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Vintage 101: Tales of a Bygone Era, Part 2

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're diving back into our series on the historical aspects of Vintage with a look at 2006 - 2008! In addition to that we've got two Challenges to discuss.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Tales of a Bygone Era Part 2: 2006 - 2008

The first of this series was very well received it seemed, so we're moving ahead into another short period of Vintage's existence. I think these three year chunks work pretty well, but if they aren't please let me know.

This part of this series is going to focus on the years 2006 - 2008. This was a very interesting part of Vintage's history and saw the rise of some of the format's long term defining pillars. Many of the sets that came out in 2006 were incredibly format-defining as well as into 2007 and 2008.

2006 - The Year of Dredge

2005 had just ended with a real bang in Ravnica: City of Guilds and the overall introduction of the Dredge mechanic. Dredge as a mechanic was an incredibly powerful mechanic that has had a lot term impact on the game overall, but it was during 2006 and into 2007 that the deck would really receive a lot of its initial core cards outside of those cards with the Dredge mechanic.

Another card that would start creeping into the format from Ravnica was one of the game's player likeness cards... of course I'm talking about Dark Confidant.

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As the format prepared for the slew of Standard legal (and by extension Vintage legal) sets for the year, a number of deck developments occurred very early on, with decks like Meandeck Ichorid coming to fruition, Grim Long later evolving into Pitch Long, and Control Slaver and Gifts Control still making waves.

One other card that would also see a lot of play in Vintage at this time from Ravnica was Flame Fusillade alongside Time Vault. At first glance, this may seem a bit weird, but bear with me because much of this has to do with the wild history of Time Vault's errata over the years. In fact during this time the Oracle text for Time Vault read:

Time Vault comes into play tapped.
Time Vault doesn't untap during your untap step.
Skip your next turn: Untap time vault and put a time counter on it.
{tap}, Remove all time counters from Time Vault: Take an extra turn after this one. Play this ability if only there's a time counter on Time Vault.

Because of how this was worded, it allowed you to cast Flame Fusillade and then skip your turn repeatedly to untap Time Vault and then tap it to deal damage. At this time Time Vault was not restricted (and would not be restricted until 2008), so this became a very prominent combo deck of choice through early 2006 known as "Flame Vault".

Guildpact was released in February of 2006, giving the format some interesting cards, one of which was Angel of Despair, a card that would be used to great effect in Ichorid decks. However, this set also gave the format one of the longest standing (and possibly most played sideboard card of all time) in Leyline of the Void.

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Leyline is one card that definitely had a real effect on the format and still persists across the format to this day as one of the best pieces of anti-graveyard tech that exists.

Moving into April of that year provided to be exceptionally interesting to Vintage due to an errata that would occur to Time Vault. Annouced by Mark Gottileb, Wizards stated that they were issuing errata to Time Vault to bring the card more in line with how cards like Mana Vault worked. This led to a lot of outbursts from people on various parts of the community, upset that they had spent time and money on Time Vault only to feel like they had the rug pulled out from underneath them. In July of 2006 it was announced that Wizards was getting rid of power level errata but then seemingly introduced further power level errata for Time Vault by making it function like:

Time Vault comes into play tapped.
If Time Vault would become untapped, instead choose one -- untap Time Vault and you skip your next turn or Time Vault remains tapped.
{tap}: Take an extra turn after this one

Hilariously this would make for a very janky combo with one of Guildpact's printings in Mizzium Transreliquat.

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Moving deeper into 2006 in May is when Dissension would release. This set would provide a few interesting cards that would show up in various decks, from Simic Sky Swallower (as an Oath of Druids target) to Trygon Predator (an incredible piece of hate versus Mishra's Workshop based decks).

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It was in July of 2006 that out of the "Grim Long" deck that Pitch Long was born at the Star City Games Power 9 Series that month, piloted by Eric Becker.

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This deck utilized Force of Will alongside Dark Ritual and the storm kill of Tendrils of Agony to win the game, as well as multiple copies of Misdirection. Pitch Long went on to be one of the breakout decks of 2006 overall.

Also in July of 2006 was the release of Coldsnap as a set. Coldsnap didn't quite have the same impact on Vintage as it did in Legacy (where Sensei's Divining Top and Counterbalance became king), but I will note that long term we did see Dark Depths become a playable card in the format (in the past several years here at least), which is kind of cool.

That August we saw the Vintage Championship for that year, which was for a Mox Pearl artwork. This event was won by Travis Spero on Meandeck Gifts.

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This deck utilized all the spells it would cast in a turn with Gifts Ungiven so that it could use Burning Wish to cast Tendrils of Agony. Very cool.

The final Standard set of the year to be released was Time Spiral in October of 2006. Time Spiral introduced an insane number of new mechanics and new things to various formats. A great number of cards from this set had a solid impact on Vintage both in the short and long term. Notably, the Split Second mechanic was looked at very prominently with cards like Trickbind and Wipe Away being very notable at ending many of the common win conditions of the time (Tinker -> Darksteel Colossus and Tendrils of Agony). Long term I don't think either of those really did end those win conditions much, but it was definitely speculated at the time.

