Owen’s a Win – Gush Back in Vintage

As of October 1st, Gush and Frantic Search are no longer restricted in the Vintage format. Now I don’t know how many readers of this website played Vintage when Gush was unrestricted the first time around, but I can tell you from first-hand experience it was pretty degenerate. The first SCG p9 tournament I ever played in was in the Gush era and the top8 was 7 Gush decks and 1 Ichorid; it just dominated tournaments for as long as it was legal and now its back. Now I know you must be thinking, “Why would they unrestricted it, realize it’s too powerful, restrict it again, only to unrestrict it a second time now?” Well the answer is fairly simple: when they restricted Gush, they did an Affinity-style restriction where they tried their hardest to completely nuke the deck beyond all recognition by restricting Ponder, Brainstorm, Gush, and Merchant Scroll. One of the main reasons the old Gush deck was so good was because it was so redundant in that every card could replace any other card practically, the deck was just card filtering (Ponder, Brainstorm, Scroll, Gush), restricted cards/tutors, protection (Force of Will, Duress), and lands. Essentially Fastbond and 1 Gush was lethal because unless all your cantrips ran you into lands, you would be able to continually hit more cantrips and more restricted cards. Gush into a land and Merchant Scroll means you can Scroll for another Gush and do it again, and Brainstorm would turn two bad lands you returned from Gush into three new cards. You could Ponder and Merchant Scroll and fetchlands to shuffle and play another Gush, gaining more mana and more cards until you hit a tutor to get Yawgmoth’s Will so you can replay all your Gush and cantrips, and at that point you have your whole deck in your hand and can win with anything really.

The logic in unrestricting Gush now is that without 4 Scroll 4 Ponder 4 Brainstorm the deck will be less consistent and we have seen that as a ‘fair’ draw spell, Gush is not powerful enough for Vintage play. In my eyes, the return of Gush means the return of two decks: GAT and Doomsday. To make a GAT deck for today’s Vintage metagame would be basically taking a version of the deck from before and trying to return it to its former glory. Replacing the Ponders and Brainstorms with Preordain and filling in the blanks, while also including Time Vault + Voltaic Key because it’s just that good. My first attempt looks something like this:

The only card in this list that I’m not certain about is Spell Pierce and the reason behind that is if Gush turns out to be the most played deck at any given tournament, it could be weaker since people will always float 2 mana before they play a Gush so it will always resolve. But if their deck is all noncreature spells like normal, then I doubt it will be too hard to find value for Spell Pierce.

Most of these cards should explain themselves, but a few look out of place, such as Tendrils of Agony. Originally when I played the deck this was an Empty the Warrens, which I felt was much better than Tendrils of Agony because early in the game Tendrils is a dead draw, whereas Warrens can be quite strong with a couple Moxen and Gush. These are easy ways to build storm, and in certain matchups like Fish and Stax, an early Empty for 6-8 tokens can just be game over. In addition, once you want to go for a combo kill, you are usually in the middle of a Yawgmoth’s Will, and using one extra tutor lets you have Empty the Warrens + Time Walk, which is as good as a Tendrils of Agony. The times you would win with Tendrils, you draw plenty of cards, so giving them an extra turn is usually fine as long as you can play enough Duress or draw into Force of Wills to prevent them from winning.

If you built a sideboard for this deck that had Red Elemental Blasts or Ancient Grudges, then 2 maindeck Volcanic Island would be needed and you can swap out the Tendrils for a Empty and even include a Fire/Ice to deal with Dark Confidants. But for the sake of simplicity with the mana and to give you a good starting point for the deck, I think Tendrils will be fine.

The second card that wouldn’t be considered normal in this list is Imperial Seal. I believe Imperial Seal is very strong in this style deck, as normally disadvantage tutors can be bad in control mirrors. Being able to be the first player to get Fastbond is so huge, and the ‘top deck tutors’ work really well with Gush itself and are good with Preordain.

A quick note on Duress vs. Thoughtseize: in a perfect world we would want Thoughtseize, but since this deck’s combo requires a decently high life total to go off with Fastbond. The already painful nature of playing so many fetchlands, Force of Will, Imperial Seal, and Vampiric Tutor, the damage adds up a lot quicker than you might think. So when constructing a sideboard for this deck, you have to realize Dark Confidant is exceptionally good against this version of the deck, since Duress and Spell Pierce can’t stop it, so be sure to sideboard some Darkblast or Threads of Disloyalty (which may be great if they are sideboarding out Trygon Predator for lack of good targets).

