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Vintage 101: Tales of a Bygone Era, Part 3

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 deep into another set of historical Vintage, continuing where we left off in 2009 through 2011. In addition to that we've got an update on some stuff related to how Ban philosophy is going to work going forward. In addition to that we've got two Challenges to talk about.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Tales of a Bygone Era Part 3: 2009 - 2011

Last time on this series we had just come out of 2008 with the release of Shards of Alara and the past three years of craziness involving the saga of Time Vault's errata and much more.

I will note in retrospect there was one card released from Shard of Alara that we should discuss before we jump into the time period of 2009 - 2011, as that card would go on to have a greater impact on Vintage for quite a while and that card is Tezzeret the Seeker.

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Tezzeret not only acted as another way of untapping cards like Time Vault, but it actively was able to tutor up cards like that as well. It became a cornerstone of decks for quite a long time, but has since fallen off in more modern eras.

Now with that in mind let's dive into 2009.

2009 - The Year of Zendikar

2009 launched into early February with the release of ConfluxConflux itself didn't have much of an impact on Vintage overall. In fact, many of the more powerful cards in the set (Knight of the Reliquary, Progenitus, etc.) would see more play in Legacy than Vintage. Noble Hierarch is a bit of an interesting one as it would go on to see a bit of play longer term, and Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker ended up in a sort of an interesting spot years and years down the line with the printing of Arena Rector.

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Flash forward three months to Alara Reborn, the game's first entirely multicolor set. Out of this set Vintage would get a few cards, primarily though the most important one is one that is still played today in Tinker shells and that is Sphinx of the Steel Wind.

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While many folks of the era often played Inkwell Leviathan as one of the primary big Tinker targets, long term Sphinx has been a much more impactful card. As many artifact destruction spells are red or green (or both), Sphinx having protection from these colors mattered greatly, and also having first strike, vigilance, and lifelink, AS well as flying was ultimately much more useful. We still see this card today quite a bit.

June of 2009 would bring the one major format Restriction update of the year. During this time, Thirst for Knowledge was restricted, having proven itself to be an exceptionally powerful piece of card advantage and the cornerstone of many powerful decks in the format. During this same update however, Crop Rotation, Enlightened Tutor, Entomb, and Grim Monolith were all unrestricted.

The Vintage Championships event that year was held at GenCon, and was won by Hiromichi Itou on Dark Tezzeret!

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This deck proved to be very powerful, leveraging the strength of both Tezzeret and Dark Confidant to win the game.

Moving onto July of 2009 we saw the release of Magic 2010, the first Core Set to fall under the new rules of introducing new cards instead of just reprints. This set also made some major changes to the rules of Magic overall, seen as the true beginning of the more modern era of Magic. Some changes here were things like the introduction of the exile zone, the removal of mana burn, and the removal of combat damage using the stack. Outside of those changes however, Magic 2010 did not have any cards that really saw any Vintage gameplay.

Late 2010 however, saw the release of the final Standard set of the year in Zendikar. A new world full of adventure, and despite the crazy marketing of "Hidden Treasures" and all that came with it, the set did have quite a few interesting cards in it. Iona, Shield of Emeria became available to various Oath or Reanimator based decks, acting as a lock piece that was also a finisher, and Vampire Hexmage came about turning Dark Depths into an actual combo piece with the card.

In addition to these interesting splashy cards, one of the set's most unassuming cards would go on to be played in Vintage for years to come. The card I'm talking about of course is Bloodghast.

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This card gave Dredge decks at the time a recurring threat, when combined with Dredge lands like Dakmor Salvage and Life from the Loam, and also became a larger piece of decks like Hogaak down the line.

2010 - The Jace and Emrakul Show

Zendikar barely had much time to really shine before 2010's first Standard set of the year came about in the form of WorldwakeWorldwake introduced two very important cards to the Vintage biosphere, the first of which was the very first Planeswalker to be printed with four abilities.

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Jace proved to be so powerful he was banned in Standard and even pre-banned in Modern upon its creation. This powerful Planeswalker proved his worth quite well in Vintage for many many years, having finally run his course in more modern eras thanks to sets like War of the Spark introducing Planeswalkers that were inevitably more powerful than good old Jace.

In addition to Jace though, this set also saw the printing of a card that would later on become restricted in Vintage in the form of Lodestone Golem.

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A tax effect stapled to a very beefy body, Lodestone Golem quickly became one of the best threats and lock pieces of Workshops based decks. In multiples this card was a true nightmare to face down, making gameplay grind to a halt while it demolished the opponent. It would not be until April of 2016 however when this card would see restriction.

Worldwake also did see the printing of cards like Stoneforge Mystic (which would not see much play for a long time, but has seen play in recent eras including an incredibly high profile finish by Rajah James in 2022's Eternal Weekend as part of his winning decklist Mono White Initiative) and also Eye of Ugin, which would see play way later after Oath of the Gatewatch as part of a non-powered "budget" list by Jason Jaco referred to as "Jaco-Drazi."

