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Vintage 101: The Art of War


Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're continuing to delve into the world of War of the Spark by talking about the cards that have already shown up in Vintage since the release of the set on Magic Online last weekend.

We're also now winding down to the end of our time with the London Mulligan on Magic Online, with one final challenge under the rule before the old mulligan system is placed back onto MTGO for the time being. Only time will tell as to whether or not this mulligan rule will stick, but from my point of view for Vintage, I'm definitely not a fan of it, given how it has warped the construction of decks like Paradoxical Outcome to take advantage of the rule. Time will tell however.

With that being said, let's talk about a few of the key cards that we identified last week and where they are sitting.

Narset Xerox

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Narset is a card we identified last week and sure enough, our ex-Ojutai Scholar friend came to play in a big way by showing up in not just the weekly Vintage challenge, but being a part of the winning decklist! Narset's power level is very strong, given how powerful Leovold, Emissary of Trest is in the Sultai Midrange decks. This allows this kind of effect to be played in other predominantly blue decks including U/R Pyromancer and Jeskai Mentor without much issue (since UU is pretty easy to make in these decks).

Let's take a look at the list, brought to us by Ryan Eberhart (aka diophan)

Karn, the Great Creator of Stax Things

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Karn, on the other hand, is being tested in a variety of things, but I've been personally working on testing the card in Stax and it's pretty fantastic. Being able to snipe Moxen with the card in addition to wishing for silver bullet cards is pretty powerful. Let's take a look at a list.

This is still rather rough and I'm still playing with numbers on Karn, but so far four seems pretty good. I'm going to keep tuning and updating this as I go along, but I'm pretty excited because it's certainly a lot of fun to play. I streamed with this deck on Monday, going 3-2 in a league where I got to cast Karn and Mycosynth Lattice at least three times through the course of the night. Being able to get cards like Crucible of Worlds in a critical turn is really strong, and I'm pretty happy about the list in general.

Karn also showed up next to his Dominaria incarnation in the Top 8 of the Vintage Challenge, amusingly enough in a Painter's Servant / Grindstone Shops shell.

Saheeli, the Sublime

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Saheeli also showed up in the Top 8 of the Vintage Challenge, in unsurprisingly enough a Paradoxical Outcome shell. In this kind of shell, Saheeli is basically a replacement for Sai, Master Thopterist, except for the fact that she triggers off every noncreature spell and not just artifacts, giving the PO player a much greater ability to gum up the board with Servo tokens.

Ugin, the Cost Reducing

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Surprisingly enough, there was a little Ugin in last weekend's challenge as well. User Saturn chose to build up a cost reducing based Shops manabase deck focused on reducing colorless costs across the board, even to the point of playing cards such as Jhoira's Familiar.

The really spicy inclusions to this deck? Copies of The Chain Veil and Weatherlight as part of the wishboard.

Vintage Challenge 4/27

This particular challenge was the last one with the London Mulligan in effect, giving us essentially three weeks worth of data on the mulligan in Vintage. I personally feel that the mulligan rule is a bit much for Vintage, and I do semi-fear what could happen if it is made official. Regardless of this, let's dive into who made Top 8 of this event!

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
U/R Pyromancer 1st diophan (Ryan Eberhart)
Narset PO 2nd Thepowernine
Sylvan PO 3rd Condescend
Bant Control 4th Nickmembrez
London PO 5th CyrusCG (Cyrus Corman-Gill)
Saheeli PO 6th Micmer
Karn's Paintings 7th UnrestrictBrainstorm
Ravager Shops 8th Nammersquats

Despite the fact that they're all built a little differently, half of the Top 8 of this particular event was Paradoxical Outcome based decks. As one of the decks that gains a lot from the London Mulligan, it's unsurprising that this deck showed up in full force in this event. One such variant, often referred to as London PO or "Draw 7 PO", was played by our good friend Cyrus Corman-Gill where he placed 5th in the event. The Draw 7 PO versions utilize cards such as Timetwister, Wheel of Fortune, and Windfall to minimize the impact of the mulligan process. In short, if you have to mulligan to one of these actions, your mulligan will be in a sense fixed by the Draw 7 effect, and also possibly has the upside of minimizing your opponent's ability to interact.

Outside of the Top 8, many different variants of decks showed up, including both BUG and Bant variants of Survival, Pitch Dredge, Xerox, and even Turbo Depths featuring Chains of Mephistopheles by Lain5893.

In the end of the London Experiment, I am not sure that it has done a great thing for the format. Up until the advent of this mulligan, balance was actually starting to settle pretty well on the format, and people were learning to adapt to PO's presence and how to beat the deck. I feel the London rule accelerated PO's power a little too much, in addition to the power level of decks such as Shops and Shops-based mana decks.

That being said... it was great to see all of the MTGWAR cards in this Top 32 overall. It's insane that a Standard set can have an actual impact on a format such as Vintage, but it happens more often than people consider. WAR in general has a power level that is quite high and it's showing through in these lists. I hope to see more of how WAR will be shaping Vintage for weeks to come.

The Spice Corner

As I mentioned earlier, MTGO user UnrestrictBrainstorm placed 7th on a Shops-based variant playing none other than the Painter's Servant/Grindstone combination, and I just had to share this. It's so spicy!

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have for this week folks! I hope you guys had a great time last weekend with War of the Spark prerelease! This set is a lot of fun and I'm really excited to have it around. It's certainly brought a lot of fun to the eternal formats with new toys to play with and that always excites me.

Next week we'll be starting our prep for our journey to SCG Con in one month. I'll be sharing a little bit on my testing and will possibly have a little video to show of some testing and talking through the motions of playing around with the current incarnation of dredge, Pitch Dredge! Follow along with me as I hash out my list and we talk about matchups and stuff, and of course sideboarding! It's going to be fun! As always, hit me up on Twitter or Twitch!

Until next time folks, have a great weekend!


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