Happy Holiday Festival: Brews for Power

Hi all,

I don’t know that I have ever been more excited about a Magic-related announcement then at this time. Take a moment to read this piece of news, or get the long and short of it here:

  1. Qualify for the Holiday Festival Vintage Championship. Any player who places 4-0 in a Legacy Daily Event or 3-1 or 4-0 in a Vintage Daily Event earns an invitation to play in the tournament.
  2. Enter the tournament with a deck that has neither Power nor Bazaar of Baghdad. No, this isn’t actually part of the rule, but it is essential for our purposes.
  3. Place among the top three tournament entrants that have no Power or Bazaar of Baghdad in their decks. You do not have to place among the top 32 for the ultimate prize, but it is gravy if you do!
  4. Win a complete set of non-foil Vintage Masters!

Every piece of Power, every Vintage and Legacy dual, Force of Will, and more will be yours! Don’t get me wrong; you can win this thing in a traditional sense as well and be just as well off. The reason I’m excited, though, is that budget players can conceivably get in this thing and really win big. Let’s break it down piece by piece.

Step 1: Earning An Invitation

This part is really tricky. If you are drawn to the free power by playing no Power like I am, then you are probably playing on a budget. If you are playing on a budget, it is very difficult to get 4-0 in a Legacy event or a game win in Vintage. It can be done, though!

The cheapest Legacy decks that have gone 4-0 in recent months are Burn and Manaless Dredge. A player can easily build either deck for under 100 tickets. Recently, Burn lists have exploded in price because of how good [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] is in the deck and format. While Burn players before Khans were able to do reasonably well with mono-red, players did so much better adding the required dual and fetch lands to draw into more gas. Nevertheless, here is a very streamlined and powerful build that Rich Shay used to 4-0 a Legacy Daily recently. I have taken out the [c]Scalding Tarn[/c] playset and replaced it with the newly-reprinted [c]Wooded Foothills[/c] to save $150.

[d title=”The Atog Lord Burn (Legacy)”]
Land
4 Wooded Foothills
2 Bloodstained Mire
14 Mountain

Creatures
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
4 Goblin Guide
3 Grim Lavamancer

Other Spells
4 Chain Lightning
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Price of Progress
2 Searing Blaze
2 Searing Blood
4 Rift Bolt
2 Sulfuric Vortex
4 Fireblast

Sideboard
1 Price of Progress
2 Searing Blaze
2 Searing Blood
4 Dragon’s Claw
3 Grafdigger’s Cage
3 Smash to Smithereens[/d]

[c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c] and [c]Goblin Guide[/c] have offered less excitement in Modern and Legacy lately, so naturally their price is dropping down.

I imagine the [c]Dragon’s Claw[/c] will be especially necessary in the sideboard between the 10th and 19th of December, as other players will be fighting for the holiday prize.

More recently, Manaless Dredge, at price points even as low as $50, has placed in Legacy events. User Ricopdx went 4-0 (the magic number!) on November 15 with the following:

[d title=”Rico Dredge (Legacy)”]
Land

Creatures
4 Balustrade Spy
4 Ichorid
4 Nether Shadow
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Golgari Thug
4 Shambling Shell
4 Phantasmagorian
4 Narcomoeba
1 Greater Mossdog
1 Flayer of the Hatebound
4 Street Wraith

Other Spells
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Dread Return
4 Bridge from Below
2 Urza’s Bauble
4 Gitaxian Probe

Sideboard
4 Ashen Rider
4 Surgical Extraction
3 Noxious Revival
2 Sickening Shoal[/d]

These Legacy Dredge players have frequently had the audacity to play less than 15 cards in their sideboard. I don’t know what metagame factors went into the decision to run 2 [c]Sickening Shoal[/c] rather than 4, but it must have been optimal!

Both of these decks will have to be on our watch list when we are creating a sideboard for the Legacy environment of the qualifying dates.

