Unlocking the Vault #62: The Path to Vintage, Pt. 2 — Legacy-to-Vintage

In Part 1 of The Path to Vintage series, I discussed how current Legacy players could get a jump start in building a Vintage collection while using those cards in Classic for the next couple of months. In Part 2, I will discuss what current Legacy players can do to start building towards a Vintage collection today.

There are two sides to the story for Legacy players who have an interest in playing Vintage once Vintage Masters is released in June. The first option is to wait until spoilers for Vintage Masters to start coming out (likely mid-to-late May) and start to pick up cards that won’t be reprinted. Everyone is in agreement that whichever Vintage-playable cards that don’t end up being reprinted will increase in value.

The second side of the story is to acquire all the cards necessary before Vintage arrives and spoilers for Vintage Masters begins. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict which cards will be reprinted and which will not. It is with this knowledge that I would recommend current Legacy players to consider picking up the necessary cards to start playing Vintage right now. If everyone is looking to wait, there might not be any window at all to get decently priced cards once the spoilers begin. Prices for many eternal staples are at their lowest level in a long time thanks to the recent flashback drafts, although choice cards from those flashback formats that ran earlier in the year have started to creep back up in price.

There is another important consideration in favor of picking up cards before spoiler season: I believe that it is all but certain that Vintage Masters will be printed in the modern card frame. If the nostalgia of the original frame and/or art is even a small consideration, now is the best time to start picking up the cards you’ll need.

Why am I so confident that Vintage Masters will use the modern frame? If you consider the Powered Cube as well as all of the alternate art cards that are in Cube, they all use the modern card frame. Beyond that aesthetic, it also makes a lot of sense. By re-printing all of the cards in the modern frame, they won’t upset all of the players that have bought the Classic/Legacy cards and been playing for all these years. It also frees Wizards up to offer the original frames for the Power 9 (I doubt we’ll ever see the original art on MTGO) as a promo or prizes in the future. If Vintage Masters actually uses the original frames, I would be shocked.

How are current Legacy players at a great advantage?

The advantage that current Legacy players (and I’m ignoring Classic players since they likely have every Vintage-playable card online already) have over people who may be interested in building a Vintage collection from scratch is that they already have most of the expensive cards. Legacy players won’t have to go out and acquire an expensive mana base, Force of Wills, Lion’s Eye Diamonds, Wastelands, or Tarmogoyfs, among many other expensive cards in Legacy. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any expensive cards to obtain for Vintage, but rather the bulk of the expensive items would already be out of the way.

With that in mind, let’s revisit the list of Vintage-restricted cards and the Legacy banned list to begin exploring the cards that Legacy players would need to pick up in order to play Vintage decks. First, here is the Vintage restricted list with the Power 9 and Legacy legal cards excluded:

Balance 0.6 tix
Channel 0.5 tix
Demonic Consultation 0.03 tix
Demonic Tutor 15 tix
Fastbond 5 tix
Flash 3 tix
Imperial Seal 7 tix
Library of Alexandria 14 tix
Mana Crypt 27 tix
Mana Vault 15 tix
Memory Jar 0.75 tix
Mind’s Desire 0.70 tix
Mystical Tutor 6 tix
Necropotence 5 tix
Sol Ring 2 tix
Strip Mine 6 tix
Time Vault 6 tix
Tinker 0.25 tix
Tolarian Academy 10 tix
Vampiric Tutor 31 tix
Wheel of Fortune 10 tix
Windfall 0.2 tix
Yawgmoth’s Bargain 0.4 tix
Yawgmoth’s Will 6 tix

Here is a great list of some of the most important Vintage cards that Legacy players will need to pick up. I also included an approximate price for the cheapest available version of each card, rounded up to the nearest whole ticket (unless they can be found for less than 1). Those which are bold are the most important to pick up, as they are found in most, if not all, Vintage decks. However, just about every single card on this list is used in Vintage to some extent.