Two months later saw the release of Rise of the Eldrazi, and while the titular Eldrazi were a big portion of the set, there was one card that absolutely has continued to shape Vintage by its very existence. First though, let's talk about Emrakul.

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Emrakul certainly was an incredibly interesting card for the format overall, giving Oath strategies a new big creature to put into play that could be devastating since it was so hard to actually deal with. Longer term Emrakul has certainly fallen out of favor in the format longer term, but for a while it was quite good.

The other card though that has stuck around Vintage for an incredibly long time and absolutely has become a cornerstone of several long mainstays of the format is of course... Vengevine.

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While it took some time for this one to bake, it did get Survival of the Fittest banned in Legacy, and eventually was part of the core revitalization of Survival in Vintage until that deck transitioned out and simply became Bazaar Aggro. Used in many forms of Bazaar decks to this day, Vengevine is certainly one of the most powerful cards of this year for sure.

Vintage Championships actually took place in August this year, so before that we had our Core Set for the year in Magic 2011. Again, this set had brand new cards in it as opposed to older Core Sets having solely reprints. Of this set, the most interesting pieces of note were a new set of Leylines. Of these Leyline of the Void was a reprint, but we did get Leyline of Sanctity which would definitely see a good amount of play.

One cycle however that did have interesting effects upon the format overall down the line was the Titan cycle, primarily both Sun Titan and Inferno Titan.

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Both of these cards have seen a good amount of play in Vintage, either as targets for Oath of Druids (in different ways even, with Inferno Titan being used as a finisher and Sun Titan being used as a combo enabler with Underworld Breach) to Sun Titan seeing play as a Dread Return target in a Dredge list to recur additional copies of Bazaar of Baghdad from the graveyard.

As noted, right after this release was the Vintage Championships event, which was won by BUG Control.

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One thing about this event that did surprise people was how poorly overall Mishra's Workshop seemed to do at the event, despite the power of Lodestone Golem. To that point even, Stephen Menendian wrote an article for SCG about the event titled "Does Mishra's Workshop Suck?"

The lone Banned and Restricted update for 2010 was actually a big one. Back yet again to the format was Gush being unrestricted. This time the card would make it all the way to 2017 before becoming restricted again (and for good).

The end of 2010 came with the Standard release of Scars of Mirrodin. This set's long impact mainly comes primarily in the form of a single card in Mox Opal.

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Mox Opal has definitely had a huge long-term impact on the format, thanks to later printings such as Paradoxical Outcome and just generally being an incredibly powerful card in its own right. It definitely took a while to see play but nowadays its definitely a card to expect in the format.

2011 - The Year the Phyrexian Nation Attacked

2011 was a huge year for Vintage overall, due to the nature of several incredibly polarizing set releases. At the beginning of that year in February saw the first Standard set release in Mirrodin Besieged. This set had some interesting cards, but one of the long-standing staples of the format came in the form of Phyrexian Revoker.

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Revoker was interesting because the format at large even at this time was not really well geared to dealing with creatures, but the biggest aspect of this card was the fact that it could actually shut off mana abilities from nonland cards, so it could name Moxen and Black Lotus for example and force the opponent to be functionally down a land. Revoker certainly has seen a lot of play in the format for sure over the years.

It was May though when Vintage would get such a huge shift that it would definitely have massive long-lasting effects. I'm speaking of course about the release of New Phyrexia and the advent of Phyrexian mana.

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Of these cards, two of them are now Restricted in Vintage. The power shift in how much these cards affected Vintage down the line is massive to say the least. There are sets throughout the years that have affected Vintage for sure, but this set was one on a very structural level. Players now had to play mind games of countering Misstep with Misstep, and Gitaxian Probe made information super free for players. As it turns out this was an absolutely warping mechanic, and while we've see the Phyrexian mana symbols used even recently in Standard sets, the amount of toning down to those sets and how the mechanic has been used has been utterly massive. This single mechanic alone was incredibly powerful that the fairest of these cards ended up being Dismember, which became a part of Shops decks as a way to combat hate bears.

So yeah... that happened, how do we keep following up the year? How about a set leveled solely at Commander, but has cards that are new and legal in Vintage? In June 2011, the original Commander 2011 products were released. With that came two cards that would have a long-term impact on the format, and wildly enough in actually positive ways as opposed to the insanity of Phyrexian mana. Those cards were Flusterstorm and Scavenging Ooze.

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Of these, Flusterstorm especially had a major impact on Vintage overall as players began to adopt the card. It still sees play to this day in Vintage decks due to its versatility and powerful nature (and is one of the most frustrating mini-games on all of Magic Online).

Thankfully things slowed down a bit with the release of Magic 2012. No real cards came out of this set, unless you count reprints of things like Ponder and the Titans.

Vintage Championships continued in August of that year, with the winner that year being the one and only Mark Hornung on Sunny Dredge.

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This deck just so happened to be the first foray I ever made into Vintage and was the first deck I ever played in paper Vintage at the SCGCon P9 series in 2017 (I believe). The idea and ethos of this deck was to not just do Dredge things, but have the option of doing Dredge things super fast. It used Fatestitcher (which Unearths for U) to untap Bazaar multiple times to keep churning through the deck, until it can use Dread Return on a Sun Titan to recur another Bazaar or Flame-Kin Zealot to just win the game.

