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Vintage 101: The Rise of the King Crab

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 one of the more interesting Fastbond "shells" to come out of the unrestriction of the card. Get ready for some crab legs because Eric's Crab Shack is ready to dish it out! In addition, we'll be covering this past weekend's Magic Online Challenge as always, with a look towards the final Vintage Format Playoff event this weekend!

Without further ado, let's dive right into the seafood buffet!

Crab Shack, Baby

Originally developed by none other than Eric Freytag (of PucaTrade), the Crab Shack deck was actually developed by Eric prior to the unrestriction of Fastbond, but with only one copy of the card available it was relatively inconsistent in winning the game. Eric began redeveloping the deck once Fastbond became unrestricted on the notion of finding the most broken thing that he could do with resolving Fastbond and being able to play extra lands.

The way that this deck primarily functions is utilizing Fastbond with bounce lands like Golgari Rot Farm and Oboro, Palace in the Clouds with win conditions such as Hedron Crab or Retreat to Hagra to win the game. Furthermore, because this deck is playing blue cards it does get to play things like Force of Will to try to protect the combo.

Let's take a look at a more recent list.

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As we like to do here, let's take apart the deck and look at how it all fits together.

Fast Mana

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As expected this deck is playing the appropriate Moxen on-color to what this deck wants to be doing in addition to the Lotus. Lotus being able to cast Retreat to Hagra is pretty huge for this deck in all regards.

The Engine

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The basic engine of this deck all hinges around the use of Fastbond and lands that can bounce themselves, either at will (Oboro) or triggered (the Ravnica Karoo's). In addition, Trade Routes can turn any land into a bounce land, negating the need for specifically Oboro or Rot Farm/Growth Chamber to win the game. Glacial Chasm is also considered part of the engine since when you can get it on the battlefield with a Fastbond in play it completely negates the damage that comes from Fastbond.

Win Conditions

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These two cards are the primary kill conditions of the deck, either by using Hedron Crab to mill your opponent out completely or by using Retreat to Hagra to drain them. The thing to remember with Hedron Crab is that if you don't have Glacial Chasm you have to pay close attention to how much life you have vs cards in the opponent's deck. Since Crab mills three per land drop, spending 17 life mills 51 cards, spending 18 life mills 54 cards. At bare minimum 19-20 life will allow you to completely mill an opponent given that each player starts with seven cards in hand and has roughly 53 cards left in their libraries. Retreat to Hagra however is a true infinite kill, given that you can stack the triggers of Fastbond and Retreat as such that you perform the drain mode of Retreat before taking damage from Fastbond. This offsets the damage from Fastbond, meaning you can do this as much as you need to in order to drain the opponent's life total.

Card Draw / Selection

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Primarily restricted cards here, but the most typical powerful restricted blue card draw in the game.


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When your deck's game plan hinges on several key cards coming together, you naturally are going to include ways to look for these cards. Most of these are restricted (outside of Crop Rotation) but they're all very powerful at locating the pieces of the combo. Demonic Consultation is excessively powerful when you need to find a Crab or Retreat as naming four-of's with that card is one of the best ways to use it.

Countermagic / Misc Utility

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Being a blue heavy shell affords the deck the ability to flexibly play countermagic to defend its combo. One of the more cute and interesting interactions here is the use of Daze in being able to pick up an Island to defend Fastbond and then being able to replay that land after Fastbond resolves. In addition, Yawgmoth's Will affords the deck some redundancy and utility to replay its combo from the graveyard if need be in order to win a game.

Crabby Sideboarding

Now let's take a look at the sideboard options this deck has going for it!

Graveyard Hate

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Surgical Extraction is actually just an interesting card to see creeping into Vintage, and I think mainly more people are willing to utilize this card due to the restriction of Mental Misstep. Regardless, this deck obviously needs ways to interact with the graveyard vs Dredge, and Surgical can pull double duty against combo decks as well.

Spell/Combo Hate

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Mindbreak Trap helps mainly versus decks like DPS or PO Storm, but also helps protect the Fastbond combo engine by being able to Trap out a critical piece of countermagic if the opponent is willing to commit to that number of spells to stop the combo. Regardless of how it's used, it's a powerful option for this deck's sideboard versus a wide array of decks, and can even be used versus Shops to shut down their busted openers from being able to resolve their critical piece.

Permanent Hate

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One of the ways this deck can be shut down is through various fast wins off permanents like Blightsteel Colossus or by threats that stop either part of the primary combo. Even just a simple Wasteland in response to a bounce land trigger can halt the combo in its tracks if the Crab player doesn't have another bounce land. Cards like Pithing Needle can shut this down, while Brazen Borrower is a sick catch-all to a wide variety of cards from Oath targets, Blightsteel, Citadel, and the like. Hurkyl's Recall can deal with PO boards and Shops, while both Abrupt Decay and Assassin's Trophy make for powerful catch all answers to a variety of permanents, while Trophy can also just be land destruction versus Wasteland or Strip Mine if it needs to be. The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale helps deal with creature focused strategies like Dredge and Shops.

In short, I like this deck a lot. It's got an interesting way of winning the game and it also plays at a unique angle of attack that can catch opponents unaware and win out of nowhere.

