MTGGoldfish is supported by its audience. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission.
Browse > Home / Strategy / Articles / Vintage 101: Tales of a Bygone Era - Part 1

Vintage 101: Tales of a Bygone Era - Part 1

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 starting something new! I had a lot of great feedback from last weeks article and I really appreciate people taking the time to respond on things they would like to see. In addition to our primary topic this week of a historical dive into Vintage, we have both Challenge events from the weekend to discuss as well.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Tales of a Bygone Era - Part 1: 2003 - 2005

Born out of some of the great feedback I got last week, we're starting a new series that will focus on a historical look at the Vintage of old! This format has such a storied history to it, and we can't even cover it all in one article, so this is going to be a multiple article series focusing on different eras of the format. I would like to give a real shout out to our good friend Stephen Menendian here with his work as a Vintage historian over on Eternal Central. Between his articles on the various format years and some great assistance by my own friends in the Team Serious crew, this article really came together.

The first of these is going to focus on the 2003 - 2005 era of Vintage, which we'll cover year by year as there is some interesting things that occurred in the format at this time. Some brief build up to this is required though. In the very beginning of Magic's early history, formats didn't really exist until 1995 with the introduction of Type 1 (which would go on to become Vintage) and Type 2 (which became Standard). Later on Type 1.5 would be introduced which eventually became Legacy, and Legacy wouldn't really become an independent format from Vintage until 2004.

2003 Vintage - A Golden Age?

2003 was an interesting year for Magic in general, as it was a bit of transitioning period from old to new as 2003 was the release of both Eighth Edition and Mirrodin which marked the release of the Modern card frame. The final two sets released this year in the old card frame were Legions and Scourge which finished off the overall Onslaught block. We're going to focus on the early part of this year first.

March 2003 saw a few changes in the Restricted list for the format, with restrictions targeted at both Earthcraft and Entomb. Berserk, Hurkyl's Recall, and Recall were all unrestricted.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00   $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Of these early sets, one of the more impactful printings was the card Mind's Desire from Scourge as well as the card Tendrils of Agony.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00   $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Mind's Desire was so powerful in Vintage that it very quickly became restricted in the format, while Tendrils of Agony went on to be one of the hallmarks of Storm based strategies for quite a long time. This also marked the first time in the format Gush was restricted (a storied history unto its own).

Because Eighth Edition and Mirrodin did not release until later in 2003, the very first Vintage Championships took place in June of 2003 and with it came the very first ever painting trophy for one of these events. That oversized painting was for Black Lotus.

This particular event was won by Carl Winter utilizing his Psychatog deck.

Loading Indicator

One of the important things to note is that during this time, cards like Brainstorm were unrestricted, and because Gush was restricted we saw more cards like Intuition and Accumulated Knowledge. The deck utilized its control aspects to push through lethal damage off of Psychatog. This strategy has not changed all that much in current Vintage, as we've seen cards like Monastery Mentor and other types of go-wide or go-tall cards become hallmark finishers in the format (Managorger Hydra yoooo).

Other decks in this event's top tables ranged from things such as Stax, Dreadnought decks playing Illusionary Mask, and even Red Sligh decks. Vintage at this time was a pretty wild place.

Of course, everything in 2003 would change when the Fire Nation attacked, I mean when Mirrodin released. Released in October of 2003, Mirrodin with its extreme focus on artifacts brought with it an immense amount of playable Vintage cards and would begin to utterly change the format as a whole going into 2003. At the end of 2003 we saw the first wave of restriction changes to the format with the restrictions of Burning Wish, Chrome Mox, and Lion's Eye Diamond all becoming restricted leading into 2004.

One of the primary cards that Mirrodin introduced that had a massive impact on the format was the printing of Mindslaver.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Mindslaver would go on to create a subset of Vintage decks known as Control Slaver. We'll talk more about that deck in 2004!

Another card that would eventually go on to be restricted out of this set was Chalice of the Void.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Chalice would actually last from 2003 all the way until 2015 before it finally became restricted, over 10 years in the format.

2004 - The Rise of Mirrodin Block

2004 saw the rest of the Mirrodin block released with the sets Darksteel and Fifth Dawn. If Mirrodin itself had managed to shape Vintage in some way, both sets would add cards that would ripple effect through the years of Vintage and many that still see play today.

In fact, 2004 didn't get much of a reprieve from the restrictions in December 2003 before the set Darksteel released in February of 2004. Darksteel printed some of the format's most long standing cards of all time, and even several restricted cards.

For example... Arcbound Ravager.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Ravager alone was one of the format's major scourges for so long, redefining the power of Mishra's Workshop decks in so many ways. Beyond that, cards like Trinisphere, Serum Powder, and Sundering Titan came out of Darksteel.

