So Many Insane Plays – In Vintage, Jace is Protection From Game

Monday, August 23rd – At a prelim tournament before the Vintage Championships at GenCon, Stephen Menendian played Tezzeret Control to a fine finish. He explains his workings today.

Take a look at this, one of the most famous decks in Magic history:

Concede or Bleed
Adam Maysonet, Circa 1995-6

2 Moat
3 Disenchant
2 Swords to Plowshares
1 Balance
1 Regrowth
1 Amnesia
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Abyss
4 Mana Drain
3 Counterspell
1 Time Walk
1 Timetwister
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Recall
1 Braingeyser
1 Copy Artifact
2 Jester’s Cap
1 Millstone
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Zuran Orb
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Pearl
1 Black Lotus
1 Sol Ring
2 Jayemdae Tome
2 Disrupting Scepter
1 Mirror Universe
1 Library of Alexandria
1 Maze of Ith
2 City of Brass
1 Tropical Island
2 Underground Sea
4 Tundra
1 Adarkar Wastes
5 Island
1 Plains

2 Circle of Protection: Red
1 Feldon’s Cane
1 Abyss
1 Moat
1 Disenchant
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Jester’s Cap
1 Millstone
2 Plains
2 Relic Barrier
2 Mana Short

This deck earned its name because opponents either scooped once all of their win conditions were removed from game, or they suffered.

On the surface, this deck looks like a traditional Weissman-style permission deck. It features silver bullets like Moat and the Abyss to address creature-based strategies, and a counter-magic suite to protect them. It has the characteristic card draw (Tome) and discard (Amnesia plus Disrupting Scepter) to create a soft lock. But there is a critical difference between this deck and The Deck: it’s creatureless! While many early Vintage decks were creature-light, this deck was one of the first major archetypes to have no creatures whatsoever.

In fact, this deck is strikingly similar to this recent StarCityGames.com Open winning decklist:

If Maysonet had access to Academy Ruins, he would certainly have used it. But the fact that the Adam Maysonet’s “Concede or Bleed” deck had no creatures isn’t even the most important difference between it and The Deck.

From Rob Hahn’s famous historiography “Schools of Magic”:

The Maysonet school takes the basic premise of the Weissman school – card
denial and card dominance – then adds another element to the equation.
One might call it “card removal.” Where the Weissman design focuses solely
on the cards in hand and the cards in play (permanent destruction), the
Maysonet school also works on the cards in the library.

In other words, “Concede or Bleed” is the premiere Millstone strategy in Vintage history. Instead of using creature finishers like Serra Angel, Maysonet won by running the opponent out of cards, decking, and denying them critical threats by simply taking them out of their library. While Hahn’s “Schools of Magic” emphasizes Jester’s Cap, the Millstone here is just as significant. Both cards denied the opponent access to answers and threats. But it was the Millstone that actually won the game. Millstone decks pre-existed this deck, but this deck made that strategy famous. It was a totally unique way to win the game.

When you look into Vintage history, it’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that the original Magic format has continued on largely as it has been for 17 years. The strategies are largely the same, except that the finishers are far more efficient. Serra Angel became Morphling, which became Psychatog, which became Tinker for Darksteel Colossus, which became Tezzeret, which became Jace.

With the printing of Painter’s Servant in 2008, the Millstone strategy once again surfaced in Vintage. Painter’s Servant and Grindstone allowed you to mill away your opponent’s entire library in a single activation! Around the same time, Helm of Obedience and Leyline of the Void were sometimes paired as another way to do the same thing. Both Millstones are viable in Vintage, and see occasional tournament success.

Jace is the newest and best Millstone in Vintage (per the progression just described). While Jace is far more than a Millstone (in fact, the Brainstorm effect and the creature bounce may be more important), the fateseal and the ultimate ability exemplify the newest applications of the Maysonet school, both of which control and deny the opponent access to cards. Jace actually represents the fusion of the Weissman and Maysonet school, from Robert Hahn’s historiography.