Next I am excited to talk about Doomsday. Doomsday is flat out one of most powerful decks I have ever played in any Magic tournament. It’s resilient to hate, it’s fast, and it can win seemingly out of nowhere. Here is a decklist I used to split the finals of a 35 person tournament in my area in the last weeks before Gush got the axe.

 

The most common and simple kill for Doomsday with this deck was:

Cast Doomsday.

Library is:

 

Cast Gush
Cast Black Lotus
Cast Ancestral Recall with UU in pool
Cast Lotus Petal
Cast Yawgmoth’s Will
Cast Black Lotus
Cast Lotus Petal

Use Lotus for UUU and Petal for G. Research // Development back Mox Jet, Dark Ritual, and Tendrils of Agony. Ancestral Recall to draw those 3, cast more-than-lethal Tendrils of Agony, gg.

But under the new rules, Doomsday will exile our library and we can’t return any of it with the Research half of Research/Development, which is lame but while playing the deck I often would use different kills to try to put together a win.

To update the deck we must first cut 3 Brainstorm, 3 Merchant Scroll, 2 Ponder, 1 Research/Development, and 1 Misdirection. Misdirection was a metagame call back then, as everyone could run 4 Merchant Scroll, and early Ancestral Recalls were much more common.

Same as the previous deck, the first step is to add 4 Preordain. This should be obvious, but as you can see from Michael Jacob’s Top 8 decklist from Pro Tour Amsterdam and Gerard Fabiano’s Top 8 decklist from US Nationals, they both ran 4 Preordain in formats where Ponder is legal. Without the ability to consistently shuffle your library, Preordain is better than Ponder, but they are close enough in power where you can easily substitute one for the other, and it is strong card manipulation which is what this style deck needs.

For reasons already explained, we can also add 1 Imperial Seal. More in the style of a normal Dark Ritual deck to add more action to the deck, we can add Tinker, Inkwell Leviathan, and Memory Jar, which leaves 2 open slots that could be anything really. But if I had to pick it would be a maindeck Hurkyl’s Recall and a Mana Crypt. This brings us to an exciting-looking list of:

Don’t be fooled. Doomsday still packs a hard punch and in most situations, Doomsday + Gush should be lethal.

Dark Ritual (storm 1)
Doomsday (2) for:

 

Gush (3)
Black Lotus (4)
Ancestral Recall (5)
Lotus Petal (6)
Yawgmoth’s Will (7)
Black Lotus (8)
Lotus Petal (9)
Tendrils of Agony (10!)

But there are many different scenarios and the best advice I can give is practice with the deck, since many piles will include Chain of Vapor for more storm. Sometimes you play Doomsday and pass, and if you have extra mana or combo pieces in hand, you can put Duress in the Doomsday pile for extra protection.

You may notice I haven’t spent any time building decks with Frantic Search, and that is because honestly it feels very underpowered. To take full advantage of it, you need either 3 lands or a land that produces more than one mana in order to gain mana from it, which means drawing Tolarian Academy or playing with Sapphire Medallion, or having High Tide, and none of that sounds particularly appealing. I believe this was initially used in Worldgorger Dragon combo, but that deck has since become unplayable as it’s a combo deck that uses the graveyard, making it the same deck as Ichorid, but slower and therefore worse.

And I can see the comments now defending some sort of deck with Frantic Search AND Gush for extra cards to discard, but this is the definition of a nonbo and the kind of deckbuilding you should avoid. Honestly, any deck that would like to make good use of Frantic Search could already run [card]Bazaar of Baghdad[/card], which is much faster and just an overall better card. It’s a little ‘Bazaar’ to me that Bazaar has been legal for as long as it has and Frantic Search has been restricted for all that time when it’s just so much better.

As I don’t think ill be able to attend States this year, I’ll at least show you what I would have played if I went:

Perhaps the Burst Lightnings would be better off as one last creature like Ember Hauler or even Tunnel Ignus, even though my first impression of the Ignus is that he is quite weak. He’s good against a ramp style deck but is just plain bad as a way of hosing decks with fetchlands. The sideboard is intuitive. With the new set, Manic Vandal gains a lot of value from people trying to metalcraft, and I’ve borrowed Anthony Eason’s sideboard plan of 4 Goblin Bushwhacker, 4 Devastating Summons because it’s quite devastating against decks that have no immediate answer to the combo in the form of cheap removal or lots of creatures. And lastly, Molten-Tail Masticore is an out to Kor Firewalker.

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