The SCG Guide to Vintage 5 Proxy Decks
Just starting Vintage and lack the power cards? Don’t own many staples for a competitive deck? Don’t fret! There are still worthwhile decks to play!
In my last article I talked about simplistic decks to play, but some of you may have noticed something in common with the decks – they were all fully powered, save Spoils Dragon, which doesn’t really help the people lacking any power at all. So I’m here to help out with your problems. This will be mostly an educational article*, but I’ve tried to keep it somewhat interesting for those of you with short attention spans. Even if you are fully powered, you should probably read this to know what you’ll be up against.
*I’m giving you decks that are reasonably good. They are not the be-all end-all of deck building, nor the only options you’ll ever have. I just wanted to give many people the full range of semi-viable to viable decks that can be 5-proxied.
Deck Index (You can use the find button and enter the letter plus number next to the deck to skip around)
Viable metagame dependent decks*
*I think G/R beats could possibly be a contender with the proper hate configuration and a ripe metagame. Fact is it’s new enough that I don’t know enough about it to make informed decisions and the main thread on TheManaDrain is somewhat difficult to figure out. I suggest anyone interested in the deck go to TMD and search for it though,
Food Chain Goblins
Original design is attributed to Team YMG
Vintage FCG design is attributed to me
1 Chrome Mox
1 Mana Crypt
1 Lotus Petal
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Emerald
4 Food Chain
1 Goblin Sharpshooter
2 Siege-Gang Commander
4 Gempalm Incinerator
4 Goblin Warchief
4 oblin Ringleader
***I’m giving you an example board with each deck, but this obviously the most alterable part of the decks due to metagame concerns. I fully encourage you to change the boards around and even maindeck hate if you deem it helpful in your own metagame.
Cards you proxy: Mox Emerald, Mox Ruby and Black Lotus. Pretty simple reasoning, it can’t hurt to have extra on-color acceleration in the deck. Though you could proxy up extra Moxen, they usually aren’t worth it. The deck is on-color mana hungry under most circumstances.
How to play the deck: The FCG primer can be found here: http://www.themanadrain.com/primers/fcg.htm
(WARNING – Quick rant ahead about plagiarism)
You’ll notice how I linked to my own FCG primer. Now I understand it’s rather old and if someone would like to write a newer article on the deck and merely reference the primer, that’s great. I don’t even mind if they borrow some of the tedious stuff (The stacks and such) as long as I’m asked and properly accredited. What pisses me off is when someone writes about the deck using my stacks, formatting and thoughts (Slightly rewritten though so it’s not a total copy!) about the deck and passes it off as their own work. People take a lot of time and put a lot of effort into writing quality articles to help out other players or spark discussion on topics. It’s very degrading and annoying to have someone claim it as his or her own words. My point?
My FCG Primer was blatantly plagiarized by someone and posted on CENSORED.com. For future reference I suggest those at CENSORED.com at least attempt to acknowledge plagiarism when it has been committed and correct the problem as soon as possible instead of waffling around when the author of the original and everyone else points out that an article is a rewritten copy. For the record, I have yet to receive any sort of credit or apology for this. [I’m not giving any free publicity to those people for their actions. – Knut]
A quick summary would be that the deck is Goblins with the ability to combo out through Goblin Recruiter, Goblin Ringleader and Food Chain. Past that, it does what nearly every Red deck in history has done – beat down!
A quick summary of how to combo out from my primer: “Use Recruiter to stack your library full of goblins, putting a Ringleader as the first card and then every fourth card. Then you’d pass the turn unless you had a Ringleader in hand to cast (In which case, you’d stack the remaining Ringleaders as every fourth card and that’s it.). You then use Food Chain to sacrifice Recruiter and use one other mana to power the first Ringleader into play. Then keep saccing the old Ringleader to Food Chain to play the new one. Then play and sacrifice cheaper goblins to Food Chain to drop various amounts of the guys into play and attack with all of them (Including a few very large Piledriver’s) for the win.“
Please remember how much mana and what cards are required to go off. You’d be amazed how many stories I hear about people having kills on the board or in hand and yet not using them because of ignorance or a mistake in counting.
