I spend a large chunk of my articles trying to make people in Vintage better players. This sort of teaching process has been a real learning experience for me. First off, I’d like to say it’s a very rewarding experience to help people get better. Second, it’s way harder than everyone told me it would be. I can see why some forum posters write long elaborate posts, but never write articles. You have to be way more coherent to do it.
Oh, I was going to tell you another tip to get better right? Into the fray we go!
Today’s lesson is the concept of narrow or “hate” cards in the maindeck. The purpose of main decking a narrow card is to have a better match against a specific deck or deck type preboard. As a secondary effect, it also frees up space in your board that you may not of had previously. This is an overlooked strength of the plan, since many times you’ll have to minimize a Cunning or Burning Wish board to fit those answers. To give an example of what a narrow maindeck card might be; I’ll list a number of examples and why they would be a good reason to add them to the maindeck.
To start with, here’s an example of a specific card that should be in the maindeck due to metagame concerns. The risk run here is typically that the card has no secondary use, which means in certain matches, it’ll be weak or dead game 1. The trade-off is it’ll be noticeably powerful in the matches you have it for. It’s not rocket surgery people; don’t run maindeck hosers and expect them to be useful all the time.
Rack and Ruin
This is one of the most common board choices seen by Blue-based control decks. Control Slaver, various Gifts builds and even some Mishra’s Workshop decks all run 2-4 in the sideboard. For example, a CS deck cutting a few traditional control elements for Rack and Ruin could’ve easily taken advantage of such a plan at Chicago. It would’ve had a significant advantage over unsuspecting Mishra’s Workshop players while not being dead against control.
Currently the metagame is ripe with decks that run large numbers of artifacts. Workshop Aggro and Stax (5c and Uba) are both hurt since they require significant board control to win. Vial Fish would also be hurt, since it has Aether Vial, Umezawa’s Jitte, Mishra’s Factory and Chalice of the Void as possible targets. Meanwhile Rack and Ruin retains usefulness in a number of other matches such as CS and Gifts by simply hitting multiple Moxen in play.
Moving onto our next examples, these will showcase a “general” use board card in the maindeck. Control decks usually play these sorts of narrow use cards since they run the most tutors and draw spells. These types of cards are some of the most commonly seen out of the bunch. They usually have secondary uses in the deck, which allow them to be dumped if unusable. Common uses include being thrown back with Brainstorm or pitched to Force of Will.
Rich Shay and a number of Control Slaver players already run this maindeck. Its virtues have been sung for some time, but I’ll list them to help clarify for those who don’t know. Crypt costs 0 mana to play – that allows it to slide under a counter wall and makes any way to remove it cost-inefficient. Meanwhile Crypt shuts down Goblin Welder, Yawgmoth’s Will, Recoup, Academy Rector, Squee, Goblin Nabob and the Worldgorger Dragon combo. And lest we forget, it also can be used for a Welder use or brought back to be used multiple times.
Since it only wipes out graveyards, Crypt seems narrow, but it actually answers a number of cards in nearly every single match. This makes Crypt perfect as a tutor target, serving as a useful tool against other control, while not being dead if drawn. Other examples include the single bounce spell seen in control such as Echoing Truth or Chain of Vapor. These cards fill the same role of being a general answer if needed while not being dead.
This little monkey has been seeing play on and off ever since Keeper was created, but has never truly caught on. Right now though is a great time for the little guy to shine. He eats Moxen and Lotii just as he’s done for years, but it’s importance has increased as decks rely more on the advantage the fast mana gives them. Now add the fact that Chalice of the Void stays in play at a 0 CMC along with the more expensive disruption artifacts in Stax and MWS Aggro. Yeah, it’s looking to be a very good choice for Control and Aggro (U/R Fish anyone?) disruption bases.
The obvious downside is it’s Red, which is always a splash-color and the fact that it’s quite expensive to kill anything that has more than 1 for a CMC. Past that, you really need to run at least 2 to see him in the early game with any sort of consistency. Other than those two downsides, Gorilla Shaman is quite good; he even beats for 1 in a pinch!
Pithing Needle, Rebuild and Red Elemental Blast are all examples of sideboard cards that should be considered for maindeck play. All have effective uses in a variety of matches while not being completely dead in others. Adding narrow or metagame cards to a maindeck is an overlooked affair. More people should be willing to run narrow cards to improve their results instead of always taking the “safe” route and running all purpose cards.
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom