So Many Insane Plays – Rounding Out The Vintage Year

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Today’s So Many Insane Plays sees Vintage Champion Stephen Menendian take one last look at the Vintage scene of 2007. He rounds out the Top 8 statistics from the latest Vintage tournaments that matter, and casts his eye over some of the more pertinent questions raised by the current metagame…

Let me be the first to welcome you to 2008. Another year passes, and hopefully we grow wiser with age. Getting older may not seem like fun, but the journey is exhilarating. Before turning our attention to the future, and a bright one it will be, let’s take one last peek at 2007, just so we know that we will be starting 2008 on the right foot. If you want to get a firsthand account of the highs and lows of Vintage magic in 2007, check out my Year in Review. Today’s article will focus on the events of the last two months of the 2007 calendar year.

If ever you hear some Vintage player complaining about an incoherent metagame or a lack of hard tournament data, just point them in this direction. In 2007 I started doing set reviews, something I left to Oscar Tan in years prior. But I’ve also picked up where the human supercomputer and Sylvan Librarian Dr. Phil Stanton left off, tracking the cold, hard numbers and aggregating bi-monthly tournament results to provide a clear picture of the Vintage metagame for you, my dear reader. A few months ago I covered the metagame from mid-August to the end of October. And a few months before that, I ran the stats from the DCI Banned and Restricted list changes in June to mid-August.

Today’s batch of Top 8 stats comes from all of the Vintage tournaments held over the globe with 33 or more players. The idea behind the 33 player cutoff is to ensure that the decks represented in this survey have had a sufficiently rigorous culling process so that we can truly say that these are the best decks in the metagame. 33 players means that there have been 6 rounds of swiss. Since 3-0-2 can make top 8 in a 5 round swiss tournament, that isn’t enough opponent selection to say that those decks are truly representative of the Vintage metagame. Similarly, a 33 player tournament will very likely have at least one copy of every major archetype present, meaning that the wheat can separate from the chaff and the cream can rise to the top, to combine to metaphors.

There are 128 decks in our count for this time period from 16 tournaments (although one list is missing). All of the decklists are listed in the appendix, along with links.

Here we are:

31 Mishra’s Workshop based decks
12 Shop Aggro 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 6, 6, 7, 8, 8
10 MUD 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 5, 8, 8
9 Stax (and Staxless Stax): 2, 3, 4, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 8

30 Gush Based decks
19 GAT: 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8
10 Gush Storm and Empty Gush: 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 7, 8, 8, 8
1 Gush Oath: 7th

8 Ichorid: 1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 7, 7

8 Fish: 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 6, 6, 8 (note that one of the 2nd place Fish decks had Dreadnaught and Stifle combo)

8 Goblins: 1, 2, 4, 4, 5, 7, 6, 8

6 Storm Combo: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 (note, also, the 10 Gush Storm decks)

6 Bomberman: 2, 4, 5, 5, 6, 7

5 Flash: 1, 1, 2, 5, 5 (Rector) The rest were Hulk Flash.
4 Deez Naughts: 2, 3, 5, 7
3 3/4 Control Control: 1, 2, 6
3 Control Slaver: 1, 2, 5
2 GR(u) Beatz: 1, 7
2 Oath: 1, 3 (Plus the Oath Gush)
2 Bob Control: 1, 8
2 B/G Goyf: 5, 8
1 Monogifts: 6
1 BW Aggro Control: 3
1 UR Landstill: 1st
1 Plat Pact: 3
1 Suicide Black: 6
1 Dawn of the Dead: 2
1 Sligh: 6

Breakdown by percentage:

Workshop decks: 24.21%
Gush decks: 23.643%
* GAT: 14.84%
Storm Combo (including Gush decks) are 12.5%. Without Gush, it’s negligible.
Ichorid 6.25%
Fish 6.25%
Goblins: 6.25%
Remainder of the Metagame: 28.12%

1) Understanding the Metagame

Mishra’s Workshop and Gush based decks make up half of the Vintage metagame. No one else even comes close to making up those numbers. The other half of the Vintage metagame is incredibly diverse and spread out. Nearly 30% of the metagame is made up of archetypes that individually make up less than 5% of the entire metagame. In short, a third to a fourth of the metagame is random archetypes. The final 20% of the metagame is Ichorid, Fish, and Goblins. It’s a Vintage duopoly right now.

