Howdy folks! This is Joe Dyer here, and last time if you'll recall, we talked about the current state of the Legacy format in early 2018. Now we're shifting gears for a moment to talk about the current state of the Vintage metagame!
Vintage is at its core a wild west of formats, with a few big players comprising the core of the format. If you like high variance Magic with a lot of really powerful plays and interaction, this just might be the format for you.
Obviously, there is the expense of the format in paper to consider, so most Vintage play outside of the largest sanctioned event (US Eternal Weekend's NA Vintage Championships) is mostly on Magic Online or through the use of unsanctioned proxy events.
Vintage in 2018
Before we get into where Vintage is at right now, there are a few defining things about the format we must ensure that you know. First off, Vintage has a banned and a restricted list, the latter meaning that if a card is on the restricted list then you can only play 1 of those cards in your deck. Vintage's banlist philosophy however, is nothing is ever banned on power level. The only cards that are actually on the Vintage banned list are those that either require dexterity (
Chaos Orb, etc), cards that mention “ante” (
Contract from Below) or the Conspiracies from Conspiracy and Conspiracy: Take the Crown. Everything else is dealt with by restrictions.
Vintage is a format where you can play cards like the Power Nine,
Mishra's Workshop, and the like. Because of these cards the high power of the format definitely shows. However, this power level also often means that sometimes cards that seem barely playable anywhere else are powerhouses in this format.
Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get into the meat of the decks that make up this format.
Since Vintage's inception there has always been one hard truth about the format. This is the format where you can play FOUR
Mishra's Workshop and get away with it. Workshop was printed in Antiquities, long before Legends came about and introduced the Legendary super-type. If Workshop had been printed today it would not have been non-Legendary, but alas this is how it is.
This means that there are a lot of things about artifacts that are really busted when you can play them on turn 1 with access to virtually five
Black Lotuses. Shops in its history has been hit with tons of restrictions to attempt to rein in the deck, from
Lodestone Golem to
Chalice of the Void to most recently
Thorn of Amethyst. Unfortunately, Wizards keeps printing busted artifact sets like Kaladesh which just keep giving Shops new toys.
Ravager Shops - Vintage Challenge 1/27/2018 (6-0)
2 Hangarback Walker 4 Walking Ballista 4 Arcbound Ravager 4 Phyrexian Revoker 4 Steel Overseer 1 Chief of the Foundry 4 Foundry Inspector 1 Lodestone Golem 3 Phyrexian Metamorph 1 Black Lotus 1 Chalice of the Void 1 Mana Crypt 1 Mox Emerald 1 Mox Jet 1 Mox Pearl 1 Mox Ruby 1 Mox Sapphire 1 Sol Ring 4 Sphere of Resistance 1 Thorn of Amethyst 1 Trinisphere 4 Ancient Tomb 4 Mishra's Factory 4 Mishra's Workshop 1 Strip Mine 1 Tolarian Academy 4 Wasteland 2 Tormod's Crypt 4 Grafdigger's Cage 1 Relic of Progenitus 2 Null Rod 1 Ratchet Bomb 2 Dismember 3 Precursor Golem
Shops is a powerful deck and is actually surprisingly cheap on Magic Online (450-500 tickets) to pick up and learn the format. It has efficient disruption and thanks to new additions like
Foundry Inspector, can easily reduce the costs on its own spells while taxing the other player.
One of the more famous Shops players, one I couldn't write this article without mentioning, is the venerable Rich Shay, who took Second Place this past year at US Eternal Weekend's NA Vintage Championships on the deck. Rich is a mainstay of the Vintage community and quite frankly one of the most fun players to watch on stream. If you ever get a chance to check it out, do so here! It's also worth noting that Rich is a big fan of the card
Atog, which tends to eat the artifacts in the deck!
Oath of Druids
Oath of Druids is another long time Vintage strategy that many players gravitate to. The combination of using Oath and
Forbidden Orchard to give your opponent a creature to trigger the Oath is very powerful, and the deck rests on top of a control shell that ensures that it can resolve its titular spell.
