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Vintage 101: The Cat is Free!

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 diving into a very cool and interesting Banned and Restricted announcement from this past week. No, nothing got the axe; instead we have an unbanning! Lurrus is free! In addition to that we've got two Challenges from this past weekend to discuss, and of course, our Spice Corner.

Let's get right to it!

The Cat in the Nightmare Hat

This past week saw an interesting and intriguing change to the Vintage format. While not much was expected of the February 15th Banned and Restricted announcement for Vintage purposes, we actually got a bit of an unexpected and relatively pleasant surprise.

That's right. The Cat... is back!

(used with permission by Joseph Stacko on the Vintage Facebook group)

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The last time we saw Lurrus in Vintage, it had completely and utterly warped the format around its very existence to the point where it needed to be banned due to the fact that it was impossible to handle via restrictions. However, very shortly after its banning, the Companion rules were changed so that it cost an addition three mana to put the Companion to hand before being able to cast it. This rules change made many wonder and question whether or not Lurrus would be safe to come off the banned list to see if it would be fine with the new Companion rules.

Personally, I'm fairly excited to see Lurrus come back. The major aspect of Vintage, as noted in the BNR announcement, is to be able to play with nearly every card in the entirety of Magic and having Lurrus on the banned list prevented that, and also prevented us from truly seeing if Lurrus would be overpowered under the new rules.

My personal assessment of the card is that it will definitely be good, but now it will be a choice whether to go this route as a Companion or stick to traditional decks. Furthermore, it also presents an interesting note that it could potentially become a main deck card to run in certain decks as well. That alone makes it rather intriguing.

So what decks could Lurrus become a part of? Well, our good friend Justin Gennari was kind enough to record a video on his thoughts on the subject, which you can find here.

One of the decks that is mostly on the mind of anyone wanting to play with Lurrus is obviously going to be Underworld Breach based decks. After all, Lurrus essentially allowed for the Breach decks to find their build initially, so it's something obvious to return to. MTGO grinder Jacobisboss provided us with a list of what that might look like.

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This variant allows for the usage of cards like Sprite Dragon to act sort of like Monastery Mentor in a sense. Lavinia and Arcanist also provide for a powerful angle of attack as well.

Taking a cue from when Lurrus ran rampant in Legacy is wambocombo2020 with their take on what a Lurrus Miracles list might look like in Vintage.

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The nice thing about this kind of list is that it uses Lurrus as a stabilizing option rather than trying to aggressively get Lurrus into play to recoup value. It can do this at any time while it's maintaining control of the game very easily. Of course the win condition here is pretty much just Entreat the Angels, which is certainly amusing. You could theoretically play a copy of Terminus for certain somewhere, given how powerful it is within the Sensei's Divining Top + Counterbalance lock realm.

Another fun place to consider starting from is in a Hatebears shell. While this deck can't get access to recent all-star Archon of Emeria due to its three CMC cost, it does get access to cards like Spirit of the Labyrinth and Ethersworn Canonist.

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There is also a veritable lock condition for spell-based decks via the combination of Hope of Ghirapur and Lurrus' static ability allowing you to recast cards from the graveyard. You can continuously loop this every turn and your opponent is essentially locked out of casting non-creature spells during their turn. Combine this with a lot of the taxing effects and land destruction, and it's possible your opponent can't interact at all.

Our good friend Phil Gallagher also tackled the Hatebear aspect on 90sMTG with the following list. Instead of playing Lurrus as a Companuion here, he played it in the main deck where it could be used to rebuy various cards and also had multiples in case one was dealt with. Very interesting stuff!

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It might also be worth looking at the various lists from the Lurrus era of Vintage for inspiration. There were certain builds such as the Esper Lavinia variants with Dark Confidant that could still be fairly viable now.

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Outside of playing Cat just to play Cat however, there are some interesting ways of playing the card in order to attack others playing it. Our good friend Brady Iba gives us an example of a deck that has a lot of avenues of dealing with Lurrus in his Anti-Cat Cat BUG Midrange variant.

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With cheap and effective removal, this deck can keep other Cats under control while utilizing itself for the mana advantages provided by the card. Very smart ideas!

Whether or not these various lists makes Lurrus super powerful in the current Vintage format remains to be seen, but for now it's certainly a very interesting place to be in the format. I personally think that Lurrus will simply end up as a choice in deckbuilding, one that isn't taken lightly and not jammed into everything and anything just because, and I like that a lot. It feels correct for it to be just that, a choice, and not forced into playing it, especially when choosing to play it as a Companion.

Ultimately this will be an interesting experience to see how the overall metagame adjusts to this card once more, but all the feedback seems pretty positive on this change. Hopefully if it does become an issue in the main deck they can just restrict it like other cards. Time will tell!

Vintage Octagon 2/11

There was yet another Vintage Octagon held last week by Team Lotus Box. If you aren't familiar with these events, they're a specialized single elimination tournament held occasionally by the folks of Team Lotus Box and are generally organized by Eternal Magic afficionado Anuraag Das. These events are held via MTGMelee and are generally a fair entry fee ($20 + $2 for the MTGMelee fee). Prizing is only to the first and second player as it is single elimination, and the cap for players is eight.

This means these events are very interesting and highly competitive. Let's take a look at the eight players and their standings.

Deck Name Placing Player Name
Dredge 1st Justin Gennari
RUG Midrange 2nd Amir Akhundzadeh
4C Midrange 3rd Kyle Shane
Jeskai Control 4th Sam Rolph
Golos Stax 5th Ally Warfield
4C Midrange 6th ianmarsh
Golos Stax 7th Piper Powell
PO Storm 8th Lydia Aldrich

At bare minimum all four major macro archetypes (Bazaar, Workshop, Blue, Combo) represented here, with Justin Gennari bringing home the bacon on none other than Dredge. This is Justin's second Vintage Octagon win.