2) Move over Gush, Mishra’s Workshop is King

The most important and astonishing metagame development is that Gush decks, and GroAtog in particular, have been displaced as the best performing decks in Vintage. There were 32 Mishra’s Workshop decks in Top 8s in this time period and 31 Gush decks. That fact actually obscures just how good Mishra’s Workshop is because I don’t have a good rubric for analyzing the Shop variants. If you look at the links in the appendix, and depending on how you categorize the various Workshop decks, Mishra’s Workshop Aggro out-performs GAT.

3) GAT versus Workshop Aggro

On the face of it, GAT would still appear to remain the best deck in Vintage although it has dropped from about 18% to 15% of the metagame. The problem is that this is an illusion due to the fact that I don’t really know yet how to aggregate the Workshop Aggro variants. Most of the decklists I labeled as “MUD” because they were Mono-Brown were actually Aggro decks, featuring Arcbound Ravager and Juggernauts. If you add most of the MUD lists to the Mono-Red Workshop Aggro lists, Shop Aggro edges out GAT as the best performing single archetype in Vintage.

4) Shop Aggro is best performing the Archetype in Vintage

The Shop Aggro decks, much like GAT lists, have a lot of variation. Here is an example of the classic Mono-Red Workshop Aggro from this data set:

This is an extremely controlling archetype that we’ll be taking a closer look at in future weeks. But this isn’t the only Aggro Workshop variant that has been performing well. Take a look at a MUD variant:

This Shop Aggro variant has many of the traits of Stax decks: Smokestack, Tangle Wire, and Spheres (and the format defining Thorn of Amethyst), but it also has a solid aggro component led by Arcbound Ravager. In a sense, it’s the Workshop counterpart to GAT. Instead of Dryad it uses Ravager, both two-mana creatures that Grow enormous over the game. And just like GAT, this deck has a combo finish. Instead of Gush plus Fastbond and Fastbond plus Yawgmoth’s Will, this deck uses Skullclamp and Retriever to generate card advantage and recur threats. Eventually, it just becomes a massive Berserk on Ravager. Other MUD decks sometimes use Staff of Domination with Metalworker to combo out. This deck is full of other miniature combos, such as Ravager and Trike. More on this in future articles.

5) Non-GAT Gush decks are in a holding pattern

Despite the brief burst of Empty Gush decks onto the metagame in previous periods, these decks have cooled. In this data set, I’ve just combined the Storm Gush decks and Empty Gush into one stat. These decks aren’t declining in overall numbers, but they are declining in importance as they aren’t cracking into Top 4s with the same consistency that they did before. In that sense, they are on the wane. Six months since the unrestriction of Gush, it is fair to say that GAT is and remains the best Gush archetype. Any assertion to the contrary is fundamentally unsupportable.

6) Whither Flash?

Last time, Flash had declined to just above 5% of the metagame. In this data set, Flash is now officially miniscule. There were only 5 Flash decks out of 128 Top 8 possible slots. But the irony is that the Flash decks that did make it did very well. This could be the future of Flash: a very, very small part of the metagame, but a tournament winner when it gets there. The explanation for this incongruity is clear: people are no longer sideboarding for Flash or practicing against it. Flash has the potential to win when no one cares about it anymore.

7) Storm Combo diminishes further

In the last dataset, I wrote that Storm combo seemed at its lowest ebb with only 8 copies out of 128 possible slots. In this data set, it’s fallen to 6 copies out of 128 possible slots, excluding, once again, Gush variants. It’s fairly clear that Storm combo is not going to cut it in this field dominated by Gush and Workshops. Storm has to fight the metagame on both sides.

8) Oath has completely vanished

I have no explanation for this. There were 10 Oath decks in the previous data set, and now there are three.

9) Ichorid’s best performance yet!

For some reason, Ichorid has put up its best numbers since the Spring in this data set. Maybe the hate has gotten soft. In any case, Ichorid is here to stay!

10) Bonus Section: Year End Stats

Rather than leave you with just the metagame data from the final months of 2007, I wanted to bring you the final data from 2007 since the unrestriction of Gush. There are 45 tournament data points from June 20 to December 31 with 360 Top 8 slots. Here’s the breakdown:

86 (23.8%) Gush Based decks
• 62 GAT
• 23 Gush Storm

• 1 Gush Oath

65 (18.05%) Mishra’s Workshop based decks (Stax, MUD, Aggro Shop)

30 (8.03%) Non-Gush Storm Combo
23 (6.38%) Flash
22 (6.11%) Fish
17 (4.72%) Bomberman
16 (4.44%) Goblins
16 (4.44%) Oath
15 (4.16%) Ichorid
11 (3.05%) Control Slaver
10 (2.77%) MaskNaught

Those 11 archetypes make up 87% of the decks from the final half of 2007. There were only 49 other Top 8 slots.

