Three Decks from the Best Four Days in Gaming
Ah, GenCon. It would be impossible for me to capture everything in one article. Those of you who have been there know what I’m talking about; those of you who haven’t should make plans for next year. They truly live up to their tagline of, the “Best Four Days in Gaming.”
GenCon has been a significant part of the Vintage year because it was host to the Vintage Championship, typically the largest sanctioned Vintage Magic the Gathering tournament in the U.S. This year, Vintage Champs has left GenCon and will take place in Philadelphia in November, hosted by Nick Coss, a great Eternal tournament organizer. Instead, this year at GenCon, we had 83 players duke it out for an uncut sheet of Antiquities and entry into the 20th Anniversary Draft on Friday and 40 players fight for an uncut sheet of Urza’s Saga and entry into the GenCon Championship Draft on Saturday. Still sizeable events for the format, and important indicators for Champs.
I played in both events and had a great time. Perhaps because Champs was missing and the events were a little smaller, the atmosphere was more casual. I played against people from around the U.S. and from around the world, including last year’s champ, Marc Lanigra, from Germany, and this year’s Saturday victor, Jordi Amat Puig, from Spain. The Vintage community is relatively small, so it’s easy to get to know many of the players and look forward to getting together with them at international events. Players mingle more between rounds, and there’s plenty of post-tournament meal opportunities.
The two larger tournaments this year had similar metagames: few Workshop decks (but Workshop decks were winning), Bazaar-based Dredge decks were down and out early, and there was tons of Blue, especially Gushes. Rituals, specifically Doomsday and Burning Long, did well both days, and there was a healthy representation of creature-based control decks, usually without Null Rod.
Unfortunately, the decklists from Friday’s 83-player event were lost, but the top-eight lists from Saturday’s event are available at Eternal Central for your perusal. They’ll have additional Vintage coverage over the next few weeks as well.
For my part, in this article, I’ll look at three decks that I found interesting and that might be somewhat “pickup and go” for newer Vintage players. I’ll also look at what the GenCon turnout might indicate for November’s Vintage Champs metagame.
I had been testing with Young Pyromancer in the weeks leading up to GenCon and, after trying and disliking Grixis and Four-Color lists, I went with a RUG Pyromancer build based on previous RUG Delver constructions:
RUG Pyromancer by Nat Moes
The idea with this deck was to get Young Pyromancer or Tarmogoyf onto the battlefield and play defense long enough to win the game. Most of the spells would trigger Pyromancer, and Preordain and Gush would help find more spells to trigger it. Lightning Bolts are good against Lodestone Golems in the Workshop match and Dark Confidants in the Drain match. Regrowth recurred good stuff like Ancestral Recall and Time Walk, or whatever counters or removal were necessary, usually triggering Pyromancer twice.
I finished in the top 16 out of 83, with a final record of 4-2-1, losing in my last round to the Four-Color Humans deck I’ll talk about in the next section. Drains and combo never gave me a problem; I went 1-1-1 against three different creature-based decks; and I lost to Workshops because I couldn’t deal with creatures larger than Lodestone Golem. (In my second game against Saturday’s winner, Jordi Amat Puig, he opened with Lightning Greaves, then played Kuldotha Forgemaster on turn two and used it to get Blightsteel Colossus. Too fast!)
This deck is simple and effective, especially if you played similar Delver of Secrets decks in another format. If I were to play this deck again (and I’m already looking forward to it), I would change the creature package to something like 4 Pyromancer, 3 Tarmogoyf, and 2 Vendilion Clique. Scavenging Ooze was mediocre as disruption and needed to enter the battlefield larger. And if Goyf doesn’t show up to block for Pyromancer, then Pyromancer and friends can block as Clique goes over the top. I also want to test a singleton Grapeshot as a tutor target for a potential board sweeper or game ender. It doesn’t need to do much, and Lightning Bolts are already so good.
My final opponent on Friday, Steven Stierman, played a four-color Human-based aggro-control list. He was a great opponent: fun and animated, playing in his first tournament, and just crushing everybody. He went 5-2 on Friday and made top eight on Saturday with the following list:
Four-Color Human Aggro by Steven Stierman
This list is straightforward: play uncounterable disruptive creatures using Cavern of Souls, then attack relentlessly. Thalia slows your opponent down; Dark Confidant feeds you more creatures; and Mayor of Avabruck helps make sure your smaller creatures can tangle successfully with larger ones. Noble Hierarch and Deathrite Shaman provide additional colored mana, making sure your four colors are accessible and allowing you to use your Wastelands without sacrificing tempo. There’s plenty of removal for all kinds of problem cads, and the small tutor package makes sure you have it when you need it.
