Down The Vintage Rabbit Hole Into Beta Land

Pro Tour Champion Shaun McLaren spends some time telling you about his new Vintage addiction and how he’s dealing with the huge changes sweeping MTGO.

Time has no meaning anymore, unless its walking or vaulting.

I’ve seen things. Things on turn 1 that would make your blood run cold.

Normal Magic tastes bland, like ashes in my mouth. The only thing that matters now is playing more Vintage.

The cards are so powerful. They weren’t meant to be played in modern times.

They tried to make it impossible to play by implementing the Beta. It didn’t work.

Stay away from Vintage, it could mean the end of humanity as we know it.

A nice man offered me a red and blue pill and wondered if I wanted to see just how far the rabbit hole goes. Naturally
I yoinked both and swallowed them immediately.

Ok, pills are kicking in.

…and we’re back.

Today, I’d like to talk about my experiences playing Vintage for the first time as well as discuss my thoughts on the transition to the new Magic Online
client (also known as “Version 4”, also known as “The Beta”, also known as “Argh, My Eyes!”)

Vintage Overview

I was clueless about Vintage before it came out online. Most formats have a place in competitive Magic but due to card availability, high level Vintage
tournaments are few and far between. I was vaguely aware the Bazaar of Moxen and the Vintage World Championships at GenCon existed, and that Black Lotus
and some other powerful cards were being cast.

Since it was ridiculously expensive and not a relevant format, the idea that I would ever play it was not even close to a consideration. But if there’s one
thing Magic Online is great at, it’s making Magic more accessible, and now it brought that accessibility to Vintage.

After playing a whole bunch of Vintage Masters, and opening an Ancestral Recall and a Mox Pearl, I bought the rest of the Power and dove in to Vintage
constructed. Here’s what I learned going from 0 to 60 in such a short amount of time.

Big disruptive artifacts done quick. Every spell they cast is like stepping on a rake that slows you down. They will power out a bunch of spheres, or
amulets, or wire, or golems, that make it harder, if not impossible, to cast spells and then kill you at their leisure. They snowball very quickly since
all their disruptive spells synergize until you are locked out of the game. Plenty of lists won’t have a single card in the maindeck that doesn’t add mana
or make your spells harder to cast in some way.

I’m not sure what’s worse–dying to a ten power Memnite or having all your lands tapped on upkeep while you couldn’t even cast your spells anyway.

Even though I haven’t played with it (Wasteland is crazy expensive) I feel this is the best deck in the format. Bring dedicated hate and bring a lot of it.
I’m talking Hurkyl’s Recall (or Rebuild if you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg), Nature’s Claim, Trygon Predator, Shattering Spree, and Serenity.

Along with Shops, Dredge is another deck that is hard pressed to lose game 1 to any fair deck in the format.

If you look at these two decks, Vintage seems pretty unfun and oppressive, right? It’s not playing Magic in the traditional sense. Believe it or not, I
think it’s actually fun to play against these ridiculously oppressive decks in small doses. Essentially any new format is fun, and beating linear
strategies with one card or being crushed in a quick and brutal fashion is new and exciting (although I have had some experience with Stony Silence vs
Affinity). It might not make for fun Magic in the long-term, or for very competitive stakes, but for now just figuring out the sequencing of spells in the
first few turns and potentially being brutally wrong is a good time.

If you’re playing a “fair” deck and want to beat Dredge, bring lots of Yixilid Jailers, Leyline of the Voids, Ravenous Traps, Rest in Peace, Nihil
Spellbomb, and Grafdigger’s Cages.

This is a broad category but encompasses decks that play a tempo style of game while gaining card advantage. Other similar styles might be focused on
Delver of Secrets, Young Pyromancer, and Standstill. I have long since been conditioned to wince and curl up into the fetal position at the sight of a turn
1 Delver and the fact that it is playable in Vintage speaks to the card’s power.

