Picking Brains – The Innistrad Vintage Review

Innistrad block looks to be shaping up to provide Vintage with a decent amount of new playable cards. Mark Hornung evalutes all the playable cards and new decks.

Picking Brains – The Innistrad Vintage Review

I told myself I wasn’t going to do a set review, but then looking through the spoiler, I felt really excited about this set’s potential
impact on Vintage and went ahead with one. There are usually tons of set reviews all over the Internet so I wanted to make this one a bit more specific
and compact than most.

I chose just to highlight which cards may or may not be played in Vintage. Obviously I will have some misses, but I feel I covered the majority of what
may (or currently does) see play in Vintage. Vintage is different than most formats in terms of card evaluation. Things that are often more than 3-4
mana are just simply too slow unless they have a near game-winning effect or can be easily cheated out. I wouldn’t say I’m the best at card
evaluation, but I had a few people ask me what I thought about this set, so I decided to record my thoughts.

Innistrad block looks to be shaping up to provide Vintage with a decent amount of new playable cards.

In my review I decided to only talk about cards that at worst would see fringe Vintage play. Below are the cards that in my opinion warrant serious
consideration or are just currently fringe playable for Vintage. I also provided some decklists from notable Vintage players with some of the cards to
get the brewing juices going for everyone…

Serious Considerations

Purify the Grave and Stony Silence

I grouped these two together because I feel they will end up sharing the same home in Vintage, W/x aggro archetypes. The white Coffin Purge and the
enchantment Null Rod, both of which I feel will have a future home in the archetype known as Noble Fish. After discussing Innistrad with one of the
deck’s notable pilots, Mike Noble, he forwarded me a list of his latest version.

Purify the Grave

If you are looking for graveyard hate cards in Vintage, 99.9% of the time it is to combat Dredge. Coffin Purge doesn’t see play because there are
just way better options available to you if you’re playing black; Leyline of the Void, Planar Void, Yixlid Jailer, and Extirpate to name the big
ones. Also, no matter what colors you are playing you have access to Tormod’s Crypt, Relic of Progenitus, Nihil Spellbomb, Ravenous Trap, and
Surgical Extraction.

With that, I still believe that Purify the Grave can still make the cut in Vintage though. Purify the Grave is suited to be a support card, paired with
something more to be effective. The pairing here with Ravenous Trap seems like it can be a successful one against Dredge. What really makes it playable
though is the utility outside of this matchup.

Purify the Grave helps in a couple ways, first being able to hit two separate cards from the graveyard. Thus providing it the extra utility outside of
the Dredge matchup; Mike even suggested that it could be boarded in against other decks such as Gush, Minus-6, Oath, and Workshop decks that utilize
Goblin Welder. The logic here is that essentially all decks in Vintage look to utilize their graveyards in one way or another. Yawgmoth’s Will,
Animate Dead, Noxious Revival, and Goblin Welder are obviously more effective when the graveyard is nice and full. Being an instant is what makes this
card most effective; responding to Yawgmoth’s Will, Animate Dead, Noxious Revival, and Goblin Welder with Purify the Grave gives it that extra
utility needed to see play outside just the Dredge matchup and possibly into future sideboards of Noble Fish.

Stony Silence

Here is the other card that slots nicely into Noble Fish. It also opens up the possibility of effectively running Kataki, War’s Wage if you were
so inclined to do so. Stony Silence offers Noble Fish pilots a lot of upside for a bit of risk. The card is vastly superior to Null Rod given that fact
that it is an enchantment. Looking through tournament results of five tournaments after Vintage Champs, I found 19 decks that placed with Time Vault
Voltaic Key. Of those 19, only five had Nature’s Claims (main or side), with only nine decks having even an answer to a resolved Stony Silence;
only six had an answer in the 60, often being only a one-of. With Noble Fish adapting Mental Missteps, which can protect Stony Silence from
Nature’s Claim, I feel it’s a pretty easy inclusion over Null Rod in this metagame, however not without some risk.

