2006 Vintage Year in Review, Part 2

Last time out, the inestimable Mr Menendian dealt with the ups and downs of the Vintage year from January to June. Today’s article deals with the second half of the year. Stephen breaks down the results from the major tournaments in the latter half of 2006, and shares some of the stronger decklists that appeared along the way. The future for Vintage in 2007 looks very rosy indeed…

When we last left off, the results of SCG Rochester registered a 9.0 on the Richter scale.

SCG Rochester was a cliffhanger, leaving us uncertain about the future direction of the Vintage metagame.

At the previous SCG event a few months before, Control Slaver once again established itself as the deck to beat. Although Control Slaver managed to put up impressive numbers at SCG Rochester, the metagame reshaped itself, fangs bared, eager to sink its teeth into Control Slaver opponents. Bomberman, Grim Long, techy Dragon Combo, and the innovative Sullivan Solution took aim at Control Slaver and were rewarded for their effort. The result was a very diverse mix of surprising decks competing at the top tables and into the Top 8.

The question coming out of SCG Rochester was: which of these decks were the real deal and which were mere flashes in the pan? Which decks would prove long-term contenders and which were one-shot metagame grenades?

July — Misdirect Your Ancestral to My Metagame

As we entered the second half of the year, the Vintage Championship loomed over everything, casting a shadow on the events to come. Wizards had announced that they were going to give away a gorgeous painting of Mox Pearl, perhaps the most alluring artwork they have given away yet, even more so than Christopher Rush’s reinterpretation of Black Lotus.

SCG Charlotte

Perhaps because people were saving for the trip to GenCon to compete in the Vintage Championship, or maybe because of summer fatigue, the next SCG stop in Charlotte, North Carolina drew a less than inspired turnout of 49 players – a huge drop off from SCG Richmond and Rochester.

After a feisty six rounds of swiss, a Top 8 was chosen:

1) The big story was that Nate Pease, from Team Good Games, had switched away from the Thirst For Knowledge build of Gifts that his teammates and compatriots had advocated for so long and played something that had the distinct contours of my own rebellious Meandeck Gifts. He ran Misdirections and Merchant Scrolls (at nearly a full complement) and mixed in a few singletons to give him maneuvering room to outplay his opponents. This development would foreshadow the events of the Vintage Championship itself. The primary differences between his list and a standard MDG lists were:

+ 1 Lava Dart over Fact or Fiction
+ 1 Skeletal Scrying over fourth Merchant Scroll
+ 1 Repeal as a 61st card

He also swapped out an Island for a Library.

Gifts was largely absent from the results of SCG Rochester, and had been MIA from the American metagame since the destruction the Time Vault plus Flame Fusillade combo by Mark Gottlieb and company in the Spring. That Nate had inadvertently picked up Meandeck Gifts and rode it to victory was a significant development. It signaled that there was finally a shifting consensus that the Meandeck Gifts build was becoming the Gifts list to play.

2) Perhaps the more important story to emerge out of SCG Charlotte was something Eric Becker, who had already stamped his name into the Vintage arcana with Intuition Tendrils, came up with.

Eric was furious at my extravagant claim that piloted correctly, Grim Long could not lose. In his testing, he not only lost games, but he found many matchups had narrow victory margins. He set about changing that.

Eric Becker was intrigued by my suggestion of using Force of Wills in the Grim Long sideboard at Rochester. He wanted to take it a step further. He tested with Force of Wills maindeck and when he was struck with the idea of adding Misdirections as well, suddenly something “clicked” for him.

Swapping out four Duress for four Force of Wills out of Grim Long makes sense. But what do you cut to add Misdirections? Xantid Swarm, Regrowth, and Wheel of Fortune. What do all of these cards have in common? They are not Blue or Black. Cutting them for Misdirections enables you to run a two-color, clean and safe manabase.

Hence, Pitch Long is born. Sculpted out of the still ascendant Grim Long by the innovative Eric Becker, the breakout deck of 2006, Pitch Long:

Eric missed Top 8 Day 1, but crushed his way to third place on Day 2:

(Note that Germans had also developed a Long variant, “Litz Long,” tuned from Grim Long that looked a lot like Pitch Long at about the same time.)

