Set Free: Saviors in Vintage

So here we are boys and girls, we’ve finally reached the end of this block. We all know what that means… more annoying and completely wrong guesses at what will be good. I feel it’s my duty to try anything like this once though, so I’ll give it a shot and will surely look like an idiot in a few months. Because this is a Vintage review only though, it’d be stupid to cover every card. I’m only reviewing cards that I think may have a place in some decks, a few mockable ones and ones the pique my interest.

So here we are boys and girls, we’ve finally reached the end of this block. We all know what that means… more annoying and completely wrong guesses at what will be good. I feel it’s my duty to try anything like this once though, so I’ll give it a shot and will surely look like an idiot in a few months. Because this is a Vintage review only though, it’d be stupid to cover every card. I’m only reviewing cards that I think may have a place in some decks, a few mockable ones and ones the pique my interest.

We’ll go in order by card types, because I’m too lazy to do it any other way.


Erayo, Soratami Ascendant

I’ll start off with a potential aggro creature (what a shock, I know) that could fit nicely into an Aether Vial Fish / Gro niche. His stats aren’t very impressive, being only a 1/1 flyer, but the 1U cost makes him cheap enough to fit a mana curve. And of course, the real fun starts when he flips out to become Erayo’s Essence. Being able to counter the first spell an opponent plays with no chance for them to counter back is quite impressive. It also combines with Arcane Lab / Rule of Law to completely lock the game up if you can get them both into play. At the moment building a deck around that plan seems unrealistic, as it’s more of a “cute” combo than one that just wins. Still the potential is there and barring that, it could still be a potentially devastating sideboard strategy against combo.

Another possible usage I’ve heard is using this guy as a Blue Defense Grid in combo decks. This I’m not exactly sure about, since Defense Grid protects all your spells and Erayo is only stopping the first counter (Or Brainstorm to trigger it). Not to mention sometimes you want to win small and resolve a single broken card or draw spell early in the game. In which case you may not actually hit the four-spell mark to trigger it anyway. I think Erayo is better against storm combo than it would be in it.

The obvious downside to the happy fun time parade is that having four spells cast in a single turn isn’t easy in some matches. A Fish deck runs some cheap stuff, but it’d usually take a counter war to flip this guy over. In Gro, it’s far more feasible to flip him on turn 2 or 3, even if your opponent does nothing. With him being situational and legendary, he’s not an auto-include, but he’s worth considering. I have a feeling he would still be good in some Fish or Gro deck though; as a 2-of more than likely.

I give it two golden penguin stars of doom.

Kataki, War’s Wage

Now this guy I like a lot for any sort of U/W Fish deck or even WW. The guy has a mini Energy Flux ability and a 2/1 body for only two mana and a single colored cost. After seeing him, I’m very happy they didn’t decide to up the mana to three like Glowrider and make an interesting creature unplayable. His ability basically shuts off all Moxen, because they now have to pay for themselves every turn while annoying heavy artifact decks. This seems like an excellent addition to Rod or Vial Fish, purely because it backs up the main disruption cards in both decks.

With the Null Rod version, it gives you a backup in case the Rod is countered or otherwise dies. It’s cheap enough and big enough to be worth a consideration even though his ability might not come into affect. The Vial version can also effectively use him, despite the extra artifacts it runs. Since this version doesn’t run Null Rod, in some ways, Kataki can be even more valuable here. Chalice of the Void may not always race Moxen to the table and so he’s an effective answer to neutralizing them. Of course paying one for your own Vial or Null Rod isn’t exactly cost efficient, but I believe his ability is useful enough to be worth it. Due to the legendary status, running four is pretty much out of the question, but two or three could certainly be worthwhile, depending on the build.

