So Many Insane Plays – The Q2 Vintage Market Report

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Monday, August 9th – With Vintage in the spotlight thanks to last weekend’s Vintage Champs at GenCon, Stephen Menendian brings us the latest article in his excellent Vintage Market Report series. He examines recent results from around the world, provides metagame predictions, shares financial tips and decklists, and more!

This past weekend was GenCon! Here’s what I’m planning to play at the Vintage Champs, main event:

This will be the first time I’ve played a Workshop deck at the Vintage Championship, and I couldn’t be more excited! The key here is to combat Nature’s Claim and Oath of Druids. I run 4 Smokestack in lieu of Sculpting Steel, which is much more vulnerable to a Nature’s Claim metagame, and stronger against Oath. And I sideboard 4 Leyline of Sanctity for Oath, which stops all of them. Sideboard Tabernacle helps deal with the pesky Trygon Predator / Dark Confidant menace that David Ochoa developed, as well as Fish. It also deals with Empty the Warrens. I crammed Serum Powders into the maindeck and sideboard to support my Leyline plans against Oath and Dredge.

Next week, I’ll have plenty of Vintage and Legacy reporting. In the meantime, let’s survey the Vintage metagame leading up to the Vintage championships.

Structurally, how has Worldwake changed Vintage? The answer is below:

This graph shows you the representation of each ‘pillar’ as a proportion of total Vintage Top 8s over time. Mana Drains are the blue line at the top. Workshops are the red line below it. Bazaars and Dark Rituals are marked as indicated. As you can see, Mana Drain remains the dominant pillar in the format, at about 30% of Top 8s. Still, that’s a lot better than where it used to be when Thirst For Knowledge was unrestricted:

You can see exactly where Thirst was restricted, at the end of June 2009, and the effects of that restriction, one year out, are now known. The restriction of Thirst has helped reign in Mana Drain’s dominance over the format. Mana Drain has remained remarkably stead at about 30% of all Vintage Top 8s.

The biggest shift among the pillars has been with Mishra’s Workshop, which saw nearly 40% market growth, from 18% of Top 8s to 25% of Top 8s between the first and second quarter. Worldwake’s Lodestone Golem is the driver behind this growth.

What about the restricted pillars?

This chart graphs the proportion of Time Vaults, Tinkers, and Yawgmoth’s Wills in Vintage Top 8s. As you can see, Yawgmoth’s Will remains the most prevalent restricted card, appearing in over 40% of decks that make Top 8. In contrast, Time Vault remains pretty steady averaging about 33% of Top 8s. Tinker and Yawgmoth’s Will appear in just under half of the Vintage Top 8 decklists, but Time Vault lags far behind, at just under 1/3 Vintage Top 8 decklists. Time Vault is not as dominant as either Yawgmoth’s Will or Tinker. In the main, these numbers are roughly the same as they were pre-Worldwake. It’s possible that Nature’s Claim has slightly weakened Time Vault, though.

As you can see here, Workshop Aggro constituted 18% of Vintage Top 8s in Q2, 2010. Workshop Aggro is defined by a predominantly aggro strategy with lots of creatures, and is usually either mono brown or mono red, although sometimes mono blue. The red versions tend to use cards like Solemn Simulacrum. The mono blue versions run cards like Esperzoa or Master of Etherium. The mono brown versions either run Juggernaut or a bunch of Trikes and Karns. All versions often run equipment like Sword of Fire and Ice.

Workshop Aggro is currently the best performing strategy in Vintage, at least statistically. It has the most Top 8 appearances in the Q2 2010, and it is tied for the greatest number of tournament victories.

In the Q1 Market Report, I recommended that you buy this stock. As I said:

While I don’t expect another 50% increase in market share in Q2, 2010, I expect further growth, perhaps in the 25-40% market share growth.

What we actually saw from Q1 to Q2 was 45.44% growth, from 12.5% to 18.18% of Top 8s! Market growth was even greater than I anticipated!

