For as long as I’ve known vintage, I’ve loved it. It’s exciting to power out broken plays, and it’s rewarding to win through whatever busted thing your opponent is doing. Sometimes you can even punish broken cards with stuff like Misdirection on an Ancestral Recall.
Mental Misstep is legal, but it’s not the frustrating, oppressive card that it was in legacy because moxen lets everyone jump their curves. That Misstep has nothing on a turn one Tinker, but it does add more turn zero interaction and helps nerf Ancestral Recall and the Voltaic Key combo.
The pile of tutors available means that every deck is consistent and powerful, and the decision trees can get very deep and complex.
The problem with Vintage has always been the price tag. There are only so many pieces of power in circulation, and the collectors are so spread out that regular tournaments are few and far between. When it’s the same small group of dedicated players every week or month or year, innovation will happen slowly and it might stay isolated. For as long as I remember, other format’s lists have been strewn about in articles, modo results, and deck techs while vintage technology has stayed relatively buried.
Which is a shame, because some crazy things have been happening.
Enter Vintage Masters, and power on MTGO. Not only is there enough Moxen for everyone interested in the format, but reprints of Force of Will and dual lands make Legacy more affordable as well. Eternal lovers from all over the world, from isolated and inbred metagames, can experience the explosion of shared technology firsthand.
One new problem is that the V4 client doesn’t allow you to pop out the graveyard yet, which has made things difficult for dredge players. That sucks, and I do hope it gets fixed. In the meanwhile, people that loath that deck (ahem) can enjoy a relatively dredge-free metagame.
Modo has some specific advantages where vintage is concerned. If I borrow a powered deck in real life, I have to be constantly on edge, paranoid about someone stealing ten grand in cards. On modo? Not so much.
Here, I’ve collected a few interesting decks. They’ve existed in paper Magic, for the most part, but I’ve only been exposed to them through modo.
UW Fact or Fiction
This deck was designed by Craig Berry and The Atog Lord, and it’s a work of art. Spirit of the Labyrinth shuts off the busted draw engines in the format, hosing a lot of combo decks. It also turns Vendilion Clique into card advantage if you cast it on the opponent’s turn. Fact or Fiction avoids Sprit’s effect, letting the UW player draw through their deck while the opponent twiddles their thumbs, staring at a grip full of cantrips.
At first, it looks like Restoration Angel doesn’t have much opportunity to gain value, with only a few Cliques and Snapcasters as blink targets. On the other hand, Angel can save a creature from removal, eat an opposing attacker, and lets the Drain deck hold up mana.
By playing four Restoration Angels and four Fact or Fiction, the opponent never knows what to play around. You might get your creature eaten by an angel, or you might fall behind by not attacking, giving the opponent time to cast draw spells.
In the sideboard, having quad Grafdigger’s Cage and triple Rest in Peace is excessive. While Rest in Peace is better against some different things, like Deathrite Shaman and Tarmogoyf, I don’t think that’s enough. Most of the time, it’ll just be overlapping disruption for the Dredge/Snapcaster matchup.
The rest of the sideboard is pretty hot, with a few more disruption spells and a couple solid hosers. Combined with Cavern, Teferi will blow out the Drain mirror.
5c Humans, by Coopes
I was shown this deck on stream the other night, and it took me a hot minute to realize what I was looking at.
At first I assumed the deck needed Thalia to win, but on second glance there are a few solid plans here. Cavern of Souls makes it incredibly strong against Drain control, and the Trinket Mage and Imperial Recruiter packages give some order and consistency to this chaotic mass of one-ofs.
Love it or hate it, there are some sweet cards here. Exava is a hasty threat that can’t be hit by Abrupt Decay or Lightning Bolt, and it seems good for eating Jace. It’s easy to forget that Orzhov Pontiff is a human, and here it’s a maindeck answer for Dark Confidant or hordes of Young Pyromancer tokens. In the sideboard, Imp’s Mischief is an awesome answer to Abrupt Decay and Ancestral Recall.
This deck is notable for a few different reasons.
1-It’s a blue deck without Force of Will. Force and Thalia don’t get along, and this way we don’t have restrictions on our blue count. This means we can run the best humans for the job, as opposed to the ones that happen to be blue.
2-It’s a Dack Fayden deck without Goblin Welder. I’m guessing it’s mostly there to grab opposing artifacts, like a Trygon Predator with haste that costs more with Thalia. On the plus side, it lets you loot away Silver-Inlaid Dagger. Looting away Silver-Inlaid Dagger seems important, even if it does good things on Prophetic Flamespeaker.