Unfortunately, neither of these decks transfers very well into a good list in Vintage. No one has performed well in Vintage with Burn despite many attempts, and the Manaless Dredge list is simply begging for the [c]Bazaar of Baghdad[/c] that would make our deck illegal.

On the other hand, maybe Dredge hate will be very light in the Holiday Festival because of this exclusion. That is something to ponder another day.

Until then, I have scoured Legacy and Vintage results pages looking for an archetype that meets these criteria:

  1. It must operate in both formats with minimal additional cards needed.
  2. It must function well on a budget.

The second goal is disputable, but I’m making it the goal because someone can easily build a functioning version of U/R Delver and the like for Vintage without [c]Ancestral Recall[/c] and [c]Time Walk[/c]. These decks would likely require [c]Force of Will[/c] and [c]Wasteland[/c] to compete in Vintage, and at that point, someone’s budget probably allows them to buy Power as well.

At the end of all this searching, I believe that the best list to receive an invite in the Legacy Dailies AND climb the charts in the Holiday Tournament will be Goblins. It is very unfortunate not to be able to run [c]Wasteland[/c] and [c]Rishadan Port[/c], but again, if we fork out $800 for these, then the Power is very easy to acquire.

Even with this setback, the deck is not without a great amount of interactivity. Let’s look at some of the hate that Goblins offer against decks you’ll be sure to face using a build from TheManaDrain’s desolutionist, which he has used to hit 3-1 in Vintage events.

[d title=”Desolutionist Goblins (Vintage)”]
Land
3 Badlands
2 Bloodstained Mire
4 Cavern of Souls
9 Mountain
1 Strip Mine
1 Wooded Foothills

Creatures
4 Goblin Lackey
2 Goblin Piledriver
1 Goblin Recruiter
1 Stingscourger
2 Gempalm Incinerator
1 Goblin Chieftain
4 Goblin Matron
1 Goblin Sharpshooter
4 Goblin Warchief
1 Goblin Ringleader
2 Krenko, Mob Boss
3 Earwig Squad

Other Spells
1 Black Lotus
4 Chalice of the Void
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Ruby
3 Grafdigger’s Cage
3 Mental Misstep
1 Sol Ring

Sideboard
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Crash
3 Ghost Quarter
2 Ingot Chewer
1 Pulverize
2 Pyrokinesis
3 Red Elemental Blast
2 Shattering Spree[/d]

Against Dredge, [c]Mogg Fanatic[/c] kills [c]Narcomoeba[/c] at inopportune times and exiles [c]Bridge from Below[/c] from your opponent’s graveyard in the same activation, so I think I’d like to see him in the coming list. In the list above, though, you can opt not to pay an echo cost, ping your own guy with [c]Goblin Sharpshooter[/c], or cycle [c]Gempalm Incinerator[/c] to kill one of your guys. The sideboard [c]Ghost Quarter[/c] is perfectly acceptable when its target is [c]Bazaar of Baghdad[/c] because your opponent will not have any basics.

Against other graveyard-based strategies, first we have maindeck copies of [c]Grafdigger’s Cage[/c], but also we have [c]Stingscourger[/c] to return reanimated fatties to our opponent’s hand. They have to find a way to get them back into the graveyard and a reanimation spell. [c]Stingscourger[/c] also makes [c]Show And Tell[/c] awkward.

Against many combo decks, [c]Earwig Squad[/c] removes the essential pieces, whether they are [c]Tinker[/c] targets, [c]Tendrils of Agony[/c], big creatures to bring out with [c]Oath of Druids[/c], or [c]Time Vault[/c].

Against Aggro, Delver, and Midrange, the deck is able to gain so much incremental advantage that it’s hard to stop the aggressive pressure. [c]Goblin Ringleader[/c] and [c]Krenko, Mob Boss[/c] are very difficult for these decks to beat.

[c]Young Pyromancer[/c] has nothing on a good [c]Goblin Sharpshooter[/c], especially if the latter has haste.

So here are my ports of desolutionist’s deck into budget Vintage to try and 3-1 the qualifying dailies and into Legacy to (don’t throw things at me) 4-0.

