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Vintage 101: Vintage UNLEASHED!

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 shift away from normal Vintage as the main topic, as we are going to be discussing a format that is more of a thought experiment format, known as Vintage-UX or also Vintage Unleashed. In addition we will be covering the Vintage Challenge events from over the weekend, looking at how the metagame has adjusted from the banning of Lurrus.

Without further ado, let's dive right into the main topic this week.

UNLEASHED - Playing with (More) Power

Vintage Unleashed is a thought experiment format that started life originally as a format known as U20 (meaning "Unrestrict 20") and was originally proposed by Nat Moes of Team Serious. The idea behind the format was to curate a series of unrestrictions to see what the format would look like if more things were unrestricted. Over time, the idea of the format adjusted as more cards were added to the unrestricted list, and eventually the format was renamed in variations of U21-U30 before finally settling on UX and then finally Vintage Unleashed. To be clear, this is a format that is meant mainly as a format experiment to see what could potentially be, and not a proposed format change to Vintage.

Fellow Team Serious member Rajah James created a page outlining the rules of this format, which you can find over here.

The basics of the format mainly differ from Vintage in regards to how the Banned/Restricted list is constructed. The banned list for Vintage UX looks as such:

  • 25 cards with the Card Type "Conspiracy".
  • 9 cards that reference "playing for ante".
  • Chaos Orb
  • Falling Star

The big takeaway from this is that both Lurrus of the Dream Den and Shahrazad are both legal in Vintage UX. In addition, the Restricted List for this format looks as such:

Card Name Card Name
Ancestral Recall Black Lotus
Demonic Consultation Demonic Tutor
Imperial Seal Lion's Eye Diamond
Mana Crypt Mana Vault
Merchant Scroll Mox Emerald
Mox Jet Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby Mox Sapphire
Mystical Tutor Sol Ring
Time Walk Timetwister
Tolarian Academy Vampiric Tutor
Wheel of Fortune  

This is a much shorter Restricted list then normal Vintage, and of course this means the following cards are unrestricted for play:

Card Name Card Name
Balance Brainstorm
Chalice of the Void Channel
Dig Through Time Flash
Gitaxian Probe Golgari Grave-Troll
Gush Karn, the Great Creator
Library of Alexandria Lodestone Golem
Lotus Petal Memory Jar
Mental Misstep Mind's Desire
Monastery Mentor Mystic Forge
Narset, Parter of Veils Necropotence
Ponder Strip Mine
Thorn of Amethyst Time Vault
Tinker Treasure Cruise
Trinisphere Windfall
Yawgmoth's Will  

What is obviously apparent from the cards that are unrestricted here is the fact that many of them are excessively powerful and have been restricted for many different reasons in normal Vintage. The major philosophy behind keeping cards on the Restricted List in this format is cards that are tutors, the best/oldest fast mana available, and cheap draw 7's. This philosophy includes the Power 9 remaining restricted for tradition's sake. Anything else is fair game. This presents an incredibly large amount of build and design space to consider in deckbuilding. With all this power at your finger tips, what exactly are some things that we can do with this?

Well, thankfully I have some decklists, graciously provided as starting points by a few fellow members of Team Serious. Many of these lists are not tuned at all, and many are untested. They are meant to be examples of types of things that are available in this kind of format.

Workshops Decks

The big thing to look at immediately is Workshops based decks, mainly because of the unrestrictions of Karn, the Great Creator and Mystic Forge.

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Both of these cards became restricted for very obvious reasons in that they provided insane accelerative ability and turned Shops into a combo deck essentially. Both of these cards function super well with fast mana, and unrestricted Time Vault also makes Mystic Forge even more interesting. There's one interesting way we can approach building this and that's in a Zirda, the Dawnwaker combo shell.

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This gives the deck a bit of a different slant on combo, by being able to perform the Zirda+Grim Monolith/Basalt Monolith combo as well as the Time Vault combo. This presents a unique way of approaching playing the deck. The downside here is that this loses access to the most common hate for opposing strategies in Defense Grid and a cost reducer in Foundry Inspector, so a normal Karn Forge build is also likely very powerful here.

