Vintage Avant-Garde – First Vintage Of 2011: Grudge Match II Results

Tuesday, January 18th – Check out these Top 8 lists from the latest Vintage tournament held in New York! Brian DeMars breaks down the metagame and tells you what’s good in a field full of Jace, Workshops, and Oath of Druids.

2011 is barely underway, but already the first, large-scale Vintage event of the year has been played. In New York Grudge Match II, a ten-proxy Vintage
tournament managed to pull in 90 players in arctic conditions to compete for a Black Lotus and other large prizes—quite a feat for a January
Vintage Tournament in bad conditions.

Many of Vintage’s top players, Paul Mastriano, Andy Probasco, and Matt Elias, weathered the storm to compete for the title of Grudge Match
Champion; Jeff Anand, a notable control master from yesteryear, crawled out of the woodwork of retirement for a chance at glory as well. The table was
clearly set for a showdown in New York, and from what I’ve heard, the tournament didn’t disappoint.

Unfortunately, the distance kept me away from Grudge Match II, although I badly wanted to be there playing Vintage Control—I instead chose to
drive to the family cabin in Northern Michigan, build an ice rink out on the lake, and rip pucks at a net all afternoon long (it’s not Magic, but
it’s close…). For whatever reason, maybe weather, maybe distance, maybe other obligations, perhaps you—like me—couldn’t make it
out to New York either. Luckily, I’ve been on the tap-wire non-stop for the past few days, so that even though we missed out on the event, we
won’t be out of the loop as to what went down out East.

Firstly, let’s take a quick look at the metagame in New York; because the tournament was out east, my initial expectation would be that there
would be a lot of Jace, the Mind Sculptor decks and a lot of Workshop decks. Judging from the data I’ve been able to acquire from www.themanadrain.com, and the analysis I’ve received from players who attended the
tournament, such an expectation seems to be fairly accurate. Here’s the breakdown by archetype of what the competitors played at Grudge Match II.

Grudge Match II Metagame Breakdown by Archetype:

Blue Decks:   37   = 41.1% of the field.

Workshop:   20   = 22.2% of the field.

Fish:          13   = 14.4% of the field.

Rituals:      10   = 11.1% of the field.

Dredge:      10   = 11.1% of the field.


Blue decks performed extremely well at the Grudge Match and dominated five of the Top 8 slots: two Oath, two Control, and two Painter’s Servant

The first thing that stands out to me about this metagame breakdown is the wide divide between non-Null Rod blue decks and Workshop decks. My
expectation would be that the ratio of blue decks to Workshop decks should check in at about four blue decks for every three Workshop decks, whereas in
reality we see that blue decks out-represented Workshops by an almost two-to-one ratio. However, we cannot underestimate how much the location—a
region known for its tradition of playing Drains—can influence deck selection.

Since blue decks were far and away the most popular decks at the tournament, it only makes sense to start our analysis by taking a look at some of the
blue decks. The most represented archetype with regard to blue decks at this event clearly looks to be Oath of Druids. Out of the 37 blue decks played,
eleven lists featured Oath as their primary victory condition, meaning almost 1/3 (29.7%) of blue mages brought Oath of Druids. To put this into
context, more people played Oath of Druids than either Storm Combo or Dredge.

Paul Mastriano, a well-respected Vintage expert and frequent Top 8 competitor, was among those who chose Oath of Druids as his weapon of choice for the
event—and he put up a strong third-place finish after X-0-ing the Swiss portion of the tournament. Paul chose to play the Meandeck Oath list,
which features Tidespout Tyrant as its Oath target and also notably features the Gush + Fastbond draw engine.

The other major blue archetype appears to have been several different flavors of Jace, the Mind Sculptor control decks with Time Vault and Voltaic Key.
The highest finishing non-Oath blue deck at the event was none other than the Vintage Control list that I designed and

wrote about a few weeks back

, as piloted by the extremely capable control player Jeff Anand.

Interesting story: Jeff called me last Wednesday and asserted that he was interested in coming out of retirement (before Grudge Match II, he
hadn’t played in a Vintage event in a few years) but didn’t really know anything about the modern meta or have any idea what he should
play. I told him that I’d designed a meta-control deck that was right up his alley and that he’d be well served to play it at the event. Jeff has long
been perhaps one of the greatest champion pilots of the “DeMars Vintage Control deck,” and I had little doubt that in his capable hands,
the list would easily lock up a Top 8 slot.

