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Vintage 101: The Vintage Round Table - The "Caw Caw" Edition

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we have a real treat for the final article of 2022! I assembled a Vintage Round Table article to talk about the status of Vintage! It's going to be exciting for sure.

We've also got some Challenge data to talk about but no decklists for these events due to an issue identified by Daybreak Games on the MTGO website. Of these events, we only are able to talk about the Saturday event because there is no data for the Sunday event.

Before getting to things, I just want to thank everyone for all of the support for my columns in 2022! It has been awesome, and you are all awesome.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

The Vintage Round Table - The "Caw Caw" Edition

To close out 2022, I thought it would be an awesome idea to do another Vintage Round Table article! For those unaware of these (I do them very infrequently with Vintage) these are articles where I bring together a group of players/content creators/etc and have them answer questions about the format!

For the 2022 one, I always try to go big if I can. This go around I got 10 entries here, so let's take a look at our contributors!

Name Social Media
Stuart Ziarnik

Romancing the Stones



Pascal (SenpaiBlank) Twitter
Kevin Ishizaka Twitter
Justin Gennari






Raffaele Ramagli Italian Monthly League Discord
Jacob (416FrowningTable) Twitter
Nathan Lipetz Twitter
Austin (notmi) None
Robert Wilson




Amir Akhundzadeh (Amiracle) Twitter

These are some seriously awesome folks, so go follow them all! Now let's get to the QUESTIONS!

#1 - What are your current thoughts on the Vintage format? Are you having fun? Is the format healthy?

Stuart Ziarnik: I'm liking Vintage right now. Urza's Saga has been an interesting stress-test for the format, and 2 months ago, you could fairly accuse things of having gotten stale: for a while it's been Bazaars vs Sagas, and both deck design and gameplay was pretty warped around those cards. That said, even during that period there was still a lot of variety in decks (Saga had PO, Breach, Tinker, Shops, etc etc; Bazaar had split into ~3 subtypes, and there was a little bit of Doomsday and Xerox floating around the peripheries), and the gameplay was still enjoyable. Initiative is the new, big variable. I don't love the mechanic itself, but suddenly making a non-Bazaar, non-Shops Aggro deck into a viable strategy brings a dimension to Vintage we haven't seen in a long time. This winter will be an interesting intellectual challenge for Vintage players/designers. 

Pascal: In general I think Vintage is in a good state from a power level with a lot of viable decks. However I believe there are only two real strategies you either build a super proactive all-in deck that races like Tinker/Bazzar or you have to play wasteland to compete, I feel this leads to stale game play patterns. I kinda wish the format would slow down by a turn or so that we might be able to play sweet cards like Dack Fayden again.

Kevin Ishizaka: The format's great at the moment; lots of viable decks across many different archetypes! A fairly "rouge" deck, Squeevine, just won Vintage MTGO EW too! Anything is possible right now!

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Justin Gennari: Vintage is the healthiest it has been in years. The deck diversity today is at an extreme peak in comparison to any year since I have been playing. You can choose a variety of decks within the main archetypes (Bazaar, Shops, Combo, Aggro, Control) and realistically have a chance to win a tournament.

I personally am having a great deal of fun and am happy to have a variety of viable decks to play and make content with.

Raffaele Ramagli: Unless Monowhite Initiative really changes things, most of the format's recent landscape revolves (but is NOT dominated by) Urza's Saga, much to Justin's chagrin: you either play it, waste it, or outright ignore it. Wasteland rose in popularity becoming a necessary inclusion in many decks due to being an uncounterable answer to that and Bazaar, but also adding another avenue to nongames on top of all other chances of getting Vintage-ed.

Answers for the current meta being so diverse, moreso if you have to add MonoW in the mix, require Control to stretch really thin making it less compelling/viable than before and you often die having drawn the wrong part of your deck, especially facing Saga + Tinker. The strategy is still playable though, even if you have to jump through some hoops, so I'm having some fun anyway.

