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So Many Insane Plays – The 2009 Vintage Year in Review


Grand Prix: Oakland!

Monday, January 18th – 2009 proved to be a milestone year for Magic’s oldest format. Throughout the months, the Vintage metagame shifted relentlessly. In today’s So Many Insane Plays, Stephen Menendian breaks down the year’s most important Vintage moments, strategies, and decklists.

2009 was a year of innovative discoveries and potent new printings for Vintage Magic. But above all, 2009 was the Year of the Monster. Beasts, large and small, reigned. Each original set introduced some novel behemoth to contend with, some new brute to fear. Exotic and terrifying new Angels, Sphinxes, and Leviathans swaggered through tournament tables. It wasn’t just the colossi that defined Vintage in 2009. A relentless nocturnal spirit found a large niche, one wizard finally reached his full potential, and an amazing cat changed Vintage as we know it. Let’s review the stories that shaped the experience of Vintage players everywhere in 2009.

January — Suckerfished By Rich Shay

Vintage players are unrepentant addicts and make no bones about it. We may not stay up all night on MTGO, but a brief review of the “pimped decks” threads that populate Vintage forums verifies the degree of obsession.

Vintage is the most purified and therefore most potent form of cardboard crack. The Vintage format not only has the broadest possible card pool of any sanctioned format, Vintage is Magic in its most elemental form. Unlike other formats, the battle in Vintage isn’t on the board; it’s on the stack. Highly efficient spells jockey and skirmish for advantage. An Ancestral Recall is Misdirected, only to be met by Mana Drain, which is Spell Pierced, which is Red Elemental Blasted. The board is little more than fuel in this war. Because of the interesting interactions, thought provoking options, and degree of complexity, Vintage is highly addictive.

Vintage players will go anywhere to get their fix. That’s why over fifty players trudged through the snow, uphill both ways, to Philly, where it’s not always sunny, to sling cards older than your nephew and more valuable than your hoopdie.

Tezzeret set the tone by winning the first notable tournament of the year:

1st – Chas Hinkle
Tezzeret Control
January 3, 2009

5 Moxen
1 Sol Ring
1 Mana Vault
1 Voltaic Key
1 Darksteel Citadel
1 Time Vault
1 Mana Crypt
1 Black Lotus
1 Sensei’s Diving Top
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Gifts Ungiven
1 Brainstorm
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Trinket Mage
1 Echoing Truth
3 Mana Drain
1 Tinker
4 Force of Will
4 Thirst for Knowledge
1 Fact or Fiction
2 Tezzeret the Seeker
1 Time Walk
1 Misdirection
1 Merchant Scroll
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
1 Mystical Tutor
2 Duress
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
3 Polluted Delta
3 Flooded Strand
2 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island
1 Tundra
2 Island
1 Snow Covered Island
1 Tolarian Academy
1 Library of Alexandria

Sideboard
3 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Sower of Temptation
2 Painter’s Servant
1 Grindstone
1 Red Elemental Blast
1 Pyroblast
1 Duress
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Trinisphere

The Tezzeretor, the swiss-army knife Time Vault deck, came crashing out of the gates like a lost pachyderm. It was hungry and a little bit pissed. Chas crushed spirits and stole games by taking infinite turns with Time Vault and Voltaic Key, delivering the final blow with Tezzeret’s ultimate, Vintage Magic’s newest and most powerful Planeswalker.

The attendance at the Philly tournaments also marked the ascendance of Philly as a major hub for U.S. Vintage Magic. Philadelphia is one of American Vintage Magic’s hot spots.

Tezzeret may have set the tone and smacked us around a bit, but Rich Shay suckerfished us.