Oath has undergone many different name changes throughout the years, with qualifiers describing just what kind of Oath deck it is. For example, when
Gush was unrestricted the name “Gush Oath” was popular, as well as “Bomberman Oath”, a version that utilizes the combination of
Auriok Salvagers and
Black Lotus to kill an opponent with infinite mana.
The majority of the developmental work on Oath goes primarily to one Brian Kelly, an extremely talented Vintage player who is never afraid to push the envelope of playability. Kelly's contributions to the deck include utilizing cards like
Dragonlord Dromoka and most recently
Inferno Titan and
Nowadays the most common variant seen online is what we like to call “Inferno Oath”.
Inferno Oath - Vintage Challenge 1/20/2018 (6-0)
2 Inferno Titan 1 Griselbrand 2 Dack Fayden 1 Arlinn Kord 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 1 Ancestral Recall 1 Brainstorm 1 Flusterstorm 3 Mental Misstep 1 Ponder 3 Preordain 1 Pyroblast 1 Vampiric Tutor 1 Ancient Grudge 1 Demonic Tutor 1 Mana Drain 1 Time Walk 4 Force of Will 1 Dig Through Time 1 Treasure Cruise 1 Black Lotus 1 Mox Emerald 1 Mox Jet 1 Mox Pearl 1 Mox Ruby 1 Mox Sapphire 1 Sol Ring 4 Oath of Druids 2 Sylvan Library 2 Flooded Strand 4 Forbidden Orchard 1 Island 1 Library of Alexandria 2 Misty Rainforest 2 Polluted Delta 2 Tropical Island 1 Underground Sea 2 Volcanic Island 1 Strip Mine 4 Tormod's Crypt 1 Flusterstorm 2 Pyroblast 2 Abrade 2 Ancient Grudge 2 Sorcerous Spyglass 1 Slice and Dice
Oath is a continually ever-evolving list, with new ideas being tried out all the time in it (mostly due to the contributions of Brian Kelly) to improve upon the best way to cheat a creature into play and kill your opponent with it.
Oath is another deck that is again, fairly moderate on Magic Online weighing in on the same average of 450 - 500 tickets that Shops does.
Oh Dredge. What a wonderful world of insanity this deck gets to live in sometimes. Dredge is a deck based solely on the Dredge mechanic from Ravnica: City of Guilds, a mechanic that even Wizards feels was a bit of a mistake. If you're even remotely familiar with Dredge in Modern or Legacy, you'll know that Dredge decks tend to operate on a completely different axis than normal Magic decks.
Well, hang on to your hats, because Vintage Dredge is even wilder than Modern/Legacy combined. Why? Well, for starters, it's mostly because their primary acceleration engine is a land. That's right,
Bazaar of Baghdad is the prime card that Vintage Dredge gets to operate on, and without it the deck would not be the format predator that it is. In fact, Dredge preys so much on the format that nearly every other sideboard contains about 4-5 pieces of graveyard/Dredge hate before starting to consider other matchups.
Again, this is another scenario where because Bazaar isn't Legendary, being able to accelerate with more than one often leads to quick kills. Dredge also uses cards like
Serum Powder to control its mulligans because an opening hand without a Bazaar in it is more than likely an auto-lose game.
Dredge - Vintage Challenge 2/3/2018 (5-1)
4 Bloodghast 2 Golgari Thug 4 Narcomoeba 4 Prized Amalgam 4 Stinkweed Imp 1 Flame-Kin Zealot 3 Ichorid 4 Golgari Grave-Troll 1 Sun Titan 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite 4 Cabal Therapy 4 Mental Misstep 3 Dread Return 4 Serum Powder 4 Bridge from Below 4 Bazaar of Baghdad 3 City of Brass 2 Dakmor Salvage 3 Mana Confluence 1 Petrified Field 4 Nature's Claim 2 Ravenous Trap 4 Hollow One 2 Ingot Chewer 3 Gurmag Angler
Dredge comes in different variations often as well, sometimes main-decking cards like
Leyline of the Void to catch opposing Dredge mirror matches, in addition to main-decking cards like
Force of Will and
Mental Misstep to stop graveyard hate.
