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The Vintage Advantage: What’s New in Vintage III

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Vintage

08_12 The Vintage Advantage

Last week in Columbus a contingent of Vintage players came up from Dayton and we had an unexpected eight-player tournament. The box of eight proxy decks that we have together for just such an occasion was put to good use, as four players ran fully proxied decks that made top eight at either last year’s GenCon or Vintage Championship. There was also a Vintage Super Friends list, similar to the one I mentioned in my last “What’s New in Vintage” column, and one daring soul brought Aluren Combo.

All in all we had some great games in the event. Super Friends went 3-0 and took the top spot, followed by Blue Angels, which went 2-0-1. More importantly, though, two Vintage-playing groups met up and strengthened the Ohio community.

This is all to say that Vintage Magic the Gathering is gaining ground, offline as well as using MTGO. Tournaments are scheduled every week around the U.S., in Europe, and elsewhere. Many of them allow proxies, drastically lowering the investment required to play. Ask around, check Twitter, or check the tournament boards at The Mana Drain for information. If you don’t see tournament opportunities in your area, check with your local game store about starting up proxy events.

In the meantime, let’s look at some of the interesting new decks I’ve seen recently. There are some real zingers!

Blazing a Trail

The LCV tournament series, played in Barcelona, Spain, is a great source for Vintage technology. They get large turnouts (for Vintage) and some very inventive players who aren’t afraid to break the mold of usual contenders. This Blazing Infect deck by Joaquín Fernández split the finals of the event held 31 March, but I didn’t see the lists until 1 June!

The goal here is to resolve an infect creature, and then attack and play Blazing Shoal, pitching either Progenitus or Greater Gargadon to make the infect lethal. Duress, Flusterstorm, Mental Misstep and Apostle’s Blessing all help make sure your spells resolve and your creature survives, and the tutor suite includes three Spoils of the Vault to put the Shoal together with its pitch fodder. The combo is redundant and can be blisteringly fast, so this definitely would have caught some opponents flatfooted.

One interesting addition to the deck is Greater Gargadon, which had been played in Vintage outside this combo as an answer to Oath of Druids. With a deck full of Gargadons, you could sacrifice Forbidden Orchard tokens and creatures to its suspend ability, preventing your opponent’s Oath from triggering. Hard to say whether Gargadon got used this way in an aggressive combo list like this one, but it’s an interesting option for sure.

Seeking Wins

Bringing it back across the pond to my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, I really liked the idea behind this Tezz-Helm deck played by Michael Antrim to the top eight. Instead of playing the usual one Tezzeret, the Seeker, to go along with Time Vault and Key, he has two Tezzerets and added a second combo win condition in Helm of Obedience and Rest in Peace.

If you’re unaware of the combo, the replacement effect created by Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void will prevent Helm’s ability from fulfilling itself no matter what the paid X was. No cards will ever get put into the graveyard, but Helm won’t stop trying, and the targeted player will mill their library completely. Tezzeret (and Tinker, Demonic Tutor etc.) helps find Helm or Time Vault as necessary, and works well in the blue-based combo-control shell.

Not to mention that having maindeck Rest in Peace should make beating Dredge a walk in the park. Postboard Stoneforge Mystics, Swords to Plowshares, and Batterskull will make Workshops and aggro-control opponents a winnable matchup as well. Overall this looks like a solid choice, especially for Legacy players looking to transition since they’ll be familiar with some of the strategies and cards. And activating Tezzeret’s second ability for four will definitely turn some heads the first few times you do it.

Raising an Army

I consistently recommend mono-white decks to players looking for budget options when proxies aren’t available. White has plenty of cheap creatures and enchantments that attack different resources and Vintage strategies in particular. This build, played by Mauro Graus at a tournament in Acqualagna, Italy, is novel in that it focuses on the Soldier creature type and adds Suppression Field to Stony Silence and Chalice of the Void in its disruption package.

Aside from Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Aegis of the Gods (which stops Oath of Druids and Tendrils of Agony, among others) most of the creatures in this list are there for their battlefield abilities. Soldiers are cast at a discount or put directly into play with Preeminent Captain and Brimaz, King of Oreskos, and they grow rapidly thanks to Daru Warchief and Field Marshal. First strike is surprisingly relevant in Vintage as the number of creatures increase, and Cavern of Souls is always going to be threatening in a format where Force of Will is the most-played card and usually brings its friends along.

Regardless, it’s good to see tribes get some attention beyond the usual Merfolk, Goblins, Elves, and Humans. I looked through available soldiers when Aegis of the Gods was printed and dismissed them because they seemed too combat-oriented. Only Thalia and Aegis had especially relevant disruptive abilities, which isn’t usually enough to do the job in Vintage. This list suggests otherwise. Building lists around powerful aggressive creatures and on-color disruptive spells could open up a lot of tribes to Vintage competitiveness.