There are very few “creature decks” in Vintage. This type of strategy is popular online and gives the pilot many decisions. Dark Confidant is a key card
since it’s easy to power out and will run away with the game quickly since there is very little creature removal in Vintage compared to other formats.

This is the deck I’ve enjoyed playing the most. It can be a little clunky and other decks are usually built to be more capable of explosive starts, but the
deck is consistent and has a very strong sideboard against the other top decks.

Other decks I’ve come across which may or may not be viable are Elves, Oath of Druids, Storm, Gush/Fastbond, and Mono-White hate bears; there are a whole
bunch of other fringe strategies. I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the format.

The Future of Vintage

Ridiculously rich and delicious chocolate cake: don’t eat too much or it will ruin your appetite for dinner. Eat your vegetables and practice your
Mono-Black Devotion vs. Mono-Blue Devotion matchup in Standard first.

Now that it’s online and being played regularly, the metagame will start evolving faster. Although the format is somewhat hostile to new cards since the
power level is off the charts, there is still some room for hidden gems to be discovered. There are a lot of different Magic cards.

Buying into Vintage is a bigger commitment than any other format, so don’t jump in the deep end immediately. Watch videos or streamers and see if it looks
like something you would enjoy and decide on what deck you would want to be playing. The Power 9 is universal in most decks, but other cards can be costly
and only go in one deck.

Peruse some more decklists on morphling.de or the lists from daily events. If you’re having trouble locating daily event lists like I was, they are now located here.

The cheapest time to buy in will likely be sometime soon since Vintage Masters boosters are still being opened and the Beta is causing prices to drop. If a
Vintage MOCS is announced in the future, that should make prices rise a little. Vintage is a fun diversion but will have to be an afterthought for most of
us until it can be played for higher stakes with regularity or if it feeds into the Pro Tour somehow.

Magic Online Overview

We are now forced to use the Beta. Everyone is bashing the Beta. I’m going to say my thoughts here, hopefully for the last time, because at this point the
horse has been beaten worse than… worse than… hmm, there aren’t many politically correct beating jokes… got it, worse than Brazil in the World Cup.
We got there, nice and topical.

Anyways, from my perspective, the Magic Online interface is basically a bunch of poor decisions that no one seems to like that they are making do with.
When they found they had dug themselves into a hole, their strategy was to keep digging and try to claim being in this hole is actually not so bad. At some
point it became full on “What are you gonna do? Stop playing? I’d like to see you try.” And some people did. It’s obviously bad publicity, especially when
you even have a bunch of high profile streamers uprooting.

Top 3 Gripes.

1. The client has to load all the card pictures every time I log in. It sure would be nice if I could just download them once instead of 20 times. Many
cards often don’t have a picture while I play, and I can’t do anything to fix it.

2. The client makes me a little nauseous. It reminds me of a game called Antichamber, which was a great puzzle game that I wanted to keep playing non-stop,
but it was enough to make anyone feel physically ill after a couple hours. For reference:


The layout somehow feels cluttered yet still doesn’t have all the information I want easily available. I have to click and adjust my revealed cards, and
graveyard, and whatever special zones, and chat, and scroll through my hand, almost like I’m playing a little mini-game making sure all the little errant
programs are kept in check or they’ll get away from me.

3. What has changed for the better? Servers are more stable and they can focus on one client right? Well… at best things aren’t much worse. Feels like
there’s actually more disconnecting, more lag, and more problems in general. Things might get better in the future. I hope things get better, but
for now I’m still waiting. The MOCS and PTQs aren’t even announced to be coming back yet.

4. Pop up windows. Just stop.

5. The client apparently doesn’t remember my account settings too well, and I have to readjust regularly when using different computers.

I managed to keep my list of top 3 gripes to 5. Clearly Beta bashing is in style right now, and it’s easy to get caught up in the bandwagon. I was even
inspired to create this:

I feel like Magic is kind of “Too Awesome to Fail” right now. I applaud whoever it was that came up with the idea to implement the Beta right after we get
a taste of Vintage Masters. Hooked me good.

