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Vintage 101: Sun Titans Go!


Brewing in Vintage

One of my favorite things about Vintage is that it is, by definition, the deepest format in Magic. There are more sets and more cards allowed in Vintage than any other format, so there's a lot of room for exploration. On the other hand, the survival of the fittest mentality can lead to a bit of homogenization of decks. When one particular archetype or sub-archetype does well people will inherently copy that deck in an attempt to replicate those successes. 

There's nothing wrong with sticking with something safe, but I always have a lot of respect for people who strive to create something new. The Vintage community has had a ton of new cards added to our card pool in the past year or so, and people are still exploring cards that haven't seen mainstream play yet. I've been going over deck lists looking for unexplored tech and I managed to find a few interesting examples. Today we're going to look at three decks that have included recent printings that haven't broken out previously.

The Treasure Chest Conspiracy

When Conspiracy: Take the Crown was released in paper, several of the cards were pegged as potential staples. Sanctum Prelate, Recruiter of the Guard, and Leovold, Emissary of Trest all seemed like they could break into the format, but they have been somewhat under the radar. One of the issues with these cards has been that they weren't immediately released on Magic Online. Because these new cards didn't immediately appear on Magic Online people had to test out the singles in paper or by using third-party software. Some folks are too busy for regular paper Vintage play and some people (like myself) stick exclusively to Magic Online, so those other options don't appeal to everyone. 

Luckily those of us who do use Magic Online as our primary source of play-testing are finally able to get our hands on Leovold and his pals! Unfortunately these cards have only been released in Treasure Chests so they are quite expensive. As a matter of fact, Leovold, Emissary of Trest currently costs more than every piece of the Power Nine except Black Lotus. Still, if you want to build Leovold BUG, you're going to have to pay the price! 

 

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Leovold, Emissary of Gush

I've seen people trying to play Leovold, Emissary of Trest in a BUG Fish list, and while I'm sure it's good in that deck I don't know if it makes BUG Fish any better than it was before. BUG Fish is a good deck that has game against Workshops, but it has always been a dog to the draw engine that Gush provides. Well, if you want to play Leo and you don't want to play Fish what is the next best option? That's when you pick up Gush for yourself and start drawing some extra cards. 

I like this list quite a bit. Gush is simply the best, most efficient unrestricted draw spell in the format. The creature package offers a lot of power and flexibility with Young Pyromancer's token generating and the multiple abilities of Deathrite Shaman. And of course, Leovold provides a trump in the blue mirror. 

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Deathrite Shaman is a card that I feel should probably see more play in Vintage. I can see why one-drop mana dorks aren't very impressive in the format, but I feel that it offers much more than that. The incremental life gain can keep you alive in a match against another creature-based deck, even though this is probably the least-used mode of the card. The two damage that Deathrite can do per turn isn't a lot, but it does add up. The fact that Deathrite can remove instants and sorceries from opponent's graveyards can also be quite disruptive. Jace, Telepath Unbound and Snapcaster Mage look very silly when you're eating all of the good candidates for flashback! 

The mana ability of Deathrite Shaman is the boring aspect of the card, but it is a lot more relevant than it might seem. Deathrite can ramp into a second turn Leovold, Emissary of Trest which is always nice. Extra mana comes in handy when facing the wide variety of Thorn of Amethyst decks in the format. The turn after you Gush you can make additional mana if it becomes necessary to do so, and you can make mana with lands you've discarded to Dack Fayden too. 

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Young Pyromancer is the second most powerful growing creature in Vintage, and it's the most efficiently-costed creature of its kind. As a matter of fact Young Pyromancer is so good I wonder why Monastery Mentor was even invented. It's like they took the most amazing creature ever and decided to somehow make it even more absurd. Anyway, Young Pyromancer is the best two drop creature ever in my opinion. We sure have come a long way since Grizzly Bears

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A 3/3 for three mana is a good rate, but the real reason anyone is interested in Leovold is that his text box is crazy good. Leo turns cantrips into can-nots, and he turns your opponent's Gushes into bricks. Removal spells are no longer an even trade when Leovold. Emissary of Trest is in town, and discard spells like Thoughtseize and Cabal Therapy are just as bad if not worse. 

Leovold Gush in Vintage

While this list does represent an original and unique creation, it's similar enough to established norms that I'm confident in saying that it will continue to be viable. Other than the green splash this list is much like a typical Grixis Pyromancer deck. Grixis Pyromancer was arguably one of the best decks in the format all summer, and this deck keeps a lot of those strengths. The addition of green allows the list to support Abrupt Decay and Ancient Grudge in the sideboard. 

