The New Vintage

Posted in Perilous Research on August 28, 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. This Saturday, the Vintage Constructed Championship starts early in the morning and the best Vintage players on the Internet await their opportunity to battle for greatness. Today, we'll be taking a look at some of the most successful decks from the Vintage Constructed Championship Qualifiers in an effort to better understand Vintage in its current state.

For the last fifteen years, Vintage Constructed has evolved very slowly. Major events only took place a few times per year and the best players would have to travel, often to the other side of the world, if they wanted to showcase their new strategies. Now, with Vintage Masters in the mix, true Vintage is available on Magic Online. The format is now evolving at record speed. Players tear through new decks and adapt to a changing metagame in what seems like a daily reconstruction of the format.

Let's take a look at the winningest strategies from the Vintage Constructed Championship Qualifier season!

Delver of Secrets has been a multi-format all-star for some time, but the card hasn't done much in Vintage until recently. The Vintage Masters Championship Qualifiers have brought Vintage Delver of Secrets strategies out of obscurity and established them as the decks to beat in the new Vintage format. The two most successful Delver decks seem to be green-blue-red and blue-red. These decks apply early pressure with Delver of Secrets and Young Pyromancer and attempt to control the game with powerful countermagic and disruption.

Let's start by taking a look at the blue-red version of the deck.

CRYWOLF102190's Blue-Red Delver

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Blue-Red Delver is capable of fast starts and huge plays if the game goes long. The deck plays enough countermagic to punish combo decks without sacrificing its ability to win the game. Young Pyromancer is particularly strong in this version of the deck, where it has access to Skullclamp. The ability to trade 1/1 Elemental tokens for two cards repeatedly can often lead to some extremely unfair draws. Early creature-based aggression also increases the value of Time Walk significantly, making one of the very best cards in the game into a game-winning proposition most of the time. We can expect this deck to show up in big numbers on Saturday. Its power and general resilience in the form of all the best countermagic means that it will remain a contender unless players drastically change the makeup of their decks.

LAMOLMACHINE's RUG Delver

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In a world where Ponder and Brainstorm are restricted (only one copy can be legally played in a deck), Preordain is conspicuously allowed as a four-of. The green version of the Vintage Delver strategy has access to Ancient Grudge and Trygon Predator. Trygon Predator has long been a powerhouse in Vintage, a format filled with artifacts, where removal isn't being played extensively. However, as Delver strategies become more popular, Lightning Bolt is being played as a four-of in a lot of decks these days. Sure, Mental Misstep and Force of Will counter Lightning Bolt, but the opponent has those too, and three mana is a huge investment in Vintage. I expect straight blue-red versions of the deck to have the most success this coming weekend.

TERRORDACTYL's Dredge

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Dredge has been a part of the Vintage metagame since Future Sight. The deck is one of the most tremendously powerful strategies in the format, but excessive sideboard hate can get in the way of all the free wins. Ideally, the Dredge player wants to start with Bazaar of Baghdad in his or her opening hand. This is so important that the deck actually plays four copies of Serum Powder to ensure it can mulligan aggressively and find the one-card engine. With Bazaar of Baghdad in play, the deck usually wins around turn three by using the dredge mechanic aggressively and eventually sacrificing three creatures to Dread Return Flame-Kin Zealot into play. That gives all the freshly made Zombies from Bridge from Below haste and a power boost that end the game immediately.

This version of Dredge beats the sideboard hate by bringing in a different combo for Games Two and Three. Thespian's Stage and Dark Depths combine to make a juicy 20/20 Marit Lage token. Using Serum Powder, Terrordactyl can aggressively mulligan for this uncounterable two-card combo and attack the opponent for lethal when the opponent's deck is full of cards like Ravenous Trap and Leyline of the Void. The transformational sideboard version of Dredge is not to be underestimated in a format where Swords to Plowshares will likely be one of the first cards cut when looking to make room for sideboard action.

Vintage Oath by ALEXANDRINO

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This is the only featured decklist that didn't win its event, but I felt like it illustrated the Oath archetype better than the other winning lists. Oath of Druids is an unfair Magic card. For two mana, we get to search our library for a game-winning Griselbrand. Once we have Griselbrand in play, we can aggressively pay life to find copies of Force of Will, Mental Misstep, and other inexpensive countermagic to protect him. Drawing fourteen cards is especially strong in a format where most cards cost one or zero mana to cast.

That's not the only thing this deck can do, though. Time Vault combines with Tezzeret the Seeker or Voltaic Key to produce infinite turns and Jace, the Mind Sculptor is well suited to win games by himself when the deck is forced to play a more reactive game. I don't expect to see a lot of this in the Vintage Constructed Championship this weekend, but I expect the best pilots of this archetype to be rewarded handsomely for displaying the real power available in the Vintage Format.

_NUKESAKU_'s Wizards!

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The Blue Academy Wizard deck may seem strange, and it is, but it's been putting up great finishes on Magic Online. Its permission suite is particularly well suited for longer games, where it continues to affect the board with cards like Vendilion Clique and Snapcaster Mage and, ultimately, wins. Magus of the Future is particularly powerful with Tolarian Academy. And three copies of Swords to Plowshares mean that the deck doesn't just roll over to a turn-one Delver of Secrets when it doesn't have Mental Misstep.

Trinket Mage gives this deck access to a lot of main-deck strength against Dredge and creature-based opponents. This is a traditional aggro/control deck that aims to stick a strong threat early and disrupt the opponent while pecking away at the opponent's life total. Dark Confidant is especially strong when it can be cast on turn one and no one has more than five spot removal spells in their deck. Cavern of Souls is particularly well suited in a format where everyone's defense is leaning on countermagic.

FishyFellow's Doomsday

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Doomsday is one of the cooler combo decks to enjoy success over the last week. The deck aims to cast Doomsday, leaving Laboratory Maniac with enough card-draw protection and mana left in the last five cards. It's not even that hard. Typically: Ancestral Recall goes on top, draws into Laboratory Maniac, Gush, Force of Will, and then Gushes into an empty library—often with multiple Force of Wills/Mental Missteps to protect it from removal. The deck can also win like a traditional Storm strategy, stacking up a bunch of spells and winning with Tendrils of Agony when the opponent least expects it.

Ziggy_Stardust's White-Blue Stoneblade

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The rise of Delver strategies has encouraged some players to start playing white-blue Stoneforge Mystic decks. These decks absolutely demolish the other creature strategies while still playing enough permission to keep the unfair decks in check. The deck often struggles with the purely powerful decks like Oath of Druids and Doomsday because four-mana 3/4 fliers don't match up well against three-mana game-winning spells. Still, this deck is quite strong in a format with a lot of creatures and it should perform reasonably well in this weekend's event.

Vintage has been given new life with its introduction to Magic Online. After this weekend, we'll have a clearer understanding of the new Vintage metagame. Until then, hold your Force of Wills close and your Flusterstorms closer, it's a dangerous world out there.

Knowledge is power!

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