Recently there’s been a relatively big spike in interest in the Vintage format. As somebody who only plays paper Magic I could not, for the life of me, figure out why this is.
Apparently there’s this thing called Vintage Masters, which is awesome and means people can play with Power 9 and stream and record videos with it and all do kinds of crazy malarkey online.
However, for me this interest means that now there are actually Vintage tournaments being played in my local-ish area. Result. On the 2nd August there was a tournament at Excelsior! in Bristol, and on the 10th there will be a win-a-dual tournament at Manaleak in Worcester. Living in Gloucester, approximately halfway between these places I couldn’t really refuse either!
So first, a little bit about my personal history with vintage. I’ve been slowly picking up power for the last 12-18 months, first acquiring a Mox Pearl, then Mox Ruby and Mox Sapphire. Most recently I got a Timetwister, and have altered up some other power so I have a Black Lotus, Mox Emerald, Ancestral Recall and Time Walk to play with.
I’ve also been picking up odds and ends that would be useful throughout that time: a Yawgmoth’s Will here, Tolarian Academy there, a playset of Gush, you get the picture. So when it came to actually making a deck for these tournaments I had a lot of options open to me.
1 Tendrils of Agony
1 Rakdos Charm
1 Trygon Predator
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Ingot Chewer
1 Hurkyll’s Recall
2 Leyline of the Void
1 Yixlid Jailer
1 Surgical Extraction
1 Ravenous Trap
1 Mizzium Skin
Unbeknownst to us, apparently Steven Menendian himself was also playing a similar list to this recentl, though his list eschewed Fastbond for some reason, but who are we to question the great man himself? I decided I was happy with the list as we had it and so sleeved it up and hopped on the train down to Bristol.
Arriving at the venue I discovered that turnout was a little lower than had been hoped for — we only had 7 people turn up. However, we were determined to have fun, and carried on regardless. The fact that we were using proxies meant that it wouldn’t be sanctioned anyway, so that didn’t really phase us. We just wanted to play some Vintage!
Round 1: Vs. Emrakul Oath (Dom Harvey)
Game one and an early Swan Song slows me down, while I (foolishly?) make a Delver of Secrets. It flips to a Gush, and even though I can counter one Oath of Druids, the second sticks and I can do nothing as an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn comes at me. It’s at this point that I realise that I’m actually pretty cold to a resolved Oath of Druids when Emrakul is the fatty of choice.
I keep a hand on the strength of Ancestral Recall and a Skullclamp from the sideboard, with a Lotus Cobra to start fuelling some draws. Mental Misstep stops me from drawing three, then a Mox allows Cobra, fetch, Skullclamp, equip. Except an Abrupt Decay dashes all hopes of that happening.
I struggle to get back into the game as a few turns later my opponent lands an Oath of Druids and I’m forced to Lightning Bolt my Lotus Cobra to stay alive. A long bomb Snapcaster Mage into Ancestral Recall, followed up with a Yawgmoth’s Will on my next turn to try to get me back into it again meets a counterspell and again I get Cthulhued out of life.
Round 2: Vs. Slaver Control (Alasdair)
I play out a hand of Lotus Cobra, Delver, Moxes, Fetches and Young Pyromancer, allowing me an early Timetwister. Alasdair Nihil Spellbombs my graveyard in response to get rid of a Time Walk and some lands, before redrawing the spellbomb and trying to Tinker it away.
A Force of Will saves my hide a little there, and a Yawgmoth’s Will allows me to storm off quite easily, but lack of a maindeck Tendrils of Agony leaves me agonising for a turn as I can “only” make a bajillion Goblin and Elemental tokens having tutored then Gushed and pass the turn. A few moments later, he bricks and I swing for enough.
In sideboarding I bring in my Tendrils of Agony for the Weapon Surge, I fear that my tasty tech was just a little bit too deep to be good. Again, Alastair struggled to really get going, with a few counter wars leaving me with Fastbond, Lotus Cobra, Young Pyromancer and some Elementals in play and slowly pressuring his life total.
I attacked him down to five with a Volcanic Island untapped and Lightning Bolt, Ancestral Recall and another blue card in hand. I foolishly went to draw three in response to a pretty much do nothing spell to dig for Force of Will and felt a little foolish when I found nothing and saw him drop to three life with a Vampiric Tutor for Pyroclasm, then Gushing into it, rather nicely wiping my board.
This meant that I was then completely reliant on the Lightning Bolt in hand with him down to one life. Untap, draw, flash Bolt, get there. Wipe brow in relief.
Round 3: Vs. Red/Black Land destruction “stuff” (Lucy Harper)
Lucy was, for me, the real standout of the day. She’s been playing Magic for about a month, had got most of her collection from digging through boxes of old cards at her local store and, having played just one FNM before this, this was her second ever tournament. Pretty ballsy for a new player!
Lucy is definitely still feeling her way into the game, but throughout the day displayed a diligence and passion for the game that made me remember why I play. Her deck had some good cards in it: Sol Ring, Wheel of Fortune, Mana Vault, some Dark Rituals and Geth’s Verdicts, Ankh of Mishra and even a playset of Stone Rain.