Recommendation: Hold

In the last market report, I observed:

Many traditional anti-Workshop cards will not be particularly effective against this new threat. In the Trinisphere era cards like Rack and Ruin, which would be spectacular in today’s metagame, were easy to play once you achieved three mana. Lodestone Golem, Thorn of Amethyst, and Sphere of Resistance are today’s lock parts, and Rack and Ruin will often cost 5 mana or more. If the Workshop player leads with Golem and Thorn, even Hurkyl’s Recall costs 4 mana. If Null Rod is in the mix, it will be even more costly, since you’ll need 4 lands to cast it. Innovative solutions, not traditional ones, may be needed. It will take time for these to emerge. In the meantime, this will be a very profitable archetype.

I think this remains true. It’s only now that players have the incentives to try out new solutions. The number of Nature’s Claims have skyrocketed, and that has helped. But I think we will see more and more use of cards like Ancient Tombs in sideboards as a way of combating this thread and powering out Hurkyl’s Recalls under multiple Spheres. Other solutions may be forthcoming.

I think Workshop Aggro will continue to perform well, and probably remain a top performer, but I don’t see much opportunity for growth. Expect Workshop Aggro to hold its position in the metagame. If you are looking for profits, this is a blue chip, but if you want to see growth, put your money elsewhere.

Oh how the mighty have fallen! Tezzeret has fallen to 13.63% of Top 8s, its worst performance since its appearance in late 2008. Still, with just under 14% of Top 8s, Tezzeret is still a top performer, and is the second best performing archetype in terms of Vintage Top 8s. It has the second most Top 8 appearances in the Q2, 2010.

Tezzeret remains the format’s premiere control deck, and Mana Drain strategy. One of the major shifts in Vintage has been the increasing utilization of Jace the Mind Sculptor. It’s becoming much like Fact or Fiction and Gifts Ungiven where, an increasingly omnipresent force in Vintage. Interestingly, it’s also huge in Legacy, with 6 Jaces in the GP: Columbus Top 8. Jace is a force in every format, it appears.

Recommendation: Buy

In the Q1 Market Report, I advised investors to sell this archetype. Nonetheless, I expected it to hold at around 15% of Top 8s, and it dipped even further than I expected, for reasons I speculated upon in the last Report .

Tezzeret has made some adjustments since the last time period, including running maindeck copies of Nature’s Claim to combat the Workshop and Oath menace. These adjustments, including other manabase adjustments, have given Tezzeret new legs. I expect that we will see a market improvement in its market performance in Q3, and I suggest that you invest accordingly. If you follow the Tezzeret trend line, it appears to be a somewhat cyclical archetype, so this recommendation accords with that statistical observation. I expect Tezzeret to see solid growth in the Q3, recouping most, if not all, of the losses it incurred this quarter.

This chart graphs Oath’s percentage of Vintage Top 8s going back all the way to September of 2008. I have this chart going back all that way because I wanted you to see something very important: Oath achieved a historic peak last quarter, and, as I predicted, it surpassed that peak this quarter, at a record 12.5% of Top 8s! In the Q2, Oath is the third best performing archetype in the market.

Oath has broken the previously cyclical pattern it once experienced, and has now established itself among the top tier. This is really not a surprise to long-time Vintage players. See Beyond and Emrakul have both seen play in Vintage Oath, and See Beyond has actually become a staple, appearing in many Oath lists.

Importantly, as with Tezzeret, Jace the Mind Sculptor is an important part of this deck, and another major win condition. It’s a way to control the game, despite the presence of Nature’s Claims as answers to Oath, and critical because it doesn’t interfere with the operation of Oath. Planeswalkers are a major component of the new Oath strategy.

Recommendation: Sell

In the last metagame report, I advised investors to buy more Oath stock, and those that did were rewarded. I saw reasons for Oath to succeed in the metagame, despite having achieved a historic peak. There are more reasons why Oath might do well going forward, including the printing of Preordain. However, I don’t expect Oath to hold on to a 12.5% market share. Players are switching, en masse, to Tezzeret Control with maindeck Nature’s Claims. These lists should have the advantage in the market. I expect a soft fall to around or just under 10% of Top 8s in the Q3 of 2010. Oath could very well hold its market position, but I don’t think it will.

Dredge is the fourth best performing archetype in Vintage in Q2, 2010 with 7% of Top 8s, and two tournament victories. Dredge gained a huge tool in Worldwake with Nature’s Claim, which it has put to good use. It’s also been running Terastodon and Iona, both from Zendikar block, much as Oath has. However, as you can see from the trendline, Dredge actually lost market share in Q2. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps Bojuka Bog has helped combat Dredge since Worldwake.

Recommendation: Buy

In the last market report, I wrote:

I think Dredge has room for additional growth in the next quarter. It’s not getting a lot of attention, but it’s quietly winning tournaments. The field is crowded and hot, and Dredge pilots are finding success while the biggies, MUD, Oath, Fish and Tezzeret fight it out amongst themselves. At worst, Dredge will stay where it is. It’s a solid buy.

This was the main recommendation for which I was wrong, but I may have simply got the timing wrong. I think what I said above remains 100% true of Dredge right now, going into Q3. Dredge seems red hot.

Fish is the fifth best performing archetype in Vintage in Q2, 2010, with 7% of Top 8s, and no tournament victories. For about a year, from the Fall of 2008 until the Fall of 2009, Fish was a steady 10-12% of Top 8s. Then, in the Nov-Dec Market Report, Fish erupted to become the best performing deck in the format! This was, in large part, because of the dominance of Tezzeret that preceded it. However, the shift to Oath and Workshop Aggro in the Q1 and Q2 has really hurt Fish’s position in the metagame.

Recommendation: Hold

My sell recommendation last quarter was a good one. Fish just seems like it’s in a bad spot. Qasali Pridemage was a huge boost for the archetype last year, and new printings such as Spell Pierce and Thada Adel have been a boon. But it hasn’t been enough. Other archetypes have seen better printings, and have consequently leapfrogged the archetype. Fish got Thada Adel out of Worldwake, but Oath got Terastodon, Workshops got Lodestone Golem, and Tezzeret got Jace and Nature’s Claim.

With the rise of Tezzeret that I expect, I don’t think Fish will lose much ground, but I don’t see it gaining any either. Fish might see a slight uptick at the end of the Q3, but will have generally unremarkable numbers throughout.

Stax (Workshop Control) is currently the 6th best performing archetype in the format, at just above 6% of Top 8s. Its slight uptick in performance is no doubt attributable to the presence of Lodestone Golem. Stax was a weak performer pre-restriction of Thirst For Knowledge. The restriction of Thirst allowed Stax to return to the metagame, and it became a decent performer in that time. However, the printing of Spell Pierce hurt Stax tremendously, and its performance has suffered. Also, Workshop Aggro’s viability post-Worldwake has also contributed to its decline.

Recommendation: Hold/Sell

I’m surprised that Stax didn’t fall below 5% of Top 8s in this Report, but I have a feeling that might happen in the next report. It’s possible that just enough players will keep it afloat, though, that it can maintain its marginal presence in the field.

The Q2, 2010 Metagame Breakdown by Archetype

This graph shows the entire Vintage Top 8 market, featuring every deck that made a Top 8 in the second quarter of 2010. Here is that breakdown, with placement in Top 8 in parenthesis:

16 Workshop Aggro(1,1,2,2,3,4,4,5,6,6,7,7,7,8,8,8)
11 Oath (1,1,3,3,4,5,5,6,7,8,8
12 Tezzeret Control (1,2,2,3,4,4,5,6,7,7,7,7)
7 Dredge (1,1,2,5,5,5,6)
7 Fish (2,2,3,3,4,5,6,
6 Workshop Control (Stax) (1,2,4,6,7,8)
4 Drain Tendrils (2,3,3,6)
3 JaceStorm (1,5,5)
3 Remora Control (1,2,4)
3 Mono Black Aggro (5,7,8)
3 TPS (4,6,8)
2 Goblins (3,6)
2 Bomberman (4,6)
2 ANT (3,7)
1 The Deck (8)
1 Steel City Vault (2)
1 Madness (3)
1 Painter Control (8)
1 G/X Beats (4)
1 Bob Tendrils (1)

This chart shows you the relative proportions of these archetypes in the field, with Workshop Aggro, Tezzeret, and Oath being the biggest pie pieces.

A Year In Review

It’s been a year since the restriction of Thirst For Knowledge, which was preceded by a year of Tezzeret Dominance. How has the metagame looked since?

