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Vintage 101: White Weenies and More!


Thing in the Ice

In a format home to such frightening behemoths as Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, Blightsteel Colossus, and Griselbrand, a lowly 1/1 monk token doesn't seem like it would be all that scary. Of course, anyone who's played even ten minutes of Vintage will tell you that lately they're much more concerned with Monks than they are with Eldrazi Titans. For far less mana Monastery Mentor provides a damage clock that parallels even the lifelink Demon, Griselbrand. It's tough to say exactly which creature is best in Vintage, because many of them could fit that bill, but most likely the correct answer is Monastery Mentor

Even with Mentor sitting on its lofty throne as the reigning King of Vintage, savvy players and deck builders strive to think outside the Monk. There's another "growing" creature that's been seeing some play lately, and it has some interesting abilities that can serve to counteract the mighty Mentor. 

I wrote about Thing in the Ice back when it was newly spoiled, in an article that was looking for Vintage playable cards from Shadows over Innistrad. At that time I wasn't very confident that the future would bode well for the Awoken Horror. I felt that it was a great card, but I also believed that Monastery Mentor set a bar that was so high, few creatures would ever be able to surpass it. The damage potential from a Mentor is only limited by the cards in one's hand. Thing in the Ice maxes out at seven power, and that's all in one body. All it takes is one Swords to Plowshares or Pyroblast to undo all of that hard work. 

The one thing that Thing really has going for it is the sweeping creature-bounce trigger when it transforms. I always suspected that flipping a Thing in the Ice to clear away all of your opponent's Mentors and tokens would be powerful. Looking at results for Magic Online Daily Events it appears that some enterprising individuals have been putting the Awoken Horror to good use. 

I love how this deck is essentially a Delver/Gush shell but with a different creature package. There's all of the typical cards: Cantrips, Gush, the restricted draw spells, and the classic Blue countermagic. Instead of Delvers and Pyromancers, the creatures in this list include the eponymous Thing in the Ice and the newest Vintage sensation, Scab-Clan Berserker

Normally a Delver/Pyromancer deck would have to fight against a Mentor deck by either countering the Mentor or removing it immediately with a Sudden Shock or other removal spell. Trying to race a Mentor with a Pyromancer just won't work because all of those monks have Prowess. By playing Thing in the Ice instead of Young Pyromancer, this deck gains a new option for dealing with opponents packing Monastery Mentor. Strategically flipping the Thing in the Ice can sweep the board, erasing all of the work that was done creating an army of tokens. Bouncing a Mentor gives you another shot at countering it when it gets replayed, or it could buy you time to find the proper removal spell. 

Scab-Clan is another interesting addition to this list. The one-sided Pyrostatic Pillar has been picking up popularity for a while now, and it's easy to see why. Vintage, like all Eternal formats, revolves largely around spells with a low converted mana cost. Many Vintage decks play a sparse mana base, and use cantrips to find lands or key spells. When your deck needs to resolve a small handful of cantrips each turn, Scab-Clan Berserker makes that style very painful. Each time a Mentor player makes another token they're likely to take a Shock to the dome. 

The Berserker is also a great way to combat the Dark Petition Storm decks that have been popping back up lately. The decline in Workshop decks, coupled with fewer copies of Lodestone Golem have created an opening for Storm decks to rise back up in number. The typical control elements that Gush decks play are not very good against Storm. Defense Grid makes a mockery of Force of Will and Flusterstorm, but Scab-Clan doesn't care about Grids whatsoever. 

There are no planeswalkers in this particular list. It looks as if Dack Fayden and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy have been sent to the bench to make room for cheaper and more aggressive cards. This move leaves more room for Gitaxian Probes and Lightning Bolts, two cards that help flip Thing in the Ice and fuel Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time

Pulverize the Competition

Modern format players are probably familiar with Shatterstorm as an answer to Affinity decks. Sweeping the battlefield of artifacts is often the only thing that will save you from the robot onslaught. In Vintage, Shatterstorm would be too expensive to ever resolve against Workshops, which is coincidentally the only deck that you'd want to play it against. Luckily for this deck, Mercadian Masques block contains a "free" Shatterstorm!