Or, if you are Japanese:

In Vintage, Jace is Protection From Game.
Hiromichi Itou, 2009 Vintage Champion

I finally had the pleasure of meeting Hiromichi Itou at GenCon this year. I love Hiromichi. The man is passionate about Vintage. He’s spent a pretty penny in the last few years traveling the world to play top level Vintage events in Europe and the US. He just loves the game, like I do. And there are few things in life I respect and appreciate as much as passion, which is not the same thing as obsession. Passion implies adoration and enthusiasm, not simply dedication or single-mindedness. When I think of passion, I think of people like Patrick Chapin and Hiromichi Itou.

While there are plenty of people who love Magic, Vintage inspires passion. There is something unique about the format that attracts and even fuels the passionate personality. There is a reason that people who understand what’s going on in Vintage become hooked. Ask Matt Sperling, LSV, or Dave Williams. Ask, I’m sure by now, Bob Maher. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t have the itch, bad.

Hiromichi has the itch. And Hiromichi was the second person on the weekend, and not the last (that being Chapin), to talk about the possible restriction of Jace, the Mind Sculptor*. Between Grand Prix: Columbus and the Vintage Champs, Jace, the Mind Sculptor elevated from Triple A to the Big Leagues. Jace demonstrated its power in the Legacy GP Top 4, but demonstrated its dominance in the Vintage Champs finals. People are cutting not only Fact or Fiction, but even Gifts Ungiven, to make room for more Jaces**.

Here’s what I played at the Thursday 11am Vintage Championship Preliminary tournament:

This list is almost identical to the Tezzeret list I published here on StarCityGames.com just before the Vintage Champs. The only difference is that I cut Strip Mine for Merchant Scroll. Not surprisingly, this list does many of the same things that the eventual Vintage Champs list does. One of the changes that Owen, Dave Williams, and Bob Maher made to Ochoa’s list was adding the fourth color, which I strongly suggested to David the night before. Red Elemental Blast is excellent against Jace, and helps mirrors tremendously. The main difference between the Meandeck approach and the Ochoa list is that I run more Nature’s Claim instead of Predator.

The 3-4 Nature’s Claims is, in many ways, a throwback to the 1994-5 era, when Control decks ran 3-4 Disenchant main (see the Maysonet list above). Today, Nature’s Claim is good against almost every archetype: Fish (Null Rod), Workshop (everything), Oath (Oath of Druids), and the mirror (Time Vault/Voltaic Key). Nature’s Claim is the modern Disenchant. I’ll talk more about that later, in the body of my tournament report below.

It turns out that over 60 people enrolled in the 11am event, forcing a seven-round tournament with a cut to Top 8. I was eager to see how my deck performed!

Round 1: Matt with Oath

Game 1:

I won the die roll.

My opening hand was:

Mystical Tutor
Force of Will
Hurkyl’s Recall
Misty Rainforest
Sensei’s Divining Top
Dark Confidant
Nature’s Claim

Classic Eternal dilemma: the one-lander. To keep or not to keep? I rarely throw back hands like this, as there are too many things you can do with them. You have Top and a shuffle effect — seems like a keeper to me. But the more important question is:

This was my first Vintage tournament in over a month, having dedicated the previous month to Legacy. Now I had to confront and think through Vintage tactics!

A major tactical question in Vintage is when to go for Ancestral Recall, and when to wait. An obvious line of play here is Mystical for Ancestral, and play Ancestral on turn 2. The alternative option is to just play Top and start using it to find more lands and to build a defense.

Are you feeling greedy? With Force of Will in hand, I figured I could fight through a counterspell, and pull ahead.

I played turn 1, Fetchland, Island. He played Misty Rainforest into Island.

I played Mystical Tutor on his endstep. I played Ancestral in my mainphase. He played Spell Pierce! I Forced it, but he had Force of Will as well! He played a land and passed.

I drew Academy and played Top on the next turn, then played Bob on the following turn. Very shortly thereafter, however, he played Show and Tell, which I tried to counter by using Top, but he had counter-backup. He put Iona into play! Of course, he named Blue.