Null Rod’s cost of two colorless mana allowed for a wide range of opening hands, which you could keep with Noble Fish. With the deck utilizing
Wastelands and Moxen, it can sometimes be tough on your mana color-wise, but Null Rod allowed you to ignore or play through it. An example of an
average hand which you could keep:

Wasteland, Null Rod, Tarmogoyf, Tropical Island, Force of Will, Mox Sapphire, and Meddling Mage

Replace Null Rod with Stony Silence and the hand is pretty much stone nothing now thanks to the mana restriction on Stony Silence. In this case though
I feel being an enchantment outweighs the risk presented by your mana when it comes to including Stony Silence in the Noble Fish archetype. Down the
road, if this archetype becomes… popular… ever… it could lead to some deck construction changes, but it will most likely always stay
a lower tiered, less popular Vintage deck.

Ancient Grudge


Uhh…I believe you are already in Vintage sir….

Ghost Quarter

Same as Ancient Grudge

Forbidden Alchemy

My initial thought was Impulse is better and doesn’t see play in Vintage. The myth is that Vintage games would never last long enough to even
consider flashing this back. I believe both of those statements aren’t entirely accurate and here is why…

On the surface it looks like Impulse is better; nothing goes to the graveyard, and it cost one mana less. The problem with Impulse is that it
doesn’t necessarily filter; it only digs. If you use one of your fetchlands or tutor effects, you may run into the same cards you just put on the
bottom of your library with Impulse. Forbidden Alchemy both filters and digs.

Forbidden Alchemy lets you bin the unwanted cards such as extra lands, mana sources, or even some Goblin Welder targets (Slaver.dec anyone?!?). The
card also plays nicely with Ancient Grudge, Accumulated Knowledge, and even some of the newly printed cards like Snapcaster Mage and Past in Flames.
You could even bin a Blightsteel Colossus, which essentially makes it a bad Impulse. I feel this card could be paired really well in a potentially new
Welder control deck and the current Turbo Tezz builds, which try to assemble their Vault-Key combo as fast as they can.

Turbo Tezz also runs Grim Monoliths, which can help fuel early Forbidden Alchemy plays but also allow Forbidden Alchemy to filter out your unwanted
Grim Monoliths and lands when they get in the way.

The key interaction with this card I feel is Yawgmoth’s Will. This card lets you dig and search deeper than Thirst for Knowledge at the same mana
cost, letting you set up very deadly Yawgmoth’s Will or maybe even Past in Flames. I feel the digging ability paired with the access you have to
Yawgmoth’s Will could very well make Forbidden Alchemy Vintage playable.

Games can go long in Vintage, especially blue deck against blue deck. I have seen and played games where a blue pilot had a ton of mana, but nothing to
do with it because they kept running into lands, something Forbidden Alchemy certainly can help fix. Being able to generate seven mana to flash this
card back isn’t out of the question either, especially if you’re running a lot of artifact mana accelerants or playing Mana Drains. The
games you do actually flashback Forbidden Alchemy will be few and far between, but being able to do it on your opponent’s end step can only be
seen as a positive for this card.

I feel the recent unrestricting of Fact or Fiction could however limit this card’s potential, but only time will tell. Here is the list I’ve been
testing with both Fact or Fiction and Forbidden Alchemy.

Past in Flames

Originally I was super stoked, and then I came crashing back, and now I am in-between… Anything that resembles Yawgmoth’s Will is obviously
going to have some buzz to it. Past in Flames gives instants or sorceries in your graveyard the ability to be flashed back. This card seems destined
for insane things in Legacy, but in Vintage I’m just unsure of its place at the moment.

For now I can see it certainly as a one-of, especially in a Gifts Ungiven or Intuition piles. Imagine being able to end of turn Gifts Ungiven for Past
in Flames, Yawgmoth’s Will, Ancestral Recall, Snapcaster Mage; Intuition for Yawgmoth’s Will, Past in Flames, X.