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Primarily it was versatile cards like Ancient Grudge that made a much longer term impact to the format and saw much more play. One other such card that came out of this set was another piece for Dredge... Dread Return.

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We would see in 2007 more or less how this card would go on to really become a big part of Dredge, but it was certainly interesting at the time.

Curiously there was no restrictions in Vintage during 2006, but the Time Vault saga was a lot already from Wizards (and it wasn't even done yet).

2007 - The Future is Now

2007 started with the second set in the Time Spiral block, moving into Planar Chaos. This set didn't have a ton of cards in it that really did much for Vintage. For the most part it passed by without much real issue.

The real meat of 2007 would occur a few months later in May with the release of Future Sight. This set, envisioned as some sort of weird future forward thinking set to show things that could be, was massively impactful to the long term health of the format and introduced several cards that see play in it to this day. Two of those cards were Narcomoeba and Bridge from Below.

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Players quickly figured out how powerful these cards in conjunction with the Dredge mechanic and cards like Dread Return and Cabal Therapy were. They also combined these with cards like Ichorid and Flame-Kin Zealot as a kill condition with Bazaar of Baghdad and Serum Powder and lo and behold... Dredge as a pillar of the format was born.

Dredge played on an axis unlike other decks. It didn't cast spells very traditionally, and it could win by continually generating a stream of Zombie tokens and overpower the opponent that way. To this day Dredge has remained a part of the Vintage metagame, and despite having some restrictions leveled at it (Golgari Grave-Troll) it has persisted and evolved over time.

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Future Sight also introduced cards like Tarmogoyf to the format, which at the time, didn't seem all that great but has since proven itself in the format many times over and over. In addition we saw cards like Yixlid Jailer which would see lots of play down the line as well.

June of 2007 saw a few changes to the Restricted list. The prominence of Gifts Control lists led to the restriction of Gifts Ungiven, while several cards including Voltaic Key, Gush, Black Vise, and Mind Twist were all unrestricted. Of these Gush would have of the most tumultuous time in the format, going from Unrestricted back to Restricted back to Unrestricted and eventually Restricted for good. Gifts itself would last until 2015 where it would be unrestricted for good.

The Vintage Championship event that year was for a Mox Jet painting and was won by well known Vintage podcaster / historian (and a good friend) Stephen Menendian on Gro-A-Tog.

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Stephen himself wrote a Tournament report on this event, which you can find here. It's well worth the read!

September also had some interesting changes to the format as Shahrazad was banned in both Vintage and Legacy, cementing the understanding that cards that dealt with sub games qualified as a bannable criteria for the format. Shahrazad was something of a logistical nightmare anyways, so it's fine that it's no longer allowed in the format.

October of 2007 was the next Standard product release in Lorwyn. Besides being the set that introduced the Planeswalker type to the game, this set also had a ton of cards that became long term staples of the format. Notable cards were several that would go on to be restricted such as Ponder and Thorn of Amethyst.

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Another card that would come out of this set was long term cards such as Thoughtseize and Gaddock Teeg.

2008 - The Great Brainstorm Migration

Coming off of Lorwyn at the end of 2007, 2008 saw an early Standard release of Morningtide. This set didn't have a huge impact on Vintage overall, leading to not much happening in the format outside of normal metagame developments.

Shadowmoor came in May of 2008, bringing with it a number of very interesting cards but only one of which really has seen play in more Modern Vintage eras long term in the form of Painter's Servant.

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Painter's combo with Grindstone definitely made for some interesting things in Vintage for sure.

2008's early Standard sets however didn't provide much at all for the format, but it was June of 2008 that would throw the format into great upheaval. At this time, Wizards decided to restrict Brainstorm, Flash, Gush, Ponder, and Merchant Scroll.

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This change represented not only one of the largest single day changes to the format since 1999, but also represented a tonal shift in how the DCI approached managing Vintage. Typically before this Vintage was very hands-off in many ways when handled by the DCI, but this set of restrictions absolutely was massive. It defined much of the current format's structure to this day by adding to the "Blue Restricted Suite" that many blue decks utilize today.

This decision was ultimately extremely controversial in nature. Lots of players enjoyed casting Brainstorm especially, but ultimately much of this change was related to the consistency of these cards being able to find other restricted cards too well, and that was less than desirable for Vintage as a format.

As such, Vintage Championships that year in 2008 definitely looked very different than years prior. The event, which had a Mox Ruby artwork up for grabs, was won by Paul Mastriano on TPS (The Perfect Storm). This event also boasted some real heavyweights in the Top 8, from folks like Brian Demars to fellow Team Serious compatriots Jimmy McCarthy and Mike Solymossy.

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TPS was designed heavily as a Storm deck utilizing the power of Ritual mana and Yawgmoth's Will to win the game with Tendrils of Agony. Long term the deck would evolve into DPS with the printing of Dark Petition in Magic Origins.