Shaymora
Rich Shay

1 Black Lotus
1 Darksteel Colossus
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Sol Ring
1 Time Vault
1 Voltaic Key
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Brainstorm
3 Commandeer
4 Force of Will
4 Mana Drain
4 Meditate
1 Misdirection
4 Mystic Remora
4 Old Man of the Sea
1 Ponder
2 Repeal
1 Time Walk
1 Tinker
2 Flooded Strand
5 Island
1 Library of Alexandria
3 Polluted Delta
3 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island

Sideboard:
1 Energy Flux
1 Hurkyl’s Recall
2 Pyroblast
1 Rack and Ruin
2 Red Elemental Blast
3 Relic of Progenitus
4 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Viashino Heretic

It took Dark Ritual-fueled Storm Combo winning the Vintage Championship in 2008 before someone finally realized how insane Mystic Remora was in Vintage. It turns out that Mystic Remora is a powerhouse in Vintage. It’s so good against Stax that turn 1 Remora is as good as game over. But the coup de grace was its power in the Time Vault mirror.

This deck double-dutch dares the opponent to play a spell. I just dare ya! Your opponent will think twice about playing a Mox, let alone Force of Will. Remora holds the fort down long enough to develop your board, maybe draw a few cards, fire off a few Meditates, filling your hand with the goods, and wham, when your opponent finally calls, Commandeer steals their bomb.

This deck was so unreal that the pros got in on the action, David Ochoa wrote a primer on this deck and Gerry Thompson won a large Vintage set event at Pro Tour: Kyoto and wrote a compelling report.

It’s just too bad that Rich Shay couldn’t have uncovered this incredible hidden gem seven months earlier. Mystic Remora would have turned the Gush metagame of mid-2008 upside down. Can you imagine your opponent playing Gush or Ponder when you have Mystic Remora in play!?

February — DJ Master T Spins Conflux for the Cool Crowd

Conflux arrived. Shards of Alara was the biggest Vintage set for Vintage since Future Sight, if not Darksteel. Would Conflux match that level of power and influence?

Vintage alchemists and other mad scientists had big plans for Conflux!

Master T Slaver
Jeremiah Rudolph

4 Volcanic Island
4 Shivan Reef
4 Mishra’s Workshop
2 Ancient Tomb
1 City of Traitors
1 Tolarian Academy
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Jet
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mana Vault
1 Sol Ring
3 Triskelion
1 Triskelavus
2 Sundering Titan
1 Inkwell Leviathan
4 Master Transmuter
4 Goblin Welder
1 Mindslaver
1 Memory Jar
1 Thousand-Year Elixir
4 Force of Will
4 Thirst for Knowledge
4 Chalice of the Void
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Fact or Fiction
1 Tinker
1 Trinisphere

Sideboard:
4 Red Elemental Blast
3 Relic of Progenitus
2 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Ingot Chewer
2 Viashino Heretic
2 Jester’s Cap

Of the deck, Jeremiah said:

Master T allows you to do what Shops never could do, cast spells in your opponent’s End of Turn step. Additionally, because she makes your spells uncounterable, she has the same “counter this or all your counters are moot” aspect that Goblin Welder has. What she lacks in affordable costing, she makes up for by being castable with Shop-Land, Weldable, and she pitches to Force. As an extra synergy in the deck, Master T transforms hands that would normally be “clunky” by holding robots into amazing hands. Therefore Master T stands at a pivotal juncture between Thirst for Knowledge and Goblin Welder, being able to sub for the role of either without being redundant.

I dropped the “slower” elements of the deck and picked up the pace by adding both of the Trike-siblings, another Titan, and Inkwell Leviathan.

Strangely enough, it’s that last card that has made the largest sustained impact on Vintage from Conflux. Inkwell Leviathan is the first major printing of the year for Vintage, courtesy of Conflux.

Also making an appearance in February was Vintage Wookie, Dan Herd. Despite a fierce battle with cancer, Dan not only played in the February Blue Bell event in Pennsylvania, but made Top 8 to boot!

Always let the Wookie win

Always Let the Wookie Win

Unfortunately, Dan did not make it to see 2010. Dan, you will be missed!

March — Updates!

Aside from the Vintage Championship, the Mana Drain Open (a.k.a. the Waterbury) is traditionally the largest and most prestigious Vintage event in North America. A hundred and thirteen players somehow showed up in Connecticut just a few weeks after Grand Prix: Chicago to compete in the 2009 Waterbury.

