extra artifact mana, this three card combo is devastating. If you find yourself staring down this Crucible lock, just hope the Workshop pilot doesn't draw their Strip Mine

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The secondary ability on Orrery says that at the beginning of each player's upkeep, if that player has no cards in hand they draw three cards. Well, if a Workshop deck is doing its job properly it should be extremely difficult for their opponents to have an empty hand. Workshop decks make a ton of mana most of the time and are often playing out their entire hands. Imagine playing Workshops and playing out your hand, then playing out an Orrery by tapping a single Workshop. This is about as close to a colorless Ancestral Recall as I can imagine. 

Ghirapur Orrery is an interesting card to say the least. Honestly, the more I think about it the better I feel it could be. I'm not absolutely certain it will be a Workshop staple, but it seems far better than Coercive Portal, a card used in Shops decks in the past. 


Ceremonious Rejection

I'm tellin' y'all it's Steel Sabotage!


Steel Sabotage is a card that's seen plenty of Vintage play, mostly for it's efficiency and versatility. At one mana, it can efficiently counter your opponent's Lodestone Golems and Arcbound Ravagers. Sabotage can also bounce artifacts as well, although it's weaker than Hurkyl's Recall. The fact that Steel Sab is part Hurkyl's and part Annul made it an attractive option for some Vintage deck builders. Lately, one of the glaring weaknesses of Steel Sabotage is that it can't deal with a few important threats that the Ravager Shops decks are playing. Thought-Knot Seer and its Eldrazi brethren look an awful lot like artifacts, but they sadly are not. 

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A new blue instant that is reminiscent of Steel Sabotage has been spoiled. The new blue instant from Kaladesh, Ceremonious Rejection, is pretty sweet. It does lack the ability to bounce permanents, but unlike Steel Sabotage it can counter a Thought-Knot! Ceremonious Rejection can counter any colorless spell for only one mana, which includes everything from Lodestone Golem to All is Dust. [Ceremonious Rejection]] won't save you from a marauding Blightsteel Colossus because it lacks the second mode of Steel Sabotage, but it is one of the cheapest ways to answer an Eldrazi creature. 

Against Workshop decks, Force of Will has always been very important because it is one of the only counterspells that can be used to stop an early threat. Mana Drain is often too slow, even on the play, but trading two cards for one with Force of Will can be a rough trade. Ceremonious Rejection gives Vintage players a one-mana answer to nearly every card that Ravager Shops currently plays. 

I think that Ceremonious Rejection will see as much play as Steel Sabotage, perhaps a little bit more. It's important to remember that other than Mishra's Workshop decks, most lists that feature Eldrazi also run Cavern of Souls. I wouldn't say that Cavern makes Ceremonious Rejection unplayable, but it does hinder it somewhat. 

Chandra, Torch of Defiance


The new Chandra set my Twitter feed on fire when she was spoiled, which is truly fitting for a Pyromancer. As a four-mana planeswalker with four abilities, she immediately drew comparisons to Jace, the Mind Sculptor. While I am certain that Chandra will be a hot item in Standard and probably Modern, I'm less convinced about Vintage (or Legacy for that matter). Let's take a look at her. 

Loyalty abilities

[+1]: Exile the top card of your library. You may cast that card. If you don't, Chandra, Torch of Defiance deals 2 damage to each opponent. 

This is the plus one ability that is most likely relevant to a Vintage player. If you play your cards right, Chandra can gain you a point of card advantage each turn. You could also use her to hit your opponent for two, which is much less useful unless you're redirecting it to an opposing planeswalker. You can choose to not play the card, so you can always damage your opponent's Jace if you want to. 

[+1]: Add RR to your mana pool. 

This ability reminds me of the original Garruk's ability to untap two lands. If you had access to four mana but only wanted to effectively pay two for Chandra, you could do so. This ability could also be used as mana ramp, but such a use is lackluster in a format with Black Lotus and Mana Crypt

[-3]: Chandra, Torch of Defiance deals 4 damage to target creature. 

If Chandra does end up being good enough for Vintage, this is the ability that probably makes it so. Chandra starts at four loyalty, so she can immediately kill a Thought-Knot Seer. These days Lightning Bolt isn't good enough for Vintage because it doesn't kill Thought-Knot, so it's a big deal that this 'walker can kill a four toughness creature. You could use Chandra to get an extra card two turns in a row, then kill a relevant creature threat. I'm not sure if this scenario leaves someone better off than if they had just cast a Jace, but time will tell. 

[-7]: You get an emblem with "Whenever you cast a spell, this emblem deals 5 damage to target creature or player."

Most of the time a planeswalker's ultimate ability is irrelevant as they are rarely achieved, but it's always worth mentioning. This ultimate is pretty bonkers, and you could race from four loyalty to seven loyalty pretty fast. Maybe you could even get super lucky and double-cast a Time Walk with Snapcaster Mage and get that emblem super fast.

Will Chandra See Play in Vintage?

I'm sure that Chandra will be played in Vintage to some extent, but it may only go as far as play testing. People have made the six mana Chandra, Flamecaller work in a Vintage setting, so it's not unheard of to have an expensive planeswalker in the format. 

If Chandra did have a home, perhaps she'd take the place of her Flamecaller version in a Blue Moon deck. 


Kaladesh in Vintage, and Beyond

As I sit here writing, Kaladesh isn't even fully spoiled yet. There could still be some gems coming, but even with the limited information I have I'm certain this set will have some impact to Vintage and beyond. I spend most of my time playing and thinking about Vintage, but I have seen enough of this set to know that it's going to be a fun and exciting Standard season with Kaladesh legal. Some of the cards might even have some applications in Modern (Ghirapur Orrery) or Legacy; only time will tell. 

The cards I highlighted were the ones that struck me as having Vintage potential. If there's a card that I neglected to feature but you feel will be a player in the format, let me know in the comments. 

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 @josephfiorinijr - Islandswamp on Magic Online




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