I had access to both Imperial Seal and Vampiric Tutor, so it was theoretically possible that I could assemble the Time Vault plus Voltaic Key combo. But how would I actually win the game? I could take infinite turns, put four Dark Confidants onto the battlefield, attack with all four, use Time Vault to attack again with three, use Time Vault to attack again with two, and then Yawgmoth’s Will to replay all of them, and repeat. Assuming that I would survive all of those Bob reveals and not deck (both assumptions are highly questionable), I could, in theory, do 6, 4, 2 damage, and then 6, 4, 2 damage post-Will. Measured against the actual likelihood of pulling off such a feat, and the amount of time attempting it would take up, I decided to scoop.

In my article last week, I wrote about my Legacy Championship report, and in particular, a match against Lands in round 5. I scooped at just the right moment in that matchup, with about 30 minutes left in the round to play two more games. I think a really interesting article that someone should write — especially if they play Eternal formats — is on when to scoop, with lots of specific scenarios to consider. I felt good about scooping game 1, particularly because I felt that the outcome of that game was directly attributable to a turn 1 miscue.

Aside on the speed of the format…

One of the lessons that was repeatedly reinforced over the course of the weekend was that the correct role to play in the control mirror is the control role. This was the impetus behind by desire to play with a Red splash, and the success of the modified Ochoa list with Red merely reinforced my belief.

Everything I witnessed and observed this weekend fed this hypothesis. All of the feature matches I watched. All of the games I played. And, at the end of the weekend, I played a bunch of mirror match pickup games against Andy Probasco, and over and over again, the winner was the player who assumed the control role.

What’s going on? Why might this be the case? In the Thirst era that followed the re-errata on Time Vault, and certainly in the Gush and the Gifts era that preceded it, the correct role to play in the control mirror was usually the aggressor. Meandeck Gifts would punch through anything the opponent had. You just wanted to resolve Ancestral and then Gifts, and protect it with Misdirections. Sure, you sometimes wanted to play the control role, but that was only until you could end-of-turn Gifts, and then untap and win. That’s why from really late 2005 until July of last year, control pilots had dropped Library from most lists.

In the Gifts era, Library would prompt you to assume the control role, and take lines of play that were the opposite of the kinds of development you needed to take to advance your game plan, such as not aggressively Scrolling or playing Brainstorm on turn 1. In the Gush era, Library, you would think, would be at peak power. After all, Gush could get you back to seven cards very easily. However, the emphasis on cards like Duress / Thoughtseize and Ponder / Brainstorm means that Library just interfered with the natural progression. Then, in the Thirst era, you wanted to aggressively dig through your library, and Library was just too slow.

Since the restriction of Thirst, Vintage slowed considerably, and far more than I think most people appreciate. The main draw engine in the big ‘Blue deck’ since has been Dark Confidant, which, in some ways works very well with Library. Hiromichi Itou abused the hell out of Library last year in his Vintage Champs victory. Developments since have actually made Library better. The shift from Mana Drain to Spell Pierce among most Tez Control lists makes Library a lot stronger. Turn 1 Library, turn 2 Island means you have Spell Pierce up.

Since the printing of Lodestone Golem, the format has slowed even more since there are more Workshop decks out there. In such a field, it’s always a good thing to have more land. Library is another land, which helps you dig out from under Spheres while drawing you cards!

Nature’s Claim also contributes both to the strength of Library, and to slowing down the format. Pretty much the only thing that remains faster in the format than was the case in 2006 or 2008 is the presence of Vault plus Key. The only thing (aside from turn 1 / turn 2 Tinker for Leviathan) that the Blue player can do that is really that aggressive is assemble this combo. Yet, with Nature’s Claim running rampant, that’s not reliable. Claim can easily break that up, if your opponent decides to assemble the combo as quickly as possible.

End Aside

Had I just played Top on turn 1, I probably could have milked it to victory.

Game 2:

I finally discovered what my opponent was playing. He resolved an Oath of Druids on turn 1, but didn’t have an Orchard to activate it. We played draw-go for a few turns as I sculpted the hand that I desired. On a critical turn, I end-of-turn baited him with a Nature’s Claim, which he countered. I untapped, resolved Ancestral Recall, and then Nature’s Claimed him again. He Regrowthed his Oath, but it was all in vain. I resolved Jace. He indicated that he was actually able to hard cast the Iona in his hand, but Jace made that ineffectual, so he scooped.

