Vintage & Legacy Championships

Read about Brian’s experience at Eternal Weekend in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this past weekend, where he played in the Vintage and Legacy Championships.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Vintage and Legacy Championships in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It had been a while since I had gotten a chance to play Vintage and Legacy, so I was pretty pumped up to have a whole week to focus on playing with the old cards.

I made plans to test with my friend and Vintage teammate Paul Mastriano out in Washington DC for a couple of days before the tournament, and by Thursday afternoon we were right in the thick of Legacy and Vintage deckbuilding. By the end of our testing, we had both decided to play the exact same 150 cards in both tournaments.

Our weapons of choice were Sneak and Show in Legacy and Oath Control in Vintage.

I will get to the decks in a moment, but first I have a couple of general thoughts about the weekend that I’d like to discuss.

First, I would like to congratulate Ari Lax, one of my all-time favorite Magic players in the world, on a well-deserved victory as he took home the Wasteland painting and become the 2013 Legacy Champion! A very deserved victory for sure. Ari has spent so much effort and energy working on Legacy the past few years, is truly a Legacy expert, and made that fact undeniably clear by winning the Championship. Congratulations!

Also, congratulations to Joel Lim for taking down the Vintage Championship with Merfolk. If you had asked me the odds of a Merfolk deck winning the Vintage Championship on Saturday night, I would have said I thought it extremely unlikely. That is the great thing about Vintage—anything is actually possible!

Lastly, I wanted to give my praises to Nick Coss for running an absolutely fantastic set of Eternal Championships. I have attended and played in most of the Vintage and Legacy Championships to date, and this was by far the best run and best put together ones I have ever been to. I really appreciated the extra security that Nick had on site and the overall professional manner in which the events were run.

I liked the fact that Vintage and Legacy Champs were their own events with their own site as opposed to being side events at Gen Con. While being at Gen Con was kind of cool, overall it sort of detracted from the prestige of these high-caliber Eternal events. It was great to see Eternal Magic get the coverage and respect that it truly deserves, especially since Magic Online is on the verge of releasing the Power Nine and introducing Vintage online.

I got a chance to watch all of the feature matches while I was driving back to Michigan on the livestream, and I also thought that Chris Pikula and Randy Buehler did a fantastic job of commentating the Vintage matches. It made the format seem more accessible to viewers and possibly created a lot of good press for the format with the release of the Power Nine looming on Magic Online.

The Vintage Championship got well over 200 players, which is an extremely impressive feat and promising sign for the format. It was the biggest sanctioned Vintage event that I can ever recall taking place in North America, and it is a fact that the tournament is the largest Vintage Championship to date!

So overall it was a great weekend for Eternal Magic in general. Nick Coss, you are the man! Thank you!

Also, thank you to all the Vintage players who attended and supported this event. We should all be very proud that this event happened; it is a terrific step forward for the format.

The only complaint that I have about the tournament—a frustration with which I believe was shared by many other players as well—was that the Commander 2013 decks were released for sale the day before the Legacy Championship, which made it very difficult to attain the new unique cards for the events. Cards that might have seen more play, such as Toxic Deluge and True-Name Nemesis, were difficult to acquire prior to the events. I really hope that WotC learns from this mistake and corrects this problem in the future.

Legacy Championship

For the Legacy Championship, I ended up playing a Sneak and Show deck that was very close to the one that Brad Nelson, Gerry Thompson, and Brian Braun-Duin played at the SCG Invitational in Indianapolis.

The convincing finishes that the deck put up the previous weekend coupled with how truly powerful the deck is led me to believe that it was simply the deck to play in this event. The only other deck that I would have considered playing was a Stoneforge Mystic / True-Name Nemesis deck, but my choice was basically made for me since I couldn’t acquire the new Commander cards before the event.

