SCG Double Feature – Talkin’ Vintage/Playin’ Lorwyn

This week’s Ben and Chris double bill sees Chris sharing his exploits at the recent StarCityGames.com Vintage Weekend in Chicago, and Ben doing what Ben does best: making inflammatory comments about the nature of the Eternal community. Intrigued? Then read on!

The Road Warrior


Open plains and the open road… a good day for a road trip. Going to Chicago for the StarCityGames.com Power 9. Setting up a dealer booth and running the tournament is the mission, not playing. I’m not playing in the tournament, but there’s still an adequate amount of horseplay on the trip. Chicago, the Windy City… no wind here today, just traffic. With a quick 800 miles under our belts, Ben and I arrived at our hotel, allowing me to collapse. I hope I do not get burned out on traveling this early, or it is going to be a really long year.

On a positive note, I got to talk about Magic for about 12 hours. Since Ben and I have been playing for so long we can talk about anything, even formats that have not existed in five years (Saga Block Constructed). I mean, how often do I get the chance to talk about a card like Acidic Soil?! Most of the conversations were about the new Standard format, with a little shop talk in between.

I was able to catch up with Steve Menendian, with whom I had the pleasure to room in Valencia. If you’ve never had the chance to talk with Steve, not only is he a Vintage wizard, he is also very passionate about the format. Such passion reflects on your performances. If you are fired up about playing Magic, you tend to put up better records. As expected he was playing his beloved GAT deck. So I was expecting Steve to win the tournament.

I ran into my friend Owen Turtenwald, and he showed me his deck before the tournament. I’d wanted to play a Stifle – Dreadnought deck. His was a little more tuned, including 3 Trinket Mage and some bullets, while my version had a full set of Dreadnoughts and 2 Trickbinds. He also opened my eyes to how insane Trygon Predator really is. I changed my pick to Owen to win after I saw what he was packing.

The deck is all-around consistent. I love it. It has hand disruption, backed up by more disruption effects like Stifle. With Dark Confidant fueling all your card drawing desires, and Tarmogoyf being one of the top creature threats, you have a solid base of monsters. In addition to the tutors themselves, Trinket Mage offers answers to a wide variety of threats. If times are tough, and Tarmogoyf just can’t get there, you can always call up your friendly neighborhood Phyrexian Dreadnought. One of the most powerful spells in the deck is Engineered Explosives. With the ability to wipe the board clean of Moxes, or another answer to Empty the Warrens, it has the potential to break a game open. You can consistently Explosives for 0-3, but if the sun is shining you can get to four, which can answer Smokestack if you fall behind. I really think this is going to be the next big deck in Vintage… you will see me playing it.

The sideboard just shows how well rounded the deck can be for games 2 and 3. Threads can take Dark Confidant, Quirion Dryad, and Goblin Welder. I find it funny that it also steals the Dreadnought in the mirror. As I said before, the Predator is just amazing. It’s a flying Vindicating machine in Vintage. If you use some hand removal to force him through, you can win the game on the back of him alone. Leyline of the Void is a definite four-of, as usual. Steve was telling me awhile back that Leyline of the Void is the most commonly-played card in Vintage. With that in mind, this deck does not rely on the graveyard at all. Goyf can still work off their graveyard, and you have the one Yawgmoth’s Will in the sideboard. The Will seems a little out of place, but they cannot afford to board in Leyline against you.

It seems to have a good matchup against everything, except some more dedicated beatdown decks. It seems near impossible to beat Goblins unless you get the Dreadnought, and the R/G beatdown deck that won seems like a horrible matchup. I would still play it and take my chances, since I like how the deck plays against decks that rely on a bunch of card draw or a lot of artifacts.

It was a good experience for me. I regret missing the second day of the event due to flying home for a family emergency. Overall, I am still hungry to play more tournament Magic. I guess it is time to start taking my game online to MTGO. I’d rather not, as I love to shuffle cards, but it’s a good way to get some Limited practice for the Grand Prix and the PTQ season.

In order to get more tournaments under my belt I decided I would have to play some MTGO in order to pick up the pace. I could not draft, since the server could not support drafts at the time, so I jumped into a 2x Sealed Premier Event. My Sealed pool gave me a little trouble during deck construction. Every color was spread pretty thin, but I settled on a U/W build. It wasn’t very exciting, but it was very consistent. It was a mediocre U/W deck overall, but I did have removal in the form of one Oblivion Ring.

I made Top 8 (Sweet… now I can actually draft!)

My first pick was Cloudgoat Ranger, followed by Muldrifter over Merrow Reejerey. This was definitely a mistake, but I realized it right after I made my pick. It was an obvious bomb I let slip through my fingers. More White soon followed, and I had myself another U/W deck.

