Vintage Masters is online now, and (at the time of writing) prices for Power are surprisingly affordable despite the cards’ Special rare status. Players who drafted the set but weren’t interested in playing Vintage online but wanted to draft the set are unloading their money cards for more drafts, driving prices down and allowing Vintage players without online collections a more reasonable entry into the Magic Online realm. Prices are still in flux, though, so we’ll see where they end up.
Lots of people, including pros like LSV and Ari Lax are writing positively about the format, and I’m encouraged to see Vintage Masters getting good attention, especially after hearing players worry that digital Power was going to be as difficult to obtain as it in cardboard. Hopefully more good news and excitement will follow.
For myself, I’m still entrenched in real-world Vintage and will be writing about the Regrowth Gush list I’ve been playing recently. It’s a fun and interesting list, and it could be useful to see some Vintage thought processes before and during an event, as well as the tournament environment.
We had two events recently in Ohio where I played Regrowth Gush. The first was a split Legacy and Vintage tournament on May 31, which consisted of three rounds of Legacy, followed by three rounds of Vintage and a Legacy top eight. This was a lot of fun and got some Vintage players to play Legacy just as it got some Legacy players to try Vintage. Both halves of the event allowed proxies so players could keep both formats’ decks whole between rounds if they wanted.
I, as is my nature, played Belcher in the Legacy portion and promptly lost all of my games, starting out with an 0-2 record before getting the bye. Fortunately, this article is not about Belcher or Legacy. Going into round four, I could still make the final rounds if I won out in Vintage.
Here’s the Vintage list I played:
Vintage – Regrowth Gush
Regrowth Gush is a straight combo list that wants to put together ten storm and play Tendrils of Agony on the opponent, usually on turn two or three. Normally it wants to do this by combining Gush and Fastbond for draw, though it can do this more organically with other draw spells and Regrowth; bombs like Timetwister, Necropotence, and Mind’s Desire; or just Dark Rituals, tutors, and Yawgmoth’s Will. Even Hurkyl’s Recall, normally defense against the dreaded Workshop matchup, can build storm and mana by bouncing Moxes.
There’s a lot of redundancy in the deck, and Gush or Regrowth can help you recover quickly if something goes wrong. Force of Will, Thoughtseize, and a Flusterstorm you can Merchant Scroll for also help make sure the Tendrils find their mark. I’d be confident playing this in most blue- and combo-heavy Vintage fields but would avoid it if I thought I was going to play against a lot of Workshops or hatebears packing Spirit of the Labyrinth.
So let’s go!
Round 4 – Charles – Espresso Stax
Charles is a smart player and is playing the deck that I least wanted to see. The Mishra’s Workshop based control list Charles was playing wants to play Chalice of the Void, Sphere of Resistance, and Tangle Wire on turns one and two or just win with Lodestone Golem. None of those cards are good for me.
Fortunately, Charles had to mulligan and I opened a hand that was good against Workshops. I had Force of Will for his first lock piece, could Preordain for mana, and could potentially buy some time with a Chain of Vapor. Mana stability is so important playing against Workshop decks since you need to stay ahead of their Sphere effects and Wastelands. The only truly lethal card they play is Lodestone Golem, so if you can keep that off the board, you buy yourself several turns to build resources.
Game two was similar, and I had more basic lands, Nature’s Claims, and bounce spells from the sideboard (taking out the more expensive or less powerful threats). Ultimately, I got lucky in this match (see round two of the next tournament) since several cards and the mana to play them appeared at the right times. Consider that a single Sphere of Resistance will increase the cost of a lethal Tendrils of Agony by 10 mana, and you’ll see the problem. I would have liked having even more Hurkyl’s Recalls in the board, since Nature’s Claim often doesn’t quite do enough, as a one-for-one.
Round 5 – Sam – Four-Color Zero-Land Belcher
Sam is a friend of mine and almost always plays combo. I knew he was on Belcher here. Belcher is usually a good matchup for me personally since I know the deck very well and can usually anticipate its plays pretty well. I also respect its power and will try to prevent its winning before trying to win myself. Basically, you’re always the control deck against Belcher.
I kept an opening hand with Force of Will and was able to stop Sam’s opening by countering his mana. I tutored for a second Force and began working on my own plan by drawing cards and eventually setting up a Gifts Ungiven that would win me the game.