Game 3:

My opening hand:

Black Lotus
Mox Sapphire
Force of Will
Force of Will
Mana Drain
Imperial Seal
Yawgmoth’s Will

What if Imperial Seal was Jace? It would be an easy keep, I imagine. What if Imperial Seal was Sensei’s Divining Top? Again, an easier keep.

Looking at this hand, I knew I wanted to keep it, but I wasn’t sure how to play it.

He mulliganed to five, and played turn 1 land, go. I topdecked Dark Confidant, which was exactly what I needed. I played Lotus, Imperial Seal for Ancestral Recall, Dark Confidant.

I flipped Ancestral Recall, drew a land for the turn, played it and passed. He played Duress on his turn, and I fired off and resolved Ancestral. He took my Yawgmoth’s Will, which perhaps I should have protected. I took control over the game, though, and there was nothing he could do. I just kept attacking for two. I was forced, later in the game, to Nature’s Claim my own Voltaic Key to ensure I survived Bob flips, but Bob beatdown won the game.

Round 2: Phil Thorson with Bant Fish

Game 1:

My opening hand had Island, Library of Alexandria, Ancestral Recall! I played turn 1 Library. He played turn 1 Noble Hierarch. On my second turn, I activated Library, then played an Island and passed. On his second turn, he played Trygon Predator, largely negating the Time Vault in my hand. I had two mana available, and a full grip. The question is: Should I play Ancestral here? If he countered it, then I could untap, draw another card with Library, and continued to bleed him out of counterspells. I decided to go for it, and he had Spell Pierce.

I untapped and used Library again. Then I played a Dark Confidant, and then another on the following turn. I was taking damage from both my own Bobs and his creatures. Then I drew Sensei’s Divining Top, which helped mitigate the damage I was doing to myself. I Nature’s Claimed his Null Rod, and hardcast Sphinx with Black Lotus (which I Topped into)! This put me to 4 life, with a Sensei’s Divining Top on top of my library, with a land beneath that. I spent all of my resources to make these plays. Could he do anything about it?

Phil had played a Cold-Eyed Selkie on the turn before, and attacked with it, Exalted triggering, sending me to two, as I played. Unfortunately, he drew Time Walk off of his Selkie. He played Time Walk, allowing him to untap, and attack with the Islandwalking Selkie! This was the only card he could use to kill me. If I had been able to untap, I would have lost one life, going to 1, then flipped a land, drawn another card, then attacked with Sphinx to gain 6 life again, putting me safely out of range.

Game 2:

I brought Sowers.

I slow rolled a hand that I knew would eventually overpower him, as long as I didn’t get tripped up in the tempo tricks. It had Tinker, Sower, and Jace! I played Dark Confidant, but he Swordsed it. He played Qasali Pridemage, and I played Sower. He played Tariff, when I was completely tapped out, forcing me to sacrifice the Sower, and giving him back Pridemage. However, all of these plays were designed to clear the way for the main game winner: Jace. Jace resolved and cleaned up the entire game. Soon thereafter, I Tinkered up Sphinx and he scooped.

Game 3:

Force of Will
Mox Pearl
Mana Crypt

I didn’t really put a lot of thought into how I’d play this one. He’s on Fish, and I’m on control. Tinker is my ace. He had turn 1 Noble Hierarch, but I had turn 1 Tinker for Sphinx! He untapped and played another Noble Hierarch, land, Time Walk. He untapped and played Sower. I Forced it. I untapped, and played Top. He then played Jace and bounced my Sphinx! Jace, from a Fish deck!

Brian DeMars, who observed this game, thinks I should have just played turn 1 Brainstorm, and upon reflection, I’m inclined to agree. Turn 1 Sphinx was simply too risky against a deck that has so many answers, from Swords to Tariff to Sower to Jace, even with Force of Will to protect it. Lesson learned!

In my defense, this was the first time I’ve used Sphinx instead of Leviathan, and reminded me of why I prefer Inkwell Leviathan. Even teammate Mike Solymossy, who pioneered Sphinx, admits that Leviathan is simply the better call in this metagame.

