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Vintage 101: The State of the Union

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're going to be diving into the overall format right now as to how it looks on Magic Online and what decks are doing well and which decks are not, and see where Vintage is as a format. In addition, we'll be taking a look at last weekend's Vintage Challenge, as well as our Spice Corner.

Without further ado, let's dive right in, shall we?

The State of the Union of Vintage

Vintage as a format has continued to move along since the restriction of Narset, Parter of Veils late last year, and the printing of Theros: Beyond Death. The format right now does seem to be doing well, despite many who decried the rise of Paradoxical Outcome based decks that would eventually overthrow the format and yet somehow hasn't. There aren't many complaints I've seen truly leveled at the format right now, other than the fact that cards like Bolas's Citadel tend to make games feel the same and easy to win with. Still, every week seems to present a new and interesting thing, as people continue to shift the overall Metagame around.

Let's take a look at some of the big hitters of the format right now and see what they're up to.

Xerox Decks

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Xerox and specifically Jeskai Xerox decks are back in a position of re-evaluating the power level of some threats in their decks. While throughout the year last year, Jeskai had adopted the play style of Dreadhorde Arcanist, a clearly powerful card, the advent of cards like Oko, Thief of Crowns put a severe damper on the card's ability to take over the game. As such, these decks are slowly reducing the overall number of this card, with some lists playing none and some playing at least one copy. Instead, a value copy or two of Underworld Breach has found room in the deck, allowing the deck to have a bit of a Yawgmoth's Will-esque game in late games without sacrificing splashing for a fourth color. Furthermore, Mystic Sanctuary has found its stride as a singleton in nearly every Jeskai manabase.

While Jeskai appears to be doing rather well, it is a slippery slope for this deck as we have seen in the past.  Still, this is one of the truest mainstays of the format and you cannot keep it down for very long.

On the flip side, Xerox style decks like 4C Control, RUG Walkers, and BUG Midrange all continue to be pretty solid options for the overall Metagame, and all have the ability to do well in large events.

PO Storm

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PO Decks continue to chug along, continually evolving and trying to find the best way to beat the amount of disruption often leveled their way. While there were more than a few people who felt that PO itself needed to be restricted, the Metagame adjustment to the deck has shown that the strategy itself is fine in the format, given that cards like Collector Ouphe and Force of Vigor now exist. It's been said enough times, but the best card in PO Storm isn't actually PO, it's Bolas's Citadel, and that rings pretty true out of these decks. It often feels much better to resolve Tinker than it does to resolve PO, even with cards like Narset, Parter of Veils restricted.

I think PO has officially settled into a status of "good, but not overpowered" in the format, and thus it can exist and do well at events, but often in the hands of truly experienced pilots.

Ravager Shops

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Once the big boogeyman of Vintage overall, the year of 2019-2020 was not super kind to Mishra's Workshop based strategies, outside of gaining a new threat in Stonecoil Serpent. The deck now has to contend with a Metagame containing cards like Hurkyl's Recall, Collector Ouphe, and Force of Vigor and can often run across these cards and be put right out of the game. That isn't to say that Workshop strategies aren't good, but that they now have a bit of a safety valve that can keep them in check. This is only a good thing I feel. It allows the deck to continue to exist within the Metagame but provides a reasonable way of interacting with it.

In addition, the restriction of Mental Misstep also had an effect on how people interact with Workshop based decks, by the sheer virtue of not having to play four really bad pieces of countermagic. Players learned better what cards out of Shops were important and became more educated to the overall matchup versus the deck. This also has had a solid effect on how well Workshop decks are doing in the Metagame as well. Suffice to say, Shops is still reasonable and can definitely spike an event, but now it has a real price to it.

Dredge / Bazaar Aggro

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Bazaar based decks continue to be some of the best strategies in the overall format. In fact, both Dredge and Hollow Vine are just absolutely incredibly strong, and I feel like the big takeaway here is how these decks are impacted by the London Mulligan. Dredge continues to make waves despite losing Golgari Grave-Troll to a one of, and has adapted well in the format to perform. Part of this also has to do with all the free pitch magic printed this past year.