[d title=”Vintage Goblins”]
Lands
4 Badlands
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Cavern of Souls
5 Mountain
1 Strip mine
2 Wooded Foothills

Creatures
4 Goblin Lackey
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Goblin Warchief
4 Goblin Ringleader
4 Goblin Matron
4 Mogg Fanatic
3 Earwig Squad
2 Gempalm Incinerator
1 Skirk Prospector
1 Goblin Sharpshooter
1 Krenko, Mob Boss

Other Spells
4 Chalice of the Void
3 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Mana Crypt

Sideboard
1 Crash
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Ingot Chewer
2 Pyrokinesis
3 Red Elemental Blast
2 Stingscourger
4 Smash to Smithereens[/d]

[d title=”Legacy Goblins AKA If Manaless Dredge Can Do It…”]
Land
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Cavern of Souls
8 Mountain
2 Plateau
2 Wooded Foothills

Creatures
4 Goblin Lackey
4 Goblin Warchief
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Goblin Ringleader
4 Goblin Matron
4 Gempalm Incinerator
1 Skirk Prospector
1 Mogg Fanatic
1 Stingscourger
1 Siege-Gang Commander
1 Krenko, Mob Boss
1 Tuktuk Scrapper
1 Goblin Sharpshooter

Other Spells
2 Tarfire
4 Aether Vial
3 Grafdigger’s Cage

Sideboard
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
3 Mogg Fanatic
2 Path to Exile
1 Stingscourger
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 Tuktuk Scrapper
3 Warmth
1 Wear/Tear
[/d]

So there you have it. Here is your equipment to go and fight for power. What 3 brews do you believe will win complete sets of VMA? I think it’s Goblins, and I encourage you to try.

Either way, good luck, have fun.

-drinkard

Unified Strike 3: Mono-Black Storm

Hi all,

Vintage Masters has changed everything. Prices of many cards in other sets have plummeted, and others have skyrocketed due to their necessity for Vintage and Legacy decks. While many are scrambling for power and [c]Wasteland[/c] cards, some of the rest of us are too intimidated to break in. There are many options that are still open, though, and I want to present to you some ideas with [c]Tendrils of Agony[/c].

I am taking a shift away from the normal Modern format articles strictly for this card, but why? Well, the price of rituals Cabal and Dark are easy to please due to their reprints. [c]Yawgmoth’s Will[/c] is still an easy acquisition, and for some reason [c]Ill-Gotten Gains[/c] never caught on despite it being used heavily in Legacy. I imagined when Legacy picked up online, so would it, but players are simply opting for other archetypes.

First, let’s look at the Legacy deck. This is most similar to Spanish Inquisition because of the seven different draw four effects and zero-casting cost creatures. It aims to combo before turn four and does so quite consistently.

[d title=”Legacy Bargain Tendrils”]
Lands
1 Phyrexian Tower
11 Swamp

Creatures
2 Ornithopter
4 Phyrexian Walker
4 Shield Sphere

Other Spells
4 Cabal Ritual
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Cruel Bargain
4 Culling the Weak
4 Dark Ritual
3 Diabolic Intent
2 Gitaxian Probe
3 Ill-Gotten Gains
3 Infernal Contract
4 Lotus Petal
3 Tendrils of Agony[/d]

So here, for well under 100 tix, we are able to assemble a consistent storm deck that ports well to Vintage. So how does it play? Here is an explanation of the card choices:

[c]Cruel Bargain[/c] and [c]Infernal Contract[/c] – Here we have a seldom-heard of Portal rare and an equally minimally used Seventh Edition rare. Neither are very valuable in tickets, but both are invaluable to the strategy. The deck has a dependence on these draw fours, though, which is both irritating and exhilarating at times. It is irritating in the way that playing Eggs or Modern Storm can be: you draw into a bunch of cards that do nothing. It is exhilarating, though, to grab the horns, ride the buffalo, and draw a zero-cost creature (hereafter “cheerios”), a [c]Culling the Weak[/c], and another draw four.