The next list I want to look at is the Legacy banned list cards which are unrestricted in Vintage and their approximate price:

Bazaar of Baghdad 15 tix
Black Vise 3 tix
Earthcraft 5 tix
Frantic Search 0.07 tix
Goblin Recruiter 1 tix
Gush 3 tix
Hermit Druid 0.30 tix
Mana Drain 27 tix
Mental Misstep 0.35 tix
Mind Twist 5 tix
Mishra’s Workshop 31 tix
Oath of Druids 8 tix
Skullclamp 0.40 tix
Survival of the Fittest 7 tix
Worldgorger Dragon 0.08 tix

This is a much more reasonable list and made even more reasonable when you look at the cards that are actually played in Vintage (in bold). Bazaar, Workshop, Drain, Gush, and Oath are all pillars of powerful Vintage decks. These cards are vitally important to their respective decks and cannot be substituted for cheaper versions. The only non-bold card on the list that could see play in Vintage is Skullclamp, which has been part of the recent Vintage Workshop Affinity decks that originated in Classic. Survival and Hermit Druid are powerful cards that don’t have a home in Vintage at the moment, but could at some point in the future with either the release of a new card or some sort of deck that no one has tried out before.

The final list we should investigate is the Vintage-playable cards that don’t see much play in Legacy. There are quite a few cards on this list, many of which are mostly sideboard cards to fight off Dredge and Workshop decks. Many are available for a couple nickels and dimes, so I’m going to point out only those that are worth more than a ticket:

Ancient Grudge
Aven Mindcensor 4 tix
Blightsteel Colossus 3 tix
Bloodghast* 3 tix
Burning Wish 12 tix
Flusterstorm 28 tix
Forbidden Orchard 3 tix
Goblin Welder 5 tix
Grafdigger’s Cage 3 tix
Grim Monolith 8 tix
Hurkyl’s Recall 23 tix
Ingot Chewer
Karn, Silver Golem 1 tix
Kataki, War’s Wage 5 tix
Kuldotha Forgemaster
Leyline of the Void
Lodestone Golem
Metalworker 10 tix
Mishra’s Factory
Myr Battlesphere
Mystic Remora
Nature’s Claim
Null Rod 16 tix
Petrified Field* 5 tix
Phyrexian Metamorph 1.5 tix
Phyrexian Revoker
Serum Powder* 2 tix
Smokestack 4.5 tix
Spell Pierce
Sphere of Resistance 5 tix
Steel Hellkite
Sun Titan* 2 tix
Tangle Wire 7 tix
Tezzeret the Seeker 7 tix
Thirst for Knowledge
Thorn of Amethyst 1 tix
Tormod’s Crypt
Toxic Deluge 20 tix
Trinket Mage
Trygon Predator
Undiscovered Paradise* 12 tix
Unmask* 7 tix
Voltaic Key
Wurmcoil Engine 5 tix

*Note: These are exclusively Dredge cards.*

***Also note: None of these are bold because they are all generally found in many Vintage decks (see below for more detail), aside from those labeled exclusively for Dredge.***

Great, so what am I supposed to do with these lists?

As a current Legacy player looking to get into Vintage, what can you do with these lists? If you are the type of person who needs to have access of every single card in order to build any deck, then they can be viewed as a complete shopping list. On the other hand, if you are only interested in certain types of decks/play styles and don’t care about playing other decks, then you’ll need to strategically target specific cards that you will be more apt to use. Below, I will group these cards into certain archetypes based on where they fall into typical Vintage pillars (Control, Combo, Fish/Aggro, Workshop, Dredge).

Combo players will want to ideally pick up the following cards:

All of the restricted cards are found in nearly every single Vintage combo deck. Flash and Fastbond are found in specific combo decks, though Flash is seldom used these days now that it and Mystical Tutoar are both restricted. Combo players in Legacy should already have many of the other important cards in these decks such as Dark Ritual, Duress/Thoughtseize, Ponder/Brainstorm/Preordain, and Gitaxian Probe, among others.

Control players will ideally want to pick up the following cards:

There are numerous ways to build a Vintage control deck. Mana Drain is probably the most common control card amongst Vintage decklists and is a necessary card to pick up a playset of. Gush is another key card as it is the best unrestricted card advantage engine available and is often found in decks that also use Drain. Other key permission spells include Spell Pierce, Flusterstorm, and Mental Misstep.

