If You Read Only One Vintage Article This Year…

Don’t think for a moment that Patrick Chapin’s love of Monastery Mentor extends only to the most played formats! Patrick loves the Mentor (and Vintage as a whole), and today he’s leading the way in showing you all over this amazing format!

Okay, yeah, I have been really into Monastery Mentor recently. That’s just true. After Paul Rietzl showed me the light in Standard, I started building
every deck in every format to be a Monastery Mentor deck. Matt Sperling, Tom Martell, and I played Esper Mentor in Legacy at #GPSeaTac. In Modern, I’m not
sure if it’s better to be a Jeskai deck or an Esper deck, but I know I want to be a Mentor deck.

What about Vintage?

I used to play a ton of Vintage (which was known as Type 1 when I was your age…). Whether with Mana Crypts or Gushes, I have a lot of
fond memories of the format and it’s fun to go back every so often. Even if one doesn’t play Vintage (or unproxied Vintage), it’s kind of sweet seeing the
kinds of decks people play in the kind of format where Black Lotus and Ancestral Recall are legal.

Merfolk Assassin Sudden Shock Spine of Ish Sah Contagion Engine

Uba Mask Wispmare Steel Hellkite Ingot Chewer Disenchant

Yeah. Seriously. This is the sort of stuff we’re dealing with here. All nine of these cards appeared in one or more of the top 16 decklists from this past
weekend’s Vintage Challenge on Magic Online.

In Vintage, they play with all of the cards. One of the consequences of such a large card pool is that there are an incomprehensibly large number
of possible interactions, which can lead to extremely niche tactical choices in deck construction.

Number of decks with Force of Will in their 75:

11 out of 16

Number of decks with land in their sideboard:

11 out of 16

This format is seriously crazy! You can literally play Sol Ring, and yet, sideboarding land is more popular than freaking Sol Ring (only half of
the top 16 played Sol Ring). There were 23, count ’em, 23 lands in the sideboards of the top 16 decks. There were only 239 lands in the maindecks!

Well, maybe if people played more than fourteen land in their maindecks, they wouldn’t have to sideboard so much land…

Have you seen the lands they are sideboarding?

Plains Mountain Forest Ancient Tomb

Barbarian Ring Karakas The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale Petrified Field

All of these lands appeared in one or more of the top 16 lists. Amusingly, every land on this list produces colorless or the “wrong” color for the decks
playing them. The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale doesn’t even produce mana(!), instead being an anti-creature card that can really slow people down.

Karakas is a Legacy staple, though a bit less common in Vintage. It’s still a great card, but a smaller percentage of the field is relying on legends. This
weekend’s top 16 included four copies of Karakas, two copies in the sideboard of a Mono-Blue Merfolk deck, and two copies in a “Mono-Brown” artifact deck.

Barbarian Ring and Petrified Field help Dredge in sideboard games partially for the possibility of actually casting spells that cost two mana, but more
importantly, have zero-cost “uncounterable” cards that can interact with opponents, such as Barbarian Ring killing Yixlid Jailer or Petrified Field getting
back a Bazaar of Baghdad that was Wastelanded.

Ancient Tomb is a common maindeck card, but in Vintage, sometimes it gets sideboarded to help combo decks fight through mana disruption like Sphere of
Resistance/Trinisphere/Crucible of Worlds (with Wasteland). While Vintage is actually a fairly diverse format, one of the most common strategies is to play
mono-artifacts (or nearly mono-artifacts), taking advantage of this disruption and the power of Mishra’s Workshop.

This card is completely absurd. It’s a Black Lotus every turn. Yes, you have to play an artifact deck to maximize it, but making three mana a turn
is a really big pay-off. This creates weird incentives and makes a lot of unusual cards central fixtures in the format. For example:

Surely Kuldotha Forgemaster must be behind the strange card choices, right?

Nah. That’s really just how it’s laying in Vintage. This is just how they get down. For instance, here’s a non-Forgemaster build that just has a single
Contagion Engine to rip naturally when you just really want to draw a Contagion Engine:

It takes a special kind of crazy to be a Legacy player, like the kind of crazy where they might just show up to work dressed up like an oversized mascot
and start popping bottles at noon on a Tuesday.

Vintage players, however?