This is absolutely one of my favorite Dredge decks in the history of the format for sure.

The Banned and Restricted update that year fell in September, and it was light. In fact, nothing got restricted! Instead, Fact or Fiction was unrestricted, having been power crept out of the format entirely at this juncture. It would not be until 2017 when Gitaxian Probe was restricted, and another two years to 2019 for Mental Misstep to be restricted.

It was also during September that the first set in the Innistrad block, known simply as Innistrad was released. This set provided an interesting number of cards, some that still see play in the format today and some that don't. This was the infamous set that was responsible for the printing of Delver of Secrets, a card that actually just saw no play in this format. However, some of these cards have on occasion.

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Snapcaster Mage provided a very powerful way to recur cards like Ancestral Recall and Time Walk which gave it a lot of equity in the format. Liliana didn't see quite as much play overall and definitely does not today. Laboratory Maniac did prove to be somewhat interesting in that it gave decks running Balustrade Spy or Doomsday a win condition that needed to be interacted with, but was ultimately eclipsed by the more powerful Thassa's Oracle down the line.

Join me in the next series as we start into 2012... otherwise known as "THE YEAR OF GRISELBRAND".

Banned and Restricted Philosophy Update

This past Monday we did have a BnR specifically for the Standard format, and while that doesn't affect Legacy we did get some information on some shifts in Ban philosophy going forward. The announcement is worth reading in that regard. You can find it here.

Primarily the cadence in ban announcements is changing. Once per year before fall previews begin (this year being August 7th) there is going to be a BnR announcement that has the possibility of covering multiple formats, Vintage included.

In addition to that, they will also have a BnR on the third Monday after every set release specifically dedicated to addressing large environmental imbalances (think Felidar Guardian or Underworld Breach level stuff).

This shift in philosophy will be interesting to see how it affects formats like Vintage for sure. Will this be better or worse than what we have now? Let me know what you think of it in the comments.

Vintage Challenge 5/27

The first Challenge event of the weekend was the mid-afternoon Saturday event. This event had 59 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 Oath were very popular, but of the two Combo Shops had a better overall win rate. Aggro Shops did very well in this event, as did Dredge and Prison Shops.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Dredge 1st vwxyza648204
Aggro Shops 2nd adm29
Aggro Shops 3rd fatto10
Combo Shops 4th Nammersquats
Initiative 5th Danielpena397
Breach 6th thedeck84
Jeskai Lurrus 7th unluckymonkey
Dredge 8th Lord_Beerus

Quite a bit of Shops decks in this Top 8, as well as some Bazaar. At the end of the event it was the user with the most obscurely long name I've seen in a while winning the event on Dredge.

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Pretty solid stock list here. Some lists float the land destruction effects in and out of the main, it just depends on preference really. Sickening Shoal is a cool card though that I haven't seen in a while.

In Second Place we've got Aggro Shops.

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Leaning hard on the fact that it doesn't need artifact mana to win games, four Null Rod Shops is truly something to behold. Patchwork Automaton really puts in the work here for sure.

Also in the Top 8 we have Initiative.

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This deck continues to be a really solid part of the format overall. It's definitely settled now and while it is very good (definitely good enough to make Top 8s and win events) it feels attackable and has pieces that can be exploited.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we have Jeskai Lurrus.

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This deck has seemingly waxed and waned lately, but it is very lean and powerful for sure.

Vintage Challenge 5/28

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

Initiative was the most popular deck here with a solid down the middle win rate overall. Combo Shops did very well as did Breach. Jeskai and Oath did middling, despite Oath having a top finish.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Breach 1st Fantaman95
Combo Shops 2nd Cherryxman
Prison Shops 3rd bless_von
Esper Tinker 4th Butakov
Paradoxical Outcome 5th NathanLipetz
Oath of Druids 6th desolutionist
Initiative 7th BERNASTORRES
Doomsday 8th Tsubasa_Cat

Nice spread of decks here really. Some Tinker, some Shops, some Combo and Initiative. At the end of the event though it was Breach that won the event.

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Very clean list really. This shell can support just about any kill it wants, and having the multiple angles of attack it does is what makes it strong. If you can't beat one of its angles you more than likely lose.

In Second Place we've got Combo Shops.

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This deck continues to be one of the more powerful things to be doing in the current format. It has some of the strongest A and B game plans and can easily win on a dime if it has to. This is just the major deck to keep on your radar when thinking about Vintage.

Also in this Top 8 we have Esper Tinker.

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Empty-Shrine Kannushi as a card that can steal the Initiative from the Initiative decks is super sweet. Digging that kind of metagaming for sure.

Further down the Top 8 we have Oath.

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Atraxa has really cemented itself as the Oath target of choice as of late. It's really strong for sure, and it has an immediate value effect on the board that is hard to ignore how strong its card selection is. Loving that this deck also plays Saga so that it can select that for Enchantment off Atraxa.

Around the Web

The Spice Corner

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

Vintage Merfolk!

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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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