Drafting Vintage Masters

Posted in Perilous Research on July 31, 2014

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Welcome back to Perilous Research, DailyMTG.com's exclusive Magic Online column. For the last two months, Magic Online players have enjoyed one of the most complicated and skill-rewarding drafts formats to ever exist. This most incredible format is only available on Magic Online. Today, we'll be discussing everything Vintage Masters!

What's So Special About Vintage Masters?

The most obviously exciting part of Vintage Masters drafting is the opportunity to open up pieces of the Power Nine. I underestimated the wave of emotion associated with opening these iconic cards. I opened a Mox Sapphire in my third draft, clicked on it, picked up my dog, and danced around my office with her for the entirety of the draft. Since then, I've opened three more Moxes, two Time Walks, and two Ancestral Recalls. I've done hundreds of drafts, and each time I open any Power I find myself ecstatic. I call my wife. Make Facebook statuses. It's hard to quantify how awesome it feels to open a piece of Power, so I strongly suggest you start hopping in the Vintage Masters draft queue to try and experience it.

The best part about Vintage Masters is the format. I've drafted and won with every color combination imaginable. I've even won drafts with five-color control decks that splashed green for copies of Tangle. I've had Survival of the Fittest and Recurring Nightmare in the same deck. I've had two copies of Parallax Wave and three Rescind in the same deck. The format is a deck-builder's dreamland, allowing the strongest players to craft works of art by recognizing the texture of the draft around them.

What Should We Be Drafting?

Eventually, we become comfortable enough with the format to draft unique creations in most of our drafts. When we first start drafting Vintage Masters, though, it's important to have a plan in the face of such complexity. Let's discuss the major archetypes of Vintage Masters.

Red-White-X Lightning Rift

The best way to start winning packs of Vintage Masters in the draft queues is to master drafting the cycling deck. Lightning Rift is easily the most important card here. Astral Slide is good, but it requires a lot of help from the rest of your cards if it's going to be an all-star. Stoic Champion is one of the best possible threats here. We can attack with Stoic Champion into most boards that don't have regeneration mana up. When the opponent's life total is around 10, Stoic Champion basically becomes a one-sided Abyss. Drafting this deck well requires us to take a lot of the cycling lands very high, even when there are otherwise strong cards in the pack. One of the best parts about the cycling deck is the ease with which the deck can have subthemes. Noble Templar and Chartooth Cougar are great cards in the cycling deck and they combo very nicely with black reanimation spells and Mistmoon Griffin, which should be pretty easy to pick up late in our drafts. Goblin Trenches is often passed around later than it should be, too. The cycling deck is very good at drawing almost all its cards, but can struggle to actually win games at times. Goblin Trenches solves this issue beautifully.

Best Commons: Battle Screech, Chain Lightning

Key Commons: Solar Blast, Spark Spray, cycling lands, Noble Templar, Chartooth Cougar, Mistmoon Griffin

Best Uncommons: Flametongue Kavu, Lightning Rift, Swords to Plowshares, Goblin Trenches

Key Uncommons: Lightning Rift, Astral Slide, Stoic Champion

Green-White Auras

Dreampod Druid has proved itself to be one of the best uncommons in Vintage Masters. I pretty much always move in on this archetype when I'm lucky enough to open or get passed a copy of Dreampod Druid early in the first pack. The best part about this deck is that many of the most powerful and important cards are one most other decks couldn't care less about. Deftblade Elite is an absolute house here, often dominating games by itself. In most games, our opponent will cast a 2/2 into Deftblade Elite without a second thought. Then, we suit it up with Brilliant Halo, Elephant Guide, or Armadillo Cloak, and suddenly we've eaten the creature without losing any value. Benevolent Bodyguard is usually just okay, but when we're trying to get Auras on our creatures it becomes an absolute necessity. Check out this article I wrote for gatheringmagic.com about Green-White Auras in Vintage Masters for more information on the strategy of drafting this archetype.

Best Commons: Battle Screech, Wild Mongrel

Key Commons: Deftblade Elite, Benevolent Bodyguard, Elephant Guide, Brilliant Halo

Best Uncommons: Dreampod Druid, Armadillo Cloak, Swords to Plowshares, Grizzly Fate

Key Uncommons: Dreampod Druid, Armadillo Cloak

Mono-Black Aggro

The aggressive black deck is a lot better than most people give it credit for. Cards like Carnophage, Fallen Askari, and Fledgling Djinn start the beats early and efficiently. The deck may not be as strong as the better White Weenie or Goblin decks, but those decks are fighting over their best cards with everyone else at the table. The aggressive black deck is heinously underdrafted and ends up looking tight almost every time.