However, with the release of Hour of Devastation Dredge players were gifted with a new toy:
Hollow One. Having access to this card and
Gurmag Angler, Dredge can now simply go around the graveyard hate and just cast a bunch of 4/4's for a beat-down plan. I've been lucky enough to have actually played the Dredge Magical Christmas Land opening hand at least once on Magic Online, where I played a Turn 1 Bazaar into an entire playset of
One superb Dredge player to note is Sullivan Brophy, a long time Dredge player in multiple formats.
Dredge is also the cheapest of the Vintage builds online, often only costing about 200 tickets to pick up. I myself play Dredge on Magic Online, except I play a version that utilizes pieces of power and
Sun Titan (referred to as Sunny Dredge). This version came to my attention after it won Eternal Extravaganza this past year in the hands of Ryan Glackin.
Vault Key Combo / Tinker
Another long-standing strategy, combining
Voltaic Key with
Time Vault to basically take infinite turns is something that players just love to do with Vintage.
This deck also contains the powerful combination of being able to cast an early
Tinker for a
Blightsteel Colossus to kill an opponent with.
Most recent variations of this deck have now included the card
Paradoxical Outcome, another Kaladesh toy that allows the player to bounce all their mana rocks and draw several million cards while doing so.
Vault-Key Combo - Vintage Challenge 2/3/2018 (6-0)
1 Snapcaster Mage 1 Trinket Mage 1 Blightsteel Colossus 1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 1 Tezzeret the Seeker 1 Ancestral Recall 1 Brainstorm 1 Gitaxian Probe 1 Ponder 4 Preordain 1 Repeal 1 Vampiric Tutor 1 Demonic Tutor 1 Time Walk 1 Transmute Artifact 1 Tinker 1 Yawgmoth's Will 4 Paradoxical Outcome 4 Force of Will 3 Thoughtcast 1 Black Lotus 1 Mana Crypt 1 Mox Emerald 1 Mox Jet 3 Mox Opal 1 Mox Pearl 1 Mox Ruby 1 Mox Sapphire 1 Mana Vault 2 Sensei's Divining Top 1 Sol Ring 2 Voltaic Key 1 Time Vault 1 Flooded Strand 1 Island 2 Polluted Delta 1 Scalding Tarn 4 Seat of the Synod 1 Tolarian Academy 2 Underground Sea 1 Ancient Tomb 2 Flusterstorm 3 Grafdigger's Cage 1 Echoing Truth 3 Hurkyl's Recall 1 Yixlid Jailer 2 Toxic Deluge 2 Ravenous Trap
Another deck that capitalizes heavily on the efficient nature of the format, Blue Moon is primarily a UR deck sometimes splashing white for the 1-of
Monastery Mentor to also capitalize on all the cheap noncreature spells in the format, but its primary engine is
Blue Moon - Competitive Vintage League 2/2/2018 (5-0)
1 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy 2 Snapcaster Mage 3 Young Pyromancer 1 Monastery Mentor 2 Dack Fayden 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 1 Ancestral Recall 1 Brainstorm 1 Flusterstorm 1 Gitaxian Probe 2 Lightning Bolt 4 Mental Misstep 1 Ponder 4 Preordain 2 Pyroblast 1 Swords to Plowshares 1 Abrade 1 Merchant Scroll 1 Time Walk 4 Force of Will 1 Gush 1 Dig Through Time 1 Treasure Cruise 1 Black Lotus 1 Mox Pearl 1 Mox Ruby 1 Mox Sapphire 1 Flooded Strand 1 Library of Alexandria 1 Misty Rainforest 1 Mountain 2 Polluted Delta 4 Scalding Tarn 1 Snow-Covered Island 1 Strip Mine 2 Tundra 3 Volcanic Island 4 By Force 1 Flusterstorm 3 Grafdigger's Cage 2 Shattering Spree 3 Containment Priest 2 Stony Silence
What is obviously interesting about this kind of list is the fact that it eschews the full set of Moxes for only the color relevant ones, and packs cards from Standard such as
By Force has especially become a much bigger deal in the format because of how efficient the card is when dealing with Shops in getting around the 1-of
Chalice of the Void.