With Regrowth in the deck, Gifts Ungiven is incredibly easy to resolve and win with. A standard plan would be to set up Yawgmoth’s Will as well as Gush plus Fastbond, so a package of Demonic Tutor, Gush, Black Lotus, and Regrowth is a good start. If you have any of those cards, you can include Fastbond or even Yawgmoth’s Will itself in the package. Other plans would be to get cards (Ancestral Recall, Gush, Fastbond, Regrowth) or build storm and mana with Moxes, Lotus, and Hurkyl’s Recall.
In our second game, Sam kept a hand that played Goblin Charbelcher into Pithing Needle and Nature’s Claim and left me with a Flusterstorm in hand. With the game well under control, I had plenty of time to set up a leisurely storm win.
Round 6 – David – UB Vintage Control
This was David’s first Vintage tournament, and he made a few mistakes in our match, missing some of the nuances of cards that more experienced players might take for granted.
In game two, David had Nihil Spellbomb in play, effectively shutting off the Yawgmoth’s Will I’d drawn into with the Necropotence I’d played a turn ago. On his endstep, I played Chain of Vapor, targeting the Spellbomb and forcing him to either use it or lose it. He played Misdirection on the Chain (retargeting my Necro) and sacrificed the Spellbomb. This was awkward for a few reasons: first, Misdirecting Chain nullified his need to sacrifice Spellbomb; second, bouncing Necropotence gave me my drawstep back after I’d already sculpted my hand; and third, I could still have copied Chain with its own ability.
It was a convoluted interaction that probably stemmed from over-thinking the abilities of all three cards. Keep in mind that the cards used in Vintage may have been printed many years ago, but they might still be new to you. It takes some time to learn what they do, and many don’t do what they say, so look up rulings and errata on Gatherer or other official sources.
In the end, with Spellbomb and Misdirection out of the way, I was able to storm out on my turn without trouble.
So, after bombing Legacy and taking the bye, I went undefeated in Vintage and made T8 with a 4-2 record. I guess that shows what determination will do.
Here, I should point out that Ohio Vintage in particular has a strong tradition of splitting the final rounds with the reward of getting delicious food. In the Legacy top eight, my opponent (playing Oops, All Spells) lost two games essentially to himself, and we split the top-four payout. I took my cash payout and ate dinner with friends at Yabo’s Tacos, one of my favorites.
Two weeks later, after hosting a barbecue and game night for my Vintage-playing friends, I was building a deck for a the next day’s tournament. I had taken apart Regrowth Gush and was finishing the sideboard of a four-color Deathrite-Delver deck when I decided I would rather continue playing broken cards and rebuilt Regrowth Gush.
This time, based on a suggestion from Jake Hilty, who had been testing the deck recently, I dropped a Dark Ritual for the fifth Mox. I also dropped Massacre for the second Toxic Deluge in the board. Other than that, I was ready to storm to victory again.
Round 1 – Kurt – Golden Gun Oath
In game one against Kurt, one of Columbus’s better local players and regular Vintage finalist, we were both racing to combo. He tutored for and set up Time Vault plus Voltaic Key but didn’t have the mana to activate, and I could only storm for seven, leaving him at two life. Thankfully, he had Mana Crypt in play. A ticking time bomb. The ol’ Lightning Bolt machine.
I’ve seen lots of players scoop when their opponent assembles Vault-Key and starts taking all the turns. That’s fine when your opponent is obviously going to win and you’re just going to sit there and watch them, but with Dark Confidant or Mana Crypt in play, their victory is not assured. You can wait to see how things play out. Sure, they might find an actual win condition or removal for Bob or Tinker for Mana Crypt, but they might also lose to their own permanent.
Like Kurt did three turns later.
He lost game two when I drew 12 cards over two turns with Necropotence. Sometimes things work out a little easier.
Round 2 – Cody – Forgemaster MUD
Everything that went right for me in last tournament’s match against Charles went wrong for me here. My opponent mulliganed to five in both games, which was a good start, but his draws were outstanding. This is partly because Cody’s MUD deck, which used Kuldotha Forgemaster and Metalworker to put big artifact threats into play, could capitalize on any of my missteps better than Charles’s slower control deck could.
I also misidentified my bigger threat in game two at one point (after a Hurkyl’s Recall) having the option to counter a Lodestone Golem or wait for a Karn, Silver Golem, I knew was coming. I let Lodestone resolve thinking I had plenty of mana and time to play around it, but the Lodestone tax prevented me from playing Regrowth on my Hurkyl’s. It pushed me back too far to win a game I might have gotten.
Workshops is generally going to be a tough matchup for combo lists not based around Oath of Druids (like Burning Long) or without the ability to win on turn one (like Belcher). The plan is usually to keep your head above water with spot removal, make a hole with Hurkyl’s Recall or Rebuild, resolve a bomb, and win. I lost this one.
