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Vintage 101: WAR! What is it Good For?!

Howdy folks! That's right, it is time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your warleader, Joe Dyer, and this week we're getting prepped for war! Okay, not literal war, but you know what I mean. It's time for my look at War of the Spark through the eyes of the Vintage format! I love doing set reviews, they're a lot of fun for me to consider the possible implications that new cards can sometimes have on a format. Sometimes we can look at a card and not realize just how good it is up front (sort of like how Arclight Phoenix flew heavily under the radar with Guilds of Ravnica until people got to play with the card) and sometimes a card is super obvious (Lavinia, Azorius Renegade comes to mind). Either way, it's fun to consider the possibilities of what might come with a new set as always.

As we all know, Nicol Bolas has come to Ravnica, and he's stealing the sparks of Planeswalkers to fuel his dark magic to make himself the only spark and godlike creature in all existence. Naturally, this means this set has a large number of PLANESWALKERS in it! Thirty-Seven to be exact (counting Tezzeret as the BaB promo)!

Without skipping a beat, let's jump right into talking about the cards that I am happy to see and talk about from War of the Spark. This set has quite a few goodies, so it's very exciting from a power level standpoint.

Teferi, Time Raveler

Teferi, Time Raveler [WAR]

This for me, is one of the more exciting cards from War of the Spark. Three mana is a pretty powerful rate for a planeswalker already, but Teferi is more than just a three mana planeswalker. His static ability shuts off instant speed interaction, making it difficult to interact the turn he comes down for the rest of the turn. In addition, his +1 ability is pretty powerful by allowing sorceries to be cast as though they had flash, and finally his -3 ability is incredibly relevant at being able to bounce a problem permanent while drawing a card. The only way an opponent is going to be able to interact with this once this guy is down is during their turn and it has to be something like Pyroblast/Red Elemental Blast to do so, but even then the chance of being blown out by a Mental Misstep that they can't even respond to is pretty powerful. Imagine being able to cast Ancestral Recall uncontested at any time. Imagine being able to cast Treasure Cruise at instant speed. Yeah, that's the power level of this card. It will be incredibly curious what decks adopt this card, but I for sure don't believe for one second that this won't see any play. It's just too strong.

Karn, the Great Creator

Karn, the Great Creator [WAR]

What's better than Null Rod? How about a one-sided version that also snipes Moxen and fetches silver bullets from your sideboard? Karn is quite frankly pretty insane. One of the things I really see for a card like this in Stax variants where you can use his -2 ability with cards like Serum Powder to be able to fetch cards you've already exiled to get a good hand, or being able to snipe Moxen on your opponent's side in order to make Tangle Wire + Smokestack a little better. Costing four mana is barely a downside for this card, since most of these decks play Ancient Tomb + Mana Crypt and suddenly it's very easy to make this card super early where it can be very disruptive. Funny enough however, the best way to deal with this card is with creature combat, since cards like Repeal most of the time will be completely dead (making Repeal cost 5 to bounce this outside of any other Sphere effects is pretty strong) and upticking Karn immediately to maybe kill a zero drop artifact keeps him well outside Lightning Bolt death range. This card is pretty powerful and I would be surprised if someone doesn't play this card. I myself am planning on playing around with it in Stax as a way to gain a little main deck space for silver bullet artifacts (and maybe a one of Mycosynth Lattice for sheer cheekiness) but also because it helps reduce Null Rod's effect on the deck a tad. No matter which way you slice it, I'm really excited for Karn in general.

Saheeli, Sublime Artificer

Saheeli, Sublime Artificer [WAR]

The first time I saw this card, I had to do a bit of a double take because I couldn't quite believe that this card was uncommon. This is a bit of hybrid between Young Pyromancer and Monastery Mentor, being able to generate a slew of tokens off any noncreature spell cast. Costing three is interesting to this card, but the hybrid mana cost makes it so that it is solely castable off Black Lotus. I think this card has some potential, since it's a token generator much like Sai, Master Thopterist that can also pitch to Force of Will. I can see people trying this card in shells with Young Pyromancer as an additional copy of it, with the upside that it can randomly turn a Moxen into an untapped Time Vault to take an extra turn when need be, or possibly become a Blightsteel Colossus with haste. The only major downside this card has is that not only is it capable of being hit by Pyroblast, but Hyrdoblast also hits it, but I don't think that's a huge enough downside to make this card unplayable. In fact, I'm sure we'll see it floating around at some point. Making tokens is incredibly powerful after all.

Narset, Parter of Veils

Narset, Parter of Veils [WAR]

I swear, we're almost done with the Planeswalkers! Well, somewhat. Narset is also a very interesting card in a format where drawing cards is one of the best things you can do. At three mana and all of it mono colored, she synergizes well with the power of a Turn 1 Black Lotus, and suddenly your opponent is stuck in a Leovold-like situation very early. Furthermore her -2 ability is pretty powerful at digging in most of the decks this would see typical play in (Xerox, PO) since she will almost always hit a card off of it. What's great about cards like this is that many of these walkers have really powerful synergy with other cards in the set and while many of them may not have homes immediately, they will see play in some form. I definitely think Narset fits this mold of a very strong card, and it will be interesting to see where she pops up.