Instants and Sorceries:

Ideas Unbound

Careful Study and Ancestral Recall combine to form Voltron! … or Ideas Unbound. Originally this card was being listed as an instant, which meant this was one of the best card draw spells to be printed in some time. Luckily (or sadly, depending on your point of view), it turned out to be sorcery speed and it lost a decent amount of the power it had. Still, drawing three cards with no drawback if you plan on winning that turn is pretty damn good for Vintage combo.

Here are the main issues from what I can see. It’s sorcery speed, which means this card is only going to be good once you’re starting to go off. Thanks to the drawback, you are rarely going to want to use this to setup a kill turn. Much like Meditate, you also concede that you’ll lose if you happen to fizzle that turn (losing the rest of your hand eot, is gg). The other major drawback is the UU casting cost of the Ideas Unbound. While not uncastable or particularly unreasonable, many Vintage storm combo decks can have issues getting double colored mana that isn’t Black, let alone more than once. This reduces how usable the card is outside of a heavy Blue deck like Sensei or the old Draw-7 decks.

Affinity and Madness decks are both non-combo decks that could potentially abuse the card. They could easily cast it and then dump their hands before the drawback kicked in or in the Madness case, just play out a creature from the discard. This spell is a great sort of replenishment spell for these decks and is potentially a new draw engine. Another possibility is a Threshold deck, differing a bit from Bird Sh*t, which could make a good use of the draw and discard.

It’s still a playable card, just not as broken as the original rumors made it out to be. Many decks will need to be reconfigured to host the card, but any deck that can cast it and then dump it’s hand could find this very valuable. The uses for this card are here, but people will need to at least work a little to reap the benefits.

Pain’s Reward

This is interesting and I’m not sure whether to label it unplayable tripe or usable niche card. The card I quickly associated this with was Browbeat, as it’s very similar in the choices given to the opponent. Take five damage or let me draw three cards and the card had the same mana cost as Pain’s Reward. The key differences here, is whoever wins the bidding war; draws the cards, it’s black, which has far more efficient mana acceleration in combo colors, it draws one more card and that the life loss can go above five. This is important since the kill of most storm combo is Tendrils of Agony, needless to say shaving 3-4 storm off what a lethal Tendrils would be is a decent trade. At worst, if you bid at least five life, you either get to draw four for three mana, which is good; or they eat six points of life loss and you essentially got four storm for a Tendrils off one card. This is also assuming the life bids aren’t going to be ridiculous, but that’s also a possibility.

In most combo decks this is decent draw, but not particularly good. Giving your opponent more counters if you lose the bidding war isn’t fun and even if you win it has lousy synergy with Death Wish, Necropotence and Yawgmoth’s Bargain. Which means it may not see any play at all in those sorts of decks, but I believe in a Draw-7 or SX-esque listing it could be very effective. Or even in TPS, which is slow enough to be casting this before it goes off. Past the combo aspect, it might have a chance at being used in a normal deck like Suicide, but then it has to compete against Night’s Whisper and Skeletal Scrying. In conclusion, I’m going with “might see some play”.


It’s Fork! But Blue! Which of course means it may actually see play, seeing as Blue in Vintage is at least slightly playable. Obviously this card has quite a bit of power, since the ability to copy Demonic Tutor, Gifts Ungiven, Yawgmoth’s Will, broken draw, etc. is just awesome.

Multiple questions have come up about a Fork vs. Counterspell effect in control decks and which would be more efficient or effective. Honestly I have to default to the, “it depends on the deck” answer. What I can say however, is that the card could definitely see play in aggro-control like Fish, Bird Sh*t or GAT. Why? Because copying a powerful draw spell or Yawgmoth’s Will can easily give you another cheap or free counter plus multiple other cards for your trouble. Considering these decks usually play one or two-of’s like Misdirection or Daze, it’s not a real stretch to consider the new Fork in place of one of them.