Both are incredibly strong plays but need some set up and the mana in order to be effective. With that said, I feel it has a lot of potential and could
even lead to some new storm decks being brewed in Vintage. If a B/R/X storm deck appears in the metagame, then I’m sure this card will be a vocal
point, but for now dedicated storm decks appear to be M.I.A.

Could this lead to a storm resurgence? I guess we will see…

Laboratory Maniac

Its converted mana cost is a mere three, and it has the words “you win the game.” SIGN ME UP!! Anything that flat out says you win the game
deserves to be looked at. What?!?! I have to mill my whole deck… So how can we get ourselves to an empty library the quickest…? What deck
can mill itself the fastest??


The problem is building the deck to utilize him as a win condition, but this is what I’ve used as a base for testing:

Literally one of the funniest decks I have ever played in Magic. Cephalid Coliseum is huge in this version of Dredge; it provides extra lands which can
help fuel the deck in terms of its threshold ability, unearthing Fatestitcher, or trying to actually hard-cast Laboratory Maniac. It is still equipped
with the Sun Titan engine to power through your deck to empty it as well as Dread Returning your Laboratory Maniac before doing so. This is only the
appetizer to a future article I am currently working on, so I won’t dwell on this list too much in this article. Hopefully this is enough of a
fire starter for you guys to come up with some of your own builds utilizing this evolution of Dredge.

Liliana of the Veil

Ahh… My sleeper of the set for Vintage…

Everyone knows this card is going to be good, especially in Standard, but for three mana and two of them being black, this girl will make her way to
possibly Vintage and Legacy.

Turn one Dark Ritual into Liliana of the Veil seems EXTREMELY GOOD….

The big drawback obviously has to be discarding a card, but why does that have to be a drawback, especially since you have Yawgmoth’s Will and/or
Past in Flames? Gushing, no problem, you can discard one of the extra lands now in your hand and potentially hit a better card from your opponent. Your
opponent on turn one plays Dark Confidant, easy… or maybe they play turn-one Tinker into their Blightsteel Colossus; Liliana doesn’t even
break a sweat. Given the right deck construction, this could potentially see play.

It’s obviously best when being casted with Dark Rituals, but I am not 100% sold yet in finding a home in a Tendrils-based Storm deck, which
traditionally runs multiple Dark Rituals. In most of the control decks in the format, it may be a potential sideboard card, but I feel to fully utilize
it you may want to build around it more.

There is one deck however that does play Dark Rituals that isn’t a Tendrils-based deck, Dark Times. Dark Times is a black-based deck centered
around disrupting the opponent and winning with the Vampire Hexmage/Dark Depths combo. In speaking with the deck’s creator, Max Brown, he
mentioned that this would be a very welcomed addition to his deck.

Liliana provides both the discard and the edict effects this deck looks to load up on all in one card. It has the extra fodder to discard as well, such
as extra lands, discard spells, and Leylines. It is also set up to abuse Liliana’s effects thanks to having maindeck Leylines (permanently exile
opponent’s cards), Crucible, and Yawgmoth’s Will. For now, this looks to be the best archetype setup to use Liliana, but I feel that others
may emerge, possibly even as a sideboard option.

Witchbane Orb

Ivory Mask reprinted into an artifact. The destroy curses clause is not Vintage relevant at the moment, but the fact that it is an artifact and it
gives you hexproof is. Traditionally one of the tougher matchups for Mishra’s Workshop archetypes has been Oath of Druids decks. If Oath of
Druids is on the field and you cast Witchbane Orb, your opponent canNOT target you with their Oath trigger, thus negating their combo. Witchbane Orb is
also helped by the fact that it costs only four mana. Given that most of the lands in your Workshop deck produce at least two mana and has a bunch of
artifact accelerants, this should hit the field at turn two the latest.

This card also helps protect you from Hurkyl’s Recall and Tendrils of Agony as well. Most blue control and Storm decks’ game plans against
Workshop strategies are to set up a Hurkyl’s Recall on the end of the Workshop player’s turn to allow them to set up a big potential
winning turn for them. Being able to play this card will essentially blank that card for them, making blue decks play Rebuild over Hurkyl’s,
possibly. That said, this still needs to make it into the 75, with it most likely ending up in the sideboard. Noted Workshop theorist and player Nick
Detwiler said this on Witchbane Orb, “A necessary effect for Workshops and an important printing. Will see play as a three-of out of sideboards.”

