First things firstâ€”I’d like to thank everybody who participated in the expansive forum conversation for my last article,
Vintage Avant-Garde: 8 Things Wizards Could Change To Improve Magic. I was both impressed and proud with the quality of the posts in the forums and the way that the community came together to discuss in an intelligent
and thoughtful way their individual views on fairly heated Magic-related issues without flaming or trolling. The article received almost 200 forum
replies and well over 3000 views, which I believe has to make it one of the most trafficked Eternal threads since the last Menendian article…
February has been a busy month for the Eternal formats: Vintage, Legacy, and Commander, and as a result, I believe that preexisting evaluations of card
values (within the given meta as well as monetary) may have been shaken upâ€”with some cards being poised to gain value in their prospective metas and
others, as a result, inevitably going on the decline. In this article, I’m going to walk the reader through my picks of cards to watch out for in the
near future, as well as discuss why I think that others are likely to be poor strategies or includes in the near future.
Also, at the end of the article, I’m going to present my argument for why “Choose Your Own Standard Commander” is likely a superior format to the
standard Commander format.
VINTAGE STOCK MARKET
If I had to pick one Vintage stock to invest in for March, it would almost certainly be John Jones. I’ve never met John Jones, but it would appear that
based upon his tournament results in February that he straight-up owned the month.
- 3 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Brainstorm
- 2 Mana Drain
- 1 Vampiric Tutor
- 1 Mystical Tutor
- 2 Grim Monolith
- 1 Yawgmoth's Will
- 4 Force of Will
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 1 Time Walk
- 1 Ancestral Recall
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Time Vault
- 1 Merchant Scroll
- 1 Memory Jar
- 1 Echoing Truth
- 1 Tinker
- 1 Rebuild
- 2 Voltaic Key
- 1 Black Lotus
- 1 Mox Emerald
- 1 Mox Jet
- 1 Mox Pearl
- 1 Mox Ruby
- 1 Mox Sapphire
- 1 Ponder
- 3 Spell Pierce
- 2 Preordain
- 2 Mox Opal
Jones has been on quite a tear in the past month and has put up several quality finishes with his Tezzeret deck. It’s also interesting that while he
has been smashing every event under the sun with his deck, it doesn’t appear that other players are playing his listâ€”at least not in a way that makes
“Turbo Tezz” a significant portion of the metagame, despite the fact that Jones with the deck always places highly or outright wins the event.
So, what makes Jones’ list unique? Well, for starters, he has more fast artifact mana than a traditional Time Vault deck. Two Grim Monoliths and two
Mox Opals in addition to the standard artifact acceleration a blue control deck would typically play. In addition to more fast mana, Jones’ deck also
Time Vaults harder than most Time Vault decksâ€”he has two Voltaic Keys and three Tezzeret, the Seekers.
So, the takeaway from the success of this list:
Tezzeret, the Seeker
The other big Vintage ringer so far in 2011 has to be Sam Berse and his Mud deck. Mono-brown decks based around the synergy between Lodestone Golem and
not playing with cards that are not artifacts are indisputably one of the premier strategies in Vintage these days.
Now, I would say that these two decks are, if one is playing Vintage in North America, public enemies #1 and #2, at least so far in 2011.
The other card whose stock has soared since its release in Mirrodin Besieged has to be Blightsteel Colossusâ€”which in my understanding has been pretty
much everywhere in Vintage decklists in February. Although, it’s notably absent in Jones’ Tezzeret deck. I’ve been informed by Paul Mastriano and Jeff
Anand (two individuals whose insights and observations I rely upon up here in my isolated ivory tower in Michigan) that in their estimation, between
80-90% of blue Tinker decks appear to be packing Blightsteel Colossus as their robot of choice.
If everybody has Blightteel, then its stock must be high; however if we know that everybody is going to have it, its value will go down.
The cards that I’d be looking at, which should gain value in Vintage in the next month or so, are going to be cards that are good at combating
Turbo-Tezz, MUD, and Blightsteel Colossus. If one can solve these issues moving forward, I think that player has a good shot at winning some
I know that I probably sound like a broken record continuing to harp on how amazing Ancient Grudge isâ€”but there is a reason, and that reason is that
it’s probably the best positioned card in the current Vintage metagame that for some reason nobody wants to play with.
For starters, I don’t know what prayer Jones’ artifact blue deck has of defeating another blue deck that draws the card Ancient Grudgeâ€”let alone if
two? Oh, my.
Now, I know that some people might be afraid to play with Ancient Grudge in a metagame where Blightsteel Colossus is prevalent, and it’s certainly true
that one cannot Grudge a Colossus. However, if one packs other hate for the Colossus, it should be fine to play Grudge.