I only really played the Sneak and Show deck in a few games during playtesting (being The Enemy) for other Legacy players who wanted to test against it and am by no means a master with the deck like William Jenson or Brad Nelson. However, my modest abilities with the deck allowed me to finish with a 6-2-1 record and a Top 32 finish.

It was also great that having a decent day and a decent record allowed me to earn $100 store credit at this Championship as opposed to the three packs that would have been the prize at one of the Gen Con Championships in the past. The store had a huge box of Japanese staple cards (which I collect), and I was able to walk away from the tournament with a hefty grip of really cool cards I had been looking for: Oath of Druids, Yawgmoth’s Will, Mental Misstep, and a bunch of cards for my beloved Modern Affinity Deck.

There is nothing super special about the Sneak and Show list that I ended up playing, but here it is:

The deck was super powerful, and how much play it really provided me with to me by surprise. The deck demonstrated a lot of ability to grind through hate and counterspells to eventually earn a win.

A surprise Sneak Attack—redundant but effective.

My favorite play with the deck is to Show and Tell out a Sneak Attack and then make an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Emrakul is really,

There has already been so much written about Sneak and Show that I’m not going to go into any real depth about the strategy of playingreally broken when it is hasty!

the deck. What I will say is that I felt the deck was on the verge of pushing what may be acceptable for a competitive tournament deck in terms of power and efficiency.

Most of my opponents basically groaned when the figured out what deck I was on because they don’t like to play against that deck (and for pretty obvious reasons—the deck is super powerful, and the games are so repetitive).

Every game ends the same way:

Did Emrakul attack? Yes, I win. No, I lost.

True-Name Nemesis is a card that I have been really excited about since it was spoiled a couple of weeks ago.

3CC Progenitus? Count me in!

The card is extremely powerful and really dominates in any kind of creature combat scenario, especially ones where it gets to wear a Sword or an Umezawa’s Jitte.

Tag-Team Partners.

Here is the draft of the list I was working on before I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to get True-Name Nemesis for the event, thus making my endeavor moot to continue.

I didn’t get a chance to play very much with the deck, but it looks like an okay starting point for this kind of a strategy. I think the interaction between True-Name Nemesis and Umezawa’s Jitte is incredible against opposing creature decks. How can they ever win?!

Vintage Championship

I was really pleased with the deck that Paul and I brewed up for the Vintage Championship and very disappointed that I didn’t do better than a very poor 2-2 drop record with it. I would have liked to play out all of my rounds for the fun of it, but a nine-hour drive back to Michigan really incentivized packing it in and hitting the road.

The deck still seems really sweet to me, and if I were given the opportunity, I would probably just run it back. My losses were pretty bizarre, and I am really curious to see if the deck a) isn’t as good as I think that it is or b) my draws were just really bad.

I got a chance to play the deck in a video feature match and won that round, which if you can find it online somewhere it was a pretty sweet couple of games against Merfolk. The games were pretty interesting; in the second one, I stabilized at one life by Oathing up Blightsteel Colossus and Nature’s Claiming it (indestructible) to gain four life to not die to his multiple attackers!

I lost game 3 to Dredge and had to mulligan to two (Island, Ancestral Recall) on the draw. I legitimately board in ten cards against Dredge and have Oath of Druids and Tinker. I think it is good matchup in general, and I was really disappointed this match got away from me the way that it did.

I lost another heartbreaker where I topdecked runner, runner, Griselbrand, and Blightsteel Colossus on the draw with turn 2 Oath with Force of Will backup! A risk of playing the deck for sure, but seriously!!!

There were far fewer Mishra’s Workshop decks at this event than I had anticipated. Usually, at Vintage Champs Workshop is a very highly played deck and makes up a large chunk of the metagame, but for whatever reason the metal mages were not out in spades for this tournament. One element I really liked about this Oath deck was that it tested very well against Workshop decks.

Paul and I learned that we were able to win very favorably on the play and steal about one of three games when were on the draw while dominating the matchup on the play post-sideboard and having a much better matchup on the draw. Our testing seemed to suggest that we had a favorable matchup in general against even the most hateful Oath decks.

