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Vintage 101: Uniquely Vintage


Uniquely Vintage

The latest Magic Online Power Nine Challenge was this past weekend, and it featured a mix of established decks as well as some rather unusual ones. For this week's Vintage 101 I'm going to go over a few of the more interesting decks. As usual, Diophan (with help from Desolutionist) did a complete breakdown of the event on The Mana Drain

This week we're going to take a look at three of the most interesting decks from the Power Nine Challenge. First up we have an eleven land Mentor deck!

 

MentorKast

Pairing Monastery Mentor with a Thoughtcast mana base is not new; there was a Magic Online player by the name of Kasparadi that was playing a similar build in 2015. At least one similar deck was played in the 2015 Vintage Champs by Brian Pallas. The innovation that cageykg came up with was to cut most of the lands from the deck in favor of more mana-producing artifacts. This deck also cuts black entirely, and does not run TinkerTime Vault, or a Tinker-Bot like Blightsteel Colossus

The Affinity Mana Base

The entire mana base of this deck is warped around one card: Thoughtcast. The full compliment of moxen, as well as Mox Opals are here to make sure that you're getting full value from your chosen draw spell. When you're able to cast Thoughtcast for one blue mana, it is indeed quite potent. A deck with this much artifact mana can be very explosive, and those artifacts are much better in combination with Monastery Mentor than more lands would be. 

There are also significant drawbacks to playing this land configuration.. Even though there are technically plenty of mana sources once you count all the moxen and other artifacts, such cards can be very unreliable in a real event. If your opponent is playing Null Rod, Stony Silence, Chalice of the Void, Sanctum Prelate, or they just land a quick Trinisphere, you're going to have a very bad time. 

Erayo Control

The control package in the deck is fairly small, consisting of just four Force of Wills and four Mental Missteps. There's a few removal spells as well, but other than that there's only really Erayo. Soratami Ascendant to counter your opponent's plays. 

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Once you turn Erayo into its legendary Enchantment form, your opponent is at an extreme disadvantage. With all of the fast mana in this list, flipping Erayo should be trivial  most of the time. In fact, this deck is probably so good at flipping Erayo that a second copy might be a good idea. 

Glass Cannon Mentor in Vintage

This deck strikes me as something that is extremely powerful, but also very easy to disrupt. I can't imagine that mana base being able to handle most Workshop variants , especially Terra Nova or anything with Null Rod. There are probably many games where the list performs explosively well, but I anticipate that the opposite is true almost as frequently. Nevertheless, this is a unique deck, and I'd like to congratulate cageykg on winning the event with an original creation. 

Survival of the Fattest (Tools N' Tubbies)

The next deck I'd like to go over is one that I've never seen anyone else play online before. Desolutionist has been on a quest to bring TNT (Tools N' Tubbies) back. The deck proved it has some gas left in the tank during this event as it finished with a very respectable 4-2 record. 

Part Workshop deck, part Survival of the Fittest deck, TNT was a Vintage deck that dates back long before Lodestone Golem forever changed the way we think about Mishra's Workshop. The name "Tools N' Tubbies" comes from the toolbox strategy facilitated by Survival of the Fittest with the "Tubbies" (large creatures) cast by Mishra's Workshop

I've always loved toolbox strategies like Recurring Nightmare/Survival (RecSur) or Melira-Pod, so it truly warms my heart to see someone succeed with such a deck. Survival is a card that gets very little play in Vintage, the only format in which it is still legal, mainly because it is considered to be less potent than the other broken two-mana green enchantment, Oath of Druids. Even though it is no longer a popular card, Survival is still very potent. Tutoring for silver-bullet creatures was great in 1998, and the power level of utility creatures has grown significantly since then. 

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The original use for Survival of the Fittest was it's synergy with Recurring Nightmare. TNT gets to use Goblin Welder for a similar effect, only more efficient and at instant-speed. You can do cool tricks like discarding a Wurmcoil Engine to find Anger, weld Wurmcoil into play and attack with it. You could also repeatedly weld Wurmcoil in and out of the graveyard to flood the board with tokens. 

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You never have to worry about running out of creatures to discard to Survival, because you've got Squee. Goblin Nabob. Squee only really has one job to do, and that's to go back and forth from your graveyard into your hand. In a pinch I suppose you could cast Squee, but I'm guessing that rarely comes up. 

A Thorny Situation

All of the cute tricks you can do with Goblin Welder and Survival of the Fittest are certainly very powerful, but there's a lot more going on here. Survival and Welder are pretty easy to disrupt on their own, so this list incorporates some technology from contemporary Vintage aggro/prison decks. 

