Steel City Vault Reunleashed

In today’s article, Brian is excited to revisit and revamp one of his signature Vintage decks, the Steel City Vault deck!

Hello all and welcome back!

In today’s article, I am excited to revisit and revamp one of my signature Vintage decks, the Steel City Vault deck!

A friend of mine, Danny Batterman, recently posted on Facebook that he was brewing up a Steel City Vault list, and it got me all nostalgic for my old deck, so I decided to take a shot a bringing it back to life.

The Steel City Vault deck is one of the Vintage decks that I am most proud to have designed alongside Patrick Chapin back in 2009. The concept behind the deck is simply to play the most broken spells possible in order to leverage an extreme abundance of mana and card draw against whatever the opponent is trying to do.

The deck also took advantage of the fact that Time Vault was newly restricted and easily the most powerful combo kill in the format.

Here is the list that I piloted to a first-place finish in the Steel City Open and to a Top 4 finish the following week at the 2009 Vintage Championship.

The biggest additions that this deck gains via new printings in the past two years are Mox Opal, which is insane in this deck, and Preordain, which is a pretty gigantic upgrade to Impulse!

Here is what I sleeved up today:

My thoughts on some of the card choices:

All’s well that Inkswell.

I really like Inkwell Leviathan as a Tinker target right now. There’s a lot of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Ancient Grudge being played in Vintage at the moment, and blue is currently the deck to beat. I also wanted a robot that I could pitch to my pitch counters. He seemed like the go-to robot.

It’s true that he pretty much sucks against Workshops, but my plan against Shops isn’t really to Tinker-Bot them but rather to Key-Vault them. So I’m willing to give up ground here to improve against opposing Jace decks and to maximize my Force of Wills.

More Moxez plz.

Mox Opal is a card that’s simply meant for Steel City Vault. The deck already plays so many artifacts that it makes Turbo Tezz look like a Rock deck. The deck really wants to spew mana sources and cast draw 7s, which only increases Opal’s stock since every Opal in play is basically a plus-one net card draw off a Wheel of Fortune effect.

The other bonus is that the M14 rules change really powers up Opal in this kind of draw ’em up deck. A player can continue to draw cards and cast additional Opals as though they were Lotus Petals in order to continue to net mana and plow forward. The second Opal also seems pretty sweet at getting a Goblin Welder active and into Llanowar Welder mode early on in a game, which is 100% bonus.

Another tailor-made SCV card.

When the Commander box sets were first produced, one of the first cards that drew my attention was Flusterstorm, and with good reason. When I talked about the card with fellow Meandecker Paul Mastriano, our first answer to “what do we do with this spell” was to put it into a Steel City Vault-style deck!

Well, it’s some time later, and I’ve finally gotten around to doing just that.

Steel City Vault is mana and bombs. Flusterstorm is the best possible card at defending our bombs from opposing permission (especially opposing Flusterstorm).

The sideboard may need some work, but I am pretty happy with what I have here as a starting point.

Hail Seizer!

I like Thoughtseize a lot as a Vintage card, and after playing a match with the deck, I’m convinced that I for sure want two copies in my 75 (and may be looking to move it into the maindeck in the future).

The card is amazing against control, combo-control, pure combo, and especially against Fish decks that are likely to pack Abrupt Decay, which can be a devastating card for SCV.

I’m ranking Illness the #1 best-positioned sideboard card in Vintage right now.

With all of the Young Pyromancers being played, Illness in the Ranks has moved from a niche sideboard hoser to a full-fledged powerhouse. It stops Pyromancer’s tokens dead in their tracks and is also an amazing board option against Oath of Druids!

I played a set against Miquel Alcoriza’s Pyromancer Gush deck that made an impressive Top 4 finish at the July LCV.

For reference, here is that list:

After playing these games, I made a few changes to the deck. In this series, I had two Dark Confidants in the maindeck and my sideboard included one Xantid Swarm and one Defense Grid that I wanted to try out. I didn’t actually feel that these cards were a tremendously good fit in the deck and have since rotated them out.

