Deconstructing Constructed – Interviews and GenCon Predictions

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Today, instead of just hearing me blather on about the awesomeness of Vintage, I’ve decided to have one of my friend’s talk about his thoughts on the format too. All while giving some guesstimates for the Top 8 of not only the Vintage, but the Legacy Championships this weekend!

Today, instead of just hearing me blather on about the awesomeness of Vintage, I’ve decided to have one of my friend’s talk about his thoughts on the format too. All while giving some guesstimates for the Top 8 of not only the Vintage, but the Legacy Championships this weekend!

Also, I’d like to thank those who noticed my art on Steve M’s invitational page and dropped me a line. Although I wish I had more time to work on them before the deadline, I’m glad I could help Steve out, and it was great getting some of my work out there. But enough about me, let’s get on with Jeff’s interview.

Me: Who the heck are you, and what have you done in Vintage?

Jeff: Hmmm… give me a few minutes to answer that, haha.

Yeah, “Fob” works. My name is Jeff Huang, and I play Magic on and off as a hobby. I like all the formats, including Vintage, and have been alternating between Vintage and Block events this summer. I live in North, CA where local stores of mine hold Vintage tourneys for various pieces of the Power 9. I‘ve been doing quite well for myself this year along with my friends at various tournaments. Over the last six months, I’ve won/split for four shiny pieces of power.

As for who I am, I have a nickname: Fob, which my good friend Luis officially stole from me recently. We share MTGO accounts, and he was the one who actively played on it back to the good old days of Affinity.

Me: What deck are you currently playing, and which deck do/did you prefer during your main bouts of tournament play?

Jeff: I normally have “the fear” whenever I think about playing the “best” decks, but that’s just me. Prior to the Gifts Ungiven restriction and introduction of FS, I played U/W Fish. I find the deck fun, and it rewards tight play more than many decks in the format. It has (or had) game against a lot of decks in Vintage, including the top tier. More importantly, it fit my play style and I played a lot with it, so I was intimately familiar with how it functioned in every match.

Me: Why do you fear playing the “best” decks? Just worried about hate, or do you dislike their play style?

Jeff: I always assume the worst when I play. I assume my opponents have everything and anything when I play against them. When I walk into a tourney, I don’t have the “I am going to win” mindset like some people.

I just think people have a lot of answers and tweaks in their decks against the best decks, not to mention all the sideboard stuff. So I guess I’m more worried about hate than if the deck meshes with my play style.

Me: Fair enough, go go Murphy’s Law, I guess.

Jeff: I live by that law!

Me: So what are you playing right now, since Fish has hit a down slope? I know you’ve done well with Flash recently, but that doesn’t seem to mesh with your “’fun” and “rewards tight plays” comments from earlier.

Jeff: I’m not a Vintage expert, unlike some on TMD; plus I don’t want to offend anyone here. I honestly don’t know what to play in Vintage right now. Flash is a really stupid deck. It doesn’t take much in the way of skills to play correctly, and it’s really draw dependent to boot. I mean, it can win turn 1 with multiple counters as back-up. Once, I countered a turn 1 Duress, bounced Leyline of the Void, and went off turn 2 with counter back-up. The deck is just… not very involving. “Making Magic” style weak, because there are no interactions.

Anyone can pick up Flash and win a tourney with it, with some luck. It doesn’t reward good players.

As for the rest… I don’t like GAT. I played it a few times, and a lot of things just don’t feel right. Let’s just leave it at that, because a lot of players have done very well with it, so its results can’t really be disputed.

Fish isn’t as good as before. Fish really is a “hate” / “metagame” deck, and it needs to adjust to GAT and Flash right now. I think we’re in middle of this period where Urbana and U/W/B Fish seem to be the “correct” way to go with Fish, but nobody knows the exact build to run.

Me: Interesting. So if one were going about tweaking Fish, would you be for adding maindeck Leylines of the Black variety? Can I get your thoughts on the seeming weakness of Null Rod and Chalice of the Void in the current metagame?