Although those were the main stories coming out of SCG Charlotte, there were two other tales worth telling:

3) Sullivan Solution rejected claims that it was a flash-in-the pan archetype by putting three players into the two Top 8s, one of which took home the Black Lotus on Day 2. Although Sullivan Solution hasn’t really done anything else all year, these results suggest that it is still a contender.

4) Brandon Todaro took Izzet Guildmage and ported it into Vintage using an innovative combination of cards including Reset to combo out with Fire / Ice.

Izzet Guildmage can copy the Reset infinitely so that you generate infinite mana with which to combo kill using Fire. The deck has a robust draw engine in Intuition-AK. Although a cute deck and a nifty idea, it hasn’t done much since. Still, props go to Brandon for taking home some cash with a crafty deck.

AugustThe Vintage Championship

Before the Vintage Championship, there is one other major Vintage tournament to talk about. That would be, of course, the Waterbury.

The Waterbury returned in August for one final Northeast showdown in 2006. Although there were only two Waterbury’s in 2006, they were both memorable. Nearly 150 players from across the continental United States and Canada made the trek to compete in a fierce battle.

After eight rounds of swiss and then four single elimination rounds following a cut to Top 16, another Gro deck wins yet again another Waterbury. Why won’t these decks just Gro Away?

Rich Meist beat 5c Stax in the finals to take home a Black Lotus with an innovative Gro list:

Rich ported Ghost Quarter into Vintage with Vinelasher Kudzu to send Green men of enormous size into the red zone. If this can be done in other formats… why not Vintage?

I admit I have no obvious explanation as to why Gro variants continue to win Waterburies. GroAtog won the January Waterbury and the aptly named “Worse Than Gro” wins this one.

The rest of the Top 8:

1) Worse Than Gro
2) 5c Stax
3) U/W Fish — Dave Feinstein
4) Control Slaver — Ben Kowal
5) 5c Stax — Roland Chang
6) U/W/B Aggro Control
7) Thirst for Knowledge Gifts
8) U/W/B Aggro Control

Aggro Control seems to shine in the Waterbury metagame for reasons that aren’t always clear. Unlike the days of old where the Waterbury was a sea of Mana Drain decks, the metagame is clearly more diverse with a greater mix of Stax and combo.

One notable fact that is missing from this Top 8 is the amazing return of Carl Winter.

As Ray talks about in his tournament organizer reportCarl Winter, my inactive teammate and former Vintage world champion, returned from the realm of retired magic players to climb his way to first place in the swiss with Pitch Long.

Day 2 decklists.

Reiterating the point made the day before by Carl Winter, the imitable Tommy Kolowith wrecked havoc on the Day 2 metagame with Pitch Long winning yet another major tournament this year.

1) Pitch Long — Tommy Kolowith
2) Control Slaver — Ben Kowal
3) Oath of Druids — Ben Carp
4) Stax
5) Masknaught — Nate Pease
6) Workshop Aggro — Dan Carp
7) Control Slaver
8) Oath of Druids

Pitch Long is clearly a force to be reckoned with. Barely a few months after Grim Long established itself as an archetype that many players could play to success, Pitch Long has come along and one-upped the whole combo archetype — taking it to new heights. Combo has reached a Vintage apogee. Will it stay there?

Before turning to the Vintage Championships, there is one other deck I’d like to single out: Ben Kowal Control Slaver variant:

Having once championed Thirst for Knowledge Gifts, Ben has apparently switched to Control Slaver in light of the erratum on Time Vault. His Night’s Whisper Slaver has become the standard bearer Slaver list for Team Reflection. Both days at the Waterbury, Ben Kowal managed to give Control Slaver its highest placing finish. Importantly, however, Ben lost in the finals to Pitch Long, reminding us that Pitch Long has an intensely favorable Control Slaver matchup.

