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Vintage 101: The Oncoming Storm


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 into the current iterations of Paradoxical Storm, the effect that PO has had on the burgeoning post restriction Meta game and where things all sit here in the second week. We also have the results of this past weekend's challenge, and a very special interview with Team Serious member Matt Hazard, who took down last weekend's challenge on none other than THE PEOPLE'S CANNON (a.k.a. Belcher). It's an exciting time to be playing Vintage right now, lots of great innovation and fun things are happening in the format right now!

The Storm on the Horizon - Week Two

As we noted last week, it was no surprise that PO Storm stepped up to the plate to dominate in a Meta game where everyone was trying to find something new to do. PO capitalized on this well by being simply faster and more capable of taking over the game in a timely fashion. The first Challenge of post-restriction Vintage painted a picture of PO that made it seem like this unstoppable monster that was waiting in the wings to take over the format.

However, a second week in and things don't quite feel the same way. While PO continued to play a big part of the format, the format fought back in a big way. Let's take a look at some of the ways the format is attacking this strategy now.

Stall Cards

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One way Xerox decks are combat'ing the PO strategy is by playing cards that make it difficult to enact or otherwise stall the PO plan. These cards don't outright stop the PO player from playing the game, but they do make it very difficult since finding interaction is key. Narset is one of the bigger ways of doing this by presenting a card that shuts off the PO engine entirely while also being able to locate further hate cards or countermagic, whereas Lavinia does a pretty powerful job of keeping the opponent from being able to cast many of its zero cost artifact mana in addition to providing a clock. Teferi's often best backed up by other options but on its own can provide an instance where countermagic can steal a turn from the PO player since they can't respond at instant speed.

Artifact Hate

 

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This is just a small smattering of cards that are seeing play to combat decks like PO on the artifact side of things. PO plays a lot to the board in regards to artifact mana. Most of the deck is comprised of it after all. Jeskai gains a big advantage with the advent of Dreadhorde Arcanist being able to flashback cards like Shattering Spree which can then be replicated on the cast in order to snag multiple cards while green decks gain access to the best hatebear ever printed in Collector Ouphe. One of the great things that makes Ouphe such a strong card is that it provides a clock to the board while it is shutting off the artifacts in play. PO has to find interaction to beat Ouphe before dying to combat damage and a clock (since Ouphe is rarely the only clock made by decks that play it), but interaction is hard to come by when you are having to devote your deckbuilding construction to the combo side of the deck. Sometimes PO simply does not find enough interaction fast enough to beat this card, and that is what makes it so good.

Countermagic

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While Mental Misstep being restricted left things sort of wide open for PO decks to be able to resolve some of their more impactful 1 CMC spells (Sol Ring, Mana Vault, and of course not to mention Ancestral Recall) this space also opened up continual space for solid countermagic options in other decks within the format, from Force of Negation to the continued play and existence of Pyroblast main deck in many of the red based Xerox builds. Another new card that has shown up from time to time is Veil of Summer which can make it hard for PO to develop a Tendrils based kill but also allows for your other countermagic to be uncounterable which can be very powerful against the combo deck with countermagic.

Archetypes Rebalancing

One of the big clear winners of this strategy of attack is Jeskai Dreadhorde Control. As a deck that can play a good number of the aforementioned answers like Lavinia, Narset, and countermagic package it has a nice smattering of options for beating out PO, but also because of the power of Dreadhorde Arcanist. Arcanist can easily accelerate the early stages of the game, helping the player to push through their deck and locate more answers and countermagic to answer the PO strategy with.

BUG also has plenty of options against PO as a Xerox/midrange style deck, since it gains access to Collector Ouphe and countermagic as ways of handling PO's starts.

Another winner here is Survival, and this doesn't surprise me in the least. Survival gains a lot of points in being a powerful toolbox deck that also has access to various cards like Lavinia and Collector Ouphe, along with an engine that lets them locate those cards quickly. Combined with some of the really powerful clocks that Survival can have in just a few Hollow One and Vengevine and it's easy to see why this deck is a contender.

So while PO might seem pretty scary and dominant it's well worth noting that it really isn't. The format has been provided I believe with enough tools to handle such a deck in a varying number of archetypes that PO will settle into a solid spot in the format as a powerful combo deck, but not unbeatable. Now, with all this running around it might seem like it's pretty actively hostile to PO players, but I think it's just yet another area where people may need to adapt and it doesn't mean that someone picking up PO won't be able to do well, in fact, the opposite is true. Players are doing fairly well with PO in league data, and the deck has had some showings in challenges to show that it is still a powerful contender in the format, but I don't think it is overpowered.

Vintage Challenge 9/7

We had a pretty wild and awesome Vintage Challenge last weekend, so let's look at the deetz, shall we?

