The Vintage Advantage: Vintage on a Budget

Written by Nat Moes on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Vintage

The Vintage Advantage: Vintage on a Budget

Nat Moes

Nat Moes lives in Columbus, Ohio, and plays Vintage and Legacy with a group of idiots with the audacity to call themselves Team Serious. He feels partly responsible for spreading the plague that is Goblin Charbelcher and has few Magic the Gathering accolades other than some Eternal Top 8s. He is a cohost of the Serious Vintage podcast and a constant evangelist for the Vintage format.

08_12 The Vintage Advantage
Eternal Weekend is rapidly approaching, and there is still plenty of opportunity for Magic the Gathering players to get in on the action. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of time for new Vintage players to buy, borrow, or win some of the format’s more expensive cards before November 3′s sanctioned event. Vintage is still playable without Power, and it’s competitive, though you’ll face some different and difficult challenges.

You could also achieve some great rewards playing a budget deck! The top eight decks that use none of the Power 9, Mishra’s Workshop, Bazaar of Baghdad, Time Vault, or Imperial Seal will get store credit, including $400 for the top-placing budget deck. See the Eternal Weekend website for more information.

This article will look at five different Vintage decks (one for each color) that eschew Power without giving up their path to victory. This isn’t to say that they couldn’t be improved by the addition of Black Lotus or on-color Moxes, but they’re not too handicapped by the absence. And like most Vintage decks they span aggro, combo, and control archetypes, often transitioning between them easily, as the situation dictates.

This also isn’t to say that these are the only available options. Cards like Spirit Guides and Aether Vial are available to help keep pace with powered decks, and others, like Chalice of the Void and Stony Silence, bring powered players back in line. Decks just need to have a plan against Tinker, Time Vault, Workshops (artifacts in general), Oath, and Dredge to have a reasonable shot at success.

White Trash

Don’t let the name fool you, this aggro-control deck based on a list played by Leticia Sevilla late last year is a Vintage metagame wrecker. Every card here is chosen to lock out the format’s top decks by messing with their mana; then it’s easy enough to attack for the win. Frankly, this deck looks like a nightmare for a lot of Vintage decks to play against.

One problem with hate decks is that they can have trouble drawing the right answer at the right time. This deck gets past that by playing extra versions of its most important effects. Leonin Arbiter and Aven Mindcensor, for example, are six cards that hinder tutor effects, like Tinker, which are abundant in Vintage. (They also make the deck’s four Ghost Quarters that much more effective.) The three Porcelain Legionnaires and Jotun Grunts not only provide a fast clock once the opponent is slowed down, they also deal with the format’s best creatures, especially Lodestone Golem and Tarmogoyf. The whole deck overlaps like this.

The White Trash deck, as listed, might have some trouble with Young Pyromancer builds, but additional creature removal maindeck would probably help that. Most Pyromancer decks will have trouble dealing with the mana disruption, so eliminating the namesake card should be enough to win. I might also consider Leyline of Sanctity or Mindbreak Trap out of the board against Burning Long decks.

Blue Screen of Death

This Merfolk list, based on a list played by Joel Lim in August, gains the most from Power because Time Walk and Ancestral Recall are so good—especially Time Walk in an aggressive deck. However, the ability to play Force of Will and Daze makes up for a lot.

Merfolk is one of several decks that has a clear analogue in Legacy. However, where the Legacy version frequently uses Aether Vial to play around counters and as a tempo boost, the Vintage build finds it better to disrupt artifact mana with Null Rod and play around counters with Cavern of Souls. Other than that, much of what you might have learned from Legacy about attacking with buffed creatures while disrupting mana and countering spells will hold true. Islandwalk is even more potent in Vintage because the metagame skews more heavily that way.

One thing to note is that Phantasmal Image is a last minute answer to Blightsteel Colossus. Unless you’re going to win by copying a lord, you might want to save Images for emergencies. Null Rods are also great against Workshops (especially with Kuldotha Forgemaster) and Burning Long; definitely bring the fourth copy in against those matchups.

The Man in Black

The Dark Times deck, similar to this build from Sean Duffy in July has been around for a few years as the Mono-Black Control deck of Vintage, relying on discard, Wastelands, and a toolbox of answers. It’s also the first deck we’ve seen here that has an explicit combo in it. (And it wouldn’t be too hard to fit Tendrils of Agony in the main for a second, storm win.)