Gush is a perennial contender in the metagame, and there aren't very many reasons not to play it if you're building a blue deck. Since the meta always seems to have a fairly large representation of Gush decks, I say that this list represents a good choice going forward. Leo is the ultimate trump in a match against another blue deck, and I expect to see more copies of it being played in the near future. 

 

Heavy Metal!

 

It looks like I may have missed yet another Vintage-playable Kaladesh card; Metalwork Colossus. When the card was spoiled there was discussion about it on The Mana Drain, but most people just wrote it off. Rubén Xicota decided to give the giant metal beast a second look and he came up with this interesting take on the Stax archetype. 

In this list you will see a fair amount of the usual suspects. There's the usual mana base complete with Workshops, Sol-Lands, and Moxen, as well as Crucible of Worlds and Smokestack. Beyond the Spheres, Thorns, and Tangle Wires the deck starts to look a little different! There's the aforementioned Metalwork Colossus and four copies of Hedron Archive!

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Metalwork Colossus is a giant at ten power and toughness, and it can be replayed over and over again if need be. With all of the artifacts in the deck it should be easy to cast a Colossus for dirt cheap, and ten damage is a rather quick clock. The Colossus doesn't have trample though, so hopefully your opponent won't be able to chump block it! 

To make Metalwork Colossus the best value possible it's important to play a lot of artifacts, preferably ones with a mana cost of two or more. To this end there's Smokestack and Crucible of Worlds, but there's also a card I've literally never seen anyone play in Vintage before. Hedron Archive was another new release that was discussed in Vintage forums, but the consensus seemed to be that it just had no practical application in existing Shops archetypes. The casting and activation cost of Hedron Archive is too much for most Shops decks, but in this list the four mana is helpful for reducing the cost of Metalwork Colossus. Once in play Hedron Archive can also become a source of card advantage, and card draw can be hard to come by in a Workshop deck. 

Old Smokey

Most aggro-Shops decks run far more creatures than are found in this deck. Typically the "Car Shops" or Ravager/TKS Workshop decks will utilize between 16-20 creatures (and possibly a few Vehicles). To make room for the main-deck Smokestacks and Crucible of Worlds, Rubén Xicota has trimmed the list down to only eleven creatures. Since there's no Eldrazi in this build it does get to play Mishra's Factory as an additional threat, which hopefully helps keep the opposition under pressure as well. 

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Smokestack has seen a resurgence in recent weeks. After Jacob Kory nearly won the Vintage Championship with a full-on Workshop Prison deck it seems as though a few players are choosing to adopt the once-ubiquitous artifact for themselves. Smokestack is a truly demoralizing card to lose to, and when it works well it can be tough to beat. Usually when facing a Workshop deck players will look at their lands, hoping to live one more turn and build up enough mana to cast a spell. Smokestack doesn't allow for such illusions; you'll know exactly how hopeless things are when you have no permanents left on the battlefield. 

Metalwork Colossus in Vintage

The fact that Metalwork Colossus had a Top Eight finish is pretty impressive to me, but mostly because I never imagined it would happen. I'd love to think that a MUD deck based on a 10/10 behemoth would become mainstream, however I'm really not sure that it's going to happen. I love drawing cards as much as the next Vintage player (possibly moreso), but I'm not terribly excited about having to run Hedron Archive to support a vanilla 10/10. The problem with Metalwork Colossus is that it doesn't offer any protection to spot removal the way many MUD creatures do these days. 

Hedron Archive also seems like it is insanely hard to cast in a lot of games. Remember, Workshop decks are all forced to play four Sphere of Resistances and four Thorn of Amethysts since the Lodestone Golem restriction. It's very important to play as many Spheres and Thorns as you can on turn one and two, and it's especially important for a deck with only eleven real creatures. Those lock pieces are going to make Hedron Archive into a five, six, or even seven mana investment. If I'm paying seven mana in a Workshop deck, I'm hoping that whatever card I cast is going to win me a game rather quickly. On the flip side, people have played Staff of Nin before, and some folks have been adamant about it being a worthy inclusion. So I might be completely wrong about Hedron Archive

No matter what the future holds for this particular deck I am very happy that it had a solid finish. I love seeing people try out new cards, and I'm amazed that people keep finding Kaladesh singles to try out in Vintage. All of these new cards have made me even more excited for the next set in this block; Aether Revolt. I hope it's as good to us as Kaladesh has been, and I'm excited to see a new Tezzeret soon too! 