Round 3 – Matt – Show and Tell
Matt is a good friend of mine, but I didn’t realize at the time what he was playing. He revealed later it was a Show and Tell-based combo list that worked to get Griselbrand, Emrakul, or Blightsteel Colossus into play quickly.
In both games one and two, Matt had an early Tinker for Blightsteel Colossus. In game one, he was out of disruption and my hand was good enough that I could simply race the attack when he passed the turn. I stormed out with Yawgmoth’s Will and won easily. I even found a Hurkyl’s Recall on the way in case he had some unforeseen disruption.
Gush-based lists are interesting because they can go from just drawing cards to actively building storm quickly. A draw spell into one or more powerful cards like Black Lotus, Fastbond, or Demonic Tutor can rapidly change the direction of a turn. Game two I was not so lucky. Despite taking three turns in a row with Time Walk and seeing more than 10 cards with Brainstorm, Ponder, and Gush, I couldn’t find an answer and never had the resources to go for the win.
I still got game three, though, putting me at 2-1.
Round 4 – Sam – GitLong
Sam switched decks from the last event, but he was still on combo, and this was an exiting match! Game three went long so we had quite a crowd watching after other matches had finished.
GitLong, a streamlined version of the deck Reid Duke played at Vintage Champs, should be faster than RegrowthGush by about a turn, so my goal was just to have disruption and draw cards, similar to my match against Belcher in the last event. Sam was able to beat that in game one. He saw the way was clear with Gitaxian Probe and then Tinkered for Colossus. I dug into Chain of Vapor, but he had a counter too.
Sam had a similar opportunity in game two and went for Tinker again, but this time I was able to ramp mana into Gifts Ungiven, giving him the dilemma of either bounce spells for Blightsteel or Yawgmoth’s Will. He probably should have given me the bounce spells, figuring that his draws would be better than mine, especially with Yawgmoth’s Will in my graveyard. Instead, he gave me Yawgmoth’s Will and accepted a martyr’s death by Tendrils of Agony.
Game three I flat-out should not have won. Sam resolved Necropotence and drew 13 cards. On his next turn, he resolved Yawgmoth’s Bargain and drew six more. He played Timetwister and Tinkered for Memory Jar, seeing more than a third of his deck but never found Tendrils or a tutor for them. This is an unfortunate occurrence in decks with lots of draw-sevens. Some people call it “wheel spinning.” When TPS was the combo deck of choice it sometimes stood for “That Play Stalled.” Either way, I was glad to get the win.
Round 5 – Mike – Dredge
At 3-1, I would have been able to draw and was guaranteed a spot in the top eight regardless. My opponent was not so fortunate, so I told him we would play it out. I was confident in my Dredge matchup and had nothing to lose. And, of course, if I won, I could play the magnanimous savior and offer to concede.
My sideboard plan for Dredge is probably two cards smaller than it should be. This is partly because Dredge hasn’t been common at Columbus tournaments recently and partly because I’m confident in my ability to race them to a combo. Mike’s deck was formidable, though, in that it played Mental Misstep. In game one he countered a Dark Ritual I was leaning on to build a serious Mind’s Desire, and in games two and three he countered Nihil Spellbomb.
Fortunately, one of my business spells is also a graveyard hoser: Timetwister. I tutored for that in game two to set my opponent back and refill my own hand. It led to a Fastbond-fueled Tendrils in another turn. I never even had to use my Tormod’s Crypt.
In game three, between two mulligans and a Mental Misstep, I couldn’t quite make it. Mike won and I missed my chance to be Mr. Nice Guy.
But I still made top eight!
This time we split and went to a hipster—I mean, gourmet—pizza place called Harvest. That’s one thing you’ll learn quickly about Vintage: the camaraderie and fine dining are often more important than the tournament itself. It’s a casual approach to a still competitive format.
So over one and a half events, Regrowth Gush put up a 6-2 record for me, even splitting with Workshops, which should normally be a bear of a matchup. I like the deck a lot for its explosive turns and challenging combo puzzles. It has a good matchup versus most blue decks because of the Gush draw engine and should be able to board against everything else.
Coming Up – Mailbag!
For my next article, I’d like to answer people’s questions about Vintage. Plenty of players are discovering it for the first time through Vintage Masters, and there’s always plenty to talk about for cards, decks, strategies, format history, even proxies and acquiring Power. Let me know how I can help you! Put a comment on this article, or send me a tweet or email.
I’ll look forward to it!
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