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Vintage 101: The Aftermath

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're kicking back a little to talk about how far we've come this past few years with Vintage. It's no surprise that the past few sets have held a lot of shakeup and change in the format, and I want to take a moment to talk about the history that has led to this point, in addition to talking about the here and now and how Modern Horizons is already affecting Vintage.

In addition we'll be as always discussing the latest Challenge results from Magic Online like we always do!

The Vintage Shakeups

Vintage as a format has for a long time been somewhat immune to Standard set printings, even to the point where the majority of Standard sets (outside of the artifact focused sets) barely impact the format longer term. For years prior to 2014-2015, not much had changed Vintage outside of a scant few printings. However, the very beginning of the shaking up Vintage began at the end of 2014, with the release of Khans of Tarkir and two very important cards:

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Not only were these cards completely meta-warping in Vintage, but they ran rampant through Modern and Legacy during their time as well. The first of these cards to get restricted was Treasure Cruise in January 2015 which was easily regarded as the more broken of the two, however Dig Through Time continued to be extremely good in the format, dominating it in such a fashion that it was restricted alongside Chalice of the Void in September 2015. Like it or not, these cards even in restriction began to shape and change the format in small ways, down to the deck building cycle. This for me, marked the beginning of Wizards of the Coast beginning to really print cards that would see play in the format. In fact, it was the very next set in the Khans of Tarkir block that brought another format-warping card.

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Monastery Mentor warped the format beyond what Dig and Cruise had, remaining one of the most powerful creatures to ever exist within the format. It was over the next two years that despite the blocks for Battle for Zendikar and Shadows Over Innistrad that Vintage would actually see no major metagame shifts, even with the restriction of Lodestone Golem in April of 2016. Wizards attempted to stem the bleeding of the format by placing further restrictions on cards like Gush and Gitaxian Probe before finally giving in to noticing that Monastery Mentor was format-warping in August of 2017 where it was restricted alongside Thorn of Amethyst. For once, Vintage seemed poised to make a shift in a positive direction with Mentor restricted and another blow dealt to Shops. However, Shops would gain a big boost in the next two sets in the Kaladesh block in the form of two cards - Foundry Inspector and Walking Ballista.

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These two cards helped revitalize Shops as a more low to the ground aggressive strategy leading to the powerhouse that is Ravager Shops that dominated the Vintage Meta game for quite some time in addition to the Jeskai Mentor archetype, reducing the format to nothing more than play Shops or play Mentor. It was during this time that an innocuous little card was printed in July of 2017 with the release of Hour of Devastation, but it would be quite some time before anyone realized its full potential.

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Hollow One was available in Vintage for several months before people had begun tinkering with the card in the Survival builds, the majority of that work appearing via one of the deck's highlighted appearances on the Vintage Super League during 2018. I believe that mostly the format was overshadowed by Mentor and Shops during this time and that once Mentor and Thorn were restricted, people began to approach the format in different ways. It was also after these restrictions that a certain four mana blue instant began to be played in decks, but it would take some time for the Paradoxical Outcome shell to be refined.

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The rest of 2017 proved to be relatively lackluster and no real shakeups from Standard printings via the Ixalan block, although the obvious that Search for Azcanta was printed, but panned out to ultimately not be super playable.

The format rode on its own through into 2018 with very little meta shifts outside of the fact that Paradoxical Outcome decks began developing further along with Survival based decks, while Dominaria released two Planeswalkers that saw an amount of play (one of which still sees a fair amount of play).

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Both Teferi and Karn definitely saw a modicum of play, but neither of them was true shakeups in a traditional sense. The rest of 2018 felt much like a renaissance of Vintage, with people trying many different ideas and possibilities. Even Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance didn't provide a huge amount of craziness to the format giving us cards like Creeping Chill and Lavinia, Azorius Renegade, but it was War of the Spark and Modern Horizons that have shaken up the format completely.

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War of the Spark introduced Planeswalkers that had static abilities that affected the game at all times, and at aggressive mana costs that were easy to play. This single-handedly propelled the format into a duel between Karn, the Great Creator and Narset, Parter of Veils, as blue decks playing Narset would cannibalize each other to be able to deal with Narset, while simultaneously being unable to really answer Karn effectively. This progression completely flipped through the release of Modern Horizons as cards like Force of Vigor and Collector Ouphe have proven powerful and very easy to play, giving many decks access to ways of dealing with Shops based decks that have pushed them down a bit.

