Predictions for Vintage in 2005

The man known as Zherbus takes a moment to look into his crystal ball and predict what a new year of Magic will bring to the Vintage format. What sort of controversial items are on the plate for this year and how much does this esteemed Vintage pundit agree with the vile Bleiweiss? You’ll have to read the article to find out.

Waterbury will break Vintage records

Raymond Robillard (Iamfishman on TMD) holds top-notch tournaments that not only prove to be successful Vintage events, but an incredible experience altogether. The entire event is more about the Vintage community than anything, and Ray’s experimentation with a Day 2 and side events should prove to be successful.

With more premiere events for Type One, the circuit will only strengthen the Waterbury events and drive attendance numbers up. Events like this and the SCG events further strengthen the Vintage community because it’s the perfect formula for a good time. While a Pro Tour can be fun, much of it can be ruined by the seriousness the allure of a $30,000 prize can bring. You’re winning at best a few power cards, which is awesome enough to make the tournament competitive, but not so much that people do things like quit their day job, violate ethics severely, or cheat (well, not too much).

The StarCityGames Vintage Circuit will expand

The effect of the SCG Type 1 “Grand Prix” circuit is a more competitive format and with that will come more devoted attendees. They have just started to invade the Midwest and Northeast, but I predict bigger, better, and further things in StarCityGames’ tournament future. The details of this circuit are here.

Highlights include:

1) Having Artists on hand for card-signing which is a big plus since Type 1 players are the BIGGEST card pimps on the planet.

2) Holding the events alongside Prereleases, so a large crowd will be a guarantee.

3) Holding the events in a conflict-free schedule. One of the great things about the Type One community is the willingness to work together. Waterbury and SCG thrive on each others success and holding these tournaments apart from each other keeps the scene strong.

While they are still all too far for me to realistically attend (I won’t travel over four hours), I suggest that everyone that has the luxury of travel or convenience of locality to attend these events. The better that StarCityGames does at these events, the more there will be. Also, more Vintage articles will be available to you as the popularity of the format increases.

Dark Ritual will be restricted

What I really wanted to say here was that “Dark Ritual might be restricted,” but that wouldn’t be much of a prediction, now would it? I talked about it enough here to last us until the next round of restrictions. As sound as my theory on Belcher and it’s contribution (along with Workshop-Trinisphere) to elevating the randomness factor of the format, I don’t think it will be paid much heed until after it runs its course some more in Vintage.

Trinisphere will be restricted

It’s been talked to death, and will continue to be talked about until something is done. I can only make an educated guess that Trinisphere will be restricted before Mishra’s Workshop, Crucible, or Goblin Welder would ever be up for consideration. I’ll leave my prediction at: “Turn 1 Mishra’s Workshop into Trinisphere” will no longer be a problem for the format.

The summer Vintage season will showcase the format’s best players

With the new restrictions of Trinisphere and Dark Ritual, less people will be able to luck-sack their way through the Swiss rounds. Looking at SCG III: Chicago, there were two 5/3 reports written here on StarCityGames. The following quotes leave me in the dark to what kind of player this is.

“Game 1: I got the turn 1 Trinisphere.”

“Game 2: Once again, I got a turn 1 Trinisphere

“Game 2: I got out an early Crucible of Worlds/Trinisphere lock.”

“Game 2: Turn 1 Trinisphere.”

“Game 1: I got an absolutely crazy draw. I laid a Trinisphere the first turn”

“Game 3: If I remember right, I believe that I got out an early Trinisphere, and he was unable to work his way out from under it.”

These are all from the winner’s report. The second report seemed to forget more of what happened, but there were still some Trinisphere mentions. Looking at the above quotes, that’s like six free wins plus the two or three that are like “Game 1: He got mana screwed”, it adds up to the equivalent of about four bye rounds. This guy could be the rising star of the Type One circuit or the worst player to ever touch a Mishra’s Workshop. The whole point is that I don’t know because the combination of three first-turn mana and Trinisphere is just devastating to the integrity of the format. Those who were bad players that hid behind the wall that Trinisphere builds will go back to the lower brackets, those who were any good will likely continue to do well no matter what they play.

We’ll finally get better pictures from high-profile Vintage events

The days where Aaron Kerzner’s cell phone is the primary provider of images from our events is numbered. With more people bringing digital video cameras, digital still cameras, and disposables, I expect some damn good photo essays from these events. People will finally be able to read what peoples shirts say, what cards in play actually are, and the dreaminess that is sexy me.

The entire CHK Block will have a “Mercadian Masque”-ish effect on Vintage

We’ll have a few cards that will see play (like Forbidden Orchard), but we’re obviously not going to see Mirrodin (or Urza’s) Block level craziness. As Ben Bleiweiss said, the pattern that Wizards seems to be setting up shows this current block as a T1 dud.

I think this is more or less a good thing for the format and here’s why: When you have a format that allows cards from every set, it takes some time for a new set to work itself in naturally. When Mirrodin came out, it took some time to weed out the cards we thought would be format defining (like Isochron Scepter), work through the cards we knew would define the format (Chalice of the Void) and discover the cards that were actually format defining (Platinum Angel). When we get platinum hits from the rest of the block (Trinisphere and Sundering Titan), it offers so many opportunities for innovation that we’re still working with new ideas from those sets.

With a block that’s more or less crap for Vintage, it gives us some time to work the good-card-overload out. Not only does it give us more time to play with new ideas and a shifting environment, but it also allows for us to see what will need restriction.