Goblin Welder is a great answer to Blightsteel Colossus, assuming you can get a one-drop critter onto the battlefield before they can cast Tinker.
Welder is also pretty good insurance against getting Time Vaultedâ€”assuming they can’t Time Walk and Yawgmoth’s Will. Not to mention that if we’re
already playing with Nature’s Claims and Ancient Grudge, the ability to put artifacts into an opponent’s graveyard certainly makes Goblin Welder
I’ve already sensed a murmuring in the Vintage grapevine about Goblin Welder being the hot technology in blue decksâ€”and I expect to see this prophecy
come true in the next month.
Back in the days of Control Slaver, Goblin Welders and Gorilla Shamans teamed up as a powerful combination of creatures that could pretty much grind an
opponent out of the game. I suspect that if people move toward Welder and an offensive/defensive option in their control decks, Shaman becomes the
obvious trump in the mirror, as well as a card that’s going to grind out percentages against Workshop decks. I fully expect to see Shaman as a one-of
in control decks in the future.
Turbo Tezz, Gush, and Aggressive Metalworker Mud (non-prison) decks are all softer than they’d like to be to TPS. The Turbo Tezz deck only has four
Forces of Will, two Mana Drains, and three Spell Pierces to protect itself from game-ending bombs such as Yawgmoth’s Bargain, Mind’s Desire, and
Necropotenceâ€”these threats, when backed up by pitch counters and Thoughtseize, seem heavily favored. As for the Aggro Mud/Metalworker decks, since
they’re filled with cards that are good at fightingâ€”Duplicant, Trikes, and Hellkites, it means less spheres for TPS to have to deal with. One last
reason why I think Dark Ritual gets better is that I feel Blightsteel Colossus is a robot best suited to fight for TPS, as the extremely quick clock is
exactly the type of pressure it wants to put on an opponent as an alternate win condition.
: WAAAAAAY UP!
Null Rod decks almost certainly will make a push in the not-so-distant future, specifically the card Null Rod, which is really well positioned in the
metagame when the best decks are soft to it. Null Rod is good against Metalworkers, Steel Hellkites, Triskelions, and Moxes in Metalworker Shop decks
(perhaps the premier Shop deck at the moment), and at the same time, it’s probably the best card against the Tezzeret deck. Seriously, what does that
deck do about a resolved Null Rodâ€”how does it continue to cast spells? Part of the big push of the Tezz deck is that it cuts lands to play Opals, Grim
Monoliths, and Voltaic Key. Null Rod seems really strong here; especially when we consider that it also blanks the Time Vault combo.
I can see strong arguments for playing Null Rod in a Workshop deck as well as for playing it an in aggressive creature/fish-based strategy. I look
forward to watching this little drama play out in the tournament scene.
Blightsteel Colossus and Lodestone Golem are both very, very strong and commonly played these daysâ€”even the time Vault decks have a Tinker robot, and
nobody has Inkwell Leviathan. I really like the option of playing with Swords to Plowshares out of the Control deck or the agro-control deck right now.
At one Mana it is simply a great value for dealing with what are among the most played and most common victory conditions in Vintage.
LEGACY STOCK MARKET
The results from SCG Open: Edison have just gone up, and it seems that the Legacy meta is shifting into spell-based combo decks and decks that can
actually beat spell-based combo decks. The breakout deck of the tournament has obviously got to be the High Tide combo deck, but if we look through the
rest of the Top 8, we also find an Ad Nauseam Tendrils of Agony deck and a Dredge deck.
The obvious technology of this list, which I’m sure will be well known by the time this article goes live in a week, is pairing High Tide with such
hits as Candelabra of Tawnos, Time Spiral, and the new Blue Sun’s Zenith.
The other big combo deck that’s forcing the Legacy meta to take a different shape is Ari Lax “Lax Storm” combo deck, which uses a traditional storm
kill but transforms into a Doomsday, Shelldock Isle, and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn deck against Counterbalance strategies after sideboard.
Now, Ari has been saying for months now that Storm-style decks are the best decks in Legacy and that players constantly handicap themselves by not
playing itâ€”and he gives a variety of reasons for why this is the case, ranging from Grim Tutor’s being too expensive to the deck’s providing players
with too many difficult decisions to make it a good choice. Whatever the reason for its underrepresentation in the past, people have currently picked
up the deck, found the cards, and gotten good at piloting it. Storm is here, so we as Legacy players now need to adapt.