–The deck can beatdown on turn 3/4 and with the combo pieces, combo out on turn 3 or sooner.
-Smashes the hell out of Mishra’s Workshop decks.
-It’s a Red deck. You know you like Red decks. Especially ones with lots of little Goblins with neat abilities.
-An atrocious game against combo game 1 and even post board it’s a struggle.
-A lack of “broken” things to do really. Nearly your entire deck consists of creatures, so you lack options like turn 1 or 2 Tutor for a Tinker, Draw-7, etc.
-Running 31 Red creatures. This means you’re really open to some odd forms of hate, stuff like Engineered Plague, Pernicious Deed, Propaganda and other mass hosers are really annoying. Though non-Balance ones don’t receive widespread play thankfully.
-It’s more complicated than it looks. Many people who play the deck consistently miss in-game kills through the combo or Goblin Sharpshooter / Siege-Gang Commander, proper stack set-up and even just beating down correctly (How to maximize damage and even using Wasteland intelligently!). Yes you need more than rudimentary knowledge of how to play a beatdown deck optimally; this is surprisingly hard for some people.
5/3 and Stax are both great matches for you, thanks in large part to Goblin Lackey, Gempalm Incinerator and Artifact Mutation (Yesm Mutation is maindeck material if you see a ton of MWS decks). The entire deck is about as anti-MWS as you can get out of an aggro deck. Control Slaver is also a 50/50 or better match. Much of this match comes down to the skill of either player involved (I’d like to think of myself as competent with FCG and Rich Shay with Control Slaver). If either player is worse than the other, it’ll usually tip the scales in a hurry. Since the majority of FCG players are terrible, the match results usually are in favor of the CS player. Slower combo such as Dragon, Doomsday and TPS are winnable, but unfavorable matches, things can even out post board though. Fast combo like Belcher and DeathLong are just atrocious matches and will crush you game 1 and usually game 2 as well.
Metagame it’s best in: A Workshop-heavy field with some Control Slaver and minimal combo presence.
The original Vintage Fish designs belong to Bebe and Phantom Tape Worm (Marc Perez)
U/W Fish by Clarence Li – 8th Place @ SCG3
4 Mishra’s Factory
2 Faerie Conclave
1 Strip Mine
3 Polluted Delta
2 Flooded Strand
3 Blue Elemental Blast
3 Energy Flux
2 Suq’Ata Firewalker
2 Swords to Plowshares
1 Null Rod
Cards you proxy: Mox Sapphire, Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall and Time Walk. You may be tempted to proxy up Mox Pearl for extra speed, but it’s really not worth the extra off-color inconvenience (Or getting shut down by Null Rod).
How to play the deck: One of the simplest decks to just pick up and play, but incredibly difficult to play well. The basic concept is to play little goobers, play Standstill and Curiosity to draw a lot of cards and simply Force of Will anything that might bother you. Add in the occasional Null Rod or Wasteland to help with mana denial and that’s the deck strategy in a nutshell. Most importantly the deck is a tempo based one, this is important to remember while playing. Why? Because on a level playing field your deck is severely underpowered, the point is to get an advantage on the opponent and just exploit it as much as possible. I could go on, but you really just have to play the deck for a while to pick up the various quirks it has.
-Has a good match against many control decks.
-You’re playing Faeries, nuff said.
-5/3, FCG, basically anything with a number of aggro creatures plow through you. It’s not even a game the majority of the time.
-Chalice for 2 dooms you (Or at least a build like this). You literally lose every non-man land creature in your deck and most of your other spells.
-A resolved Oath will usually kill you, unless it’s very late in the game and they have a low life total.
