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Vintage 101: The 2020 Vintage Recap

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 looking back at 2020 and how this year impacted the Vintage format, and what we hope to see going forward for 2021. In addition, we've got two events to talk about, one of which is the last Season Three Showcase Challenge event. Of course, we've also always got the Spice Corner.

Without further ado, let's get right to it.

A Look Back at 2020

As we inch closer to the year 2021, I thought it would be interesting to look back on 2020 and see what changes were wrought in the Vintage format. This was a year that much of Vintage's play consisted solely of Magic Online moreso than any other year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic cutting off paper Magic events. Even the typical large Vintage event of the year in Eternal Weekend was moved to online this year, which ended up being a massive success.

Q1 / Q2 2020 - Theros: Beyond Death and a Jaunt into Companion Land

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Q1 / Q2 of 2020 brought about some of the most radical changes to the Vintage format this year, one of which was a very short-lived change. The beginning of the year kicked off with the release of Theros: Beyond Death and primarily the card Underworld Breach, which became quickly banned in Legacy after a month. Breach's initial place in the Vintage format was mostly as a Yawgmoth's Will-like effect for various Xerox strategies that did not play black, such as Jeskai Xerox and RUG Xerox. Eventually the deck would flourish into its own archetype in the format, an archetype that is still performing very well to this day.

Another card that came about as a result of Theros was the card Thassa's Oracle, which revitalized the deck Doomsday and also created a Xerox Combo variant utilizing the card Demonic Consultation. Eventually this technology would simply merge with the Doomsday shell, but for a while it seemed as if Oracle had created its own splinter deck.

Arguably however, the most contentious period of Vintage in 2020 would come with the release of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. The Companion mechanic, which allowed players to utilize an essentially free 8th card in hand at the cost of deck building a specific way and putting the Companion in the deck's sideboard, quickly shot up and took over the format in the form of the card Lurrus of the Dream-Den. Lurrus' ability to rebuy permanents made the line of casting Lotus into Lurrus into rebuying Lotus on Turn One exceptionally powerful, and the deckbuilding restrictions for the card in Vintage were quite easy to manage, as the format tended to often play many CMC two or less permanents anyways (thanks to artifact mana and the like). Companions utterly dominated Vintage during this time, between both Lurrus and Lutri, the Spellchaser. This metagame was extremely polarizing to many players, with some believing the change in the metagame was good and others utterly hating the metagame. The biggest shift for this particular time period was the fact that nearly every deck could very easily play cards like Soul-Guide Lantern in the main deck with Lurrus, which completely pushed out strategies utilizing Bazaar of Baghdad.

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It was also during this time period that the Breach deck finally came into its own thanks to being able to utilize Lurrus' abilities. The shell of the deck would survive even past the banning of Lurrus however, and would utilize another Ikoria card in Sprite Dragon as a cheap scalable threat.

The Companion metagame would not last however as in May the hammer was brought down upon Lurrus of the Dream-Den, banning the card for good from the Vintage format. This was an incredibly interesting decision for Wizards to have made, as it was the first banning in a long time in the format, going back to when the format was still just called Type 1. The only other ban in the "Vintage" format at this time was the card Shahrazad, which was banned for major logistical tournament reasons. Due to the fact that Lurrus' very nature as being a singleton sideboard card based on how the Companion mechanic functioned, restricting the card was essentially impossible, forcing Wizards to make the decision to ban the card.

In June however, the Companion rules themselves received a major update, effectively errata'ing the mechanic at a functional level. Instead of simply being able to cast the Companion from outside of the game during the game, the mechanic was changed to require the player to pay three generic mana to put it into their hand, and only at any time that they could cast a Sorcery spell. While this potentially drastically changes how good Lurrus is in the format, the card as of yet remains banned.

After the death of the Companion metagame, the format shifted around as Bazaar decks rose in prominence once more, Doomsday became much more popular, and things began to settle. Even the release of Core Set 2021 did relatively nothing as the set contained very little for Vintage as a format.

Q3 / Q4 2020 - Vintage Settles Down

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The latter half of 2020 was actually fairly lackluster in regards to dramatic shifts in Vintage's overall metagame. I view this as a good thing, as the format has settled into a push and pull metagame with no clear predator of the format or even a best deck. This part of 2020 saw the release of Zendikar Rising, which didn't really have much in the way for Vintage overall outside of fringe strategies such as Valakut Exploration and Fastbond decks. In addition to that, Modal DFCs boosted some minor things like Academy Belcher and even created an Oops! All Spells variant in Vintage as well.

During this time saw plenty of innovation and understanding of various matchups, as combo decks like Doomsday propelled even further, Bazaar decks shifted once more with Dredge reclaiming its spot as the top Bazaar deck of the format, and Shops even saw a resurgence with Ravager Shops taking down one of the Eternal Weekend events. Overall it seems the metagame has settled into a great period for the format, and many of the comments I see on the current format are exceptionally positive. This period of time also saw the Eternal Weekend events on Magic Online, which were very well attended and considered a positive success. This is largely in part due to the All Access tokens granted to players playing in the events, which for $25 allowed players to get into Vintage for over a week and a half and start to learn the format. The latter half of this year saw plenty of growth in the format as well as many players jumped into the format.

The latter quarter of the year brought us Commander Legends, which gave us new printings for the Vintage format, primarily in the form of the card Hullbreacher, which spawned a sub Xerox archetype of its own meaning to abuse the card.