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Mono Blue Belcher 1st winedope (Matt Hazard)
Dreadhorde Control 2nd BadBrain
Dreadhorde Control 3rd Zyuryo
White Eldrazi 4th ecobaronen (Andreas Petersen)
Dredge 5th CoffeAnnan
BUG Midrange 6th Desolutionist
Esper PO Storm 7th KackNub
Survival 8th Gunnim

The biggest takeaway from this weekend's Challenge is wow at the array of decks that placed here. This is an incredibly well-developed set of Top 8 matches that played out, and it seems like a cool set of lists. The big bit however, is the fact that the event was taken down by none other than 1-Land Mono-Blue Belcher, piloted by Matt Hazard, a co-conspiratorial member of Team Serious (of which I am a member of as well). From what I heard, Matt did not drop a single game throughout the entire Top 8, and we're fortunate enough to have caught up with Matt after his win to talk with him about the virtues of activating Goblin Charbelcher, but first, let's take a look at his list.

Hazard's list is awesome stuff, and it's great to see Belcher of all things do well in an event. Now, let's sit down and learn from Hazard himself the art of Belching.

First of all, introduce yourself to the class! What’s your name and how long have you been playing Vintage?

My name is Matt Hazard and I’ve been playing Vintage since 2005. Like many Vintage folks, it’s about the only format I have time try to follow, although I do occasionally dabble in Legacy.

Congratulations on representing Team Serious in this weekend’s MTGO Challenge and taking down the whole event! What drove your decision to play Belcher for this Challenge?

The recent B&R changes drove my decision to play Belcher. The deck plays 18 cards at CC 1, so having Mental Misstep restricted certainly helped. When I heard it was restricted, I had to go back and check the date it entered the format: May of 2011. That card has been warping the format around it - sometimes subtly and sometimes not - for over eight years.

With the restriction, I went and looked at old lists of mine and Blue Belcher seemed like one that might have legs. It’s also a deck I’m familiar with in a couple of formats. I did well with it nine years ago in Legacy:

https://www.eternalcentral.com/report-second-place-with-belcher-at-gencon-indy-2010-legacy-champs/

Additionally, the London Mulligan rule change pushed me towards Belcher. Getting to choose which cards you keep gives a huge advantage to a deck like this.

It sounded like your Top 8 matches were pretty spectacular. Walk us through a little bit on some of the highlights of your Top 8.

Nat Moes (@GrandpaBelcher) showed up just as I found out I made the Top 8 at 5-2. I think [there] was one 7-0 and three 6-1s. I made it in at 7th place with my two losses above me.

Quarterfinal was vs desolutionist on BUG. First game I was on the draw and played Belcher turn one, but wasn’t able to activate until turn two. Second game I Force of Will his turn one Collector Ouphe then Ponder into Tinker which turn into Bolas's Citadel which lets me play Belcher and activate for a turn one win.

The Semifinal was vs ecobaronen on White Eldrazi. I played first in game one and was able to get a turn one win via Paradoxical Outcome. Opponent begins game 2 with a Revoker on Expedition Map. On my turn one, I used Dramatic Reversal to get off Timetwister which nets enough mana to play Belcher without activation. He plays a second Revoker on his turn, but I have the Force of WIll. He then tries a Null Rod, but I had a second FoW. On my turn I activate Belcher, but it doesn’t kill. Opponent is unable to find an answer so I win the next turn.

The Final was vs BadBrain on Jeskai Arcanist. In game one I played first. My turn two Paradoxical Outcome got Pyroblast'ed, but in turn three I topdecked Academy, played Belcher, protected it against his Force of Will with a Pact of Negation, then activated for the win. In game two I mulled to six and Force of Will’d his turn one Lavinia - which as we’ve seen is fatal. I then topdecked Tinker, played Expedition Map for bait (it got Mental Misstep'ed), and then Tinkered for Bolas's Citadel and won.

Are there any changes you’d make to your list going forward? What were the best cards in your list?

There weren’t many changes I would make to the 60 card main deck. I might shuffle around the numbers of Pact of Negation and Flusterstorm and mix those with Force of Negations. I would love to have outs and be able to find them for resolved Lavinias, Ouphe, and the like. Echoing Truth is a nice catchall for most problems. Hilariously, Time Walk did not make it into this deck. I have no rational explanation for that. I’m sure it could get squeezed in somewhere.

The sideboard...was a steaming pile. 1000% Serious. I didn’t decide to jump into the challenge until just before it started and I did not get to touch the sideboard. What was listed there were experiments. The card I brought in most often was Mental Misstep, usually vs blue decks. Many games I would just run with 61. Windfall would often come out if I was on the draw. I believe I brought in KGC vs PO. The pair of Hurkyl's came in vs Shops. I think I brought Mind’s Desire in once as well.

Retract in the side is a card I’ve experimented a great deal with, but that slot in the maindeck is now Dramatic Reversal. Others considered were Twiddle and the Candelabra in the board. There probably needs to be some Dredge hate in the board, like Needles, Ravenous Traps, or Crypts.

The draw sevens (or draw many) are obviously bonkers: Timetwister, Windfall, Wheel of Fortune, Diminishing Returns, Paradoxical Outcome, and Tinker (into Bolas). Dramatic Reversal was also showing up as an excellent mana-boosting card. The eight CC1 artifacts were vital to helping get the Mox Opals online as well.

