Insider: Brewing in Vintage

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Is Vintage stale? Is it possible to build new decks or are the decks in the format so powerful and efficient that you are going into a tournament at a disadvantage if you don’t play one of them?

Ever since Vintage hit the scene again in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota these questions have been asked and wrestled with. I heard someone say that there is no room for deck building or rogue strategies because four decks are so efficient that they would make these decks unplayable. The decks being referred to were Shops, Dredge, Combo Control (i.e. Grixis or Oath of Druids), or Aggro/Tempo Control (BUG Fish or RUG Delver).

As someone who really wanted Vintage to grow in the Twin Cities again, my immediate thought was, "challenge accepted." With Journey Into Nyx coming out around that time, I knew there were lots of cards that I wanted to test with and other strategies that I thought could be competitive, fun and only properly evaluated through actual games.


The first card that I wanted to play with and thought had not been explored enough in Vintage was:

I decided to try porting the U/G list that dominated Legacy for so long into Vintage to see if it could hang with all the other cards that had been banned in Legacy.  Here’s the list:

The deck started with Bazaar of Baghdad and the full set of Mystic Remora.  I eventually cut the Bazaars because if you did not have Basking Rootwalla or Vengevine it was really hard to get any value out of them. I found myself with very few cards in hand after the first two turns to really abuse it.

Mystic Remora is very good in this deck. You have lots of pressure and this is probably the best possible draw engine for this deck. BUG Fish is one of your worst matchups as they have Abrupt Decay, Deathrite Shaman and Dark Confidant. This matchup was so horrendous with my original build that I added True-Name Nemesis to the deck and a couple of Dismember. If Vintage keeps going towards more creature-centered strategies than this deck could be good as tutoring up a True-Name Nemesis every turn is very powerful.

Your best matchups are combo control and pure combo. These matchups are where Mystic Remora shines. The deck isn't super broken by any stretch, but this strategy deserves to be explored further in Vintage.

Grixis Humans

After playing with Survival of the Fittest for a while, Journey Into Nyx was released. Two cards stuck out as potentially Vintage playable.

I decided to try shaving some cards from a traditional Grixis control deck and adding these to the mix. Here is what I came up with:

This deck was quite fun to play and I believe that Disciple of Deceit is playable in Vintage. When you untap with Disciple it completely changes the game. All your one-drops get Ancestral Recall, Voltaic Key, Lightning Bolt, Vampiric Tutor, Sensei's Divining Top, etc. All your two-drops get Dark Confidant, Time Vault, Demonic Tutor, Mana Drain, Time Walk and Hurkyl's Recall.

The ability to turn your situational cards that are bad in some matchups like Hurkyl's Recall into a Dark Confidant is awesome and finding Key and Vault becomes very easy. Disciple also makes deckbuilding interesting and challenging because you want to have a diversity of answers at different mana costs. The only downside is that there aren't many good four-drops that you can maindeck to find Jace, the Mind Sculptor. And if you are lucky enough to have Disciple and Maze of Ith in play, you are in fact living the dream.

Prophetic Flamespeaker was great to draw in the late game, but usually miserable in your opener because you can't pitch it to Force of Will. When you do get it into play and hit with it though, it is devastating. The fact that you can reveal a spell and then a Force of Will and still use the alternate cost is amazing. He also discards to Disciple to find Aeronaut Tinkerer or Yawgmoth's Will.

4-Color Humans

After battling with Grixis Humans, I wanted to play more humans alongside these cards:

The one thing that stood out to me about this deck was how differently it played out when you had a Cavern of Souls. When I had Cavern in my opener I felt like it would be very hard to lose, but when I didn't I felt more vulnerable, my opponent being able to deal with my disruptive creatures. Also Toxic Deluge is criminally underplayed at the moment.

Mayor of Avabruck // Howlpack Alpha probably sticks out a bit but overall I think it was fine. Both sides are good and if you get Mayor of Avabruck // Howlpack Alpha going against other creature strategies you are in the driver's seat for sure.

Aegis of the Gods was amazing in some matchups and an expensive, more vulnerable Savannah Lions in others. The big difference between this card and True Believer is the colorless in the casting cost and you can target yourself with Ancestral Recall with Aegis in play.

It is great against Oath of Druids, discard spells, Tendrils of Agony, Jace's fateseal ability, Gifts Ungiven, Vendilion Clique and more. When it is relevant you will be glad you had it, which means it will probably see more sideboard play than maindeck in the long run.

Dack Slaver

Lastly the card that I had been dying to play with since it got spoiled, none other than the greatest thief in the multiverse:

I know what you are thinking; there is only one copy of Dack Fayden in the maindeck. Trust me I wanted to play more, but couldn't justify it with how few shops there are in our local metagame.

One thing that is clear is that Dack Fayden is the real deal--especially against shops (surprise surprise), but also against control decks. He steals moxen, makes Time Vault and Voltaic Key risky plays unless they are played and activated on the same turn, and has awesome synergy with Goblin Welder.

The card that surprised me the most in this deck was Myr Battlesphere. Blightsteel Colossus has become the industry standard, but I think there are many merits to having Myr Battlesphere. It is much easier to cast, is better against bounce effects and can be welded into play.

