Insider: Vintage Tournament Report with Grixis Keeper

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If you associate with other Magic players, I'm sure your social media has been flooded with anything and everything Vintage Masters.

I've been drafting the set with more or less all of my free time, and I can't express my approval enough. Outside of some cards printed at a questionable rarity, the draft format is extremely fun, and definitely skill intensive. While the draft format itself won't last forever, it does bring constructed Vintage to Magic Online, which is arguably even more exciting.

A few Minnesotans have been putting some work into getting a live Vintage scene going, and there has been a pretty dedicated crowd gathering for a weekly tournament. I've attended a few Vintage events with Storm and RUG Delver and they've been pretty fun, but I still have quite a bit to learn about the format.

Data from Vintage Daily Events is pretty awesome for hashing out the format, but so far there have been quite a few un-powered or under-powered lists cashing that really won't cut it in a world where proxies are legal. A Sharpie is considerably more affordable than a Black Lotus.

With a Vintage tournament occurring this last Saturday and this slightly flawed data available, I decided to try something out based mostly on my personal experiences with the format. The Delver deck struck me as being well positioned against non-Shops decks, and the Storm deck has a pretty comparable position in the metagame, though, of the two, Delver tends to get better post-board while Storm tends to get worse.

That said, Storm's ability to win from nowhere was endearing and its game ones definitely seemed stronger to me. All that in mind, I wanted to play something that could play some back and forth Magic with access to some kind of combo win. The obvious answer was to take Keeper for a test run.

This is very close to Marc Lanigra's 2012 Vintage Championship winning deck, with a couple changes based on taste, a couple based on expected meta, and the inclusion of one Dack Fayden that I really wanted to try out.

I was planning on running Blightsteel Colossus until Mike Hawthorne asked how I felt about Myr Battlesphere. It's better to flip to Dark Confidant, it's surprisingly castable, and is much better at battling Steel Sabotage. Inkwell Leviathan was the other consideration, but I ultimately decided that castability was more relevant than pitching to Force of Will.

Hawthorne also tried to sell me on playing Four Color Keeper with Deahtrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay, but I liked the idea of playing the deck without Decay to see whether I wanted for it or not.

The Fighting!

Round 1 Vs. Storm (2-0)

Round one against local heartthrob Troy Thompson was something to behold. In game one, Troy resolved Timetwister, Windfall for four, and Tinker for Memory Jar, with me drawing relevant interaction off of both of the draw sevens. Had the Windfall given Troy something that just won instead of a draw seven, he'd have easily won, but my Timetwister and Memory Jar hands both contained some quality counterspells.

Our first game took nearly a half-hour, with me ultimately winning. It was harrowing, it was swingy, and it was awesome.

Game two wasn't nearly as eventful, with me countering almost all of what Troy tried to do. He did resolve Necropotence, as Flusterstorm isn't very good against enchantments. It is, however, excellent against almost everything else in Storm.

Round 2 Vs. BUG Hatebears (1-2)

This is the name that I have given to Hawthorn's BUG brew in the hopes that he'll hate it. Mike was basically playing the fairest deck in the room, with its eye on playing cards that crush the metagame. Deathrite Shaman, Dark Confidant, Snapcaster Mage, Trygon Predator, True-Name Nemesis and Vendilion Clique are all present, in addition to a slew of counter-magic, Abrupt Decay and a lot of the usual suspects.

Game one involved some early attrition with me ultimately pulling ahead due to some Ancestral Recalling. On the draw in game two I kept a relatively weak hand with Library of Alexandria, and was severely punished by a turn one Duress from Mike.


In game three my hand was pretty strong against everything but True-Name Nemesis, so Mike thought it prudent to cast one such mighty fish. Turns out you can't Lightning Bolt that one. Justice.

Round 3 Vs. Dredge (2-1)

This match was against Scott Fielder, who wrote an excellent Dredge primer for Quiet Speculation.

Scott's definitely a master, but his mulligan to one didn't cut it in our first game. In game two I kept a fairly loose hand with Demonic Tutor, Time Walk and three lands with the plan being to Walk into Tutor for Grafdigger's Cage. I didn't have the answer to Scott's Mental Misstep and that was that.

Game three ended up being pretty awesome. I had Cage and an answer for Scott's answer, in addition to a Demonic Tutor to set up playing the Voltaic Key and Time Vault from my hand the next turn. Scott, not in the market to get comboed out, used Unmask and Cabal Therapy to leave me with just a fetchland in my hand and lands and a Grafdigger's Cage in play.

I drew Preordain for my turn, finding Brainstorm, which I cast and cracked my fetchland, then casting the Ponder I found, culminating in playing two Dark Confidants on the following turn. There was a two turn window where it was anyone's game, but the Bobs ran away with it pretty quickly.