Here’s what the various metagame Reports have shown in the last year:

Observe: While Tezzeret was the best performing archetype for most of the year, Fish and Workshop Aggro also achieved that distinction. When Tezzeret wasn’t the best performing deck, it was the second best. Tezzeret remained largely dominant throughout the year.

Fish and Stax were the second and third best performing in the last half of last year. This year, Fish, Workshop Aggro, and Oath have had that distinction. Things seem far more fluid. Take a look at this graphically, for the last 8 months:

In each period during last 8 months, Vintage has had a different top performing deck. Fish, Tezzeret, and Workshop Aggro have each had that honor, as you can see from this graph. Oath and Workshop Aggro have been on the rise, and Fish has fallen accordingly. Tezzeret remains ensconced as the best deck or second best deck, but at least its numbers fluctuate according to predictable metagame factors.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Until next time…

Stephen Menendian


4.24 Berga, Spain (54 players)

1) Workshop Aggro – Blue w/ Stax
2) Drain Tendrils – Repeal
3) Oath – Iona
4) Zoo – WGR Beatz
5) Tez Control – Bob
6) Goblins — Food Chain
7) Tez Control — Welders/Moon
8) MUD — Aggro/Stax Hybrid

5.02 Zurich (37 players)

1) Oath – Iona
2) MUD – Metalworker/Aggro
3) Drain Tendrils – Intuition AK
4) Oath – Iona
5) Oath – Tidespout Tyrant
6) Oath – Iona
7) MUD — Metalworker/Aggro
8) Painter Control

5.08 Philly (41 players)

1) JaceStorm – Drain Tendrils
2) UWG Fish – Noble Fish
3) MUD – Aggro/Stax hybrid
4) TPS
5) JaceStorm – Drain Tendrils
6) Tezzeret Control – Bob
7) MUD – Stax variant
8) Oath – Iona

5.15 Breda (41 players)

1) Bob Tendrils
2) Dredge
3) Oath – Iona
4) Bomberman
5) Dredge
6) Bomberman
7) Oath – Iona
8) Mono Red Workshop Aggro

5.16 Annecy (347 players)

1) MUD – Metalworker/Aggro
2) Remora Control – Empty
3) Madness
4) BUG Fish
5) MUD – Aggro/Stax hybrid
6) MUD – Metalworker/Aggro
7) ANT
8) MUD – Aggro

5.29 Seldon, NY (47 players)

1) MUD – Stax
2) MUD – Stax
3) Goblins
4) Tezzeret Control – Bob
5) JaceStorm
6) TPS
7) Tezzeret Control – Bob
8) Oath – Iona

5.29 Badalona (51 players)

1) Dredge
2) Tezzeret Control – Bob
3) Tezzeret Control – Bob
4) MUD – Workshop Aggro
5) Dark Depths Combo – UB
6) MUD – Stax Hybrid
7) Tezzeret Control – Bob
8) Dark Depths Combo – GB

6.04 Valencia (43 players)

1) Dredge
2) UR Fish
3) Drain Tendrils – Repeal
4) MUD – Hybrid w/ Stax
5) Dredge
6) UW Fish
7) MUD
8) The Deck

6.06 Zurich (45 players)

1) Remora Control
2) MUD – Metalworker/Aggro
3) UWG Fish – Noble Fish
4) Drain Tendrils – Repeal/Remora Control
5) UWG Fish – Noble Fish
6) Dredge
7) MUD – Metalworker / Aggro
8) Missing

6.19 Blue Bell (43 players)

1) Oath – Iona
2) Tezzeret Control – Bob
3) UGW Fish – Noble Fish
4) 5c Workshop Aggro/Combo – Metalworker/Golem
5) Dredge
6) MUD – Stax
7) Dark Depths – Mono Black
8) Mono Red Stax /Golem Hybrid

6.26 Badalona (35 players)

1) Tezzeret Control
2) Steel City Vault
3) Ad Nauseam Tendrils
4) Tezzeret Control – Bob
5) Oath – Iona
6) Drain Tendrils – Repeal
7) Tezzeret Control – Bob
8) TPS