Best Commons: Paralyze, Fallen Askari

Key Commons: Fallen Askari, Paralyze, Carnophage, Fledgling Djinn, Expunge, Chainer's Edict, Dauthi Mercenary

Best Uncommons: Hymn to Tourach, Chimeric Idol

White Weenie

White is easily the deepest color in Vintage Masters. Simply taking all of the inexpensive white creatures we see is a very good strategy that usually works out well. Unfortunately, a lot of people try to draft the White Weenie deck because of Battle Screech, which is probably the best common in the set. A lot of people will be first-picking Battle Screech and never looking back, so we'll need to know when to abandon ship when our deck isn't coming together.

Best/Key Commons: Battle Screech, any white creature with a converted mana cost of 4 or less

Best Uncommons: Pianna, Nomad Captain; Radiant, Archangel; Swords to Plowshares

Key Uncommons: Pianna, Nomad Captain


The Goblins deck is brutally fast and very difficult for most decks to contend with. The deck struggles against Green-White Auras, but the huge power here makes up for the bad matchup. We shouldn't be afraid to play a ton of 1/1 Goblins for one mana that seemingly don't do anything. We'll be winning a lot of games by flooding the board and attacking with multiple copies of Goblin General. Goblin Warchief is the most important card for the Goblin deck. In fact, I try to avoid Goblins unless I open or get passed Goblin Warchief very early in the first pack.

Best Commons: Chain Lightning, Solar Blast

Key Commons: Goblin General, Goblin Matron, and all of the inexpensive Goblins

Best Uncommons: Flametongue Kavu, Kaervek's Torch

Key Uncommons: Goblin Warchief, Goblin Ringleader

Green-Blue Madness

The most hyped archetype of Vintage Masters can be very good at times, but the deck is overdrafted, and the most important common—Wild Mongrel—is going to be snapped up by anyone who can cast it. When the deck comes together well, it's a thing of beauty, but I wouldn't go into a draft forcing this.

Best Commons: Wild Mongrel

Key Commons: Wild Mongrel, Basking Rootwalla, Aquamoeba, Arrogant Wurm, Frantic Search

Best Uncommons: Grizzly Fate, Fact or Fiction, Yavimaya Elder

Key Uncommons: Roar of the Wurm, Waterfront Bouncer


It's a trap! Drafting Storm in Vintage Masters is like searching for buried treasure. It's absolutely ridiculous when it works out well, but the deck can often end up being unplayable garbage, which is a shame in a format like Vintage Masters, where there are so many powerful cards. If we're going to draft Storm, and it happens, then we need copies of Brain Freeze early and often. One copy of Brain Freeze is decent, two copies is quite good, and the third copy means that we've found Blackbeard's booty. When drafting Storm, we really need to force it. We can't afford to pass Frantic Search, High Tide, or Turnabout, and we actually have to take every available card for our deck in hope of making it actually work. Tendrils of Agony is cool, but it's not very good in the Storm deck. I really like it as a sideboard option out of a midrange deck against black aggro, but I'm not a huge fan of it elsewhere. It's a dangerous game, but it can be quite rewarding when it works out. Also, we shouldn't be afraid to splash green for a few copies of Tangle if there's a lot of card draw in our deck. This gives us the opportunity to buy ourselves a lot of extra turns while sculpting our combo.

Key Commons: Brainstorm, Choking Tethers, Deep Analysis, Frantic Search

Best Uncommons: Fact or Fiction

Key Uncommons: Brain Freeze, High Tide, Cabal Ritual, Cloud of Faeries, Gush, Turnabout, Bad River

Vintage Masters drafts are some of the most fun I've ever had playing Magic. Come join me and thousands of others on Magic Online for your chance to open power and play the best Limited format in recent memory! This weekend, I'll be traveling to Portland, Oregon, to do coverage of Pro Tour Magic 2015. There will be live coverage streaming all weekend. Be sure to join us to learn all of the exciting new Standard technology that will be unveiled!

Knowledge is power!

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