Unlocking the Vault #55: Introducing the FINAL Classic Invitational

In life, it’s not often that we get the opportunity to properly say goodbye to the things we love. Life can change in the blink of an eye, and there will always be a case of “What if?” Thankfully, Wizards has told us exactly when Classic will sail off into the sunset, and it’s up to us as a community to use the time that we have left wisely.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last three to four months, you’re probably well aware of the upcoming release of Vintage Masters. While it’s certainly possible that Classic will remain a format after the initial release of Vintage Masters, the reality is that competitive Classic will no longer exist once people will have the ability to build decks with the Power 9.

As such, the final weekend for competitive Classic will be the weekend of June 7, 2014. I can’t think of a better way than to send the format off on a high note by holding the final Classic Invitational that weekend. With that, I’d like to announce the date of the 2014 Season 1 CQ Invitational on June 7, 2014!

For those of you that are unfamiliar with my tournament series, here is a brief run-down of how it works:

Qualifier Tournaments (QTs)

There will be 2 Qualifier Tournaments (QTs) during the “season”. The first QT will start on February 3, 2014 (note: normally the QTs line up with the release of each major Standard-legal set, but the timing won’t work for this season if I am to hold the Invitational on June 7). The QT is to be held over a period of 6-8 weeks where each participant gets matched up against an opponent once per week. You will have the entire week (Monday to Sunday) to play your one match and report your results. Depending on the number of participants, there will be 5 or 6 rounds of Swiss, followed by a cut to the Top 8.

Players who manage to make the Top 8 earn an invite to the Invitational on June 7th. If a player finishes in the Top 8 of both QTs, that player will earn 1 bye in the Invitational.

Prizes will be paid out to players who make the Top 8 of a QT based on final standing. Prizes are donated by the players and our sponsors (as of the time of this writing, only MTGO Academy). Donations are not required, though a suggested donation of 10 tix or roughly 10 tix value of Classic (Vintage) playable cards is recommended.

Other Ways to Qualify for the Invitational

There is only one other way to qualify for the Invitational on June 7th. If a player manages to finish 4-0 in a Daily Event between January 11 and June 1, 2014, that player will earn an invite. There are no additional prizes beyond those awarded by Wizards for placing in a DE. If a player finishes 4-0 in more than one DE, no byes will be awarded.

Invitational Format

The Invitational will be a single-day event where all the qualified players will compete in 5-6 rounds of Swiss followed by a cut to the Top 8. The Invitational will be broadcast live on twitch.tv.

Hosting of PRE-Tournaments

Many of you may already be familiar with gatherling.com, but for those who aren’t, the website is a great resource for hosting (or finding) PREs on MTGO. Both the QTs and the Invitational will be hosted on Gatherling. Due to the limitations of the MTGO client, we cannot regulate the legality of Classic decks, nor can we regulate players changing their deck in the middle of the tournament. To mitigate this risk, decklists are made public such that both players can “police” their opponent to see if they are playing by the rules. We haven’t had any issues, largely because this is a great way to police the players (even if the chance of someone cheating is very low).

More specific to Gatherling, however, is the ability to register your deck and also see what other PRE players are running. To register for gatherling.com, you must use your MTGO username. The process is very simple and can be done from this link.

Classic as a Primer for Vintage?

I know that there have been a few people recently jumping into Classic as they prepare for the release of Vintage Masters. These players have been acquiring the key cards to build competitive Vintage decks, but might not have a full understanding of the format. For those of you that might fit this description, here is a quick rundown of the Classic format!

The current state of Classic can be summed up by evaluating the metagame. The metagame currently consists of roughly 4 major archetypes/pillars: Workshop-based strategies (Workshop Prison and Affinity), Oath of Druids, Creature-based decks (Fish, Merfolk, White Weenie, Delver, etc.), and Dredge. There are a couple of outliers, but for the most part, the format revolves around these decks.

Workshop Decks

The biggest key to successful decks is being able to fight with or against Workshop. By far, the best acceleration in the format is Mishra’s Workshop and Workshop decks are fairly resilient to the strategies of the other archetypes. That’s not to say that Workshop decks can’t be beaten; it’s just that your deck needs to have a plan in order to perform well.

