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Vintage 101: The Deathrite Connection

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another Vintage 101! I'm your host Joe Dyer and this week we'll be looking at several of the 4C Planeswalker Control lists that have begun showing up in the format, along with a look at the first Format Challenge of the year!

Just a reminder that this weekend is the Vintage Format Championships, so be on the lookout for many of your favorite Vintage streamers who are qualified to be streaming it. We'll be covering the particulars of this event next week!

A Pile of Deathrites

As had occurred in the Legacy format when Deathrite Shaman was still around, variants of decks had begun appearing utilizing the card in 4C Control shells popularized by Tomas Mar, the famed Czech behind the name Czech Pile. These decks essentially were Blue/Black decks at their core, utilizing Deathrite's ability to fix mana in such a way that it allowed the deck to play all the best spells on color, typically skipping on white. It was not uncommon to see this deck playing some number of Kolaghan's Command and Abrupt Decay alongside Hymn to Tourach and Snapcaster Mage in these decks.

The recent influx of Xerox decks in Vintage have shown that this strategy is pretty viable in Vintage as well, between using Deathrite Shaman as ramp + finisher + mana fixer, but also using Wrenn and Six to fix mana as well.

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Because of the presence of W6, decks in this format unlike the Legacy Czech Pile of old are mostly oriented in RUG colors (due to the fact that Oko, Thief of Crowns also exists) while splashing black for cards like Demonic Tutor and sideboard cards like Abrupt Decay + Assassin's Trophy out of the sideboard. This makes the deck slightly more resilient to locating and casting its mana fixers, but also still being able to operate on a RUG manabase and not have to really cast black spells at all during a game and still win on the back of the Planeswalkers or cards like Dreadhorde Arcanist.

There are a few different variations of these lists running about on Magic Online, so let's look at them here.

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It's worth noting that Svaca is actually the Czech of Czech Pile himself Tomas Mar, so it's no surprise to see him doing well with this kind of deck. It is essentially his bread and butter and the development of the deck shows. Tomas is skilled at developing really solid manabases for these types of decks and this one looks like it hums pretty well, even with the Wasteland effects. This version also focuses more on the Planeswalker cards and utilizing creatures like Snapcaster Mage and Dreadhorde Arcanist for value. As such this is more of a control/midrange deck, utilizing countermagic and strong plays to advance on board.

As noted before, this deck is mainly a RUG based deck really only splashing black for a few cards and Deathrite activations. This makes the overall deck pretty stable in its development.

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This list, on the other hand, is more slanted to a four-color manabase with the presence of Decay/Trophy in the main, in addition to cards like Leovold, Emissary of Trest. This skimps 1 card on the Wasteland+Strip Mine Package, running Mystic Sanctuary in order to abuse that effect with Wrenn and Six and Time Walk. This deck is intending to take more of a control route, using the Planeswalkers as finishers, either by taking infinite turns or drawing ahead of the opponent in raw card advantage.

This version also adopts the usage of cards like The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale post board for decks like Dredge, which are popular right now, whereas Tomas' list focuses on sideboard cards like Tormod's Crypt / Nihil Spellbomb plus main deck Deathrite Shaman to cut Dredge off.

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This deck is similar in construction to Tomas' list in regards to the manabase but it is more a blue/red list splashing green (for W6) and black (for DRS/Vamp Tutor/DT). No Oko in this list is very intriguing and could be chalked up to price of the card still on Magic Online, as it often ends up being one of the best threats these decks can have as both a finisher and control piece. 

The big commonalities of these lists can be distilled down into the three following categories.

Mana Fixing

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At their core, these lists do depend on these cards to form the basis of the ramp and mana fixing of this type of deck. Both of these cards present a different role in how they help advance the game, and both are equally nasty in regards to ending the game. W6 can either form the basis of the Mystic Sanctuary combo or can function with Wasteland + [[Strip Mine] to cut the opponent off mana. Deathrite on the other hand, doubles as graveyard hate, ramp, mana fixing, and game finisher all in one just as it did in Legacy.


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The big draw of playing these kinds of decks is to play busted Planeswalkers that can generally accelerate the game through raw card advantage or end the game on their own. Outside of W6, the singleton Narset is practically required, and Dack plus Oko are also very powerful cards. Oko especially can generate a board state on its own, synergizing with Dack Fayden to steal opponent's Moxen and turn them into Elk.

Blue Suite Spells

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As is common to these types of decks, the basic core of these decks is based around generally restricted blue cards and [[Force of Will]. These and the cantrip suites typically played in these decks are what allow the decks to draw through their decks and generate card advantage.

Vintage Challenge 1/4

Our first Challenge event of the year was this past weekend and is our last Challenge before the Format Championships. There is however a Challenge on the same day as the Championship event this weekend.

Let's see how the Top 8 of this event shook out.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Ravager Shops 1st samsherman
Jeskai Mentor 2nd ChubbyRain (Matt Murray)
Ninjas 3rd IamActuallyLvl1 (Justin Gennari)
Bant Humans 4th Wappla
BUG Midrange 5th Thiim
Ravager Shops 6th Joey_Wheeler
PO Storm 7th White Tsar
Jeskai Arcanist 8th Geekyjackson

This is a wild Top 8, and we'll be getting to that Third Place list in our Spice Corner this week. Outside of that, it was interesting to see the metagame this week. As always our friend Matt Murray provides some great data for us to gawk at.

At the end of it all, it was actually down to Matt himself and samsherman in the finals, with samsherman taking it all down on Ravager Shops.

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This deck is pretty typical of where the Shops decks have been for a while. A lot of what can be attributed to this change in Shops profiting off this week's metagame can actually be attributed to the rise of the 4C Control decks we discussed this week, as they cannot support cards like Force of Vigor easily, which allows Shops some breathing room. Still, solid performance by samsherman so congrats!

In the finals as well as noted before we had Matt Murray on Jeskai Mentor (Yes I know this may say RUG Walkers, I'm working on getting it fixed).

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This list is pretty powerful and leans well on cards like Teferi, Time Raveler which is a very powerful planeswalker. This deck works more on the Mentor angle and doesn't include Dreadhorde Arcanist, which is cool and more traditional of Jeskai lists.

Also in the Top 4, we had a showing by Bant Humans!

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This list is really cool and definitely shows the power of cards like Once Upon a Time in a creature heavy hatebear type deck. Seems really sweet overall.

Also in the Top 8 we have a pretty typical stock PO list by White Tsar.

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This decklist is pretty stock to PO at the moment, so there's not much else to talk about here, but in a metagame that is increasingly attempting to metagame PO out it's great to see that it is still putting up results.

Overall this was an interesting event, so it will be even more interesting to see what happens in the Format Championships next week.

The Spice Corner

Our good friend Justin Gennari gave us all a little spice by managing to Top 4 the Vintage Challenge this past weekend on Vintage... Ninjas?!

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It's also worth noting that Justin not only Top 4'ed with this list but also went 6-0 in the Swiss with it. Congrats Justin!

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Next week we're going to be covering the Vintage Format Championships on Magic Online! This is a fun and prestigious event, so I will be looking forward to seeing who takes the trophy home (and also gets to go to the MTG Player's Tour!). In addition we'll be talking about Theros: Beyond Death and what cards we've seen for Vintage!

As always, you can reach me on Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! My next episode of "The Bazaar of Moxology" is slightly delayed as I settle into this new schedule of two weekly articles and also I've had some issues such as having to have gone to the dentist and gotten a tooth pulled as well. So that's fun. Suffice to say, I will be getting to recording the episode soon.

Until next time, keep casting Moxen!

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