Unlocking the Vault #30: Upping the Ante

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Over the last month, several members of Clan Magic Eternal and I have been trying to organize the ultimate Player Run Event (PRE) for Classic. It was clear to each of us that something needed to be done to appeal to the majority of Classic players, and that involved creating an event that had enough EV to attract all of the Classic player base.

In trying to figure out the best way to go about this endeavor, we looked at what had been successful in the past. Most recently, the Winter Celebration brought many new faces to the Classic scene due to its high EV. The Classic League offered a structured PRE with a flexible schedule which allowed even the busiest of players the time to participate. The Classic Quarter Player of the Year race was a strong driver for many people to keep participating in Classic events. We also wanted to capture some of the magic that StarCityGames is able to provide by having a season of events which would feed into an Invitational Tournament that offered incredible prize support. Taking all of this into consideration, we had an epiphany: What if we could take elements of all of these things and combine them into one ultimate PRE for Classic?

Without further ado, I present to you The 2012-2013 Classic Quarter League featuring The Classic Invitational.

I’m sure you are all eager to learn about the details of the event, so I’ll jump right in.

There will be 4 Qualifier Tournaments (QT), each lasting ~2 months. Each QT will start 2 weeks after the release of the new sets (1 Core Set and the 3 Block Sets; Return to Ravnica Block in the case of the upcoming season). The format of the QT will mimic the Classic League in that there will be 5 rounds of Swiss with a cut to the Top 8. Players will have one week to play a match. Any matches that do not finish in time will be considered a draw. Decklists will need to be registered in advance and be publicly announced once pairings for Round 1 go up and cannot be changed during the QT.

Results should be sent to classicquarterleague@gmail.com by the winner of each round (include a screen shot of the final result). I suggest adding classicquarterleague@gmail.com to your contacts list to ensure that you receive all communication from the Organizers.

Each player who finishes in the Top 8 of a QT will earn an invite to the Classic Invitational. To encourage players to continue to participate once they have earned an invite, players can earn up to 1 bye when they Top 8 another QT.

The Classic Invitational will be a single-day event that will consist of 6 rounds of Swiss (regardless of the number of participants) followed by a cut to the Top 8. In order to allow everyone the ability to plan ahead, the 2013 Classic Invitational will be held on July 20th, 2013.

The first QT will commence on Monday, August 13th. Decklists as well as donations are due by Midnight Eastern Time on Saturday, August 11th, no exceptions!


Players that wish to participate in a QT are encouraged to donate 10 tickets or roughly the equivalent in Classic playable cards. A donation is not required to participate, but the more donations that are submitted, the better the prizes. For each donation, ~40% will go directly to the prize support for the QT while ~60% will go directly to the “pot” for the Classic Invitational. Prizes will be fully accounted for and completely transparent. Prior to the start of each QT, the prizes that were donated will be announced and fully transparent. Naturally, the prize support of each QT will depend on how many people enter the event and donate, but nonetheless will be distributed accordingly from 1st Place through 8th.

If anyone out there would like to sponsor either the QT(s) or the Classic Invitational, I encourage you to send a message to classicquarterleague@gmail.com. Anyone who donates, be it a bot chain, or a Magic website, etc., will have their information posted as a sponsor of the event. Additionally, the sponsors will enjoy up to a full years worth of publicity as the hype for the Classic Invitational builds throughout the season and more and more prizes are thrown into the pool.

[Side note: ClassicQuarter.com will be hosting the 2012-2013 Classic Quarter League featuring The Classic Invitational. Details and discussion about this event should be directed to the forums on CQ. There will be a banner on the CQ home page with all the latest announcements regarding the 2012-2013 Classic Quarter League featuring The Classic Invitational.]

[Side note #2: In the event that Wizards blesses us with Full Vintage during the course of the Season, the current/active QT will play out as normal and the remaining QT(s) and/or Classic Invitational would switch to the Vintage format.]

Now that the gauntlet has been laid out, I think it might be worthwhile to review the Classic metagame and provide some examples of the top decks for anyone who might be interested in playing in the event.

