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Vintage 101: The Eternal Weekend Shufflin'


Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're wrapping up the biggest paper sanctioned Vintage event of the year! That's right folks! It's time for US Eternal Weekend's US National Vintage Championships! Roughly 381 players showed up in Pittsburgh this past weekend to throw down with some of the best Magic ever seen on camera. Vintage is amazing, and it was awesome to see some of the greatest Vintage players on camera, from Rich Shay to Andy "Montolio" Markiton, to greats like the So Many Insane Plays crew to Matt Sperling just killing it.

Before we get into this, I just want to say thanks to Reddit user /r/Dissident_Mage, who was able to furnish me some pictures of the event. Much thanks to you for doing this for me, since I was unable to make it myself!

Without further ado, let's get into the meat of things, shall we?

US Vintage Championships Top 8

At the end of ten rounds, the Top 8 of this event looked nothing short of amazing. Compared to last year's Top 8, this is one of the most diverse Top 8's in quite a while.

Vintage Champs Top 8 Breakdown

An equal share of Shops and Paradoxical Mentor at two copies each, it was the other half of this Top 8 that turned some heads. Matt Sperling's performance on Pyromancer Control was nothing short of amazing during the Swiss rounds, while old school favorites like Landstill and Grixis Thieves popped up in addition to one copy of the format's newest toolbox build in Survival.

At the end of the Top 8, it was Pittsburgh Hometown Hero Brian Coval who took home the coveted Time Walk trophy on Paradoxical Mentor!

Brian's list is fairly standard fare for the Paradoxical Mentor / Storm archetype, with Coval opting for the game plan of Tendrils of Agony over either Time Vault/Voltaic Key or Tinker + Blightsteel Colossus with Monastery Mentor as a solid plan as well. With Main deck Hurkyl's Recall and Repeal, this list seems pretty well positioned versus decks like Ravager Shops and Survival. One very interesting thing about Brian was his response to the health of the current format, in which he proclaimed that it feels nice that there's a blue deck that can hang with Shops, but he does think that Mental Misstep should be restricted.

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Also appearing in the Top 8, Pyromancer Control helmed by none other than Matt Sperling!

Matt's deck looks simply powerful, full of synergy to abuse Young Pyromancer with but also a full four Dack Fayden (which can be absolutely devastating versus decks that rely on cards like Moxen such as Paradoxical Outcome). When asked about his deck selection for the weekend, Matt responded that he really liked his Paradoxical Outcome matchup, which influenced his selection of Pyromancer Control.

Matt also brought up an interesting point which we will discuss later on, which is his belief that Collector's Edition (CE) and International Edition (IE) cards should be allowed for play in Vintage.

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Moving on down the Top 8 line, we have the indomitable Doctor Rich Shay from Norwood, Massachusetts in what was his FIFTH Vintage Championships Top 8 finish, on none other than his most comfortable of decks: Ravager Shops!

It was great to see Rich on camera throughout the day on Friday for the Swiss rounds, as it is always a joy to watch him play Magic. Rich's play is always methodical and well paced, and I was really hoping myself personally that this year was going to be the year he would take down the entire thing given that it was his fifth time being in the Top 8 of this event. Alas, this did not happen, but I still am really happy to see Rich (who is an incredible person through and through) make it to the Top 8 again. One interesting thing to note, and something I am looking forward to discussing in a future article with Rich is his thoughts on the health of the format. He mentions in his response a bevy of restrictions, including Paradoxical Outcome, Sphere of Resistance, Preordain, Mental Misstep, and even cards like Narcomoeba and Golgari Grave-Troll. He further comments that while Vintage feels "balanced" the actual gameplay of the games is fairly unhealthy.

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Last but not least in our Top 8, we have one of the newer decks to pop up in Vintage this year, a deck we've talked about to some extent over several articles here. Survival of the Fittest, helmed by Marshall Arthurs!

Marshall mentions in his Top 8 profile that he hadn't quite taken Survival seriously because of how much of a pile it appeared to be on paper, but then after building and testing the deck through Magic Online he realized how powerful the deck really was and opted to play it over a blue deck at Eternal Weekend. Boasting Main deck Stony Silence and Thorn of Amethyst with powerful creatures like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, it was awesome to see the power of this deck on camera over the weekend. It certainly looked like a blast to play and even Marshall himself said: "I have Noble Hierarch and no Force of Will in my deck and thought I was the one doing the busted stuff all weekend."

Beyond the Top 8

Beyond the Top 8 of the event, there were some solid gems mixed into the fray of Vintage players, from awesome folk such as Stephen Menendian in 22nd to the ever amazing Jason Jaco in 28th. One such list that stuck out to me because I was able to get my hands on it after the event was from Cyrus Corman-Gill in 23rd, who opted to play Dark Petition Storm (DPS) in a format that is seemingly ruled by the card Paradoxical Outcome. Let's take a look at his list, shall we?