If you have a mana base that can support it, there is no better card to play against a Workshop deck than Pulverize. Very few cards will be able to dig you out from under a mountain of Sphere effects, but Pulverize can handle that task. The downside is that you have to sacrifice two of your Mountains to use it.  To make Pulverize work properly you'll need to include at least four or five Mountains after sideboarding. Four Volcanic Islands and a Mountain in the sideboard is usually enough. You'll just need to keep your fetch lands uncracked until it's time to fire off the Pulverize, otherwise you will open yourself up to Wasteland.

Pulverize isn't quite as good these days as it was in the past due to cards like Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher seeing play in Workshop decks Also, some Shops decks include Hangarback Walker, which will leave behind some number of tokens. Still, Pulverize is a great spell for a lot of decks. Even lists that play a lot of artifact mana can make use of the card, especially if they play Yawgmoth's Will

The rest of the sideboard for UR TiTi contains cards to fight Oath, Dredge, Storm, and Workshops. 

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This Thing in the Ice deck contains a small White splash to support Kataki, War's Wage and Containment Priest. In my opinion White is by far the best third color for the U/R Gush decks because Containment Priest does so much to fix the Oath of Druids match up. No matter how well-positioned Oath of Druids is at any given time, the deck can beat anyone with a lucky Oath/Orchard/Mox draw. Containment Priest is much harder to deal with than Grafdigger's Cage, so it turns a potentially horrendous match into a very winnable one. 

It's a Nice Day for a White Weenie...

One of the comments I received last week asked about the White Weenie deck that Paul Rietzl used in the Vintage Super League play-in tournament. I've featured "White Trash" before, but I've never used a list that was assembled by a Pro Tour Champion before. 

It looks like MossDogTrainee took Rietzl's list out for a spin, let's take a look!

Decks like this are best described as Mono White Hatebears. They are technically White Weenie decks, but Savannah Lions, pump-Knights, and Crusades aren't going to win any matches in Vintage. For a White Weenie deck to succeed in this format it needs to be as disruptive as it is aggressive. 

 

Thalia is the all-star of this deck. She provides disruption and a solid body at a nominal cost. Playing four of these is a no-brainer. Since this effect is very important, there are also two copies of Vryn Wingmare as Thalia's five and six.

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Taxing your opponent's mana is important, but it is far from the only angle of attack this deck has. Spirit of the Labyrinth makes sure that opposing decks must play fair and avoid drawing any extra cards. Casting some spells, such as Brainstorm, with a Spirit of the Labyrinth out is terrible. The volume of cards Spirit neutralizes is astounding. 

Containment Priest is a blank against some decks, but the decks it is good against usually crumble if they can't deal with it. Priest is good against Dredge and Oath, and often times those decks play little to no answers to it in their main decks. 

Vintage White Hatebears decks usually include Leonin Arbiter, and this deck is no different. Arbiter makes fetch lands nearly useless, and it turns Ghost Quarter into Strip Mine. Of course, there are also four Wastelands to really put the pinch on your opponent's mana base. 

White Weenie creatures can sometimes have a hard time closing a game out fast enough, so this list plays everyone's favorite Squire, Stoneforge Mystic

Stoneforge usually tutors up and deploys Batterskull, but she also has the option of snagging a Jitte or Sword of Fire and Ice. Batterskull is a fantastic beater to close out a game, and the other pieces of equipment put in a lot of work as well. Jitte is a bit like a Swiss Army Knife with its three abilities. Sword of Fire and Ice is one of the few cards in this list that can provide card advantage, and sometimes a few extra cards are critical. 

Hatebears in Vintage

I love that a deck like five-color Humans or Hatebears can do well in Vintage, but their success is also very metagame-dependant. One of the biggest reasons that these disruptive creature-swarm decks can do well is that Vintage decks don't usually play board-sweeping cards. In Modern, Pyroclasm or Anger of the Gods see much more play. In Vintage, people just don't play all that many sweeper spells. If Hatebears suddenly becomes a highly-played deck I imagine that more people will adopt sweeper spells into their deck lists, and these disruptive aggro decks will recede back into the fringes of the format. Even if decks like this never become widely-played, I'm still glad they exists to challenge the established tier one strategies. 

Marit Lage Stax

Many MUD pilots are packing Thought-Knot Seers these days, but this next deck from the LCV Vintage series is reviving some old tech instead. 

The base of this deck is Espresso Stax. For those of you who haven't been around all that long, Espresso means the deck is an all-artifact Workshop deck based on Smokestack. If you've never had to face an active Smokestack, let me tell you it is quite oppressive. Smokestack causes each player to have to sacrifice permanents each turn. Paired with Crucible of Worlds Smokestack can form a lock that can't be broken. 

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Smokestack isn't as popular now as it once was mainly due to the increased presence of token-producing creatures in the format. If someone manages to stick a Mentor or Pyromancer before Smokestack comes down it can be rendered useless. Even so, it isn't very hard to cast a four-mana spell in a Workshop deck, and it is quite backbreaking to sacrifice a permanent each turn. Workshop decks are comprised almost entirely of permanents, so it's easy for the Shops player to feed their Smokestack for a few turns, even if they don't draw Crucible of Worlds.

Much of the rest of this deck is standard fare for Workshops. There's the one lonely Lodestone Golem, a bunch of Sphere effects, and a lot of mana. There's also Expedition Map, which helps find some of the more interesting cards:

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Once your opponent is on lockdown, you can use your Maps to find Dark Depths or Thespian's Stage and make yourself a 20/20 Marit Lage token. Marit Lage can end a game in a hurry, and as a land-based combo it can't be countered by normal means. 

There has always been some downsides to utilizing the Dark Depths combo. The primary problem is that cards like Wasteland, Strip Mine, and creature bouncing effects can undo all of your hard work. This deck plays Crucible of Worlds though, so it can have multiple shots at making Marit Lage if things go wrong the first try. Also, the deck doesn't need Marit Lage to win; it is a fully-functioning Workshop deck as well. 

Espresso Depths in Vintage

I think there's a lot of potential in this shell, but I think Ravager or Eldrazi is probably better than Dark Depths Shops. Smokestack may be a brutal card, but aggressive Workshop decks are more likely to perform better in today's metagame.

There could also be Dark Depths decks that haven't been invented yet. Stage/Depths is a  powerful two-card combo that's hard to disrupt and I'm surprise it isn't seen more often. 

 

Eternal Masters Hype!

I don't usually go into full-on fanboy mode when a new set is spoiled, but Eternal Masters is making me very excited. So far spoilers include Wasteland, Force of Will, Mana Crypt, and Vampiric Tutor , and that's just a few of the ones I've seen! I wasn't sure how good this set would be when I first learned about it, but almost every card shown so far is highly playable. I think that Eternal Masters will be a boon to people who need cards for their Legacy, Vintage, or Commander decks. 

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In the United States many Vintage events allow the use of fifteen "play-test cards." Usually the extremely pricey cards are chosen to be represented with a replacement, but that still leaves some moderately expensive cards like Force of Will. Eternal Masters should really help people fill out the remainder of their Vintage decks. Personally I've been working on my paper Vintage collection, and now I'm trying to find Eternal Masters sealed product for pre-sale.

It's a little painful purchasing cards that I owned before years ago, but playing Vintage every day on Magic Online has caused me to become addicted to the format. The price tag on some of these staples might be a little steep, but the enjoyment I get from Vintage is priceless. 

That's all the time I have for this week, see you in seven days! You can follow me on Twitter @josephfiorinijr - Islandswamp on Magic Online


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