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Vintage 101: Taking the Initiative Further


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 some new movements in the Initiative deck realm. In addition to that we're going to be talking about a paper Vintage event I attended last weekend in the company of my friends from Team Serious, and also both Challenges from over the weekend.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Making Waves with Initiative

While we noted last week in our metagame update that Initiative in general has not had a great first month of 2023, we are chalking a lot of that up to people knowing more about the deck and it settling into the metagame in a more permanent state at this juncture. However, that doesn't mean that people are not still pushing the envelope of technology with the deck, and taking cues from other formats is key.

One of the most recent things we've seen out of this deck has been some implementation of technology we've seen in Legacy variants of the deck and that's utilizing cards such as Chancellor of the Annex as a protection piece.

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Most often seen as a piece of protection common to combo decks such as Reanimator in Legacy, Chancellor offers an angle against other decks for the Mono White deck in Vintage by being a powerful disruptive card that can slow down an opponent enough to deploy a threat early on Turn 1. While most of the Mono White decks in the format are running four copies of Cavern of Souls, most often the countermagic gets leveled at mana rocks like Moxen and Lotus (or Chrome Mox) to slow the Mono White player enough on mana that they can muscle through one of their threats quickly. 

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The other upside of the card is that it is a free card in hand that can be pitched to both Chrome Mox and Solitude and also has some synergy with the final room of The Undercity by being a creature that could be put into play with that room. Getting an 8/9 Chancelleor out of that exchange is pretty massive.

We are also seeing some interesting additions in the sideboards of these decks. Cards such as Gemstone Caverns to make on the draw gameplay a little faster and cards like Archon of Absolution for the mirror match.

It is interesting to see how people are continuing to work on and advance this deck further. I do believe this is a reasonable addition to the format at the moment and Vintage seems to have readily absorbed the deck well.

Hazard Team Serious Invitational 2/11

This past weekend it was a real pleasure to get to go hang out with the folks in Team Serious for an annual special TSI event we refer to as the "Hazard Invitational". This is mainly because this event is hosted around one Matt Hazard's birthday (Happy Birthday Hazard!) and is a great way to get together and celebrate the Gathering aspect of the game. These events are 100% full proxy allowed Vintage events and quite honestly are always just a ton of fun. We had 27 players for this event, which was great to get together with everyone and see people I have not seen in a while. Near the end of the Swiss rounds too we also had a sweet MTG Trivia event held by Serious Vintage's Nat Moes, which sounded like a lot of fun.

Kudos to the one and only Rajah James (yes, that Rajah James... you know... the guy who put Mono White Initiative on the map by winning Champs with it?) for not only herding the cats to run this event but in handling all of the major aspects of the event. Rajah is a hard working guy and is thoroughly awesome. Also shoutout to Rob Wilson of the Buffalo Chicken Dip Legacy series for showing up and closet-streaming the event with feature match area on his Twitch channel.

Rogue Streaming!

Before I go into the details of the event proper I wanted to talk about what I played a bit and my event. I didn't do fantastic in the event (2-3 in Swiss for 18th) but I did have a lot of fun. I went through a number of iterations on different decks before finally settling on RUG DRS.

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The two copies of Mercurial Spelldancer were a last minute throw in on the deck the week of because I was curious about how they would play. In testing they seemed fine and when they came up they seemed okay as well since this deck has a lot of noncreature spells between the artifacts/instants/sorceries and the Planeswalkers.

Some of the extreme highlights of my event was getting to ultimate a Wrenn and Six with Ancestral Recall in the graveyard in Round 1, and then utilizing that to simply have all the answers. I then answered an Oath of Druids with a graveyard retrace cast Force of Vigor. I also got to leverage Wasteland loops with Wrenn and a Collector Ouphe vs an opposing Ragavan and then was able to pivot that into Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes to win the game.

My big downfalls in this event were twofold though and one of those was playing vs Dredge twice in the matchup lottery. I don't think the Game 1 matchup with this deck is great vs Dredge with just DRS and post board I only won games that I saw multiple sideboard cards in, and I never got to see either Tabernacle out of the sideboard.

The other matchup I lost here was versus Phil Thorson on Esper Attractions (yes, I will post a screenshot of that deck because yes, wow it was cool) and the majority of my poor variance here was simply flooding out rather than sheer gameplay mistakes. I felt pretty happy overall with my level of gameplay and many of the games were grindy and fun.

Yes. This deck was pretty cool.