Format looks healthy or at least in a decent spot. None of the oppressive/obnoxious strategies is too dominant, nor is any of the tier one decks, Breach has a winrate to keep on watch, but it might be a byproduct of our classification lumping together almost everything that has the combo, but that also means that there are no stock 75s and the games vs it still feel different enough.

Jacob: As has been the case for a while, I think Vintage is in a great spot right now. New decks keep sprouting and having success, often the sign of a rich and healthy meta. Decks like Cradlevine, WUR Lurrus decks, smelting vat shops, UB Sheoldred tinker, and Initiative are all relative newcomers that are seeing success in the format. A few months ago, I think it was reasonable to say that the Tinker/Breach decks were a little bit too powerful against the field, but I no longer think that is true (not as though tinker/breach is a bad choice, but it is not too powerful either).

There are a lot of viable archetypes right now, more than there generally have been in Vintage. The games are fun, interactive, and the card selections are difficult and interesting. Players have a lot of decisions to make, both before the game starts in the deckbuilding phase, and during the games themselves, that can lead them to victory. Archetypes keep adapting in this format, and I think they will continue to. This has been a great time to be a Vintage player.

Nathan Lipetz: I am enjoying it on and off, it has begun to start to feel a bit stale but I feel like it is still quite balanced with lots of viable options.

Austin: The format is as healthy in terms of diversity as it likely will ever be, but fair decks being forced to play wasteland to compete is a huge limit on deckbuilding that I hate. The printing of Urza's Saga may have forced the meta to fully adopt this, but even the year before it was printed we saw decks like Jeskai Control dying out entirely because they could not compete without Wasteland. The new Lurrus control decks are bringing fair archetypes back to life, but are still reliant on Wasteland. I think we're too far gone for this to be reasonably addressed by B&R, but I'll still complain about it.

Robert Wilson: Yes, I think the format is in a good spot right now. Many archetypes have different viable strategies and Initiative has introduced a foil into the traditional "rock-paper-scissors" structure of "blue-shop-bazaar". I'm interested to see how fair decks other than Jeskai adapt to Initiative though, in particular BUG based decks.

Amir Akhundzadeh: I'm not the best person to ask if I'm having fun, because I'm always having fun. Even at times with the gameplay isn't ideal, I try to joke around and make the best of it.

I think the current Vintage format is pretty great, and that overall Vintage has been in a good spot since Narset & Karn were restricted. There are a variety of viable decks, variations on those decks, and room for innovation. I think one of the best signs of Vintage being healthy is that cyclical metagame. It rewards analysis, identifying trends, and figuring out what the best way to attack the format is. That helps prevent the format from feeling stale, and I think contributes to the high level of enjoyment people generally get from Vintage.

#2 - What changes would you make to the current format (bans/unbans) and why?

Stuart Ziarnik: 1) Restrict Force of Vigor: the card itself would be very cool if we only saw it in fair BUG-style decks, but instead, it's enabled Bazaar decks to skirt all the hate without having mana. It forces players to make very weird sideboarding choices - we can no longer rely on Leyline et al - while randomly hosing cards like Moxen and Oath. In short, it's made the Bazaar decks too good: there hasn't been a time in the past few years when it's not Tier 1, which then forces all the other decks to devote tons of MD and SB slots to answering it.

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2) Restrict Urza's Saga: Saga is an absolutely insane card that slots into a huge number of archetypes for very little cost. The card was (hopefully) not designed with Manifold Key, Sol Ring, or Black Lotus in mind. With those cards in the pool, it's a land that tends to give you 2 6/6s and either a bunch of mana or a game-ending combo piece. The power level is off the chain, but the real problem is that it forces us into stale play patterns: everyone has to build and play around this insane land, and when it's playable in so many archetypes, it homogenizes the experience - every round you have a good chance of having to play the Saga subgame. (And as a side note, if Force of Vigor gets restricted, Saga will DEFINITELY have to go, as FoV does keep Saga in check).