There it is! Gush is nearly a quarter of the decks that made Top 8 in the final half of 2007 with Workshops not far behind. Vintage is as fair and fun as it just about can be right now! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2008.

Until next time,

Stephen Menendian

Appendix: Top 8 Tournament Data

1) 10.27.07 Catalon Vintage League — 67 players

1. GAT
2. Ichorid
3. MUD w/ Vise and Ravager
4. Gush Storm Combo
5. Bomberman
6. Stax
7. Bomberman
8. UR Fish

2) 10/28/07 Molsheim, France — 45 players
(This one wasn’t reported in my previous report.)

1. Oath
2. Goblins
3. Ichorid
4. GAT
5. BG Goyf Aggro with Thorn
6. Workshop Aggro
7. Ichorid
8. UW Fish

3) 11.03.07 Swedish Vintage Nationals — 36 players

1. Hulk Flash
2. Stax
3. Oath
4. 4c Control
5. GAT
6. Suicide Black
7. GAT
8. Uba Stax

4) 11/10/2007 Luzern — 36 players

1. Control Slaver
2. Hulk Flash
3. Workshop Aggro
4. Uba Stax
5. Goblins
6. Stax
7. Goblins
8. Empty Gush

5) 11.10.07 Salem, MA — 36 players

1. GAT
2. Aggro MUD combo
3. UR Workshop Aggro
4. Bomberman
5. Gush Storm Combo
6. Goblins
7. Staxless Stax
8. Goblins

6) 11/11/2007 Milan — 55 players

1. Goblins
2. 3c Control
3. MUD Aggro/Combo/Prison
4. 3c Fish
5. MUD Aggro/Combo/Prison
6. 1 Gifts.dec
7. Ichorid
8. Gush Storm Combo

7) 11.11.07 Clichy, France — 80 players

1. Workshop Aggro
2. Black Workshop Aggro
3. Ichorid
4. Ichorid
5. Storm Combo
6. UW Fish
7. GAT
8. BG Goyf

8) 11.11.07 SCG Chicago — 126 players

1. GR Beatz
2. GAT
3. Empty Gush
4. GAT
5. Deez’ Naughts
6. Mono Red Workshop Aggro
7. Deez’ Naughts
8. Storm Combo

9) 11.12.07 Mystical Gaming P9 — 91 players

1. MUD
2. Bob/Goyf/Zombie Infestation Aggro
3. Platinum Pact Control
4. Long Storm Combo
5. Super Long
6. UB Fish
7. Super Long
8. Empty Gush

10) 11.17.07 Madrid — 44 players

1. Ichorid
2. 3c Fish w/ Naughts
3. 3c Fish
4. Mono White Workshop Aggro
5. Rector Flash
6. 3c Control
7. Gush Oath
8. Mono Red Workshop Aggro

11) 11.17.07 Quebec, Canada — 39 players

1. MUD
2. Bomberman
3. BW Aggro Control
4. FCGoblins
5. Ichorid
6. Bomberman w/ Dreadnaughts
7. Workshop Control
8. ??

12) 11.17.07 Llorlet de Mar, Spain — 71 players

1. UR Landstill
2. Magus Control Slaver
3. Empty Gush
4. GAT (GroATarmogoyf)
5. Bomberman
6. GAT
7. GAT (GroATarmogoyf)
8. MUD

13) 12.02.07 Breda, Netherlands — 41 players

1. Hulk Flash
2. Deez’ Naughts
3. Deez’ Naughts
4. Workshop Aggro
5. GAT
6. GAT
7. RGu Beatz
8. GAT

14) 12.09.07 Valencia, Spain — 146 players

1. Aggro MUD
2. GAT
3. Storm Combo.
4. Gush Combo-Control
5. Magus Control Slaver
6. Red Aggro Stax
7. Gush Tendrils
8. Bob Control

15) 12.16.07 Milano, Italy — 55 players

1. Confidant Control
2. MUD Aggro
3. 5c Stax
4. UR Fish
5. Rector Flash
6. BobStormCombo
7. GAT
8. MUD Aggro

16) 12.23.07 Rhode Island, USA — 43 players

1. GAT
2. Mono Red Aggro Workshop
3. GAT
4. Goblins
5. GAT
6. Sligh
7. Stax
8. GAT