Vampire Hexmage‘s first strike makes it good against many of Vintage’s smaller utility creatures, but it also turns Dark Depths into a flying, indestructible, 20/20 horror for the quick win. Having that combo is important because relying on discard like Duress and Thoughtseize is risky in Vintage, where a topdeck can turn the game around. You want to open the window and jump through to victory. The draw power of Dark Confidant and Sylvan Library, as well as the three tutors, make finding the combo in a hurry very possible.

The most recent builds of Dark Times have added green for Abrupt Decay, Deathrite Shaman, and Nature’s Claim, all of which help give the deck a better matchup against Workshops than previous mono-black builds had. The Chains of Mephistopheles in the board could be swapped for easier-to-spell cards like Sadistic Sacrament, which would play a similar role as combo disruption.

Paint the Town Red

Another combo-control deck recommended by Rich Shay on The Mana Drain, Mono-Red Painter not only combos Painter’s Servant with Grindstone to mill opponents out of the game, but also makes Pyroblasts and Red Elemental Blasts (already good against Vintage blue decks) into Vindicates every matchup.

Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon are strong in Vintage since they shut down most fetchland manabases, as well as Mishra’s Workshop and Bazaar of Baghdad. Ancient Tomb, City of Traitors, and Simian Spirit Guide help get Moon effects into play early, and then Moons take the drawbacks off of Tomb and City. Beyond that, red is strong in Vintage since it blows up artifacts, counters blue spells, and shoots creatures and Jace with Lightning Bolt. Goblin Welder is the epitome of these first two elements, determining what the Workshop player can do, welding out Tinker artifacts, and bringing back countered combo pieces.

Previously, this deck had Imperial Recruiters, so if you have or can borrow those in a sanctioned environment I recommend adding them to find Painters Servant and your toolbox of creatures. Adding black for tutors might also be a consideration. It would change the manabase significantly, in light of the Moon effects, but you get additional utility as well.

Fried Green Opponents

There are plenty of different Elf Combo builds to look at between Legacy and Vintage, and plenty of individual cards and strategies that players like or don’t like. If you’re familiar with the deck and its nuances, it could be a very potent choice. (Any deck with the potential to go broken and win quickly can take advantage of falters from the opponent.)

Elf Combo, like this list based on one played by Steven Thompson in August, is frequently weak to Chalice of the Void, but otherwise it generally has a good matchup against Workshops because it makes a bunch of creatures and most of them make mana. Against blue, they’ll have a hard time countering all of your Skullclamps and Glimpse of Natures, so you either win on those or have a sizeable horde of elves to attack with over a few turns. Unfortunately, with all the creatures and the slower combo, this deck will have a hard time with any Burning Long or Oath decks it encounters.

Thankfully, Elves aren’t especially common in Vintage, so you might also garner some wins from players who aren’t familiar with the archetype and some of its trigger timings. Never underestimate the power of surprise!

A Rainbow of Choices

These decks are the tip of the iceberg as far as potential budget Vintage decks go for Eternal Weekend. Other choices to look at include things like UW or UR Landstill; Goblins, maybe with black or green for Dredge or Oath; any number of aggro-control decks using your favorite colors; and more. Oath of Druids is an easy spell to cast, making it a potential budget option, though you lose the easy turn-one Orchard, Mox, Oath opening. Likewise Doomsday is playable, but you won’t have the luxury of Black Lotus and Ancestral in your piles, which will slow you down. Even Belcher is a possibility if you replace the regular Moxes with Land Grant and lands; you lose broken draws with Black Lotus, but you can still make threatening turn-one plays.

Remember that Tinker, Time Vault, Workshops, Oath of Druids combo, and Dredge are going to be the most important strategies to beat and build around those. If you’re not playing Power, you’ll have to get your advantages in other ways, but it’s completely doable with some creative planning. You can see some of the synergetic plays the decks in this article have and build around those. And if you have any creative combos you want to try out, run them up against a few proxy decks and see how they do. As I mentioned, the format might not see you coming and just get blindsided.

Good luck in Philadelphia!

Nat Moes
@GrandpaBelcher

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