Vintage players are more the kind of crazy where you wouldn’t be surprised to find someone spend six years training to see how many hot dogs they can fit
inside their ears, only to discover that no one else got the secret message written in invisible ink on the subway cars to do this, and so they have no
competition. So, without even missing a beat, they build a spaceship out of bicycles, rubber pants, and model airplane boxes to look for robotic

Four copies of this card actually appeared in a Vintage World Championship semifinalist deck. This is not a joke.

The six decks that sideboarded basic lands were primarily targeting Wasteland, but it’s important to note why it’s these three of the three that get
played, and not Island or Swamp, despite those being the two most popular colors.

Island doesn’t see much sideboard play because it is so good maindeck. Everyone plays so many fetchlands, you can typically find your basic Island (or
two). The type of people that play basic lands generally want as many of their lands as possible to make blue mana, so it’s hard to justify Plains,
Mountain, or Forest. The bar for “non-blue” lands is very high.

Plains, Mountain, and Forest all have a very important thing in common, however: They cast artifact destruction spells. Swamp? Not so much. Against a pure
artifact deck full of Wastelands, it’s nice to be able to find the basic land that will let you destroy the Crucible of Worlds, or whatever.

The top 16 of the Vintage Premier was actually a reasonable cross-section of the format as a whole:

Storm 3

Grixis Tinker 3

Workshops 2

Doomsday 2

Jeskai Mentor 2

Bant Mentor 1

Esper Mentor 1

Dredge 1

Merfolk 1

Or, put another way:

U/B Fast Combo – 5

Blue Tempo/Control – 5

Grixis Combo-Control – 3

Workshops/Bazaars* – 3

One of the really interesting elements of Vintage is that Mishra’s Workshop and Bazaar of Baghdad are much better in decks that can use them
effectively than Black Lotus and Ancestral Recall (in any deck). The reason to allow such brokenness is that it is the only way to ever get people to play
non-blue decks.

The end result is that most people play maindecks slanted against blue decks and end up with sideboards full of anti-artifact and anti-graveyard cards.
This is another reason we see so many off-color basics in sideboards. You sideboard them in for only a few matchups, but your sideboard space isn’t
actually as valuable of a resource as it is in Legacy or Modern since the range of types of fundamental gameplans is actually so much smaller.

While Workshop and Bazaar are certainly two of the most important components of the format, there are three pillars in blue Vintage decks that make up a
large part of the core of the format.

Dark Ritual fuels the Storm and Doomsday combo decks, which use lots of artifact mana, cantrips, restricted cards, and then win the game by casting
Tendrils of Agony, Doomsday (with Laboratory Maniac), or Yawgmoth’s Will. Hall of Famer and long-time Vintage aficionado Eric Froehlich took the title with
the help of a Storm Combo deck, aided by the addition of four Dark Petitions, with a sweet red splash for Wheel of Fortune and a sideboard Empty the

Without a playset of Lion’s Eye Diamonds to reliably ensure our hand is empty (like in Legacy), Infernal Tutor would be a bit harder to use. Historically,
Grim Tutor has been very popular, but Dark Petition doesn’t cost life and functionally costs just “two” mana once you get going. Conveniently, the mana it
produces for you is exactly enough to cast Yawgmoth’s Will or Necropotence

Once you have four Gitaxian Probes and four Duress, Cabal Therapy can quickly be more appealing than Thoughtseize, even with zero creatures to flash it
back. Besides, a lot of the time we’re just going to name Force of Will anyway. Even if we miss, that means they don’t have Force of Will.

Interestingly, neither does Efro…

The other style of Dark Ritual combo deck is one built around casting Doomsday and then finding five cards along the lines of:

After resolving Doomsday, cast Gush and draw Ancestral Recall and Black Lotus. Then, draw your last three cards, cast a Mox, cast the Laboratory Maniac,
and then cast Gitaxian Probe for the win!

Even without Gush, you can typically win the same turn you cast Doomsday as long as you have a cantrip and at least one extra mana afterwards. You can cast
Gitaxian Probe, draw Ancestral, use the extra mana to cast it, then draw Black Lotus, Laboratory Maniac, and Gush.

Forest in the sideboard of U/B Fast combo, eh?

These Trygon Predators and Xantid Swarms aren’t going to cast themselves!

Long ago, Vintage control decks sought to take over games with Mana Drains before eventually winning with Serra Angel or Tetravus, then later Morphling or
Psychatog. Eventually though, it started becoming clear that combo kills were a more effective way to win the game. Voltaic Key + Time Vault or Tinker into
Blightsteel Colossus kind of set the tone.