Let’s start with the aggro decks

Affinity is perhaps the fastest aggro deck in the format. It can attack for lethal damage within just a couple of turns and is adept at providing just enough disruption to keep opposing decks on the back foot. Here is a typical Affinity list, pre-Avacyn Restored:

Merfolk are a staple in Legacy and have had success in Classic. With the recent printing of Master of the Pearl Trident, Merfolk get yet another lord to add to their deck. Dropping 4 spells in favor of the new Lord doesn’t seem like a good idea, so swapping out the slowest Lord, Coralhelm Commander might be the best bet. Cavern of Souls might be an option to replace the Aether Vials, but I’m not sure that is the direction this deck wants to go. Vial helps Merfolk play their counters while they build a board state whereas Cavern prevents them from playing anything other than the free counters. Here is my take on an updated Classic Merfolk list:


BUG Delver is perhaps the best deck at the moment. With the ability to control the match and beat down at the same time, it is quite difficult for many decks to deal with. There are many ways to build a Delver deck, with different options based on user reference. Here is GainsBanding’s list from a Daily Event earlier this year which splashes for red in order to add Ancient Grudge and Lightning Bolt:

Bant Fish is an “oldie, but a goodie.” It can be argued that Delver decks have been based on the principals that Bant established well before Delver was printed. The idea is still the same, control the game and beat down with efficient, yet powerful creatures.


Here is a deck I spotlighted in my last article. The deck is surprisingly powerful in its ability to control the game while it sets up its game-winning combo of Dark Depths and Vampire Hexmage:

This list below eschews Liliana in favor of the Helm of Obedience and Leyline of the Void combo:

While Oath decks appear to be control decks, for this exercise, I’m classifying them as Combo-Control seeing that Oath of Druids is a 1-card combo. The list below is adept at fighting off all the creature decks that have been running around the format:

This Oath deck, ShOath, is a Spike’s dream. There aren’t many things more satisfying than Channel-bamming an Emrakul in Classic. Additionally, ShOath is probably the best home for Temporal Mastery, perhaps a just a one-of:

The final Oath that list I’m highlighting is a more traditional Oath list that aims to win as soon as Oath is triggered with use of Dragon Breath:


Pure control decks have had a tough time of late in Classic. The creatures, and more specifically, the aggro-control decks, have had the upper hand. The deck below aims to swing the creature match-ups back in favor of the control deck:

Jace has fallen out of favor recently, as have control decks in general. Here is a deck that at one point in time was considered the best deck in the format, but I believe it can be a contender today with some metagame tweaks:

Perhaps the best pure control decks of late have been Standstill variants. Here is a Deedstill list that has the tools to make a comeback if it falls behind early against faster decks:

This Blue-Red Standstill list offers a better manabase and more versatile targeted removal in the form of Lightning Bolt which can act as a win condition. It also includes Red Elemental Blast/Pyroblast which can hit many spells and permanents in Classic:

Similar to the Blue-Red list above, this Blue-White list utilizes Swords to Plowshares for its targeted creature removal and adds Balance to catch up on board state:


The fastest and most powerful combo deck in Classic remains LED Storm. Nothing has changed with the release of M13 and Avacyn Restored:

Another powerful Tendrils Storm deck, Gushbond takes a slightly more controlling road to victory by utilizing countermagic and Jace:

In an unprepared metagame (one that is not likely suitable to a QT where decklists are made public), Cinnamon Toast Crunch is a resilient combo deck. It can attack from different angles depending on the match-up:

While the high creature count my scream aggro, Goblins is in fact a combo deck. Recently, Goblins won a Daily Event, proving that it can be a viable player in the Classic Metagame. Perhaps the best place for Cavern of Souls is in the Goblin list below:


Here is the most recent example of a successful Workshop deck. With the rise in Affinity, Workshop had become just a slower version of Affinity, losing the match-up head to head. Workshop is a great option if the metagame moves away from Affinity. FishyFellow went with the aggro approach utilizing Slash Panther that had been all but forgotten. In a land of 3/2 Flying Insects, I’m not sure how well the Panther is set up for the metagame, but it was enough to earn FishyFellow a 3-1 record in the most recent Daily Event back in May:


Finally, we come up to Dredge, the Classic Boogeyman. This list was created to fight off Grafdiggers Cage, though the Cage has not been as prevalent as early prognostications had assumed. It’s still a viable Dredge deck even without the Cage being played in abundance:

At the Bazaar of Moxen Tournament a couples months back, a Dread Return-less Dredge deck performed quite well. It’s possible that it could be viable in Classic as well:

I hope this list goes to show just how diverse the Classic Format is. There are literally dozens of viable decks, and there is enough customization available to make it unlikely that you will see the exact same 75 from one deck to another.