Round 3: Mark Trogdon playing GW Beatz

Mark Trogdon is a Vintage regular, and one of the best Shop pilots in the U.S. It’s been sad to see him not piloting Shops, as he could put a lot of other poseurs to shame. Instead, he’s been playing home brews. Mark is never at a loss for ideas for the Vintage format, many of which are quite promising.

Game 1:

I had no idea what he was playing.

Mark played turn 1 Noble Hierarch. I played turn 1 Imperial Seal for Ancestral Recall, which resolved on my second turn. Mark just played consecutive Qasali Pridemages. I Vampiric Tutored for Tinker, and Tinkered for Black Lotus, then played the Yawgmoth’s Will in my hand. I replayed Ancestral, Vamp (for Time Walk), drew it with Top, and Tinkered for Sphinx, and won the game.

Game 2:

He played turn 1 Noble Hierarch. I played turn 1 Library of Alexandria. He played turn 2 Gaddock Teeg, and in response I activated Library, drawing a Force of Will. I stared at that Force for 10 seconds, thinking about whether I cared. Teeg stops Jace and Force, but I only had two Jaces. I didn’t really want to Force it, as it didn’t stop any other cards in my deck, but I wanted to be able to play subsequent Forces, so I did, pitching Mana Drain. I untapped, drew with Library, and played land, Sol Ring.

On Mark’s third turn, he played Qasali Pridemage and Tarmogoyf. I drew a card with Library, and played Vault plus Key, making him sacrifice a Pridemage. But I played Misty Rainforest, Yawgmoth’s Will, and he scooped.

Round 4: Mike Solymossy

Game 1:

My opening hand:

Black Lotus
Sol Ring
Imperial Seal
Time Vault
Mana Drain
Yawgmoth’s Will

Mike is on the play, and he plays: Island, Ancestral Recall.

On my turn, I drew Voltaic Key! His chances of having seen Force of Will were about 46%, so I didn’t like just running Vault — Key out there. But my ability to play the control role seemed incredibly limited, since he just resolved Ancestral.

I played Black Lotus, and sacrificed it to play Sol Ring. I tapped the Sol Ring to play Time Vault, which resolved. I played Voltaic Key, and it resolved! If it hadn’t have resolved, I would have played Brainstorm and tried to resolve Yawgmoth’s Will on my second turn. I activated Key, and Soly scooped.

Game 2:

I sideboarded in two Red Elemental Blasts, a Pyroblast, and one Mindbreak Trap, and sideboarded out Imperial Seal, Hurkyl’s Recall, and two Nature’s Claim (I believe). I may have kept in two Nature’s Claims, and sideboarded out the Sphinx.

My opening hand:

Red Elemental Blast
Mox Ruby
Time Vault
Sol Ring
Underground Sea
Tropical Island

I was thrilled with this hand.

Mike began with turn 1 Mox Sapphire, Island.

On my first turn, I drew Demonic Tutor. I played Mox Ruby, Land, Sol Ring, Time Vault. He played Mana Drain. I decided to Red Elemental Blast the Drain, not just because I had Demonic Tutor in hand, but because I didn’t want him to get the mana.

On his second turn, he played Merchant Scroll for Force of Will. I let him Force my turn 2 Tinker, but I also played Demonic Tutor that turn. I untapped and drew Mana Drain, on my third turn, and played Voltaic Key with Mana Drain backup. It didn’t matter because he didn’t have a counter anyway.

I think Mike should have probably played turn 1 Merchant Scroll, rather than try to Drain the first thing I play.

Round 5: Oath

Game 1:

My opening hand was:

Mox Sapphire
Mox Jet
Demonic Tutor
Force of Will

I played turn 1 Demonic Tutor for Ancestral, and played it. He Forced, and I Forced. I drew garbage. He played Oath, and I Nature’s Claimed it. He played another Oath, then Top, which I was able to counter, in the hopes of stopping him from finding Orchard. Eventually, I find Gifts Ungiven, which wins the game. I tap my Tolarian Academy and played Gifts for:

Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mystical Tutor
Vampiric Tutor
Mana Drain

He gave me Mystical and Drain. Soon thereafter, he played Jace, which I Drained. Then I played Mystical for Will, resolved Will, and easily won.

