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Vintage 101: Tinker Troubles

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 taking a look at the current state of Tinker decks in the format and how dominant they have been, and whether we are having a problem with the format or not. In addition to that we've got a Showcase Challenge to discuss as well as a regular Challenge and of course a Spice Corner.

It's worth noting that the Season 2 formats have been announced for Premier Play and Vintage is not one of those, so there will be no Showcase events for Vintage in Season 2.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

The Trouble With Tinker

We've been hearing the rumblings as of late about the state of Vintage and namely the state of the Tinker decks and how they have impacted the format. This past weekend had a really big event for Vintage (140 players) and Tinker was a stunning 51.6% of that metagame, split between both Grixis and Esper variants. The question has started to become: do we have a problem and is there a way to fix it?

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The Tinker shells have been growing greatly in popularity over time since the printing of Urza's Saga in Modern Horizons 2, and those decks definitely are a big part of the current format. They play a lot of powerful restricted cards, but namely one of the best in Tinker itself. This is backed up by the power of Saga, making the whole combination a very powerful archetype in Vintage.

However, is it really a problem? The current combined data provided by the Vintage Streamer's Discord shows that "Other Blue Tinker" (which comprises both Esper and Grixis) currently have a 16% metagame share in overall Challenge data with a 53.4% non-mirror Win rate. As far as raw data is concerned, it doesn't seem like this deck is breaking the bank in terms of winning. So do we really have a problem?

It's hard to say really. One thing to note here is that the more a deck sees play the more a win rate normalizes to 50% in the long run because eventually if you're only playing mirrors then the win rate would have to be 50% (one has to win and one has to lose). However, it's also worth noting that these past two weeks were also an All Access Token event on Magic Online, and even though there was no Vintage Super Qualifier to go with it, plenty of players utilized the tokens to be able to touch other formats or not have to switch decks with rental accounts, which resulted in a lot more players populating these formats. This too can drag down win rates in events if players newer to the deck come into an event with a losing record due to either variance, lack of experience with the format itself, or simple misplays. 

Tinker is definitely powerful, but so are many other things in Vintage, and that is sort of the overarching definition of how Wizards wants the format to be from a high level overview. It should be a format where nearly everything is legal for play and we should only be restricting for power level. The problem here is the fact that restrictions don't do nearly enough for this archetype, because a good majority of its best cards are already restricted (or in the case of Bolas's Citadel functionally restricted). I've spoken before about whether it would be possible to leverage the ban list for cards that can't easily be restricted, and we did see that happen in the past with Lurrus of the Dream-Den. However, since Lurrus came back I've found an understanding in this as to how Wizards would like the format to exist as, and I think utilizing the banned list in this fashion would likely not be a positive outcome in the long run.

There is merit in discussing the possibility of restricting Urza's Saga, but I don't think that would actually truly depower the shell in general and to consider such a restriction ultimately feels sort of silly to me, as I've seen plenty of occasions where Saga is both good and also bad, and it does not feel overpowered still with the current crop of artifacts to fetch and there existing relevant answers from Pernicious Deed to Dress Down.

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I would ultimately prefer to see more answers and more cards printed into the format that could help address these issues. Kamigawa tried to do this with the inclusion of cards like Boseiju, Who Endures, but it seems that card has not taken off too much at the moment outside of certain decks and maybe isn't the card needed to push things back into perspective. I actually more or less hope we see something more interesting in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate because of its inclusivity into Vintage, allowing Wizards to design something more powerful for the older formats.

Right now though, I'm firmly of the mind of wait and see what happens. Vintage is supposed to be a high power level format and it currently is meeting those metrics of what it should be, it's just whether or not things are getting too unhealthy, and based on the data and what we're seeing in events week to week, it does still seem like it's not that bad. I'd much rather give the format more time to correct itself or adjust or even absorb new cards right now rather than turn to any use of restrictions.

Vintage Showcase Challenge 4/2

We had the final Showcase Challenge of Season 1 this past weekend for Vintage. These events are feeder events into a Showcase Qualifier at the end of the season, as the Top 8 from these events become qualified for that event. This event had 140 players in it thanks to the data collected by the Vintage Streamer's Discord.