Not true of other control decks…

The Vintage Championship

Trotting out like calves to the slaughter, 128 competitors herded into the massive Indianapolis Convention Center, home of the Indianapolis Colts, with a dream and a deck. The dream was to walk out of that massive coliseum with a painting of Mox Pearl. Vintage’s best and brightest came for the showdown. Italy’s Champion sat side by side with the Japanese Vintage champion. Pro Tour irregular and Vintage all-stars Brian Demars and Rich Shay came ready to battle. Meandeck’s finest – defending champion Roland Chang – Paul Mastriano, Legacy adept Mike Bomholt, and myself came prepared and ready. Even Waterbury organizer Ray Robillard would be sporting his Staxless Stax, hoping to bring some fame to his deck. Of course, out of the deep Midwest, Team ICBM (I Can Beat Meandeck) was ready as well. Bryan Fischer, Tommy Kolowith, Mat Endress, and many others were ready to compete. GWS also brought along the now famous Eric Becker and his teammates.

A healthy 40+ players fought for two byes at the Vintage preliminary tournament the night before the Championship. After the dust had cleared, at least two Dragon decks piloted by Rich Shay and Scott Limoges had made it into the final four along with Staxless Stax, and another Workshop deck. Apparently, Scott Limoges beat Rich and then lost to the Workshop pilot. Dragon’s dominance over the Pitch Long heavy metagamed seemed to foretell a tournament tomorrow in which Dragon would once again reestablish itself, as it had done in Rochester.

128 players was a slight bump from last year, and meant eight rounds of Vintage insanity. The going was rough but the tough get tougher, and after perhaps the most harrowing experience a Vintage player could imagine, a Top 8 emerged.

As if the swiss wasn’t tough enough, the Top 8 was a menagerie of some of the meanest minds in Vintage. Here is the Top 8:

1) Travis Spero — Meandeck Gifts
2) Tommy Kolowith — Pitch Long
3) Robert Vroman – Uba Stax
4) Arend Kraehling — Control Slaver
5) Nick Trudeau (BHWC Tendrils)
6) Paul Mastriano — Pitch Long
7) Paul Nicolo (Blue-White-Black Fish)
8) David Cohen — Confidant Gifts (one of the Italian players)

Meandeck Gifts Triumphant

I encourage you to read Travis’s tournament report.

Here is a short excerpt that describes the deck:

Hello everyone. I would like to tell you about my trip to GenCon, where I won the 2006 Vintage World Championships with a deck called Meandeck Gifts. As many already know, the idea behind the deck is to try to control the game until you can resolve a Gifts Ungiven or two, and eventually Tinker Darksteel Colossus into play, or resolve a huge Yawgmoth’s Will and then cast Burning Wish for the single copy of Tendrils of Agony in the sideboard. Mana Drain fuels the Gifts, and Merchant Scroll acts like Demonic Tutors 2-5 in the deck, fetching up any number of great cards.

Travis has got it all right — it takes some skill and fortitude to win a Vintage Championship and he did it with class.

When I first developed Meandeck Gifts, it appeared quite a strange list to most people. Take a look at my unveiling of the deck to the Vintage community and the variety of replies.

I was assaulting the wisdom of the Vintage community by suggesting that Thirst for Knowledge was a sup-bar engine and attacking the validity of the Belcher-Severance combo.

Meandeck Gifts turned out to be the one Control deck in the format that could attack, head on, the combo decks that were emerging. My style of play has always been more aggressive and as a combo player, I was attentive to the needs of beating combo. Meandeck Gifts was a great metagame choice for the sea of Pitch Long.

Combo’s A Coming

There can be no doubt that Pitch Long established itself as one of the best decks in the format. Paul Mastriano and Tommy Kolowith were 6-0 in the swiss and easily drew into Top 8 as the second and third seeds. Tommy did make one alternation to Pitch Long of note: he added Infernal Contract to the deck in lieu of Windfall. This is the best performance that combo has ever done in a Vintage championship.

The Most Diverse Metagame Ever?

Taking a look at the Top 8, you have:

1 Workshop deck
1 Fish deck
3 different Mana Drain decks
2 different Tendrils decks

Note that three decks — one Fish, one Drain, and one Combo deck had Dark Confidant. Mr. Maher has made a splash in Vintage.

This is the first time since the inception of the Vintage Championship that you had a mix of Workshops, Drains, and Dark Rituals in the Top 8, not to mention Fish. (Also, Bazaar found its way into the mix via Vroman’s Stax list). All of the Vintage heavies are represented here.