It’s kind of like if your girlfriend got a tattoo that says “I’m with stupid” on her forehead with an arrow facing downward, started bathing in neon
sardines, and decided to get 10,000 crickets as pets, but also got the new X-BOXGameStation2000 with the new Zelda/Portal/Dark Souls cross-over so you
still date her just so you can play. You grudgingly accept her aesthetic choices and bugs to get access to her X-BOX.

The MTGO economy destabilizing completely seems unlikely considering prices haven’t really dropped that much since the switch. They are dropping though,
and the prize payouts were already very low. M15 packs started out dirt cheap and Theros block pack prices are literally depressing. If you were holding
onto your Journey packs when they were being bought for two tickets, I have some bad news for you… This is an issue that needs to be addressed because
right now the expected value of joining any event is very low. Perhaps events could start paying out partially in tickets?

It seems harder to sell tickets and cards in general, especially if you want to cash out, which makes sense if there’s a bunch of people pawning most of
their possessions and leaving down Route 66 in search of greener pastures or Hearthstone. Time will tell if things continue to get worse or start bouncing

I would actually recommend now as a decent time to get into Magic Online if you feel neutral or positive about the beta. I feel like the best time to buy
in will be in about a month, after the Pro Tour and before Khans is released. I’m just not sure if it’s actually worth it to play in any events. As of
right now, according to http://www.magicev.com/ constructed daily events are negative EV which is
somewhat unprecedented.

Guide to getting used to the Beta

Here’s how I approached learning to use the Beta. I treated it like getting into a hot tub that’s too hot and lowered myself in slowly.

1. Set aside an hour.

2. Put on some nice meditation music.

3. Open the client and log in. Take a moment now to remind yourself that there is no rush.

4. Go through all the tabs at the top, just looking at what they do. Don’t worry if you get confused or lost, there is no destination right now.

5. If you start to feel frustrated take a break. Relax.

6. I recommend turning off all the sounds except important alerts down to twenty. Turn off most of the options you can.

7. If you’re feeling up to it, try to make some cards tradeable and trade with a bot. Go slow. There is no rush. Get acclimated.

8. Join an event and get used to the battle interface. Be willing to stop and walk away at any point.

9. You are now using the Beta. Congratulations!

When I was starting out my mind just couldn’t handle all the new stuff and just got fatigued from a complicated board state and didn’t care what plays I
was making as long as I finished using the Beta faster.

The Future of Magic Online

Okay, I feel like I’ve got all the complaining out of my system. At a certain point, you have to let them know how you feel and then let it go. Let it
goooooo. Can’t sell my packs anymore!

The truth is I feel the client is annoying but still functional. Humans get used to stuff. That is like one of the things we are best at, getting used to
what we have over time, grumbling for a while until we eat what we’re fed.

Having played the Beta quite a bit (I did compete in a MOCS and have to use it) I can say that I am now used it. It bothers me less and less each day I use
it and now I am aware of most of the quirks and can handle them with relative ease. I feel used to things that used to confuse and frustrate me. The image
of V3 in my mind is quickly fading. It gets better.

If you’re still not sure about what to do and not happy with things, just take a break. Maybe play some more live Magic. If you haven’t abandoned ship or
are looking to climb aboard, cards and tickets are cheap.

They know there are problems. They know we aren’t pleased. The Beta has improved and I’m optimistic it will continue to do so.

Closing Thoughts

I like Magic, you like Magic, Magic Online lets us play Magic. Right now it’s not doing a great job at letting us play Magic.

I hope they will announce that the MOCS and PTQs are returning because I’m not sure why they haven’t yet unless the Beta isn’t equipped to handle them.
Also Leagues was apparently a thing once upon a time.

Vintage is awesome but takes a backseat to focusing on Pro Tour M15. Only time will tell how deep the rabbit hole goes and reveal what’s deeper:

The format or my pockets.