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

The Tinker decks were exceedingly popular, making up half of the metagame overall here (51.6% share). It also had a solid enough win rate at this level of 52%. Outside of this, both Hogaak and PO had reasonable performances, despite some drag down on Hogaak's side it did put a few copies into the Top 8.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Esper Tinker 1st RNGSpecialist
Paradoxical Outcome 2nd lvc
Esper Tinker 3rd __BMJ__
Hogaak 4th medvedev
Aggro Shops 5th Mogged
Lurrus Standstill 6th CodeProvider
Aggro Shops 7th OnionLotus
Hogaak 8th Oosunq

Despite the massive Tinker presence in this event, the conversion to Top 8 was only two decks which is interesting, and both of those were Esper variants. It was indeed Esper Tinker that won this event, so let's take a look at the list.

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Definitely what we've come to expect out of the Esper builds. Cards like Mentor and Lavinia are very strong right now and can do a lot of work especially when you're expecting other Tinker decks.

The Second Place finalist was on PO.

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Saga-less PO is always interesting to me, and this one is interesting enough because it has a main deck one-of Dark Ritual which seems amusing but can actually hard cast Bolas's Citadel with if it has to do so.

Also in the Top 8 we have Aggro Shops featuring Patchwork Automaton.

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Automaton definitely seems like a relevantly interesting card for these kinds of decks as it gets bigger and bigger and Ward 2 is nothing to really sneeze at. Seems like a really powerful card for this deck for sure.

Further down the Top 8 we had a sweet 4C Lurrus pile.

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This deck is really something for sure. Goyf, Malevolent Hermit, Wrenn and Six? PLUS Standstill?! Yeah this is some BPK level brain tech for sure.

Vintage Challenge 4/3

Our other Challenge of the weekend was the early morning Sunday event. This event had 46 players in it thanks to the data collected by the Vintage Streamer's Discord.

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

Tinker was popular but got dragged down a bit in win rates to 42.9%, despite putting three copies into the Top 8. Hogaak had an incredibly positive event here, as did Doomsday.

Let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Doomsday 1st discoverN
Hogaak 2nd Shir Kahn
Lurrus Standstill 3rd CodeProvider
UR Tempo 4th Murkyblack11
Paradoxical Outcome 5th KingHairy
Grixis Tinker 6th Butakov
Esper Tinker 7th SenpaiBlank
Grixis Tinker 8th Sahakvic

Tinker heavy at the bottom (with three Tinker and one PO) but at the top of the event we had some solid representation and another win down for Doomsday master discoverN.

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I am digging the sideboard Snuff Out here as a card that kills a few solid cards like Ragavan or Laelia, or just any threat that is preventing you from winning the game. Seems really solid. discoverN is a true master of this deck and they continue to show that.

The Second Place finalist was our good friend Nico Bohny on Hogaak.

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It feels like we've seen Boseiju settle into these decks well as a split of 1/1 between the main deck and sideboard. This deck is very clean and exceptionally strong and is definitely one contender for one of the best Bazaar decks in the format (the other being Dredge naturally).

Also in this Top 8 we had UR Tempo.

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We talked about this deck a bit last week, so it's cool to see it continue to put up some results. Trickbind is a spicy inclusion in the sideboard. Imagine being able to Trickbind a Thassa's Oracle trigger. Super sweet.

At the bottom of the Top 8 we had Grixis Tinker.

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Grixis offers some solid main deck and sideboard options over white, so it's not surprising to see players continuing to be split amongst the two color pairings. Pyroblast is certainly a card in Vintage that makes a lot of sense to be casting for sure.

Around the Web

  • Revenantkioku has a new take on Oracle Combo with Lurrus and VaultKey. Check it out here.
  • Bryant Cook posted a great video on Tinker Breach from the Showcase Challenge. Check it out here.
  • Our good friend Justin Gennari posted a video on the Showcase Challenge with Oops All Spells. Check it out here.

The Spice Corner

You can find the past week's 5-0 lists here.

I should start calling this section the "Brian Kelly" Corner. Because wow.

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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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