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Vintage 101: The Lurrus Conundrum

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 fully into the various options that could be taken for dealing with the power of Lurrus Saga in the current Vintage format. This article will have some very extreme options in it, forewarning! We've also got some Challenges to dig into from the past week.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

The Conundrum of Lurrus Saga

We had a Vintage Round Table last week, and there were a lot of great opinions shared about the state of the format, but one fairly pervasive topic of discussion here was around Lurrus Saga, and notably the cards that have really pushed Lurrus Saga into its position as one of the dominant decks of the format. I'm going to be condensing some of the ideas of how Lurrus Saga could be addressed, ordering by most likely to least likely to occur, but still exploring each idea as we look at it.

Let's start with the most likely outcome first.

Waiting to See How Modern Horizons 3 Changes the Format

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The most likely outcome of this current format situation is that Wizards simply waits to see how Modern Horizons 3 impacts the format. They've very much expressed this interest already, so it's no surprise this is the most probable thing to occur. While we are getting a Banned and Restricted Announcement on June 24,2024 I don't believe Wizards will seek to make any changes to Vintage at that time given that we will not have the full scope of how Modern Horizons 3 will affect the format.

As we've seen indicated though, the really biggest thing that could drive changes in MH3 is a veritable reason to not play Lurrus itself. A permanent with mana value three or higher that's exceptionally hard to ignore, but we already have Tinker into Bolas's Citadel and even that sees very little play these days.

Again this is the most likely scenario, but let's discuss if Wizards does decide to make a change, what change is to be made?

Restricting Saga

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Realistically, if Wizards was going to restrict a card in Vintage right now, the very obvious choice there would be Urza's Saga. Saga has remained utterly contentious even when it was originally previewed. It's a strong card and sees a lot of play in current Vintage as one of the format's most powerful lands on par with cards like Mishra's Workshop and Bazaar of Baghdad. It's a tool box and an aggressive threat generating card all in one, and it allows for many powerful sequences of gameplay, but also much of that gameplay looks very much the same across multiple different Saga decks.

The homogenization of this card is one of the big reasons in favor of restricting it, but at the same time the card is being primarily heavily played in a fair-oriented deck that is at the top of the format. One of the worrying concerns is whether the format devolves into combo or Doomsday being incredibly dominant. Again, this is also taking into consideration that Modern Horizons 3 could flip this script on its head entirely with options printed there.

Saga's interaction with the Vault Key Combo is another problematic strike in favor of restricting it though, as cards that often seek to play around the restricted list in a sense have often been problematic. We saw this with Karn, the Great Creator, but I think Saga is on the opposite end of this aspect, as Karn allowed you to play four copies main deck to fetch your win conditions from your sideboard and could fetch the restricted card in Time Vault.

Saga also will forever get better and better as time goes on simply because Wizards will continue to print 0 or 1 cost artifacts that can profitably be searched up with it. This is certainly something to also consider long term. We've already seen a bit of this with cards like Lavaspur Boots.

Still, if there was a change to be made, restricting Saga seems to be the most requested and popular choice, whether it would be good or bad for the format overall.

Unrestricting a Card

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If anything has proven to be more interesting to take effect on Vintage overall its unrestricting a card. We've seen already some very positive unrestrictions in Vintage, with the most recent one being the release of Ponder. There's certainly even more interesting cards that could be unrestricted that would give decks a reason to not play Lurrus. Powerful three drops like Monastery Mentor or Narset, Parter of Veils would certainly have that impact, but whether that impact is too great is intriguing. We certainly have a lot more tools than we did when these cards were restricted along with whatever is coming in Modern Horizons 3.

Unrestricting interesting niche cards too like Channel or Memory Jar is also an option. A number of these cards may simply end up doing nothing to impact Lurrus Saga in general, but I still think it's a more likely outcome just below a restriction of Saga and restrictions of other cards (which we will discuss).

Restricting Lorien Revealed

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It's certainly no surprise that most of Vintage's big shifts towards Lurrus Saga being a deck that simply did not exist prior to Lord of the Rings is the fact that Lorien Revealed fundamentally shifted the way people can build Vintage manabases. We now have a deck that gets to play 8 colorless lands but can still cast Ancestral Recall in the early turns of a game, thanks to the Islandcycling ability on Lorien Revealed.

That being said, restricting a card like Lorien Revealed, while it is as powerful as it is regarded, doesn't really feel like a strong case. Yes, the card allows you a lot of flexibility in gameplay and deck construction, but it does seem a little silly to restrict a five mana sorcery that draws three cards.

However, on the flip side, restricting Lorien does potentially revert some things in the shell and certainly depowers it a ton by taking away a good majority of that ability to flexibly have access to your mana as you need it. Combined with other options in MH3, this could be a reasonable change to make.

Banning Lurrus

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The awkward notion here of banning Lurrus is that there is precedent for it. Lurrus was banned originally under the old Companion rules, and then later unbanned after the mechanic had been altered to its current incarnation. Due to the nature of how Lurrus functions, restricting it will do nothing against it, so the only way possible to deal with the card is to outright ban it from the format. This makes for some problematic aspects because Vintage is intended to be the format that allows nearly every card to be played in some fashion.

That being said, this is the least likely outcome I feel simply because I don't think it actually addresses the root cause of Lurrus Saga's most important aspects being the combination of Saga + Lorien Revealed. Banning Lurrus would allow those decks to turn up to cards like Tinker + Bolas's Citadel and that may end up being more problematic.

However, on the flip side of things, Lurrus has also made it so many of those traditional Vintage-y cards are pushed out of the format simply because they cost more than two mana value. Unless you are playing a deck with cards like Coveted Jewel, it makes no sense in a Lurrus world to play a fair deck with things like Dack Fayden.