However, the printing of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Tezzeret the Seeker was the beginning of a new era in Vintage. Now, Dack Fayden and Jace, Vryn’s
Prodigy, help provide a major planeswalker aspect to the format.

Thirst for Knowledge was unrestricted just two months ago, and already its impact has been big. As much as The Hello‘s deck is a Thirst for Knowledge deck, though, I can’t help but feel like it’s more
properly described as a Tinker/Time Vault deck. Tinker for Blightsteel Colossus is pretty straightforward, and it’s a fine way to assemble the Voltaic Key
+ Time Vault combo that gives us unlimited extra turns. However, this list actually goes quite a bit deeper on Time Vault than just Demonic Tutor, Vampiric
Tutor, and Tinker to set it up:

Tezzeret can find Time Vault the turn you play him. If you get to untap with him, you can use his plus ability to untap the Time Vault and just start
taking as many turns as you want. Even if they can kill Tezzeret, you’re still up a Time Vault (which is particularly nice when you play multiple Voltaic

The perpetual threat of a tinkered up Blightsteel Colossus makes every single draw step scary. However, this play is not without risk.

The greatest thief in the multiverse is particularly apt at stealing Blightsteel Colossus, but he’s also not beneath stealing artifact creatures from the
Workshop decks or artifact mana out of everyone else. Besides, he’s not just a one-trick pony. Getting to loot twice a turn is a powerful enough of an
effect to ensure he’s always bringing a lot to the table.

While he’s most often appearing in “fair” decks, he’s also showing up in some of the “combo control” decks, such as this fresh take on Grixis Thirst for
Knowledge-based blue decks:

The use of Painter’s Servant + Grindstone gives us a third “combo” to assemble with Tinker, as well as giving us a much-expanded ability to solve problems
with Pyroblast and Red Elemental Blast (since we name blue with the Servant).

While fast combo with Dark Rituals and draw-sevens, and Grixis with Tinker, Time Vault, and Yawgmoth’s Will both have a lot of appeal, the archetype I am
most interested in right now, is Aggro-Control with Monastery Mentor. For instance, Isomorphic’s top 8 list is a perfect example of why Monastery Mentor
has taken over Vintage.

Isn’t this just a Gush deck?

Yes, it is true that this is much more of a Gush deck than a Monastery Mentor deck; however, there are Tinker decks with Gush, Storm decks with Gush, and
Doomsday decks all play Gush. Literally half of the top 16 played Gush. Negative one mana is not a large price to pay to draw two cards. This card is so
good, even I could win a Vintage Championship with it. There’s a reason the card was restricted twice.

Gush has a tremendously warping effect on the format, but was once held in check by Workshop decks. The use of tons of Spheres, Thorns, Trinispheres, and
the like made it really hard to cast lots of one-mana spells, as the Gush decks are wont to do, while also punishing you for bouncing your own land (if you
can even keep two on the table to bounce).

Why have Workshop decks declined so much?

Chalice of the Void was restricted when Thirst for Knowledge was unrestricted, taking away a lot of free wins. Sometimes the Chalice on zero would ensure
only the Workshop player got to play Moxes. Sometimes the Chalice on one would cripple the opposing player’s ability to play Magic at all.

The loss of Chalice of the Void is a big deal, but it certainly doesn’t cripple the Workshop decks. If they wanted to cripple the Workshop decks, they
could just ban Workshop, and that would be the end of that. The goal of bans, however, is not to ban the most popular cards or the best cards. It’s also
not about banning the most broken card in an overpowered deck.

Banning cards is ultimately about making the world a more fun place. It’s important to remember that not everyone has the same idea of what that means, but
we do currently have some basic metrics to try to illuminate the rare cases where banning is actually warranted.

1. Lack of diversity in the format.

2. Too fast for the format.

3. Logistical or extreme play pattern problems.

The first is more than just “Is this card showing up in 75% of decks,” like Brainstorm or Force of Will in Legacy, although both of those are exceptions
that get a special pass for external reasons. Depending on the format, even 25% might be an unacceptable level of dominance over sustained periods of time.
Remember, it’s not all about “fairness.” You can play whatever deck you want. It’s already largely “fair.” However, playing against the same deck seven out
of nine rounds gets boring.

Too fast for the format is actually relatively simple, but has a bit of a subjective quality to it.


