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Vintage 101: The Mid 2020 Metagame Roundup

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 talk about the current state of the Vintage metagame and where things are sitting within the format and the health of the format. In addition we have two Challenges to talk about, as well as our Spice Corner.

Without further ado, let's dive right into today's topics!

Round Em Up!

So now seems like a great time to do another one of these Metagame Roundup style articles where we get to talk about where Vintage is at currently and what is going on with the format. As many are well aware, there is not a huge amount of paper Magic going on right now, thanks to the pandemic, and even less so is paper Vintage because of that. We especially don't have a big paper event to look forward to this year, since Eternal Weekend (as far as the in person event is concerned) has been cancelled and postponed til next year's event.

What this means for Vintage right now is that Magic Online is a huge portion of Vintage players right now, and is one of the best ways right now to determine what is popular and what isn't. So let's talk a little bit about the format in general and what each archetype is up to right now. Some of the data I have access to look at this wouldn't be possible without the folks of the Vintage Streamers Discord and of course, Matt Murray (ChubbyRain) for his spreadsheets on each Challenge event. This is super helpful information, so thank you guys for doing this work!


One of the big notable things about Vintage is that since the banning of Lurrus of the Dream Den and the Companion mechanic rules changes, the number of Companions in the format has significantly dropped overall.

(Note: this chart only covers results that were published officially by Wizards of the Coast)

As we can see, the number of Companions since the rules change especially has excessively dipped from published results, and only a single Companion has seen fringe play since then, which is Lutri, the Spellchaser. There has been some questioning over whether Lurrus could be unbanned now due to this change, as it seems that the change has made the Companion mechanic fairly hard to play in Vintage. Of this I am not certain, as Lurrus is still fairly powerful of a card, but having to be put into a deck makes it a little more balanced. However, I don't see Wizards making this change any time soon, simply because of not having many good reasons to do so, so I would not expect it to occur any time soon.

That being said, I think this change for Companions was ultimately a good thing. There was clearly something functionally wrong with the mechanic overall, and while the change might have been too extreme, it did turn it into what Wizards stated was their original idea for the mechanic: to create something that people would want to play with as a form of self-expression and for fun, not necessarily the most competitive and "need to play" decks in a format. Lutri still existing and being fringe and still playable after this is a great example of that.

Xerox is Still Popular

This is fairly obvious, but Xerox based decks in Vintage are still among the most popular decks in the format currently, and exist in numerous different flavors. For example, Jeskai Xerox continues to be one of the more popular decks around:

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There is a particular appeal in casting cards like Lavinia, Azorius Renegade and Monastery Mentor that will never leave the Vintage format ever, and thus as long as these decks have access to a bunch of restricted blue spells they will continue to be played. Another up and comer in this realm is straight U/R Xerox decks, utilizing new cards like Sprite Dragon to fill a similar role to Monastery Mentor out of Jeskai.

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On the more midrangey side of Xerox both BUG and 4C decks have grown in popularity as well, with 4C Xerox decks running Deathrite Shaman, Wrenn and Six, and Dreadhorde Arcanist having performed exceptionally well in Magic Online Challenge events over the past month.

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In addition to the above, variants of RUG Xerox have been showing up from time to time as well, growing in greater popularity due to the power level of cards like Oko, Thief of Crowns and even Tarmogoyf.

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Xerox continues to be one of the defining traits of the format overall, and is definitely an archetype and its sub-variants to consider when selecting a deck to play in an event. Each of these variants has their own sub strengths and weaknesses, and generally rely well on pilot skill in a matchup.

One big thing about Xerox especially has been the settling of Mystic Sanctuary in the format as a staple in Xerox based decks. What is awkward about Mystic Sanctuary is that the card provides an insane amount of value, especially when combined with cards like Gush. Even more awkward is the fact that restricting a card like Sanctuary basically does nothing, as it is a fetchable Island and is a 1-of in generally every deck anyways. If anything, Sanctuary may be 1000% responsible for the overall power level of Xerox decks in the format now, despite the fact that it took a bit for the card to pick up and see play.

PO Has Settled into the Metagame

Nearly every time I address Paradoxical Outcome based decks, there's generally at least one person who comes out of the woodwork who claims the card needs to be restricted because it's too powerful and bad for the format overall. While my personal feelings are that PO matchups are sort of boring to watch the PO player do their thing, the truth of the matter is that there is really no merit to PO being so incredibly good that it's too powerful for Vintage. PO actually sort of is one of the more Vintage-y decks in the format, as it does a lot of powerful and fun/broken things, but it is also incredibly easy to metagame against, and many decks are capable of doing so regardless of archetype or without even having to really skew their sideboard plan for PO specifically.