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There's eight total mana-taxing effects here, three Thorn of Amethyst, three Thalia, Guardian of Thrabens, one Vryn Wingmare and one lonely Lodestone Golem. Thorn is harder to remove than Thalia, but it's nice to have copies of this effect that can be tutored for with Survival. Also it's worth noting that each Thorn makes subsequent copies more expensive, but most of the deck's taxation effects do not apply to Thalia or Wingmare because they're creatures. Eight "Thorn" effects isn't enough to lock an opponent out of a game completely, but it's more than enough to be highly disruptive. Even one Thorn can mean the difference between a Storm player winning or having to wait a turn, and these effects also make opponent's removal spells harder to cast. 

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Wasteland and Strip Mine make an appearance in the list, although there are only two copies of this effect. Since the goal is to be a disruptive beatdown deck, the two land-destruction effects should be enough, especially in conjunction with the aforementioned Thalias and Thorns. There is also a Crucible of Worlds in the sideboard, so it's possible to hold down an opposing Workshop deck with recursive Strips. 

The Toolbox

There is a lot of power in being able to easily search up the perfect creature for any given board state, and this aspect is easily TNT's greatest strength. The original RecSur decks played main-deck removal for every type of permanent in the form of  creatures with "enters the battlefield" triggers. Vintage is much faster, so some of the more specialized silver bullet creatures are utilized here, while classic creatures like Flametongue Kavu have been relegated to the sideboard. 

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If your opponent tries to get an advantage with Dack Fayden or Jace, you've got Revoker to tutor for. If your opponent is playing a combo deck you've got access to Ethersworn Cannonist. If you need to rush in for an alpha strike, you can give your team haste by fetching and discarding Anger. Goblin Welder isn't a huge beater, but it takes full advantage of the Haste that Anger grants. Besides Mental Misstep, the biggest liability to Welder is that it could be removed before you're able to get value out of it. If your Welder has Haste, you'll be able to leverage it for value at least once before it dies.

The great thing is that the list of specialty creatures can even be adjusted for different metagames. There are plenty of creatures that you could add to the deck for specific situations, and since you only need one copy most of the time it isn't hard to find room.

The Tubbies

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There are only five of these large creatures in the deck, but they each pack a hard punch. Wurmcoil and Trike are amazing with Goblin Welder; the later can even win through a Moat or Ensnaring Bridge. Each of these creatures is also relatively easy to hard cast thanks to Mishra's Workshop

 

Blowing up Vintage with TNT

I'm very enthusiastic about this archetype, and I'm absolutely thrilled to see it do well. I have a soft spot for Mishra's Workshop, but the MUD archetype has often been referred to with contempt as people claim it is a simple deck to pilot. I don't think that is actually true, but even so this deck proves that there is a lot more to the Workshop Pillar than just mono-brown Aggro/Prison. There are a ton of decisions a player has to make to pilot this deck optimally because Survival of the Fittest provides so many different lines to take. Anyone who would claim that Workshop decks are simple and homogenous should take a look at what is going on here. 

I believe that there is enough power in these seventy-five cards to potentially win a large event, even though the deck is likely to remain on the fringes of the format. I wouldn't expect to face this list very often, but I would recommend taking it seriously when you do get paired against it 

 

Nahiri Odd Oath 

Up next we have Montolio's Top Eight list, Nahiri Odd Oath. 

NYSE Champion and Workshop assassin Montolio is generally known more for Lodestone Golems than Forbidden Orchards, but occasionally he does very well with Oath of Druids. This particular list appears to be an evolution of the "Odd Oath" deck pioneered by VSL mainstay and all-around Vintage ringer, Rich Shay. 

The idea here is to play an Oath deck that can deal with certain metagame issues that a more traditional list cannot. Void Winnower is included in the deck to combat Storm, but it's also difficult to block and it hits hard.  Inferno Titan is a castable Oath target that's good against tokens and the creatures that create them; it can also be decent against many of the format's midsize threats. Griselbrand is included because drawing seven cards is always a good thing and lifelink isn't bad either. It's worth noting that Karakas is much less of a problem for this deck because two of the Oath creatures aren't legendary. 

Walking the Planes

One of the defining features of these Odd Oath lists are that they generally contain more planeswalkers than traditional BUG Oath decks. Jace, the Mind Sculptor has always been a popular choice, but adding Dack Fayden is a newer trend. Montolio went even further and added yet another 'Walker, Nahiri, the Harbinger.

 

I have to admit that I was wrong about the new Nahiri. I didn't anticipate that she's be used in Vintage because she's not blue, she costs more than Dack, and her first two abilities always seemed not quite as good as her main competition (Jace and Dack). Nahiri isn't being played nearly as much as other planeswalkers, but the card has put up enough results to prove that there is a place for her in Vintage. 