I know I missed some decks, but I did list 21 decks in total. Also, nearly all of these decks are lacking upgrades with the new cards available in Avacyn Restored and M13. For the most part, only cards like Cavern of Souls, Terminus, Master of the Pearl Trident, and perhaps Griselbrand and Omniscience are viable in Classic decks. Experiment with Temporal Mastery all you want, it’s just not worth it to me in any deck that does not already include 3-4 Mystical Tutor.

I, as well as everyone at Clan Magic Eternal and DangerLinto, hope you find the new Tournament worth your while. I look forward to seeing how this plays out and whole much prize support we can accumulate in advance of the Classic Invitational next July.

Clan Magic Eternal
Follow me on Twitter @enderfall

  1. The voluntary “donation” as an entry fee seems like you could be setting yourself up for drama. Who’s to say that some ultra-spike doesn’t enter with some fully kitted out, all-foil, deck that’s probably worth 1000+ tix but doesn’t pay the entry fee becuase to their perspective it’s just reducing their EV. What happens when that player wins? That’s the sort of thing that destroys any good will that would come out of the event, and would fracture the community. If you’re going to have an event with money on the line, you need to protect yourself from people gaming the system because you can’t rely on people being warm and fuzzy when there’s prizes involved.

    At least make people who don’t put in an up front donation ineligible for prizes or something (their prizes just get passed down the line)? That means that people who want to play in it “just for fun” aren’t excluded, but the people who are interested in the prizes can’t game the system.

  2. @PB, Unfortunately, WotC’s obscure, unwritten, policies prevent anyone running a PRE from having a mandatory entry fee. I would even go so far as to say that preventing someone from winning a prize if they do not donate anything would be against some WotC policy as well.

    I’d be surprised if there weren’t several people in the Top 8 of the Classic League seasons that did not donate anything, and no one seemed to notice. The one thing that the Classic Community has been great with is providing donations for these types of events, and I fully expect that this will be no different.

  3. ah, I didn’t realise that that was the case re WoTC. If the community has experience with this in the past that’s obviously cool, I just know that when I’ve run events (in different TCGs), the whole spirit of the thing can change once valuable prizes are involved but it doesn’t sound like that’ll be the case here then :).

  4. Classic and Legacy are not good formats for Modo. You are missing some cards, 90% of decks need 4 FOW’s, which aren’t cheap, and they don’t have enough people playing. I would love for them to take Classic off the competitive list because in paper it’s basically a watered down version of Vintage.

    I would rather play Modern which is a much more wide open format. There is no reason for a person to pay 500-1K tickets for a deck that has no community support except for the other 20 or so Legacy/Classic players out there.

    With fetch lands and shock lands being affordable and modern being a much more wide open and fun format with a lack of turn 1 kills (Google Classic: Metalworker, Bazaar of Baghdad, Doomsday, etc..), people should use the money they would spend on 1 Force of Will and buy a playset of every fetch land with money left over to buy some Restoration Angels.

    Leave the Legacy/Classic to IRL where you can actually receive prize support and play in PTQ’s, SCG opens, etc..

  5. Are there actually any legacy cards missing online anymore? I was under the impression there wasn’t.

  6. There are a few cards not available in Legacy, notably Nature’s Ruin and Virtue’s Ruin…but that’s about it.

  7. Hey Scott, what does midnight on August 11th mean? Does that mean 12:00am on August US East, August 11th, or does it mean 11:59pm on August 11th?

  8. Great article as always Scott this should give anyone interested plenty of ideas for the event.