Oathbreaking In Prague

Carsten catches you up on his latest big Vintage event! If you’re still learning the format, you can’t miss Carsten’s report with one of the most powerful decks around: Oath!

Well, I know this report about the Prague Eternal event has been a little delayed, but luckily, Vintage, like Legacy, doesn’t evolve with the breakneck
speed of the Standard metagame, so it should still be interesting to those who want to know about Magic’s oldest and brokenest format. Sadly, I don’t
remember Sunday’s Vintage event in as much detail as the Legacy part – for one, it seems I lost my life notes, which doesn’t help. Even if I had them
though, they would be a lot less effective than my Legacy notes largely due to the fact that I didn’t play any Thoughtseizes or Gitaxian Probes.

That being said, there were still a number of memorable games and turns so I think there is quite a bit of value in being able to experience some of the
awesomeness that is Vintage second hand. With a little less focus on the games, however, that leaves me a little more time to talk about the list I played
and the format as a whole, which might turn out to be a blessing in disguise – we’ll see what you think, won’t we?

Step One: Oathbreaking

I originally planned to just play Storm all weekend but after a little two-fisted testing I was quite unhappy with Vintage Storm. Draw-7s are just terrible
cards in my opinion and without the copious amount of cantrips the Legacy deck has access to, you’re pretty much forced into playing them. If I get to play
the format more, I might try to build a different list from the ground up, but that really wasn’t an option this time. Storm lists are delicate beasts and
without significant testing, it’s incredibly hard to get them right if you can’t rely on a tried and true skeleton to modify a little.

On the other hand, there is something completely broken in Vintage that’s close to builds themselves: Griselbrand for 1G aka Oath of Druids combo-control.
The deck inherently has room for a ton of countermagic, a busted gameplan that costs only two mana to set up, and the ability to play an utterly reasonable
back up control game. I threw a tentative list together at home, played a couple of hands with it and found myself pretty sure that’s what I’d be doing in
Prague. Note: I didn’t actually feel like turning the awesomeness that is Vintage into work so instead of looking through the internet to find a list
someone had built and tuned for me, I just decided to wing it and enjoy the process.

Fast forward to Saturday evening. I had obviously left the list I had played around with sitting straight at home, so I just went back to the basics and
built the deck from scratch. Here’s what I knew:

– I was going to run four Oath of Druids, two Griselbrands and a Gaea’s Blessing to make Oathing safe. I just don’t see any justifiable reason to Oath intoDemonic Tutor instead of Yawgmoth’s Bargain. If I get it for free, I know which one I want, not to
mention Griselbrand has a better body.

– I wanted at least one MisdirectionAbrupt Decay is good in Vintage, or so I’ve heard.

– I was going to play at least three Swan Song to give me redundancy for my Forbidden Orchards.

– I wanted a singleton Show and Tell maindeck to tutor for if I drew a Griselbrand with more in the board to possibly fight Grafdigger’s Cage.

– My back up plan was going to be Jace, the Mind Sculptor setting up Time Vault/Voltaic Key – which also harmonized well with using Griselbrand purely as a
Yawgmoth’s Bargain for two mana.

– I wanted two Abrupt Decay myself to deal with annoying Null Rods and other unpleasant permanents.

– I wanted at least a single basic Island to fetch for against decks with Wasteland.

– I wouldn’t leave home without at least three Mental Misstep, two Mana Drain, and four Force of Will.

– I refuse to play Vintage without Yawgmoth’s Will. That card’s is just far too much fun.

Borrow Griselbrands, add lands, restricted mana acceleration and associated goodies, and my maindeck easily filled itself:

The Mystical Tutor was mainly meant as another maindeck way to find Show and Tell when needed and Time Walk when my big bad demon of doom had already made
it into play. It performed quite well, even without Tinker to go all in early. As a sidenote, I think trying to fit Tinker into this kind of shell is a
giant waste of space. Not only do you have a better plan already – Oath of Druids – you also need to run vastly inferior cards like Blightsteel Colossus
that might turn up when activating your plan A. Add to that my experience last time I played Blightteel – it clunked up my hand a lot – and I had no
interest in the corrupted robot at all.