Looking Ahead to 2021

2020 was certainly a challenging year with very little paper Magic events, but the Vintage community continued to step up their game on Magic Online in lieu of paper events. As we look ahead to 2021, we are on track to Kaldheim and beyond, and hopeful that there is more to come for Vintage. This year has been a wild ride for Vintage still, and has been incredible. I'm definitely looking forward to the next year of Vintage.

Vintage Showcase Challenge 12/5

We had two Challenges this weekend, the first of which was the final Season Three Showcase Challenge event. This feeds from the Top 8 into the Season Three Showcase Qualifier, which then leads into the Pro Tour level type events. We know thanks to the data provided by the Vintage Streamers Discord that this event had 129 players in it, so let's take a look at the overall metagame.

Ravager Shops was a huge portion of the metagame, as was Breach combo variants. Despite this, the overall picture of this metagame looked pretty good. There was a lot of diversity here in all actuality and as a big picture of the format things are actually in a really solid place with the format it seems.

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

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Dredge 1st Laughingrock
Breach 2nd ThePowerNine
Breach 3rd TheDeck84
Hogaak Bazaar 4th Jogee
Ravager Shops 5th WhiTe TsaR
Dredge 6th Kanister
Jeskai Xerox 7th Qbturtle15
Breach 8th Ziofrancone

There was a lot of Bazaar and a lot of Breach in this Top 8, with the finals of the event being decided in the Bazaar vs Breach matchup. The winner of this event was none other than Dredge!

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This is the general setup of most Dredge lists at this point, and I think the biggest tipping point of this list is when Creeping Chill started seeing play, giving the deck a huge amount of reach in addition to their disruption. It's very little surprise to continue seeing Dredge do well, it is certainly one of the best Bazaar strategies in the format right now.

The Second Place finalist in this event is Breach.

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Breach is a solidly powerful strategy with a great amount of flexibility. This variant's secondary game plan is leaning on Monastery Mentor as another win condition, and is coincidentally the only white splash card in the deck outside of the sideboard copy of Wear // Tear.

Also in the Top 8 we had a showing by Ravager Shops.

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This is straightforward and clean aggression, with a powerful game plan. Tangle Wire is really very powerful as a way of putting the opponent in a position of being unable to play through the lock pieces put down by the Shops player. This is a great evolution of the archetype and is very powerful.

Outside of the Top 8 we had a showing by a Jegantha, the Wellspring version of Golos Stax.

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This is a sweet list overall. Tinker / Balance and Ancestral Recall makes this deck really super sweet overall. Everything about this list is really incredibly fun that I just dig the heck out of it.

Vintage Challenge 12/6

The Second Challenge of the weekend was the early morning Sunday Challenge, which had 56 players overall. Let's take a look at the overall metagame breakdown.

The metagame for this event still looked pretty good just as the first event of the weekend, with some very interesting archetypes represented. Breach continued to be represented well, and one interesting thing is the near complete absence of PO in this particular event. PO seems to have been on a real downswing in the metagame as of late, with other combo decks such as Breach and Doomsday on the upswing.

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

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Jeskai Xerox 1st Jenara19
Golos Combo Shops 2nd MurkyBlack11
Ravager Shops 3rd Bennybo
Ravager Shops 4th Mogged
Sharkstill 5th Killersuv
Dredge 6th Aylett
Golos Stax 7th _Shatun_
Hogaak Bazaar 8th MadMaxErnst

This Top 8 is pretty sweet, with a lot of Shops floating around in it between Golos and Ravager, but had some really solid gems in it. At the end of it all, it was none other than Jeskai Xerox that took it all down!

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This deck has a lot of strength and is exceptionally clean and straightforward. Jeskai still remains one of the most popular Xerox variants of all time, as the color combination really lends itself to the notion of "Vintage".

The Second Place list here is the Golos Combo Shops variant.

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This is a combo variant, leaning on multiple card combos between cards like Leyline of the Void and Helm of Obedience as well as Dark Depths and Thespian's Stage. Mirage Mirror doubles as a copy of things like an extra Depths as well as whatever it needs to be. This is a pretty cool list though, and definitely seems strong.

Also in the Top 8 of this event is a Sharkstill list featuring new card Court of Cunning.

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Court of Cunning and Rest in Peace are a really sweet pair of cards to piece together. Being able to mill your opponent's cards into exile seems very strong, and the power of Standstill really makes that plan super good. Protecting the Monarch is trivial in Vintage as is, as often times many creatures are swinging to kill.

Further outside of the Top 8, we had a really wildly interesting deck show up in the form of a Hatebear + Tinker strategy.

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This list is wild. Rick, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, and Luminarch Aspirant?!! The hits keep coming on and on with this deck. I especially appreciate the copy of Kaya, Orzhov Usurper here, as a method of graveyard hate and powerful exile effect versus a plethora of permanents.

Around the Web

  • I forgot to mention this in last week's article, but the Mythic Society is busy plucking away at weekly Vintage Magic Online events now, every Wednesday. You can find out more information over on their Twitter.
  • Our good friend Phil Gallagher is now posting plenty of Vintage videos in addition to his Legacy content, and he just recently posted a video on Vintage Hatebears. Check that out over here.
  • MPL member Kanister posted a great video on the Vintage Showcase Challenge, which you can check out over here.

The Spice Corner

DRS, Elvish Reclaimer, Dark Depths?! Yeah, LANDS.

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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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