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Vintage 101: The Power of Skulls

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and we're here yet again with another look into the world of Vintage!

Before we get into the thick of things this week, I just want to remind everyone that we are imminently close to the beginning of VINTAGE SUPER LEAGUE! Last time here, I pondered that Randy would be starting on the 8th, but in the latter part of last week he finally announced that things would get underway on January 15th! Get hyped folks! If you've never gotten a chance to watch past Vintage Super Leagues, VSL is a great way to learn not only who some of the most prominent Vintage personalities in the format are, but also a great way to watch the format and some of the amazing play that happens in it. Not only that, it is a blast listening and watching folks like Randy Buehler (whose passion for the Vintage format is so excessively happy). The lineup this season is going to be a lot of fun, from Vintage greats such as Stephen Menendian, Andy Markiton, and Kevin Cron to newcomers such as US Vintage Championships winner Brian Coval, the MASTER OF SKULLS himself Cyrus Corman-Gill, and MTGGoldfish's SaffronOlive. It's a stacked cast and I cannot emphasize how much I love each and every one of them. It gives me great joy to know that I can root for everyone just because it's Vintage.

Now, without further ado, let's get into this weeks deck. This week we're looking at a deck where SKULLS = POWER. That's right folks, it's time for the very classic, very traditionally powerful and wizardly deck of Dark Petition Storm.

Storming Off - A History

The annals of history show that long has the card Dark Ritual been a Pillar of the Vintage format. The excessive power of the card allows for many insane plays, and for as long as it has existed within the format, it has always had its fans. It was the set Scourge however, that first graced our presence with cards that had the mechanic Storm. Primarily, the card Tendrils of Agony was one of the bigger pieces of the puzzle that allowed people to piece together that chaining rituals into Tendrils could kill people very quickly. In Vintage, finding the payoff generally led to the use of cards such as Vampiric Tutor and Demonic Tutor to acquire a kill condition, while the card Yawgmoth's Will acted as the first incarnation of the card Past in Flames (which is used in the Legacy Storm versions) to recycle used spells to further boost storm count.

Throughout the years the deck became known as TPS (The Perfect Storm), but it was Magic: Origins that would introduce a new card that would give the deck a facelift. Hint: It has a lot of Skulls on it.

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Dark Petition provided a new angle in that it was functionally a four of Demonic Tutor with the exception of some minor hoops to jump through to achieve Spell mastery to get the payoff of an additional three black mana. As the format adopted this card, the deck slowly became known as DPS (Dark Petition Storm), and for a long while DPS was one of the best spell-based combo decks in the format.

In August of 2017, along with the restrictions of Thorn of Amethyst and Monastery Mentor came an unusual surprise in the unrestriction of Yawgmoth's Bargain, one of the most powerful draw engines, allowing one to trade one life for one card. This led to a resurgence of DPS, but it was one that wouldn't last for very long. As popularity of Paradoxical Outcome decks has grown, the popularity of DPS has waned, but people like CyrusCG continue to push the power of Dark Ritual.

Deconstructing the Darkest Storm

As always here, let's take a look at a sample list, coming at us from the one and only CyrusCG.

And as we always do, let's deconstruct this list into several categories to better understand what's going on here.


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As always, mana is a big part of what makes a deck looking to chain 10+ spells to combo off with a Tendrils of Agony. In addition to the Power here, we also see cards like our singleton restricteds like Mana Crypt/Mana Vault, Sol Ring, and of course Lion's Eye Diamond (which combos with Dark Petition to find Yawgmoth's Will).

Cantrips and Blue Spells

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Oftentimes in order to find your payoff cards or to find cards to continue to find your payoff cards, cantrips are necessary to sculpt your hand appropriately for combo'ing off. In addition, cards like Time Walk and Timetwister are good at helping you get to the point of the kill turn.

Discard Spells, Tutor, and Card Draw

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Not only does this deck pack blue card draw, but it packs some of the best black card draw in the game with the usage of Necropotence and Yawgmoth's Bargain. In addition, cards like Duress help remove opposing countermagic like Flusterstorm (since DPS doesn't run any countermagic on its own) and Dark Petition/Demonic Tutor are fairly self-explanatory.

Storm Kill + Rituals

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The core backbone of what this deck wants to do is cast Rituals into Rituals into cards like Dark Petition to find a Storm kill card, which is typically Tendrils of Agony. Yawgmoth's Will acts as an additional method of being able to chain these kinds of spells, often winning on the spot of resolution because of how genuinely powerful the card can be sometimes. On occasion you will also sometimes see Mind's Desire in DPS decks as an additional way of winning the game.

Permanent + Spell-Based Hate

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Since problematic permanents can often be difficult to overcome (the Thalia, Guardian of Thraben's of the Vintage world or the lock pieces of Workshops), DPS often runs a few way to get rid of these pieces in order to combo off. Defense Grid acts as a buffer vs cards like Force of Will and Flusterstorm, doing its best to make things utterly difficult for decks that run these cards to interact when trying to combo off.