As to the sideboard, the logic here was simple. I didn’t really have much at all I’d want to board out against control – so I had just another Misdirection
for Abrupt Decays – and Show and Tells against hatebear decks with too much postboard hate. I hate losing to Workshops though, and one of the better ways
to beat Shops is to trigger Oath of Druids and get a 7/7 lifelinking flyer so all I needed to do was make sure that could happen in peace. Enemy number one
in that case is Chalice of the Void on two, which meant maxing out on Abrupt Decays postboard as well as having one- and three-mana ways to create some
space on the battlefield. Pernicious Deed was meant to serve double duty as a three-mana out to their gameplan and a great tool against all those creatures
people seem to suddenly play in Vintage (what the heck?).

As to the format’s other bogeyman, Dredge, triggering Oath against them and using Griselbrand to find Vault/Key seemed already somewhat reasonable, so I
decided to make two of my anti-Dredge slots Needles (name Bazaar of Baghdad) so as to have even more random ways to hate Wasteland or Kuldotha Forgemaster.
The other four were filled with Ravenous Trap because I think that’s by far the best hate card against the deck.

When I played in the BOM Vintage event in the autumn, Dredge players boarded into a ton of ways to deal with permanent hate to the point that having
something that had to stick around seemed lackluster. In addition, I had done a little bit of testing after that event to see if my conclusion was correct
and Ravenous Trap was busted in half against them during those games. They had nearly no way to defend against it and playing around it slowed them down so
much that even the mess that was my Burning Wish control deck could easily race them or find another Trap and lock things up. Oath should be even better at
doing that, especially as I could use a Griselbrand to try and draw into them if necessary.

Now, I don’t claim all of this is correct – remember, I threw that list together the evening before playing it. However I think it makes sense for you to
know why this broken pile looked the way it did. Let’s see how it performed, shall we?

Step Two: Breaking Opponents

The event had enough players for six rounds into top 8. Sadly, something is very wrong with my recollection of events as there are a number of sweet and
less sweet things that I know happened throughout the day.

I lost one round to the fickleness of the Magic gods.

Game 1 is one of those games that teaches you to hate Magic. My opponent opened on turn 1 Tolarian Academy into Mox into Merchant Scroll for Ancestral
Recall. I had a hand with two pieces of artifact acceleration, my own Ancestral Recall, and a Misdirection. I deployed my Moxen, cast my Ancestral – which
resolved – but only drew three more lands. His Ancestral resolved and while I found yet another land, he had Snapcaster Mage to cast Ancestral again. Now I
drew a Force of Will and spent the rest of the game drawing more and more mana sources and another Force of Will – which I ended up hardcasting to no
avail. I know, variance happens. That doesn’t mean it has to taunt me with that Misdirection and the blue card finally showing up after he has Ancestraled
twice, does it?

The second game was even more anti-climactic as I mulliganed to a mediocre hand and just got crushed without ever doing much of anything aside from giving
my opponent Swans to kill me with.

I also know one game involved this awesome counterwar that led into getting lucky.

I had Griselbrand in play and attacked to finally procure myself some life to turn into cards. My opponent, who also has three to five points of power in
Snapcaster Mages and assorted small creatures in play, blocks with a Swan token I have kindly given him and casts Red Elemental Blast targeting his Swan to
stop the lifegain.

Me: Mental Misstep.

Him: Mental Misstep.

Me: Misstep again.

Him: Force of Will.

I finally had yet another Swan Song to make sure he didn’t get to Red Elemental Blast his Swan Song token.

Only in Vintage!

I got my seven life that I now dearly needed. After combat, I cycled my Gaea’s Blessing with only Force of Will in hand and drew Time Walk (!) but had only
a single mana left. However, he didn’t force me to Force, and I didn’t die on his turn so once I untapped and drew a blue card, Griselbrand plus Time Walk
finally took over.

There was also a game in which one of my opponents made an awesome read and ate my Sol Ring with his Gorilla Shaman during combat because I had signaled –
by checking my graveyard – that I had Yawgmoth’s Will in hand and in this way he ensured that I wouldn’t be able to Will into Time Walk that turn to untap
and swing again.

In game 3, I kept a greedy yet awesome hand after having seen Null Rod in my opponent’s deck the game before: Misdirection, blue card, Mox Emerald, Sol
Ring, double Oath of Druids on the play. I played Mox into Sol Ring on turn 1, and when he played land, Mox Jet, Black Lotus, Abrupt Decay the Mox Emerald,
Misdirection made him eat his own Mox instead. He followed up with a Deathrite Shaman and passed back, so I deployed my first Oath. He now had to play a
Wasteland that destroys itself just to generate colored mana with Deathrite Shaman and casts another Abrupt Decay. I had the second Oath, and he wasn’t too
happy that Griselbrand took over in short order.

I also threw one game away by being too aggressive and still not used to Mental Misstep being a thing: I opened with land, double Mox into Demonic Tutor
into Ancestral Recall targeting myself with Force of Will in hand but no other blue card. He had the Mental Misstep and I could only frown. He deployed
Dark Confidant on his turn, and I topdecked a Mental Misstep, followed by another. My two free counters trade with Deathrite Shamans now that it’s too late
for me to protect my own Ancestral, and I rapidly get buried by Bob Maher while Null Rod and Wastelands make sure I can’t actually do anything. I still
need to get used to Mental Misstep being in the format.

However, the problem is that, while I’m quite sure all these games happened, there is no way to fit them in with what I remember of the rounds listed below
unless I lost twice during the swiss – which I didn’t. To make a long story short, a lot of awesome things happened, but I can’t for the life of me put
them back into the correct order. Now with that out of the way, here are the rounds I do remember rather completely:

Round 1: BUG Fish

My opponent seemed to be praying while setting up his silver life counter and a porn-themed playmat so I was intrigued to say the least.

Game 1: Well, I’d played the deck because Oath of Druids looked utterly busted, and my deck set out preparing me for exactly that. While my opponent opened
with a tame Deathrite Shaman, I went turn one Orchard, Mox, Oath of Druids which resolved. Griselbrand made it into play on turn 2 and there wasn’t much my
opponent could do from that point.

As I was very much winging my sideboarding, I can’t say for sure what I did, but after the event I think what I should have been doing is to
bringing in the Misdirection (for his Abrupt Decay) and a Pernicious Deed (for his board and Grafdigger’s Cage).

Game 2: One game wasn’t enough. My opponent had land, Lotus, Dark Confidant, Deathrite Shaman. I had Orchard, Mox, Lotus, Oath (Force of Willed), Oath. I
even nearly managed to throw that game away by not aggressively fighting over my own Time Walk – I gave him an out to draw Time Walk himself and kill me as
I never drew a Force of Will and he had enough damage to kill me with a single swing back if I drew seven – but he didn’t hit and died to Griselbrand

I actually felt bad about my draws after the match – Oath really feels absurdly cheap at times – and excused, though he would hear none of it and accused
me of being insincere. I could only shrug and tell him I’d have preferred playing (well, winning in full honesty) more competitive games. I definitely felt
solid about my deck choice, however. Cheap or not, I’ve come to win.

Round 2: Goblins

My opponent was aware of what I was playing and told me before game 1 I was exactly who (what) he didn’t want to play against.

Game 1: I easily understood why when he opened on Mountain, Goblin Lackey, Chalice of the Void on zero. The all-creature deck against Oath can’t be great
for him. The game, however, didn’t work out well for me. I didn’t have an Oath until turn 3 or 4 at which point Lackey had already created a sizable board
in spite of him drawing mainly mediocre Goblins. When I finally got to Oath, my Griselbrand met Cavern of Souls protected Goblin Matron into Caverned
Stingscourger and I was 0-1.

I boarded in Decays and the Pernicious Deed for my terrible-seeming Swan Songs.

Game 2: He had an anemic draw involving Mogg Fanatic, another Chalice on zero, as well as a Grafdigger’s Cage. I had a control-ish hand with a couple of
Abrupt Decays and Mental Missteps. My cards started trading for his until the thing I hate most about modern Vintage happened: we were in a sweet spot with
the game possibly going either way and looking like a fun affair. Then I randomly topdecked the Time Vault to complement my Voltaic Key and the game just

Time Vault really is the dumbest thing about Vintage in my mind. Yes, broken draws happen, sure. However, usually when you draw broken things, you get to
do something awesome. You draw a million cards or cast Yawgmoth’s Will for most of your graveyard. Vault/Key doesn’t feel awesome, it feels boring as hell.
I wish they had never un-errataed the stupid thing.

Game 3: I had the Mental Misstep for his first Grafdiggers Cage, but Chalice on zero resolved again. He also had another Cage but a pretty slow draw to
accompany all the hate so I easily set up an Oath and found one of my four Abrupt Decays to threaten using it. His Mogg Fanatics suicided to empty his own
board, but I soon hit a Forbidden Orchard and Griseldaddy took it home.

Cavern of Souls seems awesome in Vintage if your deck can support it.