Jace is another key card in Vintage Control decks, something Legacy players should already have 3-4 of. Similar to Jace, Tezzeret is another great planeswalker to have access to in Vintage control decks. Tezzeret is often used to either tutor up the missing piece of the Time Vault-Voltaic Key combo which is one of the best win conditions in control decks. Occasionally, you will also find Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas in Vintage control decks.

Tinker is also ubiquitous in Vintage control decks. It can search up either piece of the Time Vault-Voltaic Key combo or a large difficult to deal with robot such as Blightsteel Colossus (or Battlesphere in certain Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas decks).

Aggro/Fish/Creature-based deck players will want to pick up these cards:

Creature (“Fish”) decks have been increasing in popularity in Vintage over the last few years as the creatures continue to become more and more efficient and the non-creature spells become more and more expensive to cast. Cavern of Souls is another card that has helped even the playing field a little bit for (tribal) creature decks.

Having said that, there are many different ways which one can build a creature deck in Vintage. Legacy Maverick players can practically port over their Legacy deck, with just a few upgrades, and probably find a suitable Tier 2 deck. In any case, almost all Fish decks utilize Null Rod to slow down their opponent’s ability to accelerate into their game-winning spells. I would advocate anyone interested in these types of decks to run out and get a playset of Rods right away, but I find it hard to believe they won’t be reprinted in Vintage Masters. The card is one of the few ways (budget) Fish decks can compete in Vintage that it would be a huge mistake to not reprint such a key card that is already more than 16 tickets a piece. The only reason I would suggest buying them now is if you have a preference toward the original frame.

The next couple of archetypes are mainly Vintage-only decks (I don’t believe there are many Dredge-only Legacy players, but I apologize to anyone who would fall in that category). I will summarize them below into broader groups instead of sub-groups where those cards might be more or less playable:

Legacy players who are interested in Workshop Prison/Control decks will want to pick up the following cards:

Most Legacy players will have few, if any, of the above cards due to the fact that artifact decks basically don’t exist (and Affinity is vastly different). Obviously, any Workshop deck absolutely needs the namesake card, while others such as Lodestone, the “13” Spheres, Chalice of the Void Tangle Wire, and the restricted cards (sans Jar) are in just about every Workshop deck.

Depending on how you want to build your Workshop decks will determine which cards to target initially. Metalworker-based decks can get off to some explosive starts, while Smokestack-based decks are geared to the prison/grind-your-opponent style decks. Goblin Welder decks can splash for red and perform a lot of graveyard tricks.

Finally, players that want to play something other than a game of Magic will want to pick up these cards for their Dredge decks:

Many of the above cards are sideboard cards to fight off an opponent’s graveyard hate. Undiscovered Paradise and Bloodghast are two cards not often found in Legacy Dredge, though they are ubiquitous in Vintage Dredge since it is much easier/faster to get Bloodghasts in the graveyard thanks to Bazaar.

What’s missing?

I believe that Vintage is largely unexplored, yet the current configuration of the Vintage metagame is tied down to the tried and true pillars (Blue Control, Fish, Workshop, Combo, Dredge). There are probably many areas of opportunity that hopefully can be investigated when Vintage arrives on MTGO. The ease of playing practice matches should benefit deck builders in ways paper players could only dream of using online freeware programs like Cockatrice.

Despite that, Legacy players should focus only on the cards that are currently seeing play in Vintage, which I hope this list provides. Again, the whole point of this article is for Legacy players to pick up Vintage cards before spoilers for Vintage Masters begin in mid-late May. I should also point out that you should be smart with purchasing any cards and use your head. Please don’t blindly buy up every single card above and complain if many get reprinted, especially if you don’t have any real plans to use those cards.

If anyone is curious about what some typical decklists in Vintage look like, I encourage you to check out www.morphling.de and www.manadrain.com. Both of those sites contain the most relevant Vintage deck information on the Internet. Morphling is particularly useful as their search feature can find any card that has appeared in a Vintage deck over the past several years.

Next article…

In my next article, I’ll discuss what players who are starting from scratch should be doing. In the meantime, though, I’ll leave you with this tidbit: Buy dual lands now(!), especially those that have already been released as promos (Tropical Island, Underground Sea, Plateau, Savannah, and Scrubland).

I look forward to everyone’s comments. Let me know if you think I missed any important cards!

Clan Magic Eternal
Follow me on Twitter @enderfall