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Vintage 101: Sunny September Metagame Update


Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're going to be taking a look at the current state of Vintage from August through this past weekend! In addition to that we've got some Challenges to look at.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Vintage Metagame Update - September 2023

It's been a hot minute since we did a Metagame update, so this seemed like a great time to take a look at where the format is at over the current month. For the purposes of this data, I'm using the Vintage Streamer's Discord's data collection up to this week and have filtered a copy of the sheet to go back until the beginning of August, so we have almost two months worth of data to look at. You can find this data sheet here.

Let's look first at some graphical data about the current state of the format.

While overall from a macro archetype level Vintage is firmly situated in Combo variants, a close second to this is Aggro variants and a large majority of those decks are the Mono White Initiative deck, making up 106 copies out of 120 total. This also puts Initiative as one of the most played decks in the format, followed by Doomsday, Blue Control, and Oath. Let's look at the big winners here.

Initiative

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It's no lie that Initiative is exceptionally popular as a non-blue strategy that isn't playing Workshops or Bazaars and has strong game against a good amount of the format thanks to its plethora of hate bear effects and the Initiative mechanic itself. It is very telling though that the deck's overall win rate is at 50% though. I am parsing that the deck definitely has to play the mirror match a lot and because of that the win rate normalizes to 50% or close to it (because one has to win and one has to lose).

Initiative is an interesting deck because it's quite often seen in Top 8s and it has a lot of strong gameplay to it, which draws more players to it, but then that win rate is dragged down by players newer to the format/deck that don't have a handle on the deck's sequencing and mulligan decisions.

Still, this is the top deck of the format for a reason, and it is definitely a deck to keep in mind when considering tournament gameplay. Its power and resilience make it a strong choice for any event. At the end of the day I think this is a fine deck to have as the most popular. It's a fair deck through and through but it has to leverage the fast mana to force the game to play out fairly and there's a lot of good counterplay to the deck as well.

Doomsday

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Doomsday is popular, but its overall win rate in the past month is pretty low. It's still a deck that requires a lot of skill to pilot well, and many of the prominent results from the deck come from players that are considered by most to be relative experts on it such as discoverN.

Doomsday does walk this line of being difficult to interact with unless you really go deep into interacting with it. Examples include playing stuff like Archive Trap to catch the DD player off guard. The DD player can however side step some of this by playing jukes like Sheoldred or Murktide Regent as a fair game plan method of winning the game.

Blue Control Variants

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In the past few months we have seen a small rise of decks playing Lurrus and Bowmasters in a Dimir shell that is more geared towards control and winning off combat with the Bowmasters by controlling the opponent's ability to draw and countering their spells. At the same time the decks get stuff like Urza's Saga and Mishra's Bauble (for recouping value with Lurrus) and it's easy to see what makes this deck look so good.

This deck has continually proven to be a strong deck in the current format and the overall win rate of it in the past months has been quite good. This a deck to keep on your radar when prepping for an event for sure.

Oath of Druids

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Oath as well has proven that it is a really solid deck that can do well in tournaments. Since the printing of Atraxa, Grand Unifier, the deck's core has shifted to accommodate the card by including copies of Show and Tell and a restricted copy of Flash so that it has more opportunities to put the card into play.

This aspect of the deck always having a possible threat has made it more consistent at executing its game plan, and also has allowed it to sidestep traditional hate for Oath decks like Grafdigger's Cage while also allowing it to operate a Tinker package as well.

This is a deck you might face in an event right now because it is quite popular and has a lot of strong gameplay behind it despite its less than 50% win rate.

The Current Big Losers - Blue Ring Tinker, Combo Shops, Grixis Tinker

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Surprisingly despite being so incredibly strong just a few months back, Combo Shops has dipped quite hard in win rate and in representation. The presence of cards like Orcish Bowmasters and friends has made this somewhat difficult for these decks to thrive off casting spells that draw lots of cards.

Conversely, both Grixis and Blue Ring Tinker variants have had a rough go of it as well as more decks are adopting strategies that beat these decks (more cards like Null Rod) and also the fact that we are seeing a resurgence of Dark Ritual combo decks that aren't Doomsday (which we'll talk about shortly).

Also in the loser bracket of this past few months is Oops! All Spells, which seems to have dipped a ton in representation and win rate.

The Newcomer - Beseech Storm

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The big newcomer on the scene is Beseech Storm, and already in the past two months this deck has had a strong win rate coupled with a growing presence. While it's only been a few weeks at best, this is a deck to really consider and keep an eye on. Beseech is a powerful card and it does very strong things. I suspect we will continue to see this deck do well and have multiple good results.

That being said, I think it's still far too early to tell if this card is too strong and whether it needs restriction. I'm a fairly firm believer in letting Vintage soak up and absorb cards and seeing how they interconnect in the overall swirling metagame before moving on them, and Vintage overall is very cyclical in nature that in a few months Beseech could be considered a poor option again.