Vintage Challenge 11/30

This weekend boasted yet another Vintage Challenge on Magic Online, so let's take a look at how things shook out with the Top 8. As always, our good friend Matt Murray posted some data on this event over here.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
PO Storm 1st Soulstrong
DPS 2nd Sandydogmtg
RUG Walkers 3rd DiscoverN
DPS 4th Shorsh
Ravager Shops 5th Ramp
DPS 6th Damatoexp (Daniel D'Amato)
RUG PO Storm 7th CherryXMan
Dredge 8th OptionParalysis

One thing to note about this event is that it was definitely very combo-heavy between Dark Petition Storm and Paradoxical Outcome based decks. With Narset restricted, these decks are popping up well to capitalize on figuring out how best to attack the format, so it's not surprising to see. We're barely two weeks into the post Narset restriction format, so I feel as though it will take some time for everything to adjust and settle down. However, DPS does seem to be in a very good spot right now, which is awesome because I love me some Dark Rituals!

That being said, at the end of the day it was Soulstrong on PO Storm that took the trophy home!

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This list is pretty stock to most Esper PO Storm lists, splashing red for Pyroblast and Lightning Bolt (to deal with cards like Oko, Narset when she does show up, and Bolt for Collector Ouphe). It definitely looks like a strong list for sure. Congrats to Soulstrong on the win!

In Second we have Sandydogmtg on the other Storm combo deck, DPS!

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This is as close to OG as it gets to DPS it looks like, with cards like Mind's Desire and Library of Alexandria. I am in the camp that both of these cards aren't quite cutting it in this archetype anymore, and of course our next list agrees with that sentiment. Still, they seemed to have worked for Sandydog, so congrats on the finish!

Daniel D'Amato in his very first Vintage Challenge played to a 6th place run on the following list, with a little help in deckbuilding by our good friend Cyrus Corman-Gill.

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One thing I really like in this list is the Sensei's Divining Top, giving you the ability to turn Bolas's Citadel into essentially a Yawgmoth's Bargain to get out of land-locks with the card. In addition, the Collective Brutality in the main is a very cool addition here as well.

On the fair side of things, in third place was DiscoverN with a RUG Walkers build.

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I'm actually somewhat surprised by the lack of Oko, Thief of Crowns in the list. Still, DiscoverN is a pretty powerful wizard so congrats on third place!

Further down the Top 32 we have our friend desolutionist with a sick Doomsday build!

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This list is pretty sick, as is just the sheer fact of playing Vintage Doomsday. Really cool card and really cool list. Happy to see such poweful skulls floating around!

Also down in the Top 32 Miharu_Fuyumiya continues to innovate with Oath of Druids by playing Archon of Valor's Reach??!

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Seeing an Oath list without Griselbrand has got me like "WAIT WHAT?!" but Miharu has had a ton of success with this deck this year, so I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt here.

Continuing to push the envelope of free spells is HanChoBai with their HollowVine deck. This deck is pretty sweet, I have to admit.

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Now let's take a look at the 2019 era cards in the Challenge like we always like to do.

Card Name Number of Copies
Force of Vigor 37
Force of Negation 20
Stonecoil Serpent 20
Narset, Parter of Veils 13
Collector Ouphe 11
Oko, Thief of Crowns 10
Bolas's Citadel 8
Mystic Forge 6
Veil of Summer 6
Wrenn and Six 6
Brazen Borrower 3
Dreadhorde Arcanist 3
Golos, Tireless Pilgrim 3
Lavinia, Azorius Renegade 3
Mystic Sanctuary 3
Ashiok, Dream Render 2
Karn, the Great Creator 2
Manifold Key 2
Teferi, Time Raveler 2
God-Pharaoh's Statue 1

Again, Force of Vigor continues to be highly represented in these events. I still am pretty much sticking to the fact that while War of the Spark may have shaken up Vintage in an immediate sense this year, Modern Horizons completely re-oriented certain decks in the format entirely, and will continue to have a lasting effect on this format for a very long time. Between Force of Vigor, Force of Negation, and Collector Ouphe this set gave Vintage some very powerful cards. In addition Throne of Eldraine added several options as well this year between Oko, Brazen Borrower, and Mystic Sanctuary.

The Spice Corner

Coming off his 48 hour charity stream (which raised over $600 for charity), Brady Iba hits up with Vintage Lands!

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Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have for this week folks! Join us next week as we discuss the results of the final 2019 Vintage Format Playoff event, and talk about the players who have made it to the 2019-2020 Vintage Format Championship event that will be taking place on January 11th, 2020! In addition we'll be talking about the newest hipness on the block in HanChoBai's HollowVine deck! It's going to be an exciting time!

As always you can reach me on Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! In addition, you might have also heard the news, but starting after the first of the year I will be taking care of the "This Week in Legacy" column on MTGGoldfish as well as this column! I'm really looking forward to this as Legacy is another passion of mine, so I hope to give the column lots of love!

Also, I just recently released another episode of "The Bazaar of Moxology" entitled "The Greatest Elk" which you can grok at over on YouTube!

Until next time, keep on casting Moxen!

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