Fifth Dawn initially was much safer than both previous sets in the block, but it did still long term give us the card Krark-Clan Ironworks which would eventually see play in more modern Vintage eras.

Prior to the release of the fall sets of the year we did have another Vintage Championships event. The 2004 event gave away a Timetwister painting as the top prize, and it was won by Mark Biller on Control Slaver.

Loading Indicator

This deck functioned largely on the back of being able to pitch Mindslaver into the graveyard via cards like Thirst for Knowledge and then recur it into play with Goblin Welder. From there, it would establish a lock on the opponent by repeatedly looping the card every turn to continue controlling the opponent's turn. It was also able to use cards like Sundering Titan and Platinum Angel to grind games to a halt.

Much of the top tables of this format was dominated by the presence of Goblin Welder, but we also saw decks like Stephen Menendian's Mono Blue Ophidian deck and Tom Rotchadl's "Fish" deck (utilizing tempo threats and cards like Daze/Stifle alongside Standstill).

Prior to the release of the fall sets in September of 2004 is when Type 1.5 officially split off from Vintage and became Legacy. We also had some unrestrictions of older cards like Braingeyser, Doomsday (a staple in the format still), Earthcraft, Fork, and Stroke of Genius.

The end of 2004 brought with it the release of the first set in the Kamigawa block with Champions of Kamigawa. Champions brought with it several cards that had an immediate impact on Vintage, the primary of which were Sensei's Divining Top and Gifts Ungiven.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00   $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Top is a card that still sees a ton of play even today in more current Vintage, but it was Gifts Ungiven that launched another shift of Vintage as a format with the rise of Gifts Control as a deck leading directly into 2005.

2005 - Kamigawa and Ravnica

2005 proved to also be an interesting and tumultuous year for Vintage as the format continued its journey through the plane of Kamigawa with the releases of both Betrayers of Kamigawa and Saviors of Kamigawa. Neither of these sets actually did a ton for Vintage, but they did print cards like Umezawa's Jitte and Pithing Needle (both of which would go on as powerful cards longer term). Saviors of Kamigawa also introduced one of the format's major artifact hatebears in the form of Kataki, War's Wage.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

The biggest change to Vintage this year would come heavily in the form of restrictions leveled at the format. In early March of 2005, Trinisphere was restricted, having proven to be incredibly strong with Mishra's Workshop. In addition, both Imperial Seal and Personal Tutor were restricted in September of that year while the card Mind Over Matter was unrestricted.

Of course, there is also the fact that in October of 2005 is when sets such as Starter 1999 and the Portal sets all became legal in the format, introducing cards like Grim Tutor.

The Vintage Championships event that year was an interesting one, with many decks like Stax, Gifts Control, Control Slaver, and even Worldgorger Dragon hitting the top tables. It would be Roland Chang (our good friend!) who would win this event and receive the Ancestral Recall painting on Stax.

Loading Indicator

Roland's deck is very much leaning on the power of Mishra's Workshop to power out lock pieces and cards like Smokestack alongside Crucible of Worlds in order to keep at parity on sacrificing permanents, while the opponent is forced to lose their own resources. At the time this was an exceptionally strong way to draw out the game and eventually win off the back of cards like Triskelion or looping with Sundering Titan to demolish the opponent's mana.

This time also saw a rise to other types of Stax decks such as those utilizing the card Uba Mask with Bazaar of Baghdad (known simply as Uba Stax).

The final set of 2005 to release that year was Ravnica: City of Guilds and with it came the advent of one of the Vintage format's most infamous mechanics (long term even more egregious than even Storm) in the form of Dredge.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00   $ 0.00 $ 0.00   $ 0.00 $ 0.00

It would take into 2006 for things to really pick up for Dredge, but as a mechanic it represented an entirely new way of playing Magic, and it has been ever present in the format since its initial inception. If there ever was a set that had such a long lasting impact on the format overall, it's definitely Ravnica and the printing of Dredge.

Wrapping Up

I hope you enjoyed this little dive into Vintage's past as well as how that past has reflected in our current format. Next time we will look at another span of years, likely from 2006 - 2009. This was a lot of fun for me to put together!

Vintage Challenge 4/29

The first Challenge event of the weekend was the mid afternoon Saturday event. This event had 66 players in it thanks to the data collected by the Vintage Streamers Discord.

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

Dredge was the most popular deck here, but it's win rate was quite poor. Combo Shops had the best win rate of the event, with a very solid conversion rate to the top tables. Initiative Tinker also did very well.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Combo Shops 1st yPrincipe
Combo Shops 2nd pokerswizard
Initiative Tinker 3rd Almostomniscient
Paradoxical Outcome 4th IamActuallyLvl1
Initiative Tinker 5th Kenzaburo
CounterVine 6th magicofplayer1
Combo Shops 7th ecobaronen
Aggro Shops 8th Wizard_2002

Lot of Workshops here and some Tinker variants. At the end of the event it was a split between two Combo Shops decks.