Ravnica block will be the next Invasion block

Okay, so I stole this one from Ben Bleiweiss

Ravnica will have one card that eventually gets restricted

It may not happen until 2006, but it’ll happen. There will be a draw engine (like Fact or Fiction), a combo enabling accelerant, or yet another lock component that will prove too strong. While it may not happen until 2006, I have high-expectations for the current Type One community to snap new cards in half much faster than we did in 2001.

People will get bored with “Ban Yawgmoth’s Will” and move on to “Ban Tinker

People will be more accepting of being ripped apart by a Yawgmoth’s Will, especially since it’s a late game card. Tinker, however, wins games on turn 1. The major difference in these cards is that you need a Force of Will to stop a Tinker, but you can Mana Drain a Will. Regardless, these people will just cause enraged discussion in the forums over a ridiculous request.

More Extended people will come to Type One than to Legacy

Another wave of rotations in Extended always means more players for the oldest formats. This happens simply because people have spent money on cards and will want to use them. Type One has a good support system set up with a strong prize support system, a high-traffic site devoted solely to the format, and a well-documented deck structure.

Call me a skeptic, but without direct intervention from Wizards in the form of Qualifiers, Grad Prix, or Legacy World Champs, this format’s going to remain the basket where old Extended decks go to die.

Affinity will still suck in Vintage

‘Nuff said.

Honestly, it wins by creatures doing damage over a series of turns. It has no chance of grandeur in Type One. It might steal a Top 8 every so often, but I’ll be more surprised to see Ravagers run rampant in Type One than to wake up and find my neck stapled to my pillow.

Control Slaver will still be huge in Vintage

No matter what the restrictions I hope for will bring, Control Slaver will remain unscathed. It’s going to be a viable piece of Vintage for quite some time to come. Not only that, but it’s two major variants (Traditional Control Slaver, ala Rich Shay, a.k.a. Type One Good Man of the Year and Intuition Slaver, ala Meandeck, a.k.a. The-most-hated-but-beloved-at-the-same-time Team in Vintage) will likely both be the most dominant archetype if Dark Ritual and Trinisphere get restricted. Of course, the Intuition Slaver is a mere template for decks like Titan.dec and to a lesser extent Tog and Meandeck Oath.

//Bonus Section!

The last tournament I played it, I piloted Intuition Slaver. I had three rounds that luck dictated the outcome (either lucky wins or unlucky losses) which I detailed in my rant on Belcher (which accounted for two of those rounds). I had another round where my opponent just couldn’t beat me by virtue of the deck he was playing and another round against Kowal, who ran Tog complete with Welder-hating Ground Seals.

Whenever I play, I always look for something that could have been improved. In my days of playing 4-Color Control, I could always look back on my performance (good or bad) and give myself an evaluation based on the following:

  • Plays I could have made differently.

  • Good sideboard cards and those I never used.

  • Maindeck slots that could have worked better.

  • Any mulligans I should have taken.

All of these things are the life-breath of improvement, especially if you are your own toughest critic. These things are something you should think about on the drive home or the next day at work/school. Worrying about the spell you should have countered during the tournament will just get into your head and cause more mistakes.

Getting back on track, I learned one thing from the one round I could have had any effect on. Intuition-based Slaver (or Titan) decks devote most of the deck’s resources to draw, counters, and mana, which leaves little room for solutions via Cunning Wish, removal, or disruption (which are all things that 4cControl has). It other words, the deck is putting all of its eggs into one basket and simplifying its game plan. It draws more cards than the opponent (ideally), and therefore will be able to stop the opposing deck from A) executing its own game plan or B) preventing you from executing yours.

However, spells resolve, things get countered, some hands are better than others, etc.

Ground Seal is a perfect example. Once that resolves, much of Intuition Slaver’s power is diminished because of its reliance on Welder. My solution, which I’ve only been able to test with a few teammates, is to implement a sideboard plan that takes Welders out for Psychatog, Lava Dart, and Red Elemental Blast to have strategic superiority over the Slaver Mirror and to get around Ground Seal.

The idea is still unrefined, but here’s what I have so far:

4 Accumulated Knowledge

4 Brainstorm

4 Thirst for Knowledge

3 Intuition

1 Tinker

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Time Walk

4 Force of Will

4 Mana Drain

4 Goblin Welder

1 Mindslaver

1 Platinum Angel

1 Pentavus

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Yawgmoth’s Will

5 Island

4 Volcanic Island

2 Underground Sea

1 Darksteel Citadel

4 Polluted Delta

1 Library of Alexandria

1 Mox Emerald

1 Mox Jet

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Ruby

1 Mox Pearl

1 Sol Ring

1 Black Lotus

1 Mana Crypt


4 Chalice of the Void

3 Psychatog

2 Rack and Ruin

2 Lava Dart

4 Red Elemental Blast

The basic plan for problem pseudo-mirror matchups would be:

Mirror (all Slaver variants)

-1 Pentavus

-1 Mind Slaver

-1 Tinker

-4 Welders

+3 Psychatog

+2 Red Elemental Blast

+2 Lava Dart


-4 Welder

-3 Intuition

+3 Psychatog

+4 Red Elemental Blast

I haven’t had the chance to bring this idea to the field, so I’d be interested to see if someone else does. I’ve moved on to different projects including a new 4cControl, so I’ll have my hands full with that.

//Bonus Section

Until next time,

Steve O'Connell

A.K.A. Zherbus

Owner/Admin of TheManaDrain.com

Team Meandeck

Devourer of Worlds