Competition was fierce, and much more than Moxen was on the line. Bragging rights were at stake. Credibility and authority were at stake.

With shocking predictability, Tezzeret won the main event, yet another notch on its belt along the path to castration. Full results can be seen here.

But a few contenders are worth mention.

Dredge
Sean Orcutt – 2nd Place

4 Bazaar of Baghdad
4 City of Brass
4 Gemstone Mine
4 Ichorid
4 Narcomoeba
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Golgari Thug
4 Fatestitcher
2 Sadistic Hypnotist
4 Serum Powder
4 Bridge from Below
2 Dread Return
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Unmask

Sideboard:
1 Platinum Angel
4 Ingot Chewer
3 Oxidize
3 Pithing Needle
2 Darkblast
2 Contagion

Dredge strategies had a banner year in 2009 in Vintage. This was one of the highest placing Dredge decks in a major Vintage tournament (2nd place). But what’s most terrifying about this deck is the evolving technology. Shards of Alara’s Fatestitcher became a mainstay in Vintage dredge, allowing recursive reuse of Bazaar of Baghdad for a faster kill. Also new was Sadistic Hypnotist, a heinous new addition to Dredge’s arsenal. But Dredge wasn’t the only deck to be remodeled thanks to Shards block.

Also cutting edge was the emergence of an archetype that would shape Vintage throughout 2009: Selkie Slam, a new UGW Fish deck.

Selkie Slam!
Noah Smith – Top 8

3 Flooded Strand
2 Windswept Heath
3 Tropical Island
3 Tundra
1 Island
1 Strip Mine
4 Wasteland
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Pearl
4 Null Rod
4 Noble Hierarch
3 Cursecatcher
4 Meddling Mage
3 Tarmogoyf
4 Cold-Eyed Selkie
3 Trygon Predator
1 Ancestral Recall
4 Force of Will
4 Stifle
3 Daze
1 Hurkyl’s Recall
1 Time Walk

Sideboard:
4 Children of Koralis
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
1 Hurkyl’s Recall
2 Aven Mindcensor
2 Ray of Revelation
1 Trygon Predator
3 Path to Exile

Conflux’s Noble Hierarch powers up Cold-Eyed Selkie, giving Fish a draw engine. Noah’s creation would take a life of its own in later months, especially with the printing of Qasali Pridemage, becoming one of the most feared Fish variants, winning tournaments well into December.

Because I got 3rd place, Meandeck won the Team Competition.

Winners!

That’s Paul Mastriano and I, the 2008 Vintage Champ, hoisting our trophy!

April — Timmy Smash Vintage!

Sometimes a Vintage match resembles a Godzilla action sequence.

Enormous monsters dominate Vintage. Three of the five most important printings for Vintage in 2009 were giant monsters, the kind that Timmy’s the world over so eagerly trade their fetchlands for. These monsters jockey for board advantage, inflict tremendous damage, and are the subject of intense battles.

Take a look at what Matt Elias used to win a 44-player tournament in Pennsylvania:

Oath
Matt Elias

1 Black Lotus
4 Chalice Of The Void
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Inkwell Leviathan
1 Hellkite Overlord
4 Oath Of Druids
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Brainstorm
1 Echoing Truth
4 Force Of Will
4 Impulse
2 Lim-dul’s Vault
2 Negate
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Wipe Away
1 Progenitus
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Gaea’s Blessing
1 Ponder
4 Thoughtseize
1 Time Walk
1 Tinker
1 Island
2 Flooded Strand
4 Forbidden Orchard
3 Polluted Delta
1 Strip Mine
2 Tropical Island
3 Underground Sea
1 Wasteland

Sideboard:
2 Pithing Needle
4 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Empyrial Archangel
1 Echoing Truth
3 Oxidize
1 Duress
2 Massacre

Two of Matt’s three creatures were Conflux additions. In addition to Inkwell Leviathan, Matt brought Progenitus, The Soul of the World, into Vintage. He chose a mix of creatures that gave him resilience, speed, and power.

In other news, Matt Elias wins a Vintage tournament; becomes addicted to Vintage.