Another way to approach UX Workshops to build Workshop Aggro, with Arcbound Ravager and unrestricted pieces like Chalice of the Void, Thorn of Amethyst, and Lodestone Golem.

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This is basically just aggressive + lock pieces in general, and can easily push through with all its prison elements.

A third way to approach this is a more prison element type list, utilizing full Sphere effects and Chalice, and cards like Tangle Wire.

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Combo Decks

Combo decks are obviously going to be huge parts of such a format as there are numerous combo enablers within this format. There are plenty of different types of decks here, and you can come up with many different ways to approach combo.

PO Storm is a great first approach to the format, and this one is certainly wild, since it's PO that can transformational sideboard into Oath of Druids.

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Gaining access to 4x Mind's Desire is pretty powerful, and that influences the next list as well with just straight DPS.

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In addition to these combo build, Underworld Breach based decks get amazingly better simply because of having access to unrestricted Lotus Petal.

Some other interesting combo decks that can be built within the confines of this format are Gush Storm (utilizing Gush and Fastbond).

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Gush and Fastbond combo well together by allowing the deck to draw a bunch of cards and keep replaying lands. Important to this is Mystic Sanctuary which can repeatedly put Gush back on top to be continually redrawn by a second Gush.

Unrestricted Flash also presents some potent ability, by being able to combo with Protean Hulk. Nowadays, the Flash Hulk combo is much simpler, enabled by the presence of Thassa's Oracle and the Cephalid Breakfast combo of Cephalid Illusionist and Nomads en-Kor.

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The final combo deck option that is a good possibility is the combination of Channel + Lich's Mirror which can essentially be used to create a situation where infinite mana can be generated and Lich's Mirror can be looped in a single turn (provided you are able to draw back into it or Tinker for it) and win in some fashion with that mana. It doesn't really matter how you win, of course, just that it is stylish.

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Dredge doesn't gain a huge amount from the UX unrestrictions, but it does gain back access to four Mental Misstep, four Gitaxian Probe, and four Golgari Grave-Troll, so that in of itself is pretty good.

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Xerox Decks

Fair blue based Xerox decks gain access to one of the more powerful engines in the game in Dig Through Time and also Monastery Mentor as a four of in addition to Gush. Add in Force of Negation and now things get pretty insane.

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Other Xerox based decks can certainly be viable and capable of being built howerver, as the amount of counter-magic makes for an interesting function. Decks utilizing unrestricted Narset, Parter of Veils seem quite powerful as well.

Another possible fair strategy is leaning hard on human tribal, with cards like Meddling Mage, Lavinia, Azorius Renegade and the free coutnermagic available to the deck backed up by Lurrus of the Dream Den as the Companion.

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Vintage on a Leash

As noted earlier, these lists are mostly untuned and are provided as a way to help establish a bit of a baseline of understanding of what is capable in a format like this. This format is excessively high powered Vintage, and makes for an interesting thought experiment as to what could happen if restrictions on cards were relaxed instead of tightened. It allows us to critically identify what could potentially be the most broken thing to be doing in the format, and that baseline helps us understand what is expected in this kind of environment.

An event utilizing this format is in the works by the crew of Team Serious, that will be a virtual TSI with web cam play. This will be a covered event typically and will be an interesting event to consider as to what Unleashed will ultimately evolve into as a format. This is by no means a replacement for Vintage, but if you are looking for something interesting to try out, building for something like this is a fun exercise in critical thinking.

Vintage Challenge 5/23

Our first Challenge of the weekend was the normal Saturday Challenge, and is the first Challenge event post Lurrus ban. There were 84 players in this event overall. Let's take a look at the Top 32.

As we expected, there was a fair return to something of a Vintage normal with this metagame's initial shift, and I definitely don't expect this to be completely settled yet. There was quite a bit going on week to week up until Lurrus, so I would expect that trend to continue with a more push and pull force on the overall metagame. We also saw Lutri show up a bit here or there, and that converted well to the Top 8 of the event. There was absolutely no amount of Zirda, and I expect that to continue to be the case in this format.

