Vintage At Spring’s End

Brian looks at three months of tournament data to decipher all the latest Vintage trends. You want decklists? He has decklists.

Summer has traditionally been the hotbed of Vintage tournament play, however the tremendous amount of Vintage played this past spring rivals that played in
any hot month in recent memory. Today’s article will encompass Vintage tournament results from around the globe to unravel what exactly is happening in the
Vintage metagame as summer quickly approaches.

The tournaments I will specifically be taking a look at today are the NYSE I Open, the LCV May event, the Queen’s Vault, and the June Team Serious Open.
These tournaments make up a really interesting geographical mix, as many of the major geographic hotbeds of Vintage play were represented by Vintage events
this past month. Europe (LCV June, July), American Northeast (NYSE I) (Durham, NC Event), American Midwest (Serious Open), and the emergent Australian
scene (The Queen’s Vault)

Let’s begin with the cream of the crop:


LCV May Champion, Toni Anaya with RUG Delver

LCV July Champion, Oscar Merino with RUG Delver

NYSE I Open Champion, Paul Mastriano with Esper Control

Team Serious Open Champion, Charles Rolko with Grixis Control

The Queen’s Vault Champion, Justin with BUG Fish

Atomic Empire II Champion, Philip Braverman with UW Control.

Certainly, we can’t know everything about a tournament by only looking at what ultimately won the event, however tracking which decks are eventually
victorious is a big part of interpreting tournament results.

Six tournaments all across the world, and I notice one extremely telling trend about the decks that won events this past month:

Bazaar of Baghdad Mishra's Workshop

“$300 unrestricted, nonbasic lands didn’t win jack squat.”

Neither Dredge, nor any Mishra’s Workshop variant, was able to beat the field in any of these events, which is a piece of information I find extremely
fascinating and shocking.

About a month ago I wrote an article where I deduced that Mana Drain Control was in the midst of an upswing and it appears that trend is continuing to play out into the present time.

First things first, let’s take a peek at the control decks that seem to be so shaping the Vintage format at the moment.


There are obvious elements that connect all three of these control decks, despite the fact that all three have elements that are distinctly unique: the
greatest commonality (besides for Power 9 like Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, Black Lotus, etc.) is the engine that allows these decks to function with
consistency is Force of Will + Mana Drain + Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

Philip’s UW Control deck is the most different deck out of the three Mana Drain decks that won events this spring. First of all, he foregoes playing black
and the powerful two-drop card drawer Dark Confidant instead using the two-drop slot to play Standstill (also a powerful card draw spell) and Stoneforge
Mystic (a very powerful threat against anybody without a game-ending combo like Time Vault, Yawgmoth’s Will, Tinker, etc).

I interviewed Paul Mastriano for the article “Chatting with the Champ: [author name="Paul Mastriano"]Paul Mastriano[/author]“ here on SCG two weeks ago, where we discussed his deck extensively.

The interesting thing about his deck is that he has essentially fused Grixis Control with Bomberman / Landstill in order to produce a control deck that maintains a strong Workshop match up while improving against other Mana Drain decks that also try to be good against Workshops.

Unlike the previous two control decks that have moved toward Tundra in order to answer creature threats with Swords To Plowshares, Charles has stayed with
the tried and true Grixis Control which instead utilizes the powerful 1cc spell Lightning Bolt.

The formula for a successful Vintage control deck seems pretty clear if we just follow the model put forward by these decks that have been winning:

The Power 9 + Force of Will, Jace, and Mana Drain (the backbone) + a 1cc creature removal spell (all four between main and sideboard) + the maximum number
of an unrestricted 2cc card draw engine (Dark Confidant or Standstill) = the formula for a successful Vintage Control deck.

Here is an example of a control deck that breaks with the formula I just put forward. Instead of maximizing the Jace, the Mind Sculptor count, the deck
focuses more on Tezzeret the Seeker and unlike the other decks it also doesn’t have a 2cc card drawer.

Additionally, it lacks a critical mass of 1cc removal spells (i.e. Swords to Plowshares or Lightning Bolt) to sure up match ups where keeping creatures off
the board and protecting one’s life total or planeswalkers is important.

While this deck is clearly powerful and capable of very powerful starts with artifact mana and planeswalkers, I would venture that in general it lacks the
consistency of a deck with Confidants, more Jace, and efficient board control.

The list is also a little bit older than these newer lists, so while it may have been a good metagame choice at the start of June, it is my belief that
this style of deck may be quickly becoming obsolete in light of better options.

I would be extremely wary of playing a deck in Vintage that doesn’t play with Dark Confidant and also cannot kill Dark Confidant!

Dark Confidant

“It is no longer a secret — everybody has Dark Confidant.”


I can’t believe too many people that follow Vintage are particularly surprised with the strong finishes that control put up last month. Everything was
already trending Mana Drain’s way and it is a natural continuation.

I am, however, extremely surprised and excited about the big push that creature decks have made to the forefront of Vintage.

Mana Drain may have won half of the events (which is about the odds I would have put on Mana Drain given the circumstances), and yet the other half of the
events went to the Fishes! Certainly, the success of creatures is the most compelling story of the past month.

Ever since BUG Fish took down the Bazaar of Moxen tournament the entire BUG archetype, and Blue creature decks in general, has been on the upswing.