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The truth of the matter is that in this past month's Challenge events, the number of PO decks has rapidly declined from the Showcase Challenge to this past weekend to a steady number of 4-5 decks per Challenge with a fluctuating win rate of 40-60%. Overall, it feels as if the format as a whole has grown to adapt to PO's existence and have learned more about how to combat the deck. Still, this is definitely a deck to keep on the radar, and can do well in the hands of a strong pilot as we've seen over the past month or so with multiple Challenge wins by folks like Bryant Cook on the deck.

Other Combo Decks Exist

One nice thing about PO settling back into the metagame overall is that other combo decks now exist and flourish within that environment too. However it is obvious that many of these combo decks are Xerox Combo variants, often needing to play their own Force of Wills to be able to compete. While Dark Petition Storm has seen a slight uptick, it's still very fringe once more as it is down against combo decks like PO/Doomsday that run Force.

Speaking of Doomsday, that is one of the combo decks that has done quite well as of late, putting up reasonable results.

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One of the biggest reasons for improvement on this deck has been Thassa's Oracle and how easy that card has simply made constructing piles for Doomsday. It has emerged as one of the other premier combo decks in the format that are blue in nature.

The other is a deck that took a while to come about, and it reasonably seemed like it took the Lurrus era to do so. That is of course, the Underworld Breach based combo decks.

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Upon initial release of Underworld Breach, it seemed as though the card merely slotted in as a powerful card for non-Black Xerox decks that couldn't stretch their manabase to play cards like Yawgmoth's Will, so Breach gave them that ability to have that sort of effect. Then Lurrus came about and people looked for a powerful way to play combo within that metagame, and the Breach deck really came into its own. Even with Lurrus gone, the resulting shell is simply so powerful that is continues to see play.

Bazaar Decks Continue to See Major Play

The format has solidified now into two major Bazaar archetypes that see play, the first of which is Dredge and the second is HollowVine.

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Dredge continues to have slight variations here or there, but largely a lot of the innovation within the archetype seems to have crawled to a slow. This is sort of rather unfortunate, as I believe that there is still likely some space within the archetype to continue to innovate and try new things, I just don't have the resources to really get nitty gritty into that. One of the slight innovations has been players trying out cards like Creeping Chill again, which has been fairly good for the archetype from what I've seen.

HollowVine on the other hand continues to see many different refinements over time, from originally only having Bazaars and Wasteland type effects to now including cards like Riftstone Portal and Gaea's Cradle in the deck, in addition to playing with numbers on cards like Sphinx of Foresight to find the correct combination of creatures.

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Due to its large breadth of free spells combined with its intensely powerful clock, it's likely that as of right now the Bazaar Wars are won by HollowVine over Dredge and that Vine will continue to be a powerful part of the format. One wild side effect of this is the inclusion of The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale in many, many, many decks online to combat this strategy, with some decks going as far to play two, even three copies of the card. One of the big reasons here is the fact that the card is only 20 Tix on Magic Online, contributing to the fact that it can see this kind of play. If we ever have another paper event, it will be interesting to see how the presence of HollowVine would impact that kind of environment where paper card supply is a lot more limited.

Shops Is No Longer the King of the Castle

While Ravager Shops and to a lesser extent Golos Stax continue to be relatively popular decks for people to play, the overall win rates and performance of these decks have shown that Workshops based decks can exist within the overall metagame and be fairly dealt with. A lot of this has to do with several printings made within the past two years with cards like Force of Vigor and Collector Ouphe, but also general knowledge and understanding of the matchup.

The two major Shops archetypes are Ravager (aggro based) and Golos Stax (prison based).

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Ravager itself has undergone several changes over time, adopting cards like Golos, Tireless Pilgrim as merely a way of searching their library for an additional land or a silver bullet land (such as either Tabernacle or Tolarian Academy. Stonecoil Serpent has adapted into the deck since its release, giving the deck a powerful scaling threat.

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Golos Stax on the other hand, continues to do some of the same things it has always done with minor variations. One of the reasons that this deck hasn't seen more play really is the fact that it is a bit of a house of cards and can often lose to itself if it doesn't draw the right pieces it needs to cut off the opponent. It is a bit slower than the aggro variants of Shops decks, and suffers a bit from that overall. Aggro/Ravager Shops is likely the better of the two decks for simply having the ability to close out a game quickly, rather than waiting to grind an opponent slowly before deploying a win condition.

Still, it is nice to see that Shops is part of the format to an extent, but is not so dominant that action needs to be taken against the archetype overall. Again, at some point there will be someone decrying Mishra's Workshop and calling for it to be restricted (there has been this for a long time now), but I don't think the data really shows that happening any time soon.

