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Vintage 101: Spy VS Spyglass

Fresh Tech

The artifact-heavy theme of Kaladesh lent itself well to Vintage, and as such there were several high-profile and powerful Vintage cards from that set (and it's follow-up, Aether Revolt).  The following sets Amonkhet, Hour of Devastation, and Ixalan didn't have quite as much for Vintage, but they still had some gems. 

The Locust God had one notable finish that I was able to find. I've seen Manglehorn played in a few sideboards. Also Hollow One is popping up somewhat frequently in Vintage nowadays. 

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Hollow One is used exclusively in combination with Bazaar of Baghdad, which means that it's usually seen in Dredge. I have heard of people running some crazy Vengevine decks in Vintage that happen to use Bazaar and Hollow One to combo-kill opponents with a massive alpha strike. Unfortunately since only some 5-0 decks get published now, I am unable to find any Vengevine lists (with verified tournament success). As a side note I often find myself wondering if there are some excellent 4-1 Vintage League lists out there that just never get to see the light of day. 

Spy Vs Spyglass

Sorcerous Spyglass is the most recent new printing to see Vintage play, and as such I haven't covered a deck that contains it yet. With that in mind let's take a look at a pair of Spyglass decks from recent Vintage Leagues!


Our first deck list comes to us from the most noble of Vintage players, Mickey Nobilis (aka Mike Noble). He's famous for making some really interesting Vintage "Fish" decks like Noble Fish, and this list is his latest version.

When Sorcerous Spyglass was spoiled I figured that it would be a good card, but I wasn't sure that it was main-deck material like some folks suggested. It certainly seems like I was wrong, because the card features prominently in this deck. The key to the success of Spyglass in an archetype such as this is that it plays well on its own by acting as a lock piece of sorts, but it also has some excellent synergy with Meddling Mage.

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A good player can guess which card to name with a Meddling Mage, Pithing Needle, or Phyrexian Revoker quite easily. However, with the perfect information that Sorcerous Spyglass grants to a player, it becomes even more potent.

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Sorcerous Spyglass isn't the only newer card in this deck; it also contains Nimble Obstructionist. Half creature, half counterspell, Nimble Obstructionist is a very interesting card that just hasn't seen a lot of success as of yet. As a 3/1 flyer with flash Obstructionist is good as a surprise blocker. Much like Vendillion Clique the Nimble Obstructionist can be used to take out a Jace, the Mind Sculptor as a surprise play.

The secondary ability of Nimble Obstructionist is also useful in a deck like this. It's basically a Stifle for three mana with a cantrip attached, and while that isn't always needed the versatility makes the card much better. Stifle is the kind of card that is great when it's good, but horrible when it is bad. Obstructionist is always at least a creature, or it at least cycles. The cool thing about the "Stifle" ability is that it has a lot of uses people don't always think about. Typically people use this ability to "destroy" a fetchland, but it can do so much more. For instance, Storm is a triggered ability, so Nimble Obstructionist can turn that lethal Tendrils of Agony into a five-minute-long Tendrils for two.

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The sideboard contains yet another card from Hour of Devastation; Ramunap Excavator. The Magus of the Crucible has popped up in quite a few decks since it was first printed, and I am not surprised by that at all. Crucible of Worlds was a very powerful and unique effect that had a proven track record in Vintage. Adding a respectable body to the Crucible ability makes it highly playable in creature-based Wasteland decks. 


Noble Fish in Vintage

Usually the only Fish decks I see on Magic Online are BUG Fish or the occasional actual "Fish" deck (read: Merfolk). Most creature-based decks using Bant or Selesnia colors are more of a Hatebears/taxing type of deck. Noble Fish has some features that are similar to a Hatebears deck, but instead of Thorn of Amethyst and Thalia, it's running blue counterspells as its defensive cards.

Noble's deck has a fair amount of counterspells, and they all generate tempo by virtue of their "free to cast" nature. Daze, Mental Misstep, and Force of Will all cost less to cast than the spells that they counter, which in turn frees up mana and allows this deck to deploy threats on every turn. 

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[Daze]] isn't played all that much in Vintage, but in this deck it's at its best. Wasteland and Strip Mine can make paying for Daze borderline impossible. In the late game when Daze gets less powerful it pitches to Force of Will

Noble Fish has counters and hatebears to fight combo, as well as Stony Silence in the sideboard. The full set of Force of Will, Wastelands and the large amount of cheap creatures are good against Workshops. This archetype also has access to some of the best anti-Dredge tech in the format (Rest in Peace, Containment Priest). 

The final piece to this puzzle is Monastery Mentor. When Mentor was a four-of it was much harder for a creature-based deck like this to succeed. That's why the most successful creature decks were playing mana taxing effects in my opinion. With Mentor restricted a deck like Noble Fish or Merfolk has more room to succeed. 


