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Vintage 101: The 2020 Vintage Mailbag


Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're looking at user questions from the mailbag! In addition to this, we've got three events to talk about this week in the Vintage Season Three Showcase Qualifier event plus the two Challenges from last weekend.

So let's dive right into it!

The EOY 2020 Mailbag

Last month I put out a call on Twitter to submit questions for the EOY mailbag article. I got a few questions this year, but they were some good ones! Let's take a look at what the readers sent in!

Question #1

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I actually have two answers for this one!

For me, I think it was actually Shark Typhoon because of how well it revitalized people's interests in Landstill variants. Obviously on the surface it looked like a cool card, but it wasn't until people really started playing it did they figure out how well it complemented the strategy of Standstill.

My other choice here for this question is Sprite Dragon, as the card received a lot of contentious questions about where it might fit and what decks wanted it, and a lot of comparisons to Stormchaser Mage. It turns out that the little Dragon ended up being very playable, mainly at the beginning of the Lurrus metagame because of how well it fit into the Breach decks at that time but also saw continued play after Lurrus was banned because of how powerful a flying/haste Managorger Hydra-like card really was.

Question #2

I think there are a few factors to this type of question. The biggest is still the fact that there's a lack of understanding to the gameplay of the format, and the stigma that games end so quickly that the average player that may be considering playing is immediately put on the fence over it. Vintage is most assuredly one of the most intimidating formats from a gameplay standpoint as it has quite a learning curve to understand and get the basics of the format. This can be a lot for players newer to the format overall. Furthermore, Vintage as a format still has an association with the cost of the format, despite the fact that the format is incredibly accessible from a price standpoint (in some cases even less expensive than Modern) on Magic Online and the fact that rental services exist. The format for the longest time has carried with it the association of "Well it's Vintage, so they must be wearing monocles and top hats and planning world domination (which I assure you, we were doing anyways) so it can't possibly be a thing I'd be interested in" and the key in approaching those players is breaking open that association and showing people that it is possible to play the format in an accessible fashion. I think Wizards did a great job with this during 2020 with all of the various "All Access" events like GenCon/PAX and Eternal Weekend, by allowing players to get into the format for even a short time for a very low price point.

Another issue at hand in this is the stigma typically associated with Magic Online. While MTGO is not an absolutely perfect piece of software, it does indeed get the job done when it comes to playing these older formats.

This is certainly an intriguing thing to have witnessed this year. One of the biggest stories of 2020 has been the fact that Survival, despite having established itself over 2018 into 2019, had largely disappeared from the metagame until Hollow Vine came around. Hollow Vine was essentially the spiritual successor to the Survival decks, but took the archetype more into a Tempo Control style deck (think like Legacy's RUG Delver, etc.) instead of as a toolbox deck. I think it was only a matter of time before this occurred and someone put together the pieces to make it work. One of the biggest was obviously the printing of Once Upon a Time. Beyond that, I think the rise of decks like Hogaak and Horror One came out of the metagame's responses to the existence of Hollow Vine. It was very clear that the Hogaak Bazaar based decks were attempting to answer some of the weaknesses of Hollow Vine, namely The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale by providing a deck that had a bit more of a stable manabase and a bit more resilience while still having some pitch spells to throw at the opponent (Force of Vigor).

The real interesting piece of the whole Bazaar archetype this year has been in the fact that these decks all rose up, had their time in the sun for a brief while, and then faded into the format as just another part of the format while Dredge (the OG Bazaar deck), almost nearly having been pushed back down by the other variants, crawled its way out of the graveyard and became one of the best Bazaar strategies in the format once more. I attribute a lot of this to deckbuilding decisions, such as playing cards like Creeping Chill which gave Dredge far more reach, as well as other decks in the format having to attack the other Bazaar variants specifically with Tabernacle and Dredge having a fairly strong game plan against that (with things like Ichorid, but also Wasteland+Strip Mine).

The careful back and forth of the Bazaar variants is among one of the most interesting things to have watched all year, and I think it really made 2020 interesting in that regards.

I think the issue with the budget decks is that while they are certainly able to compete, I think they only have a real presence in the paper events where there is an incentive to play them (much like how Eternal Weekend gives out Budget prizes to the best "Budget" decks), whereas on Magic Online the price of Power has gone down so much that it's pretty easy to own a set for playing events. This leads me to believe that as long as Power and cards like duals/etc. are cheap that "Budget" decks will never really truly exist on Magic Online, because even the lowest rental services can rent Power out quite easily.