These two sets, combined with the upcoming adoption of the London Mulligan rule have shaken Vintage up so much that certain decks such as Paradoxical Outcome have become near unplayable (a deck that no more than a few months prior was being called to be restricted because of its power level) and decks like DPS have fallen off the map but have had some resurgence thanks to WAR cards like Bolas's Citadel. Suffice to say, this year has been one of massive changes to Vintage as a format, and these changes have caused a lot of debate and discussion on the health of the format. I do believe that Modern Horizons might have possibly been the best thing for the format overall, as Force of Vigor alone has had such an incredibly powerful impact on the format that for once... Shops based decks are no longer dominating the Meta game. Even as a Shops player myself, it is strange to consider that Shops is actually not dominant, but still a powerful deck and can be beaten on par with other decks in the format. The Karn decks especially going down in Meta share is I feel ultimately a good thing, as it allows for Karn to be a part of the format but not be completely overpowering. If anything this allows traditional Ravager shops to shine over anything else Shops based since creatures are a good way of dealing with cards like Collector Ouphe, an opposing Karn, or a Narset.

With Magic 2020 on the very close horizon, it's interesting to track how we came to this environment, and will be even more interesting to see if Vintage continues to develop in such a fashion that it feels somewhat new. Whether this is a good or bad thing or not, well... that part remains to be seen.

Vintage Challenge 6/15

We had yet another Vintage Challenge on Magic Online and this one proved to be very interesting. Let's dive right into the Top 8, shall we?

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Hogaak Dredge 1st OptionParalysis
BUG Midrange 2nd Shir Kahn
Brass City Vault 3rd CyrusCG (Cyrus Corman-Gill)
Dreadhorde Control 4th BadBrain
Czech Pile 5th Svaca
Welder 6th Aylett
Car Shops 7th Acores88
Ravager Shops 8th Boin

This was a wild Top 8, with an interesting variety of decks displayed. Taking the top spot however, was OptionParalysis on a variant of Dredge that opts to cut things like Force of Will and Mental Misstep, instead looking to play with cards like Force of Vigor and Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis.

I took this list for a whirl myself and it felt very powerful. Hogaak provides an interesting angle of attack for the deck, and Force of Vigor allows the deck to deal with a lot of things main deck. Suffice to say this list was certainly intriguing.

Also showing up in the Top 8 is our good friend CyrusCG (Cyrus Corman-Gill) on the well known "Brass City Vault" deck. This list is similar to the list that Cyrus played at SCG Con, and even in a world of Force of Vigor he pushed on through for a 3rd place showing.

Also appearing in the Top 8 is the infamous Dreadhorde Control, featuring WAR card Dreadhorde Arcanist by BadBrain.

This deck appears to be the real deal, and Dreadhorde Arcanist appears to be very powerful indeed. I expect to see more of this deck going forward.

Also down the list, by Acores88, is a variant of Ravager Shops that's known affectionately as Car Shops, due to the fact that it's playing four copies of the card Fleetwheel Cruiser in it.

Now then, let's take a look at important cards showing up across this event. We'll be looking solely at cards from Modern Horizons and War of the Spark.

Card Name Set Number of Copies
Force of Vigor Modern Horizons 41
Karn, the Great Creator War of the Spark 34
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis Modern Horizons 6
Narset, Parter of Veils War of the Spark 31
Force of Negation Modern Horizons 10
Dreadhorde Arcanist War of the Spark 19
Collector Ouphe Modern Horizons 6
Bazaar Trademage Modern Horizons 1
Plague Engineer Modern Horizons 1
Goblin Engineer Modern Horizons 3
Fiery Islet Modern Horizons 1
Magmatic Sinkhole Modern Horizons 1
Shenanigans Modern Horizons 1
Ashiok, Dream Render War of the Spark 1
Urza, Lord High Artificer Modern Horizons 3

Despite the fact that most of them are a smattering of cards, Modern Horizons has most certainly had an impact on the format, with a stunning 41 copies alone of Force of Vigor across the event's recorded decklists. This is a lot of this card, and it definitely shows that it is having an impact on the format overall. Furthermore, Narset and Karn continue to maintain parity with each other, and of course Dreadhorde Arcanist with 19 copies in the event.

It's going to be interesting tracking these challenges from now on, and of course, we will continue to do so in order to get a good idea of the effect that Modern Horizons is having on the format overall.

The Spice Corner

Our spice this week comes from the Top 8 of the Challenge by user Aylett playing a Goblin Engineer/Goblin Welder based deck with cards such as Sundering Titan and Inkwell Leviathan!

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! This year is proving to be a strangely exciting year for Vintage with all the cards that continue to influence its development as a format. Whether this is good or bad and what will need to be dealt with longer term is unknown, but it is interesting to watch it develop. Next week we're going to be talking about Vintage Planeswalkers, which ones see the most play and what decks play them, and rank them by power level. So get ready, because it's Dack Fayden vs. the World!

As always I am around on Twitter, Twitch, and Patreon if you'd like to support my work. I greatly appreciate any and all support from everyone who has helped me continue to do what I love, which is producing content! And of course, I am always around the MTGGoldfish Discord server if you'd like to chat! I also play other formats, so I'm really thrilled to talk about Magic in general with anyone!

Until next time friends, keep casting Moxen!

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