If you are utilizing a more controlling prison type build, this will most likely be a welcomed addition to your sideboard. If you are playing with a
more aggressive build, I feel this card will not be necessary nor fit the type of game plan you want. Workshop decks that set up for longer games will
tend to benefit the most from this card. Sideboards for Workshop decks are very tight at the moment, so I’m unsure of the exact configuration as of
now. If you expect a lot of Tendrils and Oath in your metagame I expect this will somehow get into your sideboard…

Fringe Play

Memory’s Journey

This one is pretty clear-cut. A VASTLY superior Krosan Reclamation in every aspect… You can now target three cards; it’s blue so it pitches to
Force of Will, and its flashback cost is cheaper. Anywhere you would want to play Krosan Reclamation, in Demon Oath for example, is now easily replaced
with Memory’s Journey.

Undead Alchemist

At the moment I feel this is fringe at best. Dredge is very fast, and to be effective the hate you are using needs to be reliably castable by turn two
or risk feeling the blowout. Even when he hits the board turn two, the Dredge player will still be able to activate their other spells and abilities.
Dredge decks will have a somewhat tougher time dealing with him, but if he hits after turn three, you will already be dead. If more Dredge decks begin
to pack more Ichorids, this card can easily be played around paired with Bridge from Below and Bloodghast.

The problem is that Dredge can just continue to discard Bloodghasts and Ichorids to continue building a Zombie army the hard way via Cabal Therapy and
Dread Return. Yixlid Jailer just completely shuts the whole deck down… If this was a 2/1 that cost 1U with the same abilities, it would compete
for a spot, but as it stands now Yixlid Jailer is just the superior card.


Mindshrieker was an interesting alternative presented to me by Tom Dixon for Minus 6 aka Worldgorger Dragon combo. Given Minus 6’s increased
exposure and that both Phyrexian Revoker and Pithing Needle are floating around, this could provide a great alternative kill if your opponent names
Oona, Queen of the Fae. I’m not quite sure if you would want this in the 60 or the 75, but either way if people are on the lookout for Minus 6 this can
provide an alternate for potential hate.

Obvious meets Obvious in the Department of Redundancy Department

Snapcaster Mage

Maybe it’s because this card is so hyped even Kanye West notices.

kanye bob

Maybe it’s because I don’t like jamming stuff down people’s throats.

Maybe it’s because I could write an entire article on this card in Vintage alone.

Maybe it’s because it’s that obvious.

Maybe it’s because I am coping out because I am lazy or something….

You will never know…..

That said, this is a pretty obvious one. Pickup four and let the brewing begin…

Innistrad looks like it has plenty to offer in terms of possible cards that might see play. It could even lead to the birth of some new archetypes as
well as the revival of some older ones. Evaluating cards that may be Vintage playable is a unique endeavor, especially given the fact you can play
pretty much any card printed in the history of the game. The key is looking for cards that do something that haven’t been printed before, or
maybe have been but in a different color. I tried to provide my best opinion on what I believed to be playable, but I’m interested in what you guys
think. I am way off? Missing a card? Overhyping a card? Any exciting brews with the above cards? Let me know what you guys think and what you want to
see in future set reviews.

These are the cards I picked up or at least tried to at my Prerelease event.

4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Liliana of the Veil
4 Laboratory Maniac
4 Stony Silence
3 Purify the Grave
2 Past in Flames
1 Mindshrieker
3 Undead Alchemist
2 Memory’s Journey
4 Witchbane Orb
4 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Ghost Quarter
4 Ancient Grudge

And… one Endless Ranks of the Dead… only because I am a Zombie guy (OBV!!), and this card’s art is pretty much the nut high!!

Till next time…

Mark Hornung

@womba_ on Twitter