3) There are tons of safe unrestrictions. Channel, Flash, Imperial Seal, Memory Jar, Necropotence, and Windfall wouldn't do anything other than letting some brewers mess around - they're far below 2022 power level. Library of Alexandria probably is safe, though unrestricting a $1200 card is a little risky. Golgari Grave-Troll is maybe safe if we restrict Force of Vigor. Thorn of Amethyst is probably a safe and would help Shops out, though with Initiative on the rise, maybe it's a bad time to look at unrestricting a lock piece.

4) Ban Tinker. It's a stupid card that gets better with every artifact they print.

Pascal: I would like to see Citadel banned or Saga Restricted. I don't like how the dikotomi that you either play the fastest deck you can or have to play wasteland. I think from a game play perspective I would like Saga to not happen as often. Tinker Citadel is just not okay and making the best deck a bit weaker seems fine with me. Having to choose a Tinker target rather than just playing Citadel seems preferable to me.

Kevin Ishizaka: Some cards could be taken off the restricted list, namely Imperial Seal. Nothing comes to mind that should be restricted. People point to Urza's Saga a lot, with good reason, but I feel it encourages interactive games in a way that isn't too big of a strain on the format.

Justin Gennari: I would push forward with my suggestion of a staggered unrestriction calendar. We start by unrestricting the cards least likely to make an impact on the formats health and every few months move to the next card on the list. Start with Seal, Library, Windfall, Jar, and Channel. Then move onto more risky ones like Thorn, Will, Scroll, Necro. Be ready to after a few months re-restrict a card that was just unrestricted. My personal belief is in a B/R list that is as small as possible and this plan would help push for that and also make for fun and interesting meta experiments every few months.

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Raffaele Ramagli: I would restrict Bazaar of Baghdad, it isn't mandatory though, since it's not a matter of dominace (now), but more of gameplay patterns that might even drive people away. That would trigger a cascade of adjustments, like making room for other graveyard strategies, free Mental Misstep, etc. There is no point in elaborating further though, it will sadly never happen unless the way the format is managed drastically changes. Also the whole argument is less prominent when Hogaak is the best of the archetype, since it can operate without Bazaar, but that also shows a restriction would not kill it.

Oh also Golgari Grave-Troll restriction makes no sense.

Jacob: I currently believe there is no need to restrict anything in vintage, nor do I believe Bolas's Citadel should be banned as players occasionally request. The meta has been shifting to various decks for some time, and they should continue to do so without the need for any restrictions.

As far as unrestrictions, I think there are a handful of cards that could easily be unrestricted without much impact on the format. In this category I would clump Channel, Imperial Seal, Library of Alexandria, Memory Jar, and Windfall. I think these cards are not really powerful enough for Vintage and would all see very little play, if any.

I think every other unrestriction choice has a healthy amount of risk to it, but there are a handful of nominees of cards that can be discussed for exiting the restricted list. The only card I would like to argue in favor of unrestricting is thorn of Amethyst. I think that shops variants, while not being horrible performers/choices, could benefit to the meta in a meaningful way with the unrestriction of Thorn. Particularly, Shops variants such as Ravager Shops and other aggressive-slanted strategies have struggled in recent metagames. In addition to the prison builds, I think these shells could benefit from the unrestriction of thorn, adding some power to these archetypes so that they may once again become top-tier contenders!

Nathan Lipetz: I would like to see Urza's Saga restricted. The card is extremely powerful and dominant in the format. Decks have to be able to beat it to exist, for example, you can't play fair decks without adding Wasteland anymore.

Austin: I would ban Bolas's Citadel. There are numerous unbans I think could be reasonable, but nothing else would instantly improve the format like the banning of Bolas's Citadel. Tinker instantly winning the game has produced more feelbad experiences for me in Vintage than any other card by a mile.