Ted Knutson reported the following matches vying for Top 8 spots at the end of round seven:

1) 2 Pitch Long
2) 2 EBA (U/B/W Fish)
3) UbaStax versus Bomberman
4) Mishra’s Workshop Aggro versus EBA
5) Stax versus BHMC Tendrils
6) Gifts Control versus EBA
7) Long versus Meandeck Gifts
8) Burning Slaver versus DPS (Storm)
9) Dragon versus Gifts Control
10) Pitch Long mirror

Although this Top 8 is undoubtedly the healthiest-appearing Top 8 in some time, it is also one of the most brutal, even more so than the 16 Trinisphere Top 8 from 2004. The decks that made Top 8, save maybe the Fish deck, were anything but fair. The finals match was a sea of tutors and pitch counterspells with each game sealed and delivered by Yawgmoth’s Will and finished off by two swings from a Darksteel Colossus.

The Vintage Championship is notable in a few other regards. Three of the four years now, a Mana Drain deck has managed to come into the Top 8 and take the top prize. And for the second time, the deck that ended up winning the whole tournament snuck into the Top 8 as the eight seed. For some reason, Mana Drain decks are less likely to make Top 8, but once there, the consistency of Brainstorm and Blue cards with a low variance manabase seems to make it much more likely that they will end up winning the whole thing. Tommy Kolowith had leveraged his skill to make it into the Top 8, but his luck ran out when he drew hands that couldn’t do anything against Travis Spero’s faster deck manipulation and more flexible manabase.

It is also notable that every single player who made Top 8 was an expert in their archetype. Arend has been playing Control Slaver now forever. Robert Vroman has been playing his Stax list for nearly two years. The only exception is the versatile Tommy Kolowith who has played almost everything under the sun this year, his rookie year in Vintage.

For more coverage on the Vintage Championship, I’ll direct your attention to Ted Knutson excellent Champs report.

September — Cleaning Up or Making Things Worse?

StarCityGames.com had announced that it was going to be holding its first Power Nine tournament in Boston, Mass in the heart of New England. Red Sox fans everywhere swooned.

117 players made the journey to fight for a piece of power at SCG: Boston Day 1. After an exhausting swiss, a strange Top 8 emerged:

1) 5 Color Uba Stax — Jeff Greene
2) Bob-Bomberman
3) U/W Fish
4) Suicide Black
5) Thirst for Knowledge Gifts
6) Control Slaver
7) Control Slaver
8) Thirst for Knowledge Gifts

The winning decklist was surprising in at least two ways. First, it had been some time since Stax had taken the top slot. This was only the second major tournament win for Stax this year. Second, Jeff won with the most unusual Stax variant of all: five color Uba Stax. The conventional wisdom is that you either play Uba Stax, a mono-Red design, or five color Stax without the Uba Masks.

Jeff Greene made the case for five color Uba Stax by winning the tournament. In his tournament report, here is what he had to say.

I went with 5cc Uba because I love the Welder Bazaar engine esp. in tournaments around here where there are so many Drains (although not as many as there used to be). I played Uba a while ago so I do have some experience with the deck, but it had been a while.

As far as 5c these are the reasons:

1) Tinker
2) Balance
3) Recall
4) Tutor
5) The most busted card of all, Ray of Revelation

Playing 5cc just blows open the side board of this deck Rule of Law and Darkblast are great, and having an answer to energy flux is a MUST have for any Stax deck IMHO. The fact that its bomb against Oath and Dragon is just icing.

As far as the deck itself I borrowed very heavily from Vroman’s Gencon list. I Fixed the manabase so I could support more colored cards, cut Mana Vault because I think it’s the worst mana source ever in Stax, followed closely by Lotus, and went from there.

Remember back at Rochester where Bomberman was one of those breakout decks like Long and Dragon? It had been absent for all of this time until it peeped its head above ground here in Boston. Undoubtedly, its absence can be partly attributable to the fact that few players play Bomberman. But what makes this outcome so unique is that this Bomberman pilot added a heavy Black component to support Dark Confidant and spells like Duress and Cabal Therapy. Both the first and second place decks are very unique variants on well-established decks that haven’t been putting up the best numbers of late. It was a unique metagame shift in the Top 4 of this tournament.