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This is a fairly common build of this deck, implementing the technology of Creeping Chill that has become pretty standardized for a while now. Dredge is a solid deck to consider one of these events due to its explosive power and control elements. Way to go Justin on a second Octagon win!

The other finalist to place was Amir Akhundzadeh on RUG Midrange.

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Amir's list is pretty strong as well, leaning on the powerful planeswalkers in these colors (W6, Oko, Dack) as well as enablers like Dreadhorde Arcanist. Managorger Hydra is also pretty powerful, acting a bit as this deck's version of Monastery Mentor.

This is a really super neat event, and you can see all of the decklists from this event on the event page over on MTGMelee. And keep an eye out on the Team Lotus Box MTGMelee Organizer page for more upcoming events of this nature.

Vintage Challenge 2/13

We had two Challenges like always this past weekend, the first of which was the mid afternoon Saturday Challenge, which thanks to data collected by the Vintage Streamer's Discord we know had 91 players in it. Let's dive right into the metagame breakdown.

Dredge is certainly very popular these days as one of the most popular Bazaar shells yet again and holding for quite a while now. This metagame looks really fantastic though. Lot of cool things to be doing here and a lot of interesting and diverse strategies.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Breach 1st s063
BUG Midrange 2nd GGoggles
Golos Stax 3rd pootisgodsamongus
Doomsday 4th thepowernine
Dredge 5th Wizard_2002
Doomsday 6th wambocombo2020
BUG Midrange 7th Montolio
Breach 8th DInglis

Pretty interesting Top 8 with a decent number of archetypes represented here. Breach converted exceptionally well here out of the overall six players on the deck with two players making the Top 8.

In fact the event was won by Breach!

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This is more like a hybrid Jeskai Arcanist / Breach deck, but it's Breach nonetheless. Arcanist definitely seems interesting as a backup plan to the Breach kill and adds a new dimension to an already powerful deck.

The Second Place finalist was BUG Midrange!

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Of big note here is no Mystic Sanctuary in the deck, but hitters such as Brazen Borrower which has floated in and out of these lists from time to time. In addition, there's a Liliana, the Last Hope in the sideboard as well. Very interesting and powerful list for sure. BUG certainly can be built to attack most things.

Inside the Top 8 we have a Third Place list of Golos Stax.

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This is the more Stax+Aggro variant, using Golos as a ramp option mainly that also fetches silver bullet lands. Of note is the basic land in the sideboard to have something to fetch for the purposes of Assassin's Trophy.

Outside of the Top 8 in a highly amusing finish that is worth noting simply because this deck basically doesn't exist after this past week's rules changes to the Cascade mechanic, we have our good friend WingedHussar on a port of the Turbo Tibalt/Valki deck that was tearing up Legacy.

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As noted, this deck no longer functions at all. I don't normally put this kind of stuff in an article if the deck doesn't work but I found this one too utterly amusing to consider. The major reason this doesn't work anymore is because the Cascade mechanic has been changed so that you can no longer cascade into Valki, God of Lies and then be able to cast Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor off of a card like Violent Outburst or Ardent Plea. Still, very amusing that one performed this well in Vintage without any typical Power cards.

Vintage Challenge 2/14

Our second Challenge of the weekend is the early morning Sunday event. There was no data collection for this event, so we only have the Top 32 metagame breakdown to look at. Let's get right to it, shall we?

As is expected in this event, both BUG and Doomsday seem to always be super popular with this particular crowd. Other than that, also a very good looking metagame here. Plenty of diverse things here for sure.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Bant Midrange 1st ktmr-39
Hogaak 2nd noprops
Doomsday 3rd wambocombo2020
Breach 4th fr0z3nsun4
Doomsday 5th discoverN
Oops All Spells 6th iDaveW
BUG Midrange 7th _INF_
Doomsday 8th geekyjackson

Another pretty interesting Top 8, with a fair amount of combo and fair decks. Really not a bad Top 8 at all.

At the end of this event, it was the Bant Archon/Midrange deck that ended up winning the day!

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A random Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath spotted! Every other format's newest banned Elder Titan is good but not exceptionally overpowered in Vintage, so that is pretty cool. Pretty neat to see it here. Also interesting the singleton copy of Display of Dominance in the sideboard.

The Second Place finalist of this event was Hogaak.

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This deck is pretty strong. I like the pair of Assassin's Trophy in the main deck as a solid removal option. We haven't seen too much of this deck lately, so it is cool to see it still able to do well.

Further down the Top 8 we had a showing by Oops All Spells.

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The Vintage version of this deck is definitely geared more towards being blue heavy due to the fact that a lot of the restricted cards are indeed blue, and primarily Tinker is the biggest and best one of that bunch in a deck full of artifact mana. This deck seems incredibly fun and interesting for sure.

Outside of the Top 8 we had a cool showing by Merfolk!

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Thieving Skydiver is such a cool and interesting card for sure. Seems really fun and powerful in a format like Vintage for sure. This list is really neat and I love how quickly it can get on board and provide disruption early.

Around the Web

The Spice Corner

Vintage Humans featuring Realmwalker seems pretty spicy!

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What I'm Playing This Week

I'm likely playing a bit more Legacy this week thanks to the bannings over there, but I definitely try to make time for Vintage. I've been playing the Birgi Burning Wish combo deck that Matt Murray posted some results with and it has been quite fun.

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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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