Vintage Metagame Primer, Part Two: Workshop and Blue

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Dragon*Con is a convention in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend. This year's Gaming Guest of Honor is Magic's very own Richard Garfield, Ph.D.

This year, for the first time that I know of, there will be a proxy Vintage event at Dragon*Con, one of the few Vintage events in the South. We're all hoping this will kick-start a Vintage scene in the south, since there hasn't been one for a long time. One of my friends has put together this map to help people out. Gaming is in the Hilton, which should be familiar to those of you who attended Grand Prix: Atlanta.

The event is at 6 PM on Saturday, September 3rd, and it will allow up to 15 proxies.

Because of this, continuing the Vintage Metagame series is the order of the day. Having covered combo, our next step is to examine the second pillar of the metagame: Mishra's Workshop.

The sheer mana-producing power of Workshop has been used to fuel a great many strategies throughout Vintage's history, ranging from fast Death-Mask Duplicants and Triskelions to Smokestack-fueled prison decks to Mindslaver+Goblin Welder lockdown decks. Workshop is responsible for Trinisphere's banning.
Naturally, Slaver-Welder is obsolete when compared to Time Vault and Voltaic Key, so that's not a part of the metagame any more, and the changes to the format have rendered the other decks obsolete. With Jace, the Mind Sculptor's takeover in Vintage, the new hotness is...

Slash Panther.

No, that's not a joke. This is a real thing. Observe!

Cat Stax Fever

This is Ryan Glackin's top-4 deck from the GenCon Vintage Championships:

With Sphere of Resistance, Thorn of Amethyst, Chalice of the Void, the full set of Wasteland and Strip Mine, and even Null Rod, this deck gets to hate on its opponent quite strongly. Lodestone Golem is a 4-turn clock and a sphere effect in one, while Phyrexian Metamorph gets to double up on whatever the best thing on the table is. Null Rod in particular is quite daring for a player with 8 artifact sources of mana, but a Null Rod after establishing a clock and slamming down some Sphere/Thorn effects can seal the game up in a hurry. Some variants of MUD have used Karn, Silver Golem to kill Moxen in the past, and that remains an option today, if you're not daring enough to run Null Rod. Just remember not to Phyrexian Metamorph your own Karn...

The key to this deck's success is that 12 sphere effects means it should have a cost increaser every game, usually on the first turn of the game. On the play, it's entirely possible to render an opponent unable to play a spell for the remainder of the game, and this deck is the reason all those combo decks you saw in the last article ran Hurkyl's Recall.

As for the sideboard, Precursor Golem is a serious threat - in a format with very little in the way of creatures or removal for them, he's essentially a 2-turn clock by himself. Naturally, he's brutal in the mirror match. Crucible of Worlds is for the knock-down, drag-out fights over mana, allowing you to recover from opposing Wastelands or recurring your own. Jester's Cap is an excellent answer to combo decks, and can win the game on the spot - if you Cap off Time Vault, Blightsteel Colossus, and Tendrils of Agony that can leave the opponent without a single win condition. Relic of Progenitus (or Tormod's Crypt) is the hate card for Dredge and Worldgorger Dragon.

You're looking at roughly $6000 to put Cat Stax Fever together without proxies, though of course most of that comes from the Power and the Workshops. Taking out Lotus, the 5 Moxen, and Mishra's Workshop drops the cost to under $600, with proxies to spare for cards such as Tolarian Academy and Mana Crypt.

Is Slash Panther a bit too far off the deep end for you?

Aggro MUD

Edu Castro's winning deck from the Spanish Vintage Championships didn't play the Panther, opting to focus even more on attacking his opponent's mana with Rishadan Port on top of the usual LD lands.

Then again, people probably weren't expecting Darksteel Juggernaut to see Vintage play...

This deck is obviously a great deal weaker to a resolved Jace, the Mind Sculptor due to not having a hasty creature that can knock out Jace in a single hit; but the additional mana disruption helps the deck keep Jace from ever being cast in the first place. The strategies are obviously very similar otherwise, and I'd expect that this version of the deck is better against non-Jace decks, so it's probably a metagame call.

As a result of not having Black Lotus, this particular deck is a bit cheaper, weighing in at around $5000 without proxies. That isn't really unique to the no-Cat variant, as you could put a Lotus in here if you wanted, or cut it from the other list. Proxying the 5 Moxen and the 4 Workshops takes the cost of this deck to $650, with plenty of proxies left over.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

The best 4-mana blue card in existence, Jace has redefined Vintage as much as he has every other format. Not many cards can see more play in a deck than its namesake card, yet that's the fate which Jace has laid upon Tezzerator.

Josh Butker, top 8 of The Council Open:

Untitled Deck

This deck runs a bit over $6500 in a world without proxies, but with proxies for Power, Mana Drain, Time Vault, and Imperial Seal, the cost comes down to a much more manageable $930, with one proxy to spare. This is fairly expensive, but since a lot of the pricey cards here are staples in other formats, people who play Legacy won't have much of a hurdle to cross. Either Tolarian Academy or Mana Crypt will be the card that pushes them past 15, so it can't be fully proxied by a Legacy player - you're going to have to bite the bullet for one card at least.

Anyway, this list lets us put into perspective just how good Jace is: Tezzeret the Seeker can use his ability to search for Time Vault the turn you play him, then untap it to take infinite turns from the next turn forward.
In short, Tezzeret is effectively a 1-card win condition for a mere 5 mana...
and despite how absurdly powerful this is, people have greatly cut his presence down in decks to play more copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor instead!

With the power of the recently-unrestricted Gush, some players have decided to eliminate planeswalkers entirely, eliminating their draw engine's vulnerability to Slash Panther.


This is Paul Mastriano's second-place deck from the GenCon Vintage Championships.

Stephen Menendian played a very similar list to the top 4, with the maindeck missing Time Vault, Voltaic Key, and Sol Ring in favor of an additional fetchland and a pair of Vendilion Clique. At over $6500, Mastriano's build is quite expensive for a person who can't use proxies, but in a world where proxies are legal, the cost approaches a much more reasonable $1000 while using only 9 proxies for Power and Time Vault. Those who need to, have room to proxy dual lands, Dark Confidant, or Force of Will.

Menendian wrote a report on how the deck got created and how it played in the Vintage Championship, which can be seen on TMD here. Since this is a relatively new deck to Vintage, it's not yet certain how much this deck will take off in popularity, but its power level is clearly pretty high.


Vintage is far more than the fabled land of turn-one kills that many people wrongly consider it to be. The metagame is deep, if a bit inbred, and shows surprising innovations based on cards both new and old, rather than being a stale and abysmal format in which decks stay around forever. There's a lot of excitement among the people I've talked to about the upcoming proxy event at Dragon*Con, and there's a very real possibility it could start a Vintage revival in an area that's been without Vintage for a long time. I hope these articles have helped people discover the variety of decks available to them even on relatively modest budgets thanks to proxy rules, and in areas with different proxy schemes these can be used as a starting point.

Joshua Justice

@JoshJMTG on Twitter

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