Modern: Turn 3

Legacy: Turn 2

Vintage: Turn 1

Modern is supposed to be largely a turn 4 or later format. That isn’t to say that a deck that can win on turn 2 or turn 3 needs to be banned. Even
a deck that goldfishes turn 3 more than 25% of the time might be okay. The real question is with regards to the band of meaningful decisions and
interactions, and the power level of the deck.

Infect regularly goldfishes turn 3, but having to play a creature, then untap and connect with it is a very different thing than casting two cards that win
the game when combined. Even largely uninteractive combos, like Goryo’s Vengeance and Emrakul can be fine if they aren’t tier 1 strategies.

However, whenever a true combo deck that regularly wins on turn 3 enjoys sustained periods of success as a top tier 1 deck, the chances of a card from that
deck getting banned are much higher than average, even if the world doesn’t consider it to be the best deck.

In Legacy, turn 2 kills, even turn 1 kills, are not uncommon. However, turn 3 kills are much more common among fast combo decks. If Storm started
dominating tournaments and was consistently winning on turn 2, it would take a much lower threshold to warrant a ban than say, Stoneforge Mystic, or

In Vintage, turn 1 kills are not rare, but even the Storm combo decks and Doomsday decks tend to win on turn 2 a lot more often than turn 1. On the
flipside, Flash was banned despite many Vintage players believing that it wasn’t the best strategy.

Logistical or extreme play pattern problems?

Let’s put it this way: The bar was much lower for Sensei’s Divining Top being banned in Modern than would be the case for a lot of cards. Trinisphere was
restricted in Vintage partially because of how unfun the world was where people just consistently played it on the first turn with Workshop, even if that
strategy’s win percentage wasn’t outrageously high.

The restricting of Chalice of the Void doesn’t just hurt the Workshop decks or even just the decks Chalice (or Workshops) were good against. It also has an
impact on the decks that matchup poorly against the decks that were being held in check.

Neither Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, nor Jace, the Mind Sculptor is “just better” than the other. They are both crazy overpowered cards that scale extremely well
in powered formats. They will both get played a lot for years to come (and frequently in the same deck).

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is kind of like a Dark Confidant that doesn’t do damage to you and draws anything you could Snapcaster. Yes, it doesn’t draw cards two
turns in a row, but the games in Vintage snowball so fast, getting your choice of a card and a planeswalker that is threatening to give you another card of
your choice after another turn can be a game-winning advantage. Besides, even just getting to loot is a big deal. Your cards are of very uneven
power levels, and many are quite situational.

Given that it’s banned in every other format, it’s not surprising that Mental Misstep has become a staple of the format. Vintage has a lot of popular cards
that cost one, and zero is an obnoxious cost for a counterspell with no loss of card advantage or tempo.

While Storm combo is the real reason, Mental Misstep being so popular has helped ensure that Flusterstorm has nearly completely obsoleted Spell Pierce
despite the prevalence of Dack Fayden and Sphere of Resistance.

Fire//Ice has been gaining popularity again recently, due to the format moving away from Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Trygon Predator, and more towards
Vryn’s Prodigy and Monastery Mentor.

Lightning Bolt in Vintage surprises a lot of people, but the card is extremely efficient, kills a lot of creatures in the format, and provides much needed
help against planeswalkers. Unfortunately, though, Dack Fayden’s widespread adoption has changed the balance of power, as now the most common
planeswalker’s loyalty tends to be four, rather than three.

I love Balance. Like a lot. I know, it doesn’t always fit into a lot of decks’ primary gameplans, but even just sideboarding it gives you such a wide range
of powerful options. It’s particularly great against an opponent with something new, something you’ve never seen before. I also like biasing slightly
against the fair decks, and cards like Balance and Supreme Verdict are potent weapons against fair decks.

Null Rod Nature's Claim Energy Flux Ancient Grudge Kataki, War's Wage Serenity Wear Shattering Spree Ingot Chewer Pulverize Stony Silence

There is no shortage of extreme artifact hate available, and the right balance depends not only on the deck but the metagame of the day. Generally, though,
I prefer having a pretty good mixture, rather than being all-in on one. Ingot Chewer may surprise non-Vintage players, but it can actually destroy a Thorn
of Amethyst for only a single mana. Besides, sometimes you gotta give ’em the 3/3 beatdown (and sometimes, you gotta exile their Bridge from Belows…).

Amusingly, Ingot Chewer was actually the most played creature in the top 16 of the Vintage Challenge!