Ashiok, Dream Render

Ashiok, Dream Render [WAR]

I could have sworn there were other cards than Planeswalkers in this set when I started my set review! Well, let's keep going I guess! Ashiok seems reasonable and synergizes well versus certain decks. Being able to shut off fetches and cards like Tinker is pretty strong, but also being a planeswalker that hates on decks like Survival and Dredge is also pretty strong. One other thing this card does is shuts off Delve spells by nuking the graveyard, and it can also be used to fuel your own Delve spells or Yawgmoth's Will that you want to cast by being able to put your own cards into your yard while at the same time nuking their graveyard. At the three mana spot, this is of course, crowding a little since their are so many good options now at three CMC, but being hybrid makes this card even more interesting to play.

Jace, Wielder of Mysteries

Jace, Wielder of Mysteries [WAR]

Laboratory Maniac on a planeswalker seems just fine, right? This card seems pretty interesting since there are cards like Demonic Consultation in this format, albeit restricted.  There is also Divining Witch from Nemesis (which is the Spellshaper version of Consultation), so there are a few ways to abuse this by being able to end step Consultation-effect for a card not actually in your deck and then win with a draw spell or natural draw. Casting four isn't a huge downside to be honest, since three mana of it is a single color. While this isn't your go-to four mana planeswalker named Jace, it might in fact just spawn a new deck around it made to abuse the static ability to an extent. It's certainly a curious and interesting card.

Dovin, Hand of Control

Dovin, Hand of Control [WAR]

Okay, okay, I'm sick of all these Planeswalkers on this <REDACTED> plane! I swear this is the last one! Dovin seems somewhat interesting as a one-sided Thorn of Amethyst like effect. Unfortunately it does act as a slight nonbo with Lavinia, Azorius Renegade (FLAVOR!) because it allows them to pay mana for zero cost artifacts like Moxen, but I suspect those two don't get played in the same deck anyways (or play at the same playground, look that one time Lavinia stole Dovin's ball just did not end well, let me tell you). The -1 ability is a little strange as a Gaseous Form type effect, but it can in a sense Fog a Blightsteel Colossus if need be for a few turns until an answer can be found or a way to win the game. I don't know that this is actually playable, but it is interesting and the last of the relatively decent enough Planeswalkers we have to cover.

Bolas's Citadel

Bolas's Citadel [WAR]

This card is wild. It's akin to a Yawgmoth's Bargain-like card that you can Tinker for, and has a powerful upside with Sensei's Divining Top (draw a card with top, pay 1 life to cast Top, repeat until you have what you need), but it also is like Ad Nauseam without Top in that it can just push through your library given that it can actually cast your Moxen (instead of drawing them and paying 1 life like Bargain), and it is very easy to set up a loop with Yawgmoth's Will and this to kill someone with its tap ability. I think this card is really very interesting, and I do think someone will play it. I don't think is is format-warping, but just another powerful and interesting card that does interesting things. It also interacts nicely with cards like Fastbond and also Aetherflux Reservoir seems pretty insane with it. The fact that this is also an artifact also means that Mishra's Workshop comes into consideration as well. I'm pretty interested to see where this card goes, because it seems pretty powerful on the outside.

Dovin's Veto

Dovin's Veto [WAR]

Dovin's lost his ball, folks, and he's pretty upset about it. I think this card is interesting, but it is basically just an uncounterable Negate. Is that good enough for right now in Vintage? Unsure to say, but it could possibly be playable in a UW Control type shell. Unfortunately, those shells aren't in a very good place right now, but it could be interesting to see if this card helps or not. Personally, I actually sort of doubt it. Uncounterable Negate is still just Negate.

God-Pharaoh's Statue

God-Pharaoh's Statue [WAR]

While this card does cost six mana, it's stature is pretty inspiring at being a double one-sided Sphere of Resistance effect. This card has some interesting possibilities and I could see a deck like Stax maybe playing a copy of this to add on top of the Sphere effects to really hammer home a lock. One nice thing about this is that it's not just a Sphere effect either, it does hit the opponent's life total, so this could even be a slow win condition in a Stax-like deck as well. I'll be intrigued to see where this card goes.

Return to Nature

Return to Nature [WAR]

I actually think this card is fairly interesting. A Disenchant-like effect in green that also can snipe a card in a graveyard is a great little utility card, and all of its modes are pretty decent against decks like Survival, where it can hit a Survival of the Fittest, a Hollow One, or a Vengevine in the graveyard. The extra bit of utility here makes it certainly worth playing around with, and costing two mana puts it away from Mental Misstep.