May — Flashback to the Future

When it comes to gilded Vintage prizes, no one outdoes Bazaar of Moxen, a French tournament organizer. For their May tournament, they awarded three sets of Power Nine and 130 dual lands! First place alone won five unlimited Moxen! Third and fourth place got stuck, sadly, with just Black Lotus.

The tournament attracted over 350 players from all over the European continent. Results are here. The winner was a throwback, an aggro MUD lists with almost no Shards technology!

MUD
Giampiero Ronzo – 1st Place

3 Arcbound Ravager
1 Black Lotus
4 Chalice of the Void
3 Karn, Silver Golem
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mana Vault
4 Metalworker
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Sol Ring
4 Sphere of Resistance
3 Sword of Fire and Ice
4 Tangle Wire
4 Thorn of Amethyst
1 Trinisphere
3 Triskelion
4 Ancient Tomb
2 City of Traitors
3 Mishra’s Factory
4 Mishra’s Workshop
1 Strip Mine
1 Tolarian Academy
3 Wasteland
2 Crucible of Worlds

Sideboard:
2 Duplicant
2 Jester’s Cap
3 Pithing Needle
1 Platinum Angel
3 Razormane Masticore
2 Relic of Progenitus

If the results of the Bazaar of Moxen 3 were a throwback, with MUD and Painter in the finals, across the pond, then-reigning Vintage Champion, Paul Mastriano, was giving us a glimpse of the future.

Tezzeret
Paul Mastriano

1 Gifts Ungiven
1 Inkwell Leviathan
1 Voltaic Key
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Tinker
1 Mox Pearl
1 Merchant Scroll
1 Mox Emerald
1 Black Lotus
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Mox Jet
1 Time Walk
1 Mana Vault
1 Sol Ring
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Ruby
1 Hurkyl’s Recall
1 Repeal
1 Thoughtseize
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Brainstorm
1 Time Vault
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Ponder
1 Tezzeret, the Seeker
1 Mana Crypt
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Imperial Seal
1 Lotus Petal
3 Flooded Strand
4 Polluted Delta
4 Underground Sea
1 Tolarian Academy
2 Island
4 Dark Confidant
4 Duress
4 Mystic Remora
4 Force of Will

Sideboard:
2 Threads of Disloyalty
1 Island
1 Hurkyl’s Recall
1 Darkblast
1 Rebuild
1 Chain of Vapor
2 Pithing Needle
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Trinisphere
1 Slaughter Pact
3 Yixlid Jailer

Paul put Dark Confidant into Tezzeret like a teenager proudly places the star atop a Christmas tree. It was the final touch on a masterpiece, and strange all at the same time. Dark Confidant synergized with Mystic Remora even better than Meditate by some accounts. Bob could draw cards, attack, and take control while Mystic Remora kept the opponent at bay.

Paul’s deck was foreshadowing.

June — The DCI Strikes!

June, 2009 will always be remembered by Vintage players for this brief 39-word announcement:

Announcement Date: June 19, 2009
Effective Date: July 1, 2009

Vintage
Thirst for Knowledge is restricted

Crop Rotation is no longer restricted
Enlightened Tutor is no longer restricted
Entomb is no longer restricted
Grim Monolith is no longer restricted

DCI action was inevitable. In May and June alone, Tezzeret decks were 26% of Top 8s, but had won almost 50% of mid- and large-sized Vintage tournaments in that time.

Even more disturbingly, as a result of Thirst-fueled and Tezzeret-induced tournament dominance, look at what Mana Drain decks had been doing during the year:

When you compare that Mana Drain trend line with the Gush trend line for the previous year and half, the result was inevitable. Gush decks, at their height, were not nearly as dominant as the Drain decks had been in the previous 12 months, and yet the performance of Gush decks triggered not one, but four restrictions. Something had to give.

The DCI also unrestricted four cards that have all seen play as multiples since. Vintage players rejoiced at more deck building options.