● 15 Ingot Chewers

● 8 Containment Priest

● 7 Trygon Predator

It is funny that in Vintage, three of the most popular creatures in the format are sideboard cards. As for maindeck creatures? Here’s a list of all the
creatures to appear five or more times maindeck from this past weekend:

Monastery Mentor 13

Lodestone Golem 8

Phyrexian Revoker 7 (+1 sideboard)

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy 5

That’s it.

Yeah, the format’s not exactly at an all-time high for creatures. There were four Snapcaster Mages, four Blightsteel Colossus, four Dark Confidants, and
four of a lot of Merfolk and dredge creatures. Deathrite Shaman, Tarmogoyf, and Stoneforge Mystic all clocked in at zero.

At least True-Name Nemesis and Young Pyromancer showed up, which is more than we can say about those three candidates for “best creature in Magic.”

Even Dragonlord Dromoka made it to the party!

Both Library of Alexandria and Strip Mine are great options to consider for Gush/Mentor decks, and I lean towards including both. Library is amazing for
breaking open some blue on blue games, but is also just a great combo with Gush. Besides, it’s not like we don’t have good ways to put the colorless mana
to work.

Strip Mine is just so insane of a Magic card. Obviously, we are most in the market to hit Mishra’s Workshop, Bazaar of Baghdad, or Tolarian Academy, so it
might not seem appreciably better than Wasteland. However, the first copy you draw is a lot more than zero (and I also don’t mind playing a single
Wasteland, either). Besides, Vintage is a format where it is common to draw only a single land. Frequently, people will fetch up their basic Island to
avoid getting locked out by a Wasteland. Strip Mine completely trumps this line.

While three colors is more reliable in a world where you want every fetchable land to make blue (so that you can have all your colors on turn 2), the
fourth color isn’t that greedy… is it?

I love Abrupt Decay right now. Having more answers to Monastery Mentor, Dark Confidant, and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy that are actually versatile is huge.
Getting to play maindeck “Disenchant” would already be appealing, and this one actually kills Dack Fayden!

Oh, and it’s uncounterable in a format where half the decks play double digits worth of counterspells!

I’m not sure where I’m going to end up, but I’ve got some ideas I want to explore in Vintage. For instance, what about Esper? Cabal Therapy is great, and I
want to sneak Demonic Tutor and Yawgmoth’s Will into a Gush deck.

I might need to just suck it up and splash green for Fastbond, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing (particularly if we can find room for a Crucible of
Worlds and a Wasteland!)

I am much more excited about the prospect of playing Monastery Mentor than Young Pyromancer, but Grixis is also an option:

This list seems fine, but I’m not sure why it’d be any better than anything anyone else is doing. In a format like Vintage, I want to either play something
people haven’t seen, or the most “best” cards, or whatever is well tuned by the world. This deck isn’t particularly “different,” nor “the most best cards,”
nor “most well tuned by the world.”

It is Grixis, though…

What about Grixis with Tinker?

Funny you should mention it!

This list is descended from the Grixis Thieves style of Vintage deck that Eli Kassis first played at #GPNJ a year ago. While a lot of people have moved
towards Consecrated Sphinx, I am not sure I want to invest that much mana in something that can get Pyroblasted, particularly with the direction I see the
format going. Maybe it’s worth it, but I am skeptical. It might just be too much fun not to, though…

By the way, remember to use Pyroblast in your maindeck if you are playing Monastery Mentor. You can Pyroblast Mishra’s Workshop to make a token and pump
your team, unlike with Red Elemental Blast.

With Dack Fayden everywhere, I’m interested in the recent trend to Tinker up Sphinx of the Steel Wind, instead of Blightsteel Colossus. Might be
too cute (or slow), but it is a blue card to pitch to Force of Will, and it is much easier to hardcast. It’s also better for racing opponents with
Monastery Mentor.

One other direction I’ve been thinking about is how to bring back Gifts Ungiven.

I don’t think this is the right formula yet, but it is interesting just how well Mizzix’s Mastery works with Gifts Ungiven.

Maybe we’re just supposed to stay with Recoup, but it’s worth considering since Mizzix’s Mastery costs just four to “Yawgmoth’s Will,” whereas Recoup costs
seven. Besides, Mastery basically just wins the game for eight mana, which is very doable in drawn-out attrition matches.

It’s so hard to fit everything into a 60-card Vintage deck.

Sometimes, I wonder what Vintage would be like with 75-card decks. Don’t get me wrong: misaligning the formats is a bad idea, but I think I would enjoy
playing 75-card Vintage sometime…