In the end though, I was happy with the deck choice as I was opting to lean on playing cards that were all banned in Legacy (Oko, Ragavan, DRS, W6...) and I had a lot of fun playing the deck despite the poor record. I enjoyed Mercurial Spelldancer when it came up and it was cool when you got to do the thing with it, but in the end this might not be the actual best shell for that card. I did end up with some pretty cool prizes because of how we do prizes at these events. In short, every player brings a prize to enter into the pool of at least $25 and prized are drafted based on standings.

I was happy!

Onto the event itself! You can find all of the decklists for this event here. There was a reasonable wide spread of decks across the event, with a number of players on Dredge and also some PO variants. All in all, TSIs tend to be whatever people bring and some players have strong affinity for certain decks so it definitely pans out in that fashion.

Let's take a look at the Top 8 of the event.

Deck Name Placing Player Name
BUG Midrange 1st Jimmy McCarthy
Displacer Kitten Combo 2nd Andy Probasco
Dredge 3rd-4th Ben Revell
Combo Shops 3rd-4th Jerry Yang
Jeskai Lurrus 5th-8th Kyle Lenox
Dredge 5th-8th Nathan Mulch
PO Oath 5th-8th Jacob Hilty
Doomsday 5th-8th Chad Proctor-Frazier

Pretty solid and fun looking Top 8 here. At the end of the event though it was Jimmy McCarthy who won with a BUG Midrange variant that looked super fun.

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Main deck Dauthi Voidwalker I'm sure did a lot of work against the rest of the decks in the room. Even Aarakocra Sneak looks super fun here. Definitely a fun looking deck.

In Second Place of the event we had Andy "Brass Man" Probasco on Displacer Kitten Combo!

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This deck is super cool. I love Displacer Kitten as a card so it's fun to see it here especially in conjunction with Arcum's Astrolabe which is another cool card.

All in all this was a super fun event, and I am looking forward to the next time that I can get together with the Team Serious crew as we always have a lot of fun at these events.

Vintage Challenge 2/11

This past weekend's first Challenge event was the mid afternoon Saturday event. This event had 64 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 data sheet here.

Mono White was popular but it's win rate was medium at best. Control Bazaar and Aggro Shops had the best win rates of the bunch, followed by Combo Shops variants (namely Jewel Shops).

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Control Bazaar 1st ZollZollZoll
Control Bazaar 2nd Promidnightz
Aggro Shops 3rd Thiim
Combo Shops 4th MafiaDoSplit
Mono White 5th Ryan100495
Oath of Druids 6th ChainsOfMephiStopPlz
Doomsday 7th SenpaiBlank
Mono White 8th Oderus Urungus

Good amount of Bazaars and Shops, plus Mono White in this Top 8. Despite the hit in win rate it still put two in the Top 8. At the end though it was a split finals between two Control Bazaar variants.

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Pretty close lists all around here with very little similarity beyond moving of cards here or there. This is a very reasonable deck right now and definitely has a lot of power behind it.

Also in this Top 8 we had some Aggro Shops action.

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Very straightforward aggro list here. Newer cards like Karn's Sylex making it into the main deck here and also very interesting to see Ravenous Trap again for sure. Have not seen that one in a hot minute.

Vintage Challenge 2/12

The second Challenge event of the weekend was the Sunday early morning event. This event had 47 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.

Bazaar and Jeskai were neck and neck for most popular here and both had really strong win rates. Mono White did well in this event, as did 4C DRS decks.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Jeskai Lurrus 1st fangzie
Mono White 2nd AlphaBlade
Control Bazaar 3rd Tsubasa_Cat
Lurrus DRS 4th ecobaronen
Prison Shops 5th yPrincipe
Doomsday 6th Vertyx_
Control Bazaar 7th vwxyza648204
Prison Shops 8th desolutionist

Lot of Bazaar and Shops here as well alongside some fair decks and some combo. In the end it was Jeskai Lurrus that won the event.

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The more I see Third Path Iconoclast the better it looks honestly. It's weird too because there aren't even any Sagas here but the fact that it triggers off cards like Bauble which is already made great by Lurrus is pretty sweet.

In Second Place we've got Mono White.

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Again we are seeing the tech that we talked about earlier in cards like Chancellor of the Annex. I suspect this will be a stock entry for these decks going forward.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we had a pretty cool take on the Shops variants.

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Welder Stax is such a sweet oldie but goodie and it's super cool to see it updated with more modern cards at the same time. Definitely digging this list a bunch.

Around the Web

The Spice Corner

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

Brian Kelly continues to Brian Kelly.

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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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