It’s also kind of humorous that when I was describing the decklist to Jeff over the phone last week, I brought up a few of the newer cards like
Preordain and Myr Battlesphere, and Jeff had to ask: “What does that card do?” since he had been out of the loop for a while and
hadn’t actually seen those cards before. Also, it’s worth noting that for each card, after I told him what it did, he sort of chuckled and
replied: “Wow, sounds pretty good!”

Jeff made two changes to my initial list—he cut one Preordain and one Ponder for a second Goblin Welder and a Mindslaver and ended up finishing
fourth overall in the event.

Vintage Control appears to have been a strong choice for this event because of its strong matchups against Mishra’s Workshop decks, as well as
Oath of Druids decks. Jeff told me that he easily cruised through every Workshop matchup and was on the day 4-0 vs. Shops. Also, as I continue to point
out article after article, notice that the two highest placing blue decks respectively played four and three copies of Preordain.

Blue decks appear to have performed exceptionally well last weekend in New York, as the Top 8 featured two Oath decks, two Jace decks, and a
Painter’s Servant deck. In contrast to Jeff’s Vintage Control deck, another Vintage notable, Jeff Greene, had a nice finish in sixth place
with a Jace, the Mind Sculptor Control deck. The biggest differences between the list Anand played and Greene’s list are Anand’s City of Brass
vs. Greene’s more traditional, all-fetchland base and also the fact that Greene’s list harkens back to more of an Owen Turtenwald-style blue deck
and uses creatures such as Dark Confidant and Trygon Predator to generate card advantage and board presence.

Greene’s list also features Thoughtseize and Duress in the main deck, which are helpful additions against opposing blue decks—whereas, the
other Vintage Control deck brings in hand disruption from out of the sideboard. It also seems that Greene’s list opts for a split—two
copies of Preordain and three Dark Confidants—an interesting split of pseudo-draw spells. It’s also interesting that both players’ control decks
feature Nihil Spellbomb in the main deck, a card choice that I advocate 100% when playing this archetype.


In spite of blue’s dominant showing in the Top 8, at the end of the day, Sam Berse playing Metalworker Mud was the last man standing. Workshops
put two players into the Top 8, one with Metalworker and the other with Mono-Brown Stax.

Let’s take a look at the first-place decklist.

Sam’s list is pretty straightforward in most respects, as it plays all of the Mud “good stuff” that we would expect (Lodestone Golem,
Thorns, Spheres, Tangle Wire, and the Mud mana base); however he does have some spicy and spot-on metagame technology that positions him nicely in the

Firstly, Metalworker seems absolutely awesome right now, especially when it’s powering out Steel Hellkite, Karn, and other fatties. In my article

“Identifying Trump in the Mishra’s Head-to-Head,”

I identified Metalworker as the most important card in the Workshop mirror match—and I still believe this to be true and to be confirmed by the
success of a list like this.

In addition to the ferocious beats brought by Metalworker powering out Steel Hellkite, the technology that I really like from Sam’s deck is the
addition of two maindeck Duplicants. In a field full of Oath of Druids and Workshop Monster decks, I’d be willing to bet that Sam’s Duplicants
were straight-up amazing all day long. “Exile your Steel Hellkite, and say hello to my 6/6.” Or, “Kill your Iona, Shield of Emeria or
Tidespout Tyrant.” Both of these situations facilitate Duplicant completely taking over a game, in addition to the fact that Duplicant
straight-up answers a Trygon Predator.

Sam’s sideboard also packs Duplicant three through four and two copies of the Oath of Druids hoser, Eon Hub. The biggest thing that I
feel Sam did extremely well was to prepare and have a strong plan, both in the main and out of the board, for attacking and defeating Oath of Druids. A
good Oath plan seems extremely relevant, since one of the strong pulls for players to play Oath is that it’s supposedly decent against Workshops and
the fact that Oath of Druids was the most played blue archetype.

Wurmcoil Engine and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale also rounded out the sideboard as very strong tactics for fighting opposing creature decks. I
haven’t seen Wurmcoil Engine in any Workshop sideboards before, but it seems obviously strong against Fish decks and possibly opposing
non-Metalworker Mud lists.