Let’s take a look at some of the prize fishes:

RUG Delver has been a pretty big game at LCV the past two months, having won both events. RUG really preys on slower decks and can take big advantage of
tempo early on in a game with quick, hard-hitting threats that are backed up by extremely versatile permission.

Land-light decks like RUG, full of Preordains and Flusterstorms, are traditionally at their worst against Mishra’s Workshop-style decks with Sphere effects
that take away their ability to make multiple plays each turn. However, Mishra’s Workshop’s recent decline in popularity and success has opened the field
up for Fishy tempo decks like this to really attack slower, clunkier, Mana Drain decks.

If RUG continues to perform well and push Mana Drain back, I would certainly expect an opening for Mishra’s Workshop to reassert itself this summer. Yet,
if Mana Drain continues to suppress Workshops it is also possible that a Fish v. Control metagame could become the most important metagame dynamic this

For the record I really like these BUG Fish style decks right now, as they provide a lot of raw power and a lot of flexibility of game play.

Unlike RUG, which I believe has one of the weaker Mishra’s Workshop match ups among high tier Vintage strategies, it would appear (at least to me) that
with Trygon Predators and Deathrite Shamans that BUG actually has a very decent match up against MUD.

I also underestimated how good of a card Abrupt Decay would pan out being in Vintage. While there are not Counterbalances like in Legacy, being able to
ensure one can destroy a Time Vault or a Dark Confidant against Grixis or Esper is a very, very important dynamic in the BUG V. Control match up. In
particular, it greatly reduces the value of a control deck having a Force of Will as a way to swing a game.

RUG obviously has a ton of upside in specific metagames, but ultimately it will most likely be BUG that becomes the default Vintage Aggro-Control strategy,
if only because of its resiliency to Workshops and better sideboard options for Dredge.



Oscar’s three sideboard Electrolyze is a pretty big game. Were you going to try and beat me with Aven Mindensors, Vendilion Cliques, and
Noble Hierarchs? How awkward for you…

Aside from winning two of the events outright, Fish-style decks were extremely well represented in Top 8s this spring. BUG, in particular, put up a lot of
Top 8 finishes and RUG also made a fair number of appearances in the dance.

Also, because they are cool, check these out:

Kataki, War's WageQasali PridemageTrygon Predator

“All in the maindeck? No wonder Mishra’s Workshop is a rubble pile these days!”

Noble Fish doesn’t have all of the cool tools that BUG Fish gets to play, but it does get to utilize Stony Silence which is pretty great especially against combo and control (and gets around their artifact destruction, unlike Null Rod).

<BerserkDeath's Shadow

“How can I not feature a decklist with Berserk AND Death’s Shadow!!!”

In my Dragon’s Maze set review, I was toying around with a silly Death’s Shadow aggro deck and I am glad that Ivan finally found the card a good, happy home!

Great deck!


Combo decks seem to have been inhabiting a weird space for the past two years where they are on the edge and sometimes combo appears primed to make a run
at being a major player — but, then it fizzles out.

With Mana Drains, Spell Snares, Mental Missteps, and Flusterstorms abound, the Dark Ritual decks certainly have their work cut out for them in order to win
a tournament. Let’s take a quick peek at a few combo decks that have made it to the single elimination rounds this past month:

Pact of Negation

“4 Pact of Negation in the maindeck is one way of fighting Mana Drains!”

Another take on the Dark Ritual archetype:

With all of the counterspells and especially the tempo RUG and BUG decks floating around in the metagame, Storm Combo really has its work cut out for it.

Burning Oath still sneaks into a fair share of Top 8s and with all of the Fish style decks making a push in the metagame, perhaps Oath of Druids is well positioned to win an event or two? I know that if I were going to play a combo deck in Vintage it would almost certainly feature four copies of the 2cc green enchantment.

Oath of Druids

“Oath is a combo, right?”


It may not have been a good month for Metal Mages, but I still have to give credit where credit is due — because there were some pretty cool Workshop decks that made Top 8!

This deck is an absolute thing of beauty and creativity.

Genesis ChamberGaea's CradleSkullclamp

“Nothing to see here, just playing MUD.”

It is actually nearly impossible for me to look at a Mark Trogdon deck and feature it in an article because they are always so awesome and unique.

That is two decks in a row that feature Mishra’s Workshop and Arcbound Ravager, which is something to think about.

Mark always likes to play with a lot of creatures in his Workshop decks, and was one of the big innovators of moving Workshop decks away from being pure prison and toward fighting with creatures (even before Lodestone Golem!)

Smokestack is such a powerful Magic card in a deck where nearly every draw step will produce a permanent. I would guess that in order for Mishra’s Workshops to beat the decks that are tending to win events over the past month or so that very hardline mana denial would be at a premium.

So maybe branching out and being more disruptive is the answer for Workshops, or also simply being more aggressive with Ravagers. We will surely find out very soon!

C’mon Workshop Mages, where are you? And speaking of absentee mages, don’t even get me started on Dredgers…

Actually, Dredge didn’t do anything last month which probably means it will win two 100-player events next month, so if you are going into Vintage battle don’t forget to pack your Leylines, RIP’s, and Jailers!

Fans of Bazaar of Baghdad and Mishra’s Workshop clearly have some work to do if they hope to catch up to where the blue decks have advanced the past two months and a shot at the championship title in the fall.

But, to be fair, spring is the dRainy season…

Mana DrainJace, the Mind Sculptor

“Still taking on all comers..”