1 Avian Changeling
1 Cloudgoat Ranger
1 Goldmeadow Harrier
1 Harpoon Sniper
1 Judge of Currents
1 Knight of Meadowgrain
2 Plover Knights
2 Veteran of the Depths
1 Wispmare
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Surge of Thoughtweft

2 Deeptread Merrow
1 Inkfathom Divers
2 Mulldrifter
1 Stonybrook Angler
1 Wings of Veils Vel
1 Aethersnipe

1 Runed Stalactite
1 Springleaf Drum

The deck preformed really well for me, with 18 creatures, I always kept the tempo. Picking up a few more spells would have been nice, but wasn’t really an option at the time. Many creatures in the deck had abilities so it allowed me to cheat on my spell count. I had to play against the Merfolk I passed up, and got punished for it (of course!). Tapping down infinite men is tough! I still ended up winning the tournament, and was happy to collect my prize. I had never really played a Sealed tournament on MTGO before, so 24 packs seemed like a lot. I felt I won something worthwhile.

Now if only I could use those packs to draft…

I do feel more comfortable playing the format, so I am excited about attending Grand Prix: Daytona this weekend. I have 2 byes, and hope to be able to capitalize on them. Maybe there’s another solid Grand Prix finish in my future!

Who knows?

I’ll let you know how it goes!


The Real Deal


I’ve had a long and storied history with players from the Eternal Format. And by long and storied, I mean that I’ve poked the hornet’s nest with a twig, eaten the hornets, and used the twig to clean up afterwards. Down there. No, this makes no sense, but stick with me here. Some highlights!

Speaking to the Legacy Community about community building at Grand Prix: Columbus!
Vintage and Community Building!
Vintage and restrictions to the format!
Player stereotypes of the Vintage sort!
My now-infamous Fifth Dawn set review, where I extol the virtues of All Suns’ Dawn in Vintage!

Since I haven’t created any sort of controversy in the Vintage community in quite some time, and because it’s the wake of the Vintage Mega Weekend in Chicago, I figured I would turn my attention to the most venerable of Magic formats.

Just two statements today:

1) Team ICBM is the best Vintage team in North America, and quite possibly the world.
2) This is because as a team, they are the Vintage players who are most open-minded (as a group) about deck and card choice.

In my opinion, this all traces back to Sullivan Solution.

This deck cropped up a couple of years ago, and was Adrian Sullivan take on a deck that would break the Vintage Metagame. (You can find the original article by Adrian Sullivan here. Sullivan Solution placed highly in consecutive SCG P9 tournaments…

And then vanished completely.

It wasn’t like the deck did poorly, and then was gone without a trace. Sullivan Solution won back-to-back SCG P9 tournaments, placed a whole bunch of people in the top-half of Waterbury, and then literally fell off of the face of the Earth (as far as competitive play is concerned). It was gone — and it wasn’t because of the deck’s performance.

It was because many Vintage players were less-than-open minded about the deck and its strategy.

I heard similar talk this weekend about Jamison Bryant’s winning G/R aggro deck at the SCG P9 Chicago.

Among other comments I overheard on Sunday were: “It looks like a G/R Standard deck with Moxes thrown in!” “Man, that’s just a piece of crap. It looks completely janky.” “He must have gotten lucky all day to win!”

No, it won because it was a great deck to play on that given day. From all accounts, it destroyed people in the Top 8, and had game against almost every deck all day long. Other top finishers included two copies of the Dreadnought/Trinket Mage deck Chris discussed above, and a mono-Red Mishra’s Workshop aggro deck which included Wirecat(?). Okay, I can’t defend Wirecat, but the innovation here was present.

It wasn’t all “Gush, GAT and Gro”. It wasn’t all “Thorn of Amethyst-enhanced Workshop”. It was Tarmogoyfs, Trinket Mages, and Magus of the Moon which ruled the roost in Chicago this past weekend.

Team ICBM consists of a mixture of different personalities, much like any group of Magic players. Several team members have been banned from TheManaDrain.com and the forums of this very website for their behavior towards the community. Others are valued contributors with hundreds of posts to their names. For all their varied personalities, Team ICBM seems to be the Vintage team most willing to take a chance and throw out the preconceived notions of Vintage. They aren’t being mavericks for the sake of being mavericks; rather, they are willing to embrace off-the-beaten path strategies if they feel those strategies will bring victory, whether it be G/R Aggro or Sullivan Solution.

For those of you who don’t play Vintage, let me put it another way — after the Makeshift Command deck won several States and placed two people in the Top 8 of GP: Krakow, did you see the deck starting to crop up everywhere? Yes! Why? Because it finished highly, and was a good deck. It had proven itself by winning. People didn’t look at the deck and go “Man, I know the deck won a lot, but I just can’t bring myself to play Makeshift Mannequin!” or “Snow-Covered Lands isn’t what Standard is about! I know this deck did well, but it looks bad, so I’m not even going to try testing with it.”

This is exactly what happened with Sullivan Solution, except substitute in Dimir Cutpurse for Makeshift Mannequin. Hats off to Team ICBM for being willing to come into the Vintage Mega Weekend and taking 9 of the top 16 slots over two days. You’ve proved that you can innovate, and that innovation leads to rewards.

I hope that the rest of the Vintage world sits up and takes notice, because you’ve proven something that has been articulated many times before in many places, but that I’m going to state here once again: Applying a Pro Tour attitude to a Vintage event will raise the Vintage Format to the next level.