Another strong advantage of the Oath Control deck is that it is pretty adept at dealing with Grafdigger’s Cage post-sideboard. With all of the counters, Nature’s Claims, and Ancient Grudges, the deck is able to deal with Cage most of the time.

I also really liked Blightsteel Colossus quite a bit in this deck. Having a backup plan of tutoring up Tinker and making a monster was great and won me a couple of games. Another big innovation we made in this deck was to cut the Time Vault / Voltaic Key infinite combo to make room for more business spells in the deck. One thing that Paul and I discovered was that the only time we were every really assembling the combo was after we already had a Griselbrand in play.

It didn’t seem necessary to have a two-card combo in our deck that only ever comes on line after we assemble our primary two-card combo of Oath of Druids and Forbidden Orchard. I believe this was a big step in the right direction.

The last piece of the puzzle was to return to playing a more traditional-style Oath deck that basically just grinds the opponent right out of the game via the advantages that Oathing provides.

The mature choice.

I believe that for a long tournament where all sorts of weird outlier scenarios are going to happen that playing it safe is probably right. One thing I have always disliked about playing Oath is that sometimes the card can randomly kill you for no reason!

Playing with a maindeck Gaea’s Blessing really cuts back on the opportunity for these random “oops I lost” scenarios to occur. Especially because the deck plays Griselbrand. How annoying is it to Oath up a Griselbrand and only have five cards left in your library? After it happening exactly one time, Gaea’s Blessing made an appearance in the deck, and I never looked back.

My thought is that this deck is still probably pretty well positioned in the metagame considering Merfolk and RUG Delver faced off in the finals of the Champs, which is bound to attract more players toward these archetypes.

Looking at the Top 8, with no Workshops to be found I’m not at all surprised that Slaughter Smurfs were able to take down the finals and win the painting. After all, I did say that I thought Null Rod was extremely well positioned for this event in my last article.

I expect that Mishra’s Workshop will make a comeback to attack some of these creature decks that are preying on the blue decks. If blue decks have to adapt to deal with creatures, it means they are not focusing entirely on killing Lodestone Golems. I am also really surprised that Dredge didn’t make it into the Top 8 of this tournament, but to be fair the lots of Grafdigger’s Cages that the creature decks were playing to fight Oath might have really stopped the Dredge decks in their tracks.

My thought process after this event is that it looks like Grafdigger’s Cage is the best unrestricted card in Vintage—for the moment. And I am really excited that a creature deck finally won a Championship!

It is pretty sweet that virtually every pillar of Vintage has now taken home a painting. Mana Drain, Gush, Dark Ritual, Mishra’s Workshop, Bazaar of Baghdad, and now finally Null Rod.

Once again, congratulations to Joel Lim and Ari Lax, both of whom are now proud owners of some pretty sweet new paintings. And really, congratulations to Eternal Magic—both Legacy and Vintage got some fantastic exposure, and the players really made both formats look extremely good.

It was an excellent weekend all around that has really left me thirsty to play more Vintage and Legacy in the near future.

Is there a cooler card to cast in Magic than Black Lotus? Probably not. One thing I’ve noticed in my years of playing Magic is that when a player puts Black Lotus onto the stack that every person within viewing distance of the game stops what they are doing and watches to see what is going to happen next.

That is one of the reasons that Vintage is so cool. There are always so many possibilities for what could happen next that we really just have to wait and watch to see it all unfold. Not only in singular games where somebody has a big and exciting turn, but also as a metagame; before this past weekend, it seems unlikely to me that more than a handful of people would have anticipated a Merfolk deck winning a major Vintage event, but it happened.

Now we Vintage fans have to try to figure out what is going to happen next. It seems difficult to anticipate but very interesting to watch unfold.

Brian DeMars

Follow me on Twitter @briandemars1