The Typhoid Rats were a little annoying, but not so much as the Carnival Hellsteed, which nearly surprised me out of nowhere to close out game one after I had Fastbonded a few too many times. I only just stopped myself from suiciding too, when in the last turn of the game I drew and nearly played and craked a fetchland when at 5 life with an Ankh of Mishra in play. Very dangerous! It just goes to show what more oddball cards can do in Vintage.
In the second game I got really worried. A turn one Mox Emerald, with fetch into Volcanic Island seemed a strong play, but her turn 2 Stone Rain off a Dark Ritual put me back a few turns as I dug for another source of mana. Eventually I found one, and a quick Timetwister into [/card]Fastbond[/card] into Gush into [/card]Empty the Warrens[/card] quickly put the game out of reach. But for somebody playing a manabase full of Cinder Marshes and Akoum Refuges she put up a heck of a fight and it was a true pleasure to play against her.
At this point we cut to the top 4. With a 2-1 record I made the cut, and with prizes only going to the top 2 I’d need another win to get something out of this.
Top 4: Vs. Landstill (Joao Cunha)
This was a heck of a grindy matchup, with the early turns of game one being dominated by a fast, aggressive flurry out of the gates, followed by a Standstill, which we both took advantage of to build up our mana bases. I blinked first, having dropped land after land into play, holding up fetch lands in order to get maximum value out of my Lotus Cobra.
When I eventually blinked and cast a Lotus Cobra, we then had a whopper of a stack as we fought over the spell, with me casting 2 Gush in order to dig for counter backup. I thought I’d ended it with a Flusterstorm, only to be Flusterstormed back. With my Lotus Cobra countered I thought the coast would be clear and went for a game-winning haymaker- Empty the Warrens.
Or at least it would have been game-winning had my opponent not had a Snapcaster Mage in hand to flash back Flusterstorm to crush all of my little goblin dreams. A pair of Snapcaster Mages and some Lightning Bolts then got the job done whilst I tried to rebuild but each and every one of my plays was stymied by his.
I brought in a Mizzium Skin to help with all of the removal he was sending at my guys, and a few pieces of graveyard hate to try to turn off his Snapcaster Mages to some degree. Alas, a turn 1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor off a Black Lotus, having mulliganned to 5 pretty much won him the game.
He protected it brilliantly, made a Standstill, drew a zillion cards, bounced my guys, fatesealed me out of the game and beat me down with some Mishra’s Factorys. Some really strong play and some tiredness on my part led to me not really putting up much of a fight, although I definitely felt that I got beaten by the better player.
And so I was out. My tournament was done and dusted. I’d played in my first ever Vintage tournament and had gotten some great stories out of it. All that remains is some awards:
Deck of the tournament
This award has to go to this beautifully pimped out TPS deck. It was just gorgeous in all of its foilyness — it’s a shame the quality of the image doesn’t show this off properly [editor’s note-apologies, this photo appears to have been taken on a DIY pinhole camera]
Misplay of the tournament
I could have given this to quite a few plays in the semifinal match — me cracking three fetches all at once (obviously shortcutting) then realising that I only have one fetchable land in my deck, or Joao trying to Pyroblast a Young Pyromancer (a legal play, but not necessarily a good one).
But the winner had to be when I attacked a Jace with two unflipped Delver of Secrets, Joao responded with a Snapcaster Mage targeting Mental Misstep and I, well, misstepped, letting the ability resolve before I cast an overloaded Weapon Strike to try to get rid of both the Snapcaster Mage and Jace.
It was this that pretty much sealed my fate in game 2.
Admiral Ackbar moment of the tournament
My opponent cracked a fetchland, and I responded by casting a spell. I knew that with a Force of Will in hand I was likely to either win a counter war or be able to Ravenous Trap a rather full graveyard to turn off Yawgmoth’s Will and Snapcaster Mages. He had the two counters he needed and fell nicely into my trap. However, the tables were instantly turned when he Mindbreak Trapped back, the Ravenous Trap being the third spell I cast. Cap doffed.
Player of the tournament
This has to go to Lucy for her enthusiasm and love of the game, and the fact that she enjoyed every single game she played despite her getting beaten in (I think) every game she played (her match win came from a bye). She took notes on cards that were played, asked for help with her deck for the future, absorbed information like a sponge and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, really lending the tournament an energising atmosphere.
In hindsight, I think there were a lot of things I could have done better in the tournament. My deck tended to be rather threat heavy, but answer light and has situational dead cards. To remedy this I think for the next tournament at Manaleak I will end up removing cards like Weapon Strike and possibly Mizzium Skin (though I do like that against Abrupt Decay as it’s an actual counter for that card) and replacing them with more counters and a few Abrupt Decay of my own. I’ll also need some way of dealing with big creatures off an Oath of Druids.
Nevertheless, I had an awful lot of fun playing Vintage and would really encourage people to give it a go. It’s a very thought intensive format with some really intricate stack interactions to wrap your head around, so I’d love to see loads of you at Manaleak this weekend.