I don't expect this to occur, but it's certainly an option that could happen.

Vintage Challenge 32 5/16

The first Challenge event of the week to discuss is the 5/16 event. This event had 42 players in it thanks to the data collected by the Vintage Streamer's Discord.

You can find all of the decklists for this event here and the data sheet here.

Lurrus Saga was the most popular deck of the event and it had a strong conversion but not so good numbers overall. Jewel Shops did very well as did BUG.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
BUG 1st littledarwin
Jewel Shops 2nd _J0SE_
Oath of Druids 3rd 2radMTG
Lurrus Saga 4th Mogged
Jewel Shops 5th oosunq
Oath of Druids 6th Capitano_CL
Lurrus Saga 7th ElfKid
Initiative 8th McWinSauce

Even spread of the Top 8 in three decks (Lurrus, Oath, Jewel), but at the end of the event it was actually BUG that won.

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Don't often see Uro in this format really, so it's kind of cool to see it here. Seems like a solid looking list here though.

In Second Place we had Jewel Shops.

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Fairly stock looking Jewel list here. I do like the addition of Hullbreacher in the sideboard.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we had Initiative.

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Kind of interesting how flexible this deck can be. We had periods with multiple Dauntless Dismantler and now it's nowhere. I like this shell that it can flex like that though to adapt to certain metagames.

Vintage Challenge 32 5/17

The second Challenge was the 5/17 event. This event had 38 players in it thanks to the data collected by the Vintage Streamer's Discord.

You can find all of the decklists for this event here and the data sheet here.

Lurrus Saga was the most popular deck yet again, this time with a solid looking win rate. Oath also looked quite good as did Jewel.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Lurrus Saga 1st Mogged
Oath of Druids 2nd 2radMTG
Lurrus Saga 3rd MestariMatt
Jewel Shops 4th _J0SE_
Lurrus Saga 5th ElfKid
Dredge 6th matttothec
Initiative 7th Munchlax446
Jewel Shops 8th DB_TonyScapone

Again, Lurrus, Jewel were the primary decks in this Top 8. Lurrus was indeed the winner as well.

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Mostly stock list here for UB Lurrus. Spreading Seas and friends are now mostly stock. One cool interaction I will give this deck is being able to utilize Dress Down with Lurrus by casting it on your end step, getting to draw a card out of it and then blanking any creatures your opponent may play or have until the end of their turn.

In Second Place we had Oath.

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The one card I'm surprised to not see here is the restricted copy of Flash. That card remains consistently powerful with Atraxa for sure. I do love the Portal to Phyrexia in the sideboard though.

Also in this Top 8 we had Dredge.

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I always find the Dredge innovation sort of amusing how lists keep running back and forth between cards like Bridge from Below to cards like Silversmote Ghoul. I'm personally a big fan of Bridges because it can generate a lot of threats most decks can't deal with quickly.

Vintage Challenge 32 5/18

The third Challenge was the mid afternoon Saturday event. This event had 52 players in it thanks to the data collected by the Vintage Streamer's Discord.

You can find all of the decklists for this event here and the data sheet here.

Lurrus Saga was again the top deck of the event, with a strong win rate to boot. Oath looked quite good here as did Initiative, while Dredge seemed to suffer despite a good finish.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Oath of Druids 1st DInglis
Lurrus Saga 2nd MackSmith
Initiative 3rd fatto10
Lurrus Saga 4th Marcuzinho
Dredge 5th matttothec
Jewel Shops 6th yPrincipe
Lurrus Saga 7th ChipotleDogBowl
Jewel Shops 8th _J0SE_

Mostly Lurrus here, with some Jewel sprinkled in. At the end of the event though it was Oath that won.

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So, having played around a bit with a few copies of Long Goodbye in the sideboard of this deck, I like it. It's a pretty versatile card overall having an uncounterable answer to something, especially in the mirror where Oko is a huge player.

In Second Place we had Lurrus Saga.

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Snorse! I do love the Caustic Bronco. Probably my favorite card that's made it into this shell.

Also in this Top 8 we had Initiative.

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See that flexibility I was talking about? Dismantler, Phyrexian Censor? Seems pretty solid honestly.

Vintage Challenge 32 5/19

The final event of the weekend was the early morning Sunday event. This event had 44 players in it thanks to the data collected by the Vintage Streamer's Discord.

You can find all of the decklists for this event here and the data sheet here.

Lurrus Saga was the most popular deck here too, with a strong 61.4% win rate. Dredge did very well here too.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Lurrus Saga 1st Tsubasa_Cat
Dredge 2nd Ark4n
Lurrus Saga 3rd John1111
Dredge 4th HouseOfManaMTG
Jewel Shops 5th bless_von
Lurrus Saga 6th Junkmener
Lurrus DRS 7th MyPotatoes
4C Tempo 8th unluckymonkey

Quite a lot of Lurrus in this Top 8, with the winner being on Lurrus Saga.

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Pretty similar list to the other winners this weekend. I will note that the Timetwister + Bowmasters is quite brutal when it happens. Most of the time that Army token is no longer summoning sick, so it's getting to deal 7 on top of being able to attack.

In Second Place we had Dredge.

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Fairly similar list to what we have been seeing out of this deck. I do think Poxwalkers has found a better home in Counter Vine overall, but I still think it's good in Dredge too.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we had 4C Tempo.

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This is a neat list. You get to play cards like Wrenn and Six alongside Expressive Iteration and Feed the Swarm. Really neat.

Around the Web

  • Shir Kahn has a video on Oath of Druids. Check it out here.
  • Justin Gennari has a video on Vault Key. Check it out here.

The Spice Corner

Now that Leagues are spread out throughout the week, let's find some Spice!


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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 my Link Tree! In addition you can always reach me on the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the Vintage Streamers Discord.

Until next time!

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