Loading Indicator

Loading Indicator

Both lists are pretty similar in construction here with a few flex spots here or there. The first place list is purely mono blue and not splashing out into any of the black restricted cards (i.e. Demonic Tutor). The first place list also leans heavier on The Mightstone and Weakstone in the main as well.

Further down the Top 8 we had our good friend Justin Gennari on PO.

Loading Indicator

A showing by Faerie Mastermind! It has been interesting seeing whether this card is any good or not, and it seems fine as a threat here, especially if you have a Hullbreacher in play to synergize with the activated ability of Mastermind that basically draws you a card and makes a Treasure token because your opponent isn't going to be able to draw the card. Seems great!

At the bottom of the Top 8 we have CounterVine.

Loading Indicator

Very clean and straightforward deck here. The game plan here is to just interact and prevent the opponent from doing things while beating in the face with free creatures. Strong for sure.

Vintage Challenge 4/30

The second event of the weekend was the Sunday event. This event had 48 players in it thanks to the data collected by the Vintage Streamers Discord.

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

Shops decks were at the top of the event here, and both had a really solid win rate. However, Initiative Tinker had a really strong win rate and conversion rate (putting both its pilots in the Top 8). Doomsday and PO did poorly, as did Lurrus DRS variants.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Prison Shops 1st 416FrowningTable
Initiative Tinker 2nd Elfkid
Combo Shops 3rd Cherryxman
Aggro Shops 4th _shatun_
Initiative Tinker 5th starlights
Initiative 6th xenowan
Combo Shops 7th AFX
Combo Shops 8th j0se

Tons of Workshops and Tinker in this event, but really it was Shops that took up so much of this Top 8. At the end of the event it was Prison Shops that won the event.

Loading Indicator

Definitely a very solid looking Prison Shops list here. Golos decks have been slowly creeping back up in power, and they've been doing quite well. Argentum Masticore is such a super interesting card, as a card that can't be hit by Dack Fayden but also can destroy permanents it needs to.

In Second Place we've got Initiative Tinker.

Loading Indicator

This deck looks pretty great. It's got a lot of angles of attack and it can easily sideboard juke into very nearly a Mono White variant.

Further down the Top 8 we have Aggro Shops.

Loading Indicator

This is a kind of amalgamation of the Prison variants and the Aggro variants, with some Golos in the mix alongside stuff like Patchwork Automaton. Seems very strong indeed.

Near the bottom of the Top 8 we have Mono White Initiative.

Loading Indicator

New card Phyrexian Censor shows up here, acting as copies 5-8 of Archon of Emeria. Seems very strong here as an additional way to gain thsi kind of effect. Love to see new cards!

Around the Web

The Spice Corner

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


Loading Indicator

I had to point this one out because of Commander staple Dockside Extortionist! Super cool. Cavern of Souls naming PIRATE.

Loading Indicator

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!

More in this Series

Show more ...

More on MTGGoldfish ...

Image for Modern Horizons 3 Spoilers — May 21 | All the Double-Sided Planeswalkers, Eldrazi Titans, Free Spells and More! daily spoilers
Modern Horizons 3 Spoilers — May 21 | All the Double-Sided Planeswalkers, Eldrazi Titans, Free Spells and More!

Official start of preview season for MH3 with plenty of powerful new cards and reprints.

May 21 | by mtggoldfish
Image for Single Scoop: Heist Is A Busted Mechanic? single scoop
Single Scoop: Heist Is A Busted Mechanic?

MTGArena just got a new mechanic called Heist and it's pretty damn powerful in Timeless!

May 21 | by TheAsianAvenger
Image for Commander Clash Podcast 148: Eldrazi Tier List commander clash podcast
Commander Clash Podcast 148: Eldrazi Tier List

What are the best Eldrazi cards in Magic: the Gathering?

May 21 | by mtggoldfish
Image for Are Target Mystery Boxes a Scam? video
Are Target Mystery Boxes a Scam?

There are new retail mystery boxes that sell for $35 and include five boosters, some promos and a random "game piece." Are they legit or a scam? Let's crack a few open and find out!

May 21 | by SaffronOlive

Layout Footer

Never miss important MTG news again!

All emails include an unsubscribe link. You may opt-out at any time. See our privacy policy.

Follow Us

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Twitch
  • Instagram
  • Tumblr
  • RSS
  • Email
  • Discord
  • YouTube

Price Preference

Default Price Switcher