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Vintage 101: The Curious Tale of the Cat and Breach

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 at how things are shaping up primarily with the unbanning of Lurrus of the Dream-Den, but also how this relates to the card Underworld Breach and where Breach stands currently in Vintage, as well as whether or not action needs to be taken on it. In addition we have two events to talk about from this past weekend including the first Showcase Challenge event since the unbanning of Lurrus. As always, we have a Spice Corner (and maybe a Hulk).

Without further ado, let's dive right into it!

Cat + Breach = Powerful

We're now a few weeks into the Vintage format with Lurrus being unbanned and one thing at least is clear about the presence of the card in the format and it's that the sky definitely isn't falling. In fact, the card has been just fine for the current Vintage climate, and things seem to be settling around the fact that Lurrus is good in a few archetypes as a Companion, and is also just fine as a main deck card in certain archetypes.

The biggest archetype that Lurrus has had the most impact on is, of course, the Underworld Breach deck.

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It fits a lot that Lurrus returns to Breach, as Lurrus was indeed what really started Breach as an archetype. Prior to Lurrus' original release and subsequent banning, Breach only saw a fair amount of play as 1-2 of copies in various Control decks. Lurrus really solidified the Breach Control/Combo deck, giving it a true identity. Even after Lurrus was banned, the deck stayed fairly consistent with just the ability to cast three drops (mainly Dack Fayden).

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(One of these is a Nightmare, the other is a Ghost. Too soon!)

Flash forward to now, with Lurrus unbanned. The Breach decks have moved back to adopting the Cat, but it's not the Cat that is the real ultimate issue behind Breach as a deck. It's Breach. Upon its original printing there was a lot of discussion on the power level of Breach as a card and I do believe we are finally starting to see the reality of how good the card really is in Vintage. The effect that Breach gives to a deck is comparable on par with a card like Yawgmoth's Will (given that the two cards share a lot of similarities) but takes that comparison to a greater extreme by being able to abuse the fact that the spells cast are not exiled and that it can be used as both a value card and as a combo finish kill very easily. With Lurrus, it makes the card even more exceptionally abusable as a value card that can be freely cast and then recurred with Lurrus later on to kick start a combo turn.

So the question really comes down to which is more problematic, and I think longer term the answer is most assuredly Underworld Breach. Is this card restrictable though? Well, that I'm less sure of. Breach is certainly powerful, but the metagame is currently swingy enough that there are a lot of decks able to do well, and the presence of decks playing Archon of Emeria as well is a powerful speed bump. Furthermore, BUG Midrange continues to be exceptionally popular and packs a lot of powerful cards to beat Breach decks. So I don't believe that we are at that point yet where Breach needs a restriction to keep it in check, but I definitely can see how Breach has worked its way into becoming one of the best and most popular combo decks in the format, outside of decks like Doomsday. It has even managed to position itself into certain PO lists as a supplemental effect in PO. Mainly this is because the kill condition of Breach's combo is so incredibly compact (Lotus, Brain Freeze, way to win either via Freeze or Bolt).

It's a curious thing to consider but I do think that the format will be able to absorb and handle Breach as it has continued to do as of late. The card is certainly very powerful but I believe that it is something that Vintage can handle. Whether or not it can continue to handle both Cat and Breach is another story, but I also don't think that they should ban Lurrus again either, since it seems like the format has not really suffered with Lurrus back in it, and Lurrus has created some interesting counterplay now with its presence in decks and has provided some interesting choices in deckbuilding.

As always, I am going to continue to keep track of how things look in the overall metagame and continue reporting on what we are seeing in events.

A Note About Bugs

One thing I wanted to note about lately is that there is one software bug that directly impacts Vintage play right now on Magic Online and that is a bug concerning interactions involving Grafdigger's Cage, mainly appearing in regards to matches containing Oath of Druids. The bug takes shape in the fact that Cage is not preventing the Oath player from putting a card into play when in all reality it should be preventing it (since the creature has not changed zones from the library during the Oath trigger).