The first loyalty ability doesn't dig as far as Dack's does, but it does add two loyalty. You can threaten to ultimate Nahiri on the third turn after she's played. and in an Oath deck her ultimate fits very well with the archetype's central goal. 

Nahiri's second ability is very flexible, although limited. This ability does exile though, so if you're able to survive a hit from an Emrakul or Blightsteel Colossus you can get around the indestructibility. 

No Time for Time Vault

In the past many Oath decks have utilized Time Vault and Voltaic Key as a secondary win condition. Generally the goal with those decks is to Oath into Griselbrand and to try cement your victory by drawing seven cards until you assemble Vault and Key. The problem with that strategy has always been that Time Vault has no game text without Voltaic Key. Early on in a game you never want to draw Time Vault because it was the equivalent of a dead draw most of the time. The early game is so critical for an Oath deck that drawing any dead cards can easily cost you a game.

Playing the Vault/Key combo also made it necessary to play something like Memory's Journey to guarantee that you'd even be able to put the combo together after milling yourself with Oath. I have personally played BUG Oath without Memory's Journey, only to watch helplessly as my Voltaic Key and Yawgmoth's Will went to the graveyard. Having Time Vault leftover in your library without a way to use it is quite disheartening. 

In lieu of Time Vault, Voltaic Key, and Yawgmoth's Will, this Odd Oath  plays additional counterspells. It can be very tough for Oath to keep up with the other blue decks in Vintage, so adding more business helps a ton. While I'm completely fine with cutting Time Vault, I'm less likely to cut Yawgmoth's Will from an Oath deck if my mana base can support it. I feel that casting at least one Time Walk after an Oath activation increases your chances of winning a game considerably. If you're able to take two extra turns by using Yawgmoth's Will the chances of victory are even higher. 

Combo/Control

Oath decks are generally classified as Combo/Control, but I've noticed that many versions (including some of my own) are much more focused on the combo aspect than controlling games. Odd Oath is, in my opinion, much more controlling than many other versions of the archetype. Having fewer cards like Vault, Key, and YawgWill opens up space for the deck to play more board control and counters. 

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Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap

I really like the two Pernicious Deeds in this build because it's very important to have main-deck removal these days. In the past an Oath pilot could wait to bring in Abrupt Decay and until game two of a match, but nowadays there are too many creatures, tokens, and hatebears like Containment Priest to make that a sound plan. 

For additional permanent removal there is a miser's copies of Ancient Grudge. Grudge is a main deck hedge against Workshops, but it's also fantastic at taking out an opponent's Time Vault. Sometimes it's correct to use Grudge like a Stone Rain and destroy your opponent's Sol Ring

There's only one Thoughtseize in the deck, but three Gitaxian Probes. This configuration is probably bad against Storm but good against the competing blue decks. Both cards provide information, and the discard of Thoughtseize is possibly less relevant in a deck that doesn't play Show and Tell

The Odd Squad

Nahiri Odd Oath is likely to remain somewhat of a fringe deck, but I recommend that Vintage players pay attention to this list and the archetype as a whole. Oath decks have won Vintage Champs for the last two years, as well as other important events. Oath of Druids is one of the most powerful unrestricted cards in the format, and it has a positive matchup against one of the top decks in the meta, Ravager Workshops.

A Vintage Conspiracy Conundrum

The Vintage community in general is gearing up for the annual Vintage Championships at Eternal Weekend, and many folks are doing their best to come up with new ideas. Unfortunately for the online Vintage community, Conspiracy: Take the Crown  was not released on Magic Online. This means that key cards for the format such as Leovold. Emissary of Trest, Sanctum Prelate. and Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast are simply not part of the online metagame. These new cards are scheduled to be released in some form on the online platform eventually, but not until after the most important Vintage event of the year. Because of this, the current online meta and Power Nine Challenge results must be taken with a grain of salt. 

There are only a few cards from the set that are really important, but the ones that are could have a very large impact on the format. The first deck we looked at won the Power Nine Challenge, but it is the kind of deck that would flounder under the weight of a Leovold, Emissary of Trest or a well-played Sanctum Prelate. I don't mean to knock that particular Mentor list, but it did thrive in a metagame that is noticibly different from the paper one. We can still glean a lot of very important information about the metagame, but we have to acknowledge that a large paper Vintage event is likely to contain a few small but very important differences. 

That's all the time I have for this week, I'll be back in seven days! You can chat with me about #VintageMTG on Twitter @josephfiorinijr - Islandswamp on Magic Online and TMD

 


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