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Robert Wilson: I wouldn't make any changes. I don't think there's anything currently that needs restricting either.

Amir Akhundzadeh: I don't think anything really needs a ban at the moment. I think there might be an argument for a Force of Vigor or Hollow One restriction, just because of how much those disrupt the gameplay vs bazaar decks. It feels bad to mull to leyline only for your opponent to FoV it in your upkeep or beat you down in a few turns with double Hollow Ones. At the same time, this is Vintage and sometimes you are going to t1'd, so maybe dying to a few bodies isn't the worst case. Ideally, something in the vein of: restricted if your deck has Bazaar, otherwise unrestricted would be my ideal way to handle these types of situations.

I'm sure some people will want something from Doomsday hit too, but I'm not sure what the best way to disrupt that shell would be.

Unban pretty much anything at this point. The format has changed so much, it's worth unbanning and running a few tests to see what is still problematic.

#3 - What are your thoughts on Initiative as a mechanic? Good or bad for Vintage?

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Stuart Ziarnik: It's good for Vintage in that it's made a non-Workshop, non-Bazaar Aggro deck a viable strategy, and will force us to play fundamental cards that normal formats play, like removal and sweepers. I dislike the mechanic itself - it's clearly not designed for two-player formats with fast mana, it's difficult to follow, and it warps games around itself without having a real counter-answer other than "just attack them back, bro!"

Pascal: I think the Initiative is not that interesting for Vintage from a Gameplay perspective since nce you won't be contested a lot of the time. So it feels like it just puts a quick clock on the table/ overwhelms you with value. That beeing said i think it is the exact right powerlevel.

Kevin Ishizaka: It's a good addition for Vintage; it's not format warping, but it helps an existing archetype. The white initiative cards add a strong clock to the existing white shell (replacing, say, luminarch aspirant), but the existing white shell is what really pulls the weight--archon, thalia, spirit of labyrinth, etc. Bazaar, particularly dredge, seems like a bad matchup for it and will probably be the equalizer if White Initiative decks rise in play rate. The red Adventurer sees fringe play and is cute.

Justin Gennari: Initiative as a mechanic looks very overtuned for 1v1 formats. However for Vintage specifically; we are the home of overtuned mechanics. I think it is a good thing for a non blue, non bazaar aggro variant to be viable and this mechanic certainly helps push that archetype into the conversation. As always I believe Vintage has the card pool needed to adapt to any newcomer and am happy to watch as the format evolves with this new addition.

Raffaele Ramagli: Initiative is just the most recent obnoxious (often asymmetric) printing/mechanic clearly designed for (casual) multiplayer that we have to endure since apparently everything is Commander. Generally though, due to the powerlevel and certain archetypes pushing outright worse alternatives out, Vintage can withstand these way better than other formats.

So, yes, it is bad due to its implementation, but not alarmingly bad, the format has already plenty of obnoxious stuff.

Jacob: In addition to Legacy, Initiative has certainly been making a splash in vintage to say the least. That being said, I think a new archetype showing results in Vintage is a good thing for the format.

While I certainly think the deck is strong, there has been very little time for the metagame to adapt to initiative. This deck is relatively fair for a format like Vintage, in addition to being exceptionally high variance. This combination of factors makes me highly skeptical that Initiative needs to leave the Vintage format, and if it does, we certainly cannot be confident about that right now. After all, what is wrong with a completely new archetype entering the format? I do not believe the format should consist of just shops, bazaar, and blue decks forever. I personally believe the shockwaves in Legacy have led people to flinch at the very art of a white Initiative card! We are jumping to conclusions if we are already asking for an Initiative restriction in vintage.

Something I will add is that one fix being thrown around to address initiative in Legacy is changing the initiative mechanic so that it only triggers if the game starts with more than two players. Wizards has shown they will address cards with rule adjustments in the past, like when they changed the companion mechanic and when they changed cascade to not trigger on split cards. If they do decide to make this modification, it will (and should) carry over to Vintage. Ultimately, that would be a fine change. If Initiative were to leave, an aggressive hatebear archetype in Vintage will come about again. Great players such as Wesal have already demonstrated the potential of these white hatebear decks by sticking with them and putting up results over time.

