My usual strategy for picking Vintage decks is to choose something based on a list from several years ago that I either hadn’t played at the time it was en vogue or that I really enjoyed playing. There’s no good reason for doing this (although I can look back at several years of development for ideas, which is interesting). I just find it fun, and Magic: The Gathering and Vintage in particular are all about having fun for me. If I win, all the better.
My current deck of choice has been Bomberman, a deck that I’ve played before and enjoyed. I’m comfortable with the deck’s plan of countering and answering everything. I also really like the idea of having maindeck Balance in a format that has been increasingly populated by creatures. Having a game winning combo never hurts either.
Here’s the list I’ve been playing, taking it to events in Columbus and Berea, Ohio, as well as to Gen Con in Indianapolis. I’ll be going over those events in more detail later.
Nat Moes – Bomberman
The only cards that changed between the Columbus event in July, the Berea event in August, and Gen Con were a few sideboard cards. I dropped the Energy Fluxes for Annuls expecting an uptick in Oath and combo and wanting a quicker answer against Workshops than a three-drop. I also changed the Wrath of God to an Exalted Angel (which should have been Baneslayer Angel) for Berea and to a second Grafdigger’s Cage for Gen Con, expecting even more Oath and Dredge.
Bomberman frequently plays the long game, countering spells, building resources, and tutoring for backbreaking answer cards with Trinket Mage. In many matchups and situations it should be the control deck, but it does have an instant win combo with several tutors to find it and can also play the beatdown. It’s one of the more flexible Vintage decks in that regard, going from control to aggro to combo and back quickly and fluidly.
The combo gameplan is to play Trinket Mage for Black Lotus, play Lotus into Auriok Salvagers, and use Salvagers to recur the Lotus, making an arbitrarily large amount of mana (netting a mana on each recurrence). With limitless mana, you can draw your deck with Aether Spellbomb or by combining Engineered Explosives with Sensei’s Divining Top (put a draw on the stack, then activate Explosives at 1, then use Salvagers to bring back Top and Explosives). Once you have mana and cards, you can play out all your creatures, play Time Walk, and leave yourself with a hand full of counterspells, sealing the game.
The combination of Auriok Salvagers and Black Lotus (which has also been played in Legacy with Lion’s Eye Diamond) was realized shortly after Salvagers’ release in Fifth Dawn in 2004. European players started using it to recur Lotus and Pyrite Spellbomb for an instant win. Soon Canadian players were forgoing the Pyrite Spellbomb as win-more and just playing Aether Spellbomb in a UW Fish-type deck, including Meddling Mage. This reduced the deck to two colors, making it more consistent and giving it many basic lands to play against decks playing Wasteland. By 2006, the deck had pretty much stabilized to what we know today and continues to be played by people like Justin Kohler and Mike Gouthro.
To keep up with the metagame, Bomberman has also, at times, played Gush or Dark Confidant to refill their hands and add some quicker combo potential to an otherwise slow deck. Dark Confidant builds (usually called Bobomberman) became more prominent especially after Thirst for Knowledge was restricted in 2009. Again, though, there are consistency benefits to staying with the two-color list that builds resources steadily.
Recently, Bomberman’s Mana Drain control shell was the basis for the Blue Angels deck that Taylor Pratt used to make top-eight at Vintage Champs in 2013. He basically dropped the sorcery-speed Auriok Salvagers for the hasty Restoration Angels, which let him reuse Trinket Mages and claimed air superiority over Insectile Aberrations. The “Dance Magic Dance” Spirit of the Labyrinth deck was an even later development, adding Fact or Fiction over Jace for more end-of-turn play and to get around the Spirit. Other decks have added Stoneforge Mystic to the mix, since Batterskull is so strong against opposing aggro and Workshop decks.
Let’s go through a few games; I think you’ll get the idea.
Columbus Round 1 – Eric – Pyromancer Ascension Storm
This was an interesting round simply because early in game one there were five Pyromancer Ascensions within my arms’ reach, and none of them were flipped. Ascension hasn’t really seen much play in the format; the restricted list sort of hinders its utility. My opponent, Eric, had led with two of them but was now out of cards to trigger them and any legitimate threats. I was able to combo with Salvagers quickly through his combo deck’s thin defenses.
Eric mulliganed to four in game two but made a contest out of it by playing Time Walk and Vampiric Tutor for Fastbond with Gush in hand to refuel. He didn’t quite have the cards necessary to put together a win, however, and I was able to Trinket Mage into Black Lotus and play Jace, the Mind Sculptor, to lock him out of the game.
Combo can be a difficult matchup for Bomberman if it can strike quickly and force the control deck to interact before Mana Drain and other defenses come online. I’m not sure Pyromancer Ascension is the right way to help that, though.
