Vintage Avant-Garde – If Vintage Champs Were Tomorrow…

The headlining North American Vintage tournament is approaching: the Vintage Championships at Gen Con. Brian DeMars presents his picks for the best for decks to be playing in Vintage; don’t leave home without Ancient Grudge!

The Vintage tournament scene has sure been heating up, especially in Pennsylvania and New York, over the course of the past month. Summer Vintage is in
full swing, and all roads are leading up to Indianapolis where the format’s most prestigious North American event is scheduled to be held: the
Vintage Championships at Gen Con.

In this week’s article, I am going to weigh in on deck choices and lists that I like and would strongly consider playing at the Championships, as well
as explain why I think particular strategies are strong choices. So, whether you are considering playing at Champs, or simply want a leg up at next
week’s local Vintage tournament, I would strongly recommend that Vintage players study these lists because I think they are among the most powerful and
best positioned in the format.

My number one pick for best current deck in Vintage is:


The list I have posted here is the brainchild of Paul Mastriano and has been his weapon of choice on his latest rampage of the Vintage tournament
scene, helping him win first prize and a Black Lotus at the NYSE Open and top 4 at BBGD.

The list is unbelievable; I personally appreciate a good list when I see one, and this deck is absolutely ridiculous.

First of all—this is the deck that Dark Confidant was made to be in. “Greatness at any cost?”

It is comical to me that this deck is so many leagues better than the vast majority of tournament decks people play that in many matchups getting a few
unlucky blind Dark Confidant flips is likely to be the only way that the majority of decks can actually win.

Also, I love the way that this deck splashes both red and green to play Ancient Grudge. “YES” Ancient Grudge is that good, and has been for
some time. I have stated the fact that Ancient Grudge is the best-positioned non-restricted card in the format six months ago, and not surprisingly, it
is still the best meta option for blue decks.

There are two types of players in Vintage: Players who suck it up and play with real mana bases so they can cast Ancient Grudge, and players who like
to handicap themselves.

The deck that I believe is the strongest metagame deck that has a mana base that can consistently cast Ancient Grudge is very likely to be the deck
that I would play at a large Vintage tournament.

Obviously, Grudge is very strong against Mishra’s Workshop-based strategies—but, honestly who even cares about Mishra’s Workshop
anymore? The cat is out of the bag on MUD, and the verdict is that it is no longer a good deck choice in Vintage. It was only a matter of time before
blue mages figured out how to consistently defeat shops, and it is surprising to me that it even took this long. Once we figured out that
Nature’s Claim and Ancient Grudge can go into Time Vault control decks, it was all over.

“Turbo Tezz” decks have also been gaining popularity, especially in Europe, as being yet another blue-based strategy that outright crushes
MUD decks. There are so many different blue decks that provide so many different and far-reaching problems for Workshop decks that unless a player is
an extremely dedicated Workshop mage I would strongly recommend that people not play that archetype right now.

I was really interested in the Turbo Tezz archetype when it first came out because it really was an innovative big mana Vintage strategy that
legitimately beats Workshops. After having had some time to play with and against the deck I have arrived at the conclusion that it is just another
Oath of Druids” deck.

It is a deck with some powerful draws that importantly lacks the ability to have many different lines of play. Essentially Tezz decks play a bunch of
artifact mana and hope their turn two planeswalker is good enough.

By the way, Ancient Grudge really, really exposes Tezz decks in general.

Basically, anybody with a crystal ball who is looking into the future knows that the new metagame actually revolves around playing decks that beat blue

In my opinion it is pretty clear that the four-color Ancient Grudge decks beat the Tezzeret decks in the heads up, which is yet another big checkmark
that makes me think Suicide Jace Vault is the best.

Like the “Counter Punch” Commander pre-constructed deck, Paul’s Suicide Jace Vault deck is playable as-is right out of the package.
As of right now, it is my choice for the best list in Vintage.


Vintage Control is still a real deck and still putting up solid finishes wherever it gets played. I would also like to point out that along with all of
the Workshop bashing I’ve been doing, my prediction that blue decks will eventually drive Workshop out of the meta and that by Champs we will be
seeing a blue dominated metagame is solidly coming to fruition.

The BBGD Top 8 was seven blue decks and a Mono-Black “Dark Times” (Dark Depths/Hexmage) deck. I only have one question:
“Where’s Karn?”