Nathan Lipetz: I think it is perfectly reasonable for Vintage, Mono White hasn't been the greatest deck ever and I think having a few upgrades for it is a good thing. I don't expect it to be the best deck but I do hope it improves Mono White.

Austin: Cool mechanic, this is the most playable mono white has been since I started playing Vintage. The mono white decks are still fairly untuned, and I think a lot of the initial overwhelming success of the deck comes from being unknown, and thus played against very poorly. I expect mono W to fade into a good, but not best in format deck as the meta adapts.

Robert Wilson: I think its good. Traditionally, Vintage plays to the stack - Blue based decks use power spells and stack based interaction such as Flusterstorm and Tinker, Dredge utilizes the suite of pitch spells, and Workshop decks make it harder for both decks to interact on the stack through tax effects. Initiative will force these decks to play to the board and interact in a way these strategies aren't typically use to. Current iterations of Initiative don't have an "I win button" that other Vintage decks have - which gives other decks a way to go over-the-top of Initiative. However, I do think there's unexplored space for Initiative to dip into another color (likely Blue or Red) that we have yet to see. Overall, I think this strategy will be fine and more viable options in Vintage are always a good thing.

Amir Akhundzadeh: I think it's an interesting mechanic, but it needs the right environment. It was clearly designed for multiplayer, and I could see it creating some interesting games and combat situations.

I think it is too powerful for Legacy, but fine for Vintage. We have access to the most powerful threats and answers. Decks will likely need to adapt more, but incentivizing combat seems like it would increase the number of viable strategic and overall benefit the format.

#4 - Quick, drop a haiku about Vintage!

Stuart Ziarnik:

come out from the bulk

archon of emeria

enter the dungeon


Format of Power

Last Bastion of Outcasts

Memories of Joy

Kevin Ishizaka:

All that Workshopping

only to get T1 Doomsday'd

I'm done playing brown


Some come to tinker

Others stay to play with power nine

But all, a good time

Justin Gennari:

The moxen go up

All the moxen must come down

Try to Explain That

Raffaele Ramagli: It used to be way more valid before Urza's Saga, but I'll drop it anyway.

A Handful of Counterspells

When a man without Pyroblasts meets a men with,

the men without will be a dead man.


The stark blue pond sits,

Still amidst shops and markets,

Initiative fits!

Nathan Lipetz:

Vintage is awesome

Saga in Tinker is busted

Bazaar is also dumb


for my sanity

For the love of god tap top

When you cast P O

Robert Wilson:

Cast Tinker and win

Not so fast a Pyroblast

Still better than Dredge

Amir Akhundzadeh:

Thassa wins the game

Tinker, top, and spin away

Spice triumphs one day

#5 - Do you have any cool spice for the current format? Any sweet tips for players new to Vintage?

Stuart Ziarnik: No spice here, but I hope Initiative puts Balance back on the menu! My only tip to new players is to open your mind to proxies - they're the future of this format.

Pascal: Does Birdblade still count? ;)

Kevin Ishizaka: I'm a Prison Shops workshopping guy, but I've lately been playing Doomsday with a Sheoldred sideboard juke plan! It's really fun.

I hope to come out with a comprehensive Prison Shops guide soon (in a month? I'm chipping away at it); but other than that, I recommend new players try a league with a Paradoxical Outcome list, a Hogaak list, or a Golos Shops list. They're the "least frustrating" and most self-explanatory decks of each archetype. Also, use a rental service (like Manatraders).

Justin Gennari: Keep an eye out for those new cards. I can't believe Smelting Vat slipped under my radar!! Play as much MTGO as possible. MTGO is the hyperbolic time chamber of getting good at Vintage or any other Magic format.