Cyrus' deck is great, and it warms my heart to see someone piloting a [Dark Ritual]] based Storm deck right now. Cyrus came exceedingly close to making Top 8 in Round 10 narrowly missing out on a win-and-in. Regardless of this, it's exciting to see a much more traditional Storm deck doing well when everyone else is high on cards like Paradoxical Outcome. Cyrus is well known for piloting Storm combo decks (given that he made Top 8 of Legacy Champs on Ad Nauseam Tendrils (ANT)) so it was no surprise to see him do well here.

We had a great opportunity to sit down with Cyrus and get his thoughts on the format, on DPS, and on his event in general.

So, first things first, introduce yourself and tell us how you got into the Vintage format.

Hi! I’m CyrusCG and I’m a Storm specialist. I mostly play Legacy, but dabble in Modern and Vintage when a larger event for either format is coming up. I loved watching Reid Duke play DPS and started playing a lot more Vintage after Yawgmoth’s Bargain was unrestricted. I also stream Storm at twitch.tv/cyruscg

Going into Eternal Weekend, you had made the active decision to play DPS, a deck that has had a hard time lately competing thanks to Paradoxical Outcome. What drove that decision to play DPS?

Well, I tested three decks. Dark Petition Storm, Dredge, and Paradoxical Outcome. I thought DPS was the worst choice of the three, mostly because of its weakness to PO, but still went with it because I had the most familiarity with it and I wanted to cast Dark Ritual. Most importantly, DPS has the most skulls of any Vintage deck, and skulls are powerful.

On a more serious note, the Storm hate in the format has shifted towards more Null Rod and Pyroblast effects and away from Flusterstorms and Mindbreak Traps. DPS is able to easily overpower these cards by being a black based Ritual deck. In addition, by being a R\rogue deck, you get a huge edge from people not understanding how to play against DPS. All weekend I had people letting Dark Ritual resolve while holding Mental Misstep and locking themselves out with their own Null Rod while I cast Dark Ritual and killed them. In our testing, DPS was pretty heavily favored against every deck that wasn’t PO, and I felt I had a solid list and sb plan.


For a moment there it almost seemed that you were going to make the Vintage Top 8. If you had, how did you feel about the rest of the Top 8 in regards to your matchups there? How does DPS stack up against those decks?

Yeah, I was the top seed going into round 7 and needed to win half of my last 4 matches to Top 8 but fell a match short.

The two PO decks were bad matchups for me, and Cosmo’s Grixis Thieves deck is what I lost to for my win and in. Other than that, I think DPS was heavily favored against the other 5 decks in the Top 8. Defense Grid is very good against fair blue deck and having as many initial mana sources and Hurkyl’s Recalls as I did makes the Shops matchup very favored.


What are your thoughts on the Survival deck?

I have not been impressed with it. There is already a broken Bazaar of Baghdad deck, and anytime my opponent goes turn 1 Bazaar and then puts multiple Basking Rootwallas into play rather than discarding some dredgers I am relieved.

That being said, the deck is putting up results that I can’t deny. I understand it has some good matchups and it’s a very cool deck.

 

There was a lot of chatter from the Top 8 about the health of the format. What are your current thoughts on the health of Vintage, and what do you think needs changed?

The pillars of the format are supposed to be Bazaar of Baghdad, Mishra’s Workshop, Dark Ritual, Mana Drain, and Null Rod.

Right now, I don’t think Dark Ritual or Mana Drain are viable strategies. It feels that they have been replaced by Paradoxical Outcome and Mental Misstep.

Although I don’t know that Paradoxical Outcome is too good, it is certainly unfun to play against and format warping. The fact that a deck like Shops made entirely of artifacts with activated abilities is playing multiple Null Rod speaks to this.

I would like to see Paradoxical Outcome, Mental Misstep, Sphere of Resistance, and Hollow One be restricted. Obviously I am biased as a Dark Ritual player but I think that PO and Misstep are unhealthy cards for the format. If they go, Shops is likely too powerful so I like restricting Sphere. Finally, I think that Hollow One makes the Bazaar of Baghdad decks too resilient and it needs to go. 


Thanks for joining us Cyrus! Congratulations on your finish and also on your finish in the Legacy Champs!

Thanks for having me and thanks to the eternal community, the judges, and Card Titan for a great weekend!

In addition to the Powered lists as we mentioned in our last article about Eternal Weekend, there is also a prize for budget lists and this years highest placing budget list entry was Andrew Frank on Mono-Red Prison in 36th! I was able to acquire the list from Andrew himself, so let's take a look at it!

Not only is this deck boasting the possibility of a Turn 1 Blood Moon or Null Rod, but it's running full four each of Goblin Rabblemaster and Legion Warboss! This list looks like a load of fun, and it's great to see that Andrew not only managed to place in the top of the budget lists, but also in the Top 64 of the event! Congrats Andrew on your run!

