With Vintage Masters beginning to shape up, RexDart wraps up the final three rounds of the Classic Quarter qualifier and begins the work of adapting his Fish deck for Vintage play.
Well, the final Classic Quarter qualifier is in the books. After starting out 2-0, I had a disappointing run to close out the event. In Round 3, I played against a European player with whom I had scheduling difficulties, and as a result I was ill-prepared and felt rushed. A critical mistake against an early Delver sealed my doom. Round 4 against the hatebear Sky Hussar deck featured a couple of long and interactive games, but I came out on the losing end. Still, I had the best breakers of the 6 points players, and could likely have made Top 8 with a Round 5 win. I came in expecting a rather dull match against Goblin Charbelcher, a deck I completely loathe. Surprisingly there were quite a few interesting decisions in this match, and it was probably the most interactive set of games I’ve ever played against that villainous combo deck.
This was the only time out of 4 events in which I piloted Noble Fish that I failed to make prize. While I’m disappointed in the outcome, I think the deck proved to be a viable choice over the past year of Classic. So the question now, with Classic coming to an end in a few weeks and Vintage taking its place, is where do I go from here?
To start the discussion, here is the list I played in the most recent event:
Classic Bant Excalibur 2014 by RexDart
Let’s start by examining what a more or less direct port of this deck into Vintage might look like. First off, Brainstorm is restricted. The easiest thing to do would be to replace three Brainstorms with other blue card draw. Ancestral Recall gets the first spot, clearly. Ponder, also restricted, is the next best thing — I’m not sure if my deck actually wants a sorcery speed cantrip, but I’ll give it a spot to start out. Preordain would be the next best available, but I’m not enthusiastic about that option. Instead I will give the last cantrip slot to Time Walk for now.
The other obvious change is to add Stony Silence into the maindeck. Shutting down artifact mana is a critical part of a Fish deck’s plan in Vintage. To make room I’ll start by cutting both Knight of the Reliquary. He’s a great beater, but his ability to start Wastelanding the opponent out of the game is greatly diminished by having artifact mana around. Also on the chopping block is the Sword of Fire and Ice. For the last slot here, I will cut one of the Tarmogoyfs.
Despite moving Stony Silence to the maindeck, I will be playing my own 3 on-color Moxen. In the matches where you really want a Null Rod effect, you want it on Turn 1 and won’t mind the fact that it shuts off one of your own Moxen in the process.
Finally, Spell Pierce is a bit worse — it’s still Vintage-playable, but there are better options. For right now, I’ll replace that with one copy of Mental Misstep, but Flusterstorm is also a consideration. In fact, it may be wise to make room for additional countermagic, but I plan to let things play out a little while before making that decision. In the meantime, I’ve just freed up four sideboard slots by moving Stony Silence to the maindeck, so I can toss additional countermagic in there. A couple additional Grafdigger’s Cages should find their way to the board as well, as I expect Dredge to be very popular online.
Making those changes would leave me with something like this:
Vintage Bant Excalibur 2014 by RexDart
Incorporating the artifact mana to my deck leaves me with a couple fewer green sources, and while that number feels wrong to me, it appears to be what most Vintage Fish players have been doing.
Of course, Noble Fish is not the most popular aggro-control deck in Vintage these days. Taking a cue from Legacy, the BUG Fish deck has had some success in Vintage over the past couple of years. Although I don’t know if those are better than Noble Fish, I do believe they will be more popular, so it’s worth examining what they’ll look like.
Last year, it seemed that Delver of Secrets had earned a spot as the centerpiece of BUG Fish, just as it has in Legacy. However, the 2014 Bazaar of Moxen’s Vintage main event featured three BUG Fish decks and zero copies of Delver among them. Here for example is the 3rd place list:
BUG Fish by Alessandro Iaconno
In Legacy, Deathrite Shaman is often a strict upgrade to Noble Hierarch. But there aren’t as many fetchlands in Vintage, so that may not be true here. Still, in the matches where you’re getting Wasted out, it will obviously do the job. It provides a bit of maindeck graveyard hate, but not really enough to matter against Dredge. It could manage to disrupt a Yawgmoth’s Will turn by removing a ritual, but unfortunately it can’t hit noncreature artifacts in the yard. It does, however, provide a bit of inevitability if you can prolong the game, as there should always be instants to eat against anything but the Workshop decks.
The main incentive I see to playing BUG Fish over Noble Fish is Dark Confidant. I haven’t been a huge fan of Bob in Classic, but the ability to play him on Turn 1 changes everything. This deck has tons of countermagic, and could potentially ride a first turn Bob to victory 2 points of damage at a time.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the potential elephant in the room. We’re all looking forward to playing Vintage online, yet we’ve just been told that the current MTGO client will be shut off in July. The new client, by most accounts, works very poorly for constructed play. The “wide beta spotlight” occurred during the last round of the Classic Quarter event, and both I and my opponent that week took pains to play our match on Tuesday so that we could avoid having to use the new client. It seems that absolutely nobody except for Wizards themselves wants to see this transition happen.
My enthusiasm for seeing Vintage come online is tempered by my fear that the changeover to the new client will go poorly. If there are connectivity problems during the transition period, it could limit the number of Vintage Masters drafts during a critical time period and leave the community with too few copies of Power Nine. Worse, it could turn people off of playing MTGO entirely. Vintage Masters creates a strong incentive to try and fight through the problems with the new client, but our patience is not unlimited.
The Classic and Legacy player base has a ton of money tied up in digital collections, including many foils. Foils do not look very good in the new client, and it’s possible that non-redeemable foils could lose much of their premium value unless this is improved.
At the end of the day, MTGO is still primed to be the only real way to play competitive Vintage online for prizes. I have hopes that this will all work out, that we’ll fight through the pain of the new client, and emerge with a vibrant Vintage community online. The eternal community has a lot invested in this game, and we want it to succeed. There are a ton of people making good money off this game, including but not limited to Wizards of the Coast, and that too creates a strong incentive to do this right. I wish that this summer could be all about the excitement of Vintage, without the dark cloud of the new client hanging over us. I would urge Wizards to delay the implementation of the new client until the end of the year. But since I don’t expect them to listen, I guess I’ll just cross my fingers and hope for the best.