The Hollow Vine deck takes this concept to a real extreme, utilizing as much of the free pitch magic as possible. This is the natural evolution it seems of the Survival archetype, which seems to have completely disappeared from the format overall. Honestly if there was ever a Bazaar deck to push towards another restriction from the archetypes, my guess is that deck would be Hollow Vine. While I don't believe that Wizards would ever restrict a card like Bazaar of Baghdad, it does seem rather likely that an important piece such as Hollow One could theoretically become restricted. While this might seem silly to some, Hollow One does press a lot of the buttons that make this archetype function. It may be too early to tell but it is very telling that these lists continue to do very well.

Oracle Combo

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A relatively new addition to the format with the printing of Thassa's Oracle, only time will truly tell if this deck is here to stay or if it's just another flash in the pan like the Fastbond decks ended up being. Still, this deck being able to be a blue control deck and having basically zero downside to include a copy of Oracle and Demonic Consultation makes a lot of sense that it will stick around.

Oath of Druids

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Oath is an intriguing story of how one card can redefine a deck. That card of course was Oko, Thief of Crowns and it gave Oath a raw ability to play a late game style of game, but also have a way to deal with main deck problem permanents that were often lights out for the deck. Couple this with a few really dedicated and strong pilots on the deck, and quite frankly I don't see the deck going anywhere anytime soon. Oath is also super popular in paper Metagame because it feels very Vintage-y and has a strong game plan.

Dark Petition Storm

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DPS has been on a rollercoaster ride since the restriction of Mental Misstep. Fans of Dark Ritual have clamored to cast the card once more, and the deck has reasonable results to its name now. The downside of this deck is the fact that it does have a very poor PO Storm matchup, since the combo deck with counterspells will inevitably beat the combo deck without them. I don't ever expect this deck to go away, as people who really enjoy the style of deck will continue to play it.

White Eldrazi / Hatebear Strategies

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There has been a renewed interest in these kinds of strategies as of late, as they are powerful and can attack the Metagame in various ways. One big reason behind this that I can see is the implementation of cards like Once Upon a Time, which has proven its worth in being able to find what the deck needs to get going in the early game. I would not be surprised to see more of these types of decks in the future, as they seem pretty solid overall.

Strategies on the Down Low

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While it saddens me a little bit to consider this, but Survival decks are generally in a position where they've been superseded out of the format by sheer power creep of the free pitch magic. I mentioned before that the Hollow Vine decks feels like the natural evolution of Survival, by simply cutting all the mana sinks and toolbox elements and focusing on a proactive and aggressive game plan backed up by free countermagic, and that holds true for the amount of results that Survival is putting up now. For a while there, the decks simply didn't exist in the overall Metagame, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see them disappear again in favor of a deck like Hollow Vine.

Furthermore, anything related to Fastbond has essentially died out in the format. From Eric's Crab Shack to Ziasbond, decks utilizing this interesting card have simply vanished. While this further paints the picture that Fastbond was an absolutely safe unrestriction, it also is sort of sad that none of the cool decks that it inspired were kept up with or continued to do well. Hopefully at some point, someone is able to latch onto a Fastbond shell that is interesting and can do well in this current format. I think the card is excessively interesting and a lot of fun to play with.

Overall - Is Vintage Fine?

I would say that the current answer to this question is yes. There is a lot going on week to week now, and the format is continually shifting and adjusting, especially on Magic Online. That being said, I do think there is a bit of an echo chamber effect going on in the format, and outside of a few truly dedicated folks there isn't much in the way of true innovation in the format. While this is unfortunate, people are gravitating towards decks that are winning events and settling their own decisions based on those decks, and not investigating much of the "what if?" factor the format can have sometimes. Thankfully I think there is just enough of this from the dedicated folks that it's kept a little bit interesting at least.

Regardless, I think Vintage is currently healthy. There are certainly some discussions to be had about Bazaar decks doing exceedingly well, but beyond that the format definitely has a great rock/paper/scissors feel to it overall, and that there really is not one clear target as the best deck in the format.

