May Vintage in Review

Brian DeMars takes a look at the May 2014 Vintage metagame, including important results from Bazaar of Moxen in Europe and multiple U.S. tournament results!

Spring and smmer have both traditionally been the hotbed for competitive Vintage play; school is out for the summer, people can travel to tournaments, and
the nice weather makes for an excellent opportunity to take a road trip to a Magic tournament with some good friends. The early spring Vintage results are
in and they definitely do not disappoint! Many of the usual suspects are back with a vengeance this time around and some new decks have sprung up in the

Let’s take a look at how things have unfolded in the past month for Magic’s Oldest Format!

One of Vintage’s marquee tournaments took place earlier this month in Europe. The 9th installment of the Bazaar of Moxen Festival held on May 4th brought
together 214 players to battle Vintage and compete for some wildly fantastic prizes. While 200+ player Vintage events are a rarity in this day in age, the
Bazaar of Moxen has proven that with some great prize support and a solid and recurring venue for Vintage play to take place, there is a large and diehard
following for the format.

At the end of the tournament one pilot and one deck stood alone as the champion:

Another victory for Mana Drainers.

Gwen’s deck is at its core a very controlling blue Mana Drain deck that can flip the script and combo-kill an opponent in the traditional ways: Tinker for
Blightsteel Colossus or with infinite turns generated by Time Vault.

The deck is significantly different from the other Time Vault decks that have been popular in Vintage because it doesn’t feature any copies of the card
Dark Confidant in the 75.

Who needs a friend when you can have four copies of Mana Drain?

Instead of utilizing the powerful two-drop creature to generate card advantage from the onset of the game, Gwen’s deck simply tries to play the
counterspell role as hard as possible and for as long as possible in order to set up a game-ending combo win.

Dark Confidant also comes with a real cost of loss life due to the extra drawn cards. In a metagame full of decks that are actively attacking one’s life
total, sometimes Bob’s “Cost of Greatness” is simply too much.

The other big advantage that TezOath has in the current Vintage metagame is that by not wasting deck slots on two-mana 2/1s, the deck instead opts for the
ability to simply sideboard in 4x copies of Oath of Druids + giant monsters post-sideboard. In any match up where the opponent is on a creature heavy
strategy, the Oaths can simply come in as a 2cc “win the game” card.

The straightforwardness of the deck is a thing of beauty. Nearly every card in Gwen’s deck is a counterspell or card draw spell which means the deck can
devote the absolute bare minimum of cards to doing anything but stopping the opponent from winning and then tutoring for, setting up, and protecting its
own combo finish when the time comes.

I have said time and time again that decks that play four copies of the card Mana Drain tend to do very well in Top 8s of tournaments, and here is yet
another example of the player who had the most controlling deck in the Top 8 finding a way to wade through the other decks and claim the title.

The second-place deck in the tournament was also the other deck in the top eight that Mana Drained harder than the other Top 8 decklists:

The second-place deck is interesting to me for one of the same reasons that the first place deck was interesting: it cuts way back on playing Dark

Usually Vintage Grixis Control (or and U/B/x Control) starts off with four copies of the powerful black two-drop right out of the box. At this month’s
Bazaar of Moxen, the two top-finishing decks in the tournament seem to completely buck this trend and instead move to playing a minimal number of this
powerful creature.

In order to answer the question of “why no Dark Confidant” one need only look at the rest of the Top 8 of the tournament to understand why the control
decks have moved in this direction.

Swatting Bobs away like they were flies.

Rounding out the rest of the Top 8 were a few Workshops and a ton of BUG Fish decks, which pack the full suite of the powerful Golgari instant and
a whole slew of other creatures that trump Dark Confidant in combat.

Basically, anytime a control deck with Dark Confidant plays against one of these BUG Aggro Control decks, their Bobs are going to be a liability because
they can be easily killed by Abrupt Decay and they are unlikely to have a relevant presence in combat because they are outclassed by opposing creatures.

So, it appears that if BUG Control is going to continue to be the premier “Jund Style” Aggro Control deck that perhaps the trend for more “True Control or
Combo Control” decks will simply be to not play with spicy targets for Abrupt Decay and other creature removal.