Round 3 and 4 involve me playing against BUG Fish and Grixis Control and have to be the main scenery for the awesome and totally un-awesome events
described during the introduction. If you were one of my opponents and can shed some light on the issue, it would be appreciated.

Round 5: Grixis Control

Game 1: I kept a greedy hand without any lands but a Mox and Black Lotus into turn 1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor on the play. Jace does its thing and I draw
Fetchlands off the zero ability. I easily keep control of the game and set up Time Vault/Voltaic Key without ever revealing that I’m actually playing Oath
of Druids.

Game 2: I don’t have a clear memory of this game other than that I lost while revealing that I was playing Oath of Druids. It’s possible that this is the
game in which the Sol Ring-eating shenanigans kept me from casting Yawgmoth’s Will for Time Walk, but I feel as if I would remember it if I had actually
lost after getting Griselbrand into play.

I know that he resideboarded, and that I decided that I wanted my Pernicious Deed in the deck against his creatures and likely, Grafdigger’s Cages.

Game 3: This one was pretty awesome. I had an early Oath but no Forbidden Orchard, and he managed to resolve two Grafdigger’s Cages while stopping my Jace,
the Mind Sculptor but has no threats of his own other than to dig away with his Sensei’s Divining Top. I Vampiric Tutor for Pernicious Deed during his end
step and Deed away his Cages as well as the Mana Crypt that might otherwise threaten to kill me over the course of a couple of turns. He redeploys the Top
but avoids playing spells into my unknown hand, correctly avoiding Swan Songs right into Griselbrand.

Then I messed up quite badly: I had Swan Song and a Yawgmoth’s Will in hand with the Pernicious Deed, Mana Crypt, a Mox, Vampiric Tutor, Brainstorm, a
Fetchland, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor in my graveyard. I play the Will and, like a noob, replay my artifact mana (I’m at about twelve life at this point)
planning to recast the Jace. At this point, I realize that I’m an idiot and can just find Forbidden Orchard with Vampiric, Brainstorm into it, and
Griselbrand next turn. I proceed to Vampiric, find the Orchard and cast Brainstorm – at which point he flips his Top and Extirpates my Jace, the Mind
Sculptor, shuffling away the Orchard. I don’t hit an Orchard with the Brainstorm – just more countermagic – but at least I can shuffle with the fetchland
from the graveyard.

I get lucky on Mana Crypt rolls a couple of times and when I start losing them, I finally find an Orchard and Griseldad turns up. He scoops when I reveal
my hand full of countermagic once the lifelink has Mana Crypt under control.

Note to self: think first, then play cards that can kill you. Man, am I relieved that that mess up hasn’t cost me the top 8.

Round 6: I happily draw into the Top 8.

Quarterfinals: BUG Fish

My opponent actually tought about it when I made my patented “you wanna let me play first?” *grin grin *wink wink *nudgen nudge quip at the beginning of the match but decided to do the
expected thing and took the play himself.

Game 1: My hand was awesome: Force of Will, blue card, Mystical Tutor, Mental Misstep, Oath of Druids, and two lands. He dropped Deathrite Shaman on turn
1, I played a fetchland, he had another land too and passed. I cast Mystical Tutor for Misdirection during his end step to play around Abrupt Decay. I
deploy my Oath, Force his Force, and pass. He Mysticals on upkeep and I don’t Misstep – big misplay–as he found Abrupt Decay and cast it so now I had to
Misdirect it to his Deathrite Shaman and couldn’t trigger Oath. Luckily I ran into Orchard before he hit another Decay, and I soon was halfway to the

Game 2: And that’s when he totally leveled me on karma. I did the whole “Wanna let me play first now? It didn’t work game 1!” routine – yes, I’m “lourd” as
the French would say – and he shocked me by saying “You know what? Sure, go ahead.” “Really?!” “Yeah, this is my first Vintage tournament anyway, I wanna
see what happens.”

I was dumbfounded but gamely drew my seven only to have to mulligan. My six were okay but not great and a couple of Wastelands, a Phyrexian Revoker, and an
Abrupt Decay made sure I never actually resolved a spell of relevance due to not being able to cast things that cost mana. The most awesome move happened
on the last turn of the game though. My opponent played a second Phyrexian Revoker with no relevant targets on the table, thought for a while, and said
“Mox Ruby.” You know what card I peeled before conceding? Yep, Mox Ruby. I obviously showed him and we had a good laugh about it.