Game 2:

I sideboarded in two Red Elemental Blasts and a Pyro, and sideboarded out Hurkyl’s, Sphinx, and Tinker.

I drew Library, and rode it all the way to victory! He went for Tinker, but when he did, I had double Red Blast. I Blasted the Tinker, and actually Drained the Force, simply so I could untap and go bonkers, which is what I did.

Round 6…

I have no memory of this match, but I think it was another Oath matchup, and I must have won, since:

Round 7: Intentional Draw into Top 8

Top 8: Oath

In game 1, my opponent had the absolute most broken start imaginable. He begins with turn 1 Library of Alexandria, then plays Black Lotus, Sol Ring, Time Vault, Voltaic Key. I Force the Key, and he responds with Ancestral Recall! His Ancestral resolves, but he can’t find the Force he needs, and my Force on his Key resolves.

I play turn 1 Mox, Land, Dark Confidant, turn 2 Jace, which resolved, and the Jace wins the game. It wins the game by maintaining absolute control, by me drawing many cards a turn, and him in topdeck mode.

Game 2:

My opponent mulligans to 6, and I have turn 1 Library on the draw. Once again, Library of Alexandria wins the game, combined with Red Blasts and Nature’s Claims.

Top 4: Workshops

My opening hand is:

Mox Sapphire
Mox Ruby
Mox Emerald
Sensei’s Divining Top
Force of Will
Time Vault
Vampiric Tutor

This hand has Force, but no Blue spell. Vamp, but no Black mana. What do you think that Sensei’s Divining Top is for? I kept it.

I played, Mox, Mox, Mox, Top on turn 1, and activated it, seeing no new lands, but plenty of spells.

My opponent played turn 1 Mishra’s Workshop, Sphere of Resistance, and I realized just how surprised I was to face Workshops in the Top 4. I thought I’d be playing a Drain mirror. I Topped, activated Top, and played Force, pitching a Blue spell.

I untapped, replayed Top, and passed.

My opponent played Trinisphere! Fine, I thought.

I Topped, and didn’t see any lands.

I untapped and tapped my Moxen to play Time Vault.

On his turn, he played Tangle Wire. I untapped Time Vault on my turn, and sent the turn back to him. He tapped down his Trinisphere! This allowed me to Force his next play. He pointed to the Trinisphere, and I explained to him that Trinisphere isn’t operational when tapped. He asked the judge about it, inquiring about an old rules change, about if artifacts ‘turn off’ when tapped. I told him to read the text of Trinisphere. It didn’t matter, though. I couldn’t dig up a Black mana source or Voltaic Key, and on his next turn, he resolved Karn, which ate up my entire board.

Game 2:

I was very pleased with my opening hand:

Merchant Scroll
Force of Will
Force of Will
Black Lotus
Mox Pearl
Polluted Delta

I play turn 1 Lotus, Mox, Scroll for Ancestral, and resolve it. I draw Time Walk, Drain, and Mana Crypt. I play Time Walk and play another land, and the Mana Crypt, so I can hardcast Force. At this point, it was a race. I had plenty of tutors, and all I needed was a tutor to find Yawgmoth’s Will. I could hold him off for a while.

He played Chalice at 1, and I hardcast Force of Will with Mana Crypt, Mox, Land, Land.

Then he played Jester’s Cap, which I Forced.

Then he played Crucible of Worlds, and followed it with Strip Mine! I didn’t counter it because I was holding Nature’s Claim for it, and Claimed his Crucible.

Then he played another Jester’s Cap, which I Mana Drained.

I untapped, hoping for some big mana spell like Gifts Ungiven, only to draw another mana source.

His next threats resolved, which, if I recall accurately, included the Lodestone Golem that killed me.

In retrospect, I made a few serious mistakes in this game! I countered Jester’s Cap when I shouldn’t have. I had Sowers, Jaces, and Dark Confidants as win conditions, not to mention Sphinx. I guess I was motivated to counter Jester’s Caps because I wanted to find Yawgmoth’s Will. But I should have followed an old Weissman tenant: Never waste a counterspell on a threat you don’t need to counter. Maximize your resources by judicious use of each spell. I would have gained card advantage by letting his Caps resolve. It’s possible — even likely – that I could have won that game had I not wasted two counters on two Jester’s Caps. Still, that doesn’t mean I would have taken game 3, where he was on the play. Had I beaten the Workshop player here, I would have been launched into the finals against yet another Oath player, Stanley Chen, which a seriously favorable matchup.


