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Vintage 101: With Great Power ...

Griselbrand Returns!

We had another successful Power Nine Challenge event this past weekend. There were less than eighty players this time, but that's still a respectable turnout. If you've been following this series you'll know that I'm a fan of Oath of Druids, so it pleases me to announce that the latest Power Nine Challenge was won by an Oath deck. In the last Power Nine Challenge event, Oath decks didn't perform very well, so it was nice to see my favorite card get some love this time around. 

The winning deck was piloted by Montolio, a name you might be familiar with if you've  played in Vintage Daily events. Usually Montolio is slaying folks with his various Workshop builds, but for this event he changed the script. 

The Omni-Oath deck is something that was played in the Vintage Super League a few seasons ago, but since the restriction of Dig Through Time not much has been seen of Omniscience in Vintage. Without Dig it can be hard to draw through your deck to find either Griselbrand or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Since the deck plays no Time Vault combo, the ultimate end game is free-casting Emrakul with Omniscience for the lethal extra turn trigger. 

Without Digs, it looks like the plan here is to be more of a normal Oath deck with the occasional Omniscience combo. After all, if you've ever played an Oath deck it's readily apparent that many times one Oath activation is enough to cement a victory. Activate Oath and hit Griselbrand and you're probably able to draw into a Time Walk or a Demonic Tutor to find one. One extra turn with Griselbrand makes a damage race a sketchy bet for your opponent. In this deck one Oath activation could also simply fetch up an Emrakul which is usually enough to win the game within one turn. 

To support the Omniscience this deck runs a full playset of Show and Tell. With the usual four Oaths, the deck has eight "must answer" bombs, that can often overload an opponent's countermeasures. You can even use Show and Tell to bait out a counterspell and try to resolve your Oath of Druids. This gambit isn't something that happens often, but it can be effective.

Show and Tell also is a great way to dodge Grafdigger's Cage, a popular sideboard card against Oath strategies. Show and Tell does not stop Containment Priest however, but this deck has a work-around for that too. If you can manage to Show an Omniscience into play against an opponent packing Containment Priests you now can cheat your bombs into play with impunity. Considering the popularity of Mentor decks and Containment Priest in Vintage, I think that Omniscience is a plan worth considering for the future. At one point I had a list much like Montolio's winning deck with four Show and Tells and one Omniscience, and seeing him do well has made me give that configuration a second look. 

Power Nine Challenge Top Eight

Other than the aforementioned OmniOath deck that took down the event, there were three Workshop decks in the Top Eight. There was also one Doomsday deck, one Jeskai Mentor with Young Pyromancer, one Jeskai Delver, and the one of the oddest successful decks that I've seen in a while, a Managorger Hydra Gush deck. 


Managorger Remora Gush

In my last article I mentioned that Managorger Hydra was seeing only fringe play. It appears that this particular Vintage competitor did not get the message and chose to smash through the competition with the somewhat obscure Magic Origins Hydra. The major weakness to Managorger is that it's much more prone to being removed by spot removal, and it leaves behind no value in the form of tokens, the way a Monastery Mentor would. On the plus side, Managorger triggers each time any player casts a spell! Even though it doesn't create tokens, it grows faster than any growing creature that's come before. Pyromancer only triggers from instants or sorceries and Mentor only triggers from non-creature spells. Every time anyone does anything other than make a land drop this little guy grows a new head. That's a lot of growth potential! 

In addition to the normal draw engine of Gush and the restricted Blue cards, this Managorger deck is running Mystic Remora. If you're not familiar with Mystic Remora, it is a card from Ice Age that is a total drag sit across from. Most Vintage decks want to cast a healthy amount of non-creature spells, and Remora punishes your opponents for doing so. You can avoid letting your opponent draw a card if you want to pay four generic mana, but most of the time that's not an option. 