Post board, the deck has access to Notion Thief, which is busted combined with Dack’s +1. Just target the opponent and draw all the cards.
3-It’s an actual tribal deck in vintage. Before, I’d only really seen Merfolk and Gobblins (Elfball if we go wayyyy back) and even those had fallen off. If creature-dominant strategies can thrive, that’s a good sign that vintage is healthy.
I watched JJflipped stream this deck a bit, and it looks solid. Apparently, it was originally designed by Tom Dixon and Craig Berry, and now it’s transitioned to the online metagame.
This deck is exactly what I picture when I think of Mana Drain: Regular UW control with a few mana sinks to take advantage of Drain.
The real innovation here is Magus of the Future. During my Banned Series on Tolarian Academy , I gained a renewed appreciation for Future Sight, which wins the game hard when it resolves. In this deck, Cavern of Souls ensures that Magus of the Future resolves every time. It’s vulnerable to spot removal, sure, but the deck is strong against removal in general, and Stoneforge Mystic should bait some removal in the early game without losing card advantage.
It helps that, historically, removal hasn’t seen much play in vintage. Decks are creature-light, as taking a full turn to have an impact can be too slow in a compressed format. Even if you do draw one of your 2-3 removal spells in the right matchup, they might just play a Jace on turn one and not care. Most of the time, it’s better to have a proactive strategy. Disruption needs to be good against spells as well as creatures.
Knowing this is another Craig Berry creation, I’m not surprised to see the pile of Grafdigger’s Cages and Rest in Peaces in the sideboard, though I think they’re even more excessive with four Trinket Mages in the maindeck.
Grafdigger’s Cage nonbo’ing with Magus of the Future is a concern.
5c Oath Storm
I played against this deck for the first time last night. Overall, I think it’s the best combo deck. The discard gives it an answer to Flusterstorm, which is necessary to consistently win with Tendrils of Agony, and by playing Oath it has a natural game plan against Mishra’s Workshop decks.
Also, I like how Forbidden Orchard fixes for the storm half of the deck. With Oath control, Orchard isn’t a great fixer since you’re only playing three colors, and without Oath it’s awkward because it gives the opponent pressure. I’ve definitely used the spirit tokens to kill an opponent’s Jace before. In this deck, the game is going to end in a few turns one way or another, giving the tokens less time to be relevant.
I love the level of utility and consistency that Burning Wish offers. If you naturally draw Griselbrand, you can go on the Show and Tell plan. If your opponent stops you from going off, you can grab Yawgmoth’s Win and take advantage of the stocked graveyard. While Balance is clearly powerful, it’s a little situational for maindeck play. This deck can still Wish up Balance and Mind Twist the opponent and/or wrath their board.
No matter what the matchup is, this deck wants to shred the opponent’s hand and combo off quickly, and Defense Grid compliments that plan well.
In the sideboard, the Ancient Tombs are there to help fight through cards like Trinisphere, Thorn of Amethyst, and Thalia. I’m not sure what the Strip Mine is for, possibly an answer to Karakas? Having Griselbrand bounced might be awkward in some matchups.
I had to slip a CalebD original in here somewhere. If you’ve been jonesing for more vintage videos, this serves as a preview of my next video set.
While this isn’t my most innovative creation, it’s well positioned and I’ve been having an absolute blast with it. There’s a critical mass of cheap, efficient disruption that buys enough time for me to bury the opponent with Skullclamp + Young Pyromancer or Consecrated Sphinx. I like how Trinket Mage makes both of those plans more consistent, grabbing Black Lotus for Sphinx or tutoring up clamp directly.
The other value creatures, mox monkey and Snapcaster, are very clampable after they’ve served their purpose. Heck, even Myr Battlesphere works well with clamp, and I love being able to dig up a Force of Will post-Tinker instead of passing the turn, naked, hoping the opponent doesn’t kill me through my Blightsteel Colossus.
The other nice thing about Battlesphere is that it’s very castable off of artifact accelerants, Tolarian Academy, or Drain. Since my plan is to disrupt the opponent first and kill them second, taking two turns to kill isn’t that big of a factor.
Going through modo lists, Library of Alexandria is underplayed, and I’m not sure why. If both decks are a pile of Flusterstorms, Mana Drains, and Force of Wills, the guy with the turn one Library is going to win. It still sees a lot of play in Gush combo, since they’re so good at refilling back up to seven cards, though clamp does something similar here.
Remember that you can always board Library out on the play, where it’s weaker, then bring it back in on the draw. If MUD were a larger part of the metagame, I’d cut it for a basic Island and fit a Mountain in the board.
That’s all for this week. I hope you enjoyed this small glimpse into this crazy awesome format.