Welcome back to Perilous Research, DailyMTG.com's exclusive Magic Online column. Khans of Tarkir Prerelease events start a week from tomorrow on Magic Online, and Khans of Tarkir Release events will be happening in face-to-face Magic tonight and throughout the weekend. The latest set is already one of my favorite draft formats ever. And I'm very excited about the Constructed implications and the new archetypes and combos that have become possible with the release of the new set.
Today, however, we'll be discussing an exciting new event that's been made possible by Vintage Masters and the subsequent introduction of Vintage as a Constructed format on Magic Online, Vintage Super League.
Vintage has waned in popularity over the years because of card availability. It's hard to find eight people who have access to cards like Black Lotus on any given day. That's all changed on Magic Online, though. Vintage Masters gave people access to the Power Nine and, suddenly, Vintage is alive and well as a format on Magic Online. The sheer number of Vintage games being played right now has massively increased the velocity with which the format is evolving.
Magic Online streaming has also become more popular over the last year. In my opinion, the most exciting weekly stream is the Vintage Super League that's being run by Pro Tour Hall of Famer Randy Buehler.
Vintage Super League unites ten high-profile Magic players in a weekly Magic Online event wherein players battle each other while the match is commentated by two of the other players. Vintage Super League consistently provides us with a high-profile game of Magic. All ten players are all-time greats, Pro Tour staples, or legitimate Vintage Masters. Vintage is easily one of the most complex formats ever, and observing the beauty with which the players navigate each game is always a treat.
Let's take a look at the players involved in Vintage Super League.
Steve Menendian is the 2007 Vintage World Champion. His victory that year gave him the opportunity to play in the Magic Invitational, and he became the voice of Vintage for quite some time thereafter. Menendian remains active on Vintage forums. He's armed with a tremendous amount of Vintage knowledge, and he remains the final undefeated player in the Vintage Super League at the time this is being written.
Chris Pikula has been involved in competitive Magic since the very beginning. He was a competitor at the very first Pro Tour, he made the Top 8 in back-to-back Pro Tours in the second Pro Tour season, and he finished in the Top 8 in the World Championship in the third Pro Tour season. Pikula was immortalized as Meddling Mage after his Invitational victory. Still a spellslinger, Pikula went deep at Pro Tour Theros last year and just missed the Top 25 on tiebreakers. Pikula's greatest legacy in Magic is his outspoken stance on clean play. In the old days, cheating was much more common and judges were less versed in what they were looking for to identify those who were cheating. Pikula united Magic players and helped usher in a new era of fair play.
Eric Froehlich needs no introduction. The current leader in the Player of the Year race finished in the Top 8 of three Pro Tours and a staggering eleven Grand Prix. Froehlich is currently a Platinum level pro. Froehlich enters the Vintage Super League as a clear favorite in terms of strong mechanical play.
Luis Scott-Vargas has quietly become the face of Magic over the last eight years. A Hall of Famer, Scott-Vargas, or LSV, has a mind-bending five Pro Tour Top 8 finishes (including a win) and made the Top 8 in twelve Grand Prix. LSV is a bit of a Vintage junkie in his spare time and the Vintage Super League gives him an opportunity to showcase his mastery of Magic as a game. LSV delights the audience with incredible commentary that weaves insight and humor in a way that seems unmatched.
Randy Buehler created the Vintage Super League. Buehler is also the mastermind behind the Magic Hall of Fame, into which he was inducted as part of the 2007 class. In addition to having been a developer for Wizards of the Coast, Buehler has been a commentator at Pro Tour and Grand Prix events on and off for more than a decade. Buehler also has some very serious chops as a player: Buehler won his first Pro Tour, Pro Tour Chicago '97, and has seven Grand Prix Top 8 finishes under his belt.
Rich Shay is a Vintage artist and Control Slaver is his muse. Shay won two Waterbury opens, and is widely known in the Vintage community as the best Control Slaver player in the world. He enters the Vintage Super League as the player with the most recent high-level success in Vintage.
David Williams is a familiar face who is recognizable in gaming circles across the world. Williams has a Pro Tour Top 8 and in nine Grand Prix. Williams brings celebrity and tremendous skill to the table in the Vintage Super League.