Now let's take a look at the Top 8.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Lutri Xerox 1st ReneRandrup
RUG Xerox 2nd I_B_True
Ravager Shops 3rd Stainerson
Ravager Shops 4th Infant_No_1
Lutri Xerox 5th Gernardi
Ravager Shops 6th GGoggles
Lutri DPS 7th Blubberburg
Grixis Breach 8th Michelino

Shops most assuredly ravaged across the Top 8 of this event, but Lutri based decks and regular Xerox pulled through as well. There were even two interesting combo decks in Lutri DPS and Grixis Breach amongst this Top 8.

At the end of the event it was ReneRandrup who took it all down with Lutri Xerox.

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This is sort of an amalgam of 4C/BUGr midrange with the Planeswalker package and a bunch of 1-of countermagic + removal. I especially like the Mystic Sanctuary here enabling cards like Gush, Daze, and Wrenn and Six with Time Walk.

In Second Place we have RUG Xerox.

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This list is pretty cool. Dreadhorde Arcanist is an extremely powerful card, and when combined with Sprite Dragon it gets even better. I also really enjoy the adoption of Legacy tech with Klothys, God of Destiny in the sideboard here. This is a powerful sleeper card for these long and grindy games.

Third and Fourth Place were both Ravager Shops, so let's take a look at both.

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Both relatively similar lists, but I do like the slant from the Fourth Place list of having a Karn to bring in as an additional Null Rod effect.

In Fifth Place we have another Lutri Xerox deck.

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There is a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria in this deck. That is all.

In Sixth Place we have another Ravager Shops build.

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This list is pretty stock as well to most Ravager lists at least main deck, so let's move down to Seventh Place with Lutri DPS.

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There is a lot going on here in this list, but it seems pretty cool. It has a PO slant, a Dark Petition slant, and even Bolas's Citadel. Really wildly interesting list for sure.

Rounding out the Top 8 we have Grixis Breach.

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This list is a lot like the versions of Breach we saw during the Lurrus metagame, except they get to now play three drop planeswalkers w/o Lurrus. I do believe the Lurrus metagame did one important thing in showing what the best possible lists of Breach could look like and allowed people to settle on a general game plan for that card going forward.

Now let's take a look at the 2019-2020 cards in this event. In order for 2019 cards to qualify they must have had 10 or more copies.

Card Name Number of Copies
Force of Negation 26
Stonecoil Serpent 24
Narset, Parter of Veils 22
Soul-Guide Lantern 20
Teferi, Time Raveler 16
Lavinia, Azorius Renegade 15
Underworld Breach 15
Sprite Dragon 14
Mystic Sanctuary 13
Oko, Thief of Crowns 13
Dreadhorde Arcanist 12
Collector Ouphe 10
Force of Vigor 10
Crystalline Giant 8
Lutri, the Spellchaser 5
Fire Prophecy 2
Klothys, God of Destiny 1
Umori, the Collector 1

A fair return to the 2019-2020 cards like Oko and Narset that are able to see more play with Lurrus gone, we also saw still quite a bit of Soul-Guide Lantern, which is great. Lurrus metagame did a good job of showing how playable that card really was in some decks, so it's great to see it continue to see play. Fire Prophecy seeing play in Oath of Druids based decks is certainly wild, but not unexpected.

Now let's take a look at the Companions.

A huge swing back to the norm indeed as Lutri only takes up a small chunk. We did have a single showing of Umori, the Collector in this event with the following Ravager Shops list by MPL member Kanister.

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This list also includes new Ikoria card Crystalline Giant, which is pretty cool.

Vintage Challenge 5/24

Our second Challenge of the weekend was the early morning Sunday Challenge that mainly draws in European and Japanese players in addition to enterprising American players who want to get up at 3 am in the morning EST time. As such there were only 41 players in this event. Let's take a look at the Top 32 Metagame breakdown.