Game 1 

The challenger is on the play

I open on a strong keeper of seven cards:

Mox Opal Mana Crypt Mox Ruby Polluted Delta Flusterstorm Wheel of Fortune Merchant Scroll

This hand produces five mana and casts turn 1 Wheel of Fortune on the play with Flusterstorm back up. I cast Wheel of Fortune, and my opponent casts Force of Will, which I Flusterstorm, leaving me with an untapped active Mox Opal.

I discard my remaining Merchant Scroll, and my opponent discards his remaining five cards: Young Pyromancer, Mox Ruby, Polluted Delta, Mental Misstep, and Brainstorm.

I draw Dark Confidant, Force of Will, Force of Will, Yawgmoth’s Will, Underground Sea, Mox Jet, and Mox Sapphire. I play Mox Sapphire and Dark Confidant and pass.

I played seven spells on my first turn! Yeah, Vintage, yeah!

On my opponent’s turn, he plays Volcanic Island and passes.

My Dark Confidant reveals Force of Will, dropping me to fourteen, and Mana Crypt knocks me down to eleven. I draw Voltaic Key for my turn.

I play Underground Sea, cast Voltaic Key from my hand, and then cast Yawgmoth’s Will, which immediately rebuys Wheel of Fortune, leaving me with Mox Sapphire untapped.

My opponent uses his one untapped mana to cast Spell Pierce, and I Force of Will the Spell Pierce, dropping me to ten life, and we both draw ’em up again.

I draw Sensei’s Divining Top, Vampiric Tutor, Polluted Delta, Scalding Tarn, Volcanic Island, Force of Will, and Mind’s Desire.

I use my Voltaic Key to untap my Mana Crypt and cast my Sensei’s Divining Top with a mana up and then spin my Top, putting Black Lotus on top of my deck. I attack my opponent down to eighteen and pass.

My opponent draws a card, casts Preordain, putting both cards to the bottom, and then Bolts my Dark Confidant. He thinks for a second and decides to run take backs and instead Bolt me.

On my turn, I Bob the Lotus and win the Mana Crypt roll. Then, before my draw step, I Vampiric Tutor for Tinker. I Tinker out my Mana Crypt and get Time Vault to set up the infinite turns combo. Now I just need to race my Dark Confidant from seven life. I don’t even need my Force of Will back up this time!

I use my Sensei’s Divining Top and find a land flip with my Dark Confidant and a Gifts Ungiven to cast on my next turn. I am in no hurry, so I gladly take the free Bob win and draw my Gifts.

I cast Gifts Ungiven and get Brainstorm, Ponder, Preordain, and Thirst for Knowledge.

He gives me Thirst and Preordain. I Preordain into Inkwell Leviathan and show him the land on top, and he concedes.

After one game with the deck, it’s as awesome as I remember—except I can tell I don’t like the Dark Confidants in here. Granted, he was good that game, but he didn’t feel like a good fit.

Sideboarding:  -1 Goblin Welder, -2 Dark Confidant, -1 Ancient Grudge, -1 Hurkyl’s Recall, +1 Xantid Swarm, +1 Defense Grid, +1 Flusterstorm, +1 Illness in the Ranks

Game 2

After sideboarding, I keep:

Mox Pearl Mox Sapphire Windfall City of Brass Timetwister Wheel of Fortune Mystical Tutor

My opponent fetches down to nineteen and casts Preordain, shipping the first card and drawing the second before passing the turn.

I draw Mox Opal.

I spew my four mana sources onto the board and lead with Windfall. He Force of Wills my Windfall, pitching another Preordain. While he is tapped out, I Mystical Tutor up Ancestral Recall.

He doesn’t play a land and passes the turn.

I draw my Ancestral Recall and play it. He Force of Wills it, pitching another Force of Will. I then play Wheel of Fortune, which gets Flusterstormed, and have to pass the turn.