Josh Utter-Leyton has been a staple of the professional Magic scene since his Pro Tour debut in 2008 and is widely regarded as one of the very best players in the world. Utter-Leyton has made the Top 8 in five Pro Tours and seven Grand Prix. In 2013, Utter-Leyton reached the pinnacle of the game when he was crowned Player of the Year. Utter-Leyton truly enjoys Vintage and approaches Vintage Super League with what seem to be the most creative deck concepts in the league.
Tom Martell has quickly transformed himself into one of the best Magic players in the world. The new Martell has amassed two Pro Tour and five Grand Prix Top 8 finishes. Martell established his mastery of the game with a win at Pro Tour Gatecrash. Martell's honesty and skill level make him a great commentator. And he's not afraid to keep people honest, as shown by his choice to play Dredge.
Bob Maher, Jr. was once known as "The Great One" to those on the Pro Tour. A Hall of Famer, Maher made the Top 8 in four Pro Tours and ten Grand Prix. Maher was immortalized as Dark Confidant after his Invitational victory and lives on in the art on the table at Modern, Legacy, and Vintage events. Maher is considered one of the greatest Magic players to ever play the game and his new Kuldotha Forgemaster Workshop deck is a fan favorite on Vintage Super League.
I contacted Randy Buehler last week to discuss Vintage Super League and all the happenings therein.
JVL: When can people watch the live stream for Vintage Super League?
JVL: How long will Vintage Super League go on? How will the winner be decided?
RB: It's a nine-week long, round-robin event where everyone plays against everyone. We're taking a break the week leading up to the Pro Tour, but we should be live every other Tuesday until the league is finished. After nine weeks, we'll cut to a Top 4. The person in 4th will play the person in 3rd, the winner [of that match] will play the person in 2nd, and the winner of that will play the person in 1st for the championship match. We expect this iteration of Vintage Super League to run through to December, but we intend on running another League once it's completed.
JVL: How has Vintage Masters and the subsequent support of Vintage as a Magic Online format changed the Vintage metagame?
RB: It created the opportunity for people to play Vintage regularly. Those interested in Vintage are always brewing decks, but being able to play with real Vintage decks in actual Vintage events is a night and day difference. The availability of Vintage matches lets Vintage players get more creative. With just one Vintage event every year, it's hard to experiment with things that aren't known strategies. But with Vintage events happening regularly, players can have fun and learn new things while expanding and evolving the format. LSV said he had more fun playing Vintage on Magic Online than any other Magic he's played besides Pro Tours.
JVL: What recently printed cards have had the biggest effect on the Vintage metagame?
RB: Mental Misstep is the big one. Cards like Mystical Tutor were very strong in Vintage, but Mystical Tutor usually found Ancestral Recall, and that's a much less attractive option when Mental Misstep is potentially in the opponent's hand. Lodestone Golem gave the Mishra's Workshop decks a threat that doesn't take away from their core plan of attack.
JVL: Of the players involved in the Vintage Super League, who do you feel was most underestimated going into the first week?
RB: Steve Menendian and Rich Shay have the least Pro Tour success of the bunch, but it's hard to underestimate anyone in this crowd. Menendian and Shay are constantly playing and discussing Vintage. Their intimate knowledge with the format puts them in a great place. Menendian currently sits at the top of the standings at 4–0.
JVL: The players were allowed to change decks coming into the fourth week of competition. Do you feel that players adapted to each other's strategies? Or is the malleability of all the decks such that players seem to be reacting to the Magic Online Vintage metagame as a whole?
RB: Players are definitely reacting to each other. With only ten people involved, we're bound to have a bit of an inbred metagame. It seems like we're control-heavy right now, which makes sense. Normally, players need to prepare heavily for things like Dredge, but it seemed unlikely that anyone would want to pull the trigger and play that deck. Tom Martell is taking advantage of the lack of Dredge hate this time around. The first week, there were three Fish decks, which I don't think anyone expected.
JVL: Thanks for taking the time to discuss Vintage Super League. I'll be watching next Tuesday!
Release events for Khans of Tarkir start at midnight tonight! Be sure to preregister with your local game store to secure your spot as one of the first people in the world to do a sanctioned draft with Khans of Tarkir. I've already drafted the set four times now with prize packs from my Prerelease events and I'm confident that it's one of the most interesting draft formats of all time. Next week, we'll start looking at the possibilities available in the new Standard format in preparation for Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir and the release of Khans of Tarkir on Magic Online.
Knowledge is power!