Followup to the Health of the Format

Last week we discussed a little bit about the health of the format in regards to what we've been seeing on Magic Online. Eternal Weekend showed that the paper metagame is vastly different and even more interesting than what we've seen on Magic Online. I think this shows often that the online Meta game does often lend itself to decks that are easy to play quickly and efficiently (which Paradoxical Outcome fits) while the paper Meta game was actually fairly diverse given the Top 8 alone. It's really interesting to have seen this diversity on camera, and it fills me with a little more renewed hope that maybe the online Meta game will follow.

That being said, it was even more interesting to read the Top 8 player's thoughts on the health of the format. One of the most common threads I noticed was the advocation of the restriction of Mental Misstep. This is one card I do actually agree should eventually be restricted, as I believe it stifles a lot of the playable cards in the format that cost one converted mana cost. I have always been of the mind that the Phyrexian mana based cards from New Phyrexia were a severe design mistake (and greatly advocated for the banning of Gitaxian Probe in Legacy), so I feel the same way about cards like Mental Misstep. It would be interesting to see what the format would look like with Misstep as a one-of, since we could potentially see cards that are mostly otherwise unplayable versus a format where four Mental Misstep is commonplace.

Regardless, as I've said before, Vintage can be fun even if the format is unhealthy, but I do think there are still issues to address, despite the diversity of last weekend. The format can be diverse, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is healthy. As Rich Shay said, the format seems balanced but the games are mostly bad. It all boils down to what an individual wants out of the format. Yes, Vintage is a place where broken strategies can thrive and players are allowed to do powerful things (like having access to four lands that are essentially Black Lotus), but at the same time time maybe a change is needed to help spur innovation and forward thinking in the format. It's still a very interesting time to be playing the format, as decks like Survival show that players are willing to step outside their comfort zones and not box themselves into a formula. Players are thinking more about deck construction now, and this could have a bigger effect on the format overall.

Something to Ponder - CE/IE

I mentioned this earlier in this article as part of a statement that Matt Sperling made. For those who are unaware, Collector's Edition (CE) and International Edition (IE) cards are a special collector's set that was released in December 1993. The set contained one of every card from Limited Edition Beta as well as basic lands. Roughly 9,000 sets were released in the US while another 5,000 were released internationally. CE/IE cards share identical artwork to their Limited Edition Beta counterparts, except they have square corners and the backs have gold borders and the words Collector's Edition or International Edition printed on the back.

What makes CE/IE interesting is that at first glance through a sleeve one cannot really tell that it is in a sense a high quality proxy. CE/IE has been seeing some bumps as of lately due to the fact that the Old School 93-94 format allows those cards to be played, however for Vintage these cards are not currently legal for sanctioned play. I can see from Matt's statement that largely his desire to see Wizards do this since CE/IE cards are generally much, much cheaper than their counterparts printed in actual Magic sets. However, I feel like the price of these cards would vastly increase if they were to be made "legal" for sanctioned Vintage, given that their price has already seen steady increases thanks to the overall popularity of the Old School format, that with how much of these cards that are actually available, "cheaper" Power would bump these prices considerably.

This could be a good or a bad thing, but on one side it would give the format a minor relief from the pressures of the price of Reserved List cards required to play the format. It's an interesting conundrum to consider in the long run.

The Spice Corner

Fresh off a 5-0, it's White Eldrazi! This deck is just like a Death and Taxes type shell but gets to play cards like Glowrider!

What I'm Playing This Week

By sheer virtue of being friends on Facebook with a few other Vintage folks, I got this list popped up in my Facebook feed and I'm curious to give it a shot! Here comes Creeping Chill Dredge, otherwise known as "The Philly Special"!

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Eternal Weekend seemed like such a blast, and I find myself wishing I could have made it, but alas it was just not in the cards for me this year. I am however, starting to pull together plans to try to make it next year and of course I am hopeful that SCG Con does the Power Nine Series again as I would love to attend that again as well.

Next week I'm going to be delivering a little bit of a class on some of the Tips & Tricks of playing Vintage! I compiled a lot of these with the help of some awesome folks from The Mana Drain, so I'm really excited to share them with you all. I'm looking forward to it!

This week our shoutout is to The Mana Drain itself, ran by none other than Andy Probasco (a.k.a. Brassman). TMD is one of the best resources and communities for the Vintage format, and the people there are nothing short of amazing. I definitely recommend you check it out!

Also, I am running a contest through this month of November! A reader named Sean Hilliard contacted me wanting to help pass some love around to help people get into Vintage on Magic Online, and so with his help we are going to be giving away FIVE sets of Power Nine on Magic Online. If you want to enter this contest, please take a look at this post on Twitter!

As always, check me out on Twitter and Twitch! I'm hopefully going to be posting some video content to YouTube / Twitch since my streaming/Internet capability has been relatively awful lately, thus a move towards recording video content of my leagues.

Until next time, keep it frosty and keep all your Magic Vintage!


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