Day 2 looked a lot more like we are used to seeing.

1) TFK Gifts
2) Pitch Long
3) U/W Fish
4) Goblins
5) Meandeck Gifts
6) Bomberman
7) Control Slaver
8) Meandeck Gifts
(9th place was Tommy Kolowith with Pitch Long)

Another tournament, another Gifts / Pitch Long finals. This is becoming a more and more common occurrence. Unfortunately for the Pitch Long player, the result always appears to be the same.

For those of you who may be interested in playing Goblins, my teammate Ashok Chitturi managed to take a Goblins list to the final four!

Dave Feinstein also begins his long string of SCG Top 8s with SCG Boston Day 2. Mr. Feinstein has written an excellent primer on the deck I’d like to direct to your attention.

Coldsnap has an impact on Vintage. Here’s what Dave says about one of Coldsnap’s Vintage additions:

Jotun Grunt – Once again putting a clock back in this deck. Even if you’re not going for straight beatdown, I can’t see a legitimate reason as to why you wouldn’t want this guy in U/W fish. The argument I hear the most for not running him is that he hurts the Blue count. I don’t buy that. You can easily find room to run this card, and should definitely do so. For me personally, I cut ninjas. It wasn’t even close. Ninja is good when it gets going, Grunt is a threat on command. It also works wonders with Meddling Mage, often making it so I can name something else other than Yawgmoth’s Will if I already have a Grunt online. Bottom line, a 4/4 for two with the “drawback” being an asset makes it a must-run. As much as I love Grunty, I feel four is a mistake. You never want two in your opening hand and you almost never drop it in the first two-three turns of the game.

October — Wait Just a Split Second

The rumors had been building for weeks and the speculation was surcease. Time Spiral was about to enter the world of Vintage and the tidbits that had been streaming through official channels signaled a dramatic change in way new sets were built. Every single card previewed appeared to be playable, from the lowliest common and up.

Thematically, Vintage players couldn’t have been more excited about a set. Vintage is a format that is all about nostalgia and holding onto the past. Vintage players couldn’t wait to get our grubby hands on some foil Tormod’s Crypts.

Useful solutions and niche cards like Ancient Grudge and Chromatic Star were sure to find there way into Vintage, but what gets most Vintage players excited was the revelation of the Split Second mechanic. In a format built upon logical connectives found in countermagic and combo components, cards like Split Second are heavily disruptive.

The two most popular win conditions in Vintage are Darksteel Colossus and Tendrils of Agony. Wipe Away and Trickbind are unstoppable solutions to both.

Robert Vroman made this prediction:

I would rank the most influential five cards as

1. Wipe Away – I think you underestimate the impact of this card greatly. I am envisioning the end of TinkerDarksteel Colossus as a win condition, followed by the obsolescence of the entire Gifts-based archetype.

2. Ancient Grudge

3. Sudden Shock — it’s perfect Welder removal for those who want better splash damage than Darkblast against Fish. I consider this premium creature kill in Vintage.

4. Children of Korlis – 1-drop that stalls Storm seems perfectly viable

5. Trickbind

If you follow the logic that Wipe Away eliminates Colossus from the metagame, then Gifts can only win with Tendrils. If Gifts loses half its versatility, it takes a large drop in efficiency compared to Dark Ritual-based Storm decks. In other words, if you have to kill with Tendrils, why not play a dedicated Storm deck?

Will Wipe Away take Gifts out of the metagame? Will it make Gifts obsolete? If Gifts becomes obsolete, what happens to Tendrils when Trickbind is lying in wait? Pitch Long has no maindeck answer to Trickbind.

November — Thanksgifting

In one of the more tantalizing tournament announcements this year, a Spanish tournament organizer announced that he would be giving away eight Black Lotuses to the Top 8 at his tournament. 168 players made there way to Valencia Spain in the hopes of winning one of them.

The results can be found here.