Game 3: I spoiled my chance to buy karma back to my side and took the play. Trouble with drawing green mana, an Abrupt Decay for my Oath once I finally had
said green mana, and another couple of Wastelands later and the only thing left for me to do was to laugh about the Mox Ruby again and wish my opponent
luck in the semifinals.

Step Three: Breaking Down

All-in-all the event was awesome, and I really want to play more Vintage. I even made a couple of useful observations:

– Blue-based decks in the form of Grixis and BUG Fish were everywhere. As you can see, I played against those archetypes every round but one, and most of
what I saw around me was more of the same.

– Vintage is still awesome but was even more awesome when we had no Time Vault but got to play with Brainstorm to help make sure everybody had answers to
each other’s busted draws in blue mirrors.

– MUD looked ridiculous from the outside looking in. There were three players with the deck in attendance and two of them drew into top 8 from round 4
onward, with one of them taking down the whole thing.

– There were only one or two Dredge players. I might just ignore the deck next time – in Prague at least.

Oath also seems ridiculous. After having played with it, I can’t for the life of me figure out why this card isn’t the dominant – as in most played – blue
strategy in Vintage. Incredibly rusty and with a list I threw together an evening before, I easily managed to make top 8 of the event and only lost in
games that actually did feel like I hit the lower end of the variance spectrum (not to take anything away from my opponents – they definitely deserved
their wins and probably played quite a bit better than I did a lot of the time).

Oath is easy to resolve and usually decides the game within a turn of landing because Vintage today has a dirty little secret: everybody is playing
creatures. Even if Oath doesn’t trigger, its mere presence on the board often invalidates a lot of what the other player is trying to do. Answers like
Abrupt Decay and Grafdigger’s Cage rarely felt problematic at all with a minimum of preparation, and the main way to stop Oath from taking over was
actually to hope I didn’t hit it or couldn’t cast it.

The worst thing about the Oath deck in fact was building around Oath. Giving my opponents things to kill me with when I didn’t have Oath out felt like the
one real drawback to the strategy I was employing. Three Swan Song in particular was really bad as that 2/2 flyer is quite the clock especially when
combined with something usually negligible like Snapcaster Mage.

So what would I suggest? Well, if there was a Vintage tournament for me to play in soon – or if I were playing on MTGO – what I’d be most interested in
trying out is to get rid of most of the actual Oath support cards – the Orchards and Swan Songs. Instead I’d try to use Oath as we did it way back when: as
an easy to set up way for a dedicated control deck to blow out opponents that for some weird reason had decided to play with those strange creature
thingies. These two lists are where I’d start:

This is essentially the descendant of the deck I played in Prague, built to put the whole strategy of making Oath a two-mana card to punish opposing
creatures into action. The Orchards are in the board for matchups in which you actually need to give the opponent something to Oath at times – Storm, for
example, or MUD that can just lock you and win with Mishra’s Factory beatdown. Speaking of Mishra’s Factory, a list like this might want a couple of
manlands to make sure it can win under Oath even without having to resolve a Jace. Cutting the Show and Tells from the sideboard was easy, by the way – I
never really found room for them anyway and didn’t successfully deploy a Griselbrand with them all day either.

The thing I’d be even more interested in though, is to go back to combining the Gush-shell with Oath of Druids. I know Rich Shay – whom I’d trust
implicitly concerning Vintage – told me the old Gush Oath lists don’t work anymore without Brainstorm, but I think that might at least in part have been
due to the problems caused by combining Orchards and Gush’s Island requirement. By getting rid of the whole pretense of trying to enable Oath on your own –
at least in the maindeck – the deck might regain the consistency it lost when its best cantrip was reduced to just a one-of. I’d be pretty excited to try
out something like this:

I’m not sure what the sideboard for a list like this should look like as I’d love to have a full eight cards that I can at least reasonably bring in
against decks where I don’t need Oaths to turn into a full-blown Gush combo deck. On the other hand, the deck might want the Orchards used above to turn
into more of an Oath deck where appropriate. I’m not sure yet, I might be once I get to play Vintage next time. Please make sure to let me know how this
does for you if I’ve caught your fancy though.

Breaking Off

And here they are, my latest Vintage impressions. Let me know how you felt about the somewhat disjointed tournament report, my impressions of Vintage as a
whole, or the different take on Oath that I feel all of you regular Vintage players should be exploring right now. The format is still awesome so if you
can get the cards either online or in real life, make sure to cast some Moxen – it’s definitely worth it!