No format would ever be complete without an appropriate Storm deck in it. Storm in Vintage (often referred to as either TPS - The Perfect Storm or as Paradoxical Storm based on the list) is on a whole other level than Storm in Modern/Legacy due to the presence of cards like
Because of how compact the Storm package can be, the deck will often slot in the
Blightsteel Colossus interaction into the deck so that it can have a beat-down backup plan to win the game with in case the Storm finisher misses.
Storm - Competitive Vintage League 2/5/2018 (5-0)
1 Blightsteel Colossus 1 Dack Fayden 1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 1 Tezzeret the Seeker 1 Ancestral Recall 1 Brainstorm 1 Flusterstorm 1 Gitaxian Probe 3 Mental Misstep 1 Ponder 1 Vampiric Tutor 1 Demonic Tutor 1 Hurkyl's Recall 2 Mana Drain 1 Time Walk 1 Timetwister 1 Tinker 1 Wheel of Fortune 1 Yawgmoth's Will 4 Paradoxical Outcome 1 Tendrils of Agony 4 Force of Will 1 Black Lotus 1 Chrome Mox 1 Mana Crypt 1 Mox Emerald 1 Mox Jet 1 Mox Opal 1 Mox Pearl 1 Mox Ruby 1 Mox Sapphire 1 Mana Vault 1 Sensei's Divining Top 1 Sol Ring 1 Voltaic Key 1 Time Vault 1 Island 1 Library of Alexandria 3 Polluted Delta 4 Scalding Tarn 1 Tolarian Academy 3 Underground Sea 2 Volcanic Island 1 Mountain 2 By Force 2 Duress 4 Grafdigger's Cage 2 Pyroblast 2 Abrade 1 Hurkyl's Recall 1 Ingot Chewer
Grixis Thieves / Control
Another Grixis-colored deck, Grixis Thieves is named thusly because it often plays the card
Notion Thief along with
Dack Fayden to deny an opponent drawing cards. At the same time, it packs several win conditions to push through to victory.
Grixis Thieves - Competitive Vintage League 2/4/2018 (5-0)
1 Snapcaster Mage 1 Notion Thief 1 Blightsteel Colossus 1 Dack Fayden 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 1 Tezzeret the Seeker 1 Ancestral Recall 1 Brainstorm 2 Flusterstorm 3 Mental Misstep 1 Pyroblast 1 Subterranean Tremors 1 Vampiric Tutor 1 Abrade 1 Demonic Tutor 1 Hurkyl's Recall 3 Mana Drain 1 Time Walk 1 Tinker 1 Yawgmoth's Will 1 Gifts Ungiven 4 Force of Will 1 Dig Through Time 1 Treasure Cruise 1 Black Lotus 1 Mana Crypt 1 Mox Emerald 1 Mox Jet 1 Mox Pearl 1 Mox Ruby 1 Mox Sapphire 1 Sensei's Divining Top 1 Sol Ring 1 Voltaic Key 1 Time Vault 2 Island 1 Library of Alexandria 2 Polluted Delta 4 Scalding Tarn 1 Strip Mine 1 Tolarian Academy 2 Underground Sea 3 Volcanic Island 1 Engineered Explosives 1 Mountain 1 By Force 1 Nihil Spellbomb 1 Pyroblast 1 Abrade 1 Echoing Truth 1 Hurkyl's Recall 1 Yixlid Jailer 1 Rack and Ruin 1 Mindbreak Trap 1 Notion Thief 2 Ravenous Trap
This deck, like most that play blue in the format, are on the upper range of prices from the 500-700 ticket range mainly.