The Top 8:

1 – Pablo David Diaz – Gifts – 25
2 – Ruben Justo – Gifts – 23
3 – Alejandro Escribano – Bomberman — 22
4 – Luis Miguel Muñoz — Oath – 22
5 – Jaume Bonet – Pitch Long — 22
6 – Jose Luis G. Requejo – Gifts — 22
7 – César Fernández – Control Slaver — 22
8 РJarno Trivi̱o РBomberman Р22

This is a Top 8 that looks every much like the tournament results we’ve been seeing in the States. Gifts and Pitch Long with smattering of Bomberman and Pitch Long is consistent with the general trends in the metagame. It is important to note that aside from one of the Gifts players, each of the Gifts players here eschewed Meandeck Gifts in favor of the Thirst For Knowledge build. It goes to show that Meandeck Gifts is far from the only Gifts deck winning.

SCG Roanoke

The most devoted Vintage fans made there way to Virginia for the final trek of the year, hoping to take home some power to cover the costs of the trip. Although only fifty players fought in these tournaments, this was the densest field of top Vintage competitors all year. Making Top 8 here would be far from easy.

Day 1.

And the Top 8:

1) Pitch Long
2) Meandeck Gifts
3) Urbana Fish — Eric Becker
4) Workshop Aggro
5) U/W Fish
6) U/W Fish
7) Bomberman
8) Oath of Druids

In yet another tournament, the final is Gifts versus Pitch Long. And as before, Gifts wi… wait a second. Pitch Long won this one? Actually, the final two players split without playing out the match. Pitch Long was ranked higher in the swiss and was placed first by default.

So much for Vroman’s predictions. Pitch Long and Gifts keep making the case that they are the best two decks in the format in spite of the Split Second additions to the format.

Codi Vinci might have something to say about that…

Although both Pitch Long and Gifts had good showings on Day 2, the finals was very different:

1) Drain Tendrils — Codi Vinci
2) Bomberman
3) U/W Fish
4) Meandeck Gifts
5) 5c Stax
6) Pitch Long
7) U/B/W Aggro Control
8) Stax

First, it is worth noting that although Gifts and Pitch Long continue to show up in the finals of major tournaments since the Vintage Championship, in the twin tournament, neither Gifts nor Pitch Long makes the finals. At Boston, Gifts and Pitch Long were featured in the Day 2 finals, but not Day 1. The same is true here.

Oddly enough, Bomberman seems to be the one deck that shows up in the finals of the tournaments in which Pitch Long and Gifts are the finalists.

U/W Fish and U/W Fish variants are putting up strong numbers across the board, but they aren’t breaking into the finals matches, even though they are making it into the Top 4.

I know, I know, I know… Codi Vinci’s Drain Tendrils, the final breakout deck of the year.

Take a look at it:

This deck is very good. You can read his report here.

The gist of the deck is a design to abuse as much draw as possible and end the game with a quickly lethal Yawgmoth’s Will. This deck is the one successful deck this year to abuse Intuition plus Accumulated Knowledge, an engine commonly known to some of you older Extended players.

Intuition plus Accumulated Knowledge is an extremely robust draw engine that hasn’t seen much light of day in Vintage since Psychatog won the first Vintage Championship. The power of the Intuition plus AK draw engine is that it hugely synergizes with the most powerful card in the format: Yawgmoth’s Will. By the time you cast Intuition, there is a good chance you already have at least one AK in hand. Thus, over the next two turns, you can resolve AK for three and AK for four. By the time you’ve drawn those seven cards, you are well on your way to finding Yawgmoth’s Will either by having drawn it directly, drawn a tutor to find it, or found it via Brainstorm or some such card along the way.

The downside of Intuition plus AK is that it takes up at least six spots in a deck and requires a little bit of set up to pull off. That’s why Codi has supplemented this draw engine with cards like Thirst For Knowledge and Fact or Fiction. He’s even got Gush and Frantic Search in here.

In some ways, this deck looks a lot like the old Tog decks that it was descended from. Codi was a long time Psychatog player and like most Vintage success stories understands the importance of mastering the subtle nuances of your deck. Because of the common ancestral, it looks a lot like the Italian “T1T” cousins. The major difference, among several is that the T1T lists run Tinker and Darksteel Colossus, a combo victory condition that Codi has moved to his sideboard. Major congratulations are due to Codi for performing so well with this often-derided draw engine and for putting another major Vintage deck on the map.

2006 Wrap Up

We’ve come down a long stretch.

So, what’s good in Vintage? In a word: everything.