The obvious downside is that the card is conditional and dependent on what the opponent casts. Casting your own spells and copying them, though a viable option, is hardly recommended. If the original spell is countered, Twincast will have nothing to copy and fizzle, meanwhile copying your own broken restricted cards is overkill usually. Until someone can figure out a way to copy and chain together broken effects efficiently this card is hardly broken. In a way this reminds me of Isochron Scepter, mostly in the massive hype-fest around it. I think that Twincast will fare a bit better than the Scepter, but we’ll have to see what happens.

Artifacts and Enchantments:

Pithing Needle

This is an excellent hoser card that’s playable in pretty much every single format. Here’s a partial list of what this card shuts down: Goblin Charbelcher, Mindslaver, Aether Vial, Wasteland, Strip Mine, Library of Alexandria, fetchlands, Bazaar of Baghdad, Psychatog, Goblin Welder, Wild Mongrel, Waterfront Bouncer, Pentavus, Arcbound Ravager, equipment, Yawgmoth’s Bargain, Necropotence, Sensei’s Divining Top, Engineered Explosives, Vedalken Shackles… need I go on?

This card can single-handedly cripple some archetypes, hate on certain types of hate for some combo decks and generally be an all around nuisance to anything you play against. Any deck can conceivably play this card and at costing only 1, it’s cheap even by Vintage standards. If you’ve taken a look at the list I provided, you’ll notice certain key cards in archetypes getting pretty beaten up.

Needle versus:

Dragon – You shut down Bazaar of Baghdad, which is their main draw engine and how they typically combo out.

Control Slaver – You can shut down the Goblin Welder engine or Mindslaver

Shortbus Severance Belcher – You can cripple the main win condition or Goblin Welder (Depending on the version.)

Any Salvagers deck – Shut down their main combo guy

Etc. etc.

Ironically it can also help some of these decks out against some types of hate. Dragon can now shut down the typical artifact grave hate played against it for dirt-cheap and no color requirement. Control and Mishra’s Workshop decks can shut off entire mana disruption engines by naming Wasteland or break Crucible + Strip lock, by naming Strip Mine. Alternatively sets of fetchlands can be shut down furthering a Fish or Stax mana denial plan.

To conclude though, I’m not quite sure how much of an impact this card will make. Some of the drawbacks include Pithing Needle being vulnerable to artifact hate (Which is still significantly played) and not actually being a threat. With many Vintage decks growing even tighter on deck space, they may not have room for the effect this card brings. It’s still quite potent and expect it to see a little play though.

Scroll of Origins

And now we get to a real dreg. This is what happens when you slap a Library ability on something that isn’t Library of Alexandria. Unless you have a control deck that wants to grind away your opponent’s will to live (U/W Landstill comes to mind) you really don’t want to be playing this. In fact the main reason I’m listing it is so the few of you who see this card aren’t tempted to try it in normal control decks. You know, the ones with non-Standstill draw engines and want 7 cards in hand for at least 10 turns. This card is just stupid, stupid like a moose*.


Mikokoro, Center of the Sea

And now we come to the real “fixed” LoA. This will be the shortest of the evaluations, but try not to be too disappointed. The card is awful – straight up horrible. I wish I had more to say about it, but I don’t. The entire reason to play LoA is to gain a significant card advantage over the opponent and to continually outdraw him. This card eliminates that possibility by giving your opponent free cards to make up for your own draw. I can’t think of any compelling reason to play it.

The Verdict?

Pretty solid set for Vintage in general. There were quite a number of playable cards and powerful effects without being too broken. In fact I probably missed something and there’s more than the six cards I listed as pretty playable, which is great.

As for the set in general, I actually have great expectations for what it’ll do to block and I like quite a few cards for T2 play as well. Overall I think most of the mechanics were done well (Though Channel seems rather lacking) and I enjoyed the variety present in many of the cards. I’d also like to take this time to laugh at Umezawa’s Jitte, which is now doomed in Kamigawa Block Constructed.

Joshua Silvestri (Vegeta2711 on TMD)

Team Reflection

Email me at: Josh dot Silvestri @ gmail.com

*Invader Zim rules, nuff said.