At paper events however, I do believe it is interesting to see these kinds of decks especially those playing without Power.

Putting the Wrap on the Mailbag

Well, that is all the questions we got for this year, but they were great questions overall! Thanks to everyone who sent them in, and I'll see you folks next year with the mailbag!

Vintage Showcase Qualifier Season Three 12/19

This past weekend was the culmination of the Season Three Premier Play on Magic Online, with the Season Three Vintage Showcase Qualifier. This event was an invitation only event, with its players comprised of those that had made Top 8s in the Season Three Showcase Challenge events (as well as any who placed via Last Chance Qualifier events). As such there was only 25 players for this event. Thanks to the Vintage Streamer's Discord we had the full 25 player metagame for this event, so let's take a look.

Breach decks overwhelmingly dominated the 25 player metagame from a popularity standpoint, but in all reality the deck didn't do so well in converting to the Top 8 of the event. There was a smattering of other interesting decks and pretty solid representations of most typical Vintage archetypes here however.

Now let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
DPS 1st Fnoop
Dredge 2nd kanister
Jeskai Xerox 3rd achillies27
BUG Midrange 4th Ziofrancone
Golos Combo Shops 5th IamActuallyLvl1
Horror One 6th KenjiTS
White Eldrazi 7th GGoggles
Jeskai Xerox 8th qbturtle15

The Top 8 of this event is actually pretty sweet. I dig it. There's not a crazy amount of over dominance here of any one deck, and there's a solid variance to the archetypes represented here. Unfortunately, because Wizards has yet to publish the lists for these, I only have the finalist lists because they were posted on Twitter. At the end of the event it was DPS in the hands of Fnoop who took it all down.

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This list is sweet. I dig the concept of having more than one copy of Bolas's Citadel, since DPS can reasonably hard cast the card via Ritual spells. Other than that, this is a pretty lean and interesting list, and it's also cool to see a return to Library of Alexandria. Fnoop gets to go on to play in the MOCS/Arena Championships so he basically just qualified for a Pro Tour playing Vintage, and that's super cool!

The Second Place finalist was none other than MPL member Kanister on Dredge.

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This is a pretty interesting list. I like the idea of slotting in Bloodghast and Dakmor Salvage here to enable those, as well as Noxious Revival. This is definitely an intriguing list.

As the rest of the event was not published, I'm sure that there are ways to reach out to some of these players through the Vintage Streamer's Discord to find out their lists and information about the event. I know for a fact that our good friend Justin Gennari posted his lists and a video recap of his event which is linked below in the "Around the Web" section of this article.

Vintage Challenge 12/19

We had two Challenges this weekend in addition to the Showcase Qualifier, the first of which is our normal afternoon Saturday event. Thanks to the Vintage Streamer's Discord and their data we know that there were about 62 players for this event. Let's take a look at the metagame breakdown.

Again, Breach seems as if it has become to most popular combo deck in the format, even pushing PO down to relative obscurity (which in of itself is wild to consider). In addition, both Dredge and Jeskai Xerox were relatively populous in the event, as was the Golos Stax variants of Shops.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Hullbreacher Xerox 1st Phill_Hellmuth
Hogaak Bazaar 2nd federusher
BUG Midrange 3rd 1yo2yo
Golos Combo Shops 4th Slasher21
Jeskai Xerox 5th hodortimebaby
Jeskai Xerox 6th SenpaiBlank
Golos Stax 7th knightcomplex
Golos Stax 8th stonepeanut

Holy Golos, Batman! Lots of the five mana Legendary here in this Top 8, supplemented with plenty of Jeskai Xerox and a small smattering of other things. However, it was the Grixis Hullbreacher deck that took down the entire event.

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This deck is supplementing the Hullbreacher plan with cards like Urza, Lord High Artificer over the typical Tinker target of Sphinx of the Steel Wind (which the Tinker target mainly ends up being Bolas's Citadel). I like Urza a lot here because it works so incredibly well with Hullbreacher by basically functionally making Mox Sapphires for the deck to use without having to sacrifice them. This enables Urza's ability very well. This is certainly a fun and interesting list.

In Second Place we have Hogaak Bazaar.

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I find the presence of an Overgrown Tomb here incredibly interesting and have to wonder how much a fifth copy of a Bayou is really needed in this deck, but it's certainly intriguing to think about. Another thing worth noting is the complete lack of cards like Cabal Therapy but I think that's actually just fine. Certainly an interesting list all around.

Down the Top 8 we had a Golos showing that wasn't the typical Stax variant, and was instead the Combo variant.

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This is the combo version of this deck, aiming to set up game-winning combos off of cards like Leyline of the Void + Helm of Obedience, as well as the Dark Depths combo. I like this version a lot as it seems relatively interesting and reminds me a lot of old school Two-Card Monte variants.

Outside of the Top 8 we had a fun showing by our good friend WingedHussar in a Belcher deck with Zirda, the Dawnwaker as the Companion.

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This deck is SWEET. It's definitely making great use of the MDFC land in Sea Gate Restoration which allows the deck to operate solely on artifact mana sources but still be able to play a land that isn't a land in the deck for the purposes of Goblin Charbelcher. I'm only a little surprised to not see a copy of Basalt Monolith for Zirda to just go infinite with, but I think it probably works out just fine as is with Grim Monolith (I've just found that it takes longer with Grim than Basalt to generate the mana).

Also further down we had a sweet Grixis Painter Two Card-Monte variant.

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This is generally what I think of when I think of classic Two-Card Monte decks, with the Painter combo plus the Helm/Leyline combo. This is a super fun deck and has some interesting game play to it for sure.

Vintage Challenge 12/20

Our other Challenge event of the weekend was the early morning Sunday event. Unfortunately, it seems as if there was nobody available to collect data for this event, so we only have the data published by Wizards in the Top 32. Let's take a look at that.

Again, Breach seems to be the more popular of combo decks as of late, but the early crowd on Sundays almost always has a few stalwart Doomsday players that play in these events, so it always puts up some population as well. This was certainly a neat event though, with some unique and interesting decks represented in it.

Now let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Breach 1st Condescend
Ravager Shops 2nd Mogged
Oath of Druids 3rd pablohotdog
Breach 4th swengen
Jeskai Xerox 5th ReneRandrup
DPS 6th _INF_
Ravager Shops 7th Montolio
Blue Shops 8th ManBoyChild

Shops was certainly also a big part of this Top 8, but more in the Aggro/Ravager style than Golos. However, there was a cool Blue Workshops variant here as well. However, it was none other than Breach that took the entire event down!

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This has become pretty common for the Breach variants now to minorly splash white for Mentor and Wear // Tear. It's a powerful sub win condition to have Mentor in Game 1 where you might not represent to your opponent that you're a Breach deck and can kill them with Mentor instead.

The Second Place list here is Ravager Shops.

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This list is much more aggressively slanted thanks to cards like Chief of the Foundry. Traxos, Scourge of Kroog is also incredibly aggressive. It is certainly interesting that there's no Stonecoil Serpent, but there are a pair of Beep Beeps (Fleetwheel Cruiser) to have to slam damage through when necessary.

Also inside the Top 8 we have a showing by Oath!

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The biggest thing here is the fact that we have both Emrakul and Blightsteel as targets, with Dragon Breath. This is commonly referred to as Golden Gun Oath in some circles, as most of the time it's big Oath threat is going to enter and trigger Dragon Breath and be able to swing with haste immediately, usually ending the game. There's also a Court of Cunning in the main deck which is superbly interesting.

Outside of the Top 8 further down we have repeat spice monger Surv on a sweet Mardu Humans deck.

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This deck is much like the Jeskai variant that Surv played as well, but Mardu lends itself to having spells like Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor. The presence of Hide // Seek is also exceptionally interesting, being able to remove a win condition or to deal with a threat like a Bolas's Citadel or Blightsteel Colossus.

Around the Web

  • A video on Mardu Humans appears! Check it out here.
  • Our good friend Justin Gennari posted a recap of his Season Three Showcase Qualifier event. Check that out over here.
  • Justin also posted a Prelim video on Vintage GOBLINS. Be sure to check that out here.

The Spice Corner

Speaking of Goblins, while the 5-0 hasn't been posted just yet, our good friend Eli Goings (aka GoblinLackey1) posted a sweet list for Vintage Goblins.

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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 Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! In addition you can always reach me on the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the Vintage Streamers Discord.

Until next time!



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