In addition to Storm existing as a part of the meta, it now appears as though Time Spiral combo decks have proven themselves to be a real contenderâ€”so,
perhaps we’re entering into a new era of Legacy where the solitaire-style spell decks are in the driver’s seat, influencing how people build their
It’s also noteworthy that Zoo was absent from the Top 8, which means that it either was underrepresented (unlikely) or that it was simply beaten out by
decks that have a good matchup against it (such as combo), which is more likely.
So, let’s take a look at the stocks…
I wouldn’t want to play a deck that has a terrible matchup against fast combo, if fast combo is on the rise, and neither should you. If you’re a huge
Zoo fan and are determined to try and figure out a way to stay viable, then I suggest looking toward the following cards:
If unanswered, it becomes very difficult for spell-based decks to win; even if answered, you’re likely to gain some value. This is the type of spell
that I’d look to as an answer.
Even with these types of cards, I still feel aggressive creature strategies are going to be at a disadvantage against fast spell decksâ€”however, having
some trumps that can steal a game or that simply must be answered and provide a clock may give Zoo some edge.
Now for the big winners:
I’ve been saying since December that Thoughtseize is the most important card in Legacy that people don’t play with often enough. It’s perhaps the best
card in the format from a disruptive aggro deck against a combo or control deck; I expect to see people moving from playing white for Swords to
Plowshares to black for Thoughtseize.
Ever since December, I’ve been saying that this deck is really good and is likely to become even better positioned in the future as all spell combo
decks ascend in the metagameâ€”and it seems that this is surely coming to fruition. With the combo decks pushing Zoo and Goblins further from the top
tier of the metagame, decks such as this, which are aggressive but disruptive to the max, only become better meta choices.
Ari wrote that BUG decks are the one archetype that actually beat Storm, and I agree with this statement. I also think that if this deck would’ve been
in the Top 8 of the Edison Open, it would pretty easily have crushed that event, or at the very least, it would’ve had very solid matchups throughout
the Top 8.
Counterbalance decks, as they stand, are not the be-all, end-all for combo the way they once were because the combo decks have found ways around the
pesky enchantment. With that being said, I feel as though Counterbalance decks need to re-envision themselves as Wasteland decksâ€”which is awkward
because Wasteland makes casting early Counterbalance difficult at best.
Hymn to Tourach
Hymn is really good because it works double duty in the Rock-style disruptive/aggressive decks. Knocking cards out of somebody’s hand, at random, and
as a two-for-one is as good against critter decks as it is against combo decks. With that being said, it’s a bit difficult on the mana to castâ€”however,
having the mana to cast Hymn on turn 2 or 3 also ensures a player can cast Thoughtseize on turn 1. So, I’m all for it.
Candelabra of Tawnos
: FINANCIAL AND META STOCK: WAY UP
If you hadn’t heard, not only was this card one of the key engines of the High Tide deck that won the Legacy Open in NJ, but it also doubled in value
overnight from $50-60 to well over $100. I really wouldn’t be surprised, if the High Tide deck is real (which I suspect it is), for this card to
eventually settle at over $200 in the next few months and take its seat among the Moats, Tabernacles, and Grim Tutors of the format as a certifiable
COMMANDER/ELDER DRAGON HIGHLANDER STOCK MARKET
Commander isn’t really a tournament format with a true defined meta; it’s more of a casual format where the meta is going to be defined directly by who
you’re playing with. That being said, I believe the stocks are on the move for this format, and I’d be happy to tell you why this is the case.
In case you hadn’t heard yetâ€”Wizards has recently decided to get involved in Elder Dragon Highlander. The powers that be (WotC) has already divulged
that they’ll be printing decks and cards specifically marketed to the Elder Dragon Highlander crowd, and that they’re going to officially change the
name of the format from EDH to Commander.
What we should expect from the Wizards end is for there to be pre-constructed Commander decks and new Eternal cards (Generals/multiplayer bomb cards)
in these decks/promotions.
: Monetary Stock: UP
If Commander is going to get some love from Wizards in the form of preconstructed decks, it only makes sense that one of the many purposes of such a
move would be to get new players interested in playing Commander. If more players are going to be playing Commander/adding cards to pre-cons, it only
makes sense that the Commander cards will become hot commodities in the not-too-distant future.
Also, if Wizards ever chooses to support Commander Leagues/Game Days/in-store promotional events for Commander, to support the release of the new
decks/box sets, that could also drive the value of non-reprinted Commander staples.
Cards that have not been viewed as Constructed tournament staples but are Commander staple cards have tended to, in most cases, have a fairly low price
tagâ€”I’m not completely sure that this is going to continue to be the case moving forward. In fact, in my opinion, I tend to expect the exact opposite.