Dancing around the Format

Dan Proulx has been playing various builds of this deck for a while and picked this list for a tournament in Berea, Ohio, on 28 June. It uses Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, as a control-engine, digging for artifacts and pumping Baleful Strix into a 5/5 flying, deathstriking winged horror. Trinket Mage adds access to a toolbox of answers, including Grafdigger’s Cage, Chalice of the Void, Engineered Explosives, and Pithing Needle. One could see this deck as a successor to the Sullivan Solution blue-black decks that played devastating answers to specific problems with plenty of ways to find them.

I like the idea, but there are a few things that worry me about this deck. The Spheres of Resistance seem out of place in a deck that is not especially heavy on mana, especially since a lot of your access to answers will come from the relatively expensive Tezzeret and Trinket Mage. I’d play the Time Vault and Voltaic Key main over them. Of course, the biggest problem with decks like these is that success depends on having the right answer at the right time. Powerful answers are often more specialized, so things like Pithing Needle and Toxic Deluge might be crumby draws in some games.

As for specific cards, Dan commented that he likes Dimir Charm: it counters Tinker and Yawgmoth’s Will, destroys important creatures, and can upset topdeck tutors or serve as a pseudo-Time Walk, giving the opponent a bad card to draw. Llawan, Cephalid Empress, is an interesting sideboard card. It’s particularly strong against Merfolk and would play well against most blue-based aggro-control decks. I don’t think Dan played against the Merfolk player in Berea, though—too bad.

Bombing the Battlefield

BUG Control lists have been recently popular online and off. Dark Confidant, Deathrite Shaman, and Abrupt Decay are a strong team in a blue shell with counterspells, and tutors help you find answers or a game ender. This list, played by Ryousei Kawai at the second TokyoMTG Vintage Open, held 5 July in Japan, adds a single Auriok Salvagers to the mix for a potential instant win. Salvagers can recur Black Lotus an indefinite number of times, netting mana each time, to make an arbitrarily large amount of mana in all colors. Then you can similarly recur Nihil Spellbomb (or Sensei’s Divining Top and Engineered Explosives) to draw your deck, filling the board with creatures and your hand with counterspells. This deck can also play Living Wish for Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

Otherwise, this deck is similar to Dan Proulx’s deck. In addition to the suite of answers, Trinket Mage also helps find combo cards here, most importantly Black Lotus, which is a boost in tempo. Kawai’s deck does have Time Vault and Voltaic Key maindeck; it’s an instant win that’s surprisingly simple to put together with tutors and draw spells, and the Trinket Mages can help find half the combo.

The Living Wish seems a little out of place to me. It is a great way to capitalize on mana made by Auriok Salvagers, but Time Walking or assembling Vault-Key with creatures in play and a handful of cards should work too. As a way to find answers, Living Wish is slow, and this list doesn’t really provide a lot of options. Getting Qasali Pridemage or Trygon Predator would be okay against Oath but would be nearly impossible to pull off against a Workshop deck, for example. I like Living Wish as a card (it used to be played in Belcher!), but it might be better as something else here.

City in a Bottle, though. So good against Dredge.

Scuttling the Doom Engine

Lest you Workshops players think there’s nothing new for you, Cleveland’s Red-Bearded Wizard, Randal Witherell placed in the top eight of a tournament in Warren, Michigan, using the following list on 26 July. It’s an aggro-combo list that uses M15 printing Scuttling Doom Engine as direct damage with Goblin Welder and Shrapnel Blast. With Bazaar of Baghdad and Squee, Goblin Nabob, fueling the hand and the graveyard, the deck can win in a hurry.

Colored Workshop decks haven’t been especially popular or successful recently, but this list bucks that trend. Most of the typical Workshop prison cards are kept in the sideboard, even Lodestone Golem, which is surprising to me, but Magus of the Moon and Tangle Wire are maindeck to hold down the fort. Beyond Scuttling Doom Engine, Goblin Welder plays well with Tangle Wire and Shrapnel Blast, and turns Solemn Simulacrum into a blocking, card-drawing, mana-fixing machine.

Randal said some of the numbers still need to be tweaked, and that’s probably true since the build is so entirely new. Still this list would be good for anyone looking for a Workshop build that has some fun interactions in hand, on the battlefield, and with the graveyard. I’m excited to see many of these cards returning to play in Vintage.


I always have to limit myself for these articles, so I apologize if you think I missed your deck or something else interesting. I’m also sticking to offline tournaments for now, so feel free to browse through MTGO results as well since there are plenty of gems there. There are so many new and fun decks being put together in Vintage. Some might be one-hit wonders, but others will make a more lasting impression. Some are built on familiar frames or with clear connections to previous decks, but others are new from the ground up, at least in Vintage.

Thanks to the broad and deep cardpool, there are many options in Vintage, so if you haven’t yet tried the format, you should. There’s definitely something that will appeal to you, even if you have to build it yourself. Thanks for reading!

Nat Moes

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