I quickly tallied all of the decks that made t8 in all of the SCGP9, Waterbury and Champs events in 2006:

Gifts (MDG/TFK-Gifts): 21
Slaver (CS/Burning Slaver): 19
Tendrils (Grimlong/Pitchlong/IT): 16
Fish (UW/URBana/SS): 15
Shop (Stax/UbaStax): 14
Bomberman : 8
Oath: 5
WGD: 3

For the same events, here are the tallies for the 1st/2nd place finishers in 2006:

Gifts: 8
Tendrils: 5
CS: 4
Stax: 3
Fish: 2 (all SS variants)
Bomberman: 1

Vintage right now is as diverse as it’s ever been. Almost everything is playable and can win you huge dollar prizes: Gifts, Control Slaver, Bomberman, Ichorid variants, Grim Tutor decks, five color Stax, Uba Stax, Dragon, and Fish variants. If there is a cut off, it’s in the capacity to reach the finals in which Gifts has a nice margin over the rest of the field followed by Tendrils decks and then Control Slaver and Stax. I should note that no “standard” Bomberman or Fish deck made the finals. The Sullivan Solution counted as Fish and won two tournaments. The Bomberman list that made the finals was a very unusual variant with heavy Black.

In sum, although almost everything is viable, the consolidation in deck choice seems to turn in the Top 4 of the major events where only Grim Tutor decks, Gifts lists, Control Slaver, Stax, and Fish seem to reside and Gifts and Grim Tutor decks dominating the finals.

Still, judging from capacity to make Top 8, the field couldn’t be more wide open. The irony is that while almost every deck is viable, it’s never been harder to win because wins right now aren’t associated with any clear deck so much as the pilot and a bit of luck.

If I were forced to break the metagame down, I would say it looks like this:

Tier 1:
Gifts variants
Tendrils variants

Tier 1.5:
Control Slaver
Stax variants

The decks that are making Top 8s right now are indicative not simply of the decks that are good, but also what players choose to play. Dragon, Bomberman, and Stax may be as good as Pitch Long and Gifts, but see a lot less play than Gifts and Control Slaver. In terms of ratio of decks making Top 8 to representation in the field, it is arguable that the Grim Tutor decks are the best right now because they are played about as much as Bomberman, but seem to be doing excellently. In terms of great decks no one is playing, that clearly goes to Dragon. The rules knowledge required to master Dragon is an obvious turnoff, but I expect Dragon to perform well in 2007 despite all the hate in the metagame.

Rochester represented the bubbling up of possible futures, the Vintage Champs the consolidation of those futures and the tournaments since have been the shattered glass. The old trio of Control Slaver, Stax, and Gifts was permanently shattered. And although not all of the possibilities that were gleamed have been carried through, these possibilities are not closed off and they may once again play out in 2007. As I said, I foresee Dragon resuming a spot in the top tier as the SCG circuit returns to Rochester.

The real breakout story of the year has been the new players. 2006 was a breakout year for a new generation of Vintage players who have not simply joined the ranks of Vintage all-stars, but broke through with amazing force.

2006 Rookie Honor Roll:

Tommy Kolowith — MVP
Eric Becker
Paul Mastriano
Mike Herbig
Michael Heatherington
Jeff Folinas
Codi Vinci
Dave Feinstein
Paul Nicolo
Arend Kraehling
Travis Spero, Vintage Champion

I’m sure I missed some other notables who made names for themselves this year, and I apologize for that. Obviously I’m going to choose the players that I saw play a lot this year and do well. There are many of you who had a great year on the local scene, but I wanted to recognize a few players that really stood out as new names and fresh faces.

I can only hope that 2007 will have such a great infusion of new blood into the format, both in terms of its player base, but also in terms of ideas, excitement, and new cards.

The format has begun to change in the last few months. I know I’m not the only one to sense it. The format is accelerating and drifting in a very different direction than the one’s we’ve been down before. The old Slaver, Gifts, Stax metagame of 2005 will look quite odd by mid-2007. We aren’t exactly sure where it is going to lead, but the possibilities are as exciting as they have ever been *cough* Ichorid *cough* *cough*. It’s a great time to be a Vintage player. See you on the flip side.

Stephen Menendian