[c]Tendrils of Agony[/c] – The best, most effective way to win with Storm in Vintage and Legacy.

[c]Ill-Gotten Gains[/c] – This is the final piece of the combo’s win condition. It isn’t necessary to win, but it builds storm count like no other, and it really does work with [c]Diabolic Intent[/c].

[c]Ornithopter[/c], [c]Phyrexian Walker[/c], and [c]Shield Sphere[/c] – Play them for free, and use them to tutor up spells and generate insane amounts of mana. These could be Kobolds, and maybe they should be in a deck that splurges for [c]Chrome Mox[/c]. Here, though, they can buy you time against [c]Goblin Guide[/c] or another attacking dork. Your life total does matter quite a bit, so while [c]Memnite[/c] can get in some damage and reduce your storm necessity to win, I don’t think it belongs here.

[c]Diabolic Intent[/c] – You have to watch this deck in action or try it out to see this do some magic. It’s amazing to tutor up [c]Ill-Gotten Gains[/c], cast it, get Intent, a cheerio, and an accelerant out, and then tutor [c]Tendrils of Agony[/c].

[c]Culling the Weak[/c] – Is this card worth distorting our deck so much with all the cheerios? Absolutely. Four black mana is the magic number. It produces the amount needed to draw four cards and cast another ritual.

[c]Phyrexian Tower[/c] – Here in place of 1 [c]Swamp[/c] we have additional synergy with the ten cheerios to ramp our mana.

Other accelerants: [c]Lotus Petal[/c], [c]Cabal Ritual[/c] and [c]Dark Ritual[/c] – Not too many lists sporting [c]Tendrils of Agony[/c] can go without them. The artifact can be played with an empty mana pool after a draw four, which helps you continue to go off. [c]Cabal Ritual[/c] has lots of synergy with [c]Culling the Weak[/c]. [c]Dark Ritual[/c] cause duh.

[c]Cabal Therapy[/c] and [c]Gitaxian Probe[/c] – These two have obvious synergy. Therapy can be intimidating in a new format, so you have a crutch for the time being. Therapy works even better with the cheerios, though, allowing you to [c]Mind Twist[/c] your opponent for one mana, clearing the way of their victory path and counter capacity.

Advice for playing your deck: never play a draw four without B open unless you absolutely have to, trust your deck, and win. It’s really exciting to play.

The port to Vintage actually makes us lose some cards: [c]Lotus Petal[/c] is restricted still while [c]Mox Opal[/c] is superior and runs free. Meanwhile, we gain massive tutoring power, more draw, and [c]Yawgmoth’s Will[/c]. Here is the result:

[d title=”Vintage Bargain Storm”]
Land
1 Phyrexian Tower
11 Swamp

Creatures
2 Ornithopter
4 Phyrexian Walker
4 Shield Sphere

Other Spells
4 Cabal Ritual
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Cruel Bargain
4 Culling the Weak
4 Dark Ritual
3 Diabolic Intent
1 Demonic Consultation
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Duress
3 Infernal Contract
1 Lotus Petal
2 Mental Misstep
1 Necropotence
3 Tendrils of Agony
1 Yawgmoth’s Bargain
1 Yawgmoth’s Will[/d]

Here we lose [c]Ill-Gotten Gains[/c] because THE go-to card for tutoring is [c]Yawgmoth’s Will[/c]. Believe it or not, this strategy is what started Spanish Inquisition, as around 2006 players were using it to top 8 in real Vintage events in The Netherlands. Now, you might say, a lot has changed since then, but this is Vintage. You do see more durdly Fish decks, but the same Stax, Bazaar, and Combo strategies are ever-present.

Do you benefit from playing power and more expensive cards in these lists? Of course, but with them you still will get the experience of rifling through your deck, utilizing tutoring, the graveyard, and amazing mana acceleration that you don’t get to experience in other formats. Give them a try!

-drinkard