Jeff: Null Rod… it doesn’t shut down enough relevant stuff in many popular decks. Null Rod is weak against GAT, kind of slow against Flash, and terrible most other places. The card was a lot better against Gifts, where you shut down a lot more of the mana sources and it disrupted their main game plan.

Chalice… I think it’s a good card against Flash for non-Workshop decks, but doesn’t really shine anywhere else. Needs to be laid on the play for a real effect, etc. etc.

Fish… I maindecked Leyline in my last run with Fish, and it sucked. I think everyone was hating on Flash, or had the fear, and not a lot of Flash showed despite its earlier strong performances. I think maindeck Leyline is always a good call if you know your metagame well enough, and have a good idea of how many graveyard-dependent decks are likely to show up.

I think a good way to go about Fish right now is to read Dave Feinstein’s report and really listen to him. What he thinks regarding Fish is typically right on, at least for his metagame. The U/W/B Fish he played at Waterbury is a good skeleton of the type of Fish deck that may prosper in the current format. But like any other metagame decks, it needs to be tweaked correctly. For example, adding Leylines or taking into account the amount of Tarmogoyfs now showing up.

Me: You up for any more questions, or do you want to get back to Guitar Hero?

Jeff: No, I’m enjoying this, just that I usually say a lot.

Me: Do you enjoy the current Vintage metagame, or do you think restrictions should take place? I’m pretty outspoken on something needing to be done with Flash, as Carsten Kotter (Mon, Goblin Chief) aptly put it, “It’s like playing Blackjack rather than Magic”

Jeff: I definitely think something needs to be done in the next restriction period. I honestly hate Flash with all my guts. Something needs to be done. There’s no relevant interaction when you play Flash. I tried to test Flash a couple times, and realized I spent more time shuffling than playing.

Me: Yeah, I totally agree with that assertion. Testing Flash with my team was practically worthless against most decks, since I could literally load up Apprentice or Workstation, write up a few ground rules, and then load up various hands and just write “win” or “loss” next to each one.

Jeff: I also think Merchant Scroll is very good right now, maybe too much so. It makes Flash and Gush.dec soooo good. Maybe restricting it will make Vintage cool again. But I’d need to think about it a little more before saying for 100% sure.

Me: Seems fair. Have you seen / tried out any of the Trinket Mage / Mindcensor / Magus lists floating around as new aggro control?

Jeff: I love Aven Mindcensor, because it’s so good against GAT and owns Flash. At first I thought the card sucked, but I was so wrong that it wasn’t even funny… I am pretty sure Fish wants to play Mindcensor for sure.

My experience with Trinket Mage is pretty limited, so I can’t say much about it, and the same with Magus of the Moon.

Gencon Legacy and Vintage Championship Predictions


3 Thresh (U/G/W or U/G/R) aggro decks
2 Landstill
1 Aluren
1 Belcher
1 Goblins (Duh)

It’s certainly possible I’m underestimating combo’s presence, but I have problems predicting a lot of high finishes for most combo decks when Threshold and Belcher decks exist. The biggest thing to note here is that Tarmogoyf will be everywhere. If you thought it was omnipresent in Standard and Block, then get ready for even more of the same in Legacy. Thanks to Fetchlands and Duals, it’s a simple matter for any deck to run Green and four of these little buggers. And since they work equally well on offense or defense, you can except to see them in more combo-esque decks along with the traditional Zoo and aggro-control variants floating around.

The big difference between Legacy a few months ago and Legacy now is that nearly everyone is running Tarmogoyf, and that various remodeled older combo decks like Breakfast (reference here) are being experimented with. The latter is a good thing, as for a long time combo was critically underdeveloped and really didn’t exist outside of Salvagers, Aluren, and Storm for a while. Now we have a deck like Belcher, which sets a basic extreme for you to be prepared for when entering a tournament like GenCon.