Mystic Remora has a cumulative upkeep, so you can avoid letting your opponents draw any extra cards by simply doing nothing until your opponent runs out of mana to pay that upkeep. The problem is that sitting around and doing nothing allows your opponent to develop their board presence while you remain stalemated. If you decide you need to counter one of their spells, they get to draw a card.  The result is that Mystic Remora is a tricky card to face if you're playing a Blue-based deck. Workshop decks can usually attack your mana base so you can't pay the upkeep, and Hatebears decks can play creatures with no issues, but most other decks have to try to deal with Mystic Remora immediately.  The best way to think of Remora is that it is one part draw engine and one part Time Walk; either the enchantment draws you some extra cards or it causes your opponent to not do anything on their turn. 

Other than one Jace, Vryn's Prodigy this list has no planeswalkers. Instead the list is full of artifact mana, cantrips, counterspells, and removal. Normally I would expect to see Jace, the Mind Sculptor in a deck like this, but it looks like diebler did fine without one. 

This list looks tuned with Mishra in mind as there are a couple of cards in the main deck that should be helpful against Workshop decks. There's a singleton Trygon Predator, a creature that is fantastic at taking out opposing artifacts like Lodestone Golem. Considering this list plays so much artifact mana it should be relatively easy to cast a Trygon early in a game. 

Engineered Explosives is another all-around great Vintage card that also doubles as an anti-Shops card. Set to zero Engineered Explosives takes out all token creatures in play, but it's also fantastic at taking out multiple "Sphere" effects. The trick is to cast Engineered Explosives for zero against a Workshop deck but using exactly two colors of mana to pay the additional cost cards like Thorn of Amethyst require. Doing so will cause the Sunburst ability to see two colors, making the Explosives come into play with two counters. Since the majority of Sphere effects cost two mana, this play destroys each Sphere on the battlefield. 

The sideboard looks pretty good. There are cards to handle tough matchups like Dredge and Workshops. The only thing that I would do differently is to add a basic Forest for casting Nature's Claim. With one Forest to go with the main-deck basic Island having the correct colors of mana to cast the anti-Workshop cards is a simple task. To support the basic Forest there would have to be a full playset of Misty Rainforests in the main deck, but that's as simple as switching out a different fetch land. 

Overall I really like the looks of this Managorger deck and I'd love to give it a try myself. Managorger Hydra is very inexpensive on Magic Online so this deck shouldn't be too difficult to purchase. 

Other Decks from around the Vintage Universe

I love to showcase Vintage decks that are different from the usual decks we all see at the top of the metagame pages. I've always said there is a lot more to Vintage than just Lodestones and Monk tokens, and this next deck is different than anything I've ever featured in one of my articles. 

Two-Card Monte

This is a deck called Two-Card Monte, named after a pair of two-card combos the deck employs. This type of deck has been around for a few years, but it isn't something that a lot of people play. The goal here is to win with either Painter's Servant and Grindstone or Leyline of the Void and Helm of Obedience.

The Painter combo is well-known and is played in Legacy and other Vintage decks. With Painter's Servant changing every card in the game to one color, activating a Grindstone will mill your opponent's entire deck in one shot. The other combo with Leyline and Helm is not as common, but it works in a similar fashion. With Leyline of the Void out, your opponent's cards all get exiled instead of going to the graveyard. When you activate Helm of Obedience with a Leyline out, the Helm never sees a card actually hit the graveyard so it keeps milling cards until there are none left to exile. So in an odd way Two-Card Monte can be considered a mill deck. 

The cool thing about Two-Card Monte is that you get the raw power of Mishra's Workshop to power out all of these artifacts. Unlike most other Workshop decks, this build is not concerned with playing lock pieces, and the deck runs colored mana sources like the Workshop decks of old. The eight rainbow lands provide the means to cast broken restricted cards and the highly-synergistic Goblin Welder

Goblin Welder is used to pull all kinds of crazy plays. With Black Lotus Welder can ramp your mana, and it's also good at bringing back your combo pieces that get countered or destroyed. With Memory Jar, Goblin Welder can dig through as many as fourteen cards in one turn to help complete one of the two-card combos. 


