Back in college during the mid/late 90′s, Vintage (then known simply as Type 1) was the default format for Magic. If you started playing Magic during Revised like myself and many others did, you aspired to own Power 9 and play with them. Playing Type 2 was a necessary evil, as players with smaller collections tended to prefer it, but if you were a serious player, you wanted to play with the full range of options that Type 1 afforded you. It didn’t matter if you owned the full Power 9 or not, you played with what you owned and were always on the lookout for the pieces you needed, which in those days could still be found in trade binders quite often.
We held a regular paper Type 1 tournament at the Sub Shop in Columbia, Missouri. Although there were fewer players back then compared to now, we were able to fire a regular event once a month. There are far more players today by raw numbers, but it seems harder and harder to find paper Vintage events outside of a few select hotbeds of activity. Perhaps the great migration of Power to Europe during the euro’s ascendancy has dwindled our supply — something that may be reversing itself as the exchange rates turn back in the dollar’s favor. Or maybe there just isn’t enough interest, on account of the format’s erroneous perception as a playground of broken Turn 1 strategies.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been building a paper version of my Human Hatebears deck with the intention of taking it to GenCon this year. A couple months back, I asked our St. Louis Legacy player group on Facebook whether there were any Vintage players. I got a pretty big response, and one store owner offered to hold weekly events throughout March. My original suggestion was to make it a 10-proxy tournament, because I think that a group of legacy players should have no trouble sleeving up a Vintage deck with that number, but it was ultimately decided to allow unlimited proxies for an additional donation to the prize pool.
Before I talk about the event, let me show you my updated deck list for 5-Color Humans:
5-Color Humans by RexDart
Since I ultimately intend to play sanctioned Vintage, and am not comfortable with proxies for a variety of reasons, I opted to play without them. This meant that the paper version of my deck would be without a Black Lotus. I likely won’t have one at GenCon either, so I need to get used to missing that piece. In the 12% of games where you have it in your opening hand, it gives you a huge boost, and over the course of a tournament you are at a disadvantage without that edge. Still, the Humans deck which made Top 8 at GenCon in 2013 didn’t have Lotus, so I might overcome the odds. For this event, I opted to try Mana Crypt in its place. I had noticed in goldfishing that my hand would jam up with 2-drops sometimes, and 2 colorless mana would definitely have been useful. It also helps me to play around sphere effects. The damage is an issue in some matchups, but having a Turn 1 hatebear is important enough that I think it’s worth the risk.
First round I faced Workshops. My opponent was also trying to get into paper Vintage, and had acquired some real Power, so I was glad to see that I wasn’t the only one trying to get into this format. Given the recent spike in paper Power 9 prices, there must be some demand out there, and I’d like to think that some of that demand is from players rather than solely the collectors’ market.
I won the die roll and went on the play Game 1, which makes all the difference. I had a Turn 1 Dark Confidant, and was able to draw enough land to stay ahead of his sphere-effects. I built up my board with little dudes, and he eventually landed a Wurmcoil Engine. Unfortunately for him, I dropped Falkenrath Aristocrat and flew right over it for several points of damage and the win.
My deck is configured to try and cover a lot of different strategies in Game 1. For subsequent games, I can board out the hatebears that are less relevant, and against Shops that is quite a bit. Thalia and Mental Misstep are both dead or nearly-dead against Shops, so I have to make sure I have a large number of cards to bring in against them.
In Game 2, he’s on the play and has two early Wastelands that set me back. I am a turn short drawing the mana source I need, and he closes it out with a Lodestone Golem. For Game 3, I again lead with a Turn 1 Bob. He Dismembers it, but not before I get in a hit, and the life payment turns out to be pretty relevant. He’s on the back foot much of the game. He lands a Kuldotha Forgemaster, but I had drawn Stony Silence off Bob the previous turn, and can neutralize that threat. As Shops often does, he then goes into topdeck mode hoping for a haymaker. He finds one in the form of a Steel Hellkite that would threaten to wipe out much of my board. But I’ve got the Aristocrat once more, and she threatens lethal so he’s forced to block, as I sac a guy to allow her to survive the exchange. He whiffs next turn and I take the match.
In Round 2 I face off against UR Delver, with a green splash for Fastbond and black splash for tutors. Thalia is a huge beating in this matchup. He’s able to land a Pyromaner in each game, but it meets with Abrupt Decay each time, and my opponent fails to find more threats. This match was an easy 2-0 win.
Round 3 I know I’m up against one-land Belcher. He’s playing Tolarian Academy with Expedition Map to fetch it out. I lose the die roll, which all but seals my doom in a matchup like this. Since I know what he is on, I mulligan aggressively looking for a Mental Misstep hand. I get down to 4 cards without finding it, and keep there on the hope that he won’t go off on the first turn. He blows through his hand, casts Timetwister, Tinkers for Goblin Charbelcher, then casts Gitaxian Probe on me. I scoop rather than allow him to see my hand.
In Game 2, I have a hand with Misstep and a second turn Thalia. He runs out a bunch of Moxes then probes to see the Misstep and passes back. I resolve Thalia, and couple turns later land Stony Silence. He has played out Tolarian Academy and is hoping to land Tezzeret, the Seeker for an alternate win condition or find a bounce spell, but I Wasteland the Academy and he scoops.
In Game 3 I keep a Mental Misstep hand on the draw, but he has a hand that can play around it, and wins on Turn 1.
For the final round, I play against a Legacy player using his UG infect deck. This isn’t a match you’d need to know much about, but I’ll just say that Thalia is great against those decks. I had enough removal to keep him at bay, blocked when I needed to, and in Game 2 I blew up his board with Orzhov Pontiff for the 2-0 match win.
In the end, I went 3-1 and won $10 in store credit. Kind of silly when you consider the cost of the deck and what I spent just driving up to this store, but the experience of playing paper Vintage was totally worth it. Everybody had a great time, and I hope the events the rest of this month continue to be popular. We had 12 players at this first one, with mostly store regulars, so there’s certainly the potential to do even better.
I have finally been able to assemble this deck online as well. I held off for weeks in getting Containment Priests, because they are a pain in the neck to find online. I would up having to buy three of the white commander deck to get them!
First up in the video section, I have a video deck tech talking about the card choices and the evolution of the deck from what I was playing last year. The biggest changes are the switch from a fetch/dual manabase to a pentacolor land manabase, as well as the addition of Containment Priest.
Then I have two matchplay videos, featuring games against Shops and a UW Monastery Mentor deck.
I hope you enjoy the videos, and I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with my thoughts about eternal-playables in Dragons of Tarkir!