Watch for this trend to continue in the coming month.

On this side of the pond, there were also a few exciting Vintage tournaments of note that took place this month. The first one I’d like to touch on was the
Player’s Guild tournament.

While everybody’s favorite UU instant of all time may have been dominating in Europe in May, it was Mishra’s Workshop that was doing all of the lesson
teaching at the Player’s Guild Tournament.

Keith’s Forgemaster MUD deck is the definition of a “Go Big” Workshop list because it has the full allotment of Metalworkers to power out devastating Turn
2 plays. He also has Staff of Domination and Lightning Greaves to combo with his full suite of Metalworkers.

Works hard and gets the job done.

Metalworker is one of those cards that doesn’t see play in Mishra’s Workshop decks as often as it probably could. On the one hand, it can be kind of
durdle-y or not do a lot in certain match ups, as it always runs the risk of not being able to get key lock pieces onto the board in time to make a
difference (as it has summoning sickness). On the other hand, it can also be the kind of card that simply puts games away all by itself if unanswered.

In particular, a resolved Metalworker in a Mishra’s Workshop mirror match is often an insurmountable advantage in mana production that can win a game all
by itself.

In any event, Keith’s Forgemaster MUD deck,with full-on Metalworker and Kuldotha Forgemaster was able to power and tutor out an army of simply monstrous
artifact creatures to destroy all comers.

Blightsteel Colossus Sundering Titan Duplicant Steel Hellkite Wurmcoil Engine

And those are just the ones in the maindeck…

While MUD was the best-performing deck at the Player’s Guild tournament (winning the event and putting one other player into T4 and another into T8), there
were plenty of other decks that made nice finishes and competed alongside Old Mishra’s Workshop.

The same idea of “build around beating BUG Fish” seems to be at play in this winning MUD deck the same way that it was in the top finishing BoM decks. By
playing with cards like Metalworker, Kuldotha Forgemaster, and gigantic unbeatable monsters, this MUD deck can simply go over the top of a BUG
deck and outclass the creatures on the board.

Hey, I know these cards from Legacy!!!

The U/R Delver deck is an aggressive, tempo-oriented counter-burn style deck that criminally undercosted creatures to create a board presence and then
countering, burning, or racing whatever the opponent throws its way.

I may have been surprised the first time around when Delver of Secrets started seeing serious and successful play in Vintage, but by now I’ve learned to
respect the flying insect. Creatures really have finally gotten good enough to compete with “spell decks” in Vintage and I have really enjoyed the
versatility that such a change has afforded deckbuilders and players.

One last interesting deck I’d like to feature from the Player’s Guild tournament finished in the Top 4. Check this one out:

Is “Draw fourteen + Mind Twist” good?

I like this deck a lot, as it reminds me a little bit of one of my favorite old school Vintage decks, “Steel City Vault.” The basic premise is simple: play
ridiculously powerful Draw Seven-type spells that draw you into your combo finishes. The element that is super cool about this deck is that it backs these
Draw Sevens up with uncounterable Notion Thief, a la Cavern of Souls.

I love the Mikokoro, Center of the Sea in this deck to combo with the Notion Thief!

The last tournament I’d like to touch on was a small one in Glen Burnie, MD, where 27 players battled for a Time Walk. While the tournament itself was only
a respectable 27 participants, there were some big time Vintage names vying for the Time Walk in the Top 8 (Tom Dixon, Paul Mastriano, and JP Kohler to
name a few).

Ultimately, it was Ryan Glackin who took down the tournament, playing a very rogue Junk Hatebears deck.

These are some hateful bears!

A fine shield!

I’m always happy and excited to see new printings find their way into Vintage and have some success right off the bat. In this case, I’m of course talking
about Aegis of the Gods. The card seems absolutely tailor made for a deck like Glackin’s Junk Bears, as it protects its pilot from Thoughtseize, Oath of
Druids, Tendrils of Agony, and basically everything else that could ever get pointed at one’s face.

One other element about a deck like this that makes it particularly well-positioned is that it really utilizes Cavern of Souls in a metagame where control
decks are relying so heavily on their permission spells like Mana Drain and Force of Will. If blue decks are moving away from interactive permanents like
Dark Confidant in lieu of more counters, it can only make the value of Cavern of Souls become even greater!

Sing its praises!

It also brought a big smile to my face to see Voice of Resurgence take down a Vintage tournament. I’ve made no secret that it is basically my favorite
printing in the past three years (even if Lifebane Zombie has spoiled a lot of my fun in Standard…) and it’s pretty cool to see a card like this that
people wouldn’t immediately view as “Vintage Playable” do some work at a high level.

It does do a ton of work in many matchups: Voice forces other blue mages to make their plays on their own turn (or risk giving you a creature) and makes
counterspells pretty miserable.

Evan Erwin

Counter my 2/2? OK, I get a 4/4.

Many of the aggressive blue decks opt for red to play Lightning Bolt over Swords to Plowshares, which is certainly very favorable for people playing Voice
of Resurgence. Voice also seems very good against BUG Fish because it will always generate another creature when it dies and because it will make their
countermagic very poor.

And just because I love anything that reminds me of my happy days playing Control Slaver in Type I back in the day…

Here is a spicy control deck that really “controls” the game with Goblin Welders and Baleful Strix.

You plan on attacking with creatures? How awkward for you…

Tom’s deck simply has a lot of action and a lot of defensive capabilities at its disposal. The deck can look at a lot of cards and create lots of plays as
the games go on via Goblin Welder and its other powerful search and card selection spells.

In a metagame full of Fish and other creature decks, I really like the way something like Tom’s deck is positioned. The only drawback of playing a
grindy-defensive deck like this is that it traditionally tends to fare poorly against fast combo decks like Storm or Doomsday that attempt to win the game
before slow, grindy card advantage engines like Goblin Welder and Baleful Strix will ever actually matter.

So, let’s recap really quickly and then move on to predictions:

Clever Mana Drain pilots figured out to cut their Dark Confidants in lieu of more permission at May’s BoM Tournament as a hedge against creature decks and
were rewarded.

Mishra’s Workshop decks that were good at beating aggro-control-type decks performed very well at the Player’s Guild.

Junk Hatebears outlasted a stacked field in MD with a heavy reliance on midrangy creatures like Voice of Resurgence and Cavern of Souls to combat

Do you notice the pattern?

All of the decks that were successful last month had a very good and very real plan that gained the edge against BUG Fish (which is one of the most popular
and played decks in Vintage).

Here are my predictions on what is going to be good moving forward in the next month.


Cavern of Souls may be approaching the best it has ever been in Vintage. I think there is a good chance that decks playing good creatures and this way to
make them uncounterable will continue to thrive in Vintage.

The Greenest, Blackest Dark Ritual of all.

If creatures are going to continue to be good, people will play more Oath of Druids. It’s the most basic law of the Vintage Jungle. The first-place list at
BoM sideboarded the entire package!

Hi, my name is (wika-wika) True-Name Nemesis.

If creature combat is a thing and people are playing with cards like Voice of Resurgence to gain an edge in creature mirrors, it’s only a matter of time
before this card begins to make its way into Vintage as a powerhouse metagame call. The answer to how BUG Fish fights back against all of the hate could
very easily be to start playing with True-Name Nemesis instead of other creature options.

I’m also surprised to see no Real Fish Merfolk decks in these Top 8s because the deck seems to have tons of favorable match ups against the decks that are
doing well. Maybe Lord of Atlantis and friends are on the verge of a revival.

Well, Vintage fans — I’m looking forward to seeing how this whole anti-BUG Fish thing plays out in the coming weeks.

Will Mishra’s Workshop decks go big or go prison-y?

Does BUG have what it takes to fight back and actually win when it counts?

Can Mana Drain ever actually be stopped?

How should the BUG decks be rebuilt and rebooted?

Where’s the Merfolk mages at?

It’s going to be a very, very fun summer of Vintage Magic.

Oh, and I’m very much looking forward to Vintage Masters and being able to play Vintage online. I can hardly begin to imagine how much that innovation is
going to shake up Vintage…

All good things.