This bug has been going on for a little while now, but I wanted to make note of it because it seems there are players on Magic Online that are taking advantage of the bug to win games with. If you run into one of these, please make sure you are reporting this to Magic Online support as well as filing the bug report. The more people that report this kind of bug the more hits on it and it will need to get corrected.

I myself have reached out to try to talk to the Magic Online folks to see about whether or not there is an ETA on this fix. Currently based on their response, there is a fix in the works but no ETA, so here's hoping it gets fixed soon!

Vintage Showcase Challenge 3/6

This past weekend had two Challenges like normal, but the Saturday Challenge was the second Showcase Challenge event of Season One. For those unaware, Showcase Challenges are events that feed into the Showcase Qualifier at the end of the season, with the Top 8 of this event qualifying for the Showcase Qualifier. This feeds eventually into one of the MOCS events or Arena Championships (so is in a sense a way to to qualify for a Pro Tour level event). Because of this, these events are entered with Qualification Points (QPs) only. You can find all the Top 32 decklists for this event right here.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Vintage Streamer's Discord, we know that this particular event had 145 players in it, and we have a full breakdown of the metagame here, so let's dive right into it.

It is certainly no surprise to see BUG as the most played archetype of the entire event, but it is quite staggering to see the lead it has over even Lurrus Breach decks at 10 decks over. BUG has a lot of play patterns that make it ultimately very attractive for players, especially players newer to the format that may already be able to grok some of its play patterns from playing similar decks in other formats. It's a deck that really ekes out consistency and people really like it for that. Outside of that, Lurrus Breach is above the other decks here, but there's plenty of diversity among the decks with numbers higher than five decks, which is great to see.

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

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Doomsday 1st Enrichetta
Lurrus Breach 2nd ziofrancone
Golos Stax 3rd LORiWWA
Doomsday 4th Diem4x
Jeskai Control 5th SenpaiBlank
Doomsday 6th MaxMagicer
BantMidrange 7th IfHeDiesHeDies
BUG Midrange 8th Montolio

Despite Breach being exceptionally popular in this event, Doomsday converted a lot more pilots into the Top 8. Really this isn't too bad though, just the only thing missing from this cadre of decks is a Bazaar deck really, so I'm not upset. Doomsday definitely has its fans and the deck is powerful as the other big combo deck of the format now it seems. And it was indeed Doomsday that took down the entire event, piloted by Enrichetta.

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There's certainly a few flex spots within the Doomsday lists these days, but I definitely always tend to see some repeated things in the lists, such as the presence of Portent and Mystical Dispute. This particular list is also running two Daze which seems pretty powerful in general as a protection card. In addition, the Library of Alexandria in the sideboard is a super interesting decision, but I definitely get it for matchups where card advantage really matters.

The Second Place finalist of this event was Lurrus Breach.

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Thought Scour is a super cool inclusion here as another self mill option. Sprite Dragon is basically the Monastery Mentor of the Lurrus builds, and is a very powerful win condition that can win the same turn you combo off with Breach without having to Time Walk because of it having haste. Soul-Guide Lantern is also very strong with Lurrus by being able to rebuy it every turn no matter what you're cracking it for (either to draw a card or to exile graveyards).

Also in the Top 8 of this event we had Golos Stax.

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The biggest interesting thing here is that this list trims back down on main deck things like Spyglass and Cage, now granted main deck Cages could definitely be due to the bug for sure. It's also worth noting the fact that there are four Ghost Quarter in the main deck, which seems incredibly strong against a lot of decks like other Workshops decks and Bazaar decks. With that, Strip Mine and four Wasteland this deck really has a lot of ways to slow down the opponent on lands for sure, which plays well into its game plan of making it hard for the opponent to cast spells.

Outside of the Top 8 and down the Top 32 we had a cool showing by a neat PO deck playing both Emry, Lurker of the Loch and Hullbreacher by Fnoop.