-Severely underpowered compared to every other deck in the environment. There is no ‘going broken’ to save you if you make a mistake. Optimal or near optimal play is a must here as anything more than an insignificant mistake (And sometimes even that) can cost you the game.
This can be said in very broad terms. You will get steamrolled by 5/3, FCG, Madness and anything else that resembles “aggro”. Boarding in Energy Flux, Blue Elemental Blast and Plow will bring the 5/3 matchup to a winnable level. Stax on the whole is an easier match, because you’re not under so much pressure to respond to threats. You’ll still have an iffy match against Control Slaver; if the opponent knows to simply resolve a large guy and protect him, you’re in some trouble. Game 1 comes down to resolving Null Rod and mana denial. Game 2 is a wash if the CS player has Old Man of the Sea and even with just Lava Dart and Echoing Truth you’re in trouble. Oath comes down to not letting an Oath of Druids hit the board, some games this is doable, others not so much. It’s really a 50/50 match against most builds. Against fast combo you have a favorable chance with FoW, Null Rod and Meddling Mage. Dragon is usually around 50/50 game one while depending on boards for games 2 and 3. The TPS match generally ranges from awful to God-awful.
* The matchups are part testing and part hearsay. For some decks I haven’t played that much, I asked those who know the matchups better than I for their own input.
Metagame it’s best in: Skewed control metagames. Right now isn’t the greatest time for Fish to return to center stage. I put this up here for the rare metagame where it has a reasonable chance and to note a possible return in the future.
Original T1 Dragon design goes to DicemanX (Peter Olszewski)
Original Spoils Dragon design goes to Phantom Tape Worm (Marc Perez)
by Dicemanx (Modified into 5 Proxy by me)
Cards you proxy: 4 Bazaar of Baghdad and a Black Lotus. If you have the Bazaars, you have a few different possibilities. You can either proxy up the Lotus and Moxen or Lotus, Mox Jet, Mox Sapphire, Ancestral Recall and Time Walk, then add some Blue dual lands. This also allows you to change to the Eternal Witness kill in the deck.
How to play the deck: Dragon Primer by Dicemanx
Though a bit outdated, it’s still an unrivaled piece of Dragon information. Reading the first two parts is a great introduction for any beginning Dragon player.
Past that, it’s like a simpler and faster version of its BUG cousin. Optimally you want to go off turn 2 nearly every game. Turn 1 Buried Alive, turn 2 Animate spell for the win or Turn 1 Tutor for Bazaar of Baghdad, Turn 2 play BoB, search a little and then cast Animate on WGD to win or continue searching. It really is that simple of a deck. Though remember, you don’t need to go off on turn 2 if you feel you might be running straight into a hate card or something.
- Consistent Turn 2 wins
- Ease of play
…That’s it, but still consistent turn 2 wins…
- Highly vulnerable to hate cards
- Despite being “fast” combo, it doesn’t particularly have a good combo match. Hence why the sideboard is mostly anti-combo.
- When using Spoils, the random “I lose” factor is there.
A lot of matches come down to how good your hand is and how much hate the opponent has in his board. Oath is a great match, because it’s incredibly easy to race, but post board Coffin Purge, Blue Elemental Blast and Tormod’s Crypt can become issues. The same applies to Control Slaver, it’s a decent match since you can go off quickly. If they have a great hand or hate they can slow you down long enough to Slave you (GG). Shop decks like 5/3 and Stax are completely hand dependent, as such I loathe to put an actual percentage here. I’ll just say 5/3 is easier to beat than Stax and with good draws you can completely dominate both barring turn 1 Trinisphere or Chalice. Other combo decks suck to play against, versus fast combo it’s reasonable to race with a quick hand and a little luck, though boarded Chalice of the Void and Rod makes life easier. Slower combo, TPS especially, can really work you over by stuffing a quick kill with disruption and then going off before you recover.