What are your thoughts on the recent Banned and Restricted changes in Vintage?

I am unsure of Golgari Grave-Troll was the correct way to dial back the power level on Dredge. The printing of Force of Vigor really just pushed them into another echelon, but maybe there’s a better way to correct them. With Pitch Dredge previously running four Missteps and four Grave Trolls, it certainly challenges them to find alternative lists.

I am also unsure if KGC and Mystic Forge should have been hit at the same time. There just wasn’t enough time with both in the field to determine brokenness. It reminded me of earlier multiple restrictions that were broad strokes when a finer brush could have been used. In June of 2008, they restricted Brainstorm, Flash, Gush, Merchant Scroll, and Ponder. The big problem at the time was Flash and they did not start with that. Also, in April of 2017, they restricted Gitaxian Probe and Gush when the problem was actually Monastery Mentor. They restricted Mentor four months later.

Forge was bonkers, but I think time would have told if we could adapt to fighting four KGC.

I was happy to see Mental Misstep go. As I mentioned earlier, it had been warping the format for over eight years. People now get to dust off their Mystical and Vampiric Tutors and build with them again. I felt Mental Misstep broke the unfun rule - the same reason Trinisphere and Chalice got restricted.

It’s great to see Fastbond come off the Restricted list. I think it’s a safe unrestriction and there are more that can come off the list. Imperial Seal doesn’t see play as a singleton and could easily come off the list. I would love to play with Channel and Windfall if they were unrestricted.

Once again, congratulations on the finish! Thanks for taking the time to speak with us and never forget that you are awesome! As a final parting thought, let the people at home know where they can find you on social media.

Twitter @winedope

Also showing up in the Top 8 of this event is a rare showing of the White Eldrazi deck, piloted by our good friend Andreas Petersen! Congrats to Andreas on the Top 4 finish, totally deserved!

I like the simplicity of Andreas' list here. It's very straightforward and to the point and I like that about it quite a bit.

As the only PO player in the Top 8, I would feel remiss if we didn't take a look at KackNub's list in 7th place.

This list shows a little of where the interaction in the sideboard to deal with Ouphe decks and Lavinia decks is having cards like Karakas and Balance to deal with them in addition to cards like Chain of Vapor to deal with pesky Planeswalkers.

Finally, way outside of the Top 8, even though this deck went 3-4, it's still pretty cool. Blazing Infect!

As we are want to do with this column we'll be showing how many new cards appeared in this Top 32 of lists. In addition, if you're looking for some extra analysis, Matt Murray provided it on his Twitter of some cool stuff like MWP and etc of various decks.

Card Name Number of Copies
Narset, Parter of Veils 46
Force of Vigor 33
Dreadhorde Arcanist 30
Force of Negation 23
Teferi, Time Raveler 13
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis 12
Collector Ouphe 11
Veil of Summer 8
Ashiok, Dream Render 5
Bolas's Citadel 5
Elvish Reclaimer 4
Blast Zone 1
Sunbaked Canyon 1
Tomik, Distinguished Advokist 1

There were a lot of Narsets and Force of Vigor in this event, not to mention a lot of Dreadhorde Arcanist. Jeskai Dreadhorde definitely seemed like one of the best decks in the event this weekend, and it really shows.

Now let's look at our newly restricted/unrestricted crew.

Card Name Number of Copies
Mental Misstep 25
Golgari Grave-Troll 5
Karn, the Great Creator 2
Mystic Forge 1
Fastbond 0

It still feels really telling that Fastbond ended up being the safest restriction at this time after two weeks of middling results from the card, and absolutely zero copies in this Challenge's Top 32. If there were any sweet Fastbond decks out there out of 68 players, they either dropped early or didn't do very well. Conversely, it makes sense for a number of decks playing blue to play the restricted copy of Mental Misstep since even as a 1-of it's still quite good. Workshops presence is down low in this event, so copies of those restricted cards are low as well, with one of the Karns actually in Matt Hazard's Belcher sideboard.

The Spice Corner

As always, our good friend Zias has the spice in a sweet Prison Lands list that sideboards into Oath of Druids.

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! We're going to keep on chugging along on these events, keeping track of what is good and what isn't as we get closer to the US Vintage Championships at US Eternal Weekend in Pittsburgh, PA at the end of October. Next week is pretty cool, since the Vintage Challenge, this coming weekend is our next Format Playoff event! We'll get to see which of the fine folk who are queued for it will make it through to the Format Championships at the end of the year. Should be very exciting stuff!

I am still tuning Elementals as of late, and I feel pretty happy with the deck overall. I'm also working on some stuff on the YouTube video front, and hope to have something for that posted soon.

As always you can locate me on the Twitters, Twitches, and Patreons! Please take a moment to check them out and if you like what I do, please consider supporting me there! Your contribution helps, and I am giving back this next month to some lucky winners with a contest celebrating my first year at MTGGoldfish. You can find that form here. Of course, you can also always reach me via the MTGGoldfish Discord Server.

Until next time folks, keep enjoying life and casting Moxen!


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