Before I show you revised decklists, let me first recap this past StarCityGames.com Rochester Power Nine Event. I want to see how my metagame predictions fared against the actual metagame.
You can read my predictions here.
25 % random decks
15% Control Slaver
About 10% Oath.
5-10% Intuition Tendrils.
<5% Grim Long.
? % Ichorid.
Let’s see how my prediction did during the Rochester Day 1 Metagame:
Actual Turnout: 14.3% – 16 out of 112 decklists. Wow! What a great prediction!
Performance: 2 of 16 in Top 8, 12.5 % in Top 8
Actual Turnout: 7.12%
Performance: 0 in Top 8. Pretty dismal.
Prediction: About 10%
Actual Turnout: 13.4% (15 oath decks)
Performance: 0 in Top 8. Hell, zero in Top 25.
As I said, this was a terrible choice. There was a lot more Oath than I expected. During the first few rounds, the buzz in the tournament was the huge amount of Oath. The Oath decks are pretty much clustered in the middle page of the tournament results.
A great deck in theory, a horrible deck in terms of tournament outcome.
So far, the prediction of Gifts was 3% too high and the prediction of Oath was 3% too low.
Actual Turnout: 10%
Performance: 0 in Top 8
This was my big blunder. I can’t understand what changed between Richmond and today that made people drop Fish so badly. My only guess was that the rise of Oath and IT scared the Fish players. Where did the other 12% end up?
Actual Turnout: 2.7%
Performance: 0 in Top 8
I was off base on this, but that’s because of:
Prediction: < 5%
Actual Turnout: 6.25%
Performance: 2 in Top 8 (29% in the Top 8!)
Wow! I said that this was the strongest combo deck you could run. This deck got 2nd place on day 1.
Then I said that the mystery deck would be Ichorid:
Actual Turnout: 2.7% of the metagame.
Performance: not good.
Ichorid and IT, the new decks, have very few pilots and both placed badly in relation to their hype.
Here are some other stats:
Prediction: I didn’t predict much dragon – which meant I thought there would be a trivial amount
Actual Turnout: 4.6%
Performance: 2 in Top 8. 40% made Top 8. This is even better than December, where 25% of Dragon made Top 8.
Actual Turnout: 29.4%
Performance: 0 in Top 8
I’ve lumped all the miscellaneous decks like Gro, Stax, and the WTF in this category. I have left out Bomberman because it did so well.
2.7% of the metagame
33% of them of made Top 8. That’s a pretty mean feat.
6.25% of the metagame
Zero in Top 8 or anywhere near it. A horrible choice.
8.9% of the metagame
There were at least 2 regular Stax decks, half a dozen Uba Stax, and then 3 Staxless Stax lists.
0% made Top 8.
So the best-performing decks were Dragon, Bomberman, and Grim Long, by a pretty wide margin.
In the final analysis, what happened to my predictions?
I was pretty damned close for a Magic tournament with so much variation.
My biggest failing was severely overestimating the quantity of Fish that would show up. My second biggest mistake was overestimating how many people would play IT and Ichorid. Of course, no one could have foreseen the return of Bomberman, and predicting that Dragon would emerge was rather difficult.
After this tournament, Grim Long, Dragon, and Bomberman have superior claims to being the best deck than Control Slaver.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Adrian Sullivan new deck, SS. This was another breakout deck from SCG Rochester.
All told, this was a fantastic Vintage tournament with lots of great surprises.
So, where does this leave us? What is the upper tier of Vintage right now?
The truth is that it is too soon to tell. Bomberman put up three players into the SCG Rochester Top 8s, as did Dragon and Grim Long. While I predict that Dragon and Grim Long will have repeat appearances, it is not clear if non-Canadians will pick up the mantle. If they don’t, I doubt that Bomberman will repeat its performance. Similarly, it is way too early to tell if the Sullivan Solution will pick up a solid base of players. I just can’t see that deck doing very well at Gencon, but we may be surprised.
Now for the decklists!
This technology was developed mid April but it is just as potent, if not more so, today.
No deck in the format can run Leyline as easily as Ichorid. It should definitely run four maindeck Leyline. If Leyline is in your opening hand, it drops into play. If it is not in your opening hand, it won’t matter because you are either dredging or you can discard it to Bazaar.
This card negates Yawgmoth’s Will — one of the most powerful spells and certainly the most format-defining. Take a look at the recent Rochester Top 8. What does this card do to Bomberman, Dragon, Long, etc? This card is a metagame wrecking ball in the right deck.
With Leyline, this card gets much better. You can pitch Leylines to your Unmask. In addition, each card you force your opponent to discard will be removed from game. It has untold synergies in Ichorid. You can use Unmask in conjunction with Cabal Therapy to make sure that you always get a “hit.” Mid-game, as your hand starts to whittle away, you can use a dredged Stinkweed Imp to fuel the Unmask. This card is fantastic.
As the other decks in the format play answers to this deck, this deck needs to stay one step ahead. I suggest running two maindeck Chain of Vapor and two in the sideboard. With your tutor suite, you have functionally four Chain of Vapor maindeck.
What about Brainstorm? Brainstorm is amazing, to be sure. But Brainstorm is most useful following Putrid Imp or a dredge with Bazaar that has been Wastelanded. In the metagame that is light on Fish or Stax, this cards utility dips. I would consider running some in your sideboard and sideboard them in to optimize your maindeck.
Whatever changes you make, I think the one change that you must make is to add the four Leylines maindeck. If any deck in the format was made to run Leyline, it was this one.
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Mana Drain
- 1 Vampiric Tutor
- 1 Mystical Tutor
- 1 Yawgmoth's Will
- 4 Force of Will
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 1 Time Walk
- 1 Ancestral Recall
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Memory Jar
- 4 Thirst for Knowledge
- 2 Mindslaver
- 1 Echoing Truth
- 1 Tinker
- 1 Black Lotus
- 1 Fact or Fiction
- 1 Lotus Petal
- 1 Mox Emerald
- 1 Mox Jet
- 1 Mox Pearl
- 1 Mox Ruby
- 1 Mox Sapphire
- 1 Tormod's Crypt
The absence of Lotus Petal in Slaver is not only a mistake, it is an egregious omission. Lotus Petal should be a staple in this deck as sure as Mana Crypt or Mana Vault gets the nod. Not running it is a flaw of the highest order and reveals a certain ignorance about the format.
The question of whether to run Gorilla Shaman or Rack and Ruin is a close one. The upsides of Rack and Ruin are clear. It is more useful in the Stax and Fish metagame, as it easily rids the board of annoying artifacts and cards like Null Rod. However, if the metagame is tilted more toward Combo and Control decks, Gorilla Shaman is far superior. Rack and Ruin is a nearly impossible card to cast against a Grim Long player. And Shaman is a brutal house in the Slaver mirror.
Much like Lotus Petal, not running Vampiric Tutor is simply wrong. Vampiric Tutor has never been stronger. It finds Black Lotus, Tinker, and Yawgmoth’s Will at instant speed. The card disadvantage aspect of Vampiric Tutor is now more of a strength. Putting the card on top of your deck keeps it safe from cards like Duress, Unmask, and Cabal Therapy. Yet it can be done also on upkeep or on your opponent’s end step to set up a truly busted turn.
Not running this card because of its card disadvantage is simply foolish.
Cards in Vintage should not be evaluated primarily or even secondarily on the basis of card advantage, but by how much they assist in a game win.
A number of Slaver players go back and forth on this card, but I’m quite certain that it belongs. A strong Yawgmoth’s Will followed by Time Walk and the game is won with this man.
My list does not have Platinum Angel because I think its junk. It provides the illusion of security, but no deck is unable to deal with it.
I’m only going to say this once, but this is the card that I fear the most in Slaver. If it hits the board, whatever deck I’m playing has probably lost. It is such an unexpected surprise that all of my planning goes out the window. The tempo loss is enormous. This is also the most controversial. I have included this card in lieu of Library of Alexandria, sacrilege to probably many of the worlds Control Slaver pilots. I’m sorry, but Library should no longer be the standard bearer it once was. Sure, it destroys Control mirrors a good deal of the time and once in a while it can fuel your game against other decks (especially if you run the Ugo Rivard variant of Slaver with Mana Leak — turn 1 Library, turn 2 Mox, Land, Leak is great). But Strip Mine in the tempo oriented metagame of Dragon, Grim Long, and other decks like Intuition Tendrils and Ichorid, is just superior.
Memory Jar and Fact or Fiction
I’m not going to get mired in the debate over these cards, but there is a perception that there is not room for both. This is untrue. Both cards have a place in the deck and have earned their right to inclusion. Fact or Fiction is a huge bomb in the control mirror that wins games upon resolution. Memory Jar is also too good to omit.
I think that Control Slaver is always viable because of its adaptability, but the pressure on it has never been greater than this moment. The shift to combo has pressed the limits of its adaptability. The question is: will it survive in the tier one under the strain? The answer is probably going to be yes, but I think we may have neared the end of the long string of Control Slaver tournament victories.