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Including Echo of Eons here is pretty sweet in addition to to Timetwister as a wheel effect to abuse either Narset or Hullbreacher with. Sort of surprised at no Lion's Eye Diamond as a single restricted copy to have as an extra pickup to PO but also to combo with Echo. Still, really solid and interesting list overall.

Further down the Top 32 we had a sweet Hatebears list.

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Judge's Familiar oh yeah! Judgebird is a super sweet card. In addition to that, this deck also has white Pauper staple Benevolent Bodyguard which is really interesting, since it can help protect things like your Archon of Emeria. In addition, this deck is not actually splashing red, it just has Spirit Guides as an additional mana ramp option to ensure a powerful Turn 1 play.

Vintage Challenge 3/7

Our second Challenge event of the weekend was a normal Challenge, and was the early morning Sunday event. We know from the data collection that this event had 50 players in it. You can find all the Top 32 decklists for this event here. Now let's dive right into the metagame breakdown!

As in the Showcase event, BUG was very popular here too. The deck definitely did much better here in regards to Top 8 performance however, given the structure of the Top 8. Let's take a look.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
BUG Midrange 1st albertoSD
BUG Midrange 2nd HJ_Kaiser
Ravager Shops 3rd Mogged
4C Midrange 4th Dazai
Doomsday 5th ScreenwriterNY
Lurrus Breach 6th Yamaro
Bant Midrange 7th Nerdkneereape
Doomsday 8th discoverN

BUG rose to the top of this Top 8 in a definite slugfest between Leovolds and Deathrite Shamans, while the rest of the Top 8 was combo and other midrange options, sprinkled with a light dash of Shops. As noted before it was two BUG variants that were in the finals. Let's look at both lists.

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Both of these lists are pretty close to each other, but the winning list definitely has a lot more creature threats and also a strong clock in the form of the single True-Name Nemesis. The singleton Baleful Strix is also super interesting to see, as well as Brazen Borrower. For the most part, though these decks are pretty much identical in a lot of places. As I've noted before in other articles, these decks are more on Abrupt Decay as of late over Assassin's Trophy since Decay cleanly answers not only Lurrus but also Underworld Breach.

Also in the Top 8 of this event, we have Ravager Shops.

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Fleetwheel Cruiser continues to go BEEP BEEP in these decks, continually proving how good it is. What struck me as interesting in this list was the Mental Misstep in the sideboard, and cards like Chief of the Foundry and Traxos, Scourge of Kroog for a more aggressive slanted type strategy.

Outside of the Top 8 and down the Top 32, we had a fun 4-2 showing by what we can only describe as Mill or Turbo Crabs.

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Having both Hedron Crab and Ruin Crab is kind of wild, and then putting that all into a shell with normal blue cards is super amusing. Also, there's four Archive Trap in this deck, so just wow. Lots of really amusing things going on in this list for sure.

Further down the Top 32 we have Merfolk, featuring not only Thieving Skydiver, but also Hullbreacher and NINJAS.

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Ninja of the Deep Hours and Sakashima's Student is honestly super cool with the merfolk that give Islandwalk because in the cases where there is an Island to make them unblockable you are basically given a free opportunity to ninjutsu in card draw. There is a light black splash here in the sideboard for a single Opposition Agent but that seems pretty fine given how strong that card is. Seriously fun and interesting-looking list for sure.

Around the Web

  • In one that I'm never going to live down because it's kept slipping my mind, but I want to point out that the two-part Episode 100 Centennial Celebration of So Many Insane Plays is live and available for listening over on MTGCast. This is a really solid milestone, so big congrats to both Stephen Menendian and Kevin Cron for getting to this point! Strap in though, it's long!
  • Brian Coval going undefeated with some Golos Shops action! Check it out here.
  • Our good friend Justin Gennari asking the hard questions like: Is Showdown of the Skalds a Vintage card? Check it out here.
  • Doomsday Cat?!

The Spice Corner

Our good friend Matt Murray definitely putting the "Spice" in Spice Corner with Showdown of the Skalds. Really cool deck this is for sure.

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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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