Round 4 Vs. Storm (2-0)

Hawthorne and his opponent were locked for the cut to top four after this round, with the winner of my match and the match the next table over joining them. I played against a Storm variant with Burning Wish in this round. I'm not up to date with all the nuances of Vintage deck nomenclature, but I am pretty sure the deck was Burning Long.

After getting Duressed in game one and losing my Force of Will, I was feeling pretty vulnerable, but my opponent just wasn't able to pull anything together before I drew back into relevant interaction and ways to win the game.

Game two involved my opponent going all in on an early Mind's Desire and being felled by my two Flusterstorms, followed by me untapping into a "lethal" Tezzeret the Seeker.

Semifinals Vs. Shops (2-0)

I knew that my opponent was on Shops and I kept an opener with Dark Confidant, Hurkyl's Recall and Force of Will, which looked like gas. The early turns involved a Force of Will on Sphere of Resistance, Dark Confidant and Hurkyl's Recall bouncing Kuldotha Forgemaster and a Phyrexian Metamorph copy of the Forgemaster before untapping and revealing Mana Drain to Bob.

A couple turns later I had a Sensei's Divining Top and a Voltaic Key while my opponent controlled a Chalice of the Void on two and played a Steel Hellkite and used the previously bounced Phyrexian Metamorph to copy it.

I used the Key-Top trick to trade up my Top, untap it in response and then tap it again to draw the Top back in addition to a fresh card, which is a very cute and sometimes relevant trick worth knowing. Going that extra card deep allowed me to replay and spin my Top into Dack Fayden, stealing one of the Hellkites and winning a game that otherwise would be difficult if not impossible.

Game two involved some Ingot Chewers and Rack and Ruin, which enabled me to win pretty handily. There's really not much to report on matches against Shops. Odds are you're either casting your spells and that means that you're winning or you can't and you lose.

Finals Vs. BUG Hatebears (split)

It was tempting to try and take Mike down a peg, but I'm not generally one to refuse a split, particularly when my opponent knows a lot more about their role in the matchup than I do. Mike is pretty convinced that he has the "best deck in Vintage", which is obviously a load of nonsense, but one more match wouldn't prove anything either way anyway.

Going Forward

Overall I was very happy with the deck. Another player was playing four Dack Fayden and said that he was very happy with it, but the copy I was playing spent most of its time being pitched to Force of Will. I'd say that the value that he provides against Shops is worth continuing to play him as a singleton, but I'm definitely not looking to add a second to the maindeck.

The basic Island didn't seem very good or relevant to me, and I'd rather just have another Underground Sea. The Mountain on the sideboard makes a little more sense to me, as you want to be able to have Ingot Chewer mana the whole game in the face of Wastelands from Shops, but, in general, basics seem pretty greedy in Vintage.

The biggest flaw with the deck was blanking on Pyroclasm and just having Lightning Bolts for removal in the sideboard. Going forward I intend to cut both of the Bolts from the board in favor of at least one Toxic Deluge, possibly a Pyrocalsm and possibly a Fire/Ice, as it can be Merchant Scrolled.

I'd like another one or two slots against Dredge in the sideboard. Specifically, I would like things that can't be Mental Missteped. Yixlid Jailer has the upside of being generally difficult to interact with, while Ravenous Trap can be Mystical Tutored up. The fact that this play telegraphs the Trap likely makes a misers copy pretty loose, and I'm currently leaning Jailer.

As far as comparing Grixis Keeper to Four Color Keeper, I intend to stick with Grixis for the time being. I definitely see the benefits of playing Abrupt Decay over Lightning Bolt, but I never found myself wishing I was a Deathrite Shaman deck. Without Deathrite, four color manabases are definitely on the rough side--particularly in a format where 15-ish lands is the norm.

I guess what I'm saying is that the Grixis build... is a keeper.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

3 thoughts on “Insider: Vintage Tournament Report with Grixis Keeper

  1. Awesome report Ryan. I am inclined to agree with you about the basic mountain in the board. I think that there are only a few decks in the format that really need lands in their sideboard and that storm, as they cheat on lands more than most decks and the combo version of dredge as they need colored mana to fight the hate in the games 2 and 3. I think against shops if you sequence well against an early wasteland you have a really good chance of keeping your red source for most of the game barring crucible or them just having all the wastelands. I also agree that toxic deluge is criminally underplayed in vintage at the moment and putting one in your board is correct. And yixlid jailer is definitely where you want to be against dredge. It is the best hate card out there in terms of dredge’s inability to reliably get rid of it. Nice job this weekend and hope to see you on Mondays.

  2. Great article. I’m glad you came out to get crushed by me. I like lightning bolt in the sb against Jace decks and I really feel like your list needs a deluge. I hope to see you at more vintage events even if I hate your guts.

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