 

A Rai of Sunshine...

 

When I reviewed Saheeli Rai for Vintage I never thought that she would see play. I felt that she was a good planeswalker, but that she was inferior to Dack Fayden in almost every way. Saheeli Rai and Dack Fayden are the exact same mana cost, and I assumed that people wouldn't want to play both or wouldn't have room for them. Magic Online user Chubbyrain has proven me wrong by using multiple copies of Dack and Rai in the same deck!

 

When I first saw this deck in the Daily Event results I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. It looks like an Oath of Druids deck, but there are a lot of cards that I'm not used to seeing. There's Gush in the deck to help keep up with the other blue decks in the format and zero copies of Griselbrand. There's also a whopping seven planeswalkers in the deck; three copies of Dack Fayden, three copies of Saheeli Rai, and one Mind Sculptor

Sun Titans Go!

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The deck is constructed to use Sun Titan in combination with Saheeli Rai, and it's quite an interesting interaction. Depending on the contents of the graveyard after an Oath activation, it can be possible to make an infinite chain of hasty Titans! When Titan enters the battlefield you'll just reanimate Saheeli, copy the Titan, gain another trigger, and return a second, fresh copy of Saheeli to the battlefield (triggering the old copy of Saheeli to be sacrificed). Just repeat these steps until you're satisfied and your opponent can scoop up their cards.

I didn't know about this interaction when I first saw Saheeli Rai, but after thinking about how it would play out, it seems pretty amazing to me. I'm always looking for ways to win immediately after an Oath activation, and this seems like a great candidate for that. Just last week I wrote about running Dragon Breath and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and that combo is much more awkward to use in a deck. 

Dack Fayden also can help assemble this combo by discarding unneeded copies of Saheeli Rai. And at six mana Sun Titan isn't very hard to cast at all. In a format like Vintage where we have abundant access to fast mana it's very possible to go off without ever using Oath of Druids. That's a great thing too because the Oath decks that have done the best for the past year have been versions that had robust secondary plans for victory that didn't rely on Oath.

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It's also interesting that if you complete this combo by casting Sun Titan, it completely avoids the typical hate that an Oath deck will face. The combo uses the graveyard, but not in a way that Grafdigger's Cage can stop. Containment Priest also won't stop this interaction because it only affects nontoken creatures entering the battlefield. I have played a lot of Oath in my time and I can assure you that being able to ignore Cage and Priest is the best feeling in the world!

Plan B

In games where you're unable to loop Sun Titans with Saheeli Rai, there are still quite a few good targets for the Titan's trigger. You can return Detention Sphere to take out one of your opponent's annoying permanents, and it's especially good at clearing token creatures out of the way. You can also get back copies of Dack Fayden, extra lands, and even Sensei's Divining Top. Recurring Strip Mine turn after turn is also a possibility, and that's never a bad option to have.

 

 

Since this deck is also a Gush list it can play the card advantage and control games well too. There are only two Forbidden Orchards to make Gush more reliable, and that has the added bonus of creating fewer unwanted tokens. Planeswalkers obviously play a big part in this strategy since there are seven of them. The last thing you want is to have your planeswalkers killed immediately by the spirit tokens you had to give to your opponent. 

ChubbyRain also has Monastery Mentor in his sideboard. I'm not sure exactly what matchups Mentor would come in against, but I do find it to be an interesting choice. People certainly would not expect to see any Mentors in such a deck, and there are plenty of spells in this list to power it up. Monastery Mentor is yet another way that this deck can avoid the pitfalls that Oath decks often fall into. Mentor is simply a plan in and of itself, and it needs very little support to become a lethal threat. 

Sun-Rai Oath in Vintage

This archetype is still in the development stage but the more I think about it the better it seems. I have yet to see the deck in action, but I'm currently assembling it as we speak. I have played Sun Titan in an Oath shell before and it was really good then, and that was before the printing of Saheeli Rai

The only negative aspect that I can imagine about this deck is that Saheeli's first loyalty ability isn't that strong. It's not terrible though, and the deck should be able to draw enough cards to make Sajeeli's shortcomings irrelevant anyway. I love the idea of having Gush in an Oath deck, and I'm quite fond of having Oath targets that are reasonable to cast. Six mana seems to be a sweet spot for Oath creatures because six mana is enough for a creature to be very powerful, but it's also not too hard to produce that much mana. 

I hope to see more of this deck in the near future. Stay tuned for updates on Sun-Rai Oath! 

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 and TMD

 


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