Finally, a Budget Vintage Deck!

I am asked all the time for a budget Vintage deck, and usually the only decks that I can find that are cheap are budget versions of Dredge. There's nothing wrong with playing Dredge, but it isn't exactly everyone's cup of tea. Dredge can also be complicated and isn't always ideal for a player learning the ropes in Vintage. 

When I saw this deck cash a Vintage Daily for under three hundred tickets, I figured it would make for a good deck highlight. 

Burning Vintage

I've faced a Burn deck or two in the Tournament Practice room on Magic Online, but most of them had serious issues. Vintage mana bases don't do much damage to their owners, unlike in Modern where Fetches and Shocks do half of the work for Burn pilots. Another problem is that even though Burn decks can goldfish very fast, many Vintage decks are even faster. The few times I faced Burn decks I would get out Griselbrand or the Time Vault combo before my opponent could finish me off, and sometimes I hit a lethal Tendrils of Agony before my opponent could play a card. This list has some cards that can make fast combo decks have issues. 

This list plays twelve "pillar" effects. There's Pyrostatic Pillar, and a newer version more familiar to Modern players, Eidolon of the Great Revel. The third play set of pillar effects comes from Scab-Clan Beserker. The Beserker has to become renowned in order for its ability to work, but in conjunction with Eidolon and Pillar it represents twelve powerful and punishing effects.

All of the Pillar cards punish opponents for casting cheap spells, and a fast combo deck like Storm can't even try to go off without dealing with these cards first. Mentor decks would have to take at least two damage from an Eidolon for every Mentor trigger, and every other deck in the format is reliant on cheap spells as well. To make matters worse Vintage decks are not used to playing against such cards and won't have many answers for the Burn deck. 

The rest of the deck is fleshed out with the typical burn spells like Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, and Price of Progress. Each of those burn spells are hard to answer and very efficient. The deck plays Sudden Shock to take out Monastery Mentors and Young Pyromancers before they can generate a token. 

To fight the Blue decks in Vintage this list plays two main-deck Pyroblasts and four Mental Missteps. Misstep is also very good at slowing down a Storm deck long enough to land an Eidolon of the Great Revel. Using Misstep to counter a Dark Ritual can set a Storm deck back an entire turn. 

If you're interested in trying out Vintage without spending a lot of money, this deck is a great choice. I imagine that it will be quite satisfying to wreck a deck that costs four times as much as yours! 


I'd like to announce that The Mana Drain is back up and running under the new ownership of "Brass Man" Andy Probasco. The new version of the site looks great and the activity level is higher than I've seen since I started using the site. If you are new to Vintage or just want a place to talk to like-minded people, you should make an account. It's free, and the player base is very supportive of new players. You can find info on tournaments, and new tech for your Vintage decks too. 

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With great power comes great responsibility...

There is another point I'd like to address and it concerns the upcoming update to the DCI banned and restricted lists. I have no opinion on any format other than Vintage as I don't spend enough time following them to develop an adequately formed opinion. 

I play Vintage almost exclusively, and I talk to a large number of prominent people in the community. I'm well aware of the state of the format. There is currently a debate over whether or not Mishra's Workshop decks are so dominating as to warrant the deck suffering another restriction. In a nutshell, I do not think anything needs to change at this point in Vintage, and if something did need to change it would be much more clearly visible after the next Vintage championship. At this point it is clear that the DCI has made its decision, but I still think people should understand the implications of restricting a card like Lodestone Golem or Mishra's Workshop. Jason Jaco of Eternal Central wrote an excellent article debating the merits of Mishra's Workshop, and Goblin Charbelcher afficianado Danny Batterman also wrote a great blog post discussing the subject. If you're not sure how you feel about the topic of restrictions in Vintage, both of those articles are worth a read. 

That's all the time I have for this week, see you next time! You can follow me on Twitter @josephfiorinijr - Islandswamp on MTGO

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