There was definitely an interesting spread to this event, and despite a big presence of Ravager Shops it actually converted zero to the Top 8 of the event, which we will now take a look at.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
PO Storm 1st Bryant_Cook
Dredge 2nd Mac121711
Golos Stax 3rd Hal3000C
Lutri Xerox 4th Gernardi
DPS 5th TheAngryFish
Dredge 6th OptionParalysis
HollowVine 7th Shir Kahn
Oath of Druids 8th Lenka

This Top 8 definitely had a fair amount of Bazaar of Baghdad strategies going for it, but it also had Oath, regular DPS, Stax, PO, and Xerox. At the end of the event however it was PO Storm piloted by Legacy stalwart Bryant Cook that took down the event.

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There's a lot going on here, but the inclusion of Breach in the deck is pretty cool as a Yawgmoth's Will effect that can also be bounced with PO.

In Second Place we have Dredge.

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Loading up on all the countermagic here, and not even willing to give space to a singleton Mental Misstep, which makes sense to me when you're packing 8 Force effects plus Mindbreak Trap.

In Third Place we have Golos Stax.

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I really enjoy the fact that this deck has a Balance in it as well as Ancestral Recall, making it more like a colored Stax variant. Also there's The Immortal Sun here, so that is cool.

In Fourth Place boasting another Top 8 is user Gernardi with Lutri Xerox.

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I like this list a lot, and it looks like a ton of fun to play. I just really like big Teferi, so it's cool to see it here.

In Fifth Place we have good old DPS.

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There's no bones about this list and that's what I love about it. No frills, just rituals and killing your opponent with Tendrils.

In Sixth Place we have a second Dredge list.

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This version does shave one Force of Negation to the sideboard for the Misstep, and they're also playing Unmask which is pretty cool.

In Seventh Place we have HollowVine piloted by our good friend Nico Bohny.

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This deck has an insane amount of game and is the only deck in the format that would ever enable the possibility of Hollow One getting restricted. Sounds weird for sure, but I could see it if this deck truly ever picks up and dominates. It certainly has the tools to do so, but more players playing Tabernacle doesn't help it much. It will be amusing to see how these decks would translate to a paper metagame (if we get that this year) due to the fact that many decks are playing 2-3 Tabernacle (and in this deck three in the sideboard) and how unrealistic that feels for paper players to have access to that many Tabernacles.

Rounding out the Top 8 we have Oath.

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No frills here either, just plain and simple Miharu Oath. Fire Prophecy has settled in as a new addition to the deck which is cool since it can put back Oath targets.

Now let's take a look at the 2019-202 cards in this event.

Card Name Number of Copies
Force of Negation 30
Stonecoil Serpent 18
Narset, Parter of Veils 17
Oko, Thief of Crowns 17
Soul-Guide Lantern 16
Force of Vigor 16
Teferi, Time Raveler 11
Lavinia, Azorius Renegade 10
Lutri, the Spellchaser 7
[Sprite Dragon]] 6
Underworld Breach 5
Fire Prophecy 2

Again most of these were as expected, as various cards from 2019-2020 dip and climb. There was far less Breach in this event overall quite possibly due to the lower amount of players and also what those players like to play.

Now let's take a look at the Companions.

We only had Lutri to deal with this event, and in a fairly low capacity at 7 Lutri decks overall out of the Top 32. This is pretty reasonable honestly, and I don't know that we will see Lutri take over like Lurrus did.

Companion Watch

Now it's time for the ongoing graph of Companion vs Non Companion Play. I did go back and reset this graph to account for Lurrus being banned and have restarted it with these events this weekend and will be updating it going forward.

This will look a bit more interesting once we are able to go a few weeks into the metagame, but it's a good start. I also realize now the chart title says April, but that will be fixed by next week's article.

The Spice Corner

Esper Zirda featuring Urza!

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Also not quite super Spice, but someone 5-0'ed with Survival again, and that is super cool.

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Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! I hope you enjoyed the column and join me next week as we continue our journey into the world of Vintage.

As always you can reach me on Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! I am also always around the MTGGoldfish Discord Server as well as the Vintage Streamers Discord Server.

Until next time, keep casting Otters!

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