Community Vintage Update

There is a Vintage event at Eudomonia on March 29th in Berkeley, CA. Check out the details of this event here.

A reminder that there is also a Vintage Rumble event at Dice City Games this weekend on March 7th. Details can be found here!

If there is an event you think I should cover or want me to talk about, please feel free to reach out and let me know about it!

Vintage Challenge 2/29

We had yet another Vintage Challenge over the weekend, so let's take a look at how it all broke down, shall we?

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Ravager Shops 1st infant_no_1 (Josh McCurley)
Oracle Combo 2nd Michelino
PO Storm 3rd IamFishman (Ray Robillard)
PO Storm 4th ThePowerNine (Justin Franks)
Mono White Hatebears 5th MindOfAKid
White Eldrazi 6th GGoggles
Jeskai Xerox 7th Condescend
4C Control 8th Frederusher

This is certainly an intriguing Top 8. Every one of these Challenge events as of late have been relatively intriguing to watch how the format keeps pushing and pulling back and forth. It does really feel like there's an interesting rock/paper/scissors effect on the format right now as we talked about above. There is a lot going on here to unpack, so let's get right to it.

Our winner this week is the one and only Josh McCurley of TEAM SERIOUS on Robots and Robot Accessories, aka Ravager Shops!

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This list is super clean and I especially love the play of Ratchet Bomb and Powder Keg in the sideboard. Super awesome play, and Josh even streamed this event, which you can check out the VODs from here. Congrats to Josh on his finish, repping 1000%!

In Second Place we have a Thassa's Oracle combo deck!

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This version opts to be in Esper over other colors, and I like the skew of it. Considering that being in Esper allows you to have access to Teferi, Time Raveler, which can operate to help protect the combo when you need it, this is pretty cool. I think this ends up being the best shell for Thassa's Oracle since it can be played as a regular control Xerox deck as well.

In Third Place we have Vintage friend Ray Robillard with PO Storm.

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This list is skewed in on Monastery Mentor and the Time Vault combo to win the game, but also can boast winning the game off Tezzeret the Seeker's ultimate. Turning your board of artifact mana into 5/5s and then swinging is a way to end the game for sure.

Further down the Top 8 we have two Mono White lists, one of which is Spaghetti-filled and one of which is Spaghetti-less.

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Both of these lists are doing roughly the same thing with their creature suite, disrupting the opponent's game plan and then seeking to push in damage quickly. Both decks get to take great advantage of the power of Once Upon a Time's first spell free cast to either stabilize mana or find a threat. Both of these are just super interesting strategies to see do well in an event like this.

At the bottom of the Top 8, we have a 4C Control list playing everyone's favorite Titan, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath!

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Now let's take a look at the 2020 cards appearing in this event!

Card Name Number of Copies
Underworld Breach 6
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath 4
Soul-Guide Lantern 3
Thassa's Oracle 1

It's always interesting to look at these statistics since it is showing interesting information about the cards from the new sets being played. It was intriguing as well that the only Thassa's Oracle deck in the entire Top 32 was the one that placed in the finals in Second Place. Does this mean that Oracle is more powerful than it looks? Does the fact that Breach is really only showing up as a 2-of value card in most lists mean that the card is simply kind of fair in Vintage? Or have we really not cracked the egg on these cards yet because people are comfortable playing what they know?

Around the Web

  • Oath's premier specialist Miharu_Fuyumiya posted a sideboarding guide on Oko Oath. It's in Japanese so you will need to translate it. Check it out over here!

The Spice Corner

Our good friend Saturn decided to bless us with a super interesting decklist playing not only Ramunap Excavator, but also Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and Stifle?!

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Taking a cue from the Pioneer format, our good friend Matt Murray decided to throw a little Inverter of Truth at the Oracle Combo deck!

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Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have for this week folks! Thank you so much for continuing to support my content and the column!

As always, you can reach me on Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! I'm also always around the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the Vintage Streamers Discord Server! I'm also running a giveaway contest on Twitter for a custom made wooden deckbox to celebrate 500 followers on Twitter. If you'd like to enter, check it out over here!

Until next time, keep casting PO!

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