Congratulations to Sam Berse, Grudge Match II Champion.

Another Mishra’s Workshop fan, Josh Butker, also had a strong showing, although he went a different route with his Workshop strategy. Instead of
featuring Metalworker and Steel Hellkite, Josh’s deck is much more controlling with regard to the board, as it features Crucible of Worlds and

The first thing that I’d like to point out is that Josh also makes a good meta call and is amply prepared to deal with Oath of Druids by maxing out on
Duplicant in the main and sideboard. Duplicant seems mighty good right now, and I expect that if Oath of Druids continues to put up strong numbers,
we’ll likely see more players gravitating toward Duplicant in the future.

The other attribute I really like about both of these Mud decks is that they’re playing with Rishadan Ports in the main deck instead of Ghost Quarters.
At Vintage Champs, I saw a few Workshop decks running around with Ports, and I believe the card to be a fantastic addition. The ability to cheat an
opponent out of that one all-important mana they need to cast a main-phase Trygon Predator or Tinker can completely change the outcome of a game. Not
to mention that Porting an opponent goes a long, long way to keep fading Tangle Wires not only relevant, but crippling. 


The last thing I’d like to touch upon before I wrap this article up is to talk about some of the finer points about planning, running, and
hosting a successful large-scale Vintage tournament such as Grudge Match II. This week, I was lucky to get a chance to talk with Nick Detwiler, the man
in charge of putting together Grudge Match II, and he was able to share with me some of his thoughts about how to successfully run big Vintage
tournaments in the modern Vintage era.

One of the big points he stressed about getting a large tournament turnout for a Vintage event with ample prize support was that New York, the region
in which Grudge Match took place, also has a pretty sizable local Vintage scene. The fact that the New York area has been able to build a grassroots
Vintage scene really helps build a player base that in a sense feeds the large-scale tournaments.

Nick also said that:

Players in general seem to be hesitant to spend $25 or $30 to play in a tournament with a deck they’re unsure of. People don’t try things; they
don’t build confidence in their play skill or deck, and they stay away. Having weekly tournaments on Long Island for duals, bi-monthly tournaments
for $150-$200 staple prizes, and having major events help this

It only makes sense that players are much more likely to attend a large Vintage event if they’re actually playing the format with some frequency. Using
Nick’s observation as a starting point, perhaps the best way to revitalize Vintage is to find new ways to support the format on a more local

The fact that Grudge Match was able to get ninety players to battle Type I really seems to suggest that the region has become a, if not the,
hotbed of North American Vintage. Nick emphasized that in the New York area there are Vintage tournaments weekly, which gives players a chance to
become more familiar and makes the large investment in the format worthwhile.

“The Mid-Atlantic corridor has high-level events run every month – there isn’t a dearth of events; players can get up and play several times a
month. It’s worth the investment in time and money for them because there’s an outlet.”

Nick also emphasized the community aspect of New York Vintage as a contributing factor to the vibrancy of the scene. Since there are lots of local
tournaments in New York, the players get a chance to know one another from playing each other on a weekly basis. Not only is this good for making new
friends, but it’s also practical in the sense that it creates a larger pool of cards from Magic acquaintances to build decks from. Nick stressed the
fact that players can borrow cards from people they have gotten to know on the circuit, which makes building new decks easier on the pocketbook.

Nick said:

“There’s a real sense of community amongst the New York guys. People build more than one deck, and they lend decks out. I had five decks (Dredge,
Noble Fish, Trygon Tezz, Espresso Stax, and Bob Tendrils) lent out at the event. On top of that, I took my power and Workshops and lent them to
Jimmy Hangley – so there were six guys who played in the event because of me. Lots of guys do that – the second-place finisher, Dominick Karmiche,
was playing a borrowed deck.”

The community aspect, especially if one makes friends with the other people on the scene, can really go a long way toward providing a better Vintage

I’ll trade you my Mishra’s Workshop deck for your Mana Drain deck for the day next Saturday.

Congratulations to the Top 8 competitors at Grudge Match II and to Nick for hosting a very successful and well-received event. The results look pretty
interesting, and it seems Vintage is off to a pretty wild start in 2011!

Thanks for reading.


Brian DeMars