Blast Zone

Blast Zone [WAR]

I find this card intriguing since it is at its core a land-based Ratchet Bomb-like effect, and in a format where Crucible of Worlds is a reasonable card to be playing it seems pretty interesting. The only major downside is this card enters with one counter on it already, making blowing up zero drop permanents a small problem if you're hoping to snipe Moxen or a Chalice with it. There are obviously ways around this but those hoops to jump through make it a little more difficult. One application of this card however is that it could be used to blow up an opposing Null Rod with Shops, but even then Null Rod isn't 100% a blowout when the deck can make creatures like Chief of the Foundry and Precursor Golem. Still, the design space on this card is simply explosive, so I hope to see it pop up here or there.

Finale of Promise

Finale of Promise [WAR]

Niv-Mizzet called and said he promised to deliver the finale of War of the Spark. Well, okay, not really, but this is still a pretty interesting card even without the rider clause of being able to spend X=10 mana on it. This card could be pretty interesting centered around the card Arclight Phoenix since this is a triple cast spell in one card pretty much all the time (Finale, and both instant and sorcery cards you choose). The only super downside is not being able to cast Delve spells typically without investing a lot of mana, but that's okay because the sweet spot for this is four or less (because being able to cast Time Walk and another good instant spell like Ancestral Recall.

Ilharg, the Raze-Boar

Ilharg, the Raze-Boar [WAR]

THE RAVE IS UPON US! Wait... wait... this isn't a rave, This isn't even a Rave-Boar! I actually really like this card because not only is it incredibly difficult to remove (exiling or destroying is just delaying it), but it's possible to be interesting in a deck where you want to be putting into play a really large creature from your hand (like maybe an Oath variant) that is going to be attacking (so Emrakul, the Aeons Torn swinging for 15 seems fine) and the ability to just continually repeat this every turn until your opponent is dead. This could be too slow and I could be wrong, but the effect and the resiliency of this guy makes it very interesting to me.

Fblthp, the Lost

Fblthp, the Lost [WAR]

Look, he got his own card finally. SOMEONE MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Mowu, Loyal Companion

Mowu, Loyal Companion [WAR]


Vintage Challenge 4/20/2019

Now that we've gotten this war to calm down a little, let's take a look at last weekend's Vintage Challenge information. This is the second Challenge where we are operating under the London Mulligan. Let's take a look at how that impacted this event and the Top 8, shall we?

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
London PO 1st ChubbyRain (Matt Murray)
Powderless Dredge 2nd AnarchyTheorist (Kevin Nelson)
UR Xerox 3rd Clone9
Pitch Dredge 4th Mathonical
PO Storm 5th LuisMJ
Sylvan PO 6th JakeHelms
BUG Survival 7th TheLastGNU
Bant Survival 8th SwiftWarkite2

This was an interesting Top 8, but it definitely shows the effect that the London Mulligan can have on the format. For instance, our first place winner of this event was none other than our good friend Matt Murray on a build he has termed "London PO".

One of the important things behind this deck design is that it has a number of "Draw 7" effects such as Timetwister or Wheel of Fortune in it. The idea behind this is that mulligans to lower hand sizes can help you sculpt a hand where you can cast a draw 7 effect that basically negates the mulligan but also might have the ability to put your opponent off balance. Either way, this is very interesting stuff and mad props to Matt for winning the event!

In addition to London PO, we also saw a variant of Dredge in the finals match, piloted by Kevin Nelson (AnarchyTheorist), with absolutely zero copies of the card Serum Powder in the 75. Owing to the math behind the London mulligan not needing the card to find a Bazaar of Baghdad, Kevin opted for cards like Creeping Chill and Street Wraith in addition to full four each of Mindbreak Trap, Force of Will, and Mental Misstep in the main.

This list is pretty sweet, and I am curious to try it myself under the London Mulligan.

I am curious to see what yet another challenge will bring with this rule and what kind of data we can glean with it. I am still not a fan the more I see of it however, since the capability of PO to have a great opening hand with one of these draw 7 effects is pretty high.

The Spice Corner

My spice list this week comes at me from Twitter user @SorenKyle1, who sent me a deck focused on using Dack Fayden and Spirit of the Labyrinth along with a whole mess of hatebears. They're calling it "Dack Labyrinth", and I think that's pretty apt.

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! The War of the Spark is upon us and Prerelease weekend is right around the corner! If you're going to one, be safe and have fun and make sure you tell all your friends about how busted Teferi's going to be in Vintage. I'm planning on making it out to one myself and I'm really excited because I haven't been this excited for a set in a while. War represents a lot for me from a lore perspective (RIP GIDEON!) as an avid Vorthosian who really enjoys the story as well as the mechanical aspects of how the new cards might impact formats I love. It's going to be an exciting and flavorful time, and I hope the very best for you as well, my friends.

As always, feel free to hit me up on Twitter or on Twitch! I do plan to get back into a regular streaming schedule soon (within this next month) so I'm really excited about that.

Until next time, keep on Samuel L Jackson'ing!

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