Editor’s Note: This article was submitted right after Vintage Champs but we haven’t been able to find a slot for it until now. It’s a good thing that Vintage doesn’t change much! Enjoy!
Vintage Champs was my first Vintage tournament since 2004. Some of my friends were playing so I decided to as well. I borrowed some power (thanks Micah) and went about building a deck. I had experience with Merfolk because of Legacy and decided that I wanted to adapt it to Vintage. Typically, I prefer decks that are not metagame staples. After getting past everyone telling me it was a terrible idea, I ended up with this:
Having not played much Vintage, I decided to read some message boards and articles about the format. I decided I wouldn’t need as many creatures as most people were recommending. Vintage is not a creature-heavy format. Bears trade with just about every creature aside from Tarmogoyf and the Tinker/Oath of Druids creatures. All the creatures in the deck (except Cursecatcher) cost two, which allows me to keep Aether Vial at two and hold mana up for counters.
Cursecatcher is a great Turn 1 play. A few times I played a Turn 1 Cursecatcher followed by Standstill on Turn 2. Ten turns later, I had a handful of counters and they were at 10 life before finally breaking Standstill. He messes up Storm math and is great in counter wars.
This might be the best creature in the deck. Drawing a card is very powerful, and I only had trouble casting him a couple times. The most broken thing I did with a Lotus and Mox in my opener was cast a Turn 1 Silvergill Adept for five.
Both pump and give Islandwalk, which allows you to finish games extremely quickly. Virtually every deck aside from Workshop and Dredge plays Islands. With the lords you are able to race against the larger creatures. In the Vintage prelim, I raced a Blightsteel Colossus by blocking it once and swinging back for the win.
I would add another copy of this guy. He is great for copying Oath and Tinker creatures.
The Commander was cut because leveling him prevents you from holding up counters. The Reejerey was cut solely for Aether Vial consistency. He is the best lord in the Legacy deck, but playing only 17 creatures would have been a mess with him and Vial.
I upped the counters compared to the Legacy version because of the more powerful Turn 1 plays in Vintage. Generally, I saved my counters for my opponent’s plays rather than protecting my creatures. Let your opponent waste their counters on bears while you save yours for Time Vault, Yawgmoth’s Will, Oath of Druids or Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
Necessary for the broken Turn 1 plays of many decks. With so many blue creatures, I always had something to pitch.
Good against Voltaic Key, Sol Ring, Spell Pierce and Ancestral Recall. Free counters are important in order to hold up other counters. The damage doesn’t matter because usually creatures one-shot you in Vintage.
This is excellent in counter wars. It also stops Yawgmoth’s Will, which is kind of important sometimes.
Again, this is good on the play against an opponent’s broken Turn 1.
Useful as a singleton. It forces the opponent to play around it once they know you have it. Stealing an Ancestral Recall is gravy.
I think I should have played two of these. Many Vintage decks play three spells on their first or second turn (e.g. Mox, Lotus, Jace) fairly regularly.
I kept these from the Legacy deck but cut one of each for more counterspells. Both were very powerful. Playing creatures under Standstill is just as awesome in Vintage as it is in Legacy. Standstill causes many people to play poorly, and you should play it if you have any advantage at all. There was some debate with my friends about whether to play Aether Vial/Standstill or Gush/Null Rod. Luckily, I used the highly scientific method of informal voting (two to one in favor of Vial/Standstill).
The power I decided to include were Black Lotus, Mox Sapphire, Time Walk and Ancestral Recall. Having these cards allows you to have busted openings, or as busted as merfolk can get. One interaction I found very powerful was casting Time Walk to ramp a Vial.
Pretty much the same as Legacy. I cut a Mutavault for Strip Mine, although I don’t know if this correct. I never regretted seeing the Strip Mine. Despite the moxes for additional fixing in Vintage, many decks still rely on duals to get the mana they need. Having five strip effects can also be useful against Dredge and Workshop. Taking out a Bazaar or Workshop can slow them down enough to win with your dudes.
I did not like my sideboard. I did not need all the creature hate, and the Sower of Temptation and Threads of Disloyalty were unnecessary. Dismember is enough to tip the creature matchups even more in your favor. The Tormod’s Crypt should have been Ravenous Trap because being able to remove their graveyard unexpectedly at instant speed is important. The Dredge decks side in artifact hate and bounce. I should have had more Workshop hate. Steel Sabotage is good, but some number of Hurkyl’s Recall should have been in the board. Grafdigger’s Cage is good in the Oath and Dredge matchups.
I did not lose to Oath in my two matches against it. I raced a Blightsteel Colossu once by blocking with a Mutavault. The match feels very one-sided. You have so many counters and are attacking while they try to get Oath in play. Don’t play a Standstill while they have Oath out. I tested against Oath and only lost games that had Turn 1 Oath of Druids on the play with counter backup.
I needed more and better hate. I lost my only matchup with Dredge because of its artifact removal.
I didn’t play against workshop in the tournament, but in testing I found that having an Aether Vial made the difference. Aether Vial gets around all the sphere effects. I would have boarded in Dismember in addition to Steel Sabotage. This matchup is unfavorable because of the reliance on Aether Vial and being on the play.
I played one Storm deck after not testing the matchup. I relied on my 13 counters and that’s how the game played out.
Time Vault/Voltaic Key and Tinker decks. I lost to this in the tournament after drawing one counter in the entire match. This matchup appeared favorable in testing. Merfolk quickly puts a lot of pressure on this type of deck and forces them to make plays before they are ready.
I tried using a combination of Gush and Null Rod. It seemed powerful, but I prefer Standstill for the additional card and how awkwardly it causes some opponents to play. I think working in Gush while keeping Standstill might be viable. The acceleration when you don’t have a land drop can make a big difference.
I would keep this because it has a counter and immediate pressure. If you have to Force, pitch the Silvergill. Otherwise it could get stuck in your hand. If there is a chance to play the Silvergill, always play it before the lords unless you are swinging for the win. Having an early counter is essential if you don’t know what you’re playing against. On the play this hand is better. If you are able to play the Cursecatcher, your opponent is unlikely to try any first turn broken things. If they do, you will probably win the counter battle.
This hand is keepable. It has the ideal play of Vial on Turn 1 into Standstill. Pitch the Cursecatcher if necessary; other creatures will be drawn whether or not Standstill is broken early. The Wasteland should be saved until you find out if they are playing a manland, Bazaar or Workshop.
I like this hand a lot on the draw or the play. Double Cursecatcher on Turn 1 slows the opponent down significantly. The one situational counter isn’t ideal, but it is free and creates a nice balance of disruption and clock when combined with Wasteland and Mutavault.
This deck generates many keepable hands. An almost even balance of creatures to counters helps ensure both are represented in seven-card hands. I wouldn’t keep anything without one blue source. Mulling for a free counter on the draw is something to consider every time. During the tournament, I thought many broken things were happening on Turn 2 rather than Turn 1. Being able to play Island and hold up Spell Pierce worked out for me the few times it happened.
The Vintage Champs Experience
I got a lot of WTFs from my opponents. Many people were surprised about seeing Merfolk. Best comment after a match was something like, “I have an excellent matchup against that deck.” I responded with, “That’s nice.”
This tournament was the most fun I have had playing Magic in a long time. Most of the people I played were great. My final standing was 25th out of 190ish people with a record of five wins, two losses and a draw. I also received some fantastic prizes for making Top 32. I will treasure my three packs of Avacyn Restored forever or until I get $9 for them.
I’d like to thank my friends Dave, Jon, and James for giving me input on the deck and Micah for lending me Power without collateral or knowing my real name and address.
— Lee Bower
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