Oath of Druids Variants Continue to Be Popular

Variants of decks utilizing Oath of Druids also remain pretty popular, with good Oath players like Miharu_Fuyumiya providing not only great content on the deck, but doing well in Challenge events with it as well.

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Oath still has several variants available to it, from the base cards of just Griselbrand as the primary Oath target to cards like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. One other Oath variant that has gained some notoriety lately as well is the PO/Oath variant which has seen a few solid finishes in Challenge events.

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Oath will definitely continue to remain one of the more popular non-Storm based combo decks, as it is sort of like the Sneak and Show variant within Vintage.

Fringe Decks Can Do Well

Despite everything going on in the format, there is still room for decks that been on the fringe of the format for a while to come back into the format. Decks like White Eldrazi have been showing back up again, as well as decks playing Fastbond again.

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What this shows me is that there is still a reasonable amount of room within the format to brew around with and work within the context of the format. It also shows that decks like Eldrazi are back to growing out of fringe status and back into the format, which is something that is great to see.

The Health of the Format

As it stands right now, Vintage does seem relatively healthy from a standpoint of relative diversity among decks, however, plenty of the games in the format does feel relatively same-y. Whether this is good or not is truly and utterly subjective. My personal feelings on this stem from having a hard time figuring out what I want to do with the format right now, which has enforced me needing to really pick a deck to stick on for it.

That being said, if you're having fun with the current format, that is great to hear. There is a lot of subjectivity on both sides of this, and leagues are fairly random and skewed currently. I know many who have expressed disdain at playing against 3-4 decks in a row that were all Bola's Citadel decks in some capacity, but then others who express disdain against playing versus three Bazaar archetype decks in a single league, so league play is not a hugely great way of determining what the current format is really like, but those experiences are not any less valid in helping people decide whether they like the format currently.

There is a lot going on and thankfully both Core Set 2021 and JumpStart do not seem to have anything that will completely upset the format on the same level that cards like Companions did. Now we do have Zendikar Rising coming up later this year, so it will be interesting to see how things go for the format.

Community Vintage Update

In Community-related things, the folks in the Team Serious group are running another Team Serious Virtual Realm event, which will be the inaugural Vintage Unleased (UX) event. Signups for this event are free for those interested in playing, which can be found over here.

Vintage Challenge 6/27

Our first Challenge of the weekend was our normal Saturday Challenge, so let's dive right into the Top 32 breakdown!

This is certainly an interesting Top 32, and had a cool Spice list in it (that you'll see later in the Spice Corner).  A lot of our metagame roundup can be seen here, with a lot of Xerox being exceptionally popular here. The Top 8 of course had quite a bit of Xerox in it overall.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
PO Storm 1st Bryant_Cook
Jeskai Xerox 2nd AMiracle
Doomsday 3rd C9Taco
POath 4th Sandydogmtg
4C Control 5th Svaca
Dredge 6th Karatedom
Oath of Druids 7th Miharu_Fuyumiya
4C Control 8th Leeties

At the top of this event however, in yet another Challenge win this month is our good friend Bryant Cook on PO Storm.

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Bryant continues to run back this same 75 and is continuing to do very well with it. I suspect this has a lot to do with a combination of both the deck being relatively powerful but also Bryant's careful tuning and high-level play. He continues to crush events and do well, so major congrats to him!

In Second Place we have Jeskai Xerox.

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This list is pretty cool, with the main deck Sprite Dragon in addition to the restricted Monastery Mentor. I especially enjoy the Scab-Clan Berserker in the sideboard.

In Third Place we have Doomsday.

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It's cool to see cards like Hope of Ghirapur here as a card that presents a way to protect the turns where they possibly need to pass the turn in order to win. In general, this is a fun list and does a lot of really powerful things.

In Fourth Place we have POath.

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This list has been picking up quite a bit of traction lately and it seems like a great way to approach a hybrid combo deck like this, that can win either with just a fast Oath into Griselbrand, but then also turn that into a PO win the same turn.

In Fifth Place we have 4C Control.

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This is Svaca's bread and butter and their results with the deck really shows as of late. This has been utterly consistent performance with a very powerful list.

In Sixth Place we have Dredge.

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It's interesting to see builds with Unmask a bit here or there, but as noted before, outside of these one or two flex slots there isn't much innovation going on within Dredge right now. It is interesting to see Surgical Extraction in the sideboard, however.

In Seventh Place we have Oath master Miharu.

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Miharu continues to push Oath as an archetype and always does very well with it. One notable inclusion here is a main deck Sylvan Library here.

Rounding out the Top 8 we have another 4C Control list.

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This is relatively similar to Svaca's list w/ more focus on having a beatdown plan with Tarmogoyf. These lists are very strong for sure.

