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Vintage 101: The Saga


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 talking about the card Urza's Saga and the effect it has had on the Vintage format, but also very critically looking at just how good the card actually is. In addition, to that we've got two Challenge events to talk about from last weekend as well as a Spice Corner.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

The Saga of Urza

Since the release of Modern Horizons 2 we've seen quite a shift in tone of decks in Vintage, with plenty of long term format cards really hitting the books (such as Endurance), but the most pronounced effect is the printing of Urza's Saga... or so it seems.

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On rate in Vintage, Saga certainly has a lot of positives to what it does. It creates creatures, tutors up game-winning stuff, and generally seems like it is one of the best things to be doing in the current format. And in some cases it is. There are plenty of the Blue Tinker variants, especially the Affinity variation with Thought Monitor that I think the card really does put in the work. Furthermore, it definitely works very well in the context of any deck wanting to play the card Thespian's Stage (namely Golos Combo Shops which has largely fallen out of favor in the current metagame).

I don't believe that Saga plays well in just about every deck though. There are many decks that have very mana-hungry requirements where it is pretty much incapable of being played. I have seen many discussions on this card in the past month, and one of the big things to keep in mind with this card is the pronounced downsides it has and the power level of the Blue Suite cards that it has seen play with.

First off, being a Land and an Enchantment is a severe downside of the card, because not only is it capable of being snagged by Force of Vigor, but Strip Mine + Wasteland readily take care of the card. With these cards seeing a lot more play in Vintage, it is to be expected that the number of times you will run into Saga being a do-nothing land is non-zero. In addition, cards like Blood Moon and Alpine Moon have begun to uptick in play which in turn just kill the Saga outright (and any future Sagas due to how Saga rules work with losing abilities to Moon effects).

These downsides to me and the response overall to the card and its existence in decks tells me that eventually more and more decks utilizing the card will taper off into a select few archetypes and as we gain a little more information on the heuristics of how good Urza's Saga really is. I think currently the card definitely is good but it isn't good in absolutely every deck and has very specific strategies that it becomes amazing with, some of which I've mentioned already.

Saga has definitely had a true impact on the format overall and I still don't think we've seen yet how far of a reach it has in the format.

Vintage Challenge 8/14

We had two Challenges this past weekend, the first of which was the mid-afternoon Saturday event. Thanks to the efforts of the Vintage Streamer's Discord, we know this event had 68 players.

You can find all the Top 32 decklists for this event here and the data sheet here.

Dredge really roared in this event, taking 11 spots as the most popular deck in the event with 14 Bazaar of Baghdad decks total. Despite this popularity bump, the Dredge win rate was a little medium. It was really the Blue Tinker decks and variants of those (basically the big blue decks with Tinker and Bolas's Citadel and cards to support that) that really took off in this event. I feel pretty comfortable with saying that I think these decks are among some of the best things to possibly be doing right now in the current format.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Blue Tinker 1st musasabi
Blue Tinker 2nd Graciasportanto
Dredge 3rd John1111
Jeskai Control 4th Diem4x
Blue Tinker 5th Capriccioso
Hatebears 6th _against_
Blue Tinker 7th ReneRandrup
Oath of Druids 8th wambocombo2020

Blue Tinker definitely rocked this Top 8 in full force, with several different variants in this Top 8. In the end, however, it was musasabi and their army of tiny robots that took it all down.

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I like this version of the Tinker deck quite a bit, because I like how much draw engine power it has in the eight Thoughtcast effects. This is honestly for me the shell that makes the best use out of Urza's Saga due to all the Affinity functionality and Urza/Emry.

The Second Place finalist was also on Blue Tinker.

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This is a very different variant, leaning on the power of cards like Hullbreacher. The biggest role that Saga plays in this variant is as a tutor mainly, with the Constructs just being an added bonus.

Also in the Top 8 we've got some Lurrus Hatebear action.

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Spirit of the Labyrinth and Leonin Arbiter is really pushing the level of hate, especially with the added bonuses of Path to Exile basically being straight up Swords to Plowshares without the lifegain vs plenty of decks in the format.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we've got Oath of Druids.

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Archon of Cruelty honestly seems like a great idea if a lot of people are pushing out Karakas for dealing with various cards. The fact that this card is a clock + disruptive ability makes it very good to Oath into in my opinion. It also weirdly offsets the count of creatures for your opponent, but that seems pretty okay.

Outside of the Top 8 we had a showing by Bant Midrange.

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Main deck four copies of Endurance is a real statement. Is this the new Force of Vigor?

Vintage Challenge 8/15

Our second Challenge event of the weekend was the early morning Sunday event. This event had 41 players overall.

You can find all the Top 32 decklists for this event here and the datasheet here.

Blue Tinker yet again had plenty of presence in this event, and a solid win rate to boot. However, Jeskai also did reasonably well despite having a low number of players on the deck. Doomsday had probably the worst weekend it might have ever had in these smaller events, where it usually does pretty well.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Jeskai Control 1st Diem4x
Golos Stax 2nd EnderF1705
Blue Tinker 3rd SHAKELION
Oops All Spells 4th TabaDonk
BUG Midrange 5th _Shatun_
Golos Stax 6th fistfullofmetal
Blue Tinker 7th oosunq
4C Midrange 8th llulu

Definitely a lot of variance in this Top 8, between Shops and Blue, Tinker and Combo. At the end of the event it was Jeskai that did the thing and won it all!

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Plenty of new cards to be found abounds here from Prismatic Ending to the Monke. One big thing being seen more and more is Alpine Moon because of how flexibly it answers things like Urza's Saga (for one red it just kills Saga due to the Saga rules) and also how well it answers other lands as well. Not surprised to see it see play here as sort of a Pithing Needle-like effect.

In Second Place we have Golos Stax.

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Even given a low meta share of Doomsday in an event, coming prepped with four Archive Trap in the sideboard has started to become pretty standard. Definitely respecting Doomsday for sure.

Also in the Top 8 we've got some Oops All Spells action.

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Normally these decks often revolve around having both the Oops kill and the Belcher kill. This deck just goes for the Oops Kill throat and backs it up with a mess of discard outlets including four Grief. Seems good!

At the bottom of the Top 8, look it's the Kavu deck!

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Artifact Mutation seems like a super sweet sideboard card for sure here.

Just outside of the Top 8 we've got some aggressive Izzet action!

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What's better than being aggressive with Ragavan? Being aggressive with both it and Dreadhorde Arcanist. This deck seems incredibly strong.

Further down the Top 32 we have Grixis Breach.

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Urza's Saga having a minor place in this variant is really odd to me, but I guess it does find Black Lotus at the very least. I think it's more likely that the best card here is Dragon's Rage Channeler.

Around the Web

  • Justin Gennari has his usual round of sweet videos for us, so go check those out.
  • Bryant Cook tries to figure out KCI. Check it out here.
  • Blazing Infect in Vintage? Yes.
  • This is a great overview article of the various strategies of Vintage. Check it out here.

The Spice Corner

KCI is always pretty spicy!

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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 Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! In addition you can always reach me on the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the Vintage Streamers Discord.

Until next time!



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