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Vintage 101: Thirst for Data


Thirst for Knowledge, Ben Thompson

The Thirst for Data

This past weekend was the monthly Power Nine Challenge event on Magic Online, and the Vintage community on The Mana Drain has been going over the results (kindly provided by Diophan, as usual). Also in the past few days there has been a debate on the availability of data for Magic formats, mostly centered around Standard naturally. This confluence of events got me thinking about the nature of data collection and dissemination regarding Vintage.

From everything that I've read (mostly on TMD posts and social media) the Vintage community by-and-large would prefer even more data to be released. I suppose this is just the nature of the non-rotating format versus the rotating environments of the Standard metagame. Since the Standard card pool is smaller there is a fear that a solved metagame will adversely affect card sales and player happiness.  Perhaps people are more concerned with what decks they can safely invest in Vintage due to the higher price tag that those decks carry.

My other pet theory is that a lot of Vintage players really enjoy the scientific and mathematical aspects of Magic, so they view data as the ultimate expression of that aspect of the game. I've noticed posts from successful pilots where they mentioned scouring the known data prior to a deep run into a large event. I myself spend quite a bit of time going over the recent results from Magic Online events, and I like using that information to refine whatever strategy I'm trying to not lose with. 

With that in mind, let's take a look at what people were playing last week...

Tezzeret, Sans Outcome

Often times in my post-Power Nine Challenge articles I go over the top eight and top sixteen results. As the decks and brackets are all discussed in several other places online, I have decided to simply highlight a few of the lists that stood out to me for one reason or another. This one is interesting to me because it seems like a bit of an anachronism in the new Paradoxical Outcome metagame. 

Thehello32 piloted this Tezzerator deck to an eighth place finish in the Power Nine Challenge. That a Time Vault combo deck did well is not too far outside the realm of what we'd expect to see. To me, the shocking part about this finish is that this is basically the Tezzcast deck that resurfaced for a short time in the wake of the unrestriction of Thirst for Knowledge. Paradoxical Outcome has become ubiquitous in combo decks of this ilk, nearly making Thoughtcast and Thirst for Knowledge extinct (if not entirely obsolete). 

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In the first few weeks it was common to see Paradoxical Outcome paired with either Thoughtcast or Thirst for Knowledge, but as these new archetypes matured Thirst and Thoughtcast took a back seat to the new kid on the block from Kaladesh. Thoughtcast still sees some play in some Mentor builds, but it seems to be far less popular than it once was.

The mana count in this deck is consistent with what you would expect, and it's certainly higher than the latest batch of Time Vault combo decks. Even though there are more lands the mana base isn't much more robust than the skimpier Paradoxical Outcome mana bases. There are four copies of Seat of the Synod and no basic lands so this setup is every bit as threatened by Null Rod and Wasteland as their Paradoxical counterparts. 

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I'm glad to see that this Tezzcast list performed well. I played and enjoyed this style of deck back when it was briefly very popular. Even so, I can't help but wonder if retooling this style of deck to function with Paradoxical Outcome would be the better choice. I feel like the card-drawing power of Outcome is too good to ignore, and it would play very well in this deck with just a few changes. 

I think that you could at least make a case for swapping the three copies of Thirst for Outcomes. With only three copies of Paradoxical Outcome it probably isn't necessary to include Grim Monolith and two extra Mox Opals. I don't see a good reason to play Thirst other than using it as a discard outlet to put a Blightsteel Colossus back into your library. If the deck was using Goblin Welder perhaps Thirst makes more sense too, but as it is Paradoxical Outcome is just far more powerful. 

The Omniscient Druid

Here's another unexpected deck from the Top Eight of the Power Nine event. Looking at this brings me back to the good old days of 2014.

For those of you who are new to the format and unaware of the Omni/Oath hybrid it's a pretty simple concept to explain. The deck can play out like a traditional Oath deck by combining Oath of Druids and Forbidden Orchard to cheat a scary monster into play as early as turn two. In addition to that there's additional copies of [[Show and Tell] to cheat creatures into play as well. The addition of Omniscience makes the deck even more combo-centric and allows the pilot to do really nutty things. For instance you could cast Show and Tell plopping Omniscience onto the table. Then you can follow that up by playing Griselbrand or Dig Through Time to hopefully find Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and win via Emrakul's extra turn trigger. 

Other than a very brief resurgence last year this hybrid style of Omniscience/Oath of Druids deck has been relegated to the fringes of the format. I have a fair amount of experience playing with variations on this theme, and I found the deck to be both extremely powerful and full of variance. I suppose that would be a nice way of saying that the deck has some extremely clunky hands. 

Oath decks have always had issues with mulligans. Sometimes you fan out your opening hand and end up gazing sadly upon a trio of uncastable Griselbrands. When you add four Show and Tells and four copies of Omniscience this problem is exacerbated. On the flip side this does also mean you have a lot of hands that simply annihilate your opponent as well. Omni-Oath has two sets of two-card combos: Oath plus Forbidden Orchard and Show and Tell plus Omniscience/Griselbrand/Emrakul. As long as you're not opening hands containing only the wrong halves of those combos you're probably doing ok. 

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Omniscience does add a lot of interesting angles to the deck too. My favorite thing about the enchantment is that it allows you to technically cast the card you're cheating onto the battlefield. In this way Omniscience can negate some of the damage that Containment Priest causes. Unfortunately you still have to pay for taxing effects with an Omniscience in play, but it's at least a little easier to pay the Thalia tax when your spells are otherwise free. 

Playing OmniOath in Vintage

I had been contemplating the viability of OmniOath in the current meta for some time prior to seeing this deck's performance. While I don't think OmniOath is better against the most popular deck in the format, Ravager Shops, I do think it has some merit against a few of the other big decks in the format. Containment Priest is a bit of a problem for Oath at times, and it features prominently in Mentor decks and White Eldrazi. If I expected to face a lot of those decks I can see a reason to sleeve up the all-knowing enchantment. 

I think that the real reason for the decline of OmniOath was the restriction of Dig Through Time. The first versions were piloted on the Vintage Super League, and they contained four Digs. Dig Through Time made Omniscience one of the best decks in Legacy, and the spell did much to make the spell viable in Vintage as well. Dig was the best unrestricted method for drawing into a win condition post-Omni. Without four copies of Dig Through Time people have resorted to things like Burning Wish that just aren't as good. After all, if you're not managing to win immediately after cheating a ten mana enchantment into play then why are you even playing it? 

If I did start working on a new OmniOath list I would probably start with the list that Montolio won a Power Nine Challenge with. His version only played one Omni as an alternate win condition. I was running a similar deck for quite some time, and while it didn't have as many explosive combo games (as the four Omni lists) it had far fewer mulligans. 

Top Four Mentor

To the surprise of no one half of the Top Eight decks featured Monastery Mentor. Here's the winning Stony Silence Wasteland Mentor deck. 

Monastery Mentor is the best creature ever printed as far as Vintage is concerned. There have been times where I went back and forth between Young Pyromancer and Mentor, but the slightly cheaper mana cost on Pyromancer just isn't enough these days. Mentor is the Oath of Druids of creatures; if you resolve it and untap with it in play you've basically won that game. I'd even say it's just way more powerful than Oath of Druids as it is virtually immune to removal and creates game-winning combinations with basically any non-land cards.

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Of course Monastery Mentor wouldn't  be quite as good without its partner-in-crime Gush. There's no better unrestricted draw spell in the format, and you can't get more efficient than "free." There are a lot of different blue decks in the format, but if someone asked me which one they should play I'd say they should probably just play Gush with Mentor. In other words if you're not going to be picking up Shops, Dredge, or Combo, you should be picking up two Islands...

4-2 for $250

I've been mentioning the newfound affordability of online Vintage for the past few weeks, so I figured I'd keep on driving that point home. Dredge decks have always been the cheapest option for Vintage (or Legacy) play on Magic Online, and in Vintage the deck is very powerful. The Pitch Dredge deck is by far the most popular version of the archetype, and it costs less than some Standard decks. This one was a win away from making Top Eight in the event and it has a price tag of around two fiddy. 

Dredge decks probably have around an eighty percent game one win rate. Things get a little tricker after game one, but Pitch Dredge has it's own tricks as well. The Marit Lage plan is well known by this point but it still manages to get a surprisingly high number of opponents! 

I've piloted a few different types of Dredge and the Pitch decks were my favorite by far. The thing about the deck that I really liked was that it allowed me to interact with my opponents via the stack. There's something immensely satisfying about getting someone with Mindbreak Trap and yelling "It's a trap!" in your best Admiral Ackbar voice. 

It's a Trap!

Vintage Community Organizers

I was chatting with someone the other day and they reminded me about the European Vintage League that they had set up on Magic Online. That got me thinking about all the hard work that community members are doing to foster and sustain the Vintage format. Since Vintage doesn't get as much sanctioned support as all the other formats the work that these people are doing is extremely important. 

With this in mind I would like to make sure I'm doing my part. If you're running tournaments either online or in paper feel free to let me know. I would love to help spread the word about your tournament or leagues! It would also be great if more tournament organizers would use the tournament submission feature here at MTGGoldfish. Posting results on this website helps to paint a bigger picture of the combined paper and online meta, and it does a nice job at promoting the events. 

There are some important paper Vintage events coming up soon. I know that there's another TMD Open (Waterbury) happening shortly, as well as the NYSE and Eternal Extravaganza 6. I will be covering those events and keeping people posted about them as well. A lot of good people put a lot of hard work into these upcoming tournaments and I'm excited to see how they play out. Hopefully I'll be attending at least some of them myself!

That's all the time I've got for this week. Keep on winning those Mana Crypt flips. In the mean time you can chat with me on Magic Online, Twitter, or TMD @Islandswamp

 

 


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