June also saw the release of Eventide, the second half of the Shadowmoor block. This set also didn't have a lot of cards that impacted the format at the time and was much lower powered than typical expectations of the format.

It was September of 2008 that saw a further change to the format's restricted list, one that was actually welcomed in a lot of ways. After ages of issues with power level errata with the card Time Vault, Wizards finally opted to remove all power level errata from the card and revert it back to the original intent of the card. With this came the restriction of it in Vintage (and its banning in Legacy), leaving us with the version of Time Vault we know today.

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However, in addition to that restriction, Wizards also unrestricted a large slew of cards including Chrome Mox, Mox Diamond, Dream Halls, Personal Tutor, and Time Spiral. Many players enjoyed having these unrestrictions and of these amusingly enough Chrome Mox has had the most impact on Modernized Vintage due to the presence of the Initiative decks.

The final Standard set of 2008 was the first of a new block known as Shards of Alara, focusing on three color shards. While not a lot of this set saw crazy amounts of Vintage gameplay, one card is worth noting and that is Ad Nauseam.

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While Ad Nauseam would go on to see more play in Legacy longer term, the power of this card in a format with Moxen is definitely interesting. It definitely has not stuck longer term, but it was one of the most playable card of the set for sure. Another card that would possibly see on and off play was Ethersworn Canonist, mainly due to the fact that it did a good job of shutting down decks that wanted to cast a lot of spells to enable Storm count.

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Until Next Time

We'll be continuing this series further on as we get deeper into Vintage's history, with the next installment focusing on 2009, 2010, and 2011 in the format's history. As always I hope you enjoyed this little trip into the past. These have been quite fun for me to write for sure!

Vintage Challenge 5/13

The first Challenge of the weekend was the mid afternoon Saturday event. This event had 54 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.

Both Combo Shops and Initiative were pretty popular, and both had solid win rates overall (with Combo Shops having the best win rate out of the cutoff decks in the event). Jeskai and Dredge did rather poorly, while Shops was very middle of the road in both Prison/Aggro variants.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Combo Shops 1st Condescend
Combo Shops 2nd Cherryxman
Initiative 3rd MrJaceTwo
4C DRS 4th Crazydiamond513
Dredge 5th The_Real_DK213
CounterVine 6th tajoordan
Hogaak 7th Hitogoroshi80
Initiative 8th varal

Very interesting Top 8. Number of Bazaar decks here, some Initiative, and some Shops. At the end of the event it was a split between two Combo Shops decks.

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The only difference here? Snow-Covered Island vs Island. Clearly Snow-Covered lands are superior. I do like the set of Wurmcoil Engine in the sideboard though, jokes aside. Seems quite strong in a number of matchups where you can't focus on the combo and you need to race life totals (and also makes Force of Vigor somewhat awkward).

Also in this Top 8 we had 4C RUG DRS, otherwise known as "Legacy Banned Greatest Hits".

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The hate for Shops is definitely here. Ouphe and even main deck Energy Flux is sweet. Very cool deck for sure.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we had Hogaak/Cradle Control.

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Bit of a mix between the Hogaak decks and the Cradle Control decks that utilize Hexdrinker here. Worth noting as well is the play set of Archive Trap for dealing with Doomsday decks (by making them mill after they Doomsday for free).

Vintage Challenge 5/14

The second Challenge event of the weekend was the early morning Sunday event. This event had 49 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.

Combo Shops was the most popular deck here, but it's win rate was very middle of the road. Doomsday did very well as did "Other Aggro" variants. Prison Shops suffered despite a top finish, and Initiative / Initiative Tinker did quite poorly.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
WG Hatebears 1st Wesal
Oath of Druids 2nd etoustar
Jeskai Lurrus 3rd TrueHero
Lurrus Vault Key 4th shir kahn
Dredge 5th Firetruck
Doomsday 6th Tsubasa_Cat
Prison Shops 7th Darkmattergun
Breach 8th WErN8ZumHhedL0rp

Wildly interesting Top 8 here. Good variety of archetypes and major pillars of the format. At the end of the event though, it was Wesal on WG Hatebears that won the event (aka "Other Aggro").

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Really solidly cool list, especially in a world where Initiative creatures exist to just see absolutely none of them here is interesting for sure. Instead, big hitters like Archon/Thalia and Outland Liberator shine here for sure.

In Second Place we had Oath of Druids.

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Atraxa has certainly cemented herself into the Oath archetype and it isn't hard to see why. The card exudes value in so many ways and is really quite powerful overall.

Also in this Top 8 we had Jeskai Lurrus.

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Faerie Mastermind continues to show up here or there and I like it. The card has looked quite good whenever I've seen it played.

Further down the Top 8 we had Doomsday.

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Again, Dream Salvage has to be one of the coolest cards I've seen in a sideboard yet. I am definitely digging it. Seems super fun versus Bazaar decks.

Around the Web

The Spice Corner

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

This deck by Rivva is hot fire. Ichormoon Gauntlet!

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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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