But that wasn’t the only bomb Wizards dropped on Vintage in June. Sweeping rules changes were announced coinciding with Magic 2010. Perhaps most importantly for Vintage magic: mana burn was gone! Make no mistake about it, the loss of mana burn has made a huge impact on Vintage. At the same time, the mulligan rule has also saved a lot of time in often time-pressured Vintage matches.

How would Vintage players react to all of these changes?

July — Null Rod’s Revenge

July was a critical moment in the Vintage year. It was a moment that played out on a grand stage.

Initiating a new tradition in American Vintage Magic, Ben Carp and Xtreme Games sponsored and hosted a new double Power Nine tournament in Chicago, Illinois, the ICBM Xtreme Games Open. Almost a hundred players trekked from across the U.S. to compete in the height of summer for pride and profit.

But more than the players, the tournaments would be a test of the DCI’s restricted list policy. Some claimed that the restriction of Thirst would make no difference whatsoever. Would Tezzeret dominance, both in terms of proportion of Top 8s and in terms of tournament victories, persist? Or would the restriction of Thirst make a difference? The stakes were high. Far more than metagame rivalries were at issue. The effectiveness of DCI policy in Vintage was being tested.

After an exhausting swiss, and a star-studded brutal top 8, Jeff Rabovsky, one time JSS champion, piloted a trusty BUG Fish list to the very top!

BUG Fish
Jeff Rabovsky

4 Underground Sea
2 Tropical Island
1 Bayou
1 Island
4 Wasteland
1 Strip Mine
4 Polluted Delta
2 Flooded Strand
4 Dark Confidant
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Vendilion Clique
3 Trygon Predator
4 Force of Will
3 Null Rod
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Brainstorm
1 Time Walk
1 Mystical Tutor
4 Daze
1 Diabolic Edict
4 Duress
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Emerald
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Life from the Loam

Sideboard:
4 Energy Flux
3 Yixlid Jailer
1 Darkblast
4 Tormod’s Crypt
3 Sower of Temptation

Signaling a changing guard, Jeff smashed Jimmy McCarthy’s Tezzeret in the finals. Not even the new tech of Alara Reborn’s Sphinx of the Steel Wind could save Jimmy from Jeff’s beats.

But the beatings were just getting started. On day 2, toppling 72 players, the feat was repeated by another Fish pilot, this one sporting a different color combination.

UBW Fish
Steve Golenda

4 Null Rod
3 Vendilion Clique
3 Aven Mindcensor
4 Spellstutter Sprite
1 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Inkwell Leviathan
1 Tinker
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Swords to Plowshares
3 Dark Confidant
4 Force of Will
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Black Lotus
1 Ponder
1 Brainstorm
1 Time Walk
1 Ancestral Recall
2 Thoughtseize
3 Duress
1 Tidehollow Sculler
1 Swamp
1 Island
1 Plains
3 Polluted Delta
3 Flooded Strand
2 Tundra
2 Underground Sea
1 Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author]
1 Strip Mine
3 Wasteland

Sideboard:
1 Wasteland
1 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Kataki, War’s Wage
2 Sacred Ground
2 Seal of Cleansing
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Darkblast
1 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Perish
2 Yixlid Jailer

Fish, smothered by the power of Drain decks, were suddenly enjoying a resurgence in the new environment, and exacting a bit of revenge in the process.

But that wasn’t even the extent of it. Take a look at this:

GW Beatz
Jon Donovan – 4th place

1 Seal of Primordium
4 Aven Mindcensor
3 Null Rod
4 Qasali Pridemage
2 Choke
1 Crucible of Worlds
2 Ethersworn Canonist
4 Vexing Shusher
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Gaddock Teeg
4 Wasteland
3 Forest
1 Plains
4 Windswept Heath
3 Savannah
3 Elvish Spirit Guide
2 Horizon Canopy
1 Strip Mine
2 Enlightened Tutor
4 Wooded Foothills
2 Kataki, War’s Wage
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Emerald

Sideboard:
4 Tariff
2 Swords to Plowshares
2 Path to Exile
2 Choke
1 Seal of Primordium
1 Relic of Progenitus
2 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Kataki, War’s Wage

Inaugurating an entirely unforeseen advance: the return of Aggro to Vintage! Crediting me for designing the G/W deck he Top 8ed with at the ICBM Open, Jon Donovan was the first to make a major Top 8 with a real Aggro deck in years. The restriction of Thirst and the printing of Qasali Pridemage had converged to give Aggro a genuine chance in Vintage. Jon would go onto Top 8 the Vintage Championship the next month with the same deck. I would later redesign the deck with Black, and it’s one of the legitimate contenders in the Vintage field.