At the least, it seems as though there’s a window for these types of cards to go up a little bit and become more desirable singles, and at the most,
there’s the possibility for these kinds of cards to see a price jump similar to that of “Legacy cards in general” over the past two years.
Cards that I specifically might look to as nice cards to pick up fall into the $.50 to $2.00 range.
Champions of Kamigawa Legendary Lands: Minamo, School at Water’s Edge; Mikokoro, Center of the Sea; Eiganjo Castle; Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep;
Shizo, Death’s Storehouse; and Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers.
Tower of the Magistrate
Magus of the Disk
Magus of the Future
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
And there are many, many more cards that fit this type of descriptionâ€”if they’re old and new players would want to add them to the Commander decks
they’re building, I think that any card fitting this description would be a solid pick-up at a low, initial cost.
Also, I think that the cards that were in the junk range that have risen to the couple-dollar range already because of Commander are likely to continue
picking up steam in the future.
Cards that almost everybody wants to play with in their Commander deck.
Examples of this type of card:
I also believe that it’s possible for Commander to have its own set of “Money Cards” or chase, old cards that become very valuable, in the same way
that Legacy has made Moat, Tabernacle, and Grim Tutor very expensive commodities.
There are already some cards that appear to be pulling away as certifiable, expensive cards, whose values are derived primarily because of their
playability as Commander mainstays.
High-end cards that I think could benefit from Wizards’ continued support in growing Commander include:
My Spin On Commander: Build Your Own Standard Variant
I’m a degenerate deck builderâ€”I can’t help it, control it, or change it at this point in time. One of the big struggles I’ve had with Commander is that
every time I build a deck, it’s usually so good that it just dominates and ends multiplayer games, which isn’t funâ€”or, after I’ve dominated a game or
two with my way too powerful/not fun deck, I end up in a scenario where it’s the other four against me, which isn’t fun either.
Many other people I know who play Commander can relate to this mind set: they don’t really want to play with the degenerate cards (Sol Ring, Mana
Crypt, Mindslaver, Necropotence, Yawgmoth’s Will etc.) because they’re not really very funâ€”but the idea of getting killed by somebody else doing the
same thing that they have chosen to give up constantly keeps one from wanting to give up the “good toys.”
I decided that the way I’d reconcile this problem would be to put design constraints upon my deckâ€”the most logical one was to choose a pool of cards to
build from and not move outside of the cards in that pool. I decided that, if I built a deck that was at one time Standard legal, it would pretty much
be almost strictly worse than a Standard deck (since it has a 99-card deck size and a singleton restriction already tacked on), so no matter how
degenerate I made my deck, it could never really be worse than a Standard-power-level deck.
I chose to build my deck from the following card pool: Time Spiral block, Lorwyn block, Coldsnap, and 10th Editionâ€”which means that at one point in
time, the entire deck would’ve been legal together in Standard. (My favorite Standard format I might add, which is why I selected it.)
Here is my deck:
General: Merieke Ri Berit
Caves of Koilos
Mouth of Ronom
River of Tears
Glen Elendra Archmage
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Counsel of the Soratami
Venser, Shaper Savant
Pact of Negation
Spin into Myth
Magus of the Future
Now, obviously this deck could be improved simply by adding cards that other people would automatically include in this sort of deck: Sol Ring, Mana
Crypt, Minamo, School at Water’s Edge (with my general), Strip Mine, and Demonic Tutor all come to mind. However, giving myself an excuse for why I shouldn’t play with Demonic Tutor and Sol Ring has really opened up the format for me. I play Cancel instead of Mana Drain…
The other thing that has been really fun about playing Commander this way is that, when it becomes clear there is a problem in the deck I need to plug,
I can’t just play the default best card in Magic at fixing said problem. For instance, this particular collection of sets, especially in U/W/B, is
really soft at dealing with lands. Normally, I could just add a Strip Mine and Wasteland to fix said problemâ€”however, not exactly options in these
sets. Instead, I have Vesuva to answer Academy Ruins and Take Possession to try and stop other powerful utility lands.
Anyway, I have really been enjoying playing this deck in my local Commander gamesâ€”multiplayer and 1v1, and it has spawned some spin-off decks here in
Michigan with other players kind of buying into the philosophy of limiting the card pool from which we build.
There are any number of interesting ways to limit the card pool you build from, of which making one’s deck legal in some long, forgotten Standard
format is only one. Another way to do this might be a “pick your own Standard” restriction where players choose two blocks and a core set (preferably
not Revised) and build strictly from those sets.
Anyway, hope you guys enjoyed the article.