I was very pleased with the way the deck operated. However, there were a few weak points. Imperial Seal is a card I’d been running because of its general utility, but it’s probably just worse than the third Jace. The third Jace makes for more and harder Bob flips, but it actually reduces your damage in the long run by controlling what Bob reveals. Also, the Hurkyl’s Recall was largely useless, and probably should have been a fourth Nature’s Claim. These were conclusions I made the night before the Vintage champs, as we went back to the hotel room. After the prelims, we all figured out how good Jace was, and realized that we probably want at least three for the main event.

I also decided that Sower was not the card it once was. Sower was too susceptible too many cards, Jace included. Jace trumps Sower. I also strongly wanted Rack and Ruin, which has nice synergy with Nature’s Claims. But when I started thinking about how to build the sideboard, I just wasn’t sure that the Mindbreak Traps were really worth it. Would combo really be a threat in this metagame? I wasn’t sure.

Here’s what I would have played at the Vintage Champs, had I played Tezzeret Control:

With a strong performance under my belt, I was reconsidering my deck choice. I had mentally committed to playing MUD in the main event, in part because of how strong I felt Leyline of Sanctity was, and how strong I felt the archetype was. At the same time, I didn’t feel that MUD was well positioned. There was so much Oath. There was so much anti-Workshop hate. We went to dinner, and I told my teammates (and Dave Williams by phone, to whom I reported my day) that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to play. We got back to the hotel room, and I laid out both decks. I had borrowed Jaces and Library from Brian DeMars. He’d want them in the main event, and I didn’t think I could find them that late without scrambling, so I defaulted back to MUD. We played some pickup games, and things weren’t going very well for my MUD list, but it wasn’t terrible either.

Moments before falling asleep, I kept thinking about switching to Tezzeret. But, I also didn’t want to leave Kevin Cron in the lurch, who I had persuaded to play my MUD list for his first Vintage Champs in 5 years. Another key factor for me was the fact that my loss in the Top 4 was to Workshops. I went with my original decision, and played MUD over my strong Tezzeret list. I expected Workshops to have a strong day, and I was not wrong, with three Workshop decks making Top 8.

My decision to play MUD over Tezzeret — and the outcome it produced – would be a test between an advance conceptualization of what to play in the format based largely on printings and tournament data versus far more proximate and contextually sensitive information, such as tournament data the day before. There are risks on either side. Oath won the prelim tournament I played, but was strongly hated out in the main event. At GenCon, the Vintage metagame moves at lightning speed as compared to how it operates normally. A prelim tournament metagame can shift rapidly. Generally, I only rely on the final prelim tournament results, since few people are around to know what the results are, and thus able to make adjustments. On the other hand, people often second-guess themselves when they’ve made well informed decisions based upon proper research. Information that really doesn’t matter can acquire disproportionate significance in the heat of the moment.

In retrospect, obviously I wish I had played my Tezzeret list. I think it has good game against everything in that field, including Ochoa’s Tezzeret. I have a number of small advantages over that list, including Library. I packed the basic Forest into the sideboard. I’m a big fan of sideboarding lands in Vintage, which makes me a throwback to 1995. I think I could have made a strong run at the title again with this list. But there are some things I don’t regret about the deck choice I made, and I’ll talk about them next week. Most of all, though, I’m proud of the fact that our team came so close to getting it right with this build of Tez. I just wish I had played it!

Until next time…

Stephen Menendian

* I started a poll on the Mana Drain here if folks think Jace should be restricted. The vast majority of the Vintage community, correctly in my view, thinks that Jace should not be restricted, or that it’s too soon to tell.

** A move with which I do not agree. Gifts Ungiven is too good to omit, even for Jace. Gifts Ungiven is unbelievably powerful, and probably the most skill intensive card in the format. It’s an auto-include.