Columbus Round 2 – Eric (a different one) – 4C Deathrite Control
I took control early in this round, having the Mental Misstep for my opponent’s Deathrite Shaman, and then countering his Jace and following up with my own. Fatesealing went the distance in this game as a later, resolved Deathrite couldn’t keep up and soon got Pithing Needled. (It’s handy having a maindeck way to neutralize those pesky li’l guys.)
Creature removal, including Engineered Explosives and Wrath of God, came in. I took out two Force of Wills (card disadvantage against a non-broken deck), Steel Sabotage, and Spell Pierces. I also switched Tormod’s Crypt for Relic of Progenitus, since continually hitting the graveyard against Deathrite and potentially Tarmogoyf would be better than a one-shot, though I still had that option.
Game two, I was forced into the aggro plan as Eric used Surgical Extraction to get rid of the Black Lotus I had tutored up. Lotus still let me play Auriok Salvagers, however, and I was soon attacking with them and a Trinket Mage. I was also able to use Salvagers in a control role, recurring Aether Spellbomb to keep my opponent’s creatures off the board and to draw cards when possible.
This matchup probably should have been more of a challenge, but things didn’t come together as they should have for Eric. Bomberman does have more actual counters than his 4C Control list, and I had answers of the right type at the right time.
Columbus Round 3 – Randal – Metalworker MUD
Randal is well known in Ohio for playing Mishra’s Workshop decks, so I wasn’t surprised to see it here. It helped that I won the die roll and was able to open with a counter against his turn one play. On turn two, I took my opportunity with a Force of Will in hand and went for Trinket Mage into Black Lotus, using that for a second Trinket Mage to get Mox Sapphire. The counter and Trinket Mages were good enough to win in the red zone, especially as my opponent was using Ancient Tombs to cast things.
I brought in my artifact and creature hate: Energy Flux, Disenchant, the additional Explosives, and Swords to Plowshares. Mental Misstep, Tormod’s Crypt, Aven Mindcensor, and Auriok Salvagers (as a four-drop) hit the bricks.
Game two went long. I pitched Energy Flux to Force of Will early on to counter a Lodestone Golem and used Swords to Plowshares first on a Metalworker and then flashed-back on a Phyrexian Revoker that would have been devastating had it hit and shut off Black Lotus. From there it was steady beats and control. On his last turn, he cast a second Metalworker that threatened to stop my attacks, but I fortunately had the Echoing Truth.
I’ve always felt that the Workshop matchup is good for Bomberman. Having lots of mana and basic lands helps dodge Wasteland and ensure that counters and removal can be played as necessary. Chalice of the Void and Phyrexian Revoker shut off the combo, but you just fall back on attacking or win with Jace.
Columbus Round 4 – Jared – UWR Control
Jared’s deck had a lot of strong creatures and plays and was based on the similar Modern deck. He led in game one with Stoneforge Mystic and was poised to put Batterskull into play on the end of my second turn. I had other ideas, though, knowing that I wouldn’t survive long against that. I had mana and was able to play Time Walk into Thirst for Knowledge which found Black Lotus. On my Time Walk turn I played Lotus into Salvagers and was able to make limitless mana, playing Jace to find Trinket Mage for Aether Spellbomb.
Jared opened with Rest in Peace in game two, so my combo was sunk from turn one unless I could remove it. Instead I commenced the beatdown, getting Trinket Mage (for Sensei’s Divining Top) and Auriok Salvagers into play to compete with my opponent’s Eidolon of the Great Revel. My removal kicked in and my creatures took it home.
So over four rounds, I was undefeated and won games in all three of Bomberman’s modes: attacking with creatures, controlling with Jace, and comboing with Auriok Salvagers. All of them felt good. The tournament ended here as the top four split the cash to get food. Vintage in Ohio is all about the post-tournament meal.
Berea Round 1 – Matt – Phyrexian Shop Aggro
Matt’s deck was surprisingly fast, with Slash Panther and Precursor Golem leading an attack that included Lodestone Golem and Porcelain Legionnaire. He got me in game one, well before I had time to set anything up. Precursor Golem and his buddies attack for nine!
I slowed him down in game two by playing Spell Pierce on his Mana Crypt. As a result he led with Porcelain Legionnaire, which I sent farming with Swords to Plowshares. Phyrexian Revoker met a similar fate, thanks to Snapcaster Mage. The game progressed this way, with Matt taking damage from Phyrexian mana and Ancient Tomb as I removed his threats. Finally, I hardcast Exalted Angel and ended the game.
Game three was over quickly too as my amazing opening hand allowed me to play turn-one Salvagers off of Lotus, Force of Will my opponent’s Lodestone Golem, and combo on turn two with Trinket Mage into Aether Spellbomb.
Berea Round 2 – Eric – Pyromancer Ascension Storm
My round-one opponent from Columbus had returned with a deck better tuned for Vintage. He had gone down to two Ascensions, making it more of a mid-game combo card than a focus of the early game. Other than that he was mostly a Gush-based combo deck. Eric got things started with Gitaxian Probe and Duress on turn one, taking my Sensei’s Divining Top. I followed up with Pithing Needle off a mox, holding up a counter. Trinket Mage got countered, but that let me resolve Balance, emptying both of our hands and putting us on a similar board state. It was all about the topdecks now.