On my opponent’s turn, he draws and passes with two cards in hand, still stuck on one land in play.

On my turn, I draw an Underground Sea, play it, and cast my last card in hand, which is Timetwister.

He sighs and Flusterstorms it for two, and I tap out to pay. His last card is an Ancient Grudge, which because we are doing the Twist goes back into his library and not his graveyard (catching all the breaks this game).

I play a second Mox Opal (sacrificing the first) and play out Sensei’s Divining Top, which resolves.

On my opponent’s turn, he still doesn’t have a land to play and passes the turn.

I Top, draw a Demonic Tutor, play a Scalding Tarn, fetch, and cast the Tutor. My opponent Force of Wills my DT; I let it resolve and then safely cast my Time Vault into play.

My opponent finally draws a land, casts his Young Pyromancer, and passes the turn, which is fine because I already have Illness in the Ranks in my hand to keep the Pyromancer in check.

I Top into Vampiric Tutor and draw it for my turn. I upkeep Vamp for Voltaic Key and use my Sensei’s Divining Top to draw it into my hand. I play my Voltaic Key, and he has another Force of Will, but luckily I have saved a Force of Will and a blue card for just such an occasion. I Force of Will back and am now the proud new owner of all the rest of the turns.

Game 3

We both keep seven yet again:

City of Brass Mox Pearl Volcanic Island Ancestral Recall Force of Will Brainstorm Voltaic Key

My opponent leads off with Volcanic Island, Mox Emerald, Mox Pearl, go.

I draw Voltaic Key.

I play Volcanic Island and Mox Pearl and cast Ancestral Recall, which he attempts to Force of Will by pitching Gush. I Force of Will, pitching Brainstorm, and my Ancestral Recall resolves, netting me Tolarian Academy, Mox Opal, and a second Voltaic Key. I play out my Opal and cast a Voltaic Key. The first Key turns on the Opal’s metalcraft, and I cast my second Key and pass.

My opponent has one card in hand and draws up to two during his draw step.

He plays a Mox Jet and passes the turn.

I draw Misdirection.

I play my Tolarian Academy, which taps for a cool UUUU, and fire off Gifts Ungiven, which resolves. I tap Pearl for a white mana so that I have blue floating.

I search for Black Lotus, Transmute Artifact, Tinker, and Yawgmoth’s Will.

He gives me Transmute Artifact and Tinker.

Now, if you are truly psychotic, you can win the game on the spot if he doesn’t have a Flusterstorm or Shatter effect in hand by Transmuting out a Key for a Mana Vault and Tinkering a Mana Vault into a Time Vault with plus-one mana floating.

Or we can just Tinker out Inkwell Leviathan with Misdirection backup. I opt for the latter since he basically has no outs to the Inkwell besides to combo off in the next two cards with only one card in hand. He doesn’t even have Tinker for Blightsteel Colossus to get back in it.

He end of turn Vamps (off the black source he just drew) and gets Ancestral Recall, which I calmly and coolly Misdirect, earning the concession.


Well, the deck definitely performed for me (but then again it has always run good for me!) and seems like a pretty reasonable 75 to sleeve up.

The matchup against Gush felt pretty close to me, much closer than the 3-0 record that I put up against it. They have a lot of counters and a good engine, and it really comes down to who comes out of the gates faster. The good news for SCV is that I think the deck is pretty heavily favored on the play and not that far behind on the draw.

The draw 7s are wild cards, but do have the ability to really punish any Gush draw that needs to Gush on turn 3 or 4 without a Fastbond to keep up. SCV also has way more Moxen to leverage the draw 7s as legitimate threats.

If you’re going to play a deck in Vintage, you could certainly do much worse than shuffling up the restricted list!

Enjoy the deck. Go nuts and draw 25 cards in a turn. Remember, after all, you deserve it.

Thanks for reading everybody!

Brian DeMars

Follow me @briandemars1 on Twitter!