Two-Card Muddy?

I managed to find another deck with Sorcerous Spyglass in it (as well as a few cards from Hour of Devastation). This one is pretty cool, and there's a lot going on here. 

Initially I thought I was looking at a Two-Card Monte deck. Then I thought it was more like Nat Moes' "Two-Card Muddy" deck from a March 2016 TMD post. Upon further inspection I realized that this deck was only somewhat similar to those two archetypes.

So, right off the bat this is a MUD deck. That means it's a mono-artifact control deck. Technically there are blue and black cards in the deck, as well as a little bit of black mana, but more often than not the plan is to cast those colored cards without paying any mana for them. Still, this is a mostly mono-artifact control deck, so I think MUD is an appropriate term here. How this deck differs from the predominant Workshop deck, Ravager Shops, is that this is absolutely not a beatdown deck.

Instead of relying on an army of robots, this deck want to win with either Time Vault, Helm of Obedience, or a huge flying 20/20 creature. Let's take a look at those...

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The Helm/Line combo is the first one I noticed, and this is what made me think that this was Two-Card Monte upon my initial inspection. The combo works by a replacement effect that puts any cards that would go into the graveyard into the exile zone instead. This means that the ability on Helm of Obedience can never be fulfilled, so any activation of Helm will cause your opponent to have their entire library exiled. Fun times indeed!

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There is no Voltaic Key in this deck. Instead of Key, this deck can take infinite turns with its magic mirror. Mirage Mirror will copy Time Vault and remain untapped so it can be activated immediately. Then at the end of your turn it reverts back to its normal state, so you get to untap it and use it again over and over until your opponent finally decides to scoop. This combo is more expensive than using Voltaic Key, but it's has some advantages. Mirage Mirror isn't hit by Mental Misstep, and it can copy other cards like a lock piece or whatever is needed. In contrast, Voltaic Key is much more limited when it's not being used in a combo. You can use a Key to untap one of your mana-producing artifacts to either ramp up mana (Sol Ring) or to fix a color with any mox (but this 99% colorless deck really doesn't need that). Honestly I think that using Mirage Mirror here is really clever. I never expected the card to even see play because I felt the extra mana made it not worth it. 

But wait, there's more! Mirage Mirror also copies lands or creatures! That means that it acts as a combo piece for another of this deck's combos.

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The Stage/Depths combo is a popular win condition in Legacy, and slightly less popular (but just as deadly) in Vintage. The strength of this combo comes from the fact that it is done with only two cards, and as lands those cards cannot be countered (although they can be Stifled or hit with Nimble Obstructionist). Since this deck is almost entirely colorless Thespian's Stage can become a part of the mana base without much downside. Dark Depths can even make land in combination with the four Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoths that the deck plays, so that mitigates the clunkiness of the card somewhat. 

Mirage Mirror is much less efficient than Thespian's Stage here, just like it's less efficient than Voltaic Key. However, the fact that the magical Mirror completes two combos in the same deck means that it suddenly becomes much more attractive to a deck designer. 

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The non-combo part of this deck is made up of all the nastiest lock pieces available in the format. The deck maxes out on taxing effects, plus there's one each of all the restricted lock pieces too. To compliment the mana-taxing cards there are five pseudo-lock pieces, two copies of Phyrexian Revoker and three copies of Sorcerous Spyglass

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Considering that this deck has so few creatures (just two Revokers an one Lodestone Golem) you might be wondering why someone would go with any number of Spyglasses over additional Revokers. I am obviously not the creator of this list, but my feeling is that the answer is that Spyglass can name lands. With a Sorcerous Spyglass you can stop a Wasteland from ruining your combo, and you can even shut off your opponent's fetchlands. The "Peek" that Spyglass grants you is also very beneficial in a deck like this. 

Combo MUD in Vintage

I honestly do not know if this deck will continue to do well in the future, but I suspect it has the chance to be very good. Over the past couple years I've seen several people do very well with Dark Depths MUD decks (with varying amounts of colored cards). People have also been successful with Two-Card Monte variations as well. The power level of MUD decks is very high, and the alternate win conditions in this list have already established their viability. 

The main potential issue I see with this archetype is that it is somewhat soft to Stony Silence. The Dark Depths/Thespian's Stage combo mitigates that somewhat as it functions independently of any artifacts, but Stony Silence still silences a large percentage of this deck's cards. 

So, only time will tell as to whether or not Combo MUD has continued success. I'd like to see more people pick it up and test it though, because it is a really interesting concept.

That's all the time I've got for this week, I'll see you again soon with more Vintage! You can find me on Magic Online, TMD, or Twitter @Islandswamp 


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