Eric plucked Merchant Scroll to find and resolve Ancestral Recall. Next turn he played Fastbond and Gush. Awkward. Then he resolved Empty the Warrens for eight goblins. I topdecked Engineered Explosives into my opponent’s depleted hand and ended up winning with Snapcaster Mage.
Eric got me in game two, using Gitaxian Probe to see my hand with some weak disruption: a Spell Pierce and a Mana Drain that I’d have to choose between. He played Merchant Scroll for Flusterstorm and I knew I was sunk. I could have countered the Scroll but wouldn’t have had mana left to do anything else. Flusterstorm allowed him to play Demonic Tutor for Fastbond and set up an easy win with several Gushes and Vampiric Tutor into Tendrils of Agony.
The combo was on my side in game three. Despite my mulligan to six, my opponent went to five. I was able to cruise into an easy win with Salvagers on turn three.
Berea Round 3 – Sam – BUG Oath
I knew BUG Oath would be a challenge; it has counters and several different must-counter threats, including outright casting Griselbrand if the game goes too long. I countered Ancestral Recall with Mental Misstep and tried to shut down a turn-two Oath of Druids with Force of Will, but he had Force of Will of his own. Oath resolved, and Sam also had Abrupt Decay for a Pithing Needle I had on Griselbrand. He won in short order by drawing cards into Time Vault combo.
My defenses held up longer in game two, and I got some good hits in with the spirit tokens Sam was giving me, but the result was the same. I countered several threats, including Oath of Druids and Show and Tell, but I was barely keeping my head above water. Sam found Voltaic Key and was able to tutor for Time Vault for the win against my mostly empty hand.
As I said, BUG Oath was a challenge. Perhaps trying to play the control role is the wrong tack to take, but his combo is probably faster than mine.
Berea Round 4 – Paul – Merfolk
This is the second time I’ve played Merfolk in the final round of a tournament in Berea. I opened the game with Balance in hand and knew I would be keeping. I was able to remove several of Paul’s fish at the cost of a couple of cards in hand, which seemed fair. His offense was shattered, and though I took damage over a few turns, going down to seven, I was able to combo with Salvagers, wipe the board, and win.
I brought in the anti-creature package and was ready to go. Balance is so good!
My game-two opener was not good enough to win against an opening of turn-one Null Rod, turn-two True-Name Nemesis, turn three True-Name Nemesis. I did nothing this game as the Explosives I would have engineered for the Nemeses were shut off by the Null Rod, as was my combo. I would have needed at least two counters (or Balance) to even consider being in this game.
I opened with a land and Spell Snare against Paul in game three, and he played land, Black Lotus into Lord of Atlantis. I could have countered the king of the fish, but it wasn’t the card I was worried about. The Null Rod that followed it was, however. Thank goodness Paul didn’t have Daze. Null Rod averted, I was able to combo on turn three and win, though my opponent’s offense still managed to knock me down to six life.
My 3-1 record was good enough to get me into the finals. Two BUG Oath (including Sam from round three) and another UW Control deck made it with me. And since there was an honest-to-goodness Library of Alexandria on the line (donated by Team Serious), there would be no splits!
Berea Top 4 – Chad – BUG Oath
Oh no. Not again.
Chad was a good opponent who was coming off a long hiatus from the Vintage scene. Obviously his day was going well. Game one took long enough that, by the time Chad resolved Oath and got Griselbrand into play, he was unable to activate it, being too low on life. I topdecked a Trinket Mage, which resolved, and got Aether Spellbomb. Spellbomb bounced Griselbrand on my opponent’s draw step, and my team of wizards and spirit tokens swung in for the win.
I boarded similarly to round three against Sam.
I thought I had game two secured, since I opened with Library of Alexandria on the draw and immediately started drawing cards. Unfortunately, none of the cards I drew over several turns was a counterspell, so on turn five when Chad said “Show and Tell?” I said, “Okay.” He put in Griselbrand and I countered with… a basic Plains. That sealed the game. I drew some cards to find an answer but he drew more, and I lost in short order to Time Vault and Griselbrand.
Game three I started with a weak hand and drew mostly lands. I was able to counter an Oath, but he had backup and removed my Grafdigger’s Cage to win the game.
So, over nine games in two tournaments I finished with a 7-2 record and a few extra bucks in my pocket, which turned into delicious food and some extra Magic cards. The performance was good enough for me to stick with the deck at Gen Con, when it turned out I would actually be able to play there. Gen Con was ill fated from round one, but them’s the breaks as they say. I’d still be pleased to play Bomberman again; it will always give you an entertaining match.
Thanks for reading!
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