But the overall story was the rebalancing of the Vintage field. Tezzeret pilots, fat and complacent on gluttonous feast of months and months of dominance, were overconfident in their ability to succeed post-restriction, and it showed. Despite the fact that most of the best pilots in the room piloted Tezzeret, none of them won either tournament.

Would Aggro and Aggro-Control continue its rampage? Or would Time Vault decks find a way to win again?

August — Time Vault Answers!

The second volley in the war of Time Vault and Null Rod was launched in Pittsburgh, at the Steel City Power Nine tournament, hosting by Mr. Nice Guy Games and Brian Keil.

Meandecker Brian DeMars worked with Patrick Chapin on a piece of new technology known as the Steel City Vault:


This deck is without question one of the major new archetypes of 2009. The key to this deck is Ancient Grudge, the new weapon in the battle against Null Rod. Brian killed multiple Null Rods per game with this card. To matchup against other decks like Stax and Tezzeret, the deck uses an aggressive game plan of pairing Draw7s with Goblin Welder, similar to Control Slaver used to do with Thirsts and Welders. Welders also allow it to assemble the Time Vault combo through countermagic. Brian has written an excellent primer.

The Steel City Power Nine event was merely the tune-up for the main event: The Vintage Championship at GenCon arrived mid-month.

There is no event in Vintage Magic with the prestige and influence of the Vintage Championship at GenCon. Its influence is global, by setting and shaping a metagame for months to come. The prize is treasured, not simply for its value, but for the glory it signals, for the memories it holds, for the honor it conveys. All of the major teams bring their best technology, and the brightest minds in North American Vintage always make the trek. Well over a hundred strong arrived in Indianapolis to compete for this piece of jewelry:

The field was set. Following the long dominance of Tezzeret decks, the restriction of Thirst opened the door to a host of Null Rod strategies, both Fish and Beats. An innovative Time Vault strategy, Steel City Vault, had already made itself known. What would come out on top? Would Time Vault strategies continue their devastation, or would Aggro decks unveil some new counter measure? Or, would Stax make a run at the title, sneaking up on both Beats and Tezzeret decks, amidst their war?

One hundred and eleven competitors battled, but in the end, it was clear that no one wanted victory more than Hiromichi Itou, who had made the trip all the way from Japan for just this moment. Speaking virtually no English, he flew to the United States for only the second time, to play the format he loves.

Here’s what Hiromichi brought into the fray:


After being neutered by the DCI, and struggling to find itself in this new environment, an environment suffocating in Null Rods, Hiromichi Itou found a winning formula. Its primary features:

• Dark Confidant as a draw engine. Dark Confidant is incredibly efficient, and can be played on minimal mana, and helps expand your manabase, turn after turn. It also trades with other Fish creatures, and can serve as a win condition. This feature necessitated a few revisions, including two Sensei’s Divining Top.
• Five dedicated anti-Fish/Beats technology. Hiromichi ran 1 Hurkyl’s Recall, 1 Chain of Vapor, 1 Rack and Ruin, 1 Darkblast, and 1 Fire/Ice all maindeck. Hiromichi took the extremely unusual step of running three dedicated bounce or removal spells for Null Rod. But more than that, he also ran Darkblast and Fire/Ice maindeck! Fire/Ice and Darkblast address cards like Aven Mindcensor, Qasali Pridemage, Gaddock Teeg, and Dark Confidant, the pesky cards that often accompany Null Rods. These tools amount to nothing less than an arms race. Hiromichi was going to give Fish no ground.
• Plenty of basic land, including a basic Swamp. Hiromichi avoided one of the drawbacks of running both Dark Confidant or