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Insider: Choosing Vintage Targets – Oath of Druids, Tinker and Dack Fayden

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Vintage is known as format with many decisions.  These decisions are usually compacted into fewer turns than all the other formats, which are made both before and during the match.

What do I get with my Vampiric or Mystical Tutor?  Do I Brainstorm or Fate Seal with Jace, the Mind Sculptor? What card do I flashback with Snapcaster Mage?

These decisions are plentiful, compressed into the fewest turns of any format.  Today I am going to talk about some specific decisions that need to be made when building your deck, specifically when you have decided to play with one or both of these cards:



The targets for these cards have changed many times over Magic’s history.  From Jon Finkel and Bob Maher Tinkering out Phyrexian Colossus at the World Championships in 2000 to the mighty Blightsteel Colossus of today.

Superman, also known as Morphling, was once the Oath target of choice but has since been replaced by many different targets, such as Iona, Shield of Emeria, Terrastodan, Rune-Scarred Demon, Progenitus, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, Blightsteel Colossus, Laboratory Maniac and Griselbrand.

So which targets should you play?

Let’s start with Oath of Druids.

Oath of Druids

The most common targets for Oath of Druids in Vintage these days are Griselbrand, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Blightsteel Colossus.  Let’s take a look at some lists with these cards as the targets of choice and break down why they were chosen.

First up is what is commonly known as Golden Gun Oath. This list was played by Chris Laiacona at the NYSE Open II:

The signature cards in Golden Gun Oath are Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Blightsteel Colossus as your Oath targets alongside Dragon's Breath to give them haste when they come into play off of Oath. The goal is to kill with one hit--now read this again with the Goldeneye 007 music from the sweet N64 game in the background.

Golden Gun Oath is a more proactive strategy than Oath decks with Griselbrand, but this list really wants to hit Dragon’s Breath.  If your creatures don’t get haste then they are very vulnerable to getting bounced by Jace, the Mind Sculptor or your opponent just killing you with their own combo.  Giving someone an extra turn in Vintage is almost always a risky proposition, even if you would win the following turn.

As a side note, this list has some spice in it!  Muddle the Mixture as Oath number five, as well as doubling as many other sweet targets like Time Vault and Time Walk.

Now let’s look at a decklist with the most popular Oath target in present day Vintage--Griselbrand. Rob Edwards piloted this list to a 2nd place finish at the NYSE Open II

Rob wasn't messing around.  His plan was to resolve Oath with his 15 counterspells as protection, control the rest of the game with Griselbrand, then win by attacking with Griselbrand or assembling Time Vault and Voltaic Key.

I think the advantage to this type of strategy in Oath is that that you always know what you are going to get when Oath is triggered. You aren’t worrying about whether or not you will hit Dragon's Breath or which creature you will Oath up. Griselbrand easily races the tokens that Forbidden Orchard has given to your opponent as well as most other creatures they may have in play.

I believe Griselbrand is by far the best choice for Oath of Druids in Vintage.  If you look at these two lists, which one mulligans better?  Probably the one that Oaths into a Yawgmoth's Bargain with wings and horns that will instantly undo your mulligan when it comes into play.

Even Burning Wish combo decks play Oath of Druids with Griselbrand as a draw engine to win the game, a deck commonly referred to as Burning Long.

Griselbrand is the most powerful creature for Oath and will likely remain so for a very long time.  This is unfortunate, however, as it doesn’t leave much in terms of metagaming when it comes to choosing your Oath targets, as playing Griselbrand is almost always better than the other options.

Interestingly enough, this has been Tinker’s problem for quite some time, as there is one target that stands above the rest. So with that let’s talk Tinker.

Tinker

For a while, there were many different creature targets to choose from when it came to Tinker.  There are plenty of sweet targets for Tinker that aren’t creatures, such as Memory Jar, Time Vault, etc.

For a while the top choice was Darksteel Colossus, then Shards of Alara rolled around and gave us some new choices in Inkwell Leviathan and Sphinx of the Steel Wind, so there was actually a choice to be made.  Then along came:


Vintage is known for having many different ways to win the game that don’t involve damage, such as taking infinite turns with Vault/Key, exiling an opponent's library with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and now killing them with poison via Blightsteel Colossus.

Until very recently, Blightsteel was uncontested as the best Tinker robot.  Playing any of the other target simply took you longer to kill your opponent.  Blightsteel has been the Griselbrand of Tinker targets, but now things may be changing thanks to the greatest thief in the multiverse...


Dack Fayden not only gave Vintage a new planeswalker, but it also offered many cards and archetypes a shot in the arm, such as Gobin Welder, Mindslaver and control decks in general.

There are a few slots in the maindeck of many control decks dedicated to Mishra’s Workshop and other artifacts. These have been cards such as Ancient Grudge, Nature's Claim, Hurkyl's Recall and Steel Sabatoge.

These slots are slowly becoming Dack Fayden.

With Dack Fayden’s rise in popularity, it is becoming more and more risky to Tinker for Blightsteel without a way to protect it from Dack. Before Dack, the worst that could happen to your Blightsteel was it getting bounced by Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Steel Sabotage, or getting removed with Swords to Plowshares or Duplicant. Now you have to be worried about potentially dying to your own Blightsteel in the control and Delver matchups.

So what does this mean moving forward?  I think that the only real options besides Blightsteel, with the presence of Dack Fayden, are Myr Battlesphere and Inkwell Leviathan.

Battlesphere fits very nicely into Goblin Welder decks, but your Grixis Control Decks might lean more toward Inkwell.  Maybe not necessarily in the maindeck, but having it in the sideboard as a replacement is a real possibility.

Of course, the other way one can react to the presence of Dack is to play your own Dack and steal your Blightsteel back.

With Tinker being one of the most powerful and efficient win conditions for control decks, this is something pilots are going to need to address in the future.

~

 

I, for one, am a huge fan of having to make choices when deck building and having the opportunity to be rewarded or punished for those decisions.  When the choice is obvious, format becomes stale there isn’t as much to think about.  As I have said before, Vintage is about decisions, so when there are less of them, it is not the same format many have come to love.

So what do you think the future holds for Tinker and its targets?  Will the rise of Dack Fayden force people to make changes when it comes to robot targets or will it simply just make people play differently?  Will Griselbrand ever be overtaken as the best Oath of Druids creature?

Let me know what you think in the comments and hopefully we can get some good discussion going.

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