Belcher is cheap to assemble, relatively simple to play, and has a lot of power, which means a lot of free game wins along the course of the tourney. The number of times R/G Belcher can produce Empty the Warrens for 12-14 on turn 1/2 is amazing, and something that needs to be taken into account. The same goes for the traditional Belcher kill, but that can’t really be dealt with until post-board if you aren’t running Force of Will. The deck may be fragile against a prepared opponent, but Belcher has the capability to just plow through opponents with unparalleled speed.

Landstill is one of those decks that never truly dies; rather, it just sheds its skin every couple of months and a new version pops up with the same core principles. As I said earlier, even a deck like Landstill can take advantage of Tarmogoyf, providing a dirt-cheap kill condition that can go toe-to-toe with nearly anything in the format. A Goyf with a few cards in the grave and Standstill out is one of the scarier things to see, since it demands to be dealt with in a few turns instead of the slower man-land clocks that have been used in the past. It also helps bolster the U/G/W or U/G/B variants of Landstill. Regardless of which colors you choose, as practically every color combination has made Top 8 at some point or other, the deck ideal is something you always have to look out for. It’s an efficient board control deck that can grind you down, mace you in the face, and then push you down a flight of stairs.

I haven’t written about Goblins in Legacy for about a year, and I’m already tired of talking about Goblins. They’re little red dorks that always make Top 8 by sheer numbers and the broken qualities of the Goblin tribe spliced with Aether Vial, ‘nuff said.


2 Flash
1 Ichorid
1 Bomberman / U/R/x Aggro Control (Not GAT)
1 Goblins

Okay, so the last entry is just me hoping. Still, WHY MUST YOU TAKE AWAY MY DREAMS? Moving on… I’m probably overrating how many people will take Flash through the field, but as Jeff said earlier in the article, just about anybody competent can pick up Flash and win a tournament with it. As for GAT, one has to be Shay since he’ll make Top 8 by default, Steve is another slot taken by GAT, which leaves somebody else to make Top 8 with GAT.

I already covered why I think Ichorid has a decent shot in my article a couple of weeks ago, while I think a properly metagamed aggro control deck could plow through much of the field (if it can survive the first round versus non-proxy decks) with proper pairings. Realistically, Stax could also make an appearance depending on the density of GAT in the field, but it leaves a lot up to whom and what is showing up.

I’d even consider something along the lines of Aggro Phid, but I would most likely kick in some splash color duals to run Aven Mindcensor and Tarmogoyf. The Little Two-Drop That Could can easily go toe-to-toe against almost any opposing aggro creature, and is far more effective at actually killing an opponent off than something like Flametongue Kavu. That said, I would most likely board them due to the maindeck usage of Magus of the Moon, which limits the amount of off-color dual lands you can actually fit into the deck.

If I had a full option at my disposal, I’d most likely play Flash or Goblins, depending on how badly the field was hating the former. If I had to pick from another metagame-attacking deck, it would most likely be a Smokestack-less build of Stax featuring Metalworker. Not only can the deck combo win if it needs to, but it’s one of the few decks capable of just throwing enough barriers in the way on turns 1 and 2 to stop Flash dead in its tracks. Dealing with GAT’s Dryads and Tarmogoyf are a bit trickier, but that’s what Razormane Masticore and Ensnaring Bridge are for.

For those of you still playing Block Constructed, my only suggestion is to play a deck has the core strategy of either: Pickles (tempo control into Brine plus Shapeshifter lock), G/W/(u), or Teachings. These three had the most fundamentally sound and consistent strategies in the field, so pick a version you feel comfortable with, tweak a little, and just playtest it until your fingers bleed.

I’m out for this week, but I want to take this opportunity to invite other Vintage and Legacy players to interview with me in the near future. Shoot me off a PM or E-mail and let me know.

Josh Silvestri
Team Reflection
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom