MTGO Vintage

With the Power Nine now legal on MTGO, Brian checks in on the digital metagame’s development in search of sweet tech and with an eye out for developing metagame trends and cycles.

The release of Electronic Power Nine cards to MTGO has created quite a splash so far, as for the first time ever, actual Powered Vintage is available for tournament play on Magic Online. Players from all around the world are making the most of this opportunity to get their Vintage on and playing in daily events online.

So, what’s good in Vintage online?

Well, in today’s article I will be taking a look at tournament results from MTGO Daily Events that have taken place between 6-17 and 6-27 and let you know what has been good so far, as well as give you some tips to stay ahead of the game as the metagame moves forward.

It appears that the “best deck” in terms of putting up dominant performances thus far is Forgemaster MUD. Of the eleven events that I am looking at for this article, Forgemaster MUD won more than half of them (with six 4-0 performances) and the only other deck with more than one 4-0 in this span was Oath (with two).

Forgemaster MUD has been one of the best-performing paper-Magic Vintage decks for a solid two-year span, and I am not at all surprised to see the deck asserting itself early on as the “top dog” in Vintage. The deck is extremely powerful, consistent, and can win the game in a variety of different ways: it can win the game on turn one by essentially “prison-ing” an opponent to death beneath Sphere effects and Chalice of the Void, but it can also grind an opponent out with its heavy threat density.

Power + Consistency + Lots of Threats = Solid.

If Mishra’s Workshop really is the “best deck” in Vintage, I think that there is a really good reason for why:

Despite all my rage I can’t Oath because my opponent has a Grafdigger’s Cage.

Cage is basically the best possible card that could have been printed for a Mishra’s Workshop deck to help solve its two worst matchups, Oath and Dredge! Shoring up those two matchups by virtue of an automatic four-of sideboard card has gone a long way toward pushing Shops up to the top of the mountain.

If I were to give an online player one piece of advice moving forward in the online metagame it would be this:

“However good you think your Workshop matchup is, I promise you it isn’t good enough. Make it better.”

That also goes for Workshop players! With Mishra’s Workshop decks being so dominant online right now, Workshop players should probably focus even more on the mirror than they typically would in a paper tournament.

One thing I want to put out there right away is that I have no complaint with MUD being the best deck right now. I straight-up predicted that Workshops would be the best out of the gate, and I feel that it is just a very natural place for things to be a couple of weeks in. Also, the best “metagames” in Vintage have typically been ones in which Mishra’s Workshop is extremely competitive.

People can actually adapt and improve their match ups against Workshop decks if they try hard enough, or at least that has historically been the case. If Workshops continue to thrive, people simply need to start playing more Ancient Grudge, Nature’s Claim, Serenity, Trygon Predator, and Hurkyl’s Recalls.

Nature's Claim Trygon Predator Hurkyl's Recall Ancient Grudge

“Problem solved.”

I promised a Griselbrand. I keep my promises.

Obviously, I’m going to feature a 4-0 Vintage deck from Luis Scott-Vargas. Also, I’m not surprised he’s bucking the Workshop trend and playing a sweet blue combo deck.

One trend that LSV has picked up on with his winning list that I have been hearing a lot about from my Vintage connections in the northeastern United States is playing more and more Show and Tells in Oath. The primary reason for this is that if you can Show a Griselbrand it typically doesn’t matter what your opponent Shows, however Show and Tell gives the deck a great alternate win condition that completely ignores Grafdigger’s Cage!

I Tell you that the Show must go on.

I think that LSV’s decklist is a very well-built and well-prepared Oath of Druids list. However, I would probably advise other, less “LSV” players to mod this deck with more hate for Workshop decks.

Back in the olden days of Vintage, we used to refer to this concept as “Workshop Training Wheels.” Playing against Workshop decks is in my opinion one of the most difficult experiences to master in all of Magic because order and sequencing of spells is so critical and often one small mistake leads to a player losing on the spot.

I understand that all of Magic is like that and that making mistakes costs games, however against Mishra’s Workshop decks all of the math becomes different because all of one’s spells suddenly cost more and it becomes necessary to anticipate lines of play that take into account more future Sphere effects and any other constraints the Shop player can put upon one’s mana production.

The “Training Wheels” concept takes into consideration that the matchup is really difficult to play and that some players who do not have LSV’s mastery of the format and years of experience playing against Workshops might want more sideboard hate than he does.

There are only really two matchups where a player can’t have “too much hate” in Vintage: Dredge and Workshops.

For reference, here is the other 4-0 Oath of Druids list, which interestingly enough opts to play 4x Emrakul, the Eons Torn over Griselbrand.

In my last “What’s New in Vintage” article, a few people complained in the comments that I didn’t feature a Grixis Control list. Well, the reason for that was that Grixis Control didn’t win jack-squat over the course of the month I was featuring!

No worries, Grixis Control did manage to 4-0 a Daily last week and I am happy to supply all of the Grixis fans with this pretty sweet list:

Pretty standard Grixis Control put into practice: play all the good cards.

One thing that I think is really telling about the format is that Grixis Control (which is a Tinker / Yawgmoth’s Will deck) is sideboarding two copies of Grafdigger’s Cage to combat Oath and Dredge!

Writing this article has really crystallized for me the profound impact that the card Grafdigger’s Cage has actually had on the format in the past year. Grafdigger’s Cage may very well be the best unrestricted spell in Vintage!!!

I love these 4c Humans decks! They are jam packed with disruptive creatures that can bring the beatdown.

I have been waiting for a very long time for Stoneforge Mystic to make the jump to being a premiere-level Vintage playable. While the Stoneforge may not be the centerpiece of the Humans deck (or even a Human for that matter…) it is pretty cool to see the card getting some play in a competitive deck.

I remember the first time I heard about this deck somebody told me, “Brian, you’ve got to check out this hilariously bad deck that somebody did well with at GenCon!” So, I looked at the decklist and my snap response was, “I don’t know what you are talking about – I hope I never have to play against that!”

The whole deck is full of cards that are really tough to play against, and they all put the opponent on a clock at the same time.

I also love the way that this deckbuilder has the absolute right idea given what is going on with the Vintage metagame and is maindecking three copies of Ingot Chewer.

So, it has come to this…

I also love the maindeck Path to Exile over Swords to Plowshares. So, MUD Mage, got any basics in there? Let me check, no.

It isn’t surprising that Oath of Druids and Mishra’s Workshop seem to be immediately separating themselves from the pack as premiere Vintage decks on Magic Online. Both decks are extremely powerful and consistent and do things that are fundamentally unfair (play a land that taps for three or put Griselbrand into play for two mana!).

Whether a player chooses to align themselves with Oathing Druids or Mudding Forgemasters or ultimately decides to fight against these powerful strategies, it is important to recognize that Online Vintage has a couple of top dogs at the moment. Playing hate for these decks will be important in the coming weeks, and cards that are good against both will be at a premium.

I would expect that Nature’s Claim and Trygon Predator will take a big step forward in the next few weeks and become bigger players in the online metagame. I could also see a deck like BUG Fish which can pack Nature’s Claims, Trygon Predators and Abrupt Decay as being a deck that could potentially be well-positioned for a few nice 4-0 showings.

I’m really excited to see whether or not Oath and particularly Workshop have the staying power it takes to remain perched at the top and are simply better than most of the other decks, or if the Online Vintage metagame will move in cycles between Fish, Mana Drain, and Workshop all taking turns being the hot deck of the month.