Metagame it’s best in: A low hate metagame. If you aren’t up against Coffin Purge, Crypt, BEB, etc. then it can be a solid choice regardless of actual matches (Though the less TPS, the better).
Meandeck Oath originally designed by Team Meandeck
DOA Oath originally designed by Team BHWC
DOA Modified into 5 Proxy Oath (Assuming you own Drains)
4 Oath of Druids
2 Gaea’s Blessing
Disruption / Protection
4 Mana Drain
4 Force of Will
2 Cunning Wish
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
Cards you proxy: I found Lotus, Sapphire and Jet were generally the best “speed” mana you could have with room to include Ancestral and Time Walk still. Library was the easiest cut, since it’s only helpful in the control mirror and the majority of the time pure speed is better. Obviously you can proxy the LOA if you feel you’ll be playing mirrors and vs. CS all day.
If you have to proxy Mana Drain as well, then the only things worth proxying with 1 slot is either Ancestral Recall or Black Lotus. Personally I’d take the Ancestral, because the extra draw is usually more helpful than the Lotus acceleration. You’d then add the 4th Tropical Island, possibly more fetchlands and a Fact or Fiction to help fill the empty slots.
I posted both articles to try to give the best idea of how to play Oath. Against decks like 5/3, FCG and Fish you’d typically want to drop Oath ASAP. Against Stax an early Oath is very helpful, but you stopping the important lock pieces (Turn 1 Trinisphere and Smokestack whenever) is still important.
Basically you can play the deck like a normal control deck if need be and then plunk down Forbidden Orchard and Oath of Druids and go for the win. Or you can drop turn 1/2 Oath + Orchard and go for a quick kill while making sure your opponent doesn’t do anything game-breaking.
- Relatively simple to play in many matches
- Has a good 5/3 match
- The sheer amount of disruption combined with board hate makes most combo roll over
- Can just go turn 1 Oath + Orchard with FoW back-up and quickly win the game
- Despite having a three-turn clock (Though usually only two, thanks to you opponent’s fetchlands), given proper time, you need to be careful. Sometimes Oath can give you SOTN and you won’t be able to attack and block. This can be huge in a close life race.
- Slower combo like TPS and Dragon can take a long time to build up a significant hand and destroy you in a single turn
- Long games are a norm with the deck; you can draw yourself right out of contention if you don’t pay close clock attention
The 5/3 matchup is solid because once you resolve Oath, barring massive stupidity, you usually win. Though the newer builds with Seal of Cleansing and Swords to Plowshares can be problems at times, so Rack and Ruin is still important. Stax is more of a challenge, but still a reasonable match thanks to Oath itself. Once Rack and Ruin comes in from the board, you can get some help there in crushing the opposing side of the board. Chalice and Platinum Angel can give some support against combo.
Despite the large amount of counters and Duress, it’s not unreasonable for current combo to still combo off turn 2 or so through it. Slower combo has enough draw/tutors to make simply stopping them whenever you want unviable. You actually need to take the offense and then stall until your critters can win the game. Slaver is not a fun match, assuming you can resolve Oath it’s certainly winnable, but that’s a big assumption. You need to stop the opponent from simply outdrawing, and subsequently, overpowering you. This takes a lot of resources, so you need to play carefully and pick your fights when resolving draw or Oath.
Metagame it’s best in: Workshops and aggro tend to be your most winnable matches, so that’s what you hope to see. Though Control Slaver all day can be amusing, it is not a fun situation to be in.
Original Vintage design is attributed to Team Meandeck
Smmenen version modified into 5-Proxy Doomsday
4 Polluted Delta
4 Underground Sea
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Jet
1 Black Lotus
1 Lotus Petal
1 Lion’s Eye Diamond
4 Dark Ritual
1 Cabal Ritual
2 Chromatic Sphere
Draw and Search
1 Memory Jar
1 Lim-Dul’s Vault
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Demonic Tutor
Cards you proxy:
For this deck I’ve chosen the two on-color Moxen, Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall and Time Walk. Lotus and the Ancestral are required, for extra speed the two on-color Moxen. The only real question is if you want Time Walk or Timetwister, but having an extra turn with a combo deck is always huge, so I go with the Time Walk.