If your deck is not strategically superior to fighting a Workshop deck, you’ll need to make sure you have sufficient answers in your sideboard. Bringing in cards that will fight one card for another likely will have little impact, especially against Affinity. Cards that can wipe their board in one shot are a better choice. Think of it as using a shotgun versus a scalpel. Cards that you should consider depending on your deck: Energy Flux, Serenity, Hurkyl’s Recall, Seeds of Innocence, Shattering Spree, etc. Affinity is also much less effective staring down at a Null Rod/Stony Silence, but both are nearly useless against today’s Metalworker-less Workshop Prison decks.

Creature Decks

As powerful as Workshop-based strategies are, creatures are becoming a pillar of the format. Grafdigger’s Cage is perhaps one of the most important recent printings that have propped up creature decks. While nearly every creature deck plays with Cage, the creatures themselves are generally disruptive in some way. Control decks need to be able to deal with 3 or more creatures hitting the battlefield at one time. Sweepers are generally tough to cast at 4-mana, but something like Terminus could be a lot easier to cast, and can be found with several tutors or hand manipulation effects, such as the ubiquitous Brainstorm.

Oath Decks

Oath decks have been seeing a steady decline in results, but I won’t ever count that deck out. The biggest problem with Oath decks is having to deal with the increasing number of Cages that all decks seem to be playing these days. Mental Misstep isn’t enough since most creature decks use Misstep, too. Workshop decks can lock you out of playing countermagic altogether.

I still believe that the best answer to Cage is Abrupt Decay. While Decay makes casting Force of Will for free less reliable since it’s not a blue card, there is simply no better solution to getting rid of a Cage during your upkeep when you can trigger an Oath. Unfortunately, Decay can’t get rid of more than 1 Cage at a time. If an opponent gets 2 Cages down, your best bet is probably to try and cast Time Vault-Voltaic Key.


The boogeyman is always on the prowl. If you enter a tournament with fewer than 6 cards to fight Dredge, then you better hope to not play against it at all, in which case you might as well not have any graveyard hate at all! It’s also really important in the QT/Invitational, where decklists are public, to vary your threats. If you have only 2 different hate cards, then it makes your opponent’s Cabal Therapy really hard to beat. This is why I advocate playing Leyline of the Void, even in decks that wouldn’t be able to cast it.

Classic on the Cheap

It’s no secret that Classic and other Eternal formats are expensive. I’m not here to argue about the costs of Classic vs. Standard vs. Pauper, etc. I am here to talk about the cheapest deck in the format, and it’s not Dredge. While Dredge is generally cheap, not everyone wants to play Dredge, and it takes a long time to master. The deck I want to briefly discuss today is the White Weenie Sky Hussar deck that FishyFellow unleashed at the end of 2013.

Here is a look at the most recent evolution of the deck, piloted by thewoof2 in the December Invitational:

This deck is mostly made up of cheap commons/uncommons, many of which people probably have hiding in their account from drafting or from past seasons of Standard. The rares are generally cheap, costing around 5 tix, or considerably less, for everything other than Chrome Mox and Strip Mine. Really, the only card that might not be easily attainable for people is Wasteland.

Recent Tempest Block drafting has dropped Wasteland to its lowest level in a couple years, but the price has mostly rebounded since the holidays have ended. If you were prudent enough to buy cheap Wastelands but don’t have much else, here is a perfect deck to try out.

The deck is surprisingly good, and the key card is Cavern of Souls. Every card in the deck is a human or a cleric, or both. Kataki is really the only oddball, but it’s highly effective against Workshop decks, especially the Prison variants. The deck is also disruptive enough against the other decks, including other creature decks and Oath. True Believer turns off Oath and discard, while Banisher Priest can remove a creature that may have been quickly cheated into play by Oath, or it can remove the other pesky creatures in the format such as Tarmogoyf. When all else fails, Mother of Runes and Benevolent Bodygaurd can nullify removal spells, turn creatures into the best walls, or make them unblockable.

