Insider: Building a Vintage Gauntlet

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With Eternal Weekend less than two months away there is no time like the present to build a gauntlet for testing Vintage. With the debut of Eternal Weekend last year being such a huge success and Vintage becoming a format on Magic Online this year, figuring out what the field will look like will be difficult.

Vintage has never been this popular, except maybe when it was just called Magic: The Gathering. Usually there are only results from live tournaments, most of them with some number of proxies allowed and usually not very well attended. Now we have people playing Vintage online around the clock online with no proxies. So how do we assess and use this data?

The first thing we can assume is that people are going to have particular decks that they want to play, but ultimately will play what they can get their hands on. Many people have one deck that they are able to play without proxies and will make minor changes as new printings or metagame changes call for. So what people play online may not necessarily translate to paper, as Vintage has the biggest discrepancy in prices when you compare paper and online.

Despite all that there are still a few archetypes and decks that have been doing well and have been popular both online and IRL. So let’s get to the decks that you should be testing against for Vintage Champs.

The Players

BUG Tempo

The first deck that you should have in your gauntlet no matter what your local metagame looks like is BUG Fish/Tempo.

Mike Kiesel piloted this list at a Vintage tournament at Gen Con this year to a first place finish. There has been a lot of discussion about this archetype and some consider it the best deck in the format.

The first thing I will say is that Vintage is in a healthy place and I don't think there's a clear best deck. BUG Tempo is far from earning any sort of boogeyman title, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the top decks.

The other subject that has been consistently coming up about this deck is whether or not it should play Black Lotus. This is beyond absurd to me.

This is a fair deck and when fair decks get to play unfair from time to time that is when they become truly busted. When you can play multiple spells in a turn with this deck you are going to be far ahead of your opponent. Lotus enables turn one Dark Confidant and Deathrite Shaman. Heck we had someone cast Ancestral Recall twice on turn one with Lotus and Snapcaster Mage in our local Vintage tournament this past week. I personally would cut Mox Sapphire before I cut Lotus.

This particular version has plenty of things that I don’t care for, especially in the sideboard. Surgical Extraction is an underpowered hate card against Dredge and only one Grafdigger's Cage for Oath as a creature deck seems loose.

I also think these decks need to move away from Null Rod. I know the deck is about mana denial, but the card isn’t actively winning you the game and is a terrible topdeck in the late game. I would be playing an Edric, Spymaster of Trest and another counterspell in those slots.

If you do not have game against this deck you probably should not bring your deck to Vintage Champs or at least try to play something else. This deck also requires less power than your average Vintage deck and is easier to build without proxies than most traditional Vintage decks. So expect to play against this deck at Champs.


The next deck that you should be testing against and should without a doubt be in your gauntlet is Shops.

This bad boy took down the 92 person NYSE Open II a while back. This is always the big question mark when going into a Vintage tournament. Can I beat Workshops? You have to invest a good amount of sideboard slots to beat them and even then you can have every single card in your hand say destroy target artifact and still get crushed.

The biggest part of this is the coin flip. This is what workshops live and sometimes die by. Workshops have unbeatable nut draws and if they draw well can blow through a tournament with ease. So this should not only be at the top of your gauntlet, but you should specifically be testing against this deck on the draw. If your deck does not have the tools to beat workshop in sideboarded games when you are on the draw then you must consider changing your sideboard choices for the matchup or changing your deck choice altogether.

RUG Delver

The next deck that did well at last years Vintage Champs that should be in your gauntlet is RUG Delver.

This deck put multiple people into the Top 8 of Champs last year and will be popular again this year. Young Pyromancer has come into its own in Vintage with this deck and the Gush Pyromancer combo deck that LSV has popularized through the Vintage Super League. You should have answers to creatures in your 75, especially ones to Young Pyromancer.

Pyromancer’s ability to take over the board in a horizontal fashion, rather than a vertical fashion like Tarmogoyf or Quirion Dryad from the old days when Gush Gro was one of the best decks in the format, has made it a force to be reckoned with across archetypes. It is an amazing card against shops and gives you a way to push through Abrupt Decay and Snapcaster out of the BUG Tempo deck.  Make sure you get your reps in against this deck.

There are many viable archetypes in Vintage and your gauntlet could easily have 7-10 decks in it, but I think these are the three that shouldn’t be left out. I wish that I could go to Champs this year, but it just doesn’t work with my schedule unfortunately. My plan is to help all the people from my Vintage community to prepare for the event and put up good finishes.

So remember these three things when choosing your deck for Eternal Weekend

1.         Do I have a horrible matchup against BUG?

2.         Can I beat Workshops on the draw?

3.         Am I soft to Young Pyromancer?

If you have positive answers to all of these then you are in good shape for Champs. And I know I might be sounding like a broken record already, but one of the ways that I think will help you have a positive answer to at least two of these three questions is by having some number of Toxic Deluge in your 75. Creatures are here and comprise two of the three best decks in the current metagame and they aren’t going anywhere. Good luck.

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