Raffaele Ramagli: Nick Detwiler and the Forinos were playing a really cool brew at EW NA. (I guess you can get the decklist and post if it fits the article)

What I say to new players is that a brief conversation/video tells you most of what generally happens in the format, but then you will have to play and find yourself in the exact situations to understand all the nuances. Try to pick a tier/established deck(list) at first that has content on it so you can start playing and get first hand experience. Oh and beware, it is addictive.

I got into Vintage some time ago and at first I burned tons of playpoints until I started learning by watching IamActuallyLvL1 VODs and then everything clicked and I started doing well.

Jacob: Recently I have been playing Initiative, before that I played a lot of Shops. I have seen a brew around where they are putting Sarevok's Tome (an artifact that takes the initiative) into a creature-based shell of prison shops. This list looks great, I am definitely up to try it.

For new players to Vintage, I recommend picking up one deck that interests you, and if you enjoy playing with it, stick to tuning it and mastering the strategy for some time. Vintage is actually a less daunting format to get into than Legacy, since there are only a handful of shells and cards that decks are built around, which makes it far easier to have a strong comprehension of the meta. Once you become familiar with your initial deck of choice, try out other strategies and see what you enjoy the most! It really is an amazing format.

Nathan Lipetz: I actually haven't been playing much in terms of spicy decks in awhile, I think part of that is my feeling of brews often getting murdered by Saga. As for tip for newer Vintage players, take your time! The format isn't always as fast as you would expect, make the most out of your cards.

Austin: Dress Down is broken in every matchup, and stock 2019 esper PO is the most unbeatable deck in existence.

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Robert Wilson: I think Third Path Iconoclast could be a player in Vintage and a tool to use against Initiative decks. We've started to see it pop up already and I think there's more space to explore with it in possibly a PO shell as well. If you're new to Vintage I think it's best to start by getting a feel for how the various flavors of the three major archetypes operate; Blue, Dredge, and Shops. The Vintage community is very open about teaching and we're always happy to have more players playing and working on the format.

Amir Akhundzadeh: One of the things I do when I'm preparing for a large tournament (and if I have the time), is get in a few leagues with the top decks in the format. See what the mulligans feel like, what play patterns there are, how people interact with you and how they expect you to interact with them.

I try and identify these interaction points and come up with innovative ways to punish my opponent. This has led to me running multiple pithing needles (still a personal favorite), Ashiok, Gideon of the Trials, Scab-Clan Berserker, and even Deafening Silence.

I think the card I've been highest on lately is Brotherhood's End, but with the rise of Initiative decks I think we'll see a lot more Hushbringers.

Vintage Challenge 12/24

The first Challenge event of the weekend and the only one we have data on this weekend was the Saturday event. This event had 54 players thanks to the data collected by the Vintage Streamer's Discord.

You can find the data sheet here.

Mono White was very popular here, and it had a solid win rate overall. All across the board looked really good though and this definitely looked like a great metagame.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Doomsday 1st sixmp
Cradlevine 2nd tajoordan
Mono White Initiative 3rd Koala40
4C DRS 4th Bryzem1
Hollow Vine 5th JUJUBEAN__2004
Dredge 6th Wizard_2002
Combo Shops 7th teichou_aisu
Doomsday 8th Vertyx_

Pretty varied Top 8. At the end of the event here it was sixmp on Doomsday that took it down, and from what I have heard this player also won the Sunday event on the same deck, so congrats!

Around the Web

  • Justin Gennari has some solid stuff for the end of the year!
  • Our good friend Rajah James, winner of 2022 Vintage Champs wrote a sick tournament report! Check that out here. Rajah was also on the Pitcast recently as well so check that out here.

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Thanks for your continued support of the column and join me next year as we continue our journey into Vintage!

As always you can reach me at my Link Tree! In addition you can always reach me on the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the Vintage Streamers Discord.

Until next time!

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