Of all the blue decks, Vintage Control has the strongest MUD matchup, which in a meta where Workshop can’t make Top 8 (such as BBGD), may seem
like an oversight; however keep in mind that the Vintage Championship will bring out the old time Workshop players and that despite Workshops being on
a meta downswing, they are very likely to be overrepresented in the field at Gen Con.

If Workshops are overrepresented at Champs, it may mean that a deck like Vintage Control may still be a very solid deck choice for making Top 8.

The other important distinction I would like to make is that while people assume that different Gush variants have good matchups against Vintage
Control, their advantage tends to be small, if at all. The higher the skill level of the players playing the matchup on both sides, the closer it gets
to even—which is where I think the matchup is actually at.

The other key to understanding the meta is that even if Gush decks have a slight edge against other Key-Vault strategies, in order to get that
advantage by adding four Gush and Fastbond, a deck is rapidly hemorrhaging percentage points against Workshop decks in order to do so. The card Gush is
tactically poor against the card Lodestone Golem.

I think that Shawn Griffith’s Vintage Control list is very good; I would make a few different card choices. Here is the list I would play:


First of all this deck features four City of Brass and Ancient Grudge (which is how you KNOW that it is a real deck), but aside from that, it is the
first Skullclamp deck that appears to “not suck.”

The problem with Skullclamp decks in Vintage has historically been that they try to combo out with some Elves, Arcbound Ravager, or even worse Kobolds.
In order to have things to “clamp,” it forces players to use “bad cards” ultimately leading to “bad” decks.
Skullclamp combo decks have traditionally suffered from the problem of being a “bad something else,” which is to say Skullclamp combo decks
are simply bad Storm Tendrils decks—since, we are ultimately cutting out cards that are actively useful draws that do something (Dark Ritual,
Necropotence, Mind’s Desire) for cards that are leagues worse, such as Kobolds.

Chapin’s deck isn’t a bad something else; it is a good something new. When I discussed the deck with him last week, he made the distinction
that his deck is not a “fish” deck or a “clamp combo” deck, but rather that his 4C Stoneblade deck is more of a midrange
creature-based control deck.

The deck is able to produce a lot of one-for-one trades with Swords to Plowshares, Mental Misstep, and Thoughtseize—and then ultimately overwhelm
an opponent with crushing card advantage in the form of Gorilla Shaman, Ancient Grudge, Cabal Therapy, and Skullclamp.

The deck also has a lot of ways to leverage mana advantage over an opponent by playing with Wasteland, Strip Mine, Gorilla Shaman, and Kataki.

Vintage is particularly soft to creature-based strategies as it is because creatures have long been thought of as the worst card type in the format.
However, as Magic has moved forward, the creature card type has gotten upgraded the most in the recent past. Stoneforge Mystic tutoring up Skullclamp
is a really good example of brokenness begetting brokenness—as one recently banned card that hasn’t seen much competitive Vintage play yet searches up another format wrecker that found itself banned pretty much everywhere.

Will Stoneforge Mystic and Skullclamp be good enough to make a difference in Vintage? I’m not sure, but the strategy seems like it would be really fun
to play, and if it does turn out to be a marquee tactic, it is always good to get in on it at the ground floor.


Storm Tendrils is the only Vintage deck I would consider playing that doesn’t play with the card Ancient Grudge.

Basically, the way that I see it—if Gush decks can battle through fields and not get crushed by Mishra’s Workshop, then TPS could easily do
the same thing.

In fact, it would seem to me that TPS should have a better Workshop matchup than Gush, a better Key-Vault matchup than Gush, and a better matchup
against Gush than Gush. It really seems like a no-brainer here that Gush is probably just a bad TPS deck.

The biggest problem with TPS is that it is not nearly as forgiving in a tournament to pilot as Gush is and that a player’s ability to make
correct decisions is much more important in TPS than in a combo/control style deck.

Gitaxian Probe also seems like a really good reason to be playing TPS over another archetype—as the card is absolutely amazing in a storm deck
with Yawgmoth’s Will and makes storming out very easy, especially when a player hasn’t netted extra cards on the second turn.

Anybody that has talked to me about Vintage lately knows that I have been pretty high on TPS. If it isn’t the best deck outright (which it
possibly could be), it is definitely the best deck that nobody is talking about.

Good luck.

Brian DeMars