One of the format's primarily Blue/White aligned decks, Landstill operates primarily on the back of the card
Standstill, which allows the player to put their opponent in a situation where casting a spell to break the Standstill lock is bad because it allows the player to just out-draw them. Because of this, the deck uses man-lands like
Faerie Conclave and
Mishra's Factory to eke out wins under a
Landstill - Competitive Vintage League 2/4/2018 (5-0)
2 Snapcaster Mage 3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 1 Ancestral Recall 1 Brainstorm 2 Flusterstorm 1 Gitaxian Probe 4 Mental Misstep 3 Swords to Plowshares 1 Hurkyl's Recall 3 Mana Drain 1 Time Walk 2 Mindbreak Trap 1 Supreme Verdict 4 Force of Will 1 Dig Through Time 1 Treasure Cruise 1 Black Lotus 1 Lotus Petal 1 Mox Pearl 1 Mox Sapphire 4 Standstill 1 Faerie Conclave 4 Flooded Strand 2 Island 1 Library of Alexandria 3 Mishra's Factory 1 Polluted Delta 1 Scalding Tarn 1 Strip Mine 4 Tundra 3 Wasteland 1 Flusterstorm 2 Grafdigger's Cage 1 Swords to Plowshares 3 Containment Priest 2 Disenchant 2 Rest in Peace 2 Stony Silence 2 Energy Flux
Landstill is most certainly strong, and it's a popular option for those people that like more controlling type builds.
You've seen them in Modern, and occasionally even in Legacy, but… Vintage?
That's right Vintage Humans is a deck, and surprisingly it's actually not a bad one. There have been a large number of humans printed over the years with varying hate effects stapled to them, all of which can be back-breaking if played on turn 1. Cards like
Scab-Clan Berserker and
Kambal, Consul of Allocation are back-breaking versus Storm decks.
Thalia, Heretic Cathar, and
Containment Priest are punishing versus Dredge and Oath, and generic hate effects like
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or
Meddling Mage can be super strong against the format.
Humans - Competitive Vintage League 1/1/2018 (5-0)
4 Containment Priest 4 Dark Confidant 2 Harsh Mentor 1 Kitesail Freebooter 3 Mayor of Avabruck 1 Meddling Mage 4 Phyrexian Revoker 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben 2 Kambal, Consul of Allocation 1 Manic Vandal 1 Reflector Mage 4 Scab-Clan Berserker 2 Simian Spirit Guide 3 Thalia, Heretic Cathar 1 Black Lotus 1 Mox Emerald 1 Mox Jet 1 Mox Pearl 1 Mox Ruby 1 Mox Sapphire 1 Null Rod 4 Cavern of Souls 4 Mana Confluence 1 Strip Mine 4 Unclaimed Territory 4 Wasteland 3 Grafdigger's Cage 1 Aegis of the Gods 4 Kataki, War's Wage 1 Mayor of Avabruck 2 Yixlid Jailer 3 Manic Vandal 1 Orzhov Pontiff
Powerful and resilient, the deck got a major boost with the release of Ixalan's tribal land
Unclaimed Territory just as the Modern version did. This deck is also reasonable in price: a cool 550 tickets.
And there we have it folks, Vintage in a bit of a nutshell. Granted, there are far more decks than just the ones I've shown here today. Vintage is a surprisingly ever-evolving format, filled with all sorts of wonderful spice that make the format one of the best I've ever played.
Next time, I'm going to shift gears and start digging a little deeper on some of the pillars of the Legacy format, starting with a small primer on the top dog of the current format - Grixis Delver.
Until next time, may you ever be eternal!