Still, this is one to keep an eye on and prep for in events.

Is Vintage Healthy?

I feel like this is a bit of a loaded question because I have often felt the answer to this over the past months and even for a bit now the answer is yes. I feel like Vintage now moves in more circular directions these days as decks cycle in and out from being strong/overpowered to being poorly positioned. There are a good number of decks that can compete on the same level as the rest of the format, and I don't think that even though Initiative is popular anything needs to happen to that deck.

Furthermore, while there are certainly cards people can find some complaints about (Initiative mechanics, Urza's Saga, I've even heard people complain about Force of Vigor) I don't think there's anything that needs to be restricted at the moment (yes, even Saga). Beseech is too new to really consider and I'd prefer to give those decks some time to see where other strategies find their footing with them.

If anything it might be interesting to explore an unrestriction of cards (as we explored recently in Legacy with the unbanning of Mind's Desire) and free up some of the space that may not be needed on the banlist with the current power level of the format.

All in all I feel Vintage looks pretty great right now and has for a while. Gameplay seems incredibly fun and interesting to me, and the decks are all-powerful, which is sort of the point of the format for sure.

Vintage Challenge 9/16

The first Challenge event of the weekend was the mid-afternoon Saturday event. This event had 60 players in it thanks to the data collected by the Vintage Streamer's Discord.

You can find all of the Top 32 decklists for this event here and the datasheet here.

Initiative was quite popular but its win rate was below average. Aggro Shops and Lurrus decks did very well, while Doomsday and Initiative Tinker did poorly.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Beseech Storm 1st wambocombo2020
Bant DRS 2nd ecobaronen
Grixis Lurrus 3rd unluckymonkey
Aggro Shops 4th Grymn
Dredge 5th Lord_Beerus
AggroVine 6th Montolio
Initiative 7th Almostomniscient
BUG Midrange 8th Sprouts

Neat spread of decks here. At the end of the event though it was Beseech Storm that won.

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Beseech has definitely proven to be a strong and solid addition to the Vintage metagame. It's unknown yet if the card is so good it needs restrictions but it is powerful for sure. I will note that I like the presence of both Sphinx and Portal to Phyrexia out of the sideboard. More decks with a Tinker sub plan should be playing Portal, as it is really good versus Initiative.

In Second Place we have Bant DRS.

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The white splash here is incredibly light, only leaning on Lavinia and Swords to Plowshares. Main deck Force of Vigor seems like a strong play right now.

Also in this Top 8 we had Grixis Lurrus.

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Lurrus and Bowmasters definitely seems quite good together. I like the aspect of having stuff like Ragavan and Arcanist as well.

Down near the bottom of the Top 8 we had Initiative.

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Boromir, Warden of the Tower is a pretty sweet card. Being able to act like a Lavinia in countering spells with no mana spent to cast them (like Forces, but also stuff off Bolas's Citadel) is quite good.

Vintage Challenge 9/17

The second Challenge event of the weekend was the early morning Sunday event. Due to the lack of data we don't know how many players there were here.

You can find all of the Top 32 decklists for this event here. There was no data sheet for this even as data was not collected. Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Dimir Lurrus 1st Mogged
WG Aggro 2nd Wesal
Dimir Lurrus 3rd Lavaridge
BUG Lurrus 4th musasabi
Aggro Shops 5th Murkyblack11
Beseech Storm 6th desolutionist
Counter Vine 7th Promidnightz
Counter Vine 8th LordEgg

Lot of Lurrus decks here as well as some Bazaars and Shops. At the end of the event though it was Dimir Lurrus that won.

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This deck has had a wave of solid results lately. One of the bigger things I noticed here was the presence of Mana Drain, which seems very interesting. Being able to leverage it into putting Lurrus into hand and casting Lurrus in the same turn seems quite good.

In Second Place we had WG Aggro.

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It's a fair testament to the hard work of players when it pays off and with this deck it's definitely a thing because Wesal is pretty much one of the very few players that plays this deck consistently and even then plays it while eschewing some of the very strong cards like White Plume Adventurer and company. Hats off to them because it takes a lot of hard work and persistence to achieve this sort of consistency.

Further down the Top 8 we had Aggro Shops.

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Leaning on threats that don't lose to Null Rod makes a lot of sense, which lets the deck just play four copies of it main deck. Seems quite good in a field of decks trying to cast Beseech the Mirror at the moment.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we had Counter Vine.

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This is another deck that I feel is incredibly powerful at the moment. It has a lot of strong plays and a lot of board control options.

Around the Web

The Spice Corner

You can find this past week's 5-0 lists here.

Value Displacer Kitten combo!

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Planeswalker heavy Control with The One Ring!

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Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Thanks for your continued support of the column and join me next week as we continue our journey into Vintage!

As always you can reach me at my Link Tree! In addition you can always reach me on the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the Vintage Streamers Discord.

Until next time!



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