The Art of the Perfect Storm

Actually playing DPS can be fairly easy to learn, given that much like other Storm variants in other formats, you can often spend time goldfishing the lines of the deck by yourself in order to learn the best approach to going through the motions of a Storm kill. There are some cool tricks you can learn however with cards such as Lion's Eye Diamond.

  • One common interaction is to crack Lion's Eye Diamond by holding priority after casting a card like Dark Petition. Not only can this turn on Spell mastery if you need it, but you can also use the kickback black mana to go get a second Dark Petition, cast it for another three black mana and get Yawgmoth's Will. At this point, you can cast Lion's Eye Diamond from the graveyard again and crack it immediately for mana to continue. This is often a solid way to boost Storm count if necessary to kill an opponent.
  • Yawgmoth's Will is worded as using the phrase "you may play", which means that you can play a land from the graveyard as well if you have an available land to play for the turn. This can often come up if you need that additional mana.
  • In a pinch, Hurkyl's Recall can target yourself if you need to generate additional storm count.
  • Necropotence has the additional clause of when you discard a card you have to exile it instead. Since cards from its first ability get placed into your hand at the beginning of your next end step, if you have more than seven cards, you will need to discard to hand size. Necro doesn't do anything about this.
  • Managing your life total with Yawgmoth's Bargain can often be very important if you're attempting to locate an answer to a tax effect like Kambal, Consul of Allocation.

Sideboard Storm

Now let's take a look at some of the common sideboard cards you will see in this deck.

Graveyard Hate

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Oh, more graveyard hate! Yep, cards like Tormod's Crypt and Ravenous Trap will often show up in these lists as the preferred hate of choice.

Opposing Spell Hate

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Having ways of interacting with countermagic decks is important post-board since those decks will often bring in further interaction. Occasionally you will see more Defense Grid in the sideboard than main, but usually a three to one split of main/side is common enough. Mystic Remora often sometimes shows up to interact with blue decks by allowing for card draw in the early game.

Permanent Interaction

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Ways to interact with problem permanents is often important in matchups where that matters. Between artifact based hate to being able to deal with cards like Leovold, Emissary of Trest with Karakas, having some form of permanent based interaction in the sideboard is necessary.

Alternative Win Conditions

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Sometimes having a win condition that doesn't need to target your opponent can be very helpful, and occasionally having a win condition that doesn't fall prey to Mindbreak Trap even more so. Tinker into Blightsteel Colossus can be very powerful, as can be using Empty the Warrens to flood the board with tokens.

Additional Lands

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Sometimes having additional lands in the sideboard can be helpful. Ancient Tomb is a two mana enabler to getting down a card like Defense Grid on Turn one, while having Library in the 15 instead of the 60 can be good for not having a colorless land Main deck in matchups where it is important. Occasionally having extra basics is also good.

The Spice Corner

This deck has been popping up more and more so I'm wanting to talk about how it functions probably next week or so, so here's a sneak preview of what is being called "Time/Key Paradox"

What I'm Playing This Week

I'm still on the Ravager Shops train for the moment, slowly learning the ins and outs of the deck. I am trying something new this week with Witchbane Orb as a hedge against Hurkyl's Recall decks. Not sure if it's good or not, but I'd like to try for myself to see what I think about it. I am also going to be putting together a bit of a Deck Tech video for the deck via my own YouTube channel. I will be tweeting about this once it's up.

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Looking forward to next week when we get to start discussing the ins and outs of VINTAGE SUPER LEAGUE! Remember, VSL starts on January 15th! It's going to be an exciting time and we'll be certainly talking about the first week. In addition, we'll be taking a look at the Time/Key Paradox deck mentioned above in the Spice Corner, deconstructing how it works and plays.

I'm looking forward to 2019! It's going to be an exciting year for Vintage play. I am looking at going up to Michigan in February for a local event in Battle Creek at Perfect Storm Comics and Games. Should be an exciting time. I also played a Legacy Classic at SCG Columbus recently on Scapewish Nic Fit, and even though I didn't do too well overall record-wise (3-5) I was still reasonably happy about my play and the people I spent the time with at the event. I want to give serious props to Nathanial Moes, who murdered me horrifically in the last round with Oops! All Spells, but it was even more interesting to meet him because he helps operate Team Serious and the Serious Vintage Podcast out of Columbus/Cleveland, Ohio. It was super cool to get to meet him, and we'll hopefully be doing some more together in the future. I also managed to get to sit down with US Vintage Championships winner Brian Coval, which was fantastic. Thanks for chatting with me a bit Brian!

As always, hit me up on the Twitters and let me know what you think of the articles and I'm always around on the MTGGoldfish Discord server as well if you just want to chat at me about Vintage.

Until next time, keep casting those Moxen!

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