Sky Hussar provides one of the most subtle card advantage engines I’ve ever seen. Once it gets going, it’s like having a Library of Alexandria that you don’t have to waste a land drop on and doesn’t need exactly 7 cards in hand in order to activate. In a way, it’s kind of like a free Dark Confidant.

White has some of the best sideboard cards in the format, and this deck packs two high impact cards: Rest in Peace and Serenity. The only card I’d like to see in there is Stony Silence, but its probably win-more with so many good cards against artifacts as is.

Is it possible to play this deck without Wasteland? I suppose, but Wasteland certainly makes it better. You can’t underestimate the number of free wins you can get because opponents keep land-light hands or the tempo gained by setting them back by just 1 single turn. However, I would like to believe that this deck would still be somewhat competitive without Wasteland and having 4x Ghost Quarter instead. Perhaps Aven Mindcensor would be needed to make the most use of Ghost Quarter.

One idea that I’ve had regarding this deck, but haven’t been able to try out: Splashing for blue to include Meddling Mage. Mage is a cure-all for just about every match-up. Off the top of my head you could name Oath, Lodestone Golem, Jace, the Mindsculptor, Tangle Wire, Tarmogoyf, and perhaps more important of late, True-Name Nemesis, since right now this deck has no answer for it at all besides trying to race it. Being able to cast it off of Cavern also makes it a lot more palatable. Clearly, diluting the mana base with lands such as 4x Flooded Strand and some number of Islands/Tundra makes the deck more susceptible to Wasteland and color screw, but the upside of preventing certain cards from being played is probably worth some consideration. I’m curious what the experts on this deck think, though I can imagine they think I’m crazy!

Other cards I’m curious about for the deck: Devout Witness, Preacher, and Mirran Crusader. I’m not sure about any of these guys/gal, but I think they are some of the better options that I haven’t seen in this deck. I also wonder about Mangara of Corondor. It’s certainly a slow combo with Karakas, but it can take over a creature mirror match like no one’s business. In the end, maybe Mother of Runes is a better version of what Mangara does.


There are other cost-efficient decks out there for people that want to try to get into Classic. Pox, Dark Depths, and maybe even something such as a Life from the Loam-aggro (albeit benefiting from including Wasteland, though it lacks the expensive blue spells/lands) deck could be playable. Legacy players can also come and give their pet deck a whirl. Improving the mana base with things like Strip Mine and adding some tutors could make those decks viable as well.

Since the QTs are free, the only thing you have to lose is your time. Conveniently, the QTs are designed to maximize your convenience.

I hope everyone is as excited as I am for these last few months of Classic. Here’s to sending off our beloved format in grand fashion!

Clan Magic Eternal
Follow me on Twitter @enderfall

  1. Scott, you’re crazy! ;) I like the Meddling Mage plan, but for a different deck. The mana denial of this build doesn’t interact well with fetches (arbiter). I think a UW build utilizing Hussar would probably be a human/wizard build with a tool box of answers and cards like trinket mage. I’ve also played hussar in mono blue wizards to some success, but I suspect the deck is too slow right now. That was several years ago.

    As far as budget goes, I don’t think the deck is playable without wasteland. Mana denial is probably the source of the majority of the wins. Even if it doesn’t directly win the game, it buys some time while you build card advantage. That said, the rest of the deck costs less than 100 tix, so someone interested in Classic/Vintage couldn’t go wrong with wasteland as a first staple to pick up, and build the rest of the deck on the cheap.

  2. Yeah, it’s definitely a different deck without Wasteland. As you mention, Wasteland is a pillar of Legacy/Vintage/Classic, so someone buying in would do well to start there since the rest of this deck is fairly cheap.

    Regarding Mage, it’s probably a card that requires major changes to the deck. The mana denial plan would probably have to be scrapped for a permission suite, but that would give you access to Force of Will (which is a pretty good card I hear). I have also tried a “Wizards” deck, and it wasn’t anything special. Perhaps we’ll get some new cards in the future to that make it better, but right now it’s not quite there.