As you can see there is plenty of room for deckbuilding in Vintage, while still staying competitive. Wizards of the Coast has been giving us lots of goodies to play with and it is our job to discover if they can cut it in the most powerful format available. I hope this has inspired you to try building something new or putting a twist on an existing deck. So start brewing already!

13 thoughts on “Insider: Brewing in Vintage

  1. Yeah I’ve been tweaking a 5c humans list, the deck is powerful and fun. I think the list you linked is quite weak though. Glad to still see humans getting mentioned though. 🙂

    1. Can you elaborate more on what you would change to make it better or what you feel is lacking from the deck? That would be very helpful.

      1. Sure, also, I’m willing to chat via email : or on MTGO : Coopes if you ever want to further.

        I also have a thread on here featuring my various testings with 5c humans :,7411.30.html

        Anyway, onto my critique:

        – I don’t like your manabase, I feel you are running too few fetches and far too many mana confluence. This might be because of your testing, but since I’ve played the deck for the past 3 weeks I haven’t ever felt the need for 4x confluence, i would rather spread my duals out and add more fetches. I also don’t like tropical island at all.
        – 2 Oath of Ghouls maindeck, without Ingot Chewer or Qasali Pridemage in the 75? I don’t like it..I feel those are heavily wasted slots. I maindeck’d oath and 3 ingots for the first few weeks of Vintage Online and absolutely ate of the heavy shops meta, which is where I got my first few 4-0’s with the deck ( and that was the iteration of the deck that was referenced on SCG featuring the MTGO metagame )
        – The cards you chose to make up your deck are certainly not bad by any means, but it really looks quite like a junk hatebears list with power added. I don’t like it, I think you can have a lot more power level when boasting 4-5 colors. That’s why we play 4-5 colors, to hit all the decks from tons of angles and be versatile.
        – I like Vampiric Tutor in the 75, I feel it deserves a spot.
        – I like Ravenous Trap in the sideboard and also Mindbreak Trap. We need interaction early on with the humans list, especially for when we are on the draw, we can be a bit slow to get going–we that that permission.
        – I personally have gone a bit more controlling route, but I see you’ve taken the aggro version of the deck on. I think both choices are viable, so I won’t fault you there. Though I think in a meta without a prevalence Workshops your version of the deck falls way down.
        – 4 Nature’s Claim. I don’t love it, I think there’s better cards ( abrupt decay/ingot chewer/qasali because you are running oath ). I get that it’s a 1 mana kill spell though, so I can see it’s merit I suppose. I just don’t like playing 4x of it.
        – 19 lands + 4 drs + 4 noble hierarch seems like mana overkill. I run the full 5 colors and strech myself to the limit, and I only run 19 lands + 4-5 mana dorks, tops. I think you are running way too many here, and those could be valuable spells or planeswalkers ( dack ).
        – I’m also kind of suprised to not see you mention stoneforge mystic, I tested the card, I like it in some setups.

        Hopefully some of this is helpful, this is just mainly my opinions after playing and tweaking the deck for a few weeks.

          1. Cooper this was extremely helpful. The reason I asked is because some of the decks in my article were tested and played much more than others and the 5c humans list was not explored very long for me. I only played it in one tournament and that was mostly to try and evaluate aegis of the gods. So I am not surprised in the slightest that my list is on the weaker side as you have shown me and it is obvious that you have been testing the deck much more than I. The only response I have to the critique is that Dack Fayden did not exist when I tested this deck so that was not a possibility. I am going to be starting to play vintage on MTGO this week hopefully and I will definitely look for you, have you been able to get into vintage on mtgo?

            1. Yes Scott, vintage on mtgo is all I can afford to play right now. I have been putting up consistant results with the deck, but I always think there’s ways to improve it. Beauty about humans IMHO is you csn sculpt the deck to be versatile vs the meta but also switched up and packing a ton of hate for a specific MU.

              The thread I linked up above is the one I have on QS, incase you are ever bored or interested perhaps it’s worth checking out.

  2. That being said let me add to my above statement, I do really share the sentiment that there’s room to still explore and grow in vintage. A format is never done when there are new cards and new minds coming to the game all the time. I think it’s quite ignorant to saw the format is done and established, and that’s it :). Thanks for the wrapup man.

  3. Some things I was wondering about-

    Dark Depths/ Thespian Stage in Vintage – Is this not powerful enough? Surprised it hasn’t been tried more. On their own or maybe in a Lands port from Legacy.

    1. Dark Depths and Stage are in the format. Mainly in the Mono Black deck with Confidants, Discard, Urborg, the combo, Hexmage, Lilianas, md Leyline of the Void and some number of Helm of Obedience and all the black tutors, ritual, necro, etc. So yeah it is in the format, but a Lands style deck is probably not viable as most decks have a combo variant to them, whether it is their main game plan like Tendrils of Agony or combo control like tinker/blightsteel or key/vault. Like I was saying though, this format has lots of exploring to be done and I hope you take on the challenge to find a competitive strategy using this combo.

  4. “And if you are lucky enough to have Disciple and Maze of Ith in play, you are in fact living the dream.”

    Thank you for that…I had not considered that interaction…and both are legacy legal 🙂

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