Now let's take a look at the 2019-2020 cards in this event.

Card Name Number of Copies
Force of Negation 25
Dreadhorde Arcanist 20
Narset, Parter of Veils 20
Wrenn and Six 15
Lavinia, Azorius Renegade 14
Sprite Dragon 13
Force of Vigor 12
Mystic Sanctuary 12
Collector Ouphe 11
Soul-Guide Lantern 11
Thassa's Oracle 8
See the Truth 6
Seasoned Hallowblade 4
Underworld Breach 2

There were some new cards in this event, such as See the Truth and Seasoned Hallowblade (in our Spice Corner deck of course), but not much else. Sprite Dragon is definitely doing very well in the format though, and continues to see more play every week.

Vintage Challenge 6/28

Our second Challenge was the early Sunday morning Challenge, so let's dive right into the Top 32 Metagame breakdown for it.

As always there is plenty of Xerox in this event, but there was also a lot of Oath as well. This is typically a smaller Challenge than the Saturday one, so it was really intriguing to see how this Top 32 shook out. Now let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Oath of Druids 1st JapaneseFisherman
4C Control 2nd Leeties
RUG Xerox 3rd Condescend
Oath of Druids 4th K_F_Chicken
Doomsday 5th DiscoverN
4C Control 6th Yamaro
Hogaak Bazaar 7th NoProps
Ravager Shops 8th Otakkun

Oath did a great job of converting into this Top 8, with two very different lists in the Top 8. In addition, we saw the Hogaak Bazaar list that has been popping up as well. However, at the end of the event it was an Oath deck that took it all down.

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This is pretty close to Miharu, except for the fact that they are playing a Wrenn and Six over the fourth Oko, but also a Progenitus over Niv-Mizzet for the other Oath target slot. I imagine Protection from everything ends a lot of games simply by being able to attack twice with the card.

In Second Place, in yet another Top 8 this weekend is Leeties on 4C Control.

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This is basically the same 75 that Leeties Top 8'ed the Saturday Challenge with, so there's not much else to say about it.

In Third Place, we have RUG Xerox.

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The big draw of the pure RUG decks is threats like Goyf, but also the interaction between Wrenn and Six and being able to eventually ultimate with Mystic Sanctuary and Time Walk providing the ability to get enough turns to do so.

In Fourth Place we have another Oath list, but a slightly different one.

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One of the important parts of this deck is the Dragon Breath that allows whatever gets Oath'ed into play to be able to attack that turn, usually ending the game (either Emrakul or BSC). Another fun inclusion is a singleton restricted Channel, which can either cast Emrakul, BSC, or the restricted Karn, the Great Creator (which can then immediately fetch Lattice and lock the game).

In Fifth Place we have Doomsday.

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There is a Tasigur, the Golden Fang in the sideboard and that is sweet.

In Sixth Place we have another 4C Control list.

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This list is pretty cool, and has some cool inclusions like Leovold, Emissary of Trest and an Ashiok, Dream Render in the sideboard. This pushes the deck more into a midrangey strategy with the Planeswalkers.

In Seventh Place we have Hogaak Bazaar.

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This deck has been continuing the pop up and it really does seem very powerful. I wonder at what point these decks integrate even just a copy of Altar of Dementia if possible for the combo kill with Hogaak.

Rounding out the Top 8 we have Ravager Shops.

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It seems that 1 Traxos, 2 Golos is the standard now for the aggro Shops variants. Fleetwheel Cruiser is also pretty cool.

Outside of the Top 8, there is a cool Humans list down in 24th.

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This is a neat list with some powerful elements. Palace Jailer in Vintage is super cool to see, but so is Spellseeker.

Now let's take a look at the 2019-2020 cards in this event.

Card Name Number of Copies
Force of Negation 30
Soul-Guide Lantern 26
Force of Vigor 25
Collector Ouphe 19
Narset, Parter of Veils 19
Wrenn and Six 19
Once Upon a Time 12
Stonecoil Serpent 12
Dreadhorde Arcanist 10
Sprite Dragon 10
Thassa's Oracle 8
Underworld Breach 7
Fire Prophecy 1
Lutri, the Spellchaser 1

It is interesting to note that there was at least one Lutri deck in the Top 32, but also that there were no Core Set 2021 or JumpStart cards in the event. Some of the JumpStart cards are hard to get ahold right now of so that can be a factor in that regards.

The Spice Corner

I was told there was a good one this week and I was not disappointed. Storm Herald combo, everyone.

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Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Thank you as always 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 on Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! In addition I'm always around the MTGGoldfish Discord Server as well as the Vintage Streamers Discord.

Until next time!

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