How to play the deck
[author name="JP Meyer"]JP Meyer’s[/author] article on the Doomsday is located here.
It gives you a good idea of how to play the deck and some good information on matchups. For those of you who just want a summary, the basic plan is this. Survive the first few turns, cast Doomsday and fetch the following stack:
Then next turn (Assuming you don’t have Brainstorm or Chromatic Sphere), you’d draw Ancestral, cast it, play Lotus and Dark Ritual, and cast Desire for 4 storm copies. Beacon would then be triggered when each copy resolved and deal exactly 20 the opponent. There is a more immediate stack with Tendrils, but JP’s article covers it, so I highly suggest you check it out.
- The amount of protection run for the combo is quite good, as eight discard spells and four Force of Will can really help against control, Trinisphere and other various forms of hate.
- The deck averages a turn 3 goldfish, but it can go faster if need be.
- Some really good board options for a combo deck
- Doomsday sadly has to pass the turn after comboing out sometimes, this can allow the opposition to finish you while waiting for your next turn.
- Vulnerable to a number of hate cards if they’re allowed to resolve (Platinum Angel, Arcane Laboratory, etc.).
- The difficulty of the deck, at times, can be a major detriment.
Doomsday has a solid match against Control Slaver with its amount of disruption and clock and a good game against Oath. Faster combo like Belcher and Death Long can blow you out before you get going, but are mostly coin-flip matches. However slower combo such as Dragon and TPS have similar protection and can effectively race you. Therefore you have to play carefully against these decks, as giving them too long to setup can cause your own downfall. The deck does well against 5/3, though Trinisphere wrecks you and you cannot pass the turn post-Doomsday or you’ll die for sure. The Stax matchup can get dicey if they get the disruption wagon working early.
Metagame it’s best in: Slaver heavy metagames featuring low Stax and opposing combo counts is probably optimal for the deck.
Decks that just don’t work well anymore
Suicide is literally pointless to play, barring a MAJOR overhaul / new card. The deck lacks basic answers to Goblin Welder and the topdeck and has a very slow clock despite not running counters like Fish. Honestly – why play the deck when you can play Spoils Dragon if you want a speed deck or Doomsday for a lot of disruption with a point to it (I.E. Winning the next turn or sooner). Jacob Orlove sums it up well with this quote, “Not only does it have strategic superiority versus nothing, but it’s always a strictly worse option than some other deck, in any metagame”.
Sligh has pretty much been completely replaced by Food Chain Goblins. It’s simply quicker, more reliable, runs better threats and has far more options available to it.
U/G Madness may come as a shock to some, but ever since the advent of Oath many players of the deck have simply deemed it obsolete. The deck never had much game against combo, Oath murders it, and it wasn’t very powerful to begin with so it could never compete against opposing broken starts outside of FoW. All of this combines to make playing the deck quite unreasonable for most people.
White Weenie is one of those “maybe” decks that actually can have game against certain decks when properly built. The problem is there are way too many holes to fill in its game plan for it to be viable in anything but a really skewed metagame. It could do well, but the likelihood isn’t good. Though this and U/G Madness are by far the closest decks to joining the rest of the decks that have a chance at competing. There are other budget and 5-proxy decks, but I could literally write another article on how awful the majority are. I don’t mean to be overly harsh, but you have to really think about what you want to be when making these sort of decks.
I’d like to thank all the people with articles / primers referenced in the article for their work on the various decks. If I missed anyone in crediting design and such, my mistake, it wasn’t intentional.
That’s all for now, I hope you all learned something and good luck.
josh dot silvestri at gmail dot com