I questioned the inclusion of cards like Orzhov Pontiff, Huntmaster of the Fells, and Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch, since they seem expensive and not generally disruptive enough. But I had to counter Huntmaster when it got played against me, I’m sure Orzhov Pontiff wiped some boards, and Exava beat at least one Workshops player on Saturday. Orzhov Pontiff is particularly interesting in light of the Young Pyromancer presence, since it kills any Pyros and all the tokens.
There are 25 creatures here, and some Vintage decks just aren’t prepared to deal with such a relentless assault. The biggest problems would come against Oath of Druids-based combo and control lists. Grafdigger’s Cage and Abrupt Decay are critical against Oath.
This list would be a good one for new players and could probably be played without Power. You might notice that Steven omitted Black Lotus, probably because he didn’t have one. Cutting the four Moxes for an additional Noble Hierarch and three more lands (probably the fourth Wasteland maindeck) wouldn’t slow this deck down too much in a sanctioned environment.
Welcome to the Machine
I didn’t get a chance to play against Adrian Becker either day, but he won Friday and made top eight Saturday with a list that’s relatively new on the Vintage scene:
Affinity Workshops by Adrian Becker
This is a super aggressive form of Workshop deck. The usual Workshop disruption plan of Sphere of Resistance effects and Wastelands takes a backseat to a wave of Myr tokens and other creatures created by Genesis Chamber and Skullclamp. Lodestone Golem, Phyrexian Revoker, and Tangle Wire can still play the usual Workshops game of lockdown and attack, but the deck can combo and swarm easily. One interesting bit of tech here is the Gaea’s Cradle. What better way to take advantage of a huge number of creatures (and the revamped Legend rule) than making a ton of mana and drawing a ton of cards with Skullclamp?
I’ve been goldfishing this deck for a few days now, and some of the plays you get to make are immensely satisfying- moving counters around, making tokens, drawing cards, attack for exponentially increasing amounts of damage- awesome!
If you played Affinity when it was in Standard, or now when it’s in Modern and Legacy, this deck should be easy to pick up. Some hands play themselves (Mishra’s Workshop, Mox, Lodestone Golem is rarely a bad opener, likewise Genesis Chamber, Skullclamp, and some cheap creatures), but knowing the ins and outs of playing Arcbound Ravager and Skullclamp and how to maximize Genesis Chamber and Steel Overseer will put players ahead in the game.
Looking Ahead to Champs
What do these decks and the others played at GenCon tell us about the prospective metagame for Vintage Champs? Well, don’t forget that Champs is still two months away. Theros will be released between now and then, and along with that could come any possible changes to the restricted list. Commander 2013 also comes out the Friday before Champs, without much time to test, and the previous Commander set provided us with playables like Flusterstorm and Scavenging Ooze.
Vintage generally changes slower than other formats because the bar for entry for new cards is understandably high after 20 years of development. However, it does change. Cards that come out in the new sets (or that get discovered from old ones) could make a splash, and the format is still adjusting to Young Pyromancer and new decks like Affinity Workshops.
Compared to the GenCon metagame, though, the Champs metagame will likely have a higher turnout of Mishra’s Workshops, and since many known Workshop players skipped GenCon once Champs was moved, the talent in that archetype will be very high. I’d also predict there to be a larger proportion of un-Powered decks and Dredge. I have a feeling (or the hope, I guess) that players who play in the Legacy Championship on Saturday will stick around for Vintage on Sunday, and Null Rod decks and Dredge are typically more accessible for players on a budget.
Otherwise, I would still expect the usual blue-based decks and lots of them, of all kinds. Control like the Grixis played by Marc Lanigra or my RUG Pyromancer and combo like Jason Jaco’s Turbo Tezz or the two Doomsday lists are all possibilities. The deck choice options involving blue and restricted cards are powerful, wide-ranging, and popular with Vintage mages.
It will be interesting to see how things shape